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The Disappearing Rural Doctor, in Praise of Taste, and George Stubbs’s Beasts

It’s not enough, Nicole Brewer argues at American Theatre, for directors to produced diverse works with a diverse slate of actors, they should focus exclusively [1] on “anti-racist ideas” and “values”: “You’re not practicing ART [anti-racist theatre] properly unless change is felt, and you experience an intuitive understanding that the plurality of your humanity is welcome.” The plurality of my humanity, eh?

Hogwash [2], says Cosmo Landesman, though not in response to Brewer. Let’s stop fighting over representation and appropriation and start fighting again over quality: “At present we have a series of ‘culture wars’ over a wide range of issues — race, gender, sexuality, power and privilege. But the one culture war we don’t have any more is over culture. Yes, we fight about the ideological messages of literary texts, but not about matters of personal taste. We scrutinise and interrogate works of art for their latent — or blatant — sexism and racism. Often what matters is what the work in question says about marginalised groups — not what it says about us as cultured individuals . . . Who today would dare to suggest that if you prefer Sally Rooney to Iris Murdoch, or Nick Hornby to Philip Roth, there is something wrong with you? That you could be dismissed as a person lacking in seriousness and substance. Answer: no one. But is that really such a good thing?”

In praise of George Stubbs’s beasts [3]: “The 18th-century British painter was the ‘Liverpudlian Leonardo,’ revered for his portraits of racehorses and other creatures.”

Edmund de Waal returns to the homeland [4]: “The celebrated writer and ceramicist Edmund de Waal has said it is a ‘huge deal’ for his family, whose Jewish ancestors were driven out of Vienna in 1938, that the Austrian government is to allow descendants of Nazi victims to reclaim their citizenship. De Waal, author of the 2010 bestselling family memoir The Hare with Amber Eyes, said he and his relatives would be returning to Vienna in November for their first reunion in more than eight decades. It would ‘mean the world’ to his 90-year-old father, Victor de Waal, a former dean of Canterbury cathedral, who came to Britain as a refugee at the age of 10, to reclaim the citizenship that was stolen from his family, he said.”

Wilfred McClay explains how The New York Time’s 1619 Project distorts the past [5]: “Considered strictly as an exercise in historical understanding, and in deepening the public’s understanding of a profound issue in our national past, the Project represents a giant missed opportunity. It passes over the complex truth in favor of an exaggeration bordering on travesty. And if it has any influence, that influence will be as likely as not to damage the nation and distort its self-understanding in truly harmful ways—ways that will perhaps be most harmful of all to Americans of African descent, who do not need to be supplied with yet another reason to feel cut off from the promise of American life.”

Essay of the Day:

In The Washington Post, Eli Saslow writes about the disappearing doctors [6] of rural America:

“He woke up to the sound of an ambulance’s siren, knowing that the ambulance would soon be delivering another patient to him. Ed Garner, 68, changed into medical scrubs and walked out to his truck. He dialed the hospital as he started driving toward the emergency room.

“‘Any idea what might be coming?’ he asked, but all anyone knew for certain was that the ambulance was still on its way out to a patient. Sometimes the paramedics were back within minutes, and other trips took nearly two hours. Sometimes they delivered Garner a patient in minor distress, and other times they brought him unresponsive victims of car crashes, heart attacks, drug overdoses or ranching accidents.

“‘Do we know anything yet?’ Garner asked again, a few minutes later. A stethoscope dangled from his rearview mirror. He checked his police scanner, but it was quiet. He looked toward the adjacent interstate but saw no obvious wrecks.

“He lit a cigarette and rolled down the window as he drove by the dusty ranches and dry lakebeds of West Texas. He’d started smoking to cope with the stress of medical school, but now he’d been practicing rural family medicine for 41 years as the stresses continued to mount. He was the only working doctor left to care for three remote counties east of El Paso, an area similar in size to the entire state of Maryland, home to far-flung oil encampments, a desolate stretch of interstate, communities of drifters living off the electric grid, and highway towns made up of truck stops and budget motels. ‘A wild place of last resort,’ was how Garner described parts of his territory, and for every person in every kind of medical trouble, the true last resort was him.”

Read the rest. [6]

Photo: Vienna [7] 

Poem: Lee Oser, “Apollo 13” [8]

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