Virginia Woolf thought that the poet Robert Graves was “all emphasis protestation and pose . . . Still, still, he is a nice ingenuous rattle headed young man . . .” In The Hudson Review, David Mason argues he was more than that.
Why are dodo bones so rare? The bird has been extinct for over 350 years, but complete skeletons are hard to find: “Last week, at Christie’s auction house in London, an anonymous buyer paid almost $625,000 for the skeleton of a dodo bird. More precisely, the buyer purchased a set of fossilized bones belonging to at least two different birds, dug up and assembled into a skeleton by collectors. The last such assemblage sold in 2016 for about $430,000. Before that, no dodo skeleton of any kind had been offered for public sale for nearly a century.”
Moby cancels book tour, apologizes to Natalie Portman for including her in his memoir.
Rare albino panda cub caught on camera: “The photo, taken in April 2019, shows the unusual bear wandering through the 680-acre bamboo forest at an altitude of 6,500 feet (2,000 meters).”
The lost art of criticism: “Critics are often maligned. Kenneth Williams memorably compared them to eunuchs in a harem: ‘They’re there every night. They see it done every night. But they can’t do it themselves.’ It’s difficult not to enjoy the barbed wit of Williams, even when he’s indulging in this kind of unfair generalisation. Criticism, if done well, is an art form in and of itself – but now that clickbait is prioritised over insight the standards have undeniably dropped. It would appear that the infection of identity politics has spread from the creatives to the critics. Praise for Christopher Nolan’s film Dunkirk was offset by those who complained that he had not included a sufficiently diverse cast, in spite of the historical fact that the overwhelming majority of those evacuated were young white men. It seems to me that if your initial reaction to a work as arresting as Dunkirk is to appraise the degree to which its auteur has fulfilled diversity quotas, then you are not well equipped to judge his artistry. That is not to say that total objectivity is either possible or desirable when it comes to criticism. But the best critics are able to appreciate a piece of work on its own terms, whereas the worst seem to believe that success should be measured on the basis of how closely the artist reflects their own ideological perspective.”
Remembering lovely, dirty London: “London Made Us is a deeply nostalgic memoir, a celebration of the dirty, slummy, sometimes dangerous and sickening but utterly vital past, and a stinging critique of present pseudo-posh.”
The always burgeoning university bureaucracy: “Bureaucratic outlays rose at nearly twice the rate as teaching outlays from 1993 to 2007, according to the Goldwater Institute. From 1997 to 2012, colleges hired new administrators at twice the rate of any student-body increase, the New England Center for Investigative Reporting found. Colleges inevitably claim that government mandates force this administrative bloat upon them. But the vast majority of administrative hires are voluntary: for every dollar in mandated bureaucratic spending from 1987 to 2011, public universities added an additional $2 in discretionary bureaucracy, and private universities added $3, according to economists Robert Martin and Carter Hill. Fiefdoms focused on diversity and student services grew at the fastest clip, in the name of fighting the campus oppression to which minority and female students are allegedly subjected.”
Essay of the Day:
You may have read about that damning report on Martin Luther King, Jr’s relationship with women by biographer, David J. Garrow. Garrow read newly released FBI files on King and felt he had to write about what they contained: “‘I have been the King guy for 40 years and I wrote a book on exactly this 38 years ago,’ said Garrow, referring to his 1981 book, The FBI and Martin Luther King Jr. ‘I felt a complete obligation to confront this stuff. I did not feel I had a choice. I have always felt spiritually informed by King and yes, this changed it. I have not heard his voice much the past year.’ His piece is now available in Standpoint:
“Newly-released documents reveal the full extent of the FBI’s surveillance of the civil rights leader Dr Martin Luther King in the mid-1960s. They expose in graphic detail the FBI’s intense focus on King’s extensive extramarital sexual relationships with dozens of women, and also his presence in a Washington hotel room when a friend, a Baptist minister, allegedly raped one of his ‘parishioners’, while King ‘looked on, laughed and offered advice’. The FBI’s tape recording of that criminal assault still exists today, resting under court seal in a National Archives vault.
“The FBI documents also reveal how its Director, J. Edgar Hoover, authorised top Bureau officials to send Dr King a tape-recording of his sexual activities along with an anonymous message encouraging him to take his own life.
“The complete transcripts and surviving recordings are not due to be released until 2027 but when they are made fully available a painful historical reckoning concerning King’s personal conduct seems inevitable.”
Poem: Shirley Geok-Lin Lim, “Fog after Fire”
Receive Prufrock in your inbox every weekday morning. Subscribe here.