Sunday, November 23, 2014

Out and about …

I leave for Mass shortly, and from there Debbie and I will head to the Curtis Opera Company, and after that to dinner. Blogging will resume tonight.

Reaffirming dignity …

… Eye of the Beholder | The Weekly Standard.

Hands off …

… Nasty bookplates | The Book Haven.

Good for those haven't, too …

Top Ten Books for Fallen-Away Catholics. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Preview …

… Book Excerpt: Lisa Scottoline's "Betrayed".

There is one review in today's paper, but hasn't linked to it.

Heroes …

… 'If We Left, They Wouldn't Have Nobody' : NPR.

A thought for today …

Art is always the replacement of indifference by attention.
— Guy Davenport, born on this date in 1927

Saturday, November 22, 2014

I rather liked them …

… Were the 1950s really that bad? | The Book Haven. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I grew up in the '50s and remember them fondly. And I still like Ike.

The latest fashion …

… Neuroscience Is Ruining the Humanities - The Chronicle Review - The Chronicle of Higher Education. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Further proof, if any was needed, that the university has become the place where ideas go to die.

Anecdotal evidence …

… A Fake Oral History of Allen Tate. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

incomleteness …

… Zealotry of Guerin: Memory (The Heart) - Frida Kahlo, Sonnet #213.

Hmm …

… Tayloring Christianity by Matthew Rose | Articles | First Things. (Hat tip, Davve Lull.)

“I am a Catholic,” our author is saying in so many (many) words, “because my experience of God is best explained by the spirituality found in radically holy Catholic lives. Such lives help me better understand the imperfect glimpses of a transcendent perfection that I perceive as God’s love. Christianity is true in that it is true to—faithful to—what is most evident in my life: its need for fulfillment and transformation by God’s love.”
This sounds about right to me.

Alasdair MacIntyre also diagnosed our culture as fatigued by the mutual antagonisms of rival traditions. MacIntyre, however, maintained a chastened confidence in the power of human reason to guide us toward the perfected understanding that is the end of all inquiry. Our confusions and disagreements, he wrote in his Gifford Lectures, “can be a prologue not only to rational debate, but to that kind of debate from which one party can emerge as ­undoubtedly rationally superior.”
My problem with this, as with this review, is that it comes close to turning reason into God.

Light-hearted scribes …

… Meet the Man Who Catalogs Medieval Cartoons - Modern Notion. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

A thought for today …

The want of logic annoys. Too much logic bores. Life eludes logic, and everything that logic alone constructs remains artificial and forced.
— André Gide, born on this date in 1869

At the movies...

Friday, November 21, 2014


… The Harvard Classics: Download All 51 Volumes as Free eBooks | Open Culture.

A great pretender …

‘Philip Larkin: Life, Art and Love,’ by James Booth - tip, Dave Lull.)

Booth’s limiting estimation of “Show Saturday” counts as good critical sense, and thus serves to offset the strange moment when he includes the famous second-to-last line of “An Arundel Tomb” — “Our almost-instinct almost true” — among Larkin’s “awkward felicities.” In fact the line is about as un-awkward as a felicity can get. But Booth has not written an academic book. He has written a book of the higher journalism, which is still the kind of attention Larkin needs; although from now on, and partly because of Booth’s book, he might need it less. The way will now be open for commentators on this most lyrically rich of modern poets to be as tin-eared as they like.

Must we run away from...

Mastering survival tricks …

… Review of H.D.S. Greenway’s Foreign Correspondent | BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog.

The Spiritual Canticle and Awe

St. John of the Cross is one of 34 universal Doctors of the Church; which means he is noteworthy, even among the saints, for his devotion to God and his works and his life.  

He is generally acclaimed to be one of Spain's greatest poets too.  

I have been reading books on both St. John and his friend and contemporary St. Therese of Avila, of which more later, but I was caught by these phrases in St. John's work The Spiritual Canticle, where he describes the soul's longing for, finding and embracing God.  

St. John's soul is wholly female, and he writes of his soul's -- of her -- union with God:
Our bed is in flower,
bound round with linking dens of lions,
hung with purple,
built up in peace,
and crowned with a thousand shields of gold.

Following your footprints
maidens run along the way;
the touch of a spark,
the spiced wine,
cause flowings in them from the balsam of God.

In the inner wine cellar
I drank of my Beloved, and, when I went abroad
through all this valley
I no longer knew anything,
and lost the herd that I was following.

There he gave me his breast;
there he taught me a sweet and living knowledge;
and I gave myself to him,
keeping nothing back;
there I promised to be his bride.

Now I occupy my soul
and all my energy in his service;
I no longer tend the herd,
nor have I any other work
now that my every act is love. 
 The Spiritual Canticle, verses 24-28
When I read this as a small shivering person, I could not dare to think that I too could sing this song, because my soul couldn't be a girl's. 

I am in awe that God shows me this now.

A nose for bullshit …

… New Statesman | Tom Wolfe always cuts through modish nonsense. I wonder what he’d make of Russell Brand? (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

In case you wondered...

The world of the unnoticed …

… Pomegranate, Sister of the Heart by Carlos Reyes | Fox Chase Review.

A thought for today …

The essence of religion consists in the feeling of an absolute dependence.
— Friedrich Schleiermacher, born on this date in 1768

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Getting his due …

… Ike the Ringer - Taki's Magazine. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Derbyshire arrives at much the same conclusion as I did: Short bio of president long on leadership skills.

Shoptalk …

… The TLS blog: Van Morrison's mystic. (Hat tip, Dave Lull. )

Weighing in...

Hmmm...part two

After years of experiments and tens of millions of dollars, scientists have finally created a sheep that thinks and acts like a goat.
From the (video clip) story:  "....look at her there.  She's chewing like a goat not a sheep."

(Okay this one is from the Onion)


The Public Find Brain Science Irrelevant and Anxiety-provoking

One theory the researchers have for this disengagement is that people prefer not to think about the workings of their brains. Consistent with this, some of the participants explicitly stated that they found it uncomfortable to dwell on what goes on inside their skulls. “People may actively resist contemplating their own bodily interior,” write O’Connor and Joffe. “As a result neuroscientific knowledge may remain remote from everyday life. A ‘neuro society’ may be more theoretical fantasy than lived reality.”


As things might have been …

… Paul Davis On Crime: BBC To Produce Mini-Series Based On Len Deighton's Alternative Historical Thriller 'SS-GB'.

Mark thy calendar …

Stephen Berg Memorial Reading.

The date is Tuesday, December 16, 7 PM.
The location is the Green Line Café, 4426 Locust Street
(SE corner 45th & Locust Streets, West Philadelphia –
please note there are other Green Line Café locations).

If you would like to be a part of this,
please contact Leonard Gontarek,
You can read a poem or two and say a few (or many) words
about Stephen.

Stephen Berg

Poet and editor Stephen Berg attended the University of Pennsylvania, Boston University, the University of Indiana, and the University of Iowa, where he earned his BA. His collections of poetry include The Daughters (1971), Grief (1975), In It (1986), New & Selected Poems (1992), Shaving (1998), and 58 Poems (2013). His translations include Oedipus the King (1988), which he co-translated with Diskin Clay, and Ikkyu: Crow with no Mouth: 15th Century Zen Master (1989). With Robert Mezey, Berg helped edit the popular Naked Poetry: Recent American Poetry in Open Forms (1969) and The New Naked Poetry: Recent American Poetry in Open Forms (1976) anthologies. He founded and edited the American Poetry Review.

Stephen Berg’s honors and awards include fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Pew Foundation. He received a PEN grant in translation and the Frank O’Hara Prize. He taught at Princeton and Haverford College and served as a professor of humanities at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia.

from Being Here, Like This - The Poetry of Stephen Berg by Edward Hirsch

We still haven't taken the measure of Stephen Berg's poetry. His achievement is hard to pin down, and criticism, which runs on fashion, hasn't caught up with him. He had an idiosyncratic voice—forthright, nervous, intimate, self-questioning. I would call him a confessional poet except he kept emptying out and interrogating the self that is the basis of that mode, which he felt was misunderstood. He wrote in the wake of "Song of Myself," Four Quartets, Life Studies. He demanded utter authenticity in art—individuality of feeling, depth of sincerity. He was a fragmented post-confessional, a spiritual seeker, a poetic magpie, an antic skeptic, an agnostic Jew who kept looking for justice, for wisdom, for God, who disappointed him.

Stephen Berg was one of our most eccentric, psychologically astute, and humane poets. The stakes were high in his work—he tended to write as if death itself was always just about three weeks away. It was never far from his mind. I love him for bringing everything to the blank page, his battlefield. He read and wrote as if his life depended on it. He was frightened, but he didn't hold back, he threw himself into the fray. He was flawed and courted extremity, he thought constantly about suffering, and he marshaled all the poets at his command for his one-man literary combat against oblivion. A complicated human being steps forth in his work, which is streaked with shadows and light, and we are deepened by the experience.

Eating Outside

Fat pine boughs

droop over the vegetable garden’s

sticks and leaves,

the moon’s hazy face comes and goes

in the heat.

Beautiful women,

your skin can barely be seen.

The moon’s gone. Clouds everywhere.

A pale hand curls

on the tabletop next to mine,

there’s talk about work and love.

We’re like the moon at this hour

as clouds swallow it or dissolve so

it glides through the shaggy limbs,

full, like the grief inside us,

then floats off by itself

beyond the last tips of the needles.

The trees are quiet. In the house

my daughters play the piano and laugh.

The family dog races in and out howling.

The candles on the table have blown out.

I keep trying to explain

but when I go back, like now, there’s

the red hammock, the barbecue guarding

the lit back wall like a dwarf,

the self, awed by changes,

motioning to us as it leaves.

Deep among those arms, it pauses

clear, white and unseen.

Stephen Berg

The rhythm of the spade …

… ‘The Fallow Field’ | TLS. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

On behalf of liberty …

… Day of the Imprisoned Writer: Dieudonné Enoh Meyomesse | Books | The Guardian. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Master work …

more than 95 theses - austinkleon: Rembrandt’s drawing of a child. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Not necessarily …

… Read this and feel better – how inspirational guff invaded our lives | Life and style | The Guardian. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

A thought for today …

Of this our true individual life, our present life is a glimpse, a fragment, a hint, and in its best moments a visible beginning.
— Josiah Royce, born on this date in 1855