The Daily Digest of Arts and Argument

The Daily Digest of Arts and Argument

The Daily Digest of Arts and Argument

July 7 2000 11:30 PM

The Daily Digest of Arts and Argument

Rob Nixon of the Atlantic Monthly writes about the quiet but sure rise of cricket in America. He says that he "once mentioned to an American friend that Harold Pinter and Samuel Beckett were both ardent cricket fans. 'Of course,' the friend responded. 'All that organized futility.' " Certain U.S. cities seem keen to see such organized futility become more popular. Asked about the $30-million stadium that will be built in Brooklyn, Ken Podziba, Mayor Giuliani's sports commissioner, says, "We don't want people to think of just basketball, baseball, and hockey—they should think of cricket, too. We want a cricket field that will attract the world's best players for a New York audience." Thanks to the efforts of immigrants from India, Pakistan, and the West Indies, there are hundreds if not thousands of clubs across the country—New York boasts more than 170 teams. (Omnivore played for Staten Island a few years ago.) The Pacific Northwest also has a fair number of teams, including the Seattle Cricket Club and Microsoft C.C. (which curiously doesn't yet have a home page). Of course, cricket isn't new to America: It's been played on this continent for centuries, and baseball evolved from the game . If you think, like Robin Williams, that cricket is baseball played on Valium, then consider the Hollywood team that toured Canada in the 1930s, which included Errol Flynn and Boris Karloff. To find the whereabouts of a cricket club near you, visit the United States of America Cricket Association . For American cricket news, see . To read the latest issue of Wisden Monthly, one of the best cricket magazines, click here .


MAD ABOUT POTTER Writing in Slate last year, A.O. Scott said that it's "probably a mistake to try to read too much cultural significance into [the] extraordinary success" of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter books. But with the arrival of the fourth Harry Potter book less than 48 hours away, who can resist? Adults are delighted by the success of the Potter books because it suggests that children are reading and not watching television. But part of the appeal is the author, J.K. Rowling. Her life is hugely attractive to adults bored by the kind of New Economy success you read about in Fast Company. In a Newsweek interview, Rowling said: " I was the most disorganized person that ever walked this earth." Asked by the London Times about the troubles in her life, Rowling quoted the Buddha: " 'Life is Suffering.' I love that. … Because I think YES. Life is not supposed to be neat. … It's a comfort to all of us who have messed up. And then you find your way back, bizarrely." To read the Rowling interview in Salon, click here. For the latest Potter news, click here. To find out more about the campaign to prevent Harry Potter books from being banned in various states, click here. To read about the novelist who claims that Rowling is a plagiarist, click here.

"The senior Baudelairean disliked her." So goes a blurb for an article about mischief in Vanderbilt University's French department that appears—where else?—in the new issue of Lingua Franca. But what is a Baudelairean, and should it be Baudelar-ean or ian? The adjectival use of authors' and artists' names is proliferating  in newspapers and magazines. Some, such as Pinteresque, Dickensian, Jeffersonian, Proustian, Orwellian, Machiavellian, Swiftian, Platonist, Cartesian, Kafkaesque, and Shakespearian—are familiar. But other authors—such as Amis, Eggers, and Sontag—present difficulties. Should someone be described as an Amisian or an Amisite, an Eggersian or or an Eggersite, a Sontagian or a Sontagiste? Fowler's Modern English Usage suggests that euphony should be the only guide in these more taxing cases: Use it if it sounds right. On the other hand, what exactly is a Baudelairean or, for that matter, a Eggersite? Omnivore asks its readers to provide definitions for the adjectival use of authors' surnames. The best definitions, which must be no longer than 10 words, will be posted on this site at the end of the month. 


MIND OVER MATTHAU Walter Matthau dies at 79. Asked to distinguish between stage and screen, the actor said, "Doing a play is like having a seven-course meal, but a movie is like eating a lot of hors d'oeuvres. You get filled up, but you're never quite satisfied." Though Matthau was well-known in the late 1950s and early 1960s, true success came relatively late—in 1966, when he was 45. "Every actor looks all his life for a part that will combine his talents with his personality. 'The Odd Couple' was mine. That was the plutonium I needed. It all started happening after that." Neil Simon's writing helped to establish Matthau as a great comic actor. " I talk the way he writes, and he writes the way I talk," Matthau said. The actor was a compulsive gambler who once estimated his losses at $5 million, and he once described his ambition as "to stay alive and beat the system so I can keep some of the money I've earned." Bad health was a feature of the actor's life, which he blamed on his diet. "If you eat only celery and lettuce,' he grunted, 'you won't get sick. I like celery and lettuce, but I like it with pickles, relish, corned beef, potatoes, peas. And I like Eskimo Pies, vanilla ice cream with chocolate covering." Glenda Jackson, who starred in two movies with Matthau, remembers her friend here.

The New Scientist predicts that in a few years our greatest fear won't be conventional explosives or nuclear weapons but the e-bomb, an electromagnetic device that has the power to cripple urban life. "The idea behind it is simple. Produce a high-power flash of radio waves or microwaves and it will fry any circuitry it hits. At lower powers, the effects are more subtle: it can throw electronic systems into chaos, often making them crash. In an age when electronics finds its way into just about everything bar food and bicycles, it is a sure way to cause mass disruption." This isn't the first occasion that a serious magazine has addressed the terrors of electromagnetism. Two years ago, Elaine Scarry, in a contentious article published in the New York Review of Books, suggested that electromagnetic interference from U.S. military planes and ships might have led to the destruction of TWA Flight 800. Jim Hall, then chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, engaged Scarry in a lengthy dialogue—click here and here to read the exchange. To read Culturebox's convincing dismissal of Scarry's thesis, click here. For the William R. Graham's statement to Congress on the threat of e-terrorism, click here.


The demise of NewsWatch, the financial  troubles at APBNews, the staff cutbacks at Salon,'s decision to jump a print version, and rumors that may do the same—these are just a few of the familiar examples deployed by those who are convinced that Internet journalism is about to die. They are, however, ignoring the more obvious point: that Internet journalism is thriving, though the best of the Web is now produced by newspapers, magazines, and journals—publications that depend on newsstand sales or subscriptions (as well as print advertising) for their financial survival. Jim Romenseko told the Los Angeles Times that Internet journalism must be free (click here to purchase the article for $2.50), but he didn't argue that all journalism should be available for nothing. Which might be another way saying that just because an Internet publication decides to put out a print version of its content doesn't mean the Web is dead. The New Yorker is one of several high-profile magazines that don't publish content on the Web, but contributors, such as Malcolm Gladwell, can present their work on their own Web pages. And it's not as if "traditional" magazines are guaranteed to thrive. Life was shut down by Time Inc. even though its paid circulation was more than a million. (For more on the death of Life, click here.) Yesterday, Condé Nast closed Women's Sports & Fitness after losing $45 million in three years. So, the next time you read about the imminent death of online journalism, take a look the links in the right hand column of this page for compelling evidence that the Internet is alive and well.


THE POLITICS OF CULTURAL DESPAIR Conservative commentators, such as the New Criterion's Roger Kimball and David Frum and others, have taken to a sport that was once much enjoyed by the left—decade bashing. In the early 1960s, Norman Mailer described how ghastly and damaging the 1950s had been to all Americans. Today, conservatives despair at the '60s. In the introduction to his new book, The Long March: How the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s Changed America, Kimball quotes approvingly from an essay by Paul Oskar Kristeller, "A Life of Learning": "We have witnessed what amounts to a cultural revolution, comparable to the one in China if not worse." The comparison is so obviously absurd that one wonders what Kimball (never mind Kristeller) could be thinking: that a decade of drugs and sex and rock 'n' roll (never mind civil rights) is comparable to a decade of gulags? Frum's How We Got Here is another study in cultural pessimism, though he suggests that the full impact of '60s mores wasn't felt until the 1970s. He writes: "This book is an attempt to … describe the most total social transformation that the United States has lived through since the coming of industrialism: a transformation (a revolution!) that has not ended yet." How ominous.


The Laura Spence case enters its sixth week. The chancellor of Oxford, Roy Jenkins, describes the Labor government's attack on the university as "ludicrous." He also says that politicians will no longer receive honorary degrees from Oxford. Meanwhile, if Blair and Brown had spent more time and money improving other British universities and less time blaming an elite institution for everything that's wrong with British society, then perhaps Laura Spence wouldn't have needed to go to Harvard.


STILL FLYING July 11 is the 40th birthday of To Kill a Mockingbird. Click here to read a Los Angeles Times piece on the anniversary. For the publishing history of Harper Lee's novel, click here. The influence the novel has exerted—in the United States and abroad—is incalculable. It is, quite possibly, the only book that every Bobo has read, though you will find no reference to Lee's book in David Brooks' comic sociology, Bobos in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How they Got There. Phoebe Adams of the Atlantic Monthly described the book in 1960 as good "hammock reading," a "continual bubble of incident."To Kill a Mockingbird is Lee's only book, though the author wrote a few articles in the early 1960s. The best of these is " When Children Discover America." "If more young people traveled with their eyes and minds open and saw this country," Lee writes, "they would have a deeper feeling about it. Adventuring across the country is out of style. Whatever happened to working after school in a grocery store to get enough money to hitchhike to California during your vacation?" Harper Lee is still alive and apparently divides her time between New York and Alabama.


BYE, BYE, CALISTA Responding to government pressure and medical concern, the editors of Britain's top women's magazines will refrain from using excessively lithe models and actresses, such as Calista Flockhart, in their publications. A recent British Medical Association report said, "Broadcasters … and magazine publishers should adopt a more responsible editorial attitude towards the depiction of extremely thin women as role models, and should portray a more realistic range of body images." Liz Jones, editor of Marie Claire, said: "A lot of people came up to me … including fashion stylists and fashion editors, and they want to get together to do something." Alexandra Shulman, the editor of British Vogue (or Brogue, as it's affectionately known by American cousins), writes in her Telegraph column: "In this new world, it's goodbye perfect body, goodbye even to thinking about having one. You certainly aren't going to wake up in the morning wishing you hadn't had that second helping of spaghetti carbonara the night before." About 60,000 people suffer from eating disorders in Britain, while in America the number is closer to 5 million. To visit the American Anorexia Bulimia Association Web site, click here. Roughly 10 percent of people with eating disorders are men, though the editors of male magazines have yet to take action about the representation of their chaps—or their gals, for that matter. The number of male sufferers might actually be higher: A report in the New England Journal of Medicine says, "Men die several years earlier than women. They have more health-risk behaviors and see physicians less often than women. Yet there are few medical books about men's health, whereas those about women's health abound."

Photographs of: Walter Matthau by Rose Prouser/Reuters; Calista Flockhart by Fred Prouser/Reuters.Illustrations by Nina Frenkel.