Let’s get something out of the way here first. I do not like Wagner. Even if he wasn’t an anti-Semite (he was, this really isn’t up for debate) his operas would still repulse me – I hate the grandiose and Wagner is nothing if not grandiose. But I’m living proof that you’re don’t have to like Wagner to enjoy Ross’s new book, which is, frankly, extraordinary. All you have to do is acknowledge Wagner’s important to Western culture and watch Ross draw out his connections to huge swaths of Western art.
It’s a remarkable achievement. Ross seems to have read every novel, looked at every piece or art, seen every movie and play, made in the West from the end of the 19th century up to today. I learned so, so much from this book, about Wagner, about pre-war European anti-Semitism, about turn of the century occultists, and so, so much about art. It’s a stunning achievement and I’m surprised more people aren’t talking about it.