Saturday, March 31, 2007
By way of comparison, here is David Stearns's review of Franz Schmidt's Symphony No. 4: Drawing the power of a fragile work .
Friday, March 30, 2007
Thursday, March 29, 2007
I'm inclined to think that it's whatever age I happen to be at any given time - because rioght tends to be what interests me most at any given time.
Some French diplomats - Paul Claudel and Saint-John Perse - were certainly good. But I wonder if even they reached the level of Wang An-Shih:
The burner is out of incense the dripping has almost stopped
the wind comes in gusts the cold in waves
springtime disturbs me and keeps me from sleep
the moon casts shadow flowers on the balustrade
Richard Dawkins also won, as did Peter Kay. I think it typical of Dawkins to draw a grand conclusion from his win while ignoring whetver Kay's win might suggest. To know what mean, see this.
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
Debbie and I visted the archive and we both found it utterly fascinating, a window onto a past we had ourselves partly lived through: The H.J. Menningen Collection. Click on the samples at the top.
Weirdly enough, in article XII, he beseeched his parents to pray for his soul's delivery from purgatory, although his parents were by then dead.
No, what would be weird is praying to them if they were alive. Presumably, he thinks them in heaven and prays for their intercession, since he expects to land in purgatory himself.
A few years ago, I introduced Geoffrey Hill at the 92d Street Y. He told the audience that the best way to approach his poetry was simply to read it and not bother with the allusions, that it wasn't meant to be puzzled out. I find that works.
... fears are a matter of fashion. Worries are like clothing styles, they come and go, rise and fall, based on what the worry fashion leaders tell the herd of independent minds to fear this year. GM is fashionable to fear. But that will change.
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
Why should this surprise anyone, given the huge number of bloggers? I remember climbing a small mountain in New York state one spring with a friend. On the way we saw what must have been tens of thousands of what I think were salamanders - tiny and orange. They had just made their debut on the plane of existence. My friend told me that only a week later, most would be gone, devoured by birds, other predators, and just plain privation. Blogging is an example of natural selection at work.
Monday, March 26, 2007
One thing Stephen Joyce seems to have inherited from his grandfather is a cranky disposition.
Sunday, March 25, 2007
This is an outstanding piece. The connection of Kraus to blogging, while interesting and pertinent, is far from being the most important point. That would be found in this passage, and those that follow it:
The phrase is of Timms’s coinage, and rings like pewter. By the time Kraus died, he knew that there could be an even bigger danger in propaganda for peace. Some of the brightest people in Europe, up to and including Bertrand Russell, preached non-violence up to and beyond the day Hitler invaded Poland. The British Labour Party, sitting in opposition to the Conservatives, denounced Fascism but also denounced any proposed armed opposition to it as warmongering. In service to the great analyst of cliché, Timms is hampered not only by his Cultural Studies jargon (the leaden word “discourse” riddles the text) but by an untoward propensity for not spotting what a current cliché is. The two drawbacks are connected, by his tin ear. Kraus, whom Timms tacitly invites to join in the widespread practice of putting jokey quotation marks around the phrase “war on terror”, might have pointed out that the quotation marks are a cliche in themselves, helping as they do to disguise a brute reality: terrorists are at war with us, and don’t care who they kill. The reason terrorists don’t use those risible cosmetic terms of ours such as “collateral damage” is that they not only have no intention of sparing the innocent, they have no more desirable target in mind.
David Thayer finds himself fascinated by Natsuo Kirina's Grotesque: Beauty as the monster devouring family's lives.
Roger Miller finds Andrew Burstein's take on Washington Irving refreshing: An American 'Original'.
Katie Haegele looks at the effect new media is having on the form of story-telling: Does storytelling change in context of new forms of media?.
Speaking of ambivalence, Ed Sozanski likes Jonathan Wilson's take on Chagall's: Chagall, between his roots and his art .
Sandy Bauers likes listening to a (sort of) kid's tale: 12-year-old narrator sounds just right for novel about a boy.
Last week ...
Rita Giordano wasn't at all bugged by Tyler Knox's Kockroach: Book Review | Inventive, unsettling roach in man's clothing.
Charles Desnoyers was impressed with Margaret MacMillan's account of the rapprochement of China and the U.S.: Book Review | Fine account of thawing cold war with China in 1972.
Finally, in connection with this review by Suzanne Blair, Rus Bowden sends along this link: Neeta Jain discusses"Body Language" on KRON.
Saturday, March 24, 2007
What my soul loves, I love.
What my soul hates, I hate.
When my soul is stirred with compassion, I am compassionate.
What my soul turns away from, I turn away from.
That is the true interpretation of Whitman's creed: the true revelation of his Sympathy.
And my soul takes the open road. She meets the souls that are passing, she goes along with the souls that are going her way. And for one and all, she has sympathy. The sympathy of love, the sympathy of hate, the sympathy of simple proximity; all the subtle sympathizings of the incalculable soul, from the bitterest hate to passionate love.
It is not I who guide my soul to heaven. It is I who am guided by my own soul along the open road, where all men tread. Therefore, I must accept her deep motions of love, or hate, or compassion, or dislike, or indifference. And I must go where she takes me, for my feet and my lips and my body are my soul. It is I who must submit to her.
This is Whitman's message of American democracy.
The true democracy, where soul meets soul, in the open road. Democracy. American democracy where all journey down the open road, and where a soul is known at once in its going. Not by its clothes or appearance. Whitman did away with that. Not by its family name. Not even by its reputation. Whitman and Melville both discounted that. Not by a progression of piety, or by works of Charity. Not by works at all. Not by anything, but just itselœ The soul passing unenhanced, passing on foot and being no more than itself. And recognized, and passed by or greeted according to the soul's dictate. If it be a great soul, it will be worshipped in the road.
The love of man and woman: a recognition of souls, and a communion of worship. The love of comrades: a recognition of souls, and a communion of worship. Democracy: a recognition of souls, all down the open road, and a great soul seen in its greatness, as it travels on foot among the rest, down the common way of the living. A glad recognition of souls, and a gladder worship of great and greater souls, because they are the only riches.
Love, and Merging, brought Whitman to the Edge of Death! Death! Death!
But the exultance of his message still remains. Purified of MERGING, purified of MYSELF, the exultant message of American Democracy, of souls in the Open Road, full of glad recognition, full of fierce readiness, full of the joy of worship, when one soul sees a greater soul.
The only riches, the great souls.
This will come as no surprise to those of who subscribe to Georg Groddeck's notion of the It, that, as Freud summarized it, "what we call our ego behaves essentially passively in life, and that, as [Groddeck] expresses it, we are 'lived' by unknown and uncontrollable forces."
Or, as Groddeck himself put it: "Who draws the conclusion, that I mentally medicate a human who has broken his leg, is very true – but I adjust the fracture and dress the wound. And then – I give him a massage, make exercises with him, give a daily bath to the leg, with water of 45 centigrade for half a hour and I take care, that he does neither gorge nor booze, and every now and then I ask him: Why did you break your leg, you yourself ?"
In other words, just because my conscious ego is following the prompts of my It, doesn't mean that my It isn't free. What has Libert demonstrated other than that I respond to things even before I am conscious of doing so?
This begins as follows:
“Two things,” Immanuel Kant wrote in the late 18th century, “fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe, the more often and steadily we meditate upon them: the starry firmament above and the moral law within.”
Then comes this observation:
The quotation suggests, misleadingly, that the astronomical and moral realms are wholly separate—the former is “above” and the latter is “within.” But they aren’t: as Moby correctly sings, “We are all made of stars.” The heavens and human beings are composed from the same physical stuff, and are governed by same physical principles. The starry firmament isn’t really “above”—it’s everywhere. We, along with lobsters and the rest, are part of it.
Everything, in short, is a natural phenomenon, an aspect of the universe as revealed by the natural sciences. In particular, morality is a natural phenomenon. Moral facts or truths—that boiling babies is wrong, say—are not additions to the natural world, they are already there in the natural world, even if they are not explicitly mentioned in scientific theories.
Interesting to compare this, I think, with this passage from Edmund Wilson's Axel's Castle:
The scientists of the seventeenth century who presented the universe as a mechanism had caused people to draw the conclusion that man was something apart from nature, something introduced into the universe from outside and remaining alien to all that he found. But a romantic poet like Wordsworth has come to feel the falsity of this assumption: he has perceived that world is an organism, that nature includes planets, mountains, vegetation and people alike, that what we are and what we see, what we hear, what we feel and what we smell, are inextricably related, that all are involved in the same great entity. Those who make fun of the Romantics are mistaken in supposing that there is no intimate connection between the landscape and the poet's emotions. There is no real dualism, says Whitehead, between external lakes and hills, on the one hand, and personal feelings, on the other: human feelings and inanimate objects are interdependent and devloping together in some fashion of which our traditional notions of laws of cause and effect, of dualities of mind and matter or of body and soul, can give us no true idea. The Romantic poet, then, with his turbid or opalescent language, his sympathies and passions which cause him to seem to merge with his surroundings, is the prophet of a new insight into nature: he is describing things as they really are: and a revolution in the imagery of poetry is in reality a revolution in metaphysics.Thanks to Christmas present from a dear friend - of a calendar of the Lake District - I have been inspired to rope off a bit of time every day to re-read Wordsworth's The Prelude. I get it better now that I am old. I think it is worth noting that most contemporary environmentalism (James Lovelock is presumably an exception) seems premissed, not on the Romantic notion, but on the earlier, mechanistic one, that separates man from nature.
Friday, March 23, 2007
The Bible so pervades Western culture ... that it's hard to call anyone educated who hasn't at least given thought to its key passages.
And Shakespeare would almost surely have agreed. According to one estimate, he alludes to Scripture some 1,300 times.
Thursday, March 22, 2007
Like so many other things, we have a tendency to define something a particular way and then judge it from that point of view, rather than saying to oneself, “I’m going to look at this from at least six points of view.”
Surprise!I Got you to open my e-mail again!
Come to Hinge Cafe tonight at 7:45 p.m., at 2652 Somerset Avenue to the Acoustic Philly Songwriters Night.
I am going to tell everybody how to get there from Center City (see below). But first, let it be known that people who come to Acoustic-Philly shows experience the following benefits:
1) An improved nervous system.
2) Better circulatory condition.
3) Less dental plaque.
4) More dates (because dames dig folk musicians, and guys can't resist a chick with a guitar!).
Here's who's playing, but sorry--- you can't date them unless they say so over the microphone:
:-PMayor Street's underwear will not be seen tonight (and I think we're all better off).
Here's who's playing:
Geremiah Giampa (he once dated a turnip) www.theparsniprevolt.com
Directions from Center City:
to I-676 EAST BOUND to I-95 NORTH TRENTON. Follow I-95 NORTH BOUND to GIRARD AVE / LEHIGH AVE EXIT #23. Merge far right and follow sign for RICHMOND ST. Travel North on Richmond St. approximately 0.6 miles. Turn LEFT onto SOMERSET ST (one block after traffic light). End one and a half blocks on the left.
More at Acoustic Philly.
Not a good idea to teach or write about a book you haven't read all the way through. Which may mean re-reading one you read a long while ago. (I didn't have that problem when I wrote about J.B. Priestley's Literature and Western Man recently because I've re-read so many parts of it so often.)
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
And Rita Giordano like Kockroach: Book Review | Inventive, unsettling roach in man's clothing .
Also, there's this: Orange overdose: spare me the longlist. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)
I once received a very nice note from J.V. Cunningham, thanking me for a review of his poems that I had written, telling me that it was nice to be praised for the things one had hoped to be praised. He later very kindly read some of the poems I was writing at the time and told me, quite correctly, that I had perfected a style but hadn't yet figured out what to do with it. The single most imprtant piece of criticism I have ever received. May perpetual light shine upon him.
Monday, March 19, 2007
What is interesting here is the transcript of the debate. For the record, my position on this issue is much the same as Glenn's
In connection with this, The Gospel of John & Yoko: The Origins of Mad Morality is worth a look, too, considerinmg that the author has seen it from the other side.
Sunday, March 18, 2007
... from The Centaurian.
Updike's 2006 Lifetime Achievement Award from Christianity and Literature.
And his Life and Times. (This really has a lot.)
But this is the money quote, and I think the old boy is pretty much right:
When Charlie and I were young, the newspaper business was as easy a way to make huge returns as existed in America. As one not-too-bright publisher famously said, “I owe my fortune to two great American institutions: monopoly and nepotism.” No paper in a one-paper city, however bad the product or however inept the management, could avoid gushing profits. The industry’s staggering returns could be simply explained. For most of the 20th Century, newspapers were the primary source of information for the American public. Whether the subject was sports, finance, or politics, newspapers reigned supreme. Just as important, their ads were the easiest way to find job opportunities or to learn the price of groceries at your town’s supermarkets.
The great majority of families therefore felt the need for a paper every day, but understandably most didn’t wish to pay for two. Advertisers preferred the paper with the most circulation, and readers tended to want the paper with the most ads and news pages. This circularity led to a law of the newspaper jungle: Survival of the Fattest. Thus, when two or more papers existed in a major city (which was almost universally the case a century ago), the one that pulled ahead usually emerged as the stand-alone winner. After competition disappeared, the paper’s pricing power in both advertising and circulation was unleashed. Typically, rates for both advertisers and readers would be raised annually – and the profits rolled in. For owners this was economic heaven.
(Interestingly, though papers regularly – and often in a disapproving way – reported on the profitability of, say, the auto or steel industries, they never enlightened readers about their own Midas-like situation. Hmmm . . .)
As long ago as my 1991 letter to shareholders, I nonetheless asserted that this insulated world was changing, writing that “the media businesses . . . will prove considerably less marvelous than I, the industry, or lenders thought would be the case only a few years ago.” Some publishers took umbrage at both this remark and other warnings from me that followed. Newspaper properties, moreover, continued to sell as if they were indestructible slot machines. In fact, many intelligent newspaper executives who regularly chronicled and analyzed important worldwide events were either blind or indifferent to what was going on under their noses.
Now, however, almost all newspaper owners realize that they are constantly losing ground in the battle for eyeballs. Simply put, if cable and satellite broadcasting, as well as the internet, had come along first, newspapers as we know them probably would never have existed. In Berkshire’s world, Stan Lipsey does a terrific job running the Buffalo News, and I am enormously proud of its editor, Margaret Sullivan. The News’ penetration of its market is the highest among that of this country’s large newspapers. We also do better financially than most metropolitan newspapers, even though Buffalo’s population and business trends are not good.
Nevertheless, this operation faces unrelenting pressures that will cause profit margins to slide. True, we have the leading online news operation in Buffalo, and it will continue to attract more viewers and ads. However, the economic potential of a newspaper internet site – given the many alternative sources of information and entertainment that are free and only a click away – is at best a small fraction of that existing in the past for a print newspaper facing no competition. For a local resident, ownership of a city’s paper, like ownership of a sports team, still produces instant prominence. With it typically comes power and influence. These are ruboffs that appeal to many people with money. Beyond that, civic-minded, wealthy individuals may feel that local ownership will serve their community well. That’s why Peter Kiewit bought the Omaha paper more than 40 years ago.
We are likely therefore to see non-economic individual buyers of newspapers emerge, just as we have seen such buyers acquire major sports franchises. Aspiring press lords should be careful, however: There’s no rule that says a newspaper’s revenues can’t fall below its expenses and that losses can’t mushroom. Fixed costs are high in the newspaper business, and that’s bad news when unit volume heads south. As the importance of newspapers diminishes, moreover, the “psychic” value of possessing one will wane, whereas owning a sports franchise will likely retain its cachet.
Unless we face an irreversible cash drain, we will stick with the News, just as we’ve said that we would. (Read economic principle 11, on page 76.) Charlie and I love newspapers – we each read five a day – and believe that a free and energetic press is a key ingredient for maintaining a great democracy. We hope that some combination of print and online will ward off economic doomsday for newspapers, and we will work hard in Buffalo to develop a sustainable business model. I think we will be successful. But the days of lush profits from our newspaper are over.
Edward Champion finds a surfeit of plurality in Joshua Ferris's latest: Unusual, one could say singular, look at work.
Scotia MacRae is utterly charmed by The Lady in the Palazzo: Memoir of a life resettled in Italian romance.
Elizabeth Fox is swept away by Laura Restrepo's Delirium: Memoir of a life resettled in Italian romance.
Sarah Weinman is impressed by Charity Girl: Moral crusade sweeps up a young girl.
Katie Haegele thinks this young adult book is perfect for adults, too: Young Adult Reader | A mother's quick death, but daughter's sweet remembrance.
During the past week ...
Dan DeLuca reviewed Chris Abani: Poems, a novel with language most luminous.
Suzanne Blair reviewed a volume of poems by doctors-to-be: Trying their hand at medicine and poetry.
And I reviewed some fine poems by John McNamee: How faith looks to one who lives it.
Gee, just think: In one week The Inquirer reviewed four books of poetry.
Postscript: The Inquirer is in the process of changing over to a new online platform. In the course of making the change the books page seems have been left behind. You can still link to it from this blog, however (right below my currently non-existent picture).
Saturday, March 17, 2007
Interestingly, I find that I am not open, either, to most of what Patrick says he is not open to. The pop music I like is not today's (except when I get a chance to hear a country station). I watch baseball now and then and go to a game occasionally. I play the ponies a couple of times a year - after all, I used to do the racing charts at The Inquirer. Otherwise, pretty much not interested.
Friday, March 16, 2007
Thursday, March 15, 2007
Believe or not, I should be back in regular blogging form by tomorrow.
Sounds about right to me.
... for the kind words and the nomination.
The participation rules are simple:
1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think.
2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme.
3. Optional: Proudly display the 'Thinking Blogger Award' with a link to the post that you wrote (here is an alternative silver version if gold doesn't fit your blog).
Anecdotal Evidence is simply one of the best literary blogs around, precisely because it is so thoughtful.
I don't see that anyone has nominated the Grumpy Old Bookman yet, so I will. Even though he has cut back a bit, Michael remains must reading.
Clattery MacHinery on Poetry always gets me thinking afresh about one of my favorite topics.
Hard to think of a blog that gets you thinking more than Peter Stothard's.
And I just have to pick one of my favorite blogs, period: Books, Words, and Writing . The games and quizzes alone that Amy links to keep my mind from stagnating.
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
One of them, David Tucker, used to be The Inquirer's city editor. Way to go, Dave.
Like Hart, I have never "got" Daniel Dennett, and Hart's reasons are virtually identical to my own:
Monday, March 12, 2007
Sunday, March 11, 2007
This may be, however, because I tend to feel happy and like to think I'm reasonably bright. Of course I could be a lot dimmer than I think I am. On the other hand I am pretty sure that Mensa members are thick.
Update: As Andrew points out, my typing skills are definitely sub-Mensa. I have therefore corrected my misspelling of thick.