Friday, August 31, 2007

The Dark Night ...

... Richard Rodriguez: Church Publishing Mother Theresa's Letters is 'Brilliant'. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Definitely a must-read.

Another argument ...

... for anarchism: If you think government is fair, go to the grocery store and buy me a six-pack!

The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board is, I believe, the world's largest wholesale purchaser of alcoholic beverages. It does not use its leverage in any way on behalf of the consumer. Bear in mind, I have no dog in this fight: I don't drink.

A big decision ...

... Choosing the Right College.

On difficulty ...

... `Like a Victorian Wedding Night'. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I introduced Geoffrey Hill one night at the 92d St. Y. I remember he told the audience to just read his poems through and not worry about the allusions. "I often don't remember them myself," he said.

I can't help myself ...

... I'm simply determined to post this link: We’re no slaves to our senses.

Well, I guess not. It is extremely useful to distinguish, as Derbyshire does, between illusion and representation. Derbyshire mentions Descartes, but I kept thinking of Schopenhauer.

A class act ...

... Pete Seeger Speaks — and Sings — Against Stalin. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I find this impressive and moving. It takes a big man indeed to do as Pete Seeger has done.

Please help ....


... will act for food.

A garland of blogs ...

... Editors' picks at the Guardian. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Producing words ...

... Whoever expected writers to be other than difficult people? (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Thursday, August 30, 2007

The reviewing future ...

... Morris Dickstein on the Critical Landscape Today. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

This is, not surprisingly, a pretty thoughtful piece. But once again, what is said about blogs is dismaying, because it is based on a view of blogs that is at variance with the reality of blogs. It may well be that "book reviews, to be of any value, demand a trained sensibility and real critical expertise" and "need to furnish more than rough-hewn consumer guidance and the colorful peeves of the man in the street." But a blog is simply an electronic publication. If someone with "a trained sensibility and real critical expertise" decides to write a blog, well .... Much criticism of blogs is like people in a medieval scriptorium lamenting books being printed on paper rather than hand-written on parchment.

Investors' alert ...

... Moody's Rates N.Y. Times Co. Outlook 'Negative' .

Good interview ...

... Dan Schneider chats with Steven Pinker.

Better than many ...

... a rock concert: Book festival signs off with record number of sell-outs and 200,000 visitors. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

None of the above ..

... What Book Got You Hooked? (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I can't think of any one book that got me hooked on reading. I seem to have always been reading something or other - though I did love the Mother Goose rhymes.

Vlad on Sigmund ...

... Why Nabokov Detests Freud. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Another poet ...

... I have been reading - re-reading, actually - R.S. Thomas, his Collected Poems 1945-1990, which I return to frequently. Here is Thomas's Death Of A Poet. And here is Theodore Dalrymple reviewing a biography of Thomas: A Man Out of Time.

Enthusiasm ...

... Ashbery and MTV.

I like Ashbery myself and, like Bryan, don't find him difficult at all.

Classical flame ...

... Riddle of the fires.

A writer's testimony ...

... Patrick Kurp on Roger Boylan's `My Writer's Road to Damascus'. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I hadn't known that Nabokov has dismissed Freud as "the Viennese quack." Shrewd fellow, that Vlad.

To post or not to post ...

... can that be the question? I Am Pretty Sure I Freely Decided to Write This Post, Bryan declares.

Bryan links to this also, but I want to make sure you don't miss it: Angels and Quanta.

Classical physics describes a universe which is predetermined by its initial conditions. If every event is absolutely determined by its preceding causes then everything that happens – including me writing this and you reading it – is inevitable and our free will is no more than a useful illusion. The future has already happened.
In other words, if there is only cause, there is no motivation. In praticce, nomone believes that, including those who preach determinism
I think it is important to remind everyone, as was pointed on what this post linked to, that "Libet himself was not a materialist at all. Apparently, he thought consciousness was not an epiphenomenon and might even survive brain death."

Oops ...

... the NYT confuses the Constitution with the Declaration.

Not bad ...


My blog is worth $107,827.14.
How much is your blog worth?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Metaphorical souffles ...

... How crossing that bridge when we've burnt it keeps us sane. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

An interview ...

... with Mark Sarvas.

Outta here ...

... Great Moments In Literary Baseball.

Think carefully ...

... before clicking on this link: Libet dies; the debate lives on. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Let's go ...

... Shameless reveals: My Suitcase Refuses to Open!

Niche market ...

... £3m book targets Russian tycoons. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Maybe we should panic ...

... What Books Are Published For.

Black hole ...

... A Saint’s Dark Night. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

It's worth remembering a thought Teresa of Avila addressed to God during one of her own dark nights: "If this is the way you treat your friends, no wonder you have so few of them."

Dues come due ...

... This Blog Is Worth The Price of A Harcover. Seems a reasonable assertion to me.

Textbooks ...

... we don't need no stinkin' textbooks. And guess what? It's not an entirely outrageous proposal: A call for a textbook purchasing moratorium. (Hat tip, Charlene D.)

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Episcopal poet ...

... A Reading of Rowan Williams' 'Posidonius and the Druid'.

And this indeed an interesting bit of ecumenism.

Can this be?

... A Ruckus About Poetry.

Standing up for Scott ...

... Last-minute save.

Try a little ...

... thoughtfulness: Future Contingency.

Tired of speaking the same dreary, old language?

Well, just make up your own.

Lots of good stuff ...

... over at patrakaar2b. Just keep scrolliing.

Great Scot ...

... Merlin News.

Not good ...

... Copyright Advocacy Group Violates Copyright. (Via Instapundit.)

I'm gracious enough ...

... to congratulate the sour old coot, and so I do: Congratulations, Cormac. (Hat tip, Vikram Johri.)

Ancient and modern ...

... tragedy: Breaking the silence. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Monday, August 27, 2007

Sir Vidia would approve ...

... The Future Value of College Degrees.

I think this is a very real possibility.

What will Bryan say ...

... An 80-Year-Old Poet for the MTV Generation. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I would think Ashbery would be too sophisticated for MTV, but, as Montaigne would say, que sais-je?

Book 'em, Dano ...

... Gallery: Authors at the Edinburgh book festival 2007. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The suspense ...

... is killing me: Oprah To Host 'If I Did It' Debate.

Two Nobelists ...

... V.S. Naipaul on Derek Walcott: Caribbean Odyssey.

Hold the lettuce ...

... Diner Slang.

Publishing past ...

...vs. publishing present: The book business.

V.S. Naipaul ...

... The great offender.

Bryan at his best. I agree, by the way, that Naipaul is "the greatest writer now living in Britain." I also think there is much in what Naipaul says about the academy.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

A look at a poem ...

... by Brad Leithauser via Carol Saba: Dear poet friends ... (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Wow ...

... check this out: New drawing.

A no-brainer ...

... Some questions do indeed Answer Themselves. I haven't read it in decades, but it seems to me that in The Soul of Man Under Socialism Oscar Wilde makes some similar points. (Just glancing over it again, it is interesting to see how sharp a thinker Wilde could be. Of course, his "socialism" is really anarchism.)

But let's not panic ...

... I can see why Las Vegas would prompt this: Land of the book-free. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

But, as Pundy noted in reference to this post , the flip side of the stats is that 75 percent of Americans read at least one book last year.

Today's Inquirer reviews (Part II) ...

... John Timpane sings the [praises of Cesar Vallejo: Vallejo, the bard of Peru.

... I find Simenon's The Engagement grimly fascinating: Absorbing novel from Simenon's dark side.

... Katie Haegele finds a replacement for authors: At last, books without those pesky authors.

... Jonathan Trumbull is charmed by Aoibheann Sweeney's Among Other Things,
I've Taken Up Smoking
: Bearing her own metamorphoses.

... Sandy Bauers heeds the flock: Sheep safely graze and play sleuth in this charming tale.

During the past week:

... Ed Pettit liked an old diary:
A Phila. gentleman warms to Lincoln.

... and Glenn Altschuler pondered a fresh look at the Bard: Much ado was not always made.

Today's Inquirer reviews (Part I) ...

... It's not really a review, but Alfred Lubrano looks at On the Road after half a century: Odometer turning 50 for Kerouac’s ‘On the Road’.

I sent an email alerting the powers that be that the link to the slide show of Eric Mencher's wonderful photos is not working. With any luck that will soon be fixed.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Good luck ...

... The Sunday Times/Faber Literary Quiz. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Well, excuuuuse us ....

... Tess Gerritsen protests.

"What's the way forward?" Maxine wonders. How about a little civility all round?

But first ...

... consider this masterpiece of obfuscation: Peter Cook and Alan Bennett discuss The Great Train Robbery.

Light blogging today ...

... after all, it's Saturday. And there are things I must catch up on. So I leave you with an old favorite of mine: Max Wall's cover of Ian Dury's "England's Glory."

I especially like the refrain "Gra-ham Greene!"

Here, by the way, are the lyrics.

Friday, August 24, 2007

There's much to this ...

... I defintely do not like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

You Are a Club Sandwich

You are have a big personality. It's hard for anyone to ignore you!
You dream big. You think big. And you eat big.
Some people consider you high maintenance, but you just know what you want... and when you want it.

Your best friend: The Tuna Fish Sandwich

Your mortal enemy: The Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich

Goodbye, Mr. Burke ...

... I note with great sadness the passing of John J. Burke, who taught me English in my sophomore year at what was then Saint Joseph's College. In more civilized times, you did not, when asked about your education, say that you had attended some institution or other. You said that you had studied under so-and-so. John Burke was one of the teachers I studied under and from whom I learned much of what has proved to be the foundation of my intellectual life.
Nowadays, people spend tens of thousands of dollars every year so their kids can go to a big-box university and be taught by teaching assistants. John Burke may never have been a "name" scholar, but he was one hell of a teacher. One of the things I learned from him is that literature is first and foremost about life and the living of it.
Somerset Maugham was out of fashion in the academy back then - I guess he still is - but John Burke taught us to be suspicious of literary fashion. He made sure we knew the people behind the texts and the circumstances that gave birth to them. A class of his would commonly range from a discussion of Emerson's "The American Scholar" to a digression on Gounod's Faust followed by some commentary on Bette Davis and Leslie Howard's performances in Of Human Bondage.
Great teachers are an immense force for good. I have been blessed to have had several. Thinking about it now, I realize that John Burke's influence on me has proved both indelible and immeasurable. Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon him.

Remembering Borges ...

... Jorge Luis Borges was born on this date in 1899. Visit The Garden of Forking Paths. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Referred to ...

... for your approval: Sufficient To Have Stood, Though Free To Fall. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I, too, dislike the "grow a business" locution.

I have a warm spot ...

... in my heart for anarchism.

Here is the PeterLeeson piece referred to: Anarchy Unbound.

Anarchy, like all political-economic organizations, is riddled with problems. It is not clear that these problems are any more numerous or severe than those that plague governments, however. I have argued that anarchy works better than you think. In the face of obstacles that stand in the way of individuals’ ability to cooperate for mutual gain, individuals develop solutions to overcome these obstacles. This is as true in society ruled by government as one that exists without government. Where the state does not provide law, order, or the institutions required to produce these things, private institutions emerge to perform these roles instead.
Before you sneer, consider America's new Privileged Class.

Speaking of Ed ...

... he alerts us to Auden's multitudes.

How nice ...

... we have been mentioned the NYRB blog: Welcome Pennsylvanians!

I suppose it's only fair to mention that, by some odd fluke, the book I review in my column on Sunday is from NYRB: Georges Simenon's The Engagement.

The Robert Montgomery Bird book sounds like one Ed Pettit would want to review.

Sex sells ...

... or is it just fashion? You Can't Judge A Book...

No matter ...

... never mind: Out of Body Experiences.

As a blog post, this is Platonic in its perfection. I presume that the Susan Blackmore refferred is the same who devised the ontological proof for the existence of memes.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Another heretic ...

... Wake up to reality - and sense.

Here are excerpts from Andrew Anthony's The Fallout.

Worth remembering ...

... the composer Constant Lambert was born on this date in 1905. I am very fond of his ballet Horoscope (which I am listening to) and his book Music, Ho! is well worth reading. Here is a nice piece about him by Andrew Motion: Once more, with feeling.

This month's winners ...

... at the IBPC:

... the poems.

... the commentary.

... the judge.

Maxine's back ...

... with much of interest. Just go to Petrona and scroll.

Geez ...

... get this, on proper blog attribution. I agree with Michael Silence. The link takes you to the source, which all but the densest reader will be able to identify on sight.

Intriguing ...

... Darwinism at AEI. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Because every observation they ever make seems to corroborate the Darwinian tautology, most scientists probably do believe that the theory is universally true. But as the philosopher of science Karl Popper saw, the same was true of Freudianism. For good Freudians, everything seems to confirm the theory because it is protected against falsification by its own logic. Likewise Darwinism. "To say that a species now living is adapted to its environment is, in fact, almost tautological," Popper wrote. "There is hardly any possibility of testing a theory as feeble as this."

We link ...

... you decide: The Politics of God vs. It must be the end of secularism. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Words can be a problem...

... Ink & Incapability. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

In case you missed it ...

... the end of Western civilization: The Lost Nige Vid.

Where there's smoke ...

... there's often literature. So: Is this the end of English literature? (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Back to transcendentalism ...

... Re-Enchanting Emerson.

Arguing that we can "re-enchant" the world, Lundin enlists the aid here of Ricoeur, whose emphasis on teleology, eschatology, and destiny are the antidotes for an unbalanced hermeneutic of suspicion. Ricoeur, along with Gadamer and Bakhtin, "acknowledge[s] the spiritual and epistemological limits of naturalism," and in echoing these theorists, Lundin reveals the burden of his overall argument: "literature and theory must recuperate certain resources that naturalism has suppressed or forgotten."

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Button-downed finalist ...

... Bob Newhart One of Three Thurber Finalists. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I believe I saw Newhart's first TV appearance, on the Jack Paar show many years ago.

R.I.P. ...

... Magdalen Nabb (1947-2007).

Make some yourself ...

... suggestions, that is: Some Suggestions for NYRB.

And here is what linked to.

What we all need ...

... The Kerouac MBA.

Here's what I linked to.

I told you ...


... I was working too hard.

I'm not surprised ...

... Barnes & Noble will not stock O.J. Simpson book.

Who reads?

... One in Four Americans Read No Books in Past Year. (Hat tip, Annette John-Hall.)

On your mark ...

... Welcome to the BOOK QUIZ. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

My book? Siddartha! Amazing.

Beyond belief ...

... The rise of atheism. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

This a thoughtful - and thought-provoking - piece. It reminds me of how close genuine skepticism is to genuine faith (in the sense in which Newman defines it: "being capable of bearing doubt").

How Will ...

... bacame the Bard: Much ado was not always made.

Vintage Philadelphia ...

... Ed Pettit looks at an old diary: A Phila. gentleman warms to Lincoln.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Why blogging ...

... has been spotty: because I've been very busy. We're short-handed this week and those of us who are must take up extra work. Doubt if I'll do much tonight: I'm too tired.

More about ...

... George Santayana from Roger Kimball. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

What we all need ...

... A life worth living for. (Hat tip, Vikram Johri.)

Dumps and dumps ...

... "Watson, I'm afraid I've come down with a terrible case of the Mondays."

And here is the unfortunately titled My Lady Carey's Dompe.

Ouch ...

... Not to put too fine a point on it.

Precisely ...

... What's Wrong With Skimming?

I read everything if I'm reviewing the book. But I've actually read War and Peace twice (once, though, in an abridged version - minus the essays). As for Proust, I haven't even skimmed him -started Swann's Way several decades ago and drifted off sometime after he dipped the madeleine.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Amen, brother ...

... The Holy Life of the Intellect. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

A literary war ...

... of an odd sort: Revenge of the bloodthirsty lesbians.

Absent ...

... but not idle: Reviews during my absence. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Know of any ...

... The Book Inscriptions Project.

Two ways of looking ...

... at a poet:

Where Sheep Once Grazed, Now Poems Take Root.

... Workspace: Donald Hall.

(Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

When banality consoles ...

... Nadine Baggott - the New Jeff?

I think Bryan is to be applauded for monitoring this sort of thing for us. I wonder though, about the heavy Sunday and Saturday referred to here.

Not again ...

... The hard-line opinions on weblogs are no substitute for the patient fact-finding of reporters. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

... Randall Hoven begs to differ, however.

No laughing matter ...

... well maybe some out of respect. On this day in 1977, Groucho Marx died: Groucho's Secret Word Was Enjoyment. (Hat tip, Dave Lull, who also sends along The one, the only groucho!)

And let's not forget this connection.

Today's Inquirer reviews ...

... Susan Balee likes Ellen Baker's debut novel: Two wives, a generation apart, intertwine.

... Cameron Wybrow raises some interesting questions regarding controversial microbiologist Michael Behe's latest take on Darwinism: Pa. scientist again attacks evolution.

... Deen Kogan sings the praises of Richard Sand: Tough-guy private eye coping with personal issues.

... Sarah Weinman thinks Charlotte Mendelson's When We Were Bad is pretty good:
Sharp tale of hip Jewish family imploding.

... Katie Haegele likes both Aprils - author Lurie and heroine Lundquisr: Young Adult Reader | Teen heroine's good deed entangles her with the Mafia.

During the past week:

... Joanne NcNeil liked William Gibson's Spook Country: Cyber-noir thriller goes spy-tech.

... Bernard Jacobson had very high praise indeed for Howard Jacobson's Kalooki Nights: He has dealt us simply a great book.

... an Inquirer religion reporter David O'Reilly took a look at very different view of God: A jealous God, one in need of coaching.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Test your knowledge ...

... of W.H. Auden. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I got 12 out 15. Not bad.

More honey ...

... also from the TLS. What's going on? Sexy Shakespeare. (Hat tip, dave Lull.)

Rated R ...

... Peter Stothard - yes, Sir Peter - on Honey horror!

It's back ...

... Apokatastasis. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Free thought ...

... Mind changes. (And a belated happy birthday to Charlene.)

There's also this, from Dave Lull: Major New Theory Proposed to Explain Global Warming.

Ah, yes ...

... Steaming into the future. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Thoughts of empire ...

... Some Thoughts on the fall of Rome, Sparked Conveniently, by the U.S. Comptroller.

If Nassim Nicholas Taleb is right, the precise problem with drawing historical parallels has to do with understanding the past from the perspective of the present, rather than from the perspective of, well, the past.

Something I missed ...

... More on Bergman. Yes, light.

I know these people...

... All Shapes and Sizes. The photo was taking at Debbie's art opening.

Get ready ....

... tomorrow is Bad Poetry Day. (Hat tip, Gwendolyn.)

Three cheers ...

... for the Amercian Library Association: "Can They Do That?"

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Au contraire ...

... Augmenting the pros by linking to them.

I didn't actually see the piece in this morning's Inquirer, but glancing at it now, I find it hard to believe that the good professor is as acquainted with "amateur journalism" as he might be. It is amazing how often, in the print media, I see blogs portrayed in ways that bear little or no resemblance to reality.

Missing the brio ...

... The animated Walt Disney.

Fighting back ...

... A University Press Stands Up — and Wins.

Book swapping ...

... made easy: Bookins.

Update: Laurie Mason alerts us to PaperBackSwap.

In Retrospect ...

... kicks off with Adam Kirsch on Robert Lowell's "Day by Day" .

More on In Retrospect here.

Mencken redux ...

... and in Philadelphia, no less: The Smart Set.

Not so compassionate ...

... and he certainly wasn't conservative: Arthur Miller's Missing Act.

Like Nancy and Bill Sykes ...

... in spite of everything, including his scorn of them, lots of intellectuals still love Lenin. Here's an anniversary they may not want to celebrate: God Before Food: Philosophy, Russian Style.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Filling a need ...

... the "blog" of "unnecessary" quotation marks. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Hooray ...

... Maxine is back! Cellular top trumps.

Something to check out ...

... Poems of the Fantastic and the Macabre. (Hat tip, Laurie Mason.)

This could backfire ...

... 'Worst’ rail firm goes from bad to verse. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

O Pioneer ...

... The man who set the Beats going. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Dreadful ...

... Taslima Nasreen, Poet, Attacked in India: Men Attack Her; Other Men Try to Sheild Her . (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)


You can see it here.

A conspiracy theory ...

... I can live with (and may have no choice): As Rove falls, knives sharpen and evil numbers rule!

I have to say I've suspected as much.

The worst loss ...

... is the loss of your child: Rachel Elizabeth Chaffin: 11/11/1977 – 7/29/2007.

Keep Craig and his family in your thoughts and prayers.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Nothing ...

... that is what I plan on doing tonight. I am doubli9ng as fine arts editor this week, and I am weary. Until tomorrow ...

Calling Harry Potter fans ...

... it seems that in Britain, Jim Dale isn't known as the voice of Harry Potter. Stephen Fry is. Has anyone heard the Fry audiobooks? Has anyone heard both Dale and Fry? And would you like to share your thoughts? If so, email my colleague Sandy Bauers at sbauers@phillynews.com. And feel free to post here as well, of course.

Unpredictable ...

... The Black Swan.

I'm not surprised ...

... Which Ancient Language Are You?


Your Score: Demotic


You scored


You are Demotic, the degenerate wild child of Hieroglyphics. At least, that's what Hieroglyphics used to say. Quicker, nimbler but a definite trouble-maker in the family.

Link: The Which Ancient Language Are You Test written by imipak on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the The Dating Persona Test

The literary hard drive ...

... Hamlet.doc? Literature in a Digital Age. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

... by and large there has been a massive shift in the technological foundation of our writing, literary and otherwise; in the particular realm of literature and literary scholarship, this means that a writer working today will not and cannot be studied in the future in the same way as writers of the past, since the basic material evidence of their authorial activity — manuscripts and drafts, working notes, correspondence, journals — is, like all textual production, increasingly migrating to the electronic realm.

Truthiness vs. ...

... well, the truth: Brawley Case of the South.

" Bias complaints against the mainstream press usually involve the stubborn use of a preferred story line when facts are shaky or nonexistent."

A good question ...

... asked before its time: "[T]he recrudescence of Islam, the possibility of that terror under which we lived for centuries reappearing, and of our civilization again fighting for its life against what was its chief enemy for a thousand years, seems fantastic. Who in the Mohammedan world today can manufacture and maintain the complicated instruments of modern war? Where is the political machinery whereby the religion of Islam can play an equal part in the modern world?"

... from A Reader's Guide to Hilaire Belloc. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Monday, August 13, 2007

If this be heresy ...

... then make the most of it: HERETICAL THOUGHTS ABOUT SCIENCE AND SOCIETY By Freeman Dyson. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I'm with him - and I feel I'm in good company.

A match ...

... Poetry and Speculative Fiction.

Behind the scenes ...

... Men at work (II).

On the road ...

... Shhh, the 'poetry librarian' is in town. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

More than meets the eye ...

... or something like that: Who really hammered Dr Johnson?

Our man in charge ...

... the Financial Times profiles Brian Tierney: Press ahead. (Hat tip, Vikram Johri.)

Now remember ...

... this is the sort of thing, experts assure us, that the careful editing in the traditional media is designed to prevent, which is why the blogosphere is inherently inferior to traditional media: Confusing means and medians.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Must check him out ...

... Michael Redhill.

A little late, I fear ...

... A diagnosis, 119 years after death. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

A gem ...

... from the really great rock group, The Kinks: Ordinary People / Face in the Crowd.

Remarkably good ...

... appreciation of Ingmar Bergman by Woody Allen: The Man Who Asked Hard Questions. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Speaking of Bryan ...

... he thinks better of Freud than I do: The Death of Sigmund Freud: Fascism, Psychoanalysis and the Rise of Fundamentalism.

I knew about the importance of an examined life long before I read a word of Freud - who seemed to advocate having someone else - to wit, an analyst - examine my life for me. My Catholic education may have some bearing on this. After all, by the time I read Freud - when I was in high school - I was already familiar with this.

Let's boogie ...

... The Dance of Death.

I agree with Nick Cohen: "One of the most unjustly neglected books of the year is Bryan Appleyard's How to Live Forever or Die Trying." Unfortunately, it hasn't been published in the U.S.

As someone well past 50, I suppose I should find this depressing: "The truth is that the young (meaning anybody under 50), however well-meaning, are impatient of or disgusted by the old. And they are confirmed in their prejudice by the unfortunate fact that even the most expensive modern medicine, though it may keep you alive, does not, as yet, rejuvenate. Once you're old, you stay old. Most damagingly, cognitive ability declines and nothing more effectively encourages impatience in the young than elderly forgetfulness or mental incompetence."

Only I haven't found my cognitive ability declining yet - not that it was ever at Einsteinian levels - and I have sometimes been appalled to encounter ignorance, credulity, and lack of curiosity on the part of the young.


Cheers for Newsweek ...

... for honoring dissent.

Glenn and I are on the same page: "Regardless of what you think about global warming, there are lots of good reasons to avoid burning fossil fuels. But the global-warming discussion in the media is a consensus identity narrative designed to achieve political ends, not an effort to find facts or protect the environment. And this also accounts for the backlash."

And I still would like to know why this never gets any attention. More here.

Not so bad ...

...Do it Real Quick, Or The Death of the Adverb. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Congratulations ...

... to The Literary Saloon on its fifth anniversary. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Star-crossed encounter ...

... Dawkins and the astrologer: Science good, the rest bad. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Quite an interesting piece, actually.

Today's Inquirer reviews ...

... are fewer and shorter than expected.

... I finally get around to writing about Nassim Nicholas Taleb's The Black Swan: A lively, sassy study of what's not known. This turns out to be even shorter than the one I wrote - though whoever did the trimming did a fine job. (It seems a couple of ads took pride of place on the main book page this week. Well, they do help pay the bills. Missing is a review of Howard Jacobson's Kalooki Nights, which must be cursed: This is about the third time it's been held.)
Update: Dave Lull reminds me that in Fooled by Randomness Taleb traces the term Black Swan to J.S. Mill: "In his Treatise on Human Nature, the Scots philosopher David Hume posed the issue in the following way (as rephrased in the now famous black swan problem by John Stuart Mill): No amount of observations of white swans can allow the inference that all swans are white, but the observation of a single black swan is sufficient to refute that conclusion." I don't recall that Taleb brings this up in The Black Swan and I mentioned Popper because I was familiar with the essay I quoted from. Taleb does mention that C.S Peirce came up with a version of the Black Swan solution long before Popper.

... John Freeman finds Rachel Seiffert's latest intriguingly ambiguous: Looking at how the burdens of the past affect us .

... Sandy Bauers listens to Harry and praises Jim Dale:
Dale's many voices bring world of Harry Potter to life.

... Kristin Granero finds the mystery's not the most important thing in Tasmina Perry's debut: 4 glam sisters suspect in kin's death.

... And Carlin Romano looks at time travel: Pastward travel and theories of time.

This past week ...

... Ed Sozanski enjoyed Andrew Ferguson on Lincoln: Adoring Abe: How and why we love Lincoln.

Check the book page for more.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Only through blogs ...

... could a connection be made this quick: I apprehend his chat.

What's the difference ...

... I wonder. In The Gas Over Linda Greenhouse, the NYT's Supreme Court reporter is quoted as follows: "There's a difference between speaking to 50 professors and speaking on national TV," she says, "even in the Internet era." I don't see what the difference is exactly, unless you're bothered by the fact that C-SPAN provides unedited coverage.

A swell kitty ...-

... and a swell poem, too, found by Nige: Pangur Bán.

An Amazon first?

... I don't know. But it is certainly Kind of a Coup.

Gregarious loner ...

Jay Parini on Robert Frost: Biographer's Confession. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

It is easy to look at "For Once, Then, Something" or "Design" and imagine that Frost scorned religious faith; but even those poems are cannily made to keep the "wrong" people from understanding exactly what he thought and felt about some things (as he suggests in "Directive"). Doubt is an integral part of genuine faith, and Frost explored the theology of doubt with astounding honesty and passion. But his many doubts never added up to a denial of basic things of the spirit, since spirit was a vital part of his dualism, along with matter. As he wrote to Louis Untermeyer early in their friendship, "I discovered that do or say my damdest [sic] I can't be other than orthodox in politics, love, and religion: I can't escape salvation."

Dubious ...

... Joseph Bottum on Harvey Mansfield on Atheism. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

This is terrific - presumably Jody's own:

Christopher Hitchens
picks up the rice in a church
where a wedding has been.
Lives in a dream . . .

All the lonely doubters,
where do they all come from?
All the lonely doubters,
where do they all belong?

The Witch is back ...

... MediaBistro Rockets to Jupiter, The Publishing Contrarian Drydocks and the iLiad eReader Takes Tolstoy to the Beach!

Getting his drift ...

... Loren Webster's A Belated Preface to My ZAMM Discussion. (Hat tip, Charlene D.)

A grand young writer ...

... Happy Birthday, Aldo Buzzi!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Sweet and nice ...

... windows.

Say it ain't so ...

... Brideshead rejected.

I have noticed that Brideshead Revisited seems to strike many English readers - I don't know if Mary sees it that way or not - as some sort of elegiac paean to the British class system. It didn't strike me at all that way when I first read it in college - and I was a working-class kid. It was on the list of books for a course in the modern novel I was taking. I had laughed my head off reading Decline and Fall, so I figured I'd start by guffawing my way through another Waugh novel. Only the laughs never came. I soon realized that I was reading maybe the saddest book I had ever opened. I think this is an example of how one can learn something inportant about the literature of one's own country from the reactions readers in another country have to it. As I understand it, the Russians don't quite understand why non-Russians like Turgenev so much. And I think at least some English readers need to put aside their social resentments and discover what Brideshead is really about.

In the meantime ...

... giventhe once-popular press, William Katz's Stop the presses! Just kidding is well worth pondering.

Update: This doesn't help: Ouch.

That's it for now ...

... I am off today and have much to do. May blog again later on.

I never looked ...

... What Do You Keep In Your Trunk For an Emergency Read?

Advice from [faux] Steve Jobs ...

... regarding Elton John wants to shut down the Internet. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Elton is obviously having a hard time adjusting to being a has-been.

There is much ...

... in what he says: Theodore Dalrymple's latest Global warning. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Don't tell Michael Gorman ...

... ScottMcLemee on Open Library. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Being there ...

... Carrie Frye points to 5x5 Books That Take You There by Nicola Griffith.

New biography needed ...

... Biographies of Byron rendered obsolete. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

"As neighbours in St James's, poet and publisher exchanged notes and letters by hand or by messenger, sometimes two or three times a day." Sounds like they would have loved email - and will email in the right hands give us something comparable?

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Oops...

... Blogger Finds Y2K Bug in NASA Climate Data.

"These graphs were created by NASA's Reto Ruedy and James Hansen (who shot to fame when he accused the administration of trying to censor his views on climate change). Hansen refused to provide McKintyre with the algorithm used to generate graph data, so McKintyre reverse-engineered it. The result appeared to be a Y2K bug in the handling of the raw data."

Says a lot about Hansen.

Good "Earth" news ...

... Pearl Buck heirs reach accord.

Classy ladies ...

... A look at the Best little whorehouse in Chicago.

Moving writers ...

... Carlin Romano profiles Two who are young, literary and in transit.

Hear, hear ...

... Legislation to Close the American Mind.

I agree with everything Bryan says here, and the thought occurred to me while reading it that Bryan ought to write something about style. When I read Understanding the Present and How to Live Forever or Die Trying I would often re-read a passage just to savor the natural grace of the writing. Talent has much to do with this, of course, but so does skill, and skill is something one hones. As I have said before, if one wants to be a journalist, skip journalism school and study what Bryan writes.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Check out ...

... Rob's poem exercises.

Guess he means it ...

... The Sissy Semicolon. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

God save the ...

... Nepal strikes first high note after king's fall. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

And here it is:
The National Anthem of Nepal 2007-08-03.

Requiem for a journalist ...

... Death and the Editor.

In the dark ...

... Rerunning Film Noir.

Priceless ...

... assault on hot air.

Great shot ...

... SPLIT LEVEL #1

Poe boy ...

... While I pondered, weak and weary . . . and Over many a quaint and curious volume . . .

Readers needed ...

... Reading Researchers Need Your Help.

Something to watch ...

... In Depth: Edward O. Wilson. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Common tongue ..

... The Poetic Gutter Slang of Rome. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

New names ...

... The Man Booker long-list this year boasts only one famous writer: Don't confuse appeal with talent. (Hat tip, Vikram Johri.)

Help for Bryan ...

... and others: Coulrophobia Again.

I don't fear clowns. I just don't like them.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Better half ...


... Debbie at her art opening on Friday. The photo is by my colleague Eric Mencher.

The show is at the Dupree Gallery. Hours, I believe, are usually from 4 to 8 p.m.

An anniversary ...

... the great Oliver Hardy died on this date in 1957: Finesse for a fine mess. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

From pots to murder ...

... literary anecdotes: Pith and Pen. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Fictional you ...

... Which Author’s Writing Are You?

I, too, was made up by Flannery O'Connor.

Cordial disagreement ...

... Yesterday, Bryan discussed Climate Change Again. I posted a brief comment, along with a link. This has prompted Bryan today to discuss The Problem with Nige and Frank.

I didn't get the impression that Bryan had "dismissed with contempt" what I said. I thought he simply disagreed vehemently. And of course I do agree - as I'm sure Nige does as well - that we should treat the planet with reverence and humility. I do not see how that means I must subscribe to any apocalyptic theory, however.

By the way, for what it's worth, the record high temperature in Philadelphia for yesterday's date was 103 in 1918; the record low was 53 in 1957. I realize, of course, that weather and climate are not the same - unless, of course, you work for the UN.

From the people ...

... who brought you Stephen Glass and Lee Siegel, now how more explaining to do (scroll down to the recantation part).

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Queen of the Beats ...

... and The Beat goes on. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Speaking of which ...

... check out Puppet of Record.

Maybe so ...

... The trouble with newspapers.

A new blog ...

... from Dana Goodyear: Postcard from Los Angeles. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Get ready ...

... for another anniversary: America's first king of the road. (Hat tip, Vikram Johri.)

I am just reading it myself now, for a piece next month.

Update: I think Hari Kunzru is quite wrong, by the way.

Subbing for me ...

... since it doesn't look as if my reviuew of Per Petterson's Out Stealing Horses is going to make it online, here is what Lee Lowe has to say about it: One of my tests.

I completely agree.

Copyright and kids ...

... as well as Scott Stein and Ed Petttit are all noted by the GOB: Portents and examples to us all.

Oh, Cardinal Rigali ...

... this just in from Britain: Latin lessons for young priests.

I was away when the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, encouraging wider celebration of the Tridentine Mass, was issued. But I was amused when my colleague David O'Reilly reported that the Philadelphia archdiocese was "studying the three-page document." What exactly don't you understand, your Eminence?

Congratulations ...

... to Charlene: I won! I won!

Hmm ...

... Edmund Wilson's traditions in peril. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I have just been reading this two-volume set of Wilson's work. I was struck by how wrong he was about poetry - unimpressed by Wallace Stevens, dismissive of Robert Frost, confused - it seems to me - about e.e. cummings. I also found the tone of his early work pompous - he lightens up a bit as he grows older. And I might add that To the Finland Station may be one of the first histories of the Russian Revolution, but it also one of the worst. None of which is to suggest that Wilson's work isn't still worth reading, if only out of curiosity. The overall impression I've had so far is how ephemeral criticism can be even when done with high seriousness.
Now, Bob Hoover's a friend and a great guy, but I have to demur on a couple of points. One is that the objectivity on the Fox News Channel seems no thinner than that of CNN, MSNBC (check out the loathesome Keith Olbermann, Bob), the networks, and PBS. The other is that what he and Sven Birkerts think is so important about print has nothing to do with print itself. No reason why you can't have a fully edited, in the old-fashoned sense, Web site (and I believe you will have just that sooner or later).

Knowing words ...

... Poetry and Science.

The YouTube links didn;t work for me. So here they are:

... Lavinia Greenlaw.

... Michael Symmons-Roberts.

... Mario Petrucci.

... Maurice Riordan.

Today's Inquirer reviews ...

... Books, Inq.'s own Elizabeth Fox enthuses about Jasper Fforde's latest: Next in quirky series of time, fiction travel . Don't forget to click on the podcast.

... Rita Giordano is surprised by Tony Romano's debut: Italian immigrants' tale of death and family secrets.

... Leonard Boasberg recommends Kenneth Pyle's Japan Rising: Explaining Japan for Westerners The key: Trends, not principles, are a guide.

... Katie Haegele is impressed by a graphic novel for young adults: Young Adult Reader | Inventive graphic novel for girls explores fear of the future.

... Carlin Romano is unimpressed by a philosophy professor's view of Ingmar Bergman: Failed attempt at explaining Bergman's genius.

During the past week, Jen Miller considered a book about medical serendipity: How luck leads to medical breakthroughs.

Sometime soon they will figure out how to get my review of Per Petterson's award-winning novel Out Stealing Horses online.

Good question ...

... "When a member of the journalism community is murdered, wouldn't you expect most news agencies to report it?". (Via Instapundit.)

Saturday, August 04, 2007

A new site ...

... Ron Slate.

Let's toast ...

... this is the date in 1693 on which Dom Perignon is said to have invented champagne.

Shelley, Walter Pater, and Knut Hamsun were also born on this date.

Here is Pater's fasmous Conclusion to The Renaissance, with its suggestion that "To burn always with this hard, gemlike flame, to maintain this ecstasy, is success in life."

Most important of all, though: The great Raoul Wallenberg was born on this date in 1912.