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The New York Review of Books

The New York Review of Books May 14, 2020

For over 50 years, The New York Review of Books has been the place where the world's leading authors, scientists, educators, artists, and political leaders turn when they wish to engage in a spirited debate on literature, politics, art, and ideas with a small but influential audience that welcomes the challenge. Each issue addresses some of the most passionate political and cultural controversies of the day, and reviews the most engrossing new books and the ideas that illuminate them. Get The New York Review of Books digital magazine subscription today.

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20 Issues

in this issue

3 min.

JOAN ACOCELLA is a staff writer for The New Yorker. Her most recent book is Twenty-eight Artists and Two Saints. She is writing a biography of Mikhail Baryshnikov. MATTHEW AUCOIN is a composer and conductor. He is Artist-in-Residence at Los Angeles Opera and a 2018 MacArthur Fellow. His new opera, Eurydice, had its world premiere in Los Angeles in February. IAN BOSTRIDGE is an opera singer and a song recitalist. He is the author of Schubert’s Winter Journey: Anatomy of an Obsession and Witchcraft and Its Transformations, c. 1650–1750. EDWARD CHANCELLOR is the author of Devil Take the Hindmost: A History of Financial Speculation and the editor of Capital Returns: Investing Through the Capital Cycle: A Money Manager’s Reports 2002–2015. He is currently writing a history of interest. JAMES FENTON is a British poet…

21 min.
the master of unknowing

Gerhard Richter: Painting After All an exhibition at the Met Breuer, New York, March 4–closing date to be announced; and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, August 15, 2020–January 18, 2021. (Both museums are temporarily closed; the exhibition can be viewed online at metmuseum.org.) Catalog of the exhibition by Sheena Wagstaff and Benjamin H. D. Buchloh, with essays by Briony Fer, Hal Foster, Peter Geimer, Brinda Kumar, and André Rottmann. Metropolitan Museum of Art, 269 pp., $50.00 (distributed by Yale University Press) Gerhard Richter an exhibition at the Marian Goodman Gallery, New York City, February 28–April 25, 2020 (The gallery is temporarily closed.) In 2002 Gerhard Richter was included in a conversation about the restoration of the great gothic cathedral of Cologne. The building had survived the “thousand-bomber” raids that flattened…

16 min.
emergency responder

When the first cases of Covid-19 in Wuhan became known, some New Yorkers may have foreseen the catastrophe that was to crash upon us, but few could have predicted the astonishing performance of New York’s unloved governor, Andrew Cuomo, when it did. Prior to the pandemic, his reputation was that of a top-dog machine politician par excellence—a bullying, controlling, charmless power broker, reviled by progressives, accepted by Republicans, and tolerated by the rest. Though he easily won reelection to a third term in 2018, his power was significantly diminished. Six of the eight members of a group of Democratic centrists in the State Senate, who had unfailingly provided Cuomo with the swing votes he needed to exercise almost absolute control over state laws, were defeated at the polls. They were replaced…

21 min.
a rage for clarity

Félix Fénéon: The Anarchist and the Avant-Garde—From Signac to Matisse and Beyond an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, New York City, through July 25, 2020. (The museum is temporarily closed. Works from the exhibition can be seen at moma.org.) Catalog of the exhibition by Starr Figura, Isabelle Cahn, and Philippe Peltier. Museum of Modern Art, 248 pp., $65.00 “Several friends had told me that he had died, others thought he might still be alive but hiding somewhere.” With those words John Rewald, the pioneering historian of Impressionism and Postimpressionism, opened a long essay on Félix Fénéon, an uncategorizable figure in French literary, artistic, and political circles who had died in 1944 at the age of eighty-three. Writing in the Gazette des Beaux-Arts in 1947, Rewald recalled how a decade…

19 min.
ghost story

The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel. Henry Holt, 757 pp., $30.00 Halfway through The Mirror and the Light, I began dreaming of gooseberry fool. This summer, if restrictions ease and the supermarket shelves are stocked again, I intend to prepare an aromatic custard in a white dish, made with sour gooseberries, “tiny bubbles of green glass,” and eat it while it is warm. For this dish you need fresh hens’ eggs and a pitcher of cream; you need to be a prince of the church to afford the sugar. His uncle stands over him. The custard quakes in waves of sweetness and spice. “Nutmeg,” he says. “Mace. Cumin.” It is the winter of 1536 and Thomas Cromwell, Lord Privy Seal of England, now in his early fifties and struggling to find the men…

12 min.
what he saw in a dream

Jean-Jacques Lequeu: Visionary Architect an exhibition at the Petit Palais, Paris, December 11, 2018–March 31, 2019; the Menil Drawing Institute, Houston, October 4, 2019–January 5, 2020; and the Morgan Library and Museum, New York City, January 31–September 13, 2020. (The museum is temporarily closed. Works from the exhibition can be seen at themorgan.org.) Jean-Jacques Lequeu: Bâtisseur de Fantasmes catalog of the exhibition edited by Laurent Baridon, Jean-Philippe Garric, and Martial Guédron, with the collaboration of Corinne Le Bitouzé. Paris: Bibliothèque Nationale de France/Éditions Norma, 191 pp., $49.50 Boullée, Ledoux, Lequeu—three French architects of the late eighteenth century, dreamers, revolutionaries, megalomaniacs at times, for whom the revolution came as a professional and near-personal catastrophe. Although they worked in the age of neoclassicism, and although interest in their productions was revived in the last…