Friday, November 15, 2019

The poet and his poem …

… The Auden Poem Auden Hated - Commentary. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

… Auden was wrong to think that “the whole poem…was infected with an incurable dishonesty.” Indeed, “September 1, 1939” is powerful above all because of its willingness to tell the unvarnished truth about England and Europe in the ’30s, and it is noteworthy that Sansom’s book retreats into a flurry of evasive obscurity just as Auden becomes most specific about what he has to say. For “September 1, 1939” is above all a repudiation of the “low dishonest” politics of the ’30s and an acknowledgment of the failure of left-wing ideology to provide an answer to the “psychopathic god” of Hitlerian nationalism.

Then and now …

… RT’s Reviews & Marginalia : Comparing patriots and their courageous intelligence to feckless performers in a circus without a tent.

And many happy returns …

… Happy 60th, Bill Kauffman | Front Porch Republic. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Encountering Mr. Blake …

… zmkc: William Blake - Tate Britain. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Ultimately, I wondered if the problem I was having was more than anything a difference of temperament. I have noticed that fans of the apocalyptic and the Gothic tend not to be strong on humour and I felt that Blake too, although in some ways perhaps an absurd figure himself, had no sense of the absurd. There is a poignance in some of the accounts contained in the exhibition of how even in his own time barely anyone - possibly no one - understood his larger projects. Now I notice that they are being championed by Patti Smith among others - another charismatic but solemn figure. Perhaps at heart I am too flippant to be a romantic and this is where William Blake and I parted our ways?
I think this is wonderful. It is how we ought to encounter art and artists. Honestly.

Something to think on …

In religious belief as elsewhere, we must take our chances, recognizing that we could be wrong, dreadfully wrong. There are no guarantees; the religious life is a venture; foolish and debilitating error is a permanent possibility. (If we can be wrong, however, we can also be right.)
— Alvin Plantinga, born on this date in 1932

Thursday, November 14, 2019

November Poetry at North of Oxford …

… Storm and the Woman by John Grey.

… The Finding by John D. Robinson.

 Two Poems by Joan McNerney.

 I Am Afraid of the Dark by Phil Rowan.

Cause for concern indeed …

… Journalists Against Free Speech.

… all editors and publishers can take a couple of basic steps. One is to concentrate on hiring journalists committed to the most important kind of diversity: a wide range of ideas open for vigorous debate. The other step is even simpler: stop capitulating. Ignore the online speech police, and don’t reward the staff censors, either. Instead of feeling their pain or acceding to their demands, give them a copy of Nat Hentoff’s Free Speech for Me—but Not for Thee. If they still don’t get it—if they still don’t see that free speech is their profession’s paramount principle—tactfully suggest that their talents would be better suited to another line of work.
If your only response to ideas you disagree with is to have them banned, there's a damn good possibility you can't defend your own ideas. 

Appreciation …

… A Second Look at Second Books of Poetry: L. E. Sissman and Lynn Martin. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

 important poets are indeed under-read, inadequately appreciated, or simply forgotten for myriad reasons, not the least of which is the ever-changing Zeitgeist. And sometimes it’s just a matter of bad luck — of careers cut short by unforeseen circumstances, including untimely death. This was the case with the two poets under consideration here.

Indeed …

… RT’s Reviews & Marginalia : Poor Harriet Vane.

One hundred novels that have...

...Shaped the modern world (from the BBC)


Life in the big city …

… Poetry book raises discussion about violence - Northeast Times.

Well, in the past month, five children have died from gunfire in Philadelphia. Two others were critically wounded. 

Listen in …

Rus Bowden and his Mom wrote this for his son Dan's wedding last year.

In case you wondered …

… The Law of Art - The Catholic Thing, (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The artist is simply one who perceives the order embedded in and constituting reality and makes it visible in some striking, new, analogous way.  The artist is a receptive medium for truth to speak again to us, in the world and of the world, in all its depth, form, and wisdom.

The golden years …

… “Downpour,” by Billy Collins | The New Yorker. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Brutal slaughter is OK …

… if done by people you approve of: NPR downplays actual human sacrifice.

Victims had their hearts cut out or were decapitated, shot full of arrows, clawed, sliced, stoned, crushed, skinned, buried alive or tossed from the tops of temples. Children were said to be frequent victims, in part because they were considered pure and unspoiled.

Something to think on …

No race can prosper till it learns that there is as much dignity in tilling a field as in writing a poem.
— Booker T. Washington, who died on this date in 1915

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

The mystery of names …

… Review of Walker Percy’s Symbol and Existence – manwithoutqualities. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The Goldsmiths Prize

… The Goldsmiths Prize — 2019 Winner: Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellmann. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The rebirth and rejuvenation of...

...Car parks

Creation as language …

… Recovering the Cosmos: The theological and spiritual vision of Fr. Louis Bouyer – Catholic World Report.

… Bouyer carries out a very interesting philosophical analysis of the reasoning inherent to modern systems of philosophical materialism that draws on sources that are rather unusual for a Catholic theologian. He looks at new developments in physics, biology, and psychology that seem to undermine the materialistic pre-commitments of scientific naturalists. Quantum physics and the discovery of the unconscious in psychology are examples of this.

For sale …

… Paul Davis On Crime: 'Extraordinary' Letters Between Ian Fleming And Wife To Be Sold.

“They are quite something, it has been a real treat,” he said. “They are an extraordinary read because Ian Fleming is pretty much incapable of writing a dull sentence.” 

Maybe he was just a good self-publicist …

… RT’s Reviews & Marginalia : Robin Hood is a Communist.

The goodness of being …

… Literary Humanism Outshines Scientism | National Review. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

In an important book first published in 1924, the American philosopher E. A. Burtt wrote that “the only way to avoid being a metaphysician is to say nothing.” Language is itself metaphysical — not only physical marks on paper or sound-waves through air. Not to see and understand this momentous, dualistic fact of civilization is to be utterly blind and deaf to the history of culture and literacy from Moses, Plato, and the Gospels to Martin Luther King and Alexander Solzhenitsyn. Cognition, conceptualization, and language themselves are irreducible aspects of “the worth of things” that Dante’s poem both indicates and embodies (to use a phrase of A. N. Whitehead). I

Touching …

 Michael Brendan Dougherty’s Very Irish Story | The American Spectator. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Michael is, and I say this in the clinical sense with no judgment or insult intended, a bastard. He was raised by his mother Mary Ellen in Putnam and Westchester counties, New York, while his own father lived in Ireland and brought up a brood there with his new wife. Michael’s father Brendan never denied his son’s existence and pitched in occasional financial support. But Michael only saw his old man a handful of times in his childhood. His late mother was effectively the only parent that he had.
I can relate, somewhat. I am also a bastard in the clinical sense. My mother and father were both married, but not to each other. My brother Norman’s father was not mine. Norman and I were raised by our mother and grandmother, both factory workers. Norman, who died three years ago, was seven years older than I and also contributed much to my upbringing. I knew my father and liked him a lot, but I knew him as my Uncle Ray. There were plenty of men in my life as I was growing up — friends of my brother mostly — who were kind to me and who I suppose I modeled myself on. Not only have I never felt myself deprived, in a way I think I was — as I often have been — lucky.

Something to think on …

There is nothing but God's grace. We walk upon it; we breathe it; we live and die by it; it makes the nails and axles of the universe.
— Robert Louis Stevenson, born on this date in 1850

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Mark thy calendar …

… Homing: A Memoir - New Door Books.



AUTHOR APPEARANCES

  • Sunday, November 24, 2019, 4:00 p.m.: BOOK LAUNCH at Mt. Airy Nexus, 520 Carpenter Lane, Philadelphia, PA 19119
  • Thursday, December 5, 2019, 7:00 p.m.: Narberth Bookshop, 221 Haverford Avenue, Narberth, PA 19072, 610-664-1112.

Fruitful dialogue …

… Restoration by Michel Houellebecq and Geoffroy Lejeune — An Exchange of Views on Religion  | Articles | First Things.

For a long time, people lived in a Catholic culture. The church bells gave their day a certain rhythm; they followed some offices and saw one another at Mass on Sunday. Even if in their inner depths they were not animated by an intense faith, they had recourse to the services of the curé in the important moments: marriage, sickness, death. I love very much the idea of the “collier’s faith” described by Honoré de Balzac: “lov[ing] the Holy Virgin as he might have loved his wife,” a filial piety, an attachment devoid of theological or philosophical reflection, a fidelity to a history and to roots more than to a mystical revelation. I put myself in this category; this simple faith was the ­cement of a civilization.

A list of...

...Creative cities across Europe

Listen in …

… Interview with Guy Davenport, September 3, 1992 —  SPOKEdb. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Something to think on …

Really it is very wholesome exercise, this trying to make one's words represent one's thoughts, instead of merely looking to their effect on others.
— Elizabeth Gaskell, who died on this date in 1865

Mopping up …

… ‘A Russian vowel is an orange, an English vowel is a lemon’ | Spectator USA. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

… it was all a performance. Any journalists who presumed to know what Nabokov really thought about anything, let alone those Italian idiots under the impression that Lolita had an autobiographical aspect, were quickly seen off. Did anyone know what was inside there? Did even Nabokov? Or was there just the splendor of his sentences, which can present feeling, impersonate it and retreat heartlessly from it, making the reader weep or laugh heartily when someone is horribly killed in two words: ‘(picnic, lightning)’?

Fascinting …

… The eleventh day of the eleventh month | About Last Night.

Do read the link regarding authenticity at the very end.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Muriel Spark


The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Muriel Spark's unassuming story of a teacher and her students during the interwar years, is a thing of beauty: it's novella that works perfectly. 

I should say at the start that Spark was a superb writer, and in Jean Brodie her prose glistens: here is a book marked by its clarity and patience, and by its ability to weave time and place. Jean Brodie is a story in many parts, told from variety of perspectives. And yet, the book comes together: this is a tapestry of sorts, revealed with tremendous poise.

What I most enjoyed about Jean Brodie, though, was its subtle darkness: this may be a novel about a teacher and her students, but that relationship is quietly fraught. There is a disquieting quality to the dynamic which emerges over time, and which reaches its crescendo in the form of a perverse sexuality, and political conservatism, exhibited by Miss Brodie herself. 

There are also questions here about loyalty and allegiance, and about how young adults come to break the bonds which once tied them to their teachers. Spark implies that this loyalty is a thing of great beauty, but that it is also something marked by fragility. When Jean Brodie is betrayed by "her set," she casts herself as a tragic figure. Perhaps, in a way, this is true. But that tragedy took root at the start of the novel, when Brodie proposed to share the same emotional space as her students. 

Nothing good could come of this, and nothing ultimately did. 

UK Cultural Center...

...Goes to Glasgow (not sure about this one)

Worth noting …

… Germany Solar and Wind is Triple the Cost of France’s Nuclear and Will Last Half as Long – NextBigFuture.com.

Blogging note …

I have to take Debbie to a couple of doctor's appointments today. So blogging won't resume until later.

In case you wondered …

… More Coffee Please —Why I wear a poppy.

Something to think on …

A man prayed, and at first he thought that prayer was talking. But he became more and more quiet until in the end he realized prayer is listening.
— Søren Kierkegaard, who died on this date in 1855

Let we forget …

… RT’s Reviews & Marginalia : Veterans Day.
I turned 4 a few weeks after World War II ended. But I have memories connected to it. We lived in North Philly then, at that time the city’s industrial heart. (They made American Flyer sleds just a few blocks from where we lived.) Across the street was a stretch of the Pennsylvania Railroad’s main line (not the classy stretch in the suburbs) and troop trains passed by regularly. I can remember the grownups whispering among themselves about the young man who had returned from the war shell-shocked. A guy who worked in the butcher shop had spent time in a Japanese prisoner of war camp.
On my fourth birthday, my Aunt Alice stopped by and gave me a present — a toy machine gun that fired sparks. We were sitting in the kitchen, and when she learned that I didn’t know how to tell time, she taught me how. God rest her soul.

Q&A …

 Interview with Ilya Kaminsky | The Hopkins Review | Johns Hopkins University. (Hat tip, Virginia Kerr.)

Do you believe you have a soul? Can you tell me where in your body it is? Well, translation is the art form that thrives on that kind of certainty/uncertainty.
Translation is necessary: without it, in English, we wouldn’t have the Bible, we wouldn’t have Homer, we wouldn’t have Dante. Or, in Russian: we wouldn’t have Shakespeare, Milton, and so forth.
It’s a necessary art.
But it is also impossible. Which is why every single year we get another Dante, or two or three Dantes, published.
It is an ongoing conversation, it is an attempt to summon the spirits via our very primitive tools, so to speak.

Ingrates …

 Instapundit — SAD: Cold Welcome for Veterans on Campus: Students at elite colleges seek to undermine the values …

This Veterans Day we can reflect on the sacrifices made by those who volunteered to defend the United States. But let’s also find time to consider that these sacrifices were undertaken to defend values that our ruling-class-in-waiting seeks to undermine. Many students at elite colleges are duping themselves, too. They don’t realize that they are protected by the very principles they despise and the people to whom they condescend.

Blake's world …

… 'To Particularize Is the Alone Distinction of Merit': Blake's Visionary Imagination | by Jenny Uglow | NYR Daily | The New York Review of Books. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The Tate curators, Martin Myrone and Amy Concannon, argue that Blake the artist has been ignored in recent years in favor of Blake the poet. Yet the two are surely indivisible. After he invented his complex process of “relief etching”—its technique still unknown—text and image flow together, each reinterpreting the other. In the prophetic books, with their mix of historical characters and beings from his own mythology, the pages speak as one, visually and verbally. The tiny pages of the Songs of Innocence and Experience (1794), Blake’s first attempt to integrate text and image, mounted here so that one can see both sides of each page are almost dreamlike in their intensity.

Listen in …

… Episode 349 – Peter Bagge – The Virtual Memories Show.

“One of the reasons I wrote about these three women for my books is that the lives they led give me something to draw.”

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Q&A …

… Ted Gioia on Music as Cultural Cloud Storage (Ep. 79). (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

If you go back a few years ago, there was a value chain in music — started with the musician, worked for the record label. The records went to the record distributor. They went to the retailer, who sold the record to the consumer. At that point, everybody in that chain had a vested interest in a healthy music ecosystem in which people enjoyed songs. The more people enjoyed songs, the better business was for everybody.
That chain has been broken now. Apple would give away songs for free to sell devices. They don’t care about the viability of the music sub-economy. For them, it could be a loss leader. Google doesn’t care about music. They would give music away for free to sell ads. In fact, they do that on YouTube.

In case you wondered …

… What Kind of God Is the God of the Jews? —  Mosaic. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Above all, Diamond rejects the philosophers’ conception of God as utterly unchanging—“the unmoved mover,” to cite Aristotle again. Instead he maintains that the biblical God is “unbound” by any fixed attributes, positive or negative; a dynamic being, God changes and advances along with humanity. In his own words, Diamond is set on exchanging “austere rational notions of [God’s] perfection and immutability . . . for a vital, fluctuating God who is aided by human beings in the attainment of new cognitions and ever-developing states of self-awareness.”

Now's the time...

...To visit the National Portrait Gallery in London; it'll be closed until 2023.

Q&A …

… ‘Good Things Out of Nazareth’: An inside look at the new collection of Flannery letters. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

 The friendship of O’Connor and Hester is one of the great literary tragedies, similar to Poe dying delirious on the streets of Baltimore or Christopher Marlowe stabbed in a barroom brawl. Like Poe and Marlowe, Hester endured a series of horrendous personal events. O’Connor remained a stalwart friend and baptismal sponsor, anchoring Hester through the later vicissitudes and encouraging her own writing. As the letters reveal, O’Connor saw her as every bit her equal and was one of the few whom she asked to review her stories. As with another friend, Robert Lowell, O’Connor feared for those who left the Church and found themselves vulnerable without sacramental graces to combat ravening personal demons. O’Connor’s fears were borne out with Hester’s suicide in 1998. (Some of her writings are in her archives at Emory University.)

Hear, hear …

… Anecdotal Evidence: 'I Learned Your World Order Then'.

Those who willingly, enthusiastically join mobs are already predisposed to their madness. They feed on the collective energy, become something that is not themselves, something stronger and more dangerous.


See Kierkegaard’s The Crowd is Untruth:

A crowd - not this or that, one now living or long dead, a crowd of the lowly or of nobles, of rich or poor, etc., but in its very concept 4 - is untruth, since a crowd either renders the single individual wholly unrepentant and irresponsible, or weakens his responsibility by making it a fraction of his decision. Observe, there was not a single soldier who dared lay a hand on Caius Marius; this was the truth. But given three or four women with the consciousness or idea of being a crowd, with a certain hope in the possibility that no one could definitely say who it was or who started it: then they had the courage for it; what untruth! The untruth is first that it is "the crowd," which does either what only the single individual in the crowd does, or in every case what each single individual does. For a crowd is an abstraction, which does not have hands; each single individual, on the other hand, normally has two hands, and when he, as a single individual, lays his two hands on Caius Marius, then it is the two hands of this single individual, not after all his neighbor's, even less - the crowd's, which has no hands. In the next place, the untruth is that the crowd had "the courage" for it, since never at any time was even the most cowardly of all single individuals so cowardly, as the crowd always is. For every single individual who escapes into the crowd, and thus flees in cowardice from being a single individual (who either had the courage to lay his hand on Caius Marius, or the courage to admit that he did not have it), contributes his share of cowardice to "the cowardice," which is: the crowd. Take the highest, think of Christ - and the whole human race, all human beings, which were ever born and ever will be born; the situation is the single individual, as an individual, in solitary surroundings alone with him; as a single individual he walks up to him and spits on him: the human being has never been born and never will be, who would have the courage or the impudence for it; this is the truth. But since they remain in a crowd, they have the courage for it - what frightening untruth.

Sad anniversary …

… RT’s Reviews & Marginalia : Burning books in North Dakota and elsewhere.

Appreciation …

… Somewhere Becoming Rain: Clive James on Philip Larkin. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Something to think on …

It is difficult to discriminate the voice of truth from amid the clamor raised by heated partisans.
— Friedrich Schiller, born on thus date in 1759

Saturday, November 09, 2019

Sounds awful …

… RT’s Reviews & Marginalia : Miss Emily must be turning over in her grave.

Further commitment...

...to cultural preservation

Distinguished ancestor

… Fanny Burney, Grandmother of the English Novel. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

A masterpiece …

… Nigeness: Johnson's Savage. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.) 
The Life of Savage comes in at a scant hundred pages, but there are few, if any, biographies that can match it for insight, for narrative power and literary style, and for sheer emotional impact.

Pick a card …

… New ‘Divining Poets’ Poetry Decks Spotlight Quotes By Rumi And Emily Dickinson. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Trinidad, author of numerous books of poetry and professor of poetry at Columbia College, Chicago, said in an interview that his inspiration for the deck came after reading Emily Dickinson’s entire poetry output. “It occurred to me that many of the lines I underlined in her poems sounded like answers to questions you might ask a divination deck,” he explained.

Reviewers' choices …

 The best recent poetry – review roundup | Books | The Guardian. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Love in autumn …

… Zealotry of Guerin: Avenue at Arles (Van Gogh), Sonnet #483.

Good question …

… Where Are the Classics? - WSJ.

 On the one hand, it’s desirable, even necessary, for theater companies to do new plays. If they don’t, theater as an art form will gradually lose its vitality, as well as its ability to engage younger, more diverse audiences. Yet it’s also a mistake for those same companies to ignore the classics. To cut yourself off from tradition is to make it impossible for audiences—as well as the rising generation of playwrights, actors and directors—to learn from the still-vital masterpieces of the past. If you’ve never seen a production of a rarely staged large-cast play like, say, William Inge’s “Come Back, Little Sheba, ” your sense of what is theatrically possible cannot be widened in the same way that Inge’s own sense of the possible had in turn been widened by his having seen and learned from Williams’s “A Streetcar Named Desire.”
I'd go to the theater more often if I had more opportunities to see Pirandello, Anouilh, Girardoux, Andreyev, Noël Coward, John Osborne, Enid Bagnold. So many new plays seem to me to be just dramatized op-eds.

Somethig to think on …

The people who bind themselves to systems are those who are unable to encompass the whole truth and try to catch it by the tail; a system is like the tail of truth, but truth is like a lizard; it leaves its tail in your fingers and runs away knowing full well that it will grow a new one in a twinkling.
— Ivan Turgenev, born on this date in 1818

Friday, November 08, 2019

Blogging note …

I must head out shortly. Blogging will resume sometime later.

Anniversary …

 RT’s Reviews & Marginalia : Words, words, words in Heaven and Hell.

Together at last …

… Channeling Baseball at the J.D. Salinger Centennial Exhibition | Town Topics. (Hat tip, Virginia Kerr.)

William Faulkner’s observation that every time Holden “attempted to enter the human race, there was no human race there” comes to mind whenever I think of the misreadings, not only of The Catcher and “Hapworth” but of Salinger’s work in general and the myth of the cranky, embittered recluse holed up in his New Hampshire bunker. Among the centennial exhibition’s most interesting items is a 1982 legal document wherein Salinger admits he’s been writing fiction “rather passionately, singlemindedly, perhaps insatiably” since he was “fifteen or so” and “positively rejoice[s] to imagine that, sooner or later, the finished product safely goes to the ideal private reader, alive or dead or yet unborn, male or female or possibly neither.”

Is that good?

… Poem: The World's a Stage by Joseph Hilaire Pierre Belloc. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Have a look …

… Ted Adams Photography.

Peace and quiet …

… First Known When Lost: Abode.

The present age (whenever one is alive) is always full of noise, distraction, and false gods.  Our "modern" world is no different, although moderns harbor the self-flattering notion that they are unique beings living in a unique time, the vanguard of "progress" and "enlightenment."  No.  The  particulars of the noise and the distraction may have altered over the millennia (due solely to technology, not to a change in human nature), but the false gods remain the same.  Better to let it all go.

Raves …

… The Best Reviewed Books of the Week | Book Marks.



Jere is an excerpt from one of these book's, Jenny Slate's Little Weirds: The Code of Hammurabi.



(Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Something to think on …

Pray, even if you feel nothing, see nothing. For when you are dry, empty, sick or weak, at such a time is your prayer most pleasing to God, even though you may find little joy in it. This is true of all believing prayer.
— Julian of Norwich, born on this date in 1342

Thursday, November 07, 2019

Time for a laugh …

 Paul Davis On Crime: A Little Humor: Pirate Walks Into A Bar.

I know what he means …

… The twenty-five record albums that changed my life (16) | About Last Night.

We had a 45 extended play version of Toscanini doing La Mer. It was my introduction to Debussy and to a large extent my introduction to classical music, which wasn't much heard in our working-class household until I got the bug. 

Hmm …

… Why the books we read as children are the ones that shape our psyche | Books | The Guardian. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

I didn't read a lot of children's books when I was a kid. I got around to that when I was helping to raise kids. I read history and accounts of the Greek myths, things like that. I did read Robert Louis Stevenson. I read H.G. Wells's An Outline of History when I was in grade school (it's hardly difficult). I do regard the nursery rhyme "Hey Diddle Diddle" as one of the important influences in my life. I am a slow reader and so don't do much re-reading.

Empire of death …

… Behold Félix Nadar's Pioneering Photographs of the Paris Catacombs (1861) | Open Culture. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Nadar (the pseudonym of Gaspard-Félix Tournachon, born 1820), helped turn the Catacombs into the globally famous destination they became. His “subterranean photographs,” writes Matthew Gandy in The Fabric of Space: Water, Modernity, and the Urban Imagination, “played a key role in fostering the growing popularity of sewers and catacombs among middle-class Parisians, and from the 1867 Exposition onward the city authorities began offering public tours of underground Paris.” The Catacombs became, in Nadar's own words, "one of those places that everyone wants to see and no one wants to see again."

Q&A …

… Melting with tenderness – TheTLS. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

To boost his courage [during the live broadcast], he wanted to drink whisky. But he naturally didn’t want to set a bad example for French viewers. We had poured a bottle of whisky into a teapot. Every quarter of an hour, I would ask him: ‘A little more tea, Monsieur Nabokov?’ And he would drink with a broad smile. He was a great comedian, incredible for his joking, his warmth, his humour, his artful dodges, his impudence, and of course his intelligence. In my memory Nabokov is an icon. He spoke for more than an hour. I have an almost religious feeling for that programme”.

Prime matter …

… RT’s Reviews & Marginalia : Dust — there’s never an end to it.

Something to think on …

To grow old is to pass from passion to compassion.
— Albert Camus, born on this date in 1947

RIP …

… Ernest Gaines, 1933-2019 | Front Porch Republic. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

A dynamic deity …

… What Kind of God Is the God of the Jews? — Mosaic. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Diamond’s argument is spelled out most explicitly in a dense chapter on the meaning of God’s name. Here he points to Moses’ first encounter with God at the burning bush, where the prophet asks to be told His name and God answers with a Hebrew phrase that in its usual translation—“I am that I am”—seems to imply His transcendence and immutability.
But the Hebrew verbs, as Diamond points out, are cast in the future tense, “I shall be what I shall be,” suggesting a deity who “evolves” along with “His creation and His creatures.” This adumbrates a conception of God much closer to the mystical view later promoted by medieval kabbalists and their successors than to Maimonides’ perfect, immutable being; in fact, the two are almost complete opposites.

What a journalist should be …

… Martin Bell - An Uncommon Correspondent | Literary Review | Issue 481. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Books about writers too often fall down at the interface between the writer and the work. This one does not. The writer and the work were inseparable. Hersey was a man of conspicuous courage, both physical and moral. He survived four air crashes. He accompanied American forces during the invasion of Sicily in 1943. His fictionalised account of that time, A Bell for Adano, won him a Pulitzer Prize at the age of thirty. The American commander who passes through the novel, General Marvin, was a thinly disguised version of General Patton.
Publish PostI've never read A Bell for Adano, but the movie is wonderful.

Ah, yes …

 “The Book” – On the Seawall. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Anniversary …

 London Review of Books: An Incomplete History review – 40 years of the LRB | Books | The Guardian. (Ht tip, Dave Lull.)

The first issue still seems impressive, with William Empson on A Midsummer Night’s Dream, John Bayley’s review of William Golding’s Darkness Visible, and new poems by Ted Hughes and Seamus Heaney. Pages reproduced from early issues are, however, forbidding: unbroken columns of print as far as the eye can see. The LRB demonstrated its intellectual seriousness by allowing contributors unparalleled wordage. (Cannily, the compilers have chosen to reprint only tantalising snippets of interesting items rather than whole pieces.)

Big ships …

… RT’s Reviews & Marginalia : Aircraft carriers — looking back to WW2 and elsewhere.

Many years ago, I went with a friend who had just graduated from submarine school to some event at Philadelphia's Navy Yard. We got out of his car and in front of me was what looked like an immense wall. I figured it was some sort of warehouse, said as much and asked where the entrance  was. My friend looked at me and smiled. "Frank, that's an aircraft carrier." I replied, "You mean that floats?" He told me to look up , and sure enough, way, way up, was the bridge. They really are big.

Something to think on …

The thought is not something that observes an inner event, but, rather it is this inner event itself. We do not reflect on something, but, rather, something thinks itself in us.
— Robert Musil, born on this date in 1880

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

Listen in …

… Episode 348 – Steven Heller – The Virtual Memories Show.

“It’s a learning moment of how powerful symbols are and how powerful graphic design is.”

Appreciation …

… Remembering Vladimir Bukovsky (1942-2019): a long-ago lunch with a man who loved freedom and roses | The Book Haven.

A master …

Walter Gieseking was born on this date in 1895.

Time for a smile …

… Paul Davis On Crime: A Little Humor: The One Condition.

The elusive Mr. Ruskin …

… John Ruskin, A Wreath of Emotion | by Verlyn Klinkenborg | NYR Daily | The New York Review of Books. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Freedom of conscience …

… Forged in Fire by Carlos Eire | Articles | First Things. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Wilken traces the idea of religious freedom rather than the practice of toleration. His purpose is not to exonerate Christianity from its repressive past but to correct a common misunderstanding of the origins of the concept of liberty of conscience. This ideal emerged from faith rather than from indifference, skepticism, or hostility to religion. Wilken demonstrates this fact economically. Rather than making an exhaustive survey of the history of toleration, he offers a close reading of texts that reveal key lines of development in the Western concept of religious freedom: the conception of religious belief as an inviolable inner conviction that resists compulsion; the belief that this conviction—­identified as conscience—is not passive, but compels action; and the distinction made between Caesar and God, that is, between earthly governments and spiritual authorities.


Ecclesiastical intolerance wonderfully demonstrates Lord Acton's thesis: "Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely."



A book about fear …

… Mary-Kay Wilmers reviews ‘Blue Nights’ by Joan Didion —  LRB 3 November 2011. (Hat tip, Virginia Kerr.)

Looking now at photographs of Quintana as a child, Didion wonders how she could have missed ‘the startling depths and shallows of her expressions, the quicksilver changes of mood’. But what’s the standard here? How alert do parents have to be not to find themselves looking back with dismay? Or how lucky? ‘When we talk about our children … are we talking about … the whole puzzle of being a parent?’ Didion asks. When she talks about Quintana is she always thinking about herself?

Skip the fictions, read the poems …

… RT’s Reviews & Marginalia : Emily Dickinson— Fictions, Revisions, and New Criticism.

Something to think on …

A great civilization is not conquered from without, until it has destroyed itself from within. The essential causes of Rome's decline lay in her people, her morals, her class struggle, her failing trade, her bureaucratic despotism, her stifling taxes, her consuming wars.
— Will Durant, born on this date in 1885

Monday, November 04, 2019

Enjoyable despite the preaching …

… BOOK REVIEW: 'Agent Running in the Field' - Washington Times.

Figuring things out …

… Imagine You’re A Presocratic Philosopher Living 2600 Years Ago.

Max Beerbohm


Max Beerbohm's is not a name with which I was familiar. But over the past few weeks, I've read what is perhaps his most lasting work: his one and only novel, Zuleika Dobson

Published in 1911, this is a playful, if imperfect, treatment of grandiose themes: of love, first and foremost, but of sacrifice and idolatry, too. All of these are not cast, however, within the context of war or conflict. Instead, they're presented as an "Oxford love story," as the tale of the irresistible Zuleika Dobson. 

It won't be revealing too much to say that Dobson takes Oxford by storm and leaves in her wake a trail of emotional injury. The question is what this storm implies about the nature of love toward the end of aristocratic England. Equally, there are questions about beauty, and whether it can overcome -- even in a place like Oxford -- a lack of intellectual substance. 

While these themes are not inherently modern, their presentation is: Beerbohm is surprisingly experimental in his narrative, playing with omniscience, for instance, in the manner of a Greek tragedy. At the same time, there's a wit here that enjoys itself, that flirts, even, with the more modern concept of irony. These qualities emerged, thirty years later, in the work of Evelyn Waugh, and it's clear the authors shared a connection. 

I wouldn't argue that Zuleika Dobson is an exceptional novel: there's too much inconsistency for me, and a tendency to construct characters as types -- as opposed to as individuals. I think, though, that this was deliberate, and that, as much as Beerbohm was writing a love story, he was also offering a critique: of intellectualism, certainly, but of hypocrisy and narcissism, too. This is a paean to Oxford, but also a subtle condemnation. 

Contemporaries …

… Roth/Updike | The Hudson Review. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Let there be light …

… Ancient gas cloud shows that the first stars must have formed very quickly.

Anniversary …

… RT’s Reviews & Marginalia : Wilfred Owen’s death on the Western Front.



As the song put it, “When will they ever learn?”

RIP …

… Tree-Cutting – MEASURE REVIEW. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Blogging note …

I must leave shortly to attend a friend’s funeral. Blogging will resume sometime later.

Lest we forget …

… This is what happened on November 4, putting an end to the 1956 revolution – Daily News Hungary.