Friday, June 29, 2007

Beloved blogs ...

... 100 blogs PC World loves.

Makes you wonder, though: Instapundit is described as a conservative blog. This will not surprise Glenn Reynolds, though he would be the first to point out that he is not, in fact, a conservative. Which just goes to prove that even if you think and act outside the categories people will still, well, categorize you.

Attention teen readers ...

... amd I know you're out there: Spinebreakers, a reading network for teens.

Well, there's joy ...

... and there's joy. How about The joys of NOT being published? (Hat tip, Vikram Johri, who says he's not sure if he agrees. Neither am I, but that may be because, as a disciple of Dr. Johnson, I tend to think, as he did, that no man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money.

Democritus Junior ...

... on being Mewed Up In The Library. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Thursday, June 28, 2007

An explanation ...

... as to why blogging here has been light and sporadic: I am going on vacation soon and must move about a month's worth of reviews before I leave. I also got my self committed to do some things that required I do some preparation. And I've had some personal matters that have needed dealing with. The pace will pick up. But tonight, Debbie and I have a date at the orchestra.

A poet's life ...

... Frank Kermode on Housman's letters: Nothing for Ever and Ever. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Maybe he liked the heat ...

... summer afternoon.

One-and-a-half cheers ...

... Technology, Temptation, and Virtual Reality. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Cheers ...

... Clive James advises: Don't worry, be happy.

Next time you hear someone preaching fashionable gloom, ask yourself this: What's in it for him?

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Something to roar over ...

... The Shameless Lions Writing Circle.

I am honored to be a participant. Keep scrolling. There's lots of great stuff there.

A new poetry column ...

... Words worth reading. (Hat tip, Laurie Mason.)

I'm not sure ...

... about all of this, but you'll see, that's OK: Richard Rorty (1931-2007): the View From Somewhere.

"... Rorty, true to his syncretic ambitions, suggested that such still-controversial figures in modern philosophy as Ludwig Wittgenstein and Martin Heidegger, the latter notorious as the opaque German philosopher analysts loved to hate, might possess philosophical wisdom they needed to hear."

Why would you need to hear something that couldn't be identfied as true?

The beat goes on ...

... Brave New (Digital) World, Part II: Foolishness 2.0? (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

This post makes a lot of good points, actually. But I don't know who exactly is confusing "data transfer with either understanding or wisdom." Who is that thinks that the Founders' level of education "can be matched, let alone surpassed, simply by means of improvements in technology"?

There's also this: Knowledge Access as a Public Good .

More on Web 2.0 ...

... 10 Ways to Test Facts. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Worth pondering ...

... At the Cathedral's Foot. (Hat tip, John Timpane.)

The way the wind blows ...

... Weather.

I like weather - any and all weather - though I do have favorites. Right now, it's hot and humid in Philadelphia. I love it. My idea of paradise is perpetual summer, and since I grew up in Philly, that means heat and humidity, which also remind me of Mallarme's faun.

One for the boys ...

... Karen Heller An idea as dangerous as all outdoors.

Read, read, read ....

... The 'new' NEA: Reading gets bigger. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Not so trivial ...

... Dorothy Sayers on The Lost Tools of Learning. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Someone should send this to Michael Gorman.

Visit my neighborhood ...

... Professor Putnam: Bowling With Our Own.

"In the 41 sites Putnam studied in the U.S., he found that the more diverse the neighborhood, the less residents trust neighbors."

Well, I live in a pretty diverse neighborhood. It's called the Italian Market District and there are still plenty of Italian American residents and stores. But there is also a Lebanese American community - which just held its annual three-day festival. Right around the corner are the new Mexican restaurants and grocery stores. And a couple of blocks from my front door is the Wing Phat Plaza. Mexican and Vietnamese families live on my very block! And we all say hi to each other and seem to get along and if we mistrust each other it sure isn't apparent to me.
When Debbie and I venture into the suburbs what bothers us is, well, the lack of diversity. Guess we're weird.

Get on with it ...

... Gioia to graduates: 'Trade easy pleasures for more complex and challenging ones'.

Dana is among the most impressive - and decent - people it has been my privilege to know.

Your advice is solicited ...

... “What should an adult be able to do?”

Light, sporadic blogging ...

... for the rest of today. I have a deadline to meet and a lot of work to do in order to meet it.

Two opposing views ...

... one of which seems sane to me while the other seems nuts.

Simply brilliant ...

... Stanley Fish asks Is Religion Man-Made? (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

His answer? Sure it is.

"The criticism made by atheists that the existence of God cannot be demonstrated is no criticism at all; for a God whose existence could be demonstrated wouldn’t be a God; he would just be another object in the field of human vision."

I should note that Dawkins does indeed consider what Hamlet says to Horatio. He thinks it applies only to Horatio's philosophy - which demonstrates, I think, that, in addition to being a lousy philosopher, Dawkins is also a lousy literary critic. (Horatio is a philosophy student, Dick, not a philosopher himself. Hamlet is telling his friend not to place too much faith in the subject of the course he is taking.)

Monday, June 25, 2007

The march of technology ...

... courtesy of Maxine: POD for authors and publishers.

Medium rare ...

... Chaucer Can Hath Cheezburger.

Librarian glamour ...

... The Modern Librarian: A Role Worth Checking Out. (Hat tip, Dave Lull - why, of course!)

Calling Michael Gorman ...

... proof that academic authority isn't always what it's cracked up to be: And the Award Goes To ...

Useful distinctions ...

... Response to Francis Beckwith. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

And you thought there'd never be a defense of Richard Dawkins here, right?

Much in what he says ...

... Michael Gorman's latest: Jabberwiki: The Educational Response, Part I. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

His objection to "urban myths about the supposed uniqueness of the young generation" is sound, I think, as is his concern over "the prevailing and embarrassing spectacle of teachers and administrators trying to conform to their perceptions of today’s youth (perceptions that are, if history is any guide, wildly wide of the mark)."
His concern over questioning "the very authority of credentialed teachers" is more questionable. I agree with some of this: "The fact is that today’s young, as do the young in every age, need to learn from those who are older and wiser; they need to acquire good habits of study and research; and they need to be exposed to and learn to experience the richness of the human record." Except that older does not always - and perhaps only rarely - equals wiser. And I can't help wondering if Gorman thought this way in the '60s when he was on the other side of the authority divide.

In the meantime, Bryan weighs in, sort of, and manages to say more in less space with fewer words, even tossing in as a bonus a must-see video clip at the end: A Debate Between Elitist, Luddite Baby Roasters.

This week's serial ...

... at Five Chapters: Bambi's Mother.

Wide support ...

... for Nancy Drew: Mystery Of the Girl Sleuth.

Comments on the new movie here and here.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Das ewig Weibliche ...

... or, Women in Art. (Hat tip, Gwendolyn.)

What's a must-read ?

... well, it isn't necessarily something that one agrees with. I think of it as something that is, first and foremost, thought-provoking, by virtue of its clear and exgaging exposition - whether one agrees with it or not. A case in point is Bryan's excellent piece about John Gray. To begin with, it makes you want to read Gray's new book, and it makes plain that Gray is someone worth knowing, not just as a writer, but as a person. Still, I found myself wondering about some of what was said. Some examples:

"True liberalism is, therefore, necessarily a tragic view, sceptical of all notions of progress."
I think this is a pessimistic view, not a tragic one. Tragedy involves the resolution of discord, not its triumph - its exemplar is Oedipus at Colonus, not Oedipus at Thebes.

"He believes in the liberal state, and believes it is worth defending, but does not do so with empty optimism or with any belief that it should attempt to impose its ways on others." Why is it worth defending? Because it is true, perhaps? And the contrary is perhaps false? Exactly what does opposition to, say, communism mean if it does not involve the substitution - not imposition - of liberal values in place of its brutal absence of values?

"Gray transforms Berlin’s basic insight into a refutation of all notions of progress or perfection and of the special destiny of humanity."

Progress and perfection are not the same. I can improve steadily without coming anywhere near to perfection. To suggest there has been no progress in human affairs is nonsense. No one will be drawn and quartered at Tyburn this week, Professor Gray. None of which is to suggest that utopianism - the quest for some sort of perfectly rational social arrangement - isn't a fool's errand.

I would also suggest that Montaigne's skepticism is of a part with his genuine religious faith.

Today's Inquirer reviews ...

... Patrick Kurp is singularly unimpressed by Michael Ondaatje's latest: After a slow start, it's all downhill.

... which doesn't mean Carlin Romano didn't have apleasant chat with Ondaatje: From 'English Patient'.

... in the meantime, Andrew Ervin found Ron Silliman's The Ageof Huts (compleat) both puzzling and fascinating: Ron Silliman, making poetry, unmaking rules.

... Chris Hedges, however, finds Christopher Hitchens grievously wanting: Atheist polemic refuses to engage authentic religion.

... Sarah Weiman looks at the messy side of crime: Crime scenes, the ultimate clean-up jobs.

... and Katie Haegele is much taken with Rebecca Stead's First Light: Young Adult Reader | Beautiful book about 2 worlds, realities tenuously linked.


During the past week ...


... Peter Rozovsky looked at Swedish crime fiction:
Killing's not the key to Swedish novelists.

... and Ed Colimore studied some tunneling: Historian digs up tale of a tunnel dreamer .

A good question ...

... re Sir Salman Rushdie: Where is the West's outcry?

Of course, if some evangelical Christian had complained ...

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Not the only problem ...

... Cameron's bag raises a few eyebrows.

If she were less of an airhead she wouldn't use as a fashion statement the obscenely hypocritical words of a mass murderer.

Nice way to learn French ...

... Une chanson de Jacques Brel.

As opposed to exogeny ...

... E is for Endogeny or What you Will.

Serendipity indeed ...

... Pompeii in Mexico.

Here they are ...

... The Long-Awaited, Unabating, Top 30 All-Time Greatest Poems of Paul Laurence Dunbar.

It is Saturday ...

... so blogging will be light.

Down South ...

... Happy weekend from the road.

Precious volumes ...

... Online Rare Books.

Literary almanac ...

... poet Anthony Thwaite turns 77 today.

... in 1626 a theological treatise eventually published as Vox Piscis was delivered top Cambridge University.

... Anna Akhmatova was born in 1889.

.. Jean Anouilh was born in 1910. ("Beauty is one of the rare things that do not lead to doubt of God. ")

... Dr. John Fell was born in 1625:

Tom Brown, author of The Dialogues of the Dead, about to be expelled from Oxford for some offence, was pardoned by Fell on the condition of his translating extempore the 33rd epigram of Martial:

"Non amo te, Sabidi, nec possum dicere - quare; Hoc tantum possum dicere, non amo te."

To which he immediately replied with the well-known lines:

I do not love thee, Dr Fell,
The reason why I cannot tell;
But this I know, and know full well,
I do not love thee, Dr Fell.

Lost in a good book ...

... The great escape (part 1) and the great escape (part2). (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Ouch ...

... from Terry Teachout's Almanac.

Friday, June 22, 2007

More in brief ...

... An Introduction to Haiku.

Ex cathedra ...

... In the name of the Father. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Well, yes ...

... Scott McLemee on Mass Culture 2.0. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

What really bothers the neo-Luddite quasi-Mandarin is not the rise of digitality, as such. The problem actually comes from “the diminished sacredness of authority,” as Edward Shils once put it, “the reduction in the awe it evokes and in the charisma attributed to it.”

But it’s not that all cultural authority or critical intelligence, as such, are vanishing. Rather, new kinds are taking shape.

As Glenn Reynolds would say: Indeed. (By the way, here's the Britannica Blog: Web 2.0 Forum.

Someone I must read ...

... and maybe you should, too: More work for Margery Allingham.

I have one of her novel on my desk at the office. Maybe I'll read it while I'm on vacation next month.

For the rain ...

... it raineth every day: Rain Rain Rain.

A bouquet of verse ...

... Some Poems I've Liked Recently.

The crucible ...

... "On Writing" and thoughts on the 'ideal' reader.

Reading and you ...

... Post Your Books - Join the Challenge!

What a surprise ...

... What Dickens Character Are You?

I wouldn't have guessed this about me.


What Dickens Character Are You?






Esther Summerson, from the book Bleak House. You are the nicest person EVER! You have so many friends because you treat everyone with respect. You're also very idealistic and root for the underdog, which is ironic because you're mother is a Lady and super rich. You have many admirers but you don't seem to notice becuase you don't have very high self esteem. You end up marrying the honey of your dreams, Allan Woodcourt, who's a doctor! You go girl!
Take this quiz!








Quizilla |
Join

| Make A Quiz | More Quizzes | Grab Code

The rest was silence ...

... Today's Today in Literature email includes this from No More Words, Reeve Lindbergh's memoir of here mother, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, who was born on this date in 1906:

She describes how, after a lifetime of writing and engagement, Morrow became increasingly and then almost totally uncommunicative: “Words were central to her life for as long as I have known her, and yet she appears perfectly comfortable without them. She does not miss them. I on the other hand, am at a loss. I am bewildered, confused, absolutely at sea, in my mother’s silence.”

Larkin and Amis ...

... More on Lucky Jim. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)


I said this yesterday ...

... in a talk at the Franklin Inn Club: The Incredible Shrinking New York Times.

Shadowy angels ...

... Mystery writer John Shannon prowls L.A.'s dark streets. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The soul of brevity ...

... Ponder Post 1.

For what it's worth, the meaning of life has to do with the quest for life's meaning.

Holy sorcery ...

... Harry Potter Hacked?

The security measures being taken by the publisher to keep this book out of anybody's hands until the date of publication are such as to make me want to tell them to take their book and shove it.

Information and knowledge ...

... From Great Ideas to Our Greatest Opportunity - The Internet. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

"... I can’t see obeisance to authority as either a practical solution or a social good. Rather, let the principles of open societies flourish in a world made flatter by the liberating potential of the Internet. ... On whom then should today’s students rely? On a wealth of sources, on the thoughtful guidance of good teachers, and on their own ever-growing understanding—the same things as ever. "

Indeed.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Check this out ...

... Sound and Light. (Hat tip, John Timpane.)

Beware of information ...

... Information Ain’t the Issue . (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

"... no quantity of information, however defined, will solve our problems or advance us in the project of building a genuine civilization. "

True enough, though I'd like to know who has argued to the contrary. Moreover, lack of information is certainly not useful. The title of the post indicates what the body of the post ignores - that this is not about about information: It is about access and authority.

And by the way, though I admire Mortimer Adler immensely, I am not sure that everyone is educable. But practically everyone is trainable, which is why colleges and universities, as enrollment has increased, have turned themselves more and more into training schools.

Oh, Susan ...

... Silksoundbooks and Bill Nighy.

Egging them on ...

... Let them eat cake (egg-free of course) .

The poetry wars ...

... The Lion Tamer Gets Wrapped Up in His Whip.

Hear, hear ...

... Birdsong 2.

"... people used to talk intelligently about such matters, now they just lurch from one conceited category error to the next." And in the process, degrade science.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Beginning a journey ...

... Crossing the Rubicon.

Thoughts about Sir Salman ...

... Rushdie, Self and Berlins.

Rise and applaud ...

... Norwegian Wins World's Largest Literary Prize.

Medieval goes modern ...

... Learning About the Decameron Online.

Stranger than ...

... Fiction?!

These are fabulous ...

... Roane County Bucolic and Roane County Bucolic, Part 2. (Hat tip, Roberta Nolte.)

I find this bizarre ...

... The Counter-Information Age. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

"... we now have a whole generation of digital idealists who believe that information should be free, that it’s liberating, and that computers are emancipating our intellects, unbottling our creativity."

Does this mean that information should not be free and that it is not liberating? (Actually, to some extent, it can be constraining: If I learn that Nepal is in Asia, I am no longer free to think it is in South America.) And it isn't computers that people say are "emancipating our intellects, unbottling our creativity." It's the access to the aforementioned information, which enables me to cross-check your vaunted expertise. This is the same line of argument church authorities advanced against printing the Bible.
Of course, what can you expect from someone who describes Gorman's critique as "nuanced?"

What about Salmon Rusty ...

... Free British Birds Poster With This Blog.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Not so fast ...

... Atheism and Evidence. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

This is a remarkable sequence. A very strong assertion is made – we will “undoubtedly discover lawful connections between our states of consciousness [and] our modes of conduct” – but no evidence is offered in support of it; and indeed the absence of evidence becomes a reason for confidence in its eventual emergence. This sounds an awfully lot like faith of the kind Harris and his colleagues deride – expectations based only on a first premise (itself asserted rather than proven), which, if true, demands them, and which, if false, makes nonsense of them.
Precisely.

And the winner is ...

... Riley Weston Takes Top Honor in New York Book Festival Competition.

... Chandrasekaran Wins Samuel Johnson.

Not keen on Keen ...

... James Marcus on The Cult of the Amateur: Talent vs. authority. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Whatever, it's working...

... Britannica Blog Link-Baits from Google to Copyright/P2P to Kids Today. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Inquirer books today ...

... Peter Rozovsky scans Swdish crimes fiction: Killing's not the key to Swedish novelists.

... and Ed Colimore talks to Jill Jonnes about Mary Cassatt's brother: Historian digs up tale of a tunnel dreamer.

Major major ...

... Good Morning: Tuesday, June 19.

Paging Big Bird ...

... or maybe not: Giant Birds 2. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Almighty Evolution created a species called homo sapiens. Now the members of that species attribute just about everything that they deem is going awry in nature to the works and pomps of their own species. Mere hubris - though of a comic rather than a tragic dimension. Let the random fluke play out, folks.

An encouraging word ...

... Small bookstore success.

Real money ...

... the price of promotion.

Screening books ...

... and more: Out of the Book.

More on cliches ...

... and on journalism: `Mortified Language'.

Talk like a criminal ...

... Slang From the American Underworld

Shameless pauses ...

... for a poem: easily led.

God and Paris Hilton ...

... OK, that's a cheap come-on. But it has bearing, as you will see, on this post of Bryan's, and I believe Ms. Hilton took a Bible with her to jail and said that God was with her: Free DVD With This Post!!!

Monday, June 18, 2007

Check this out ...

... Five Chapters.

The debate continues ...

... The Importance of Critical Judgment and The Siren Song of the Internet: Part I .

"As various of the contributors to the forum have mentioned, if only in passing, what is more important than the quantity or average quality of information that is available is what users of it do with it. Here is where the phrase “critical judgment” or some such usually makes its appearance. What we’d all like is to believe that most users employ keen critical judgment in seeking and assessing information. What we rather suspect is that they don’t."

That isn't what we'd like to think at all - and we don't think it. The issue from the dawn of civilization has been the nature of discourse. It's a perennial. Where the information or data resides is beside the point. How it used by whoever uses it has always been the fundamental issue. The point of all of this verbiage seems to be to disguise the main worry: that anyone can have access to the information, that gatekeepers are no longer able to keep the gates closed to those they deem unworthy of entrance. It still comes down to the experts know best. Well, read Nassim Nicholas Taleb's the Black Swan: They don't.

Why stop there ...

... "I am both Muslim and Christian". (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Why not convert to Judaism as well?

Crushing of dissent ...

... Pakistan demands UK withdraw Rushdie honour. (Hat tip, Vikram Johri.)

Like , you know ...

... what I mean: At the end of the day, you've given 110 per cent.

Forgotten chuckles ...

... Moby Dick isn't all heavy-going. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Literary ballot box ...

... Vote for TLS/Foyles poetry gold.

Birthday greetings ...

... Deja blue.

A worthy compettion ...

... (sorry, Ed): Antioch Review’s Neglected Books Contest. (Via The Neglected Books Page.)

The future of the past ...

... Literary Archives From the Dusty Stacks to the Digital Future.

Get it right ...

... Telling your Mixtecs from your Zapotecs.

I try never to confuse them myself - but I am a weak and fallen creature.

Maxine's crime round-up ..

... A double dose of Euro Crime.

Nature moves on ...

... Giant Birds.

When I was a kid, I lived about a 15-minute walk from the Delaware. You never saw gulls or terns there. Now, you not only see them there - which is to say all up and down the river, way beyond the bay - but also here in the Italian Market (which isn't very far from the river) and even in suburbs like Abington (which isn't too near the river). Why? Fast-food joints for one. Also, animals are neither as dumb nor as programmed as humans seem to think. Wildlife in the city has less to do with humans destroying the animals' habitat than it does with many animals' discovery that human habitation is safer than the wilderness and has more abundant food. As the owner of an outfitters' store in Potter County (which advertises itself as "God's country"), told me, you can find more bears around Harrisburg than you can in Potter now - you can't hunt outside Harrisburg, and there's lots more garbage.

Opening gambits ...

... What Does It Do For You?

Two looks back ...

... Online Exhibition Examines Color Printing and St. Nicholas: An Historical Young People’s Magazine".

A worthy sentiment ...

... re-pettit-ive.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

A Maugham passing ...

... Adored niece of Somerset Maugham.

The rest of me ...

... on Bloomsday (courtesy of Dave Lull): Changed, but still Joycean at its core.

Also: Hero of Joyce's gem gets 100-year due.

Bravo, Walt ...

... Whitman had it right about baseball. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Happy Fathers Day ...

... Myles na gCopaleen meets Howlin' Wolf: `Beware of Culture, Reader'.

What about tea?

... I think of Britain and I think of tea: Coffee Conundrums.

Why am I not surprised ...

... that Maxine is a Julie Christie fan? (Is anyone not a Julie Christie fan?): Julie Christie is blogging.

Don't tell Richard Schickel ...

... or Michael Gorman: Bookshare on Facebook again.

This is just the sort of thing those people don't get.

Twins and Harry Potter ...

... Teens @ Duluth.

Today's Inquirer reviews ...

... John Freeman revisits 9/11 with Don DeLillo: After 9/11, when lives lost their moorings.

... Roger Miller checks out the Waugh family: Analysis, great gossip from 4th-generation Waugh.

... Katie Haegele discovers how art is faring on the Net: State of 'Net art' way of the future?.

... Jen Miller weighs dog days in Manhattan: Brought together by their canines.

... Sandy listens, enchanted, to Khaled Hosseini's latest: Hosseini's second Afghan novel is, like its title, splendid.

... Carlin Romano finds yet another book solacing atheists: Slim, portable gift book for atheists. (I question whether Einstein was an atheist. He seems to me to have been a Spinozan, which is hardly the same thing. I also wonder about Voltaire, who I always thought of as a deist.)

During the past week ...

... Huntly Collins wrote a wonderful review of Jeff Gammage's story his daughter's adoption: An adoption story with beautiful depth.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Black dog ...

... is what Churchill called depression - by which he didn't mean just feeling down in the dumps. I've been down in the dumps a bit lately myself, but my fundamental shallowness always saves the day for me. Others aren't so lucky: Guidebook to Purgatory.

It is both brave and good of Lars to speak of this. It may be of help to others who suffer from the same. Let us keep them all in our prayers (one such person is always in mine).

Yes ....

... Happy Bloomsday. (Hat tip, Joe of New York.)

Here (thanks to Dave Lull) is my colleague Eric Mencher's slide show that accompanied the special report we did for the 100th anniversary of Bloomsday three years ago: 100 Years of Bloomsday. My own humble contribution has apparently not been deemed worth saving.

Update: Thanks again to Dave Lull, here is one of my contributions to that Bloomsday package: Who's afraid of Joyce? The key to Ulysses.

A new species ...

...take that gloomsters: Good News Day In The Arran Banner.

Urgent Fordy ...

... An Urgent Question Regarding Property Prices.

Good for Brian Lamb ...

... Brian Battles The Lamb-asting.

The timbre of truth ...

... Myths of the Sioux.

The “timbre” of a people’s stories tells of the qualities of that people’s heart. It is the texture of the thought, independent of its form or fashioning, which tells the quality of the mind from which it springs.

The sin of boredom ...

... `Thankful for a Limpet'

A psychiatrist friend of mine used to insist that people have it wrong when they say of something that "it is boring." What they really mean, he said, is, "I am bored."

Trying to remember ...

... Memory Unbound.

"In Call It Sleep I invented a victim to cover over the true me," he told Jonathan Rosen, who profiled him for Vanity Fair. But with his later novels, he said, "I tried to reconcile myself to the louse I was. Who I detested. I loathed. And maybe get the reader to do it too."

Down but not out ...

... Europe’s Christian Comeback.

The use here, in the deck, of the non-word prophesize is certainly alarming. That aside, the marginalization of religion in a society may not be good for the society, but it is usually good for the religion.

An honest man ...

... Bohemian Rhapsody.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Lots of interest ...

... over at Collected Miscellany, just keep scrolling.

Divine afflatus ...

... On Inspiration, and Tolkien.

In the meantime ...

... there's always The Vatican Library.

Something to be sure of ...

... certainty sells: In the know. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The most intelligent thing I've seen said on this subject of late comes from Nassim Nicholas Taleb: "Religion has very little to do with 'belief'; it is an indivisible package of aesthetics, ethics, social-emotional commitments, and transmission of κηρύγμα, a set of customs and rituals inherited from the elders. Indeed the complication of 'belief' is mostly a Western Christianity type of constructed problems, and a modern one at that: ask an Eastern Orthodox monk 'what he believes', and he will be puzzled: he would tell you what he practices. [I discussed the 'amin' in an earlier note]. Orthodoxy is principally liturgy, fasting, practices, and tradition; it is an ornate religion that focuses on aesthetics and requires a very strong commitment. 'Belief' is meaningless; practice is real. What we now translate by 'veneration', προσκυνει is literally bowing down to the ground a very physical act [Note that I am not partaking of the current debate on religion out of disrespect for almost all the participants: aside from being journalistic in the worst bildungsphilistinistic sense, particularly when they talk about 'probability', most are not even wrong]."

An engaged author ...

... Can Rory Stewart Fix Afghanistan?

Great catch ...

... by Glenn Reynolds: Adjusting to Climate Change.

"Human-caused global warming goes back 20,000 years? Who knew?"

Good shots ...

... my colleague Tom Gralish's blog: Scene on the Road.

To each his own ...

... John from Cincinnati. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

A teaser ...

... They've got possibilities.

Worth paying attention to ...

... Make a Place On Your Shelf,In Your Life, for This Book .....

More about Fordy ...

... `No Nonsense About Them'. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Happy (belated) Flag Day ...


A GOB miscellaney ...

... Further to the former.

With admirable succinctness, the GOB responds to Michael Gorman:

Galleycat reports that a big-shot librarian has attacked web 2.0 culture. The fellow in question, Michael Gorman, has a few valid points, but he seems to think that the internet is incompatible with respect for expertise and scholarship. I think the reverse is true. I think the internet provides a wonderful route whereby one can access expertise and scholarship, in a way, and with an ease, which was not even dreamed of by earlier generations of scholars and experts.


But you see, Michael, Mr. Gorman is a scholar and an expert.

Lovely ...

... something about nature that isn't all gloom and doom: Birdsong.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

A winning combination ...

... something new and medieval: Quid plura?

Nice ...

... The Book of Joe.

Barbarossa the Lion ...

... whom I have adopted as part of The Shameless Lion Writing Circle. (I am composing something in his honor, but it isn't finished yet.)

Host unlimited photos at slide.com for FREE!

I could do without them ...

... The Acronym Finder

Let's give a warm welcome to ...

... Paper Cuts: A Blog About Books - from the New York Times.

Well, he got our attention ...

... “Old Revolutions, Good; New Revolutions, Bad”

I'm way behind on this ...

... and everything else, for that matter: Meeting the Authors.

Busy Maxine ...

... has posted much of interest lately - which I am late getting around to. Just visit Petrona and keep scrolling.

Now you see it ...

... usually you don't: The unseen literary world. (Hat tip, Vikram Johri.)

Poetry and music ...

... Andrea Tierra with Edmar Castañeda. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

To know more, check out Jazz and Poetry: The Words Project.

Well, yes ...

... Authority of a New Kind.

Does Gorman really believe, along with Andrew Keen, that “the most poorly educated and inarticulate among us” should not use the media to “express and realize themselves”? That they should keep quiet, learn their place, and bow to such bewigged and alienating confections as “authority” and “authenticity”? Authority, after all, flows ultimately from results, not from such hierophantic trappings as degrees, editorial mastheads, and neoclassical columns. And if the underprivileged (or under-titled) among us are supposed to keep quiet, who will enforce their silence—the government? Universities and foundations? Internet service providers and media conglomerates? Are these the authorities—or their avatars in the form of vetted, credentialed content—to whom it should be our privilege to defer?
Well, Gorman was president of the ALA when this occurred and when this letter was sent.
Here's a different take (we link, you decide): Lost in the Hive Mind.
I am surprised that so many seem unaware that authority is the weakest form of verification, that it needs to be corroborated, that something is not necessarily so because some guy with a big name says it is. The antidote to what Gorman and McHenry are compaining about is critical thinking, not submission to authority. An agrument is good or bad based on its structure and its grounding in fact, not by virtue of the letters appended to the name of the person advancing it or the title that precedes that name.

Armchair adventures ...

... of a high order from National Geographic.

I didn't know ...

... until just now, either Ford Maddox Ford's poem "Antwerp" or what T.S. Eliot said about it: For Fordy.

It is a great poem - language authentically encountering reality, the sort of utterance that makes all discussions of style and technique sound foolish.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Get ready ...

... BAFAB site ready for July BAFAB Week

This sounds interesting ...

... The lady vanishes.

Me too ...

...Will write for money.

The art of you ...

... Memoir Writing Competition.

And the winner is ...

... Bryan: Thank You, Thank You, We Were Great, Thank You.

Honor thy stepfather ...

... To Papa Joe and the stepdads everywhere who deserve recognition on Father's Day. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Prom time ...


... frequent Books, Inq. visitor Susan Balée's daughter Alix Lundy (no relation to Walker, luckily for her) and her friend Nick Rocha get ready for their big night out.

One atheist ...

... critiques another: God-bothering.

I'm surprised more peoplehaven't noticed how often the ranting against religion leads to a deterioration of an author's writing and thinking skills. Judged by the standard of his own work, Richard Dawkins's The God Delusion is second-rate.

Great minds ...

... Patrick Kurp on Peter Altenberg and collecting: `Outside the Sphere of One's Own Personality'.

I reviewed Telegrams of the Soul and have long been a fan of Peter Altenberg.

Peculiarly postmodern ...

... Roger Scruton on Richard Rorty’s legacy.

The debate continues ...

... Adam Kirsch on The Scorn of the Literary Blog.

There is a lot of this that I agree with, particularly with regard to the falseness of a juridical model for book reviewing. Though I happen to think there are certain objective standards - having to do with inconsistencies, contradictions, amd just plain bad writing - I agree that "the whole point of a review is to set one mind against another, and see what sparks fly."
But I can't agree with this: 'The blog form, that miscellany of observations, opinions, and links, is not well-suited to writing about literature ..." What's this "blog form" business? There is hardly any one-size-fits-all blog format. And consider this very piece by Adam Kirsch. It's just about the right length for reading on a screen. It comes with hyperlinks. It's elegantly written and clearly - if not altogether convincingly - reasoned. In short, it's perfectly suited to a blog. I would suggest that, just for starters, Kirsch visit Anecdotal Evidence or Grumpy Old Bookman.

In the meantime, you can read another take here: Book Reviewers Out of Touch, Blogs Blamed. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)
I certainly agree that litbloggers are among the least of print reviewers' worries - and that alienating them is among the dumber strategies. But I guess I've gone over to the dark side.

Oh, brother, where art thou ...

... Anatomy of a row.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Remembering Richard Rorty ...

... Philosopher, pragmatist, and provocateur.

Just don't tell Dan Brown ...

... The Lofty Madeleine

I'm late linking to this ...

... but better late: BookExpo Panel on the Influence of Blogs: Roundup.

Congratulations to me ...

... I noticed this afternoon that Statcounter has me at over 300,000 hits.

Flannery, Ollie and Blind Willie McTell ...

... `My Life Been a Doggone Curse'

A thoughtful piece ...

... Lonely Atheists of the Global Village. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I have learned a lot about atheists and believers from Jurgen Habermas, possibly the best-known atheist in Europe. Habermas writes of believers with respect and as equal partners in an important dialogue. A respectful regard for mutual dignity is, Habermas holds, essential to the practice of rationality among human beings. Recently, I had the honor of a long series of exchanges with a very smart American atheist, Heather Mac Donald, and these were a pleasure to conduct, with mutual regard, patience, and candor on both sides.

A roll of the drums ...

... and a flourish of trumpets, please, for ... the IBPC Poem of the Year.

Beyond belief ...

... Good heavens - some decent atheist drama. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

"... the complex emotional interactions between the characters seemed to be a demonstration of the fact that as long as dangerous extremes of belief are avoided, the love and understanding we show each other is more important to living a good human life than the beliefs we intellectual subscribe to."

Poetry pays ...

... sometimes: Don McKay Wins $50,000 Griffin Prize For Poetry.

Cause to growl ...

... Grogan Dogs Vanguard's Book of His Columns.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Michael Hamburger (1924-2007) ...

... Poet and critic whose masterful translations helped to bring the works of Hölderlin and Celan to a wider audience.

Time does poetry ...

... Poems for the People. (Hat tip, Christine Klocek-Lim.)

Let's get out the vote ...

... for Bryan: and read what he has to say about Earl Spencer to boot: Summer Show and Diana's Brother.

Thinking out loud ...

... Bishop Huet and the Time Lag. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Don't just read the top post. Keep scrolling.

RIP ...

... Philosopher Richard Rorty has died.

Today's Inquirer reviews ...

... Glenn Reynolds considers Andrew Keen's unhappiness: A wistful look back at big media's day.

... Bryan Appleyard ponders an unusual take on science and religion: He thinks physics proves Christianity.

...Edward Pettit looks at some murders in St.Petersburg: Mystery sequel concocted from 'Crime and Punishment'.

... I offer praise for Gregory Djanikian's poems: Poems of atrocity, and of joyfully Americanizing.

... Susan Balee likes some Philly tales: A collection that loves you back.

... Katie Haegele is much taken with an odd chess story: Young Adult Reader | 'Chess Set' opens up a realm of imagination and insight.

During the past week, Carlin Romano chatted with John Updike: The playful literary legend. (You can also listen to Audio: John Updike .)

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Things Lincoln never said ...

... bit What Al Wishes Abe Said.

Rumors of decease ....

exaggerated: Amis is wrong about poetry's demise. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

So Derek Walcott is a Walter de la Mare fan.

Crime stories ...

... Behind the Plots.

Where the poets are ...

... the National Poetry Map. (Hat tip, Laurie Mason.)

Hold that thought ...

... Celebrating the completion of The New History of Western Philosophy. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The latest issue ...

... of Autumn Sky Poetry is up.

Time may run out ...

... My Death by Cat 2.

Bryan takes the lead ...

... but remember: Every vote counts. So Vote, Vote, Vote 2.

Good books for kids ...

... Summer Reading. And More Books for Summer. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Love, death, and God ...

... Gazing into the abyss.

Clive James on Christian Wiman.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Come on, folks ...

... vote early and often for our friend Bryan: Category 19.

At the conference ....










Chelsea Rathburn (left) and April Lindner after the panel discussing Kay Ryan's work that I was also on.



From left: Yours truly, Kay Ryan, April Lindner, and Chelsea Rathburn. (David Mason is a very fine poet. He is a less fine photographer.)


Conference director Mike Peich takes a much-needed break.

Participants gather for lunch.

West Chester, PA ...

Here are some shots of West Chester. The brick house (below) is where composer Samuel Barber (1910-1981) grew up.



A very good look ...

... at the WCU Poetry Conference, off The Inquirer's front page: For serious poets, the lines form here. (The Deborah McCaffrey-Wilson in the photo is my wife.)

Me, me, me ...

... The Philadelphia Inquirer's Frank Wilson on What to Read This Summer...

Bryan gets caught ...

... Harvard Unearths My Racism.

I took, I believe, the same test Bryan did, with this result: "Your data suggest little to no automatic preference between Light Skin and Dark Skin." Which tells me nothing I didn't know already. I lived for 20 years in a neighborhood where I and my family were in the racial minority. People, it turns out, are people.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

A classic revisited ...

... "Not for chicks only": Teachout on The Dud Avocado.

Drumroll, please ...

... ReLit shortlist announced.

A demonstration of style ...

... I had the pleasure of meeting Kay Ryan this morning after a panel in which April Lindner, Chelsea Rathburn and I discussed "The Achievement of Kay Ryan" (I'll see what I can do about posting my remarks online when I get back to the office).
Kay turns out to be pretty much the person you encounter in the poems - sly, wry and unpretentious. There is nothing phony about her. She was genuinely appreciative of what we had to say - and it was surprising at how similar what we had to say was, though Chelsea's comments were especially powerful because she very courageously related her reading the poems to a very bad passage in her own life. If anyone in the audience had doubts that poetry has serious practical uses would have had those doubts dispeled by what Chelsea had to say.
So what was it we had to say? Well, we all felt that Kay was one of those poets that you feel especially close to in a very personal way after you read her work. Reading her is more than just a literary experience. Kay was appreciative because, as she told me, that's the thing- the personal connection - that she is often unsure of about her poetry. She knows now she needn't worry.
I took some pictures of downtown West Chester, including a shot of the house where composer Samuel Barber grew up. I'll be posting them - and others - when I get back.
As must be obvious, I have been too busy to do much blogging. Tomorrow morning I'm conducting a workshop on reviewing poetry.

Quite an evening ...

... is what was had by all at the WCU Poetry Conference last night. At dinner I sat next to Rhina Espaillat, who was absolutely delightful, who promised to send me copies of the translations she is working on of poems by St. John of the Cross. She told me father used to walk around the house recciting them aloud - even though he was an atheist.
Kay Ryan proved to be every bit as wry and wonderful as her poems. She was funny, pointing out that she made up one detail in a poem - about eighty coats of lacquer - because she needed eighty for the rhyme, adding that, while she likes facts, she doen't let them get in her way.
Her poems, I gather - as I suspected - are through-composed. She doesn't work with a longer text that she pares down. She works her way patiently to the end - and sometimes, later on, has to add a bit - "put some more flesh on the bones," I think is how she put it.
In a couple of hours I am going to be on a panel discussing Kay Ryan's work. Problem is, Dana Gioia in his introduction, and Kay herself in her remarks, sort of stole my thunder. We'll see how it goes. Later.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Lest we forget ...

... today is the anniversary of D-Day.

I'm off ...

... to the WCU Poetry Conference. I hope to do some blogging, take some pictures, and maybe some video. Later.

A sorrowful legacy ...

... Polish girl's Holocaust diary unveiled after 60 years. (Hat tip, Vikram Johri.)

A heart-to-heart talk ...

... sort of: An Open Letter from Erica Jong to Jane Smiley (On the ghettoization of female writers). (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Time for a good laugh ...

... I saw this when it appeared in the TLS. Good that it's now online: Clouseau Investigates Auden. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

If this be heresy ...

... well, just remember - it's in the New York Times: Fateful Voice of a Generation Still Drowns Out Real Science. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

For whatever reason, apocalypse sells.

Independent reading ...

... `Decide for Yourself'. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Today's forecast ...

... unpredictability: storm stories. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

And speaking of meaning ...

... or its lack or its distortion, what about Charity stunts.

So much for this:

1: Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them ....
2: ... when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do ... that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
3: ... let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth ...

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

A very good Auden piece ...

... Rumors of Glory.

You can "Under Sirius" here, though you have to scroll down a bit.

Meaningless phrase alert ...

... I just saw an ad on the Guardian's Web site that employed the phrase "combating climate change."
What can this possibly mean? That the aim is to arrest climate change? That it is bad for climate to change? Climate not only does change. It is in a condition of continuous change. That is its nature. The only way to combat climate change, it seems to me, would be to abolish climate altogether. It also seems to me that weasel terms like this are what people use when they want to put something over on someone.

Something I didn't know about ....

but looks interesting: Malinche Entertainment.

The crisis aforementioned ...

... Report from BEA Crisis in Newspaper Reviewing Panel (Including a Bit of NBCC News)

Crisis or not?

... Ed Champion ponders - BEA Panel Report: Crisis in Book Reviewing.

More sparks ...

... BEA Day Two: Ethics in Book Reviewing.

Actually, there's lots more on BEA.

Of books and catfights ...

... our man at BEA makes The Book Expo Top Ten.

She has spoken ...

... Oprah Picks Eugenides. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Hmm ...

... The Legacy of Aldo Leopold. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I wonder about this:

We reached the old wolf in time to watch a fierce green fire dying in her eyes. . . . I was young then, and full of trigger-itch; I thought that because fewer wolves meant more deer, no wolves would mean hunters’ paradise. But after seeing the green fire die, I sensed that neither the wolf nor the mountain agreed with such a view. . . . The cowman who cleans his range of wolves does not realize that he is taking over the wolf’s job of trimming the herd to fit the range. He has not learned to think like a mountain. Hence we have dustbowls, and rivers washing the future into the sea.
I hold no brief for the indiscriminate killing of wolves or anything else in the wild, but this business about the mountain disagreeing strikes me as nonsense. It isn't just literal-mindedness that leads me to point out that mountains can't agree or disagree with anything. You can't learn to think like a mountain, because mountains don't think. This really is the pathetic fallacy.

So you want to a writer ...

... well, try reading: Bruce Meyer on Reading.