Category arts

Toothbrushes in a poem

I’ve linked before to James Wood’s review of Pushkin: A Biography by T.J. Binyon. I’m linking to it again for this observation: Sylvia Plath once longed to write a poem that might be roomy enough to include a toothbrush. But…

The floordrobe endures

A few weeks ago, at an airport, I heard a lady instruct her kids over the phone to not use a floordrobe the coming night. A much-needed word! The next moment, I thought of a 101-year-old Russian poem: Truly, at…

Then it will be quiet

There’s a Soviet joke – probably of Russo-Jewish origin like many Soviet jokes – that goes this way, approximately (the original Russian is grammatically imperfect): Let go of Daddy’s foot, kids, and stop swinging! He didn’t hang himself for this,…

Jack the Giant Killer or King Legume?

And now for a lighter note. While Googling “John Bayley” & “Wuthering Heights” yesterday, I stumbled on this: The greats we hateSpectator writers and others on the classic books they most dislike Christopher Howse, The Spectator‘s religion columnist, confesses: I…

Rhyming like a pharmacist

Innokenty Annensky wrote in The Second Book of Reflections (1909, Brand-Ibsen, pp. 173-179): Perhaps what’s captivating in Brand is that Brand does not fear being a psychological absurdity from time to time, that we’re judging Brand, marvel at him, go…

A nasty anecdote

Some three weeks ago, Himadri (the Argumentative Old Git) wrote about the change in his perception of Bruckner’s symphonies, which he used to love as a young man: But it struck me recently that it has been a long time…

Love and laughter

Two extracts from 20th-century Russian classics in lieu of commentary to Thursday’s State of the Federation address. “What the hell are you trying to get out of me?” “The same thing that my childhood friend, Kolya Osten-Baken, wanted to get…

Plantago major

Ivan Bunin, the first Russian author to win the Nobel prize in literature, was prone to grumbling about fellow writers’ and poets’ follies. His bitter shots hit the mark most of the time, but occasionally he missed and got hit…

Chekhov’s early maturity

Almost three weeks ago now, the Argumentative Old Git (Himadri Chatterjee) wrote of his plan to re-read Ibsen’s mature works, which include Brand, Peer Gynt and the twelve plays from The Pillars of Society (1877) to When We Dead Awaken…

The Thunderstorm

I’ve seen a dozen and a half theater performances in Moscow and St. Petersburg this year. Some turned out first-rate, as I expected from their creators – Yuri Butusov, Mikhail Bychkov, Dmitry Krymov, Evgeny Marcelli, Andrey Moguchy, Rimas Tuminas. Andriy…