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Publishing Facts, Recovered Art, and the Lost Years of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

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Good morning, everyone. First up: Does the publishing industry have a problem with facts? “In the past year alone, errors in books by several high-profile authors — including Naomi Wolf, the former New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson, the historian Jared Diamond, the behavioral scientist and ‘happiness expert’ Paul Dolan and the journalist Michael Wolff — have ignited a debate over whether publishers should take more responsibility for the accuracy of their books.” 

Breaking: Italy and France have stopped arguing over Leonardo: “Italy and France are set to sign an agreement to exchange works by Leonardo da Vinci and Raphael, burying a spat triggered by Italy’s former populist government. The deal is expected to be signed in Paris on Tuesday by the recently reappointed Italian culture minister, Dario Franceschini, and his French counterpart, Franck Riester. It will result in Italian museums lending works by Leonardo to the Louvre, in Paris, for an exhibition in October to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the artist’s death. In return, France will lend Italy paintings by Raphael for events marking 500 years since his death next year.”

Joseph Bien-Kahn writes about the influx of international players—most of them American—in Mexico’s professional baseball league: “For most of its nearly 100-year history, the Liga Mexicana de Béisbol was the province of the Mexican-born ballplayer. When Barreda signed with the Tijuana Toros in 2015, there was a seven-man limit on foreign-born players and he was the team’s only Mexican American player on the 40-man roster. But in the winter of 2016, a razor-thin majority of owners voted to expand a rule that defined who was a ‘native Mexican,’ classifying anyone with verifiable Mexican heritage as native, which allowed clubs to draw from the much deeper pool of Mexican American ballplayers from across the border. If you had a Mexican ancestor and could qualify for a Mexican passport, you were Mexican in the eyes of the league. This season, Toros Press Officer Armando Esquivel estimates that some 30% of the Liga Mexicana is Mexican American. The league’s 2019 home run king is a former major league player from Redwood City, California, named Chris Carter.”

Has the word “evangelical” lost its meaning? Alan Jacobs argues it has in a review of Thomas Kidd’s new book, Who Is an Evangelical? The History of a Movement in Crisis.

Keith Miller, who worked as a tour guide in Italy for many years, reviews a show of stolen, and later recovered, works of art: “The truth about art theft in Europe – and Clerville is, among other things, a microcosm, or quintessence, of Europe – is less swashbuckling than most fiction. The exhibition halls at the Palazzo del Quirinale, spacious, sparsely decorated and a little flyblown, are exactly the sort of place where you can imagine Diabolik pulling off a caper, disguising himself as the President, say, or floating through the window on a jetpack. But the works on show in a minor blockbuster earlier this summer, all of it recovered by the TPC, had undergone various indignities that you’d struggle to turn into any kind of entertainment beyond a snuff movie. One masterpiece, a Hellenistic table support from Puglia in painted marble, representing two griffins lunching on a stag, had been hammered into pieces so it could be smuggled out of the country with a consignment of building materials. Three post-Impressionist paintings, smashed and grabbed from the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna twenty-one years ago, were destined for the bonfire, our guide said, if they couldn’t be consigned to their intended buyer. The Senigallia Madonna by Piero della Francesca, taken from the Palazzo Ducale in Urbino in 1975, was the subject of television appeals, like any kidnapping victim: ‘Please don’t touch her with your bare hands.; A stately, plump rococo cabinet had been cut down to fit a smaller space than that from which it had been untimely ripped.”

Here’s the longlist for the 2019 National Book Award in Fiction.

NPR is making a killing with its podcasts. It projects “that podcast sponsorship revenues will surpass revenues from broadcast sponsorships next year for the first time.”

Essay of the Day:

In The Daily Beast, Patrick Symmes writes about Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’s “lost years”:

“Everything comes to an end, even a tango party in Argentina. It was a perfect combination, that night in early 1904: a warm spring evening, a house full of the great, and a yard full of the good.

“The great: That would be the new governor, Dr. Julio Lezama, accompanied by the chief of police, military surveyors, and various political functionaries. And the good: That would be the 80 or so people standing on the grass, almost the entire population of this remote valley in the Andes. Among the guests were families, local laborers, and misfits from many nations. Some were broke South American cowboys; others immigrants from Italy, England, Wales, and America. Some were indigent; others, like the hosts of the party, seemed to have it all: money, land, houses, and cattle.

“The music was provided by the governor himself. He was a man of many accomplishments—a doctor, politician, and guitarist who could pick out most any regional favorite. Tonight it was the Brazilian samba, plus a new style that was just emerging in Argentina, the melancholy tango.

“Somewhere in the party, mingling with ease and leading the festivities—because this was their house, their life—were three people, each with a $10,000 bounty on their head. Back home they were criminals, efficient and daring experts in the art of separating powerful people from their money. Here, under new names, they were upstanding citizens, free from the past.

“One of the two hosts, James ‘Santiago’ Ryan, had once worked as a butcher, and outside the cabin, he must have cast a critical eye on the men grilling the lamb and beef. The other man, Henry ‘Enrique’ Place, spoke better Spanish than his friend and business partner, and would have spent more of the evening inside with Ethel, his wife. She was the one who made this frontier house sparkle, the social one, the music teacher who spoke Spanish well, whose elegant presence remade the lives of three criminal fugitives into something whole and wholesome-looking. Despite having her face on WANTED posters all over the globe, she took a turn around the cabin floor with Dr. Lezama.

“The party lasted until 2 a.m. The governor himself stayed overnight as a guest of Place and Ryan. In another life, they had gone by other names. Many other names, in fact; the men put on aliases the way other people put on coats. In Argentina, they hoped to conceal forever the names history would remember them by: Butch and Sundance.

In the 1969 Oscar-winning film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, the famous outlaws are shown escaping America to a decrepit village in Bolivia. According to the movie version, they  died side by side, guns blazing, in the crosshairs of half a Bolivian regiment. It’s a great Hollywood ending that happens to be true, mostly: they left America…then died in Bolivia. What Hollywood didn’t know is that Butch and Sundance escaped.

“For six years they managed to elude the most powerful detectives on the planet and outrun their past across the wilds of South America. Hidden, for years, in the tranquil frontiers of Patagonia and the deep forests of the Andes, they started new lives as law-abiding citizens. They roped cattle, built ranches, and spent their ill-gotten gains on glorious living, including tango parties and cabin concerts where a governor—and even lawmen charged with arresting them—were honored guests.”

Read the rest.

Photo:National Nature Park Synevyr

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about the author

Micah Mattix is the literary editor of The American Conservative and an associate professor of English at Regent University. Follow him on Twitter.

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