Sunday, December 31, 2006


Happy New Year!

That's going to be it ...

... for a while. I have to work on tonight's big dinner.

Never underestimate ...

Richard and Judy: Sofa, so good. (Hat tip, Vikram Johri.)

Cosmopolitan parochial ...

... Paul Theroux, who has certainly got around, laments American, the Overfull. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

When I was 13, the woods within which the house we lived in was located was cleared so the city of Philadelphia could install a sewerage system (which would make it feasible to build more houses). We had moved there in 1949 and I walked through those woods to go to school. I got to know them very well and the many birds that came through there (lots visited during migration). It only took a morning and part of the afternoon to do the job. The woods were there when I went to school that morning and were gone when I came back. I was heart-broken. I even shed some tears. My childhood ended that day. But so did any temptation to sentimentality (though I doubt if I knew that at the time).
I knew from then on not to count on permanence - and not to get bent out of shape over change. Theroux must know that there are plenty of places in the U.S. where you can still drive and not run into much. Try North Dakota. I also don't buy his bit about Americans lacking politeness (though Philadelphians may). Not too long ago Debbie and I were taking a subway from Brooklyn to Manhattan. I was astounded at how helpful the New Yorkers were. One practically got off the subway to make sure we didn't go the wrong way when we got off.
Chill, Paul.

Let's have another big hand ...

... for the astounding Dave Lull. I ended this post yesterday lamenting that I could not find Carlin Romano's review of Harry Frankfurter's On Bullshit. Dave - and I gather it wasn't easy - managed to find it. Seems the St. Louis Post-Dispatch ran it just as The Inquirer posted it on the wires: On Bullshit.

Thank you, Dave.

Jeff McDonald has posted ...

... a link to A couple of colorful stops along Next Blog Road ...

We already know Blue, but here you can see him.

Calling all poets ...

... You Are Cordially Invited to Become a 3dpoet. (Hat tip, AnnMarie Eldon, whose The nocturnal fix-attempt I had been meaning to link to, if only because - oddly enough - it was posted on the birthdate of Berlioz and of a woman I once was infatuated with. What AnnMarie is doing in her work I find utterly fascinating.)

Today's Inquirer reviews ...

The big one today - though I had to search for it on the site, even though it's on the front of the Currents section - is Tom Lipscomb's review of The Race Beat: Insiders' view of dynamic changes.

Jen Miller reports that It's relatively easy to learn from Einstein in this fiction.

Glenn Altschuler, however, isn't entirely persuaded by Susan Cheever's American Bloomsbury: Concord's literary lions, fueled by sexual tension?

John Freeman is utterly charmed by E.B. White: E.B. White, looking askance, wryly.

Desmond Ryan thinks Neal Gabler's is probably the best book about Walt Disney so far: New bio answers many questions about Disney.

Sandy Bauers enjoyed listening to the Sweet Potato Queens: The Sweet Potato Queens ride again, this time in a novel.

Here are reviews that ran during the past week:

Joseph Blake looked at Not in My Family: Black community's response to the scourge of HIV/AIDS.

John Freeman liked Lydie Salvayre's Everyday Life: Woman might be on the verge of a breakdown.

Maribel Molyneaux found Isabel Allende's latest fascinating: Book Review A saga of Chile's founding mother.

A good mix, if I do say so myself.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Today's must-read ...

An excerpt:
At that instant, I felt sorry for him, as a man in distress and perhaps, too, as a once almighty figure reduced to ignominy. But the expression of that pity to the Iraqis present marked the distance between those, like me, who had taken the measure of Saddam’s terror as a visitor, shielded from the worst of it by the minders and the claustrophobic world of closely guarded hotels and supervised Information Ministry trips, and Iraqis who lived through it with no shield.

That I could feel pity for him struck the Iraqis with whom I talked as evidence of a profound moral corruption. I came to understand how a Westerner used to the civilities of democracy and due process — even a reporter who thought he grasped the depths of Saddam’s depravity — fell short of the Iraqis’ sense, forged by years of brutality, of the power of his unmitigated evil.
Read the whole thing.

Art Durkee pomders ...

... The Intrigue of Poem Titles.

Rob Mackenzie has posted ...

... My 2006 Round-Up of the year's poetry.

Check out Kate's ...

... Calvino Meme.

Not bad ...

...

My Peculiar Aristocratic Title is:
Grand Duke Frank the Splendid of New Invention
Get your Peculiar Aristocratic Title



Via Hedgie, who also posts Robert Southwell's The Burning Babe.

I hadn't known this ...

... All the shit that’s fit to print. Apparently, the New York Times wouldn't print the full title of Harry G. Frankfurt’s On Bullshit. Here's how Carlin Romano's review in The Inquirer began:

On Bullshit
By Harry G. Frankfurt
Princeton University Press. 67 pp. $9.95
"Obscenity," Bertrand Russell remarked, "is whatever happens to shock some elderly and ignorant magistrate. "

Update: Dave Lull graciously sends along a link to the Times piece: Fighting Bull. Now if I could only link to Carlin's piece. (I could, of course, just post it here, I suppose.)

Place your bets, folks ...

... Punters back Voldemort to kill off Harry Potter. (Via The Kenyon Review Blog - lots of interesting stuff there. Just keep scrolling.)

And here's a most interesting site ...

... The Lipstick of Noise. (Hat tip, Katie Haegele.)

Here's some poetry ...

... LitKicks Presents ... Action Poetry 2006.

Worth considering ....

... Achievable New Year's resolutions. I don't know, though, the Oscar Homolka statue sound pretty impressive - and I had sashimi for dinner just last night.

I couldn't agree more ...

... from Terry Teachout's Almanac. Regrettably, I think this may be so as well. One thing is certain, though: those who are unduly certain of what they are saying tend not to be very entertaining.

A look at Anne Carson ...

... Magical Thinking. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

A psychiatrist friend once accused me of magical thinking. But the psychiatric understanding of the term is quite different from the anthopological understanding of it. Here's a psychiatric definition: "A conviction that thinking equates with doing. Occurs in dreams in children, in primitive peoples, and in patients under a variety of conditions. Characterized by lack of realistic relationship between cause and effect."
Here's an anthropological definition: "According to anthropologist Dr. Phillips Stevens Jr., magical thinking involves several elements, including a belief in the interconnectedness of all things through forces and powers that transcend both physical and spiritual connections. Magical thinking invests special powers and forces in many things that are seen as symbols. According to Stevens, 'the vast majority of the world's peoples ... believe that there are real connections between the symbol and its referent, and that some real and potentially measurable power flows between them.' "

Note that both psychiatry and anthropology are thought to be sciences. I told my psychiatrist friend that he was right. I was engaging in magical thinking. I do it all the time. I like it. But of course I am (and was) thinking of the term in its anthropological sense.

Well, yes ...

... The NYTBR Version of Fiction. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Why only the other day in my office Paula Marantz Cohen and I were making the same point about ignoring popular fiction being like not reviewing the movies at the multiplexes. Is publishing the only business where the people who attract an audience are not reviewed? FYI: The Inquirer reviewed Hollywood Station just around the time it hit the stores. Here's the rveiew: Hollywood, in the black-and-white.

Scott Stein's grandmother passed away ...

... on Christmas. Our thoughts and prayers are with Scott and his family. He has posted a very moving poem: "Alzheimer's, Max and Flo"

Friday, December 29, 2006

Before you claim to be original ...

... read this Cautionary Tale by Mary Jackson. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Gathered into place ...

... the commentary on young Joseph Rago's attack on blogs: 'The Blog Mob' hits the mattresses. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Blogs are here to stay, but they will come and go. Some are good, some very good, a few are excellent. Many more are just so so. Blogging is such a large and various category, however, it is hard to generalize about beyond that.

Naturally ...

... the same week this happens, turns out to be a week when I am so pressed I barely have any time to blog. Thank you, Maxine.

Fortunately, Maxine has been doing yeoman's service, including catching up with the indefatigable OWL: Dave Lull's holiday selection.

But that's not all. There's this, too, which, as Maxine points out, has bearing on the FIS:
The F-word test: first class or feeble? (I confess this strikes me as a rather weak indicator of intelligence, since, if one pays attention to the letters one is ulikely to be paying attention the words, which are they conveyors of the statement's meaning, right? But then, what can you expect from a failed intellectual?)

But why should I link to one post at a time? Go to Petrona and just take a leisurely scroll.

The need to define ...

... Dave Lull sends along this link: Weak Belief, which in turn links to and comments upon this piece: Believe It or Not .

Richard Stern, author of the first piece, calls the second piece, by Joseph Epstein, "exceptionally shallow and foolish," but I think the phrase applies more to Stern's own. While neither writer specifically defines belief, it is clear from Epstein's piece that he does not mean the sort of casual beliefs Stern is referring to. In other words, Stern is equivocating. "Was Mozart a believer?" Stern asks himself - and answers, "It's beside the point." Well, no it isn't. Mozart, like every great artist, had deep beliefs about art - and his music demonstrates that. Beliefs he may have held - casually or otherwise - about things other than music may be beside the point. Though even that isn't necessarily the case.
Of course neither piece bothers to differentiate between belief and faith.

It's that time of year again ...

... and Bryan, as usual, is right on top of things: My Resolutions.

I always make only one resolution and I always keep it, because it's always the same one: I always resolve to do much the same as I always have. Never fails.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

I said we were pressed for time ...

... amd so we remain. Must head out to a dinner party. Blogging may not resume until tomorrow.

This could be useful ...

Update: Blue is right. Link doesn't work. So just go to Books, Words, and Writing .

We are pressed for time ...

... but this deserves our attention: Short Posts and World Domination. (Dave Lull also alerted me to this. Great minds at work again.)
The point about the brevity of posts is very important. I think a new form will be found emerging along those lines.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

That's it for me tonight ...

... I have a review book to finish.

Maxine is back ...

... so visit Petrona and keep scrolling. She even reveals something of the mystery behind her recent imposed silence.

Book of the Month ...

... Mike Allen's Strange Wisdoms of the Dead, which I reviewed last month, has been chosen book of the month by The Infinity Projects. Note that tomorrow night at 7 they will be chatting with Mike.
(Hat tip, Laurie Mason.)

Here's my review: Strange poetry from the dark regions.

John Heath-Stubbs (1918-2006)

... Poet John Heath-Stubbs dies at 88 . (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

More here and here.

And here is a poem.

I know what he means ...

... Why I Read. I often find myself mimicking the style of books I review. It's a good way of conveying to the reader something of the flavor of the book.

Take your pick ...

... Singularities and Nightmares: Extremes of Optimism and Pessimism About the Human Future. (Via InstaPundit.)

They're here ...

... the MLA, that it, convening in Philadelphia - the worst time of year for newspaper coverage, since so many people are vacation. But here's a a report from Scott McLemee: The Philadelphia Story. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

This just in ...

... There are no Great Novels. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Disturbing news ...

... Competition is killing independent U.S. bookstores. (Hat tip, Roger Miller.)

This is quite fascinating ...

... Auden at Swarthmore. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Read the whole thing.

Good heavens ...

... perhaps this explains Richard Dawkins: Bid a fond farewell to the English way of religion. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Maxine tells ...

... about the Holiday of the Rings: Lord of the Rings again (and again).

What a wonderful piece. (And yes, omission of Tom Bombadil was a serious lapse.)

By popular demand ....

... here it is: Sir Ian McKellen in Simon Armitage's new translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Click on Thursday, and remember that you only have tonight and tomorrow before it disappears.

God bless us, every don ...

... No peace for the wicked.

Report from Lowell ...

Rus Bowden sends along a trio of links from the Daily Times of Pakistan:

... Michael Wood's If you say so.

... Somerset Maugham on Of Human Bondage.

... and Dr. Johnson's Enough!

Who knew?

... Shakespeare, Master of the P600 Effect. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

We have been informed ...

... that we have been named the Small Press Exchange's Pick of the Week, and you scroll down, you will see on the right that we have the logo to prove it.

Speaking of poetry ...

... check out Didi Menendez's When I Said Goodbye. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

The latest issue ...

... of E·ratio Poetry Journal is up.

Bryan Appleyard is on a roll ...

... first, there 's his link to Donald Trump's heartwarming denunciation of Rosie O'Donnell (talk about people deserving each other): Donald Trump on Rosie O'Donnell .

Then, there's the latest of his Forecasts 2007 (5).

In a rare and indeed ludicrous display ...

... of loyalty - or at least failing memory - I have come into the office on a day I had scheduled off as long ago as February. Well, I'm here now, so here I'll stay - and take off next Tuesday instead.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Sunday, December 24, 2006

For Christmas Eve ...

... "'Twas the Night Before Christmas," illustrated by Jessie Willcox Smith .

Gloria in excelsis deo,
et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis.

Merry Christmas to all!

Drumroll, please ....

... for the 3AM Novels of the Year 2006.

This may be it ...

... for blogging today. After all, it is Christmas Eve (even though I have been at the office functioning as Sunday's features editor) and we must all have better things to do tonight. Enjoy!

No need, though ...

... to defend Richard Dawkins: A Mission to Convert. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

"One reason for the lack of extended argument in The God Delusion is clear: Dawkins doesn't seem very good at it. Indeed he suffers from several problems when attempting to reason philosophically. The most obvious is that he has a preordained set of conclusions at which he's determined to arrive. Consequently, Dawkins uses any argument, however feeble, that seems to get him there and the merit of various arguments appears judged largely by where they lead." Indeed.

Once again ...

... In Defense of Scrooge. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Today's Inquirer reviews ....

Vikram Johri looks at Tarun J. Tejpal's The Alchemy of Desire: Desire lost, desire afire, desire unto, beyond death.

Roger Miller has good things to say about Michael Hofmann's anthology of 20th-century German poetry: A tour of German poetry finds 20th century's best.

I found Simenon's The Strangers in the House quote fascinating: Fine French novel of familial estrangement. (Don't know where the copy editor got the idea that Loursat was drinking himself to death. Simenon doesn't say that. And I never suggest it. He drinks too much. It may kill him. Maybe not.)

Michael McHale is charmed by Calvin Trillin's About Alice: Trillin's story of his lovely wife, her life cut short.

Katie Haegele finds a French novel for young adults: Young Adult Reader Runaway brothers and those who glimpse their flight.

During the week ...

Carlin Romano wrote something seasonal: A Hanukkah story shines brightly once again.

Paul Davis paid a visit to Joseph Wambaugh's Hollywood Station: Hollywood, in the black-and-white.

Sheri Melnick gauged Greg Iles's latest: Illness, intrigue, homicidal spouses.

John Rooney liked a "This I Believe" anthology: Wisdom of worthies, meant to inspire.

And Fred Bortz pondered a couple of books about string theory: String theory seems to unravel.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

A poetic look ...

... at celebrity by Michael Creagan: On First Looking Into The Internet And Finding Paparazzi Photographs Of Celebrities Behaving Badly. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Thanks, Ruth ...

... for the preview: Old, yes. Tired, a bit. Still, rarely. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Sensible as always ...

... Maxine opts to be A bit quiet and posts a really lovely photo.

Blogging must give way ...

... to seasonal chores. Back whenever.

A bit of clarification ...

... in yesterday's post, What's your book of the year? , I should have made it clearer that I would like everyone to contribute, readers as well as fellow bloggers. Then we'll put them altogether and see what we have.

The future turns grim ...

... Forecasts for 2007 (4) I do think we need to be careful, Bryan, when it comes to admitting members to the FIS. After all, right now, it's a pretty exclusive club!

Friends of Richard Dawkins ...

... should send him this link: Essential books for understanding Christianity. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)
After all, if you're going to sound off about something, you should first take the trouble of making sure you know what your talking about.

An unfair truth ...

... Shelby Steele wonders: Racism -- fact or faith? (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Glenn Reynolds alerts us ...

... that the New York Times has taken note of John Scalzi. Here is David Hiltbrand's review of The Ghost Brigades: Futuristic commandos bond in a special way. Were The Inquirer's online component less primitive I would link to David's podcast with Scalzi.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Bloggers pound ....

... Lev Grossman yet again. Ed Champion, hilarious as usual, thinks Gross Just Wants to Have Fun. Bill Peschel is a tad more blunt. (Scroll down Reader’s Almanac: 12/22 to "Being Harriet Klausner.")

I have been reading ...

... and reading Keats's "Ode to a Nightingale," quite simply because it is immensely rewarding to do so. Long before the French symbolists, Keats had achieved an almost pure linguistic music: Quite simply, he combines his words in the most perfectly melodic manner.
Consider:

O for a draught of vintage! that hath been
Cool'd a long age in the deep-delvèd earth,

Tasting of Flora and the country-green,
Dance, and Provençal song, and sunburnt mirth!
O for a beaker full of the warm South!
Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene,
With beaded bubbles winking at the brim,
And purple-stainèd mouth;
That I might drink, and leave the world unseen,
And with thee fade away into the forest dim:
You need to say it aloud. In fact, it is best to memorize it, so that you can just say it and shape it as you would a musical composition. Consider the magical precision of the words - "a draught of vintage," "a beaker full of the warm South," "beaded bubbles winking at the brim ..."
Or this:
Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget
What thou among the leaves hast never known,
The weariness, the fever, and the fret
Here, where men sit and hear each other groan;
Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last grey hairs,
Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies;
Where but to think is to be full of sorrow
And leaden-eyed despairs;
Where beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes,
Or new Love pine at them beyond to-morrow.
Again, this is language to be savored. Keats was 23 when he wrote the poem. Soon he would himself grow pale and spectre-thin and die. He had already witnessed that happen to his brother Tom, but it would be another year before he himself would cough up blood and notice its ominous color ("I know the color of that blood; it is arterial blood. I cannot be deceived. That drop of blood is my death warrant." )
There does seem to be a premonition of death in this poem:

Darkling I listen; and, for many a time
I have been half in love with easeful Death,
Call'd him soft names in many a musèd rhyme,
To take into the air my quiet breath;
Now more than ever seems it rich to die,
To cease upon the midnight with no pain ...
Keats was remarkable man, I think perhaps the sharpest thinker of all the romantics (Coleridge thought a lot and often brilliantly, but ...) He was certainly his own man:
The common cognomen of this world among the misguided and superstitious is "a vale of tears" from which we are to be redeemed by a certain arbitrary interposition of God and taken to Heaven. What a little circumscribed straightened notion!
Call the world, if you please, "the Vale of Soul Making". Then you will find out the use of the world....
There may be intelligences or sparks of the divinity in millions -- but they are not Souls till they acquire identities, till each one is personally itself.
Intelligences are atoms of perception -- they know and they see and they are pure, in short they are God. How then are Souls to be made? How then are these sparks which are God to have identity given them -- so as ever to possess a bliss peculiar to each one's individual existence. How, but in the medium of a world like this?
This point I sincerely wish to consider, because I think it a grander system of salvation than the Christian religion -- or rather it is a system of Spirit Creation...
I can scarcely express what I but dimly perceive -- and yet I think I perceive it -- that you may judge the more clearly I will put it in the most homely form possible. I will call the world a school instituted for the purpose of teaching little children to read. I will call the human heart the hornbook used in that school. And I will call the child able to read, the soul made from that school and its hornbook.
Do you not see how necessary a world of pains and troubles is to school an intelligence and make it a soul? A place where the heart must feel and suffer in a thousand diverse ways....
As various as the lives of men are -- so various become their souls, and thus does God make individual beings, souls, identical souls of the sparks of his own essence.
This appears to me a faint sketch of a system of salvation which does not affront our reason and humanity...

The foregoing letter is quoted on this post of Dr. Ed Friedlander: Enjoying "La Belle Dame Sans Merci", which has some further information regarding the arterial blood quote. Dr. Friedlander also has an interesting comment on letter quoted:

Keats believed that we begin as identical bits of God, and acquire individuality only by life-defining emotional experiences. By doing this, we prepare ourselves for happiness in the afterlife.
You may decide for yourself (or exercise negative capability) about whether you will believe Keats. But it's significant that this most intimate explanation of the personal philosophy behind his work follows a powerful lyric about emotional devastation.
If Keats's philosophy is correct, then any intense experience -- even letting your life rot away after a failed relationship, or enduring the agony of heroin withdrawal, or dying young of tuberculosis -- is precious. (Perhaps Keats, medically trained and knowing he had been massively exposed, was foreseeing his own from TB -- he would have been pale and sweaty and unable to move easily.) Each goes into making you into a unique being.
The idea is as radical as it sounds. And if you stay alert, you'll encounter similar ideas again and again, in some of the most surprising places.

In case you forget what "negative capability" is, here is how Keats explains it:

"I mean Negative Capability, that is when man is capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts without any irritable reaching after fact & reason." I should have quoted this long ago, since it is my characteristic mental outlook. Are you there, Noel?

Don't worry, Maxine ....

... we can be out of step together: Outdated bloggers.

Praising something arch ...

... in rather an arch manner: A bargain Beckett for the scholarly .

"Into the plush vaginal Sargasso of Proustian circumscription Beckett's penile hyperfocus is decisively plunged. " Wow.

Attention, fans ...

... Sir Gawain and the Green Knight -- In Performance .

A more representative look ...

... at RSB's Poems of the Week, courtesy of Dave Lull.

What's your book of the year?

Why should we let everybody else play this game? We've all read some books this year. Let's tally our favorites.
Since it's bound to come up, here are mine:
Fiction: Barry Unsworth's The Ruby in Her Navel (runnerup - Bill Pronzini's The Crimes of Jordan Wise)
Nonfiction - Francis Collins's The Language of God

Well, here's this bunch ...

... Books of the Year 2006 symposium. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Given the poem of the week on the right one may wonder ...

The sound of silence ...

... History’s Sweep, in Words and Silence . (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

A good point ...

... Dogma Without God . (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

It is curious how those decrying what they peceive as the anger and intolerance of religion so often sound angry and intolerant.

Here's a good roundup ...

... of recent skirmishes bewteen bloggers and the MSM: Blogger 1, Old Media 0.

Earlier, I had thought of linking to Rago's WSJ piece, but it seemed a waste of time. Rago writes about "blogs" but seems to mean "political blogs." He makes general statements about blogs on both the left and right and cites none by name. In short, I don't think he knows what he's taking about.

I find it rather encouraging ...

... that there are Pizza Hut and Kentucky Fried Chicken franchises so near the pyramids, although I agree that the latter deserve to be treated with more respect: Pissing on the Pyramids.

More on reviewing the non-existent ...

The last part of this, about the critic savaging books out of spite, is especially disturbing. To sacrifice your critical integrity on the altar of your spite would necessarily call into question your fundamental critical judgment, it seems to me.
As I grow older I am increasingly amazed by the amount of emotional capital people squander. One of the big issues in Philadelphia right now has to do with the awarding of a couple of casino licenses. One of the approved sites is not far from where we live. My wife asked me last night how engaged I was in this controversy. I told her I felt largely indifferent toward it. There are going to be two casinos in the city. I wouldn't have chosen either of the sites that have been chosen, but I wasn't asked to decide the matter. I doubt if things will turn out as bad as the opponents claim. Do they ever? And of course I don't think the benefits will be anywhere near as great as supporters claim. Are they ever?
But I can't bring myself to feel very deeply about any of it one way or another.

This could lead to trouble ...

... Potter and Pratchett .

It will never be better ...

... than this: Forecasts for 2007 (3) . It won't get much funnier, either - unless we find that Jeffrey Archer has been ghosting Pynchon all along.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Glenn Reynolds posts ...

... some Good News.

Perfect ...

... Christmastime at Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's .

It is, I think, still fashinable to denigrate Longfellow. But I would suggest looking carefully at these poems. I would especially recommend reading them aloud (but get them right, practice them, don't just sight read). Take a look, for instance, at

Not the sweet, new grass with flowers
Is this harvesting of ours;
Not the upland clover bloom;
But the rowen mired with weeds,
Tangled tufts from marsh and meads,
Where the poppy drops its seeds
In the silence and the gloom.

That is subtle metrical composition.

Talk about dystopias ...

... take a look at Bryan Appleyard's Forecasts for 2007 (1) and Forecasts for 2007 (2) . Cheer up, Bryan. Always look on the bright side of life! (Actually, I think I'd feel right at home in Lousy Bastards.)

The lack of light ...

... seems to be getting the GOB down: Even gloomier Tuesday .

Like Michael, I didn't get a chuckle out of A Confederacy of Dunces. I can't even remember the protagonist's name now, but I remember thinking he was really just a royal pain in the old gluteus maximus. But then I could never figure out what people saw in Holden Caulfield, either.

What's past is past ...

... or is it? Frank Johnson re-revising.

I think Maxine is on to something ...

... Has POD's time finally arrived?

Poets & Writers ...

... turns 20.

Our favorite snail-keeper ...

... Passion and Precision: An Interview with Clare Dudman. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The year's top books ...

... according to The Economist: Fighting to be tops .

Look what happened ...

... to The Wicked Witch.

Another of those good questions ....

... What is a "Bestseller"? (Hat tip, Maxine Clarke.)

Season's greetings ...

... from Jessica Schneider: For All Cynics: (I too am one of you), But Don't You Dare Skip Over This Review!

I agree ...

... both about Believing in Santa and The Truth Delusion. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I do wish those given to sweeping statements about religion would do a little homework. They could start by reading The Idea of the Holy. It is also worth mentioning, I think, that to equate truth with what is merely provable and quantifiable is to opt for a rather pale and narrow idea of truth.

An excellent poem ....

... by an excellent poet Jane Hirschfield's In Praise of Coldness . (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The trade-offs of parenting ...

... End of a first term.

Old ways are best ...

... Adam Bellow, Pamphleteer for the 21st Century. (Via InstaPundit.)

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

I mentioned this in a comment ...

... on an earlier post: From the Life of Brian

A sad tale indeed ....

... Death of the Mirabelle .

This reminds me of something I have heard attributed to William Buckley, though I don't believe it originated with him: The trouble with communism was communism - it was an unsound theory disastrous in practice. The trouble with capitalism is capitalists.

This don gets around ...

... The smile on the face of the tiger?

Their time has not yet come ...

... and may be never: Unlikely Book Ideas.

And while we're at it ...

... how about The Underrated Writers of 2006? (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Probably the most original ...

... best books of the year list. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Now here's a Top 10 to reckon with ....

... the Ten Most Expensive Books Sold in 2006.

More on "The Messiah" ...

... from Dana Gioia: Handel's Many Messiahs. Notice that Dana likes Beecham's version.

Well, at least he didn't like it ...

... Writer sacked for faking book review. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Adam Kirsch ...

... on John Betjeman: Unmitigated England. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The Bible in English ....

... Born in Blood. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Perhaps he can get brother Christopher ...

... to come along: Peter Hitchens on A religious revival for people who are not really religious. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Sir Thomas and ...

... The Messiah. (Hat tip, Maxine Clarke.)

I have Beecham's recording, complete with cymbals, and I know how "inauthentic" it is - and I don't care!

This could hurt his chances ...

... for a Nobel prize: Adonis: 'We, in Arab society, do not understand the meaning of freedom' .

But first, this just in ...

... don't give away your winter clothes just yet: 2006: probably the coldest year in the last five years.

This fits in nicely with the discussion about sloganeering attached to this post: A fresh perspective ...

Deadline calls ...

... so blogging will resume after I finish my review.

You can't go wrong ...

... starting the day with a piece about George Gershwin: Fascinating schism.

"... Gershwin's chutzpah, the sheer brazenness of his aspirations, produced musical gold. It remains a mystery why so few other composers have even attempted such alchemy." Indeed.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

I have no energy at all tonight ...

... so that's it for blogging until tomorrow.

So you want to be a publisher ....

... well, Maxine has some Advice for new online publishers.

The man behind ...

... the Hardy Boys.

Design for living ...

... Being George Devine's Daughter by Harriet Devine. (Hat tip, Maxine Clarke.)

I ownder ...

... Exporting Englishness . (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Lynne Scanlon ponders ...

... Judith Regan: Shock and Awe at HarperCollins! Judith Regan Ousted 21st Century-Style—Frog-Marched!

I should have linked to these earlier ...

.... On News Management .

" ...call me a sentimental old fool, but I'd still quite like to believe that the insulting of truth is not a necessary adjunct to democratic politics." This sentimental old fool agrees, Bryan.

Also: Ipswich and Diana: In Pursuit of the Surreal .

Words, words, words ...

... Creating Words At Verbotomy.

A bit of literary critcism ...

... from Glenn Reynolds: The point of dystopian fiction.

Carla Blumenkranz writes ......

............about a long-forgotten incident involving Robert Lowell - or as she so aptly describes him, the "as yet undiagnosed manic depressive" Robert Lowell - during the years of the Red Scare.

"Ahh, but the strawberries that's...

... that's where I had them. They laughed at me and made jokes but I proved beyond the shadow of a doubt and with... geometric logic... that a duplicate key to the wardroom icebox DID exist ..."

Not so fast, Captain Queeg. Geometric logic may not be as foolproof as you think. Moreover, "Kurt Gödel proved ... that if you insist on consistency, there are true statements you can't prove at all." Mathematical proof is foolproof, it seems, only in the absence of fools .

Monday, December 18, 2006

I am back ...

... from voting on the new labor contract, but am a bit under the weather. Blogging will resume tomorrow, I hope.

If I am reading this correctly ...

... God has finally granted an interview: The Complete Blogging the Bible. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Extra! Extra! ...

... Shameless reviews Minx.

What a nice eulogy ...

...The Frank Johnson Diaries?

Yet another ...

... 10 best of 2006. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

A chat ...

... with Poet Laureate Donald Hall. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Gift suggestions ...

... from Void Magazine.

On the other hand ...

... Who Keeps Killing Poetry? (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Oh, we are in a contrarian mood today ...

... An interview with Elizabeth Kantor, author of The Politically incorrect Guide to English and American Literature: Three Cheers for the Patriarchy. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Measure for measure ...

... Prosody for 21st-Century Poets. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

A fresh perspective ...

... Methane and environmentalism.

Update: EU vs. US on CO2.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

The latest issue ...

... of Autumn Sky Poetry is up.

Rennie D. links ...

... to Sermons by Mark Long. I just listened to Advent 3. One of my favorite quotes from my patron saint is cited - that we should preach the Gospel always, and if necessary use words.

Today's poem ...

... is Anna Tambour's Trapped Words. Make sure to listen to the audio.

Speaking of crime ...

... you may just want to pop over to Detectives Beyond Borders and start scrolling.

Maxine has been busy ...

... so check out:

Oodles of Google doodles.

Breaking out of the stereotype.

European crime updates.

Report from Lowell...

... Rus Bowden sends along some links:

Shisa Poet's "Must Be The Way She Pours A Beer".

Charles Bernstein posts about Ehon: The Artist and the Book in Japan.

Art Durkee's Winter Diptych .

Deb Powers wonders Where Will People Get Their Poetry?

Finally, Kwansabas for Maya Angelou CFS extended to January .

Oops ...

... it was yesterday: Celebrating Jane Austen’s Birthday.

More on Judith Regan ...

... 'Offensive' phone call by publisher preceded her firing. Must have been really offensive for people like this to have even noticed.

Oh, and there's also this ....

... which jells nicely with what Bryan has to say about the New Atheism: Welcome to the new holy land. (Hat tip, Vikram Johri.)

But first ...

... Bryan Appleyard interviewing Michael Crichton is a must-read: Genetic disorder.

Bryan also assays the big ideas of 2006: Eureka!.

I am at the office ...

... tryin to restore order to the book room. So blogging will resume tonight.

Today's Inquirer reviews ....

... include these ...

Glenn Altschuler pays a visit to Richard Burgin's Conference on Beautiful Moments: From interior monologues to exquisite, aching stories.

Bernhardt Blumenthal discovers heroism in Villa Air-Bel: In Europe's darkest time, they were unlikely heroes.

I was very much taken with Michael Creagan's True Love and Other Poems: Mining medicine, striking upon beauty.

Carlin Romano waxes eloquent over a newly published work co-authored by Primo Levi: Primo Levi's 'Auschwitz Report' to his liberators

Elizabeth Fox is mostly underwhelmed by Eric Van Lustbader's The Testament: A 'Da Vinci' copycat falls flat on plot.

Sandy Bauers listens to Carl Hiaasen and Diane Setterfield: A female narrator cranks up Hiaasen's collection of crazies.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Correcting an oversight ...

... I can't believe I forgot to link to David Stearns's review of a couple of Orson Welles biographies: Pinning down the slippery Citizen Welles .

Simon Armitage on translating ...

... Sir Gawain and the Green Knight: The Knight's Tale. (Hat tip, Hedgie.)

Shameless takes Manhattan ...

... The Razzle-Dazzle of New York!

There's a link ...

... in Maxine's crimefic post to Marydell's post about Ray Bradbury. Maxine also has this about Ray: The 50-year pause.

For crimefic fans ...

... Maxine ponders Spinning out of crime.

Lots and lots ...

... in the GOB's Thursday market .

Also, over at Critical Mass ...

... there's the Friday Roundup.

It's that time of week ...

... in that time of year, and so I am pressed for time. Luckily, here is Liz Lopatto's Short Takes.

A second opinion ...

... and mroe regarding Mrs. Hardy: A Mr Hardy to see you, Doctor.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Debbie and I are back ...

... from dining out and I am about to curl up with the Simenon novel I plan to write about. Later.

A thoughtful post ...

... Notes towards an egoless poetry 9: Mental Illness & Poetry . Actually, I recommend visiting Dragoncave and browsing through the posts there. Lots and lots of good stuff.

Odd-gotten gains ...

... Rewarded for Simpson sleaze.

Update: Judith Regan, however, has been fired: Editor Fired After Uproar Over Simpson. Methinks she'll survive.

Speaking of Amy ...

... she also offers An Introduction to the Literature of the Fantastic. I am very fond of Algernon Blackwood's stories. I think "The Willows" is as scary as they come.

I have long suspected this ...




You Should Learn French



C'est super! You appreciate the finer things in life... wine, art, cheese, love affairs.

You are definitely a Parisian at heart. You just need your tongue to catch up...

(Hat tip, Amy Nelson-Mile at Books, Words, and Writing .)

The GOB ...

... looks at the way "the internet has transformed the used-book market": The Home-Based Bookstore .

I happen to have written something about this nearly 10 years ago: Out of print, but Online. Interloc is now Alibris, and Advanced Book Exchange is now AbeBooks.

Steve Trussell's Books & Book Collecting is as good as ever.

Once again ...

... Bryan hits the bull's-eye: The Ipswich Murders 2 . This is the sort of thing that gives the news business a bad name.

Introducing ....

... a new blog: Conversations in the Book Trade.

Friday's OWL report ...

... Omnipresent Wisconsin Librarian Dave Lull sends along these dispatches:

Philip Hefner comments on the symposium entitled "Beyond Belief: Science, Religion, Reason, and Survival": Going Beyond Belief. I pretty much agree.

A very good poem by Kingsley Amis: Matin.

Also, Patrick Kurp looks at a couple of poems by Stevie Smith: `All This Looks Easy But Really It Is Extraordinary'.

Something about religion even Richard Dawkins approves of: The English Bible has made us.

La lingua pura (as Leigh Teabing would have it): Fowler’s 'Modern English Usage'.

A poem by Clive James: Status Quo Vadis.

Guy Davenport on Ezra Pound: Making Pound New.

That should certainly occupy everyone for a while.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

I passed on blogging tonight ...

... in order to write a letter to a dear friend. Back tomorrow.

Almost forgot this ...

... Karen Heller's review of Sebastian Faulks's Human Traces: Author's mind-set: Science, not drama.

And this - Jon Caroulis's review of The Great Bookof Philadelphia Sports Lists: For Phila. sports fans, a volume to fight over.

A passionate librarian ...

... and A Triumph in a Garage: Mayme Clayton's Trove of Black History Gathers Dust, and Momentum. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

But I didn't miss ...

... Blue Luge.

In Edinburgh ...

... a Poetry Pamphlet Party and Fair .

Also, I missed Sonnet Sunday.

King definitely has a point ...

... about Novels - namely, about "ingenues like Marisha Pessl receiving a million dollars for stuporous crap." Indeed.

How did I miss this?

... Maxine’s book reviews . Great picture of Maxine there, too.

Behind in your shopping?

... try A little bit of history.

Hear, hear ...

As Vice Failure I second the Supreme Failure's suggestion: Proceedings of the FIS: Naomi Campbell .

Ms. Campbell's gnomic utterance reminds me of how George Romney tried to explain his remark about being "brainwashed" over Vietnam: "I didn't say that I didn't say it. I said that I didn't say I said it. I want to make that clear."

All things run into mystery ...

... 13 things that do not make sense. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

In case we've missed any ...

... and I'm sure we have: More Best of the Year Lists .

Psst ...

... Secret to Publishing Success: Inspired Writing, Niche Marketing .

The phenomenology of poetry (cont'd.) ...

... Renau on David Caplan’s Questions of Possibility .

Cakes and ale ...

... Running interference.

The newspaper of record ....

... strikes again: The Iranian ‘Scholars’: Times Bends Backwards for Holocaust Deniers . (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

A free market Christmas ...

... the Library of Liberty's Quote of the Month. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I think this should be used for a Christmas card.

Yes, it has ...

... what a brilliant year it's been for fine literature. (Hat tip, Rob Mackenzie.)

I fully support ...

... a knighthood for Ringo and a dukedom for Bryan: Ringo Versus Jeffrey.

Recycled art ...

... or is the art of recycling? Small World?

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Apropos of nothing in particular ...

... except, I suppose, my own personal pleasure, I have just finished listening to Sir Thomas Beecham's recording of Richard Strauss's Ein Heldenleben. I just got it in the mail today. I first had it not long after it came out, which was not long after Sir Thomas's death. It was his last recording. And it is probably the best recording of Ein Heldenleben ever. This piece usually needs a bit of irony to make it come off. Beecham takes it altogether seriously, though, and pulls it off. The finale seems like Beecham's own farewell. God, he was a great conductor.

And with that, I am signing off for the night. I just got some Simenon in the mail. Do I have a great job or what?

Accent on detail ...

... A Book Contract With The Devil .

Maxine links ...

... to today's must-read: Radical transparency at Wired. Read Maxine's post first, though.

Appetitive man ...

... David Hiltbrand reviewed Hannibal Rising in this morning's Inquirer: How he got that appetite (yes, we know the Kozinski book should be The Painted Bird.)

... and David Montgomery has some thoughts, too: Musings on Thomas Harris' "Hannibal Rising".

Literary detectives alert ...

... Help identify this book.

This is definitely unnecessary ...

... Journalism as social engineering. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

This seems unnecessary ...

... Aristos finds TNC 'Lack'ing. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

And never forget ...

... Books As Works of Art.

So you want to be a writer ...

... well, here's some Book Publishing Advice. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

A Sufi destination ...

... The Adventures of Doris Lessing. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Speaking of Lee Lowe ...

... here is a pilot podcast.

Sounds like he needs sprezzatura ...

... Another word on the ordinary. Jesse is extraordinary, but his "overarching ambition is to be as unnoticeable as possible." Sprezzatura is mastery that looks like second nature. See Castiglione's The Book of the Courtier.

I've done my writing for the day ...

... but maybe you're up for The 50-word challenge. (Hat tip, Maxine Clarke.)

Mark your calendar ...

... Coming in 2007: The Virtual Literary Festival.

A link for Susan Balée ...

... from Dave Lull: Come a Cropper.

From one far more knowledgable than I ..

... Peter Stothard on Ann Coulter and the custodians. And thank you, Peter, for the kind mention.

But first ...

... time out for a hard truth that we never seem to learn: The Ipswich Murders .

We'll start blogging again ...

... later today. Right now we have some writing to do.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Better late than never ...

... I would have linked to this earlier had I known of it: From our bulging How not to do statistics file.

Definitely click on the two follow-ups at the bottom. This is really quite a story, given the absolute worhtlessness of the "study."

Always a good idea ...

... to look at The Fine Print of Self-Publishing .

Fans of Heathcliff and Catherine ...

... will want to check out Perspectives on Wuthering Heights. What think you of Cathy now?

Maxine weighs in ...

... on Strunk & White, sensibly as always: Horses for Courses.

" ... S&W's advice is, I believe, of great practical use for people trying to convey complex information in the clearest way. " Indeed.

A good question ...

... What's a poet?

I seem to recall that Kenneth Rexroth once determined how large a number of 20th-century poets had committed suicide. Poetry is a dangerous undertaking, apparently.

The best question of all ...

... Who are you?

Here's what I need ...

... a Rotary reading desk - for the reading of multiple books at once. But where would I put it?

A fresh sort of list

... Prospect's Books of the Year - the underrated and the overrated. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I see that The God Delusion is among the most overrated - though Matt Ridley calls it underrated, saying the "dreadful" reviews are just "snobbish and inaccurate drivel from fans of superstition." Apparently, he failed to notice how much drivel there is in Dawkins's book, and how much Dawkins's view of science amounts to superstition. It is a poor book judged simply by the standard of Dawkins's other books.

Correcting an oversight ....

... I have linked from time to time to Mary Beard's blog A Don's Life. Now I have added it to the blogroll (as Mary Beard).
I would especially draw your attention to Come Back, Baby Jesus (I understand fully, Mary) and one I should have immediately linked to: "Let them learn Latin". Yes!

Dr. Johnson nods ...

... `A Small Tale, Generally of Love'. (Hat tip, Maxine Clarke.)

Good news ...

... Books to survive. (Hat tip, Maxine Clarke.)

Quite a fellow ...

... James Clerk Maxwell: a force for physics.

How sad ...

... 'Truthiness' Is Named Word of the Year. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

It's a stupid word coined by a professional dimwit.

Quite worth watching ...

... an interview with Aldous Huxley. (Hat tip, Andrew Kenneally.) Note there are two other parts to this. I shall have more to say about these sometime later, after I've had time to watch all of them.

I think I've met my quota this year ...

... having reviewed both War and Peace and The Three Musketeers, which together added up to more than 2,200 pages: A Doozy of A Reading Challenge for 2007.

Update: I should have added that I think Amy will enjoy The Virgin in the Garden. Then she can move on to Still Life, Babel Tower, and A Whistling Woman.

Bidding adieu ....

... Last words for Hardy - also last words from Times House.

A sour outlook ...

... in case you're looking for one: Thomas Bernhard for life. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

This sounds like good advice ...

... Omit Needless Books of Advice on Writing. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

It's easy - and seems to have become fashionable - to make fun of Strunk & White. But the best comment I know about the book is a fairly old one - Robertson Davies's (note my punctuation) observation that S&W enables one to build the prose equivalent of a good sound chicken coop, but that many of us want to build something more elaborate. Still, knowing how to build a good sound chicken coop is a good start if you want to build things. You just don't have to stop there. (And, speaking as an editor, it is amazing how often one finds needless words that must be omitted.)
Update: Dave further sends along this: "...rules given by Professor Quirk and his colleagues in their A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language. 'One may pronounce Mr Jones' car as Jones or Joanzez: where a name ends in a letter s sounding like a z (i.e. a voiced s), an apostrophe only should be used; where a name ends in a written s sounding like an s (i.e. it is not voiced), an apostrophe s is required. Hence Mr Jones' book is great, but Mr Davis's book is even better.' (From

Worse than failure ...

... The death of intellectualism - An evening in Paris. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Something to look forward to ...

... UNESCO names 2007 ‘Year of Rumi’. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Insufficient attention is paid to Sufism.

And here I thought ...

... it was where the heart is. From Terry Teachout's Almanac.