Steven Shapin has an entertaining review of Bill Buford's cooking confessional Heat:
Having spent his working life making intellectual artistic judgments, Buford wanted to be able to make sensory artisanal judgments: how much pressure to apply to the point of a very sharp knife when separating the muscles of a cow’s thigh, and to the ends of a matterello when rolling out pasta for ravioli
Meanwhile, Peter Campbell is feeling the heat in Rembrandt at the National Gallery:
No artist expressed meaning through bodies better than Rembrandt. In these paintings, we are led to share two vulnerabilities. [...] Bathsheba’s vulnerability is quite different and arises from Rembrandt’s inability to depersonalise figures – a wonderful, stubborn refusal to bow to the archetype. One is an intruder on privacy as one never is with a Titian or a Rubens nude.
On war: Yitzhak Laor's You are terrorists, we are virtuous. And Charles Glass explains that Hizbullah is learning from its mistakes:
But what impressed most Lebanese as much as Hizbullah’s victory over Israel was its refusal to murder collaborators – a triumph over the tribalism that has plagued and divided Lebanese society since its founding. Christians I knew in the Lebanese army admitted that their own side would have committed atrocities. Hizbullah may have been playing politics in Lebanon, but it refused to play Lebanese politics.
We learn that Umberto Eco's library in The Name of The Rose - atop a vaulting scriptorium - was a layout driven by the plot's needs rather than architectural realism. That's a structural aside to a debate on whose library was biggest in Tom Shippey's article about medieval and Anglo-Saxon libraries, and a letter in response which suggested the library of al-Hakam II in Córdoba, which contained 400,000 items.
Iain Sinclair writes about the performance artist Andrew Kotting, who sent a stage photograph of his father's body in its coffin to each of 65 people (the years of his father’s life):
A book, In the Wake of a Deadad, would emerge. Even silence – Paul Auster, Dinos Chapman, Richard Wentworth – would be published. ‘No reply’ becomes part of the texture, along with hesitations, prevarications, confessions. Many of the respondents turn Kötting’s challenge back on themselves: their refusal to look into the eyes of a lifeless parent, the awareness that there is nothing left between a bereaved writer and the end of things. We are the dead in remission, treading water, making our sorry pleas.
Christopher Taylor recommends Arnaldur Indridason if you want more Scandi crime fiction in the vein of Henning Mankell.
Ian Hacking has an interesting piece about classifications and naming in psychiatry and medicine, and labels himself a dynamic nominalist, and cites Nietzsche as the first of that breed ("unspeakably more depends on what things are called than on what they are" - in the Gay Science [contra this?: Stein's "Rose is a rose is...", attempting to recover the thingness of a well-worn word rubbed pale]).
"MTV Cops": Michael Wood seems to find Michael Mann's big-screen Miami Vice inferior to his small-screen version.
Miami Vice, the title, sounds more like the name of a rock group or a basketball team than a police department, but the series has its interesting undertow, and there is a wonderful moment in the pilot where Johnson, as Sonny Crockett, ex-football star, now insubordinate but ultimately loyal cop, has to pull his gun, show his badge and make an arrest. ‘Miami,’ he says. And then after a very short pause: ‘Vice.’ It’s as if a pun had been taken apart into its discrete components, but only to remind us how the pun works, since we have already learned that Crockett’s job is an addiction and has ruined his marriage. [...]
Johnson had a touch of sleaze and defeat about him which it would be hard to duplicate; and Thomas shifted from genial to threatening and back with astonishing grace. Above all, they were a team, and their partnership was what made the series work.
Finally and brilliantly, Denis Feeney's I shall be read reviews two books on Ovid's exile poems, luring you in to the poet. Ovid makes some kind of error or faux-pas, the ruling family gets involved, and the emperor Augustus nudges him away from Rome:
From now on, Ovid would always refer to the double charge against him, carmen et error, ‘a poem and a mistake’. Untried and unsentenced, he was ‘relegated’, not ‘exiled’, by the mere authority of the emperor. He was never to see Rome again. [...]
Ovid knew that in Augustus he was dealing with a reader paranoid enough to beat any postmodern advocate of a hermeneutics of suspicion, but cumulatively over the years he constructs a narrative that reproaches the emperor’s self-indulgent fury and vindicates his own status as Rome’s greatest poet. He knows that he will outlast Augustus, as indeed he has. He alludes to the epilogue to Metamorphoses when he writes: "When I’m gone, my fame will endure,/ and while from her seven hills Mars’ Rome in triumph/ still surveys a conquered world, I shall be read." [...]
Literature charts the tides of exile, back and forth:
Ovid had always known that the Aeneid was all about an exile trying to establish a new life in a strange land, but now he was able to flip Virgil’s poem, mining it brilliantly to depict himself as an inverse Aeneas and his voyage from Rome to the Black Sea as a topsy-turvy mini-Aeneid. Instead of a hero going from east to west to found a new civilisation, we have his vulnerable inheritor forced to retrace those steps and leave behind the fruits of Aeneas’ work – Rome, Italy and civilisation. Some fifteen hundred years later, the Renaissance scholar Marullus was able to reverse Ovid’s reversals, drawing heavily on Ovid’s exile poetry to deplore the fact that he had to leave Constantinople, the heart of civilisation and empire, when it was sacked in 1453, and travel to exile in the uncouth West, in Italy. [...]
Connection and distance:
Ovid created a memorable sequence of reflections on the way letters both provide a tangible physical link and highlight the gulf between author and addressee. One of the finest poems in the exilic corpus begins with Ovid imagining the constellation of the Bear looking down simultaneously on his wife and on him, providing a common vector for the pair, but one which is as inaccessible as their bodies are to each other. [...]
Ovid keeps imagining festivals and ceremonies he cannot see, parties he cannot attend, friends he cannot meet. Significant events and dates are marked in Rome, while Tomis is somehow always the same. Ovid’s birthday comes around, but there is no point in celebrating it; winter doesn’t return, but remains. The geography is formless, the landscape treeless, and the Black Sea isn’t even a proper sea, since ice forms around its coast. As the landscape blurs into sameness towards the horizon of the steppe, so one year blurs into another, robbed of its meaningful Roman contours. Ovid is on the edge of Roman space and Roman time, clinging to a vicarious participation in the only life that has ever meant anything to him, the life of the city that the Romans didn’t need to name, but called simply urbs, ‘city’.
What a great paper the LRB is. Thanks Jack.