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Tag Archives: history

Flakes of Wrath: On Howard Markel’s “The Kelloggs: The Battling Brothers of Battle Creek”

In a moment in which our country’s various wars, Revolutionary, Civil, World, and otherwise, are trawled for something to give meaning to our present calamities, studying the Kellogg brothers’ era and milieu is a refreshing and much-needed reminder that much of the reason why daily life looks the way it does owes not to generals or presidents, but to the works of scientists and businesspeople.

Fred Astaire and the Blackface Talking

One might argue that blackface performances of the thirties and forties (and earlier) are so far in the past and such a product of their time as to be beyond judgment, but I’d disagree. I’d rather assessments of artists be made with knowledge of their warts and all.

“Primal Postcards: ‘Madeline’ as a Secret Space of Ludwig Bemelmans’s Childhood,” by Mary Galbraith

One or more pictures stand out as the book’s primal raison d’etre; that is, there is at least one picture which activates a “flashbulb memory” from the creator’s childhood and which the story explains in an ambiguous way. The manifest storybook explanation for this primal scene is benign and reassuring while the latent and historical interpretation is traumatic and unbearable.

Ears on the Floor: Poetry of Witness in a Post-Truth Era

A few years ago, a woman in Spain attempted to restore a nineteenth-century church fresco, but in doing so ruined it completely. The result is less Savior than surreal simian, the delicate portrait painted over with a crude, monstrous “face.” Since the election it has been hard to shake the feeling that reality has been made worse, unrecognizable, in precisely this way.