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3 august 2021

The University Museum in Philadelphia has had a rough past year in the annals of curating. But in more innocent, not to say oblivious times, the early 1970s when I was in high school, the Museum was one of my favorite places. I studied in their library and took time on every visit to wonder at the treasures of the Sumerians. I think I got a little Sumer-crazy. I copied cuneiform into my notebooks and planned a clay scale model of the ziggurat of Ur, which of course I never bothered to build.     read more

30 july 2021

Religious ritual-torture-and-murder cults are a staple of the Scandinavian crime novel. Whenever a series seems to be running out of steam, our Kommissar can always match wits with a fanatic predator who kills in the name of his god, or perhaps in his own name, believing he's a god.

A funny thing happens when little girls start disappearing from a cult camp in Håkan Nesser's 1997 novel The Inspector and Silence, though.     read more

29 july 2021

"Crabbed" or "crabby" means "of a contrary and sour disposition," and "crabbed" appears several times in Shakespeare with that meaning; Cynthia Chris in her new book Crab notes that Shakespeare named Launce's testy dog "Crab" in Two Gentlemen of Verona. But the etymology of "crab" is twofold, and the senses seem to run together, historically. Shakespeare uses the word only once to mean the crustacean (Hamlet, to Polonius); everywhere else it means a sour apple. Crabbiness is thus overdetermined. You can participate in crabby behavior either by shuffling sideways and snapping your pincers at people, or by setting their teeth on edge.     read more

28 july 2021

It took Matisse a while to become Matisse. I guess you could say the same for other notables among his Modernist contemporaries: Kandinsky, Mondrian, Picasso. All worked in numerous styles before finding a signature mode. People noted this in real time; Henri Matisse was famous before critics could figure out what distinguished him. As Kathryn Brown says in her recent book, even Matisse fans, c1905, had

difficulty in ascribing a consistent style to the artist. How was it so much as possible to identify a work as a "Matisse" in the face of such relentless stylistic variability? (49)
    read more

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