- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Kate in black

“Another knockout in the fashion department was Kate Winslet at last month’s Golden Globes banquet. When Winslet finally won a major award and went deliriously bossy at the mike, I was in seventh heaven. I knew exactly what Nancy Pelosi meant when she said that when ex-President Bush’s helicopter took off from the Capitol three weeks ago, ‘It felt like a ten-pound anvil was lifted off my head.’

“For 11 years, ever since Winslet was robbed of her Oscar for ‘Titanic,’ I’ve been grimly pursuing my vendetta against the provincial Hollywood establishment. I pray that Winslet’s two wins at the Golden Globes finally portend a sleek gold statuette is in her immediate future.

“The elegant, architectural, black satin strapless gown (by Yves Saint Laurent’s Stefano Pilati) that Winslet wore at the Golden Globes ultimately descends from the voluptuous black sheath that Jean-Louis designed for Rita Hayworth’s ‘Put the Blame on Mame’ striptease in ‘Gilda.’ I had the great pleasure and privilege of being able to examine that magnificent piece of engineering up close and personal about 15 years ago, when the ‘Gilda’ gown was on display in a collection of Hollywood artifacts at an Atlantic City casino. (Rita’s proportions were unexpectedly petite.)”

Camille Paglia, writing on “A rocky first few weeks” on Feb. 11 at Salon

Abe in history

“In fact, as historian Merrill Peterson has shown, there have been many [Abraham] Lincolns over the years, some of them archetypal - the Savior of the Union, the Great Emancipator, the Man of the People, the Self-Made Man - but others very much tied to their moment.

“In 1928, Stephen Vincent Benet (drawing on the sentimental popular biography of Lincoln written by Carl Sandburg) described him not as the highly successful corporate lawyer he was, but as a ‘lank man, knotty and tough as a hickory rail’ … .

“In the 1950s, this country-boy Lincoln had morphed into the wise, prudent leader who steered the ship of Union between the wild excesses of ideologues: abolitionists on the left and pro-slavery fire-eaters on the right. In the 1960s, Lincoln was at first thought of as a civil-rights pioneer, but soon became criticized, even reviled, as a racist and a proponent of timid half-measures, a forerunner of the pragmatic liberalism that was so thoroughly drubbed by the New Left.

“Today, Lincoln is revered for his combination of faith and epistemological modesty, a skeptical believer who sought to do God’s will without ever claiming to know it - a view that requires one to overlook the fierce and relentless way he conducted the war that defined his presidency.”

Wilfred W. McClay, writing on “Lincoln the Great: Though He Didn’t Look That Way at the Time” in the January/February issue of Humanities

Austen in love

“‘Pride and Prejudice,’ by Jane Austen, is my favorite because it shows the triumph of love over the two most powerful obstacles to it, with a happy ending in which the two most attractive characters fall into each other’s arms. But the book (or the movie) raises a swirl of questions as well.

“Is pride overcome by love or is it not combined with it? Are we readers not pleased, even in this democratic age, by the benefits that Pemberley, Mr. Darcy’s grand estate, will bring to Elizabeth Bennet when she marries him? This suggests that money should accompany love, not be banished from it. Even money without love has its consolations, as we see in the comfortable life Elizabeth’s friend Charlotte Lucas makes for herself with the odious Mr. Collins. And is not Mr. Darcy’s pride in his status (and money) justified, at least in part, by his use of it to save Elizabeth Bennet’s sister from shame?

“Mr. Darcy is proud to have a fine personal library in his estate, built up over generations. This will enable Elizabeth to accomplish something he thinks very important in a woman: ‘the improvement of her mind by extensive reading.’ Hmm. Does this mean he thinks women are inferior to men, or superior? Which is the meaning of sending a valentine?”

Harvey Mansfield, writing on “Love Story” on Feb. 13 at National Review

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