You know, I give opportunistic artists and writers a tough time occasionally in this column, but let me be quick to admit that it’s not always easy to cash in on wokeness—especially when you are pitted against an investment firm or corporation that is also trying to cash in. That seems to be the plight of Kristen Visbal, who created the Fearless Girl statue for State Street Global Advisors (SSGA). Apparently, her contract disallows her from making unauthorized replicas of the statue, but she’s doing it anyway, and SSGA has sued: “Last year, Hyperallergic reported that the artist was selling reproductions of the ponytailed bronze for $6,500 each in a limited run of 1,000 miniatures. According to the website advertising these copies, Visbal has already sold at least 114 editions of the statue. When Hyperallergic spoke with Visbal about the project, she said that the replicas were ‘in no way associated’ with SSGA, and that she owned the copyright to Fearless Girl. While copyrights and trademarks both offer intellectual property protection, the former is typically geared toward artistic works while the latter defends brand identity. Accordingly, SSGA’s lawsuit questions Visbal’s ownership of the sculpture by claiming that unauthorized reproductions could damage its status in a global campaign to support corporate gender diversity and female leadership.”
Univision, on the other hand, can’t cash out. They are having difficulty finding a buyer for Gizmodo Media because of the publication’s history of bashing owners—at least owners they don’t like—since its writers unionized in 2015. “Gizmodo Media staffers are also digging into the personal life—and Tinder profile—of Bustle Digital Group CEO Bryan Goldberg, who has bid to buy select sites, The Post has learned…Gizmodo’s track record of skewering owners is scaring away bidders, said sources, who noted the Spanish-language media giant could attract more buyers if it would rein in an editorial independence provision in Gizmodo’s union contract.” Smart play, Gizmodo writers.
The International Anthony Burgess Foundation, established in 2003, has been reissuing out-of-print Burgess novels and publishing “reconstructed” works from his notes and drafts over the past few years. Margaret Drabble takes stock of the work and Burgess’s “verbal play.”
Nick Spencer reviews James Simpson’s Permanent Revolution: The Reformation and the Illiberal Roots of Liberalism: “Focusing solely on the English Reformation, and drawing primarily on literary evidence—Milton is the book’s presiding genius—Simpson makes a good case for this accidental Whig history. He somewhat overplays his hand when describing the Reformation. It was, we are told, a dissident, punishing, crushing, violent, schismatic, repressive, absolutist, cruel, despair-producing, humanity-belittling, merit-denying movement. The impression is less of a detached historian than of a man with a narrative to drive and a thesaurus to hand. More seriously, he doesn’t quite nail why the permanent revolution steadied post-1688. His argument is that the liberal tradition had fundamentally to repudiate Protestantism in order to move on, and that it did so by ‘inventing self-stabilizing mechanisms’. But this fails to recognize the extent to which late Reformation/ early Enlightenment thinkers adopted and adapted existing evangelical ideas.”
I don’t usually link to interviews, but two recently caught my eye. First, Patricia Reimann talks to John Williams’s fourth wife, Nancy Gardner Williams. Here’s a snippet of what she had to say about the Stoner author: “He was nothing if not independent and willful. He had a good way of living for the day. He didn’t have any anxiety about whether his work was accepted or not.” He could also fib a little about his life, as Charles Shields notes in his recent biography, but that goes unnoted in the interview.
The second is M. H. Miller’s sit-down with Jasper Johns: “I can’t say that my encounter with Johns did much to upend his reputation as an impenetrable figure. He had a remarkable ability to cut off a conversational thread with a single look. When asked if there were any younger artists he admired, he said, ‘Mmhmm.’ Asked for specific names, he responded with an unsmiling, ‘No.’ His speech was punctuated by long, powerful silences during which he stared out into the distance, looking at nothing in particular but doing so with such a sense of purpose it was as if he were searching the hills for the words he wanted to say before emerging with a full-paragraph answer. When we sat upstairs—a book of paintings by Edvard Munch, with whom Johns shares a morbid sense of symbolism, between us—there was a certain amount of negotiation regarding my recording our interview. I told him it was the only way I could know that I’ve quoted him accurately. ‘That’s what I’m worried about,’ he said grimly before relenting.”
Essay of the Day:
In The Atlantic, Sarah Zhang explains why researchers are analyzing the DNA found in (and on) old books:
“It was in the archives of the Archbishop of York that Matthew Collins had an epiphany: He was surrounded by millions of animal skins.
“Another person might say they were surrounded by books and manuscripts written on parchment, which is made from skins, usually of cows and sheep. Collins, however, had been trying to make sense of animal-bone fragments from archaeological digs, and he began to think about the advantages of studying animal skins, already cut into rectangles and arranged neatly on a shelf. Archaeologists consider themselves lucky to get a few dozen samples, and here were millions of skins just sitting there. ‘Just an obscene number,’ Collins told me, his voice still giddy at the possibilities in their DNA.
“In recent years, archaeologists and historians have awakened to the potential of ancient DNA extracted from human bones and teeth. DNA evidence has enriched—and complicated—stories of prehistoric human migrations. It has provided tantalizing clues to epidemics such as the black death. It has identified the remains of King Richard III, found under a parking lot. But Collins isn’t just interested in human remains. He’s interested in the things these humans made; the animals they bred, slaughtered, and ate; and the economies they created.
“That’s why he was studying DNA from the bones of livestock—and why his lab is now at the forefront of studying DNA from objects such as parchment, birch-bark tar, and beeswax. These objects can fill in gaps in the written record, revealing new aspects of historical production and trade. How much beeswax came from North Africa, for example? Or how did cattle plague make its way through Europe? With ample genetic data, you might reconstruct a more complete picture of life hundreds of years in the past.”
Poem: William Logan, “The Roman Villa”
Photos: Super moon
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