Sunday, April 20, 2014

The life and works …

… Book World: ‘Updike’ by Adam Begley — The Washington Post. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Small town online …

… The Hyperlocal Beat | The American Conservative. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

He is risen …



Emmaus
And it came to pass, whilst he was at table with them, he took bread, and blessed, and brake, and gave to them. And their eyes were opened, and they knew him: and he vanished out of their sight. 

He appeared to us that day to disappear 
The moment that he broke the bread,
A moment still encompassing our lives,
Drawing to itself, like a magnet at once
Minute and infinitely strong, our present,
Past and future, so that the choking dust
Along the road, the splinters on the benches
At the inn, the glare and scorching of the sun 
That afternoon have shaped and shaded
Every moment ever since. He disappeared
Into the moment, into the bread, into us,
Nourishing time with its absence.

A useful gathering …

… Dante’s Purpose-Driven Poem | The American Conservative. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)


I have been remiss to linking to these. I wanted to append comments to what I posted, but I should have simply posted first and commented later. These are not things suitable for skimming. They are genuinely thought-provoking, in the best sense that they force you to examine the questions raised deeply and personally. 

Travelin' bird …

… World Famous "D.C. Snowy" calling Twin Ports home for now | Northland's NewsCenter. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Inqirer reviews …

… Tracing Updike's roots.

In this first serious biography of the Pennsylvania-born author, who died at 76 in 2009, Begley relies as much on Updike's fiction as on interviews, letters, and other documents. In doing so, he validates what devoted readers have long suspected: Updike's lyrical and prolific body of work was his autobiography.
'Jackie and Campy' tells stormy tale of two baseball greats.



 'Gorgeous Nothings' thinks out of the envelope about Emily Dickinson.

A thought for today …

Once you permit those who are convinced of their own superior rightness to censor and silence and suppress those who hold contrary opinions, just at that moment the citadel has been surrendered.
— Archibald MacLeish, who died on this date in 1982

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The talented Mr. Updike (cont'd) …

… Adam Begley’s ‘Updike’ - NYTimes.com. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Unlike historical novels that look back in time to events they describe, the Rabbit novels were about life as it unfolds; Rabbit’s adventures functioned as a social history of sorts, each installment a summary and a representation of the previous 10 years — as Updike himself wrote in his introduction to the Everyman’s Library edition of the series, “a kind of running report on the state of my hero and his nation.” The fact that Rabbit is a demonic, ethically troubled but also entirely ordinary character, together with Updike’s signature richness of style and his use of the present tense (one of the peculiarities of the Rabbit series), all serve to steer these novels away from didacticism and banality, dangers that can plague chronicles and social novels. 
I read Rabbit, Run while I was in college an detested it. This is actually a kind of back-handed tcompliment. Updike brought his hero so much to life that I loathed him as I would have had he been real.

One year on...

A man and his thinking …

… Why don't we have statues of Michael Oakeshott? � The Spectator. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The Notebooks, whose recovery we owe to the admirably painstaking work of Luke O’Sullivan, do not — it has to be admitted — reveal much about Oakeshott’s philosophy that we did not already know. But, perhaps more importantly, they reveal quite a lot about the man.

About Christian fiction …

… Q&A: Francine Rivers. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)



The boom in Christian fiction makes me believe there is a deepening hunger and thirst in our nation for the faith message. The genre is more realistic now than it was decades ago. It seemed to me the conflict in early romances was being tempted to be tempted but never slipping into sin. Now, writers acknowledge the brokenness in people, the anguish sin brings, the longing for answers and meaning to life. These stories resonate with people.

Simply grand …

… Zealotry of Guerin: Seagram Building (Mies van der Rohe), Sonnet #173.

A thought for today …


All that non-fiction can do is answer questions. It's fiction's business to ask them.
— Richard Hughes, born on this date in 1900

Friday, April 18, 2014

Hmm …

… On Clarity – Lingua Franca - Blogs - The Chronicle of Higher Education. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)



I'm not entirely sure this is altogether clear.

And living to tell it...

You've been warned...

Contrarian report …

… Thoreau’s Walden: Phony Testament of the Greens. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The book is a literary disaster. I have spent my adult life writing for a living. I can recognize good writing. [Thoreau] shows occasional flashes of brilliance, but most of the book is either irrelevant or insufferably boring. It is worse than National Public Radio's All Things Considered
This is ignorant. Thoreau's prose is modeled on that of the 17th-century writers he admired. The concluding lines of Walden are wonderful: "Only that day dawns to which we are awake. There is more day to dawn. The sun is but a morning star."
That Thoreau does not write like a 21st-century journalist  is hardly cause for criticism.
But Thoreau was a crank. "Henry," Emerson observed, "is, with difficulty, sweet." That their friendship endured, I suspect, owes more to Emerson's forbearance than to anything on Thoreau's part. Even Henry's night in jail was mostly for show. He left readily enough once Waldo had paid the fine.
Thoreau is best understood, I think, as a type of the Puritan: dour, sanctimonious, and rigid. Happily, he mostly inflicted his Puritanism on himself. His work is a record of a tormented life. Had he run away to sea, he would have ended up like Captain Ahab.

Good Friday

No more Lord no more no more
I have seen the fate
of those who trust you no more

A thought for today …

The secret of good writing is to say an old thing in a new way or to say a new thing in an old way.
— Richard Harding Davis, born on this date in 1864

Congratulations. ..

... 2013 VQR Prize Winners Announced

From the archives...

Thursday, April 17, 2014

RIP …

… Nobel winner Garcia Marquez, master of magical realism, dies at 87 | Reuters.

Interesting...

...America's most literate cities, 2013

Trumpets and drums, please …

 E.L. Doctorow Awarded American Fiction Prize | Library of Congress Blog. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

A good choice …

… The Overrated Champion Has Been Crowned — Critical-Theory.com. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

What counts is the work …

Updike by Adam Begley: A biography shows that John Updike's talent was for fiction, not domestic drama — The Independent. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

…  the business of a novelist's material, the way those closest to him are served up for the purposes of fiction, is central to what Begley is doing and, although this is anything but a Judas biography, resentment rumbles beneath the surface of its decorous, well-researched pages.

Oh, the paperwork …

… A Portrait of the Writer as a Young Obsessive Compulsive | BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog.

Family matters …

… Heart to Heart | America Magazine. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The chapter devoted to Newman’s relationship and correspondence with his nephew, John Rickards Mozley, sums up the tension between Victorian society’s fading religious inheritance and its growing materialism and rationalism. The outcome, in Newman’s eyes, was to dull the “pied beauty,” to flatten the multidimensional nature of reality. His counterstrategy was not a retreat from the world, but an untiring effort to articulate and evoke a sacramental vision: a vivid sense of “real presences.” For Newman all hints and intimations find their fulfillment in Christ’s eucharistic presence. And, though he may not have succeeded with his brothers or nephew, many, like the Jesuit priest and poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, drew enduring inspiration from Newman’s vision and witness.

First of its kind …

… Paris Review – Kingsley Amis’s James Bond Novel, Dan Piepenbring. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)





… anyone who feared that Amis would fuck up the franchise with some kind of measured, literary razzle-dazzle had it all wrong; he knew how to plot. As its flap copy makes clear, Colonel Sun was not about to traffic in high-minded nuance:

A thought for today …

Love is an energy which exists of itself. It is its own value.
— Thornton Wilder, born on this date in 1897

Golden touch...

Anton Chekhov


I've just finished Chekhov's The Seagull, and I must admit, I'm perplexed: what's the play about exactly? 

Yes, it's about longing and regret, and there's a fair amount about celebrity, creativity, and intertextuality, too. But for me, coming at The Seagull with no real insight into Chekhov, and no real sense for the theatrical context, I found myself confused - not by the plot, per se, but by the finale and symbolism. 

The whole play hinges, it seems, on the idea of the gull, and that haunting line by Trigorin who sketches a scene in which a man comes along and, "having nothing better to do," seeks to "destroy." I found that line jarring, and had the sense that it hinted at violence to come. As it turns out, it did.

But I was not certain, in the end, what that violence represented and why Chekhov called the play a "comedy in four acts." Was this cynicism lost on me? Was there humor amidst the darkness? And what about the gull? What about its symbolic qualities? For me, it represented a dizzying (sometimes confusing) array of contrasts: sorrow and despair; youth and happiness; violence and finality; creativity and longing. 

...I suppose I'll have to read more Chekhov to find out. 



Rather neat...

The perfect gossip …

… Reading John Aubrey | The New Psalmanazar. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Reading the book from cover to cover is like watching old England march by in grand procession – poets, mathematicians, peasants, doctors, divines, alchemists, soldiers, scientists, astrologers, aristocrats – while an inveterate gossipmonger whispers in your ear all their public foibles and personal shames.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Exceedingly sad news …

… Edward Sozanski, chronicler of the region's art.

I saw Ed last Friday, when I was at the paper to participate in a poetry reading. We were going to get together for lunch. He and I used to chat just about every morning when I was book editor. Those chats were usually hilarious. I will miss him.

A girl and her bird …

… BBC News - A 13-year-old eagle huntress in Mongolia. (Hat tip, Sarah Weinman.)

Q&A …

… On Writing, Survival, and Empowerment | BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog.

Strangely adrift …

… Shipwrecked by Tatiana Oroño, translated from the Spanish by Jesse Lee Kercheval - Guernica / A Magazine of Art & Politics. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Good question …

… beyond eastrod: Jesus Christ is a myth -- so say the atheists . . . but why do they even care?



Methinks they doth protest too much.

Appropriately strange …

… Kafka: The Decisive Years and Kafka: The Years of Insight, Reviewed | New Republic. (Hat tip,Dave Lull.)