Thursday, November 29, 2007

Paper war ...

... Go, Fodor.

"Over the years, I’ve been finding it increasingly difficult to figure out which bits of Daniel Dennett’s stuff are supposed to be the arguments and which are just rhetorical posturing."

I think that, over the years, Dennett's "reasoning" has increasingly come to resemble thought disorder.

I like this, too: "... metaphors like ‘evolution selects for what Mother Nature intends it to’ have to be cashed. The rules of the game require respectable adaptationists to give an account of selection-for that doesn’t appeal to agency."

A Poe reprise ...

... this is just out in paperback, I see, so I thought I's post the review of it we ran, since it seems tio have otherwise disappeared:

The Beautiful Cigar Girl
Mary Rogers, Edgar Allan Poe and the Invention of Murder
By Daniel Stashower
Dutton. 326 pp. $25.95
"The ingenious are always fanciful," Edgar Allan Poe proclaimed, "and the truly imaginative never otherwise than analytic. " Fascinated with deductive thinking, Poe wrote "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" in 1841, introducing readers to the brilliant, logical and reclusive detective C. Auguste Dupin, who enjoyed "the infinity of mental excitement" generated by his powers of observation.
Although he had written a masterpiece - a milestone in the genre of crime fiction - Poe understood the story's limitations. "Where is the ingenuity in unraveling a web," he asked, "which you yourself have woven for the express purpose of unraveling? " So, a year later, he gave himself a more challenging assignment: get Dupin to discover the murderer of real-life victim Mary Rogers before the New York City police solved the crime.
Well-crafted and suspenseful, Daniel Stashower's The Beautiful Cigar Girl recounts the lurid coverage of the crime by New York newspapers, which circulated rumors that Mary Rogers was alive and rushed to judge Joseph Morse, an engraver with muttonchop whiskers who beat his wife and was seen arguing with a young woman who looked like Mary. Parallel chapters describe a depressed, disputatious, dissolute but daring Poe as he (and Dupin) raced to trump reporters, cops and prosecutors with the factually fictional story "The Mystery of Marie Rogêt. " As the third installment of the tale went to press, Stashower reveals, investigators announced a break in the case. Rogers, they now believed, had died after a botched abortion at Nick Moore's Tavern, not far from Weehawken, N.J. And the perpetrator(s) had made it look as if she had been raped and strangled.
Stashower shows how Poe struggled to incorporate these developments into "The Mystery of Marie Rogêt" without contradicting Dupin's already published analysis of the evidence. After a dazzling demonstration that the crime had been committed by a single individual and not a gang, the detective speculated that a naval officer was implicated in the murder. Marie (and Mary) had disappeared briefly three years before her death - and then returned to work at the tobacco emporium. The villain had, in all likelihood, seduced her, gone off to sea, and then returned to reclaim her. In dressing the victim after her death, he had used a sailor's knot to fasten her bonnet under her chin. Poe ended the story by alluding to but not identifying a clue that Dupin used to trace and apprehend the killer.
In an Agatha Christie-ish epilogue, Stashower rounds up the usual suspects - and points an accusing finger at each of them. John Anderson, the proprietor of the emporium where Mary had worked, he suggests, may have impregnated her - and then paid Poe to write "Marie Rogêt" to divert attention from him. Daniel Payne, Mary's fiance, who later committed suicide, may have killed her when she broke off the engagement after a successful abortion. Payne had an airtight alibi, but perhaps the murder did not take place until two days later. Perhaps Poe had inside information, gleaned from reporters, that a naval officer had indeed committed the crime. And then again there is the "intriguing speculation" that Poe himself did away with the cigar girl in a fit of "alcoholic insanity. "
Stashower, it seems, is exercising his Poetic license. Not long after he wrote "Marie Rogêt" Poe published a mock scientific treatise entitled "Diddling Considered as One of the Exact Sciences. " "Rightly considered," Poe observed, diddling "is a compound, of which the ingredients are minuteness, interest, perseverance, ingenuity, audacity, nonchalance, originality, impertinence, and grin. " Daniel Stashower is a diddler. And in The Beautiful Cigar Girl he makes murder a beguilingly edifying and entertaining subject.
Glenn C. Altschuler is the Thomas and Dorothy Litwin professor of American Studies at Cornell University.

Impartial, yes ...

... objective, no: The Nature of Objectivity.

I kept thinking, while reading this, of Thomas Aquinas's view of the intimate relation between knower and known, that the two are in fact one. Bear this in mind the next time you read Ulysses. Joyce was an avid Thomist, who read a page of Aquinas daily - in Latin.

I better get to work ...

... A Collective Short Story. (Hat tip, Roberta Nolte.)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Readability ...

... The Blog Readability Test. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

You'll be pleased to know you only need an elementary school education to comprehend these ruminations. You have to have gone to Junior High to grasp Glenn Reynolds!

Introducing ....

... The Gatekeepers: Literature's invisible arbiters. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Be very scared ...

... well, not really: Haunting the Prehistoric.

Abandon ship ...

... Another grim milestone.

Irish and Japanese ...

... and The pathos of things.

I'm with Dawkins ...

... at least on this: Dawkins publisher may be tried for attack on 'sacred values'.

Invisible snapshots ...

... unphotographable. (Hat tip, Ted Adams.)

Will Blake ...

... Happy Birthday: Songs of Innocence and Experience. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Ouch ...

... Terry Teachout on Edward Said, music critic. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Storing knowledge ...

... When the Library Is Online: The Future of Knowing.

Grafton seems to be seeing an either/or proposition where a both/and exists. There is no reason why the digital library or digital books need to replace real books or real libraries. Nor will they. The good thing is that, when you find something you want to quote from a book, you will be able to find a digital version, which you can then copy and paste into a text you are writing - no need to type it all out by yourself. And that's just one example.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Exiles' return ...

... Stoppard in Moscow.

I'm famous ...

... or notorious, or something: Bloggers' brunch at Profile books. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

"People were impressed that not only do I know Frank Wilson, evidently a highly respected and popular figure, but that I've reviewed books for his publication, the Philadelphia Inquirer."

Imagine that. I doubt if many people here can.

Congratulations ...

... to Jesse Freedman, Friends Select School Upper School History Teacher and Hemingway scholar, who has been selected to present his paper, ‘“In the Dead Hours of the Night”: Edward R. Murrow, Ernest Hemingway, and Narrative Ego,” at the Thirteenth Annual Hemingway Conference, to be held in Kansas City on June 9-15, 2008.
Here's a link to The Hemingway Society.

Science and religion ...

... united in William Blake. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

View from the lab: Science's debt to William Blake.


Face to faith.

Happy 250th, Bill.

Why not both ...

... Poetry and Prophecy. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Contemporary Pico ...

... A critic's anthology of literary bliss. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Another assault ...

... on freedom: Bangladeshi writer goes into hiding. (Hat tip, Vikram Johri.)

Monday, November 26, 2007

Lots of good stuff ...

... over at Chekhov's Mistress - Zbigniew Herbert, Witold Gombrowicz, and more.

Choose your faith (cont'd.) ...

... Lawrence Gage on Faith in Science. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Philly wins one !

... but maybe we should keep quiet about it: ERIC SCHEIE HAS A POLL.

Can you believe it ....

... Blogosphere still uncharted entity for traditional media. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

It certainly is uncharted territory for whoever wrote that editorial, which reads like a number of such that were written last year, or maybe the year before.

Personal choices ...

... That's the best thing we've read all year. (Hat tip, Rich Barron.)

A short story ...

... The Cry Of The Peacocks.

The line from from Wallace Stevens's "Domination of Black" - "And I remembered the cry of the peacocks" - meant a good deal more to me when I heard what a hair-raising scream it is.

Ah, yes ....

... Anne Fadiman on coffee: Bean and gone. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Having observed the frisky goats, the imam of a nearby monastery - a sort of medieval Carlos Castaneda - roasted the berries in a chafing dish, crushed them in a mortar, mixed them with boiling water, and drank the brew. When he lay down, he couldn't sleep. His heartbeat quickened, his limbs felt light, his mood became cheerful and alert. "He was not merely thinking," wrote Jacob. "His thoughts had become concretely visible. He watched them from the right side and from the left, from above and from below. They raced like a team of horses." The imam found that he could juggle a dozen ideas in the time it normally took to consider a single one. His visual acuity increased; in the glow of his oil lamp, the parchment on his table looked unusually lustrous and the robe that hung on a nearby peg seemed to swell with life. He felt strengthened, as Jacob put it, "by heavenly food brought to him by the angels of Paradise."
Somebody should track down the imam's blend. Sounds potent.

A lot to ponder ...

... Judith Regan, Editor, & Bernard Kerik, Author, and the Case of the Missing Red Garter Belt. It’s All About the Thread Count.

Where is Choderlos de Laclos, now that we really need him?

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Oh no ...

... Sabbatical. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Those who think blogging is easy, something you can just do in an odd few minutes, ought to consider this post and others like it that seem to pooping upo with increasing frequency. Or maybe they ought to try blogging for a while. At any rate, I think we can all agree that Michael's is, hands down, one of the absolutely best book blogs.

This, too ...

... `The Basic Documents'. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

My bad ...

... I should have linked to this earlier: Sunday Salon: Eurocrime reviews.

Good to know ...

... And easier than you think.

All and sundry ...

... Theories of everything. (Hat tip, Dave lull.)

What's in a name ...

... Some Title Poems from Collections.

Check out ...

... these.

"I rarely set out intending to write a poem," Art says. "Poems happen." I know what he means, though I wouldn't exactly put it that way. For me, what happens is an experience that, for some reason, strikes me as needing to be worked out, completed as it were, in a poem. There is something about the experience that demands as precise an utterance as I can manage. There may be nothing especially "poetic" about the experience. This morning, for instance, at Mass, the thought occurred to me that Biblical literalism and scientific materialism complement each other rather nicely. For the former words are merely signs and statements strictly one dimensional. For the latter everything is nothing more than its ingredients. One could explore this in an essay, but it came to me as a poem in potentia. Now comes the time of waiting and listening.

Cat blogging ...

...A Selection of Kitten Verse by Oliver Herford.

More reviews ...

... to be precise, More short reviews.

In particular, check out this: Bill Liversidge: A Half Life of One.

More literary Norse ...

... Review: Viking Warrior, by Judson Roberts.

Art and aggression ...

... In salons for writers, beware giving a black eye to literature. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Interesting how intellectuals so often talk a good game about aggression.

Today's Inquirer books page ...

... featuring Iceland, Vienna, and the first presidential campaign, and much more, including, in case you missed it, Maxine's take on The Reincarnationist and John Freeman's look at Denis Johnson's NBA winner.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

And you thought ...

... nuclear waste was hard to store. Well, take a look Inside the tomb of tomes. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Choose your faith ...

... Taking Science on Faith. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

"... both religion and science are founded on faith — namely, on belief in the existence of something outside the universe, like an unexplained God or an unexplained set of physical laws, maybe even a huge ensemble of unseen universes, too. For that reason, both monotheistic religion and orthodox science fail to provide a complete account of physical existence.
"... the laws should have an explanation from within the universe and not involve appealing to an external agency."

But suppose there is an external agency?

Friday, November 23, 2007

Forget global warming ...

... seems we've screwed up the entire universe! Mankind 'shortening the universe's life'.

Oh, what can we do!

Speaking of Maxine ...

... she's rounded up some Reviews of Beowulf and reveals that Blogs move into the mainstream.

Sure sounds controversial ...

... Why didn't Africans fight to bring the West Indian slaves back home?

Wow ...

... Kindle looks pretty amazing. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Only they're sold out.

Apologies to Maxine, though: Kindle fatigue.

Question of the day ...

... Should you enjamb a poet's work? (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I am currently reading The Canon (Harvard, $24.95), Stratis Haviaras's new translation of C.P. Cavafy's 154 poems. I find it something of a page-turner. As soon as I finish one poem, I can't wait to get to the next. I have to restrain myself in fact. I tell myself it's best to read only a few and save the rest for later.
These poems were never collected into one volume during Cavafy's lifetime. They mostly circulated privately. They have a purity to them that most poems lack. For Cavafy, it seems, poetry was not a profession, but a vocation, a way of crystallizing experience in all its complexity and ambiguity and emotional resonance. And because nothing is more personal than experience, the effect of reading his poems is an uncanny sense of the poet's own presence. The cover of the Haviaras translation is a segment of a photo of the poet, showing only his eyes peering through his spectacles. It is a perfect illustration of what one can look forward to in the book: the world as seen by C.P. Cavafy. It's an enriching view.

It is interesting, by the way, to compare Cavafy's Ithaka with Auden's Atlantis. I can't help thinking Auden's poem owes something to Cavafy's.

Not really ...

... Is modern art a left-wing conspiracy? It's merely complacent and conformist.

"Although the political compass is changing, so-called radical artists usually stick to what’s comfortable."

By the way, I happen to think that John Singer Sargent's Gassed is a far more graphic and moving take on war than Guernica.

It would be cowardly of me ...

... not to link to this: A turkey of a headline.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Me too ...

... I'll believe it's a crisis ...

See also this: CALCULATING THE CARBON FOOTPRINT.

"... woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in."

Thomas Hardy ...

... on November. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Precisely ...

... Art Pussies. You're better off posturing about George Bush. That'll get you all sorts of free publicity for being brave and outspoken. At least Perry admits he's chicken.

Happy Thanksgiving ....

... everyone! And for those who wonder what it's all about, Joseph Epstein explains: 'Let All Your Thinks Be Thanks'.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Yes, he does ...

... MICHAEL ALLEN TELLS THE TRUTH ABOUT WRITING. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I did not realize until read this that Prairie Mary had been married to Robert Scriver. He did good work. Here's more.

Can't we just get along ?

... MORE TRANSLATION WARS. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

A Rexroth roundup ...

... from the Bureau of Public Secrets:

Ten Influential Books.

On Translating Roman Verse.

Coleridge and Zen? (This is quite fascinating, opinionated in a way that is pure Rexroth. It reminded me that my two favorite poems of Coleridge's are Frost at Midnight" and "This Lime-Tree Bower, My Prison." I agree that the Baudelaire quote at the end has a Zen-like quality, but I have always felt there was something unhealthy, even creepy, about Baudelaire. Give me a common drunk like Verlaine any day.)

The Victorian Conspiracy of Cant.

New-time religion ...

... Secular Fundamentalists. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

God bless them, everyone, I say.

Amen ...

... Why write?

Yo ho ho ...

... and a bottle o' rum: `The Doxology for a Wind-Up'.

I've had a bit more experience of the sea than Patrick has had, but I still prefer the mountains and forests.

Roman wilderness ...

... Maxine reviews The Reincarnationist: Past lives and present dangers.

Monday, November 19, 2007

All of him ...

... Wanted: The complete Eliot. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

In case you wondered ...

... How War and Peace works. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

For some reason this brings to mind the professor mentioned in The Pooh Perplex whose next work was to be titled All Previous Thought.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

What a life ...

... Paul Roche.

We link ...

... you decide: World Samina Malik Day December 6th.

I doubt if I'll do anything to honor the day myself. The poem does not strike me as being much of a poem, and I don't know if it was meant to be propaganda or just another bit of so-called transgressive art. I am not terribly sympathetic to those who seem more concerned with the civil rights of people like Malik as opposed to the civil rights of those who might become victims of terrorism. But I do believe in getting out information and letting people make up their own minds. I would note that the principal reason Wilfrid Owen could make poetry out of killing is that he had witnessed it, experienced it, didn't just think about it and conclude that, because he was so sensitive and poetic and all that, that he could write about it as if he had experienced it. Experience trumps all theories and all mere gestures.

Admitting error ...

... Nassim Nicholas Taleb does just that: 80- My First Blunder in The Black Swan & why I am ashamed. I think The Black Swan was the most important book published this year.

Not news, I guess ...

... big chill in Chile.

A reminder ...

... Sunday Salon: Black Tide.

Busy, busy ...

... Bryan Appleyard on Defining Britain and Brick Lane.

The wages of censorship ...

... Ban on Nobel laureate's book spurs interest in Iran. I'm no fan of Garcia Marquez - I found One Hundred Years of Solitude mostly long and boring - but I'm even less of a fan of book-banning. (Hat tip, Scott Stein.)

Today's Inquirer book page ...

... from Percival Everett to Steve Erickson to Terry Pratchett - and much more!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

But this is a must ...

... Anne Fadiman on Civilization. Click on the link to the Jacques Barzun Centennial at the bottom. And also check out Katherine Kolb. Actually, just visit Leo Wong's Barzun 100. That will give you plenty for the day. Later.

Saturday blogging ...

... will be light and spotty. Taking yesterday mostly off and watching Into Great Silence have together convinced me that getting the pacing right is essential to good blogging, even if you're only linking and running, as I usually do.

Thirteen days ...

... after today, are left in November. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The allure of calmness ...

...
I have adapted the title of this post from my colleague Steven Rea's review of the film Into Great Silence - a documentary about the monastery of la grande Chartreuse - which I finally got around to watching last night. I was reminded while watching it of something Pascal wrote, that "the sum of a man's problems come from his inability to be alone in a silent room." Philip Gröning's film demonstrates what it depicts: There is no voice-over explaining things; the viewer is simply drawn in to the monks' austere and largely silent world. Its tempo is the same as the monks'. One thing I noticed was how deliberately they seemed to perform their tasks. They did not seem preocupied with getting them done, but were content with doing them. Of course, doing things that way would enable one to turn whatever one does into a prayer, since it would be the doing, not the getting done that counted, and everything, in its every detail, would prove worthwhile. The deliberate pace and quietness of the film are at first unsettling. It is a film about act, not action. Gröning has created something rare, if not unique: a contemplative movie.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

We link ...

... you decide: City announces first Poet Populist. (Hat tip, Laurie Mason.)

Not getting it ...

... old media meets new: WaPo "blogs" reflective of bureaucracy in D.C.

Noir indeed ...

... 'Mitch Rapp' novelist endorses torture.

Margaret Drabble ...

... on John Cowper Powys: The facts and fictions of John Cowper Powys. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

"... they never dwindled into normality or banality." What better epitaph could there be than that?

Creative theft ...

... among other things: `In Poetry the Immediate Pleasure is Physical'. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Yes, indeed. The Beatles knew where to pilfer - though Lennon and McCartney did not write "Here Comes the Sun." That's a George Harrison song.
Update: Grey Malkin kindly ogs my aging brain to remind me that "Golden Slumbers" is indeed Lennon-McCartney. Why I thought it was part of "Here Comes the Sun" is anybody's guess - though it may have something do with the state of my mind when the song was released.

Readers may recall that Bob Dylan's borrowings have got him in trouble from time to time. There was his use of material from Junichi Saga's Confessions of a Yakuza for lyrics on his album Love and Theft. You can read about that here. Then there was his borrowing from Civil War poet Henry Timrod in lyrics for his album Modern Times. You can read about that here. And there's more.
Putting aside the question of plagiarism, it is worth noting that literary modernism made the appropriation of other writers' material respectable. T.S. Eliot was a skillful practitioner. I assume that when he incorparted the line "Sweet Thames, run softly till I end my song" into "The Waste Land" he assumed his readers knew he was quoting Spenser's "Prothalamion." But how many readers could he expect to catch the allusion to Mallarme's "M'introduire dans ton histoire" in the line "Garlic and sapphires in the mud / Clot the bessed axle-tree" in "Burnt Norton"?
Earlier poets, when they made allusions, were counting on their readers knowing what they were alluding to. Which is why classical and Biblical references abound. I suspect that many modern poets expect quite the opposite. Hence, the idiosyncrasy of their allusions.

By the way, I naturally second Eric Ormsby on this point:
“This is the poetry of protest and in many ways is typical of much of the poetry written in the United States and Canada over the last few decades. Often discursive, generally outraged, indeterminate as to form, such poetry is a poetry of opinion and message; we tend to like or enjoy it in proportion to the correspondence of our own opinions with those of the author rather than for any overriding literary reason; indeed, it is almost invariably bad as poetry.”

Here they are ...

... the 2007 National Book Awards.

Inspissated gloom ...

... does it get worse than that? He Tires Somewhat. (I just noticed that Dave Lul sent me a link to this. That inspissated gloom is what caught his eye, too, I'll bet.)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Seeing the future ...

... and finding it badly designed: Bryan Appleyard on Ray Kurzweil. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I reviewed Kurzweil's The Singularity is Near, and interviewed him. I found the book fascinating and its author engaging. I cannot say I found his vision of the future anymore appealing than Bryan does.

The gold standard ...

... Translating Tolstoy: Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The short of it ...

... Michael Allen reveals: The truth about short stories. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Hard but fair ...

... to say nothing of accurate: Terry Teachout on Truman Capote. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

From the TLS ...

... The ghosts of Arthur Conan Doyle.

... What's late about late Brahms?

... The all-American short story.

And something else ...

... my colleague David Stearns's fine piece on Ruth Slenczynska: Former prodigy's new passage.

Something I missed ...

... or, rather, failed to post a link to, which is strange, because I edited it: A challenge for philosophy. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Uh-oh ...

... more crushing of dissent.

Cross-pollination ...

... Where are the translating authors? (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Hello, young lovers ...

... and older ones, too, I trust: Love of Reading Online Book Fair.

It's still ...

... November. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I confess ...

... I have not read Oakeshott, though it seems evident that I should: On Living in the Present. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I should also add that the only thing I can remember about Eric Voegelin is that he warnrd against immanentizing the eschaton.

A great man ...

...Jacques Barzun: Age of Reason.

“It was awe-inspiring,” the historian Fritz Stern, a 1946 alumnus of the Colloquium, recalled recently. “There I was, listening to two men very different, yet brilliantly attuned to each other, spinning and refining their thoughts in front of us. And when they spoke about Wordsworth, or Balzac, or Burke, it was as if they’d known him. I couldn’t imagine a better way to read the great masterpieces of modern European thought.”
Further evidence that it is people who educate, not institutions.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Strike up the band...

... Theodore Dalrymple on Oliver Sacks and music: If music be the food of health... (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Some years ago I interviewed the composer Lou Harrison. One of the things he told me about was a time when he lived near a guy who was deaf. Lou was able to teach him some things about musing using percussion - rhythm, for instance. But there was one thing he couldn't give him any idea of: melody. Lou was a fine composer and, it seemed to me, a nice guy. Here is Avalokiteshvara - LakeComo Festival 2007.

Poor terrorists ...

... they are not: What Makes a Terrorist. (Hat tip, Vikram Johri, who pithily observes that "the higher the level of education, the greater is the tendency to fit oneself into assumed identities.")

OK, folks ...

... what do you think: What makes a great lit/book blog.

I wish I knew. But I very much understand what Kevin is talking about. Those who do not actively blog tend not to understand how much time blogging can take. As with anything, doing it means taking the time to do it well. I am certain Kevin is right about the importance of interaction. But it becomes harder and harder to keep up. I mean, of course, that when you put together blogging on your own, reading other blogs and linking to them, maybe leaving a comment, and linking to other items of interest - well, when you add that to your day job and the rest of your life, there really isn't much time left for the rest of your life.
But to return to Kevin's question: A good book blog would be characterized by lively dialogue - among blogs and the readers of blogs - about matters literary.

Leonardo decoded ...

... maybe. And if so, it turns out he was - sorry, Dan Brown - and orthodox believer: Italian musician uncovers hidden music in Da Vinci's 'Last Supper' .

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Lots of poetry ...

(Thanks to Rus Bowden for the links.)

... A Poem by Dennis O’Driscoll.

... Some Poems with 3-Line Stanzas.

... Gate C-22 by Ellen Bass.

... Trillium by Fleda Brown.

... Umberto Saba's Bleat. (I don't try to avoid the first personal pronoun, but I don't tend to use it a starting-point. If it pops in, though, I let it stay.)

How ignore ...

... a blog named Hillybilly Haiku?

Ah. True Love... (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Not in Philadelphia ...

... unfortunately: Latin Mass Draws Interest After Easing of Restrictions. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Have I mentioned that I regard the jerry-built vernacular liturgy a near occasion of sin (in my case, the sin of rage over the triumph of execrable taste, to say nothing of utterly inaccurate translation)?

War is not the answer ...

... of course, that depends on the question: A New "Shakespeare War"! (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Pirandellian charm ...

... that soon evaporated: The Atlantic's bad, bad bash. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Today's Inquirer reviews ...

... but first, Mike Schaffer's obituary for Norman Mailer: An American literary giant. I think Mike did a great job under very difficult circumstances - ever try to reach people for comment on a Saturday night?

... now to the reviews:

... John Timpane falls in love with The epic, and relevant, story of the Latin language.

... I have a good time with Harry Mount's Carpe Diem: Seize the Latin, or fun with a dead language.

... David Walton travels with Marco: Modern retelling of the adventures of Marco Polo Laurence Bergreen has explored such disparate personalities as Louis Armstrong and Magellan.

... Katherine Bailey loves Stewart O'Nan's Last Night at the Lobster: Last shifts at a doomed Red Lobster.

... Katie Haegele finds Margo Lanagan's latest downright uncanny: Young Adult Reader | Stories' chills come from who-knows-where or -when.

... and during the past week, Steve Weinberg took a Historical look at role of ships in slave trade.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

As you must know ...

... Norman Mailer has died. I have not been blogging because I am at the office working my predecessor, Mike Schaffer, who is writing an obit for tomorrow's paper. Here is nice roundup and more: Norman Mailer, 1923-2007.

I will add a sort of indirect personal reminiscence. One of my best friends in college was a fellow named Bill McLaughlin. He was the editor of the college's literary magazine. He wrote to Mailer, then riding a second wave of notoriety thanks to Advertisements for Myself. Mailer did not simply answer Bill's letter, with pro forma thanks, etc. He sent a two-page single-spaced reply. It was the start of an exchange that continued, as far as I know, until Bill's untimely death in a car crash not long after we graduated. I've always thought it was pretty classy of Mailer, as famous as any author at the time, taking the time to write to a kid at a small Catholic college about what it takes to be a writer. I trust he and Bill have already met up and are exchanging views once more.
That said, I should add that I was never much of a fan of the man or his writing myself. His best novel was his first and it's not as good as James Jones's From Here to Eternity.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Saved ...

... Billing error: breaking news.

And so, happily, we can Look ahead to January books.

I happen to be reading Yrsa Sigurdardottir's Last Rituals, and so far it is very good.

The genuine article ...

... what philosophical reasoning actually looks like: A. C. Grayling and a Stock Move of Militant Atheists. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Good question ...

... Ask the Critic: Mysteries suitable for a 14-year-old?

Ghosts ...

... or. more specifically, Ghost stories.

I'm late with this, as I am behind in everything these days, but ...

Congratulations ...

... to Minx: It's big and it's pink and I've got one.

One Philadelphian ...

... responds regarding The Oprah Mystery.

I have been well-disposed toward Oprah ever since she picked Anna Karenina as her summer reading choice a few years ago. Of course, the question is why she should have been able to get so many people to run out and buy a copy of Tolstoy's great novel, and - presumably - read it. I suspect that the late Plato would find the Oprah phenomenon not at all mysterious. Today's world has become an embodiment of the Myth of the Cave in Book 7 of The Republic: A great many people nowadays - perhaps most people - are preoccupied exclusively with images rather than realities. It is not Oprah who influences them. It an image on a screen identified as Oprah that does. The Julia Roberts admired by fans is not the real Julia Roberts, but an image of Julia Roberts carefully prepared for presentation on a large silver screen or a small glossy magazine cover. Socrates, as depicted by Plato, had the single goal of encouraging people not merely to think, but more precisely to think - and observe - for themselves. Thanks to their willing exposure to radio, television and films, people today are even less likely to do that than they were in Plato's day. For many these days, an idea - especially one that runs counter to so-called conventional wisdom - is hard to differentiate from a headache.

A neat-looking guy ...

... in my opinion: The Finest of the Finny Tribe.

So far, so good ...

... Update: Petrona's future uncertain.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Now for something ...

... completely different: Harry Nilsson - Lime in the Coconut - BBC Live Special 1972.

I had a couple of very entertaining conversations with Harry back in the '70s after I wrote a piece about him in The Drummer, a now-defunct Philly weekly. Also got a neat letter from him.

What's this?

... Petrona in jeopardy? This cannot be allowed to happen: Is this the end?

Come on, Typepad, shape up!

Celebrating ...

... November again. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Good God ...

... this is awful: No place to hide. (Hat tip, Vikram Johri.)

All I can say is they better not mess with Dave Lull.

Boy, do I sympathize ...

... Good and not-so-good housekeeping.

Email has simply become unmanageable, what with publicists asking me if I received the review galley of a book scheduled to come out in February and could I let them know if I have decided to review it, to say nothing of peopkle sending me PDF files of their new self-published, files so large they make it impossible for me to open any opf my email. I could go on ... and on. But I will spare you.

Never a dull book ...

... `Suffered to Survive in Print'.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Introducing ...

... The International Literary Quarterly. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Quite a lineup.

The IBPC compettion ...

... October's Winning Poems.

... The Commentary.

... The Judge.

Congratulations to all.

Scripture and tradition ...

... Canon and Catholicity: The Skeleton in the Protestant Closet. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Imagine the church before the canon was set as being something like the blogosphere.

My kind of critics ...

... Terry Teachout on Neville Cardus. (Hat tip, Dave Lull)

Now it can be told ...

... The inside story of the Western mind. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

If I had a horse ...

... F Marx the Spot. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Well, I'll be ...

... only the other day, in a reply to comment by James Aach on this post I managed to prove myself either remarkably perceptive or remarkably out of touch. Take your pick: The De Facto POD Review Ring Chart. (Hat tip, Dave Lull, of course.)

My kind of guy ...

... The Man Who Wanted to Be Left Alone.

Three cheers ...

... for the "worst" in the University of Delaware's "Residence Life" program. Sounds like my kind of gal.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Blogger is sluggish ...

... I'll be back tomorrow.

A glimpse ...

... of the future perhaps: From Old to New Media: Blog Begets Publishing House. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Celebrating ...

... November. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Ready the bonfire ...

... it's Guy Fawkes Day: REMEMBER, REMEMBER... (Hat tip, Maxine Clarke.)

As Jeff suiggests in the comment attached to this post, Bryan's piece on the latterday Guido Fawkes is well worth looking at: Why Guido is Blair’s true legacy.

My agenda,’ Guido responded to one of my comments, ‘is entirely negative: to ceaselessly expose our political class for what they are: despicable scumbags. If you see politics as showbusiness for ugly people, it all becomes more comprehensible.’ He ought to see what we have over here.

Good for newspaers ...

... though there seems to be quite a downside: Smell the coffee. Something else to feel guilty about.

Sleepless in Norfolk ...

... or maybe London. I'm not sure: On Insomnia.

Generally, for some unknown reason, I sleep the sleep of the blesssed. But every once in a while I have a bout of insomnia. I have always found that if I don't worry about it and do as Bryan has learned to do - namely, nothing - I doze off from time to time and nearly always wake up surprisingly refreshed. Of course, this could be further proof of my insouciant shallowness (is that redundant, I wonder).

Sunday, November 04, 2007

For larger coffee tables ...

... The (far too) Big Apple. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Don't miss this ...

... I did at first, unfortunately: The Ghost of the Susquehanna vs. the Curse of the Bambino.

Jack's back ...

... From Lowell to Legend. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Talk about complexity ...

... The Turning of an Atheist. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Hard to know what to make of this, but I guess that's the point of the piece. In the video clip that this post links to Flew doesn't seem all that mentally frail to me. Please note that there are other videos to be seen there - including one of Richard Dawkins (at his suavest and most tolerant-seeming) - so you can get a pretty rounded view of the matter. My understanding of this is that Flew has come to agree with Aristotle's notion of a Prime Mover. Dawkins notwithstanding, I think you can arrive at that position without depending on Michael Behe or other proponents of so-called Intelligent Design. You might, for instance, be persuaded by Aristotle himself, the scientific evidence cited merely going to supplement the late Peripetetic's viewpoint.

Mark Vernon comments here. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

We link ...

... you decide: Captain Picard Meets Supermouse on a Hot Planet.

Bryan and I don't exactly agree when it comes to planetary warming, but what he has to say is worth reading because it's well-researched, thoughtful journalism. I shall certainly ponder it carefully.

What is particularly good about this piece is how it lays out the complexity involved. I have no objection whatever to strategies and technologies to reduce emissions. (I walk to and from work every day - four and a half miles round trip - I live in the city, and my wife rarely drives the car. She bikes everywhere.) I also think that increased use of nuclear energy is a good idea. (I would note that Three Mile Island was really a disaster averted, not a disaster - which Chernobyl certainly was.) I would like to have some account taken of the known increase in solar activity during the last century, as well as the evidence that other planets seem to be warming up as well. We do, after all, live in what is known as the solar system, the central heating of which derives from that star we call the sun. Finally, I think there's a typo in the opening sentence. Arrhenius died in 1927, so the likelihood of his suggesting anything nine years later is remote.

Today's Inquirer reviews ...

... Mark Sarvas considers Foreskin's Lament: Are you there God? It's me, Shalom.

... Ed Voves is impressed with Margaret Lowrie Robertson's Season of Betrayal: A deadly act of terror before 9/11.

... John Freeman ponders Lydia Davis's NBA-nominated collection of stories: Ideas explored with scientific mind, but the touch of a poet.

... Elizabeth Fox rather likes Kathy Reichs's Bones to Ashes: This sleuth has science at her command.

... David Cohen thinks Otto Preminger is maybe worth a second look, even though Resurrecting Preminger not an easy chore.

... Susan Balee finds Husbanding charming and funny: Explaining the Why? in the Y chromosome.

... Dan DeLuca zeros in on Adrian Tomine's new graphic novel: 'Shortcomings' long on ambition.

...
and Sandy Bauers just loves Richard Russo: Richard Russo's 'Bridge of Sighs' can leave one breathless.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Bravo ...

... Bonnie Calhoun gets some well-deserved notice.

Clumsy writers ...

... Are famous writers accident-prone? Some are. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Character and characters ...

... `There is Nothing He Desires Not to Know'. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Ursula Hegi ...

... on Bat Segundo.

Just a couple of weeks ago ...





... along the Susquehanna.

And while we're at it ...

... here's a reminder: The Sunday Salon - week 2.

Important post ...

... from Maxine: Marketing your book 2.0.

Questions are always being raised as to whether reading is in decline - in general or just among the young or ... whatever. But if it is, it certainly has not be accompanied by a decline in the quantity of writing. Just about everyone seems to think that, if they put their mind to it, they can write a book. J.B. Priestley called the second volume of his autobiography I Had the Time. He explained that he had met many, many people over the years who, upon learning that he was a professional writer, had told him that they had often thought of writing a book - and probably would have had they had the time. Well, Priestley observed, "I had the time." At any rate, more people than ever nowadays seem to be finding the time and writing books. Having done it they discover to their dismay that publishers are less eager than they might be to publish said book. But now there is, among other things, POD. So more books than ever are appearing in print every year. And their authors find with dismay that people like me haven't anywhere near the resources to review the book they have toiled upon, and had such great hopes for. The consolation, I think, is that if a book is really good people will hear about it eventually. This is where the blogosphere is going to prove decisive.

Or the subway ...

... as we call it: Nerdish post on new tube map.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Centenary on the way ...

... Jacques Barzun at 100. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Today's must read ...

... There is a God - II. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Actually, Mark Vernon's blog is a must-read every day. I find his description of himself as "a religiously-inclined agnostic" fascinating, though I find his agnosticism puzzling.

University president ...

... does the right thing: University of Delaware Dumps Thought Reform Program.

Some thoughts from an alumnus here here.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Coming up short ...

... Shocker: Blog's Fans Eschew Dead-Tree Tie-In.

The thrill of discovery ...

... `Gratitude for the Beauty of Those Things that Sustain Us'. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Following the evidence ...

... an interview with Antony Flew. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

A look at ...

... The truth in religion. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Religious faith is not a matter of the unquestioning acceptance of unmotivated belief, demanded of us by some overriding authority. Quite the contrary. Faith is a commitment to a form of motivated belief, differing only from scientific reason in the nature of the subject of that belief and the kind of motivations appropriate to it. Science achieves its success by the modesty of its ambition, only considering impersonal experience open to repetition at will. Personal experience, let alone encounter with the transpersonal reality of God, does not fit within this limited protocol. The concept of reality offered by scientism is that of a world of metastable, replicating and information-processing systems, but it has no persons in it. Darwin’s angel criticizes Dawkins for a lack of trust in the power of imagination to explore reality, such as we exercise through poetry. He is said to sound “as though he would substitute a series of case-notes on senile dementia for King Lear”.

Well-deserved praise ...

... Book-blogaholica. Reading Peter's blog makes me wish I had had someone like him teaching me classics. I'd be much better educated than I am. (Dave Lull also sent me the link to this. You have to get up early to trump Dave on these things.)

An expansive vacuum ...

... On the Recent Publication of Kahlil Gibran’s Collected Works. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Wow!

... Poe, Philadelphia, the Middle Ages, and much, much more: Poe and the Publicity Hounds of Hell. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

"Poe’s cause of death seems fitting somehow: In Baltimore, some party hacks got him drunk and took him to vote in myriad polling places until he collapsed. Poe was killed by a lethal combination of democracy and booze.
I say he was killed by ... Baltimore!