Few students are studying history these days. And those that do seem to have an aversion to history books. “Instead, there is a preference for more bite-sized, experiential media, like TV history programmes or websites. Apparently, TV provides a model for what students expect from their university courses, as something involving ‘colour, action, biography and narrative’. There are complaints that students see history as ‘basically a narrative, descriptive subject’, and ‘expect to be told stories rather than acquire the skills of the historian’. A number of reasons have been offered to explain these trends.”
“There is a cynicism in the heart of much that passes for art today, which sits oddly with its claim to be art. After all, art has to be positive, even when it deals with the most depressing aspects of experience, because if it isn’t what is the point of making it? But far from seeking a positive response to its work, the establishment art of today actually stimulates a negative reaction…”
The best writers prefer ideas to brand-name description. “Perhaps one could say that a classic novelist recreates an era from the inside out and concentrates on rendering rather than discussing the great social and political and intellectual currents of the period, whereas a lesser novelist attempts to make up for an insufficient grasp of the Zeitgeist by devoting himself or herself to its upholstery. Today the historical novel has been rehabilitated because it has radically changed its ways. The new historical novel is shorter or at least more crisply written than ever before, full of unexpected twists and turns in language, and rich in those ‘little true facts’.”
The estate of a Texas philanthropist is suing the Metropolitan Opera, claiming that the Met misappropriated and misused part of a major contribution. Sybil Harrington donated at least $27 million to the Met in her lifetime, and her estate gave an additional $6 million after her death. The suit “alleges Met representatives have made false claims concerning the status of funds Harrington donated to the Met and disposition of other contributions after Harrington’s death in 1998… The suit also seeks an accounting of all funds donated by Harrington and a special trust created for further contributions after her death.”
“The Pew Charitable Trusts, one of the nation’s largest foundations, is taking steps to separate itself from Glenmede Trust Co., the money-management firm created in 1956 to administer the Pew family’s fortune and its charities.” The move is largely a financial decision, allowing the Pew to become a full-fledged non-profit corporation, creating a significant tax savings. Glenmede would continue to administer the Pew’s multiple trusts, but would no longer employ the Pew’s staff.
America may have more child stars than we know what to do with, but the film capital of the world has never produced what Iran has: a 14-year-old director whose first feature film is entered in the Venice Film Festival. “Hana Makhmalbaf comes from Iran’s most successful film family… Her first full-length film, Joy of Madness, will compete for the 100,000 euro [$115,000] prize for best debut. It is a documentary about her sister, Samira Makhmalbaf, making her latest film in Afghanistan, and has been chosen for the festival’s critics’ week.” Samira is no stranger to publicity, either, having competed for the top prize at Cannes at the age of 20.
It’s the last place you would expect to find serious art. But inside the dining hall at San Quentin State Prison in California sit “four epic murals… depicting California history from the building of the railroads to the post-World War II industrial boom… The astonishing sophistication of the work — imbued with leftist political imagery extolling working-class virtues at a time when McCarthyism was rampant — has for years been a source of intrigue to the few art historians and others familiar with the murals.” This month, the single ex-convict responsible for the murals will be welcomed back to San Quentin as an invited guest. His name is Alfredo Santos. He hasn’t seen his work in nearly fifty years.
It is now all but certain that Raphael’s Madonna of the Pinks will be saved from the horrific fate of being exported out of Great Britain. But before the bidding war began, what options did UK officials have when the Duke of Northumberland first started talking about selling the Raphael to the Getty Museum? The answer is more complicated than you might think.
Is there anyone left who hasn’t written their memoirs? Autobiography is a time-honored literary tradition, but lately, it seems as if anyone and everyone believes that their own life is so fascinating that the world cannot survive another minute without having it committed to paper. Linton Weeks is not a big fan of the trend: “I feel that the memoir is the genre of our generations. The Me Decades are stretching out into the Memoir Millennium. The I’s have it.”
The Toronto Film Festival is back and as big as ever, and while the festival has gained an international reputation by embracing films from around the world, it, like nearly every other cultural enterprise in the country, reserves a significant portion of time and exposure for home-grown work. This year’s top Canadian film at the TFF will be Gary Burns’s A Problem With Fear, which impressed festival organizers enough for them to give it a prime opening-night showing, outside of the normal “Perspective Canada” portion of the event.