Mining the New York Times Archives

TimesSelect, the subscription pay-wall system that has enclosed premium content on The New York Times website for the last two years, expired at midnight last night. The gates have been torn open.

Putting aside the liberated columnists, who I look forward to reading again, the truly great thing about TimesSelect was the access it granted to the Times‘ rich archives. Beginning today you still have to pay to download material from much of the 20th century up until 1987, but the public-domain content from 1851-1922 is freely available and searchable and waiting to be mined.

This calls for celebration in the form of downloadable highlights with excerpts.

Joseph Collins’ 1922 review of Ulysses [PDF]:

That [James Joyce] has a message there can be no doubt… [and] he is determined to tell it in a new way. Not in straightforward, narrative fashion, with a certain sequentiality of idea, fact, occurrence, in sentence, phrase and paragraph that is comprehensible to a person of education and culture, but in parodies of classic prose and current slang, in perversions of sacred literature, in carefully metered prose with studied incoherence, in symbols so occult and mystic that only the initiated and profoundly versed can understand—in short, by means of every trick and illusion that a master artificer, or even magician, can play with the English language.

Before proceeding with a brief analysis of “Ulysses,” and comment on its construction and its content, I wish to characterize it. “Ulysses” is the most important contribution that has been made to fictional literature in the twentieth century. It will immortalize its author with the same certainty that Gargantua and Pantagruel immortalized Rabelais, and “The Brothers Karamazov” Dostoyevsky. It is likely that there is no one writing in English today that could parallel Mr. Joyce’s feat, and it also likely that few would care to do it were they capable.

Oscar Wilde’s Disgrace: A Mother, Wife, and Two Children Must Share His Shame (1895):

Aside from the depravity that it has been necessary to make public in the downfall of Oscar Wilde, people who met him here, and accepted his letters of introduction as an accredited English gentleman, are curious to know something of his family, his mother, his wife, his children, and almost everybody else upon whom he has brought absolute ruin.

CUBISM IS BARRED FROM AUTUMN SALONSpecial Cable to The New York Times (1913):

“Cubism and Futurism are officially dead. We sealed their fate at the jury meeting last week… Until this year there have been more Poles and Russians on the jury than French, but last Spring, at a secret meeting, a rule was established preventing a foreign majority, for they were first responsible for the freaks, and they are solidly this year for everything freakish, and also everything off color morally.”

Vorticism the Latest Cult of Rebel Artists (1914):

The inevitable paradox has occurred. Futurism is a thing of the past. Vorticism has come.

What is Vorticism? Well, like Futurism, and Imagisme, and Cubism, essentially it is nonsense. But it is more important than these other fantastic, artistic, and literary movements because it is their sure conclusion. It is important not because it is the latest, but because it is the last phase of the ridiculous rebellion which has given the world the “Portrait of a Nude Descending the Stairs” and the writings of Gertrude Stein. It is the reductio ad absurdum of mad modernity. The symbol of the Vorticists is an inverted black funnel apparently spinning on a perpendicular rod. It looks something like an extinguisher and something like a dunce-cap, but probably it is intended to be the portrait of a Vortex.

Bolsheviki Stern Critics of Art: Discourage Mediocrity by Making Painters Scrape Off Pictures Exhibitions Reject (1920):

“Art is greatly encouraged by the Bolsheviki. There are frequent exhibitions, each containing about 1,000 pictures. Therefrom 300 of the best are selected and bought by the State at a handsome price for distribution throughout the country. The rest are burnt—an effective but somewhat drastic method to discourage mediocrity. At least that was the original practice, but recently owing to the shortage of canvas, &c., I am informed that painters of reject pictures now get them back with orders to scrape off their wretched daub and try to accomplish something better next time.

“A sign of the changed times is the great interest taken by the masses in art. One of my friends wrote that literally hundreds of people crowded round him while he was painting a futuristic picture of the market in Moscow. One Philistine, who declared the artist was making fools of them because the picture resembled nothing on earth, was ducked in a nearby horse-trough. Evidentally futurism has come to stay in Russia.

More to come I’m sure.




on this website.