PositiveThe New YorkerTomlinson’s dryly written accounts of the Spanish court are no Iberian Wolf Hall, but they feature arresting characters ... Tomlinson addresses, with refreshing clarity, a chronic question of just how independent, not to say subversive, Goya was of the powers that employed him. She debunks a common oversimplification of Goya as a committed post-Enlightenment liberal ... We come at last to the Black Paintings (untitled by Goya), of which Tomlinson gives a bracingly investigative account ... She admirably keeps the mysteries of Goya’s character distinct from its self-serving machinations. He was unremarkably bourgeois, though salaried by royalty. (Payments kept arriving until the end of his life.) The boring parts of his story are salutary, framing the discontinuous dramas.
RaveThe New YorkerMariani’s excellent new book, The Whole Harmonium: The Life of Wallace Stevens, is a thrilling story of a mind, which emerges from a dispiriting story of a man ... Mariani persuasively numbers Stevens among the twentieth-century poets who are both most powerful and most refined in their eloquence.