Martin Amis on the acid reception his latest book has attracted: “Questions I don’t mind. Then there’s commentary. I seem to attract this heat. I, the book, took a weird corrosive jolt this time. It just got established you could say whatever the hell you liked. In England, I couldn’t avoid reviews. I’d be walking down the street and on the newsstand it would say, up by the publication title, MARTIN AMIS IS S–T. It’s like watching your child being ragged in the schoolyard. What’s truly galling is when you wake up and it is in your head, when what should be in your head is what you’re writing next. But if you answer back, you’re accused of whining. You can’t win.”
Jennifer Fisher’s new history of the Nutcracker demonstrates that the piece is no “monolithic artifact. Since its first production, which was choreographed by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov in 1892 for the Mariinsky Theater (now home to the Kirov Ballet and Opera), it has become a theme to be riffed upon as much as a masterpiece to be preserved. Fisher believes that when it ” immigrated ” to this side of the Atlantic in the 20th century, it began a versatile career as a conduit for psychological, artistic, ethnic, and community aspirations as diverse as North America itself.”
Theatre criticism is dying, writes Bill Marx. But why? “The fact is most of today’s critics have no interest in ideas: they are functionaries who treat reviewing as diplomacy rather than provocation. Once criticism becomes a job, rather than an act of passionate thought, timidity inevitably follows. ‘The tygers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction,’ proclaims poet William Blake. The consumer guide critics are winning; the horses that provide context are going to the glue factory on their knees. And a tear or two should be shed. But do not despair, because in the future the tygers of wrath will growl and a mad dog or two bark.”
This fall a New York University student proposed making a film in which there would be pornography. University officials have forbidden her to and say they would “issue a written policy requiring student films and videos to follow the ratings guidelines of the Motion Picture Association of America, with nothing racier than R-rated fare allowed.” Is this a threat to academic freedom?
A sophisticated book-stealing ring in Edinburgh has been busted. The kingpin of the operation had accomplices steal the books, and he removed anti-theft identifiers before selling them at a discount to retail prices. “Undercover police kept watch as he took regular deliveries from thieves targeting W H Smith, Waterstones and other outlets, said Marc Gadsden, prosecuting. He was so successful that in just eight months he made an estimated £240,000, the barrister alleged.”
YiLing Chen-Josephson wonders which dictionary is best, and designs a test. “I restricted my testing to seven of the relatively affordable and frequently updated college dictionaries (the type of dictionary used not only in the most dormitory rooms but in the most homes and offices as well). To determine my rankings, I looked up seven times over words that I knew but wanted to understand better (like regret, jealous, and overdetermined); words with disputed usages (including aggravate, disinterested, fortuitous); words with potentially interesting etymologies (e.g., chauvinism, juggernaut, lagniappe); neologisms and slang (e.g., blogger, booty, yay); anything friends had looked up recently (e.g., Panglossian, condominium, alembic); as well as the words I didn’t know in the last book I read, J.M. Coetzee’s Elizabeth Costello.”
Wanna read some really bad writing about sex? Here are excerpts from the shortlisted nominees for the Bad Sex award. We’d print some samples, but we’re… well… too bashful.
The Motion Picture Association of America’s new policy of not providing screeners to those voting on various awards is pissing off many in the industry. “The question producers might consider now: How bad a taste will the screener issue leave in the mouths of the Writers Guild and Screen Actors Guild? Why? Because both these unions are currently in the process of organizing the positions and recommendations they’ll carry into next year’s negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers on their feature-film and TV contracts.”
Live theatre offers an audience experience that can’t be duplicated by TV or on film. And yet, “theatre artists are increasingly toying with multimedia, often in commercial settings. Off- and Off-Off-Broadway, is a daring and natural breeding ground for multimedia experimentation.”
Why does most research on culture end up with a positive spin, asks Andrew Taylor. “Much of the research on the public aspects of the arts is done by advocacy organizations or community coalitions with an admitted bias (of course the arts have a positive impact on city economies, education, at-risk youth, and luring the creative class, and we’ve designed research to prove it). Even at professional conferences, we are more likely to share ‘best practices’ and handy tips to sell tickets quickly, rather than exposing and exploring times we dropped the ball or didn’t even see it. It’s all fine and friendly, but such one-sided and guarded discussions are contrary to learning.”