Category Archives: Books and Culture

Wharton’s “House of Mirth”

Being about two-thirds through Edith Wharton’s 1905 novel, I am still not quite sure I’ve actually encountered the “house of mirth” she gives as its title. What follows is a passage in which a secondary character, Van Alstyne, in Wharton’s … Continue reading

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“Dystopia” three years on

Three years have passed since British architectural historian James Stevens Curl’s masterful Making Dystopia was published by Oxford University Press. Subtitled “The Strange Rise and Survival of Architectural Barbarism,” the book can only have been about modern architecture, perhaps the … Continue reading

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William Blackstone’s statue

William Blackstone, or Blaxton (1595-1675), has long struck me as the mildest of colonists, perhaps not even a colonist strictly speaking. He was a recluse, and when other colonists showed up, he exited stage left. An ordained priest of the … Continue reading

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See how form follows fiasco

I’ve just started rereading the late Peter Blake’s slender 1960 hagiography of French architect Le Corbusier, born Charles-Édouard Jeanneret in Switzerland. A far better book on Corbu, as he is known by his many deluded admirers, is Le Corbusier: The … Continue reading

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O’Brian’s game of composers

Having just had a capital meal of lasagna to celebrate a removal of sutures from the gap left by an extracted tooth, I am reminded of a passage I marked years ago in Patrick O’Brian’s The Nutmeg of Consolation, 1991, … Continue reading

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Capt. Aubrey’s dad’s house

Here is a May 2016 post, quoting from the late Patrick O’Brian’s The Surgeon’s Mate, written in 1979. His novels are – and I truly hate to say this, as it verges on sacrilege – as good as those of … Continue reading

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Classical Alex Trebek, R.I.P.

Alex Trebek died the other day. I heard the news in the half-time report of a televised pro football game. Jeopardy! and I had drifted apart of late, but I and my wife, Victoria, watched the show with some fervor … Continue reading

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Going wild over beauty

Beauty is a form of Genius – is higher, indeed, than Genius, as it needs no explanation. It is one of the great facts of the world, like sunlight, or spring-time, or the reflection in dark waters of that silver … Continue reading

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A deliriously lovely chapter

One of the most beautiful passages in contemporary literary history will surely be, when it is published on May 5, chapter 20, “Sunlight on the Furniture,” in Villa of Delirium, by the French author Adrien Goetz. Its English translation by … Continue reading

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Tale of a Greek villa rebuilt

I was recently sent a novel, Villa of Delirium, about the lives of the historical inhabitants of a villa on the Côte d’Azur built at the turn of the last century as a copy of a palace in ancient Greece. … Continue reading

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