The American Conservative’s founding maxim is “ideas over ideology; principles over party,” and it has certainly been true to this over the years—giving space to a wide variety of ideas and (at times) unfashionable but important principles. But it is also a bookish place. TAC was the first publication to support Prufrock back in 2013, and it stepped in earlier this year to support the blog and email once again. We also have some exciting things planned as far as book and arts coverage goes. Look for pieces by John Shelton Reed, John Wilson, Matthew Walther, and many others in the coming months, as well as a couple of big literary essays. Why not contribute to the work of the magazine by becoming a memberTAC is doing great work, but it can’t do it without the support of readers like you.

Now on to the literary news du jour: The Swedish Academy will award two Nobel prizes in literature this year to make up for skipping last year’s prize because of a sexual misconduct case. I tend to agree with my friend Robert Messenger that we’d be better off with no Nobel prize in literature at all.

In other news, Pete Townshend has written a novel. It will be published this fall. Rock opera and art installation to follow, he says.

Don’t buy cryptocurrencies: “What’s worse to lose – your keys or your wallet? That’s the question more than 100,000 angry investors who used the QuadrigaCX exchange to purchase cryptocurrency now contemplate. The apparent sudden death in December of Canadian Gerald Cotten, the exchange’s 30-year-old founder, has without warning left them in a $250 million-shaped hole.”

In praise of Pierre Reverdy: “‘My heart is in my / pocket, it is Poems by Reverdy’. So writes Frank O’Hara in, ‘A Step Away From Them.’ Pierre Reverdy was widely admired by New York poets in the mid 20th century, including O’Hara, Kenneth Rexroth, and John Ashbery. They loved his work. They translated it. Did they truly understand it? . . . In every description of Reverdy I’ve read, his Catholicism is either not mentioned or only mentioned in passing as a phase from which he quickly retreated in cynical alienation.”

Oops: Man leaves €10,000 Picasso jug on German train.

A history of modern Greece: “For a country of just eleven million people, whose population ranks eighty-fourth in the world, between Haiti and the Dominican Republic, Greece has a large and imposing history. When many Anglo-Saxons think of Greece, they think of the ancients: the millennium of the Trojan War and Athens’s wars with Persia and Sparta, of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, and of Alexander the Great’s Hellenic empire. Russians and the Eastern Orthodox tend to think of the age of Byzantium – another thousand years rich with incident. The modern Greek state, known since 1974 as the Hellenic Republic, is a toddler in comparison.”

The end of recycling in America? “For decades, we were sending the bulk of our recycling to China—tons and tons of it, sent over on ships to be made into goods like shoes and bags and new plastic products. But last year, the country restricted imports of certain recyclables, including mixed paper—magazines, office paper, junk mail—and most plastics. Waste-management companies across the country are telling towns, cities, and counties that there is no longer a market for their recycling. These municipalities have two choices: pay much higher rates to get rid of recycling, or throw it all away. Most are choosing the latter. ‘We are doing our best to be environmentally responsible, but we can’t afford it,’ said Judie Milner, the city manager of Franklin, New Hampshire.”

In This Life: Secular Faith and Spiritual Freedom, Martin Hägglund argues that only secularists can build effective social democracies and, therefore, improve the world (the two, alas, being linked in his view). James G. Chappel is unconvinced: “For all of its laudable concern for democracy, there is something imperious in Hägglund’s dismissal of religious believers: specifically, his contention that, insofar as they are properly religious, they do not and cannot have any concern for the finite world. It is enormously provocative and counterintuitive to assert that religious traditions (all of them!) counsel believers to ignore finite beings in pursuit of eternal happiness. And yet this is his consistent claim. ‘If you truly believed in the existence of eternity,’ he argues, ‘there would be no reason to mourn the loss of a finite life.’ The most obvious objection to Hägglund’s thesis is simply that religious people care about the world, and other people, all of the time.”

Essay of the Day:

What happened to Rick Pitino after he was fired as the head basketball coach of the Louisville Cardinals in 2017? After taking a year off, he moved to Greece to coach Panathinaikos and work “for a self-styled Bond villain”:

“‘He put a bounty on him.’ What do you mean? A bounty? ‘A bounty. 10,000 euros.’

“This was the first story Rick Pitino told me in Athens. It was a good one, and it foreshadowed the madness yet to come. Pitino has lots of stories and, these days, lots of time to tell them.

“Before he came to Greece, Pitino was out of coaching for more than a year—and thought he might be out of coaching forever. After a federal investigation into bribery and fraud in college basketball—Adidas was accused of funneling money to high-profile high school players to steer them to teams sponsored by the shoe company, including Pitino’s Cardinals—Louisville fired the Hall of Fame coach in October 2017 after 16 seasons. Pitino was never charged in the scandal and remains defiant about his innocence, as does his lawyer. He wrote a book about the saga and insists he’s never given so much as $5 to a player. But after Louisville fired him, he feared no one in the college game would offer another gig no matter how much he pleaded his case. He was right. No one came to his rescue. At least not a college, anyway.

“In December 2018, a friend of a friend called. There might be a job opening. In Greece. Coaching Panathinaikos, one of the two main teams in Athens. An official offer came on Christmas Eve. He took it and flew out on Christmas Day.

“It was hard not to notice that Pitino, in his Panathinaikos kelly-green scarf, clearly enjoyed the warm reception. Panathinaikos fans are passionate about their team and, now, their famous new coach. So is the owner. Dimitris Giannakopoulos has a bit of a reputation in Athens. Giannakopoulos took control of the team from his father, Pavlos, who ran it for decades and died about a year ago. There’s a banner with Pavlos’s visage that hangs in the rafters of Olympic Indoor Hall. Dimitri’s family owns Vianex, the largest pharmaceutical company in the country, and his media outlet, DPG Digital Media, partnered with CNN to bring to Greece.

“That’s the buttoned-up businessman side of Giannakopoulos, but it’s the 44-year-old’s off-hours reputation that’s made him a folk hero—or a villain, depending on whom you ask and their allegiances—in a country that has a healthy respect for rebellious behavior.”

Read the rest.

Photo: Two sharks in a wave (take that, Damien Hirst)

Poem: John A. Nieves, “Note to a Prospective Runaway at Bedtime”   

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