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Defending Nicolas Cage

Nicolas Cage (Camilla Morandi/Rex)

Nicolas Cage (Camilla Morandi/Rex)

The week’s best arts and culture reads – including an appreciation of TV’s smartest cartoon, Adventure Time, and a search for a stolen Borges first edition.

How to find a stolen Borges 
Graciela Mochkofsky | Paris Review | 16 April 2014
This tantalising tale recounts the theft of a rare Borges first edition from the National Library of Argentina, which gets confused with a facsimile copy made from the very same book and then with another (apparently) authentic Borges first edition. One of these is subsequently returned to the library, but nobody seems sure whether it is the same one that was stolen. Borges, who was once a director of the library, would have relished the irony.   

TV’s smartest cartoon
Maria Bustillos | The Awl | 15 April 2014
A piece in praise of Adventure Time: a “smash hit cartoon” for children aged six to 11, and also “a serious work of moral philosophy, a rip-roaring comic masterpiece and a meditation on gender politics and love in the modern world”. The heroes, a boy called Finn and a dog called Jake, “possess a blind optimism that is as clueless as it is comforting”. This is not merely great television for children, it is great art for everyone.

The Dickens Of Detroit
Michael Weinreb | Grantland | 15 April 2014
That’s Elmore Leonard, and no exaggeration. This piece is a tribute to his mighty five early Detroit novels, 52 Pickup, Swag, Unknown Man #8, The Switch, and City Primeval: High Noon in Detroit, which stake out Leonard’s lifelong territory of armed robbery, blackmail, kidnapping and alcoholism. “Nobody ever used airport lockers with as much verve and creativity as Elmore Leonard did. The man was the Miles Davis of the airport locker.”         

Michelangelo’s David is Goliath
William Wallace | ARTnews | 14 April 2014
Michelangelo’s David was commissioned for the roofline of Florence’s Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore. But it was far too heavy to be lifted there by the means available at the turn of the 16th Century. Michelangelo must have understood the impossibility, even if the church elders didn’t. He never intended to create a cathedral decoration. He meant to create a free-standing masterpiece. Where it went was a secondary question.   

Taking Nic Cage seriously
Alex Pappademas | Grantland | 11 April 2014
In sincere appreciation of Nicholas Cage: “There are moments in which Cage seems to be gunning for some as-yet-nonexistent Academy Award presented to ‘Most Actor’… He’s successfully taken us away from an obsession with naturalism into a kind of presentation style of acting that I imagine was popular with the old troubadours”.         

The Dark Joys Of Bengalcor
Marco Ferrarese | Roads & Kingdoms | 10 April 2014Exploring the extreme-metal scene in Bangladesh with Adnan, a Dhaka lawyer who performs as Loki Nihilluminatus. The name of his band, Jahiliyyah, means “the state of religious ignorance before the Qur’anic revelation in the Arab world”. Epitaph of Plassey, a concept album from Severe Dementia, “retraces the 1757 defeat of the last independent Nawab of Bengal at the hands of the British East India Company”.

Looking For Tom Lehrer
Anita Badejo and Bem Smith | Buzzfeed | 9 April 2014
Lehrer was a maths prodigy and entered Harvard at 15 in 1943. He “stood out for his wit and brilliance”, kept a stand-up piano in his room, joined the National Security Agency, invented vodka Jell-O shots and sold 370,000 privately-recorded LPs of his songs by mail-order in the 1950s. But stardom bored him. In the 1960s he stopped performing and went to teach at UC Santa Cruz. “His entire body of work topped out at 37 songs.”

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