Former executive editor of The New York Times, Jill Abramson, has been accused of plagiarism. Vice correspondent Michael Moynihan skewered Abramson’s Merchants of Truth “in a series of tweets Wednesday that showed passages where Abramson’s language strongly echoed that of articles penned by others.” But is it plagiarism? Kyle Smith argues she is guilty merely of sloppiness and hackery. Abramson said yesterday she “fell short” in crediting her sources properly.

Jeff Bezos accuses National Enquirer of attempted blackmail.

A short history of the block party: “For all its seeming potential, the debut of the block party on the American social scene as recorded in the pages of The New York Times almost exactly a century before this sunny Connecticut day was not a particularly auspicious one.”

The life and letters of Lionel Trilling: “Trilling belonged to perhaps the last generation of academics who believed that they had something of general social importance to communicate, and who really did have such an influence.”

Andrew Jackson “never denounced slavery and was brutal towards American Indians, but remains a popular figure.” Why? Bradley Birzer argues that it is because he was “the first truly American president.”

Allen C. Guelzo writes in defense of Ulysses S. Grant: “The usual trend of presidential reputations over time is downward. Grant is one of the few (along with Dwight Eisen­hower, Ronald Reagan, and Theodore Roosevelt) whose ratings have risen. When we consider that his principal offense was not in his ideas or policies but largely in cold-shouldering official Washington, we should wonder whether it’s right to let those insider opinions place a thumb on history’s scales.”

Essay of the Day:

There is a trend among classical musicians to view Johann Sebastian Bach as a spiritual guru and to present his music as making some sort of progressive, universal appeal for “good.” This is a mistake, Elizabeth Lyon argues in The Hudson Review:

“The release of Six Evolutions was coordinated with the start of Ma’s massive initiative, ‘The Bach Project,’ involving the performance of all six suites in one setting in thirty-six locations around the world. Connected to each performance is a day of action, ‘a series of conversations and collaborations that explore how culture can help us imagine and build a better future.’ Examples have included: ‘Exploring how culture can help us to protect society’s most vulnerable’; ‘Exploring how culture can help us to bring diverse communities together’; and ‘Exploring how culture can help build strong schools and promote creative expression.’ ‘The Bach Project’ continues into 2019, with performances in North America, Europe, and Australia.

“The arts and social activism are old, happy bedfellows. But why Bach? The rationale for Bach’s role in particular is connected to Ma’s own six-decade experience of the suites, experience which, in his words, has helped to ‘shape the evolution of [his] life.’ More weighty still is Ma’s belief in ‘Bach’s ability to speak to our shared humanity at a time when our civic conversation is so often focused on division.’ These sentiments speak to common trends in a shared ideology of Bach performance: the supposed universality of Bach’s appeal and the particularity of a classical musician’s life journey with Bach’s music. A random sampling of other recent Bach projects immediately illustrates this ideology. The international movement Bach in the Subways professes that “the power and beauty of Johann Sebastian Bach’s music consistently transcend social and musical boundaries and inspire deep appreciation and strong emotion.” Cellist’s Dane Johansen’s documentary project, Strangers on Earth, follows Johansen’s journey with his cello along the Camino de Santiago, performing and recording the Bach suites in churches along the way. Johansen testifies—in words echoing Schumann’s and Reger’s—that ‘Bach’s Suites for Solo Cello represent the beginning and end of my relationship with music. They were among the first pieces I played as a child, and the rest of my life will be spent working toward their mastery.’ Like Ma’s ‘Bach Project,’ Strangers on Earth claims that “the Camino de Santiago and Bach’s Suites are both journeys, timeless in their appeal and relevance and available to all people, regardless of background, age or language” (emphasis added).

“While I wouldn’t attempt or wish to deny the appeal of Bach to people all over the world, we shouldn’t make the assumption that Bach is in some way naturally accessible, regardless of background, age, or language.”

Read the rest.

Photo: Lauterbrunnen

Poem: William Louis-Dreyfus, “One Thing I Know About the Dead”

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