In a Baffler essay titled "People Who Influence Influential People Are the Most Influential People in the World," George Scialabba writes about the history of the New Republic:

Like generations of his successors at the magazine, [Walter] Lippmann was a bright young Harvard graduate who quickly plugged himself into political Washington and literary New York. Soon he and [TNR founder Robert] Croly were dining regularly with President Wilson’s senior adviser, urging him to “let us know whether or not we are misinterpreting what the President is trying to do,” lest the magazine unintentionally “conflict with the purposes of the government.” Intelligence at the elbow of power—this has always been The New Republic’s ideal. Nowhere is this ideal more lovingly commemorated than in The New Republic’s latest anthology, Insurrections of the Mind, published last year to mark the magazine’s one-hundredth anniversary. Respectful Suggestions of the Mind would have been, on the whole, a more accurate title.

In this week's New Yorker, Louis Menand writes about Saul Bellow:

Structure was always Bellow’s weak point. One of his first editors at Partisan Review, Dwight Macdonald, worried about what he called a “centerless facility.” [Norman] Podhoretz was not wrong about the problem of shapelessness in “Augie March.” The novel’s antic style is like a mechanical bull. For a few hundred pages, Bellow is having the time of his life, letting his invention take him where it will. By the end, he is just hanging on, waiting for the music to stop. It takes the story five hundred and thirty-six pages to get there.

In the Guardian, the novelist Juian Barnes writes about a lifetime of looking at paintings.

Flaubert believed that it was impossible to explain one art form in terms of another, and that great paintings required no words of explanation. Braque thought the ideal state would be reached when we said nothing at all in front of a painting. But we are very far from reaching that state. We remain incorrigibly verbal creatures who love to explain things, to form opinions, to argue. Put us in front of a picture and we chatter, each in our different way. Proust, when going round an art gallery, liked to comment on who the people in the pictures reminded him of in real life; which might have been a deft way of avoiding the direct aesthetic confrontation. But it is a rare picture that stuns, or argues, us into silence. And if one does, it is only a short time before we want to explain and understand the very silence into which we have been plunged.

Matthew Boudway is senior editor of Commonweal.

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