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The Bee Gees: Geniuses with no taste?

The Bee Gees

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The week’s best arts and culture reads – including the trouble with the Bee Gees, the future of art and what Jay Z can teach us about philosophy.

The lost world of Stefan Zweig
John Gray | New Statesman | 17 July 2014
Renewed enthusiasm for Zweig’s writing, stirred in part by Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel, is carrying Zweig's reputation to greater heights than it reached in his lifetime. He was complacent about Nazism until it was too late, while easily panicked by smaller dangers. Contemporaries found something “contorted and unresolved” in his character. But we can empathise now with his circumstances and his sensibility.

Interview: Sir Norman Rosenthal
David Carrier & Joachim Pissarro | Brooklyn Rail | 15 July 2014
Gossipy conversation in which Rosenthal reminisces about his life in the art trade from librarian at Agnews to exhibitions director at the Royal Academy. “All art that we find interesting is both objectively and philosophically modern. If Poussin is good today, then he’s modern. Who knows whether Cézanne will be interesting in 200 years? It seems to me that if they’re good today, that’s all that matters”.

The elephant in the discotheque
Bob Stanley | Paris Review | 14th July 2014
Can you have genius, yet no taste? Consider the Bee Gees. They were prodigies; hit-makers for 34 years, rivalled only by The Beatles. In 1978 the songs from Saturday Night Fever accounted for 2% of worldwide music industry revenues. But they were never chic, often ridiculed, not without reason. “Forgive them. They wrote a dozen of the finest songs of the twentieth century. The Bee Gees were children of the world”.

No church in the state of nature
Joseph Len Miller | Pop Music And Philosophy | 14 July 2014 
Jay Z and Kanye West, in No Church in the Wild, relate Hobbes’s state of nature to Plato’s Euthyphro dilemma. “They seem to think that without a belief in a God that creates rules there would be no morality. So for them the state of nature is like a world in which there is no God to create or enforce moral rules. This leads us to the Euthyphro dilemma: Is something good because God loves it? Or, does God love it because it’s good?”

Melissa Lane discusses Plato
Nigel Warburton | Five Books | 14 July 2014
Interview with Princeton philosophy professor, discussing outstanding books about Plato. “What we find in Plato, explicitly, is tremendous anxiety about the nature of writing. Of course the great paradox is that he’s writing, he’s reflecting on the limits of writing, the challenges of writing, of this new technology, very much the way we now reflect on the Internet and social media, how is this going to change our culture?”

Seven reasons not to write novels
Javier Marias | Threepenny Review | 12 July 2014
Spain’s greatest living novelist explains why you shouldn’t follow in his footsteps. There are too many novels already; anybody can write one; even if you get published, the money is terrible and the fame minimal; posterity will forget you; writing is hard work. The only reason to write novels: you get to live, while you write, in a fictional world that, unlike the real world, is full of possibilities.

Steven Soderbergh: Why I Quit Movies
Mike Ayers | Esquire | 7 July 2014
Soderbergh explains why he’s giving up film directing in favour of television, and starting a liquor business. “There’s no Yoko. The reason is: It stopped being fun. That’s a big deal to me. The ratio of bullshit to the fun part of doing the work was really starting to get out of whack”. Also, he’s worried about America: “This country is too f-ing big. This could turn into Mad Max, like tomorrow. The fabric is so thin.”

Art in the future
Carter Cleveland | Wall Street Journal | 7 July 2014
The fine art industry today is roughly where the music industry was in the 19th Century, serving an elite audience. Twentieth Century music transcended limitations of class and scale by exploiting technology and developing new genres. Twenty-first Century  fine art will do the same. The market will expand massively; digital technologies will be co-opted; a new tier of “upper-middle-brow” art — think HBO on television — will refine popular taste.

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