Kira Thurman: “Over the course of my life I have learned that to be black and a classical musician is to be considered a contradiction. After hearing that I was a music major, a TSA agent asked me if I was studying jazz. One summer in Bayreuth, a white German businessman asked me what I was doing in his town. Upon hearing that I was researching the history of Wagner’s opera house, he remarked, “But you look like you’re from Africa.” After I gushed about Mahler’s Fifth Symphony, someone once told me that I wasn’t “really black.” All too often, black artistic activities can only be recognized in ‘black’ arts.”
As New York enters the third decade of the twenty-first century, it is in imminent danger of becoming something it has never been before: unremarkable. It is approaching a state where it is no longer a significant cultural entity but the world’s largest gated community, with a few cupcake shops here and there. For the first time in its history, New York is, well, boring.
Long before anyone coined the terms “hard sci-fi” and “soft sci-fi” or used them as badges of pride or disparaging slurs, long before the “holy war” between old school pulp and the ’60s era New Wave, we have this demand from the cranky old school to the squishy new school: “Show me this metal.” HG Wells, whose social activism permeated his fiction, would no doubt claim that Jules Verne was rather missing the point. But what becomes clear from a survey of science fiction’s history is that, if there’s one thing these authors love more than cosmic wonder and terror, it’s petty fights about what constitutes “real” science fiction.
“[David Bentley] Hart’s stated aim is to offer an ‘almost pitilessly literal translation’ that is ‘not shaped by later theological and doctrinal history’, with the intention of making ‘the familiar strange, novel, and perhaps newly compelling’. … One of his most pointed observations relates to the stark contrast between the conservative and socially compliant nature of many modern Christians and the disturbing character of the first converts … These are people, he wryly observes, whom ‘most of us would find fairly obnoxious: civically reprobate, ideologically unsound, economically destructive, politically irresponsible, socially discreditable’.”
Monet raced back and forth between these canvases, painting a whole sequence simultaneously, just as a silent film director rushed from scene to scene. His paintings were motion pictures. Monet’s eye was the camera, the cathedral his image, the paint his unexposed film, the canvas his screen.
“Outside of art history circles, [Walter Schott’s] Drei tanzende Mädchen isn’t even particularly well known. But inside them, and especially among restitution experts, the sculpture represents a superlative example of the time, energy, money, doggedness and old-fashioned expertise required to track down a missing piece of art. And it stands as a heart-wrenching test of the limits of legal solutions to crimes in which the burden of restitution isn’t always clear.”
One reason we struggle with fear is that we’re simultaneously too primitive and too evolved for our own good. Our lizard brains are ruthlessly efficient: Signals speed to the threat-sensing amygdala within 74 milliseconds of the slightest hint of danger. This speed has, over eons, helped save us from extinction. But it’s also led to plenty of false alarms.
Like the New York intellectuals who had clustered around Commentary and the Partisan Review in the Sixties, and partly in conscious imitation of them, the writers and editors of the new magazines blended art, criticism, philosophy and self-examination in the confidence that these activities would all be, when carried out with a sufficient level of clarity and insight, mutually re-inforcing.
“Inundated via social media with the opinions of multitudes, users are diverted from introspection; in truth many technophiles use the internet to avoid the solitude they dread. All of these pressures weaken the fortitude required to develop and sustain convictions that can be implemented only by traveling a lonely road, which is the essence of creativity.”