Monday, March 31, 2008

Canada's Mark Twain ...

... One Shot World Tour.

Beats the first-hand kind ...

... Midden.

"... if you live long enough you will accumulate much second-hand experience of death."

Good advice ...

... “Go right to the source and ask the horse…”

Is that so ...

... The French say more about the female heart.

Wonder what makes him think Shakespeare died of syphilis?

Happy birthday ...

... Joseph Haydn. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

And here Ivo Pogorelich Plays Haydn's Piano Sonata No.46 1st mvt.

Not sure I'd go this far ...

... but you never know: Dogma. (Hat tip, Maxine Clarke.)

What a headline ...

... Parkdale tale promises alot, but only delivers apedestrianplot. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

There's "alot" for you.

Always time for Keats ...

... Ode on Melancholy. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

A shot of hell ...

... Marko Goretic sent me this link. His father, like the protagonist of the Michael D. O'Brien novel I reviewed in yesterday's Inquirer, was incarcerated on Goli Otok and wrote a book about the experience. As I told Marko, it must make for some tough reading.

Bryan and Nige ...

... together long ago: Robot Sex and the Ontological Proof.

More here: Moving Things.

Oops ...

... I should have linked to this yesterday: Sunday Salon: this week at Euro Crime.

Odd piece ...

... The Rescue of John Steinbeck.

OK, so Steinbeck's novels lack the formal perfection of Henry James's. But so do most novels. At their best, Steinbeck's novels get a firm grip on life. In a way, he's America's Turgenev. Turgenev has always been more appreciated abroad than in Russia. The same seems to be true of Steinbeck, as it also true of Jack London.

Latest health warning...

... He died from a love of poetry. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Belinda Subraman interviews ...

...Fleda Brown. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

And something else ...

... A Novelistic Take on the Spitzer Scandal.

Something I missed ...

... Theodora Keogh: Edgy & forgotten American novelist.

POD hardball ...

... Amazon to Force POD Publishers to Use BookSurge. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Hmm ...

... What’s A Nice Girl Like You Doing
In an Anthology Like This?

Uh-oh ...

... What Do Authors Scott Spencer, John Irving and Gay Talese have in Common? Sexual Crapulence!

Strong stuff ...

... Mary Dixie Carter reviews Marguerite's Duras's Wartime Writings: 1943-1949.

Mary Dixie Carter wrote a very nice review of A. David Moody's recent Ezra Pound biography for me shortly before I retired.

What would Dawkins say ....

.... among the most emailed stories is that one about the psalms. (Hat tip, Dave Lull, who comments: "I don't usually look at this list, so I don't know whether a story on prayer, or on religion, is often at the top of it. But I found this interesting." Me, too.)

I have many other things ...

... to link to, but I also have many other things to do, including write a review. So I'll be back later.

The sad tale ...

... of A Great American Visionary. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Here they are ...

... or may be: 100 Best Last Lines from Novels. (Hat tip, Judith Fitzgerald.)

Complementarity ...

... The Art of Literature and the Science of Literature.

What a fine piece ...

... Lunch with the FT: Nassim Nicholas Taleb. (Hat tip, Vikram Johri.)

As Maxine says, we are all thinking as one. I just noticed that Dave Lull also sent me a link to this.

Always interesting ...

... Giant Bird News. Nige is certainly right about cormorants. Not very attractive at all.

Debbie and I, as you doubtless know, live right smack in the heart of South Philly. We have a tiny patio garden, where I have placed a few bird feeders. During the winter just about the only birds to visit were house sparrows. But now that spring has arrived, regular diners include juncos, house finches, song sparrows, mourning doves, robins, cardinals and mockingbirds. Not a lot, but not bad, either.

When did ...

... the phrase a lot become a single word, alot? And when lead become the past tense of lead? I thought the past tense of lead was still led.

I can't wait ...

... Cheeta again.

Check out Voytek, too, at the link. A hell of a lot more interesting than Knut.

Today's Inquirer reviews ...

... Dan DeLuca likes Richard Price's latest (and he liked Price before The Wire): Street savvy.

... Bill Lyon looks at a look at the Phillies' glory days: A shining moment, recaptured.

... Jon Caroulis likes a Rocky-like tale of a baseball rookie: Chris Coste keeps .

... Kelly Jane Torrance thinks highly of Hari Kunzru's latest: How one radical was born, then reborn.

... And yours truly was very impressed by Michael D. O'Brien's Island of the World: One man's faith survives brutal trials. O'Brien deserves to better known than he is.

During the week Carlin Romano considered the African novel of the century.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

More on psalms ...

... from Art Durkee: Visionary Poetry 14: Primary Technology.

Surprise!

... not all POD books have Ugly Covers.

Why not ...

... Literary Criticism For the Masses.

Moving along ...

... Next Up at the Short Story Discussion Group.

We just got back ....

... after having dinner in Doylestown, where we went to see this exhibition.

Sexual mechanics ...

... Bryan has some news: Humans to have robot lovers by 2050.

Getting to know God ...

... Psalms offer source of inspiration for prayer. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Oh, for the days ...

... long since past, before civilization mucked things up - like the splendid life people must have enjoyed under the pharaohs.

No laughing matter ...

... which is easy for me to say: Hear the world’s worst first sound recording. (Hat tip, Maxine Clarke.)

Click on the "couldn't stop laughing" link. It includes the sound recording in question - and you won't be able to stop laughing either.

Very sad news ...

... Robert Fagles, celebrated translator of ancient epics, dies at age 74. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Friday, March 28, 2008

Today is Debbie's birthday ...

... so we're off to dinner. Back tomorrow.

Very affecting ...

... With A Mercy That Outrides All Of Water. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Premature mourning ...

... Seeing the light, in print.

Maxine is right. Alterman's piece is worth reading - though I confess I haven't got to the end of it yet. But the disappearance of newspapers will hardly mean the disappearance of news. A newspaper is a form of information packaging, as was the illuminated manuscript. The printing press brought about the eclipse of the illuminated manuscript, but caused an explosion of information. The internet is doing much the same to newspapers - and to information. I find newspapers no longer be counted on to provide a reliable take on reality. You have to at least supplement what you find there by going online. Eventually you have to wonder: Why bother with that?

Well, the mourning for newspapers themselves may not be all that premature: NAA Reveals Biggest Ad Revenue Plunge in More Than 50 Years.

Post bumped up.

Poem of the Month ...

... Sheep Skull. (Hat tip, Maxine Clarke.)

Gee, I hope not ...

... John Freeman wonders: Has reading about books replaced the real thing? (Hat tip to both Maxine and Dave for this one - back-to-back emails.)

All aboard ...

... Trains, then and now (mostly OT).

Speaking of lots of good stuff ...

... pay a visit to Anecdotal Evidence and scroll away.

A very nice roundup ...

... “It’s a thousand pages, give or take a few…”

Lots of interesting stuff ...

... at Brandywine Books. Just keep scrolling.

Minority report ...

... The Voyage of the Short Serpent By Bernard du Boucheron.

I felt much the same way about The Road.

Verse of many colors ...

... John Ashbery, a poet for our times.


This review tosses off a particularly good trope toward the end: "the same tonic and dominant of loneliness and nostalgia..."

No contest ...

... Nige wins hands down: A Lesson in Prose.

Good luck ...

... Banning Death.

In Samuel Butler's Erewhon isn't sickness regarded as a crime and crime as sickness? How bien-pensant.

Go ahead ...

... CLICK THIS PIC.

Odd couple ...

... Nietzsche and his Nazi sister.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

In the meantime, though ...

... this is neat.

Michael McHale reviewed for me.

We're off ...

... to the orchestra. Back tomorrow.

The '50s myth ...

... Terry Teachout on horror comics.

Terry's right, of course. It wasn't just rightwingers who objected to Tales from the Crypt. Estes Kefauver was one of the senators grilling Bill Gaines. And Congress in those days was a Democratic party fiefdom. I read those horror comics and they don't seem to have warped me any. But it all turned out well in the end. Gaines went on to found Mad.
What continues to amaze me is how that the wonderful decade of my growing-up continues to be libeled by ignoramuses. I had more freedom as a kid than any poor child growing up today.

Right ho ...

... Blithe Spirits: The Pleasures of Wodehouse. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Sour grapes ...

... New York Post's Richard Johnson: Blogs are Parasites. (Hat tip, Maxine Clarke.)

A chat ...

... with Edward Byrne of the Valparaiso Poetry Review.

Hammett makes the grade ...

...MCC Joining In "The Big Read." (Hat tip, Paul Davis.)

Congratulations ...

... to Jen: Now it's time for MY book!

Coleridge and Goethe ...

... A Question of Evidence, or a Leap of Faith?

Oh my ....

... DigitaLit: New look for the short story. (Hat tip, Vikram Johri.)

I seem to recall there was a newspaper that used to run a column about this sort of thing.

I'll have some ...

... Hanami, Anyone?

"The Japanese tendency towards exquisitely refined sensibility in one direction and sadistic brutality in the other seems puzzling, but is hardly unique (are they even different directions?). One thinks of all those concentration camp officers with their precious string quartets, of fastidious AH and his dainty manners ..."

Somerset Maugham observed that human beings are not of piece. Blackguards can be capable of generosity and saints on occasion mean and vicious.

Non-existent authors ...

... Hall and Keynes join Arbor in the citation indexes. (Hat tip, Maxine Clarke.)

Very good points ...

... Writing: don’t, don’t, don’t. (Hat tip, Maxine Clarke.)

Sounds scary ...

... Sex, truth and Vidia: Patrick French's biography of VS Naipaul. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

But first ...

... Survey: What Makes a Good Beach Read?

An unexpectedly busy ...

... though altogether pleasant day. Blogging will resume tomorrow.

More than just crime ...

... Wambaugh as social chronicler? (Hat tip, Paul Davis.)

It works for me.

Nice catch ...

... Peters Fraser & Dunlop lose Evelyn Waugh’s literary estate to US agent. (Hat tip, Paul Davis.)

So you think you're a skeptic ...

...Nassim Nicholas Taleb - Atheists and the Stock Market (hat tip, Dave Lull):


Happy birthday ...

... to Venice: Streets Full of Water.

Read it ...

... The Bright Red Page.

Let me add my recommendation as well. Wish they would publish it over here.

Questions of identity ...

... Talking With Booker Prize Winner John Banville. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Another look ...

... at Human Smoke: Immoral Equivalence.

Remembering where ...

... the content comes from - and goes to: Double Agents? (Hat tip, Maxine Clarke.)

Updike alert ...

... Rabbit At Rest.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

A brave new world ...

... for Aldous Huxley: A Prophet returns. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Sounds interesting ...

... Keeping a Civil Tongue. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

What sounds interesting is Ian Robinson's book Untied Kingdom. Too bad I can't find it anywhere. I clicked on the link to the left of Myers's article, but it took me to an Amazon page for another book. I did an Amazon search and an Amazon UK search. No luck.

Well, I can hardly disagree ...

... 20+ Great Book & Literature Blogs.

How did I miss this?

... Critical Compendium.

All over again ...

... Deja Reading.

Networking bibliophiles ...

... Web Sites Let Bibliophiles Share Books Virtually. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Pssst ...

... The Wall Street Journal's Web site is already (secretly) free. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

A warm welcome ...

... to K.O. Dahl: A Norwegian crime writer joins the blogosphere.

The future of publishing (cont'd.) ...

... The B&N Challenge to Publishers.

Check this out ...

... Gerard Manley Hopkins' poems to music by Sean O'Leary. (Hat tip, Judith Fitzgerald.)

Thanks to everyone ...

... for the kind words about our friend's death. They are deeply appreciated.

Let's hear it ...

... for Ovid, the Great Poet of Spring. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Getting ready ...

... for the big day (sadly, Bryan won't understand): The Story That Numbers Can't Tell.

Mary Beard ...

... on Vicipaedia: Do we need Wikipedia in Latin?

True science ...

... Historical scientific mysteries.

Why I do not consider myself ...

... and intellectual: From Robespierre to al-Qa’eda: categorical extermination. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Of course, probably lots of other people don't consider me one either, though for quite different reasons, I'm sure.

A modest life ...

... Nail on the head. (Hat tip, Maxine Clarke.)

Ireland forever ...

... More Of St Paddy's Dublin Festivities.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Not really up ...

... for blogging anymore just now. A friend of ours was killed yesterday while skiing in Utah. Back later.

A day late ...

... but still good: Caritas Ex Deo Est. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Something we missed ...

... Sunday Salon: Petrona at Euro Crime.

Belinda Subraman interviews ...

...E. Ethelbert Miller, Poet, Editor, Activist, Educator. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Bryan on same ...

... God Etc.

I certainly agree with this: "I defy anybody who doesn't take God seriously to come up with a credible reading of Titian's Assumption, which is another way of saying not to take God seriously is not to be fully alive."

I found some of the comments appended to Nige's post (which Bryan links to) odd. Those who describe themselves as ex-Catholics were either poor theology students or had poor teachers or both. Extra ecclesiam nulla salus is not Catholic doctrine. In fact, many decades ago, Leonard Feeney, S.J. was excommunicated for teaching precisely that. Nothing is more fundamental to Christian teaching than the realization that God's mercy trumps God's justice - luckily for us.

Close reasoning ...

... Why Isn't Belief As Such the Problem? (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

A good reason for rejecting religion cannot be a reason that would also apply to non-religions and indeed to any belief-system that inspires contention and could be used by someone to kill and commit kindred evils. It is absurd to say: I object to religion because it leads to bloodshed but I have no problem with non-religious belief-systems that also lead to bloodshed.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

In time for spring ...

... some Climate facts to warm to.

"The [NASA Aqua satellite] satellite was only launched in 2002 and it enabled the collection of data, not just on temperature but also on cloud formation and water vapour. What all the climate models suggest is that, when you've got warming from additional carbon dioxide, this will result in increased water vapour, so you're going to get a positive feedback. That's what the models have been indicating. What this great data from the NASA Aqua satellite ... (is) actually showing is just the opposite, that with a little bit of warming, weather processes are compensating, so they're actually limiting the greenhouse effect and you're getting a negative rather than a positive feedback. ... These findings actually aren't being disputed by the meteorological community. They're having trouble digesting the findings, they're acknowledging the findings, they're acknowledging that the data from NASA's Aqua satellite is not how the models predict, and I think they're about to recognise that the models really do need to be overhauled and that when they are overhauled they will probably show greatly reduced future warming projected as a consequence of carbon dioxide."

About a year ago, we linked to a speech in which Freeman Dyson had this to say about climate models:

I have studied their climate models and know what they can do. The models solve the equations of fluid dynamics and do a very good job of describing the fluid motions of the atmosphere and the oceans. They do a very poor job of describing the clouds, the dust, the chemistry and the biology of fields and farms and forests. They do not begin to describe the real world that we live in.
The real world is muddy and messy and full of things that we do not yet understand. It is much easier for a scientist to sit in an air-conditioned building and run computer models than to put on winter clothes and measure what is really happening outside in the swamps and the clouds. That's why the climate model experts end up believing their own models.

From John Updike ...

... Seven Stanzas at Easter. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Bryan on painting ...

... or, more precisely, On Peter Doig.

I see a good deal of Stanley Spencer in Doig. Does anyone else? I'm thinking in particular of one depicting clothes on a line blowing in the wind and of Landscape in North Wales - it's something about the angle of the view.

Today's Inquirer reviews ...

... Carlin Romano praises Pico Iyer's biography of the Dalai Lama: Dalai Lama: Down-to-earth and intimate.

Have to say I don't quite get this: "... the Dalai Lama's own school of Tibetan Buddhism cherishes philosophical debate, making his skeptical air strange only to those who ignorantly identify any kind of Buddhism with mysticism." Mysticism is the one area of religion grounded in experience, and I would think Meister Eckhart, who has exerted some influence in the field of philosophy, was perfectly capable of engaging in quite lively philosophical debate.

... Chip Kidd's new novel is just the sort of fiction that suits the fancy of the incompanarble Tirdad Derakhshani: Happy, the ad man, takes us into some dark places.

... Martha Woodall is much taken with Mary Swan's latest: A crime echoes down the years.

... Connie Ogle likes Richard Price's Lush Life: From 'The Wire's' Price, murder's relentless grip. I notice two things about this. One is that it is a wire review. The other is that the headline thinks we should appreciate Richard Price because of his connection to The Wire. I should have thought having written Clockers would do. But then I keep forgetting that for most of us television is the focus of our lives.

... and I know you'll want to run out and get this one: News stories that set gold standard for journalism.


Happy Easter!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Today's absolute must read ...

... this is so important, I can't begin to explain. Please read it carefully, because otherwise you will not get the clincher that occurs at the end: Social realism and Lyotardist narrative. (Hat tip, Judith Fitzgerald, God bless her.)

Lee Lowe comments: Erudite writers.

But not slow talking ...

... Slow Reading. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

But first, this ...

... Uses of blogging: personal and professional.

That's it for now ...

... errands to run, chores to do, life to live. Till later.

Hawks and falcons ...

... Knowing a hawk from a handsaw, pt 1.


... Knowing a hawk from a handsaw, pt 2.

Thanks to Dave Lull for both links. I just wrote about both books earlier this week. I had noticed that the cover on my edition of The Peregrine was not in fact a peregrine. Glad they fixed that.

Courage ...

... Staying busy. with outside things....

... also Something outside myself....

A touching post ...

... Anthony Minghella's ice cream.

Wow ...

... Paddy, Yeats, Barbara & Chocolate!

Together at last!

Freebie alert ...

... TEV GIVEAWAY: LIFE CLASS.

A great shot ...

... Look Up and a very affecting poem: Waiting.

A fascinating little post ...

... Journey into the unknown.

I find this strangely poetic and evocative.

Lots of good stuff ...

... at The Mumpsimus. Just keep scrolling.

A day late ...

... Good Friday Politics.

But the '68ers, the neocons and the neolibs have one big thing in common, they are all fantasists. Nobody with any insight into history and human nature could possibly believe such nonsensical programmes. I've dabbled in them all at one time or another, so, with some small authority, I can tell you they're all the bleeding same - self-aggrandising, cruel simplifications that satisfy the need of the faithless to believe. I don't know what remains. Sane pragmatists with a solid tragic sense are hard to find these days. But, trust me, one day they'll be back - wry, sceptical, occasionally drunk, and never so dumb as to dazzled by the spectre of a perfect future.


And Bryan thinks I'm an Old Tory! Not that I don't largely agree.

Almost like June ...

... 'Citizen journalism' breaking out all over. (Hat tip, Roger Miller.)

A very nice account ...

... by Ed Champion: Nicholson Baker & Simon Winchester. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I have to say that I find Baker's view of newspaper accounts odd. One of the people he cites without comment in Human Smoke is the notorious Walter Duranty, hardly an exemplar of journalistic excellence. Newspaper accounts are valuable mostly for enabling us to appreciate the ignorance at work during a given period, which, as The Black Swan demonstrates, is very much worth knowing.

Friday, March 21, 2008

But first ...

... let us shed a tear: Paul Scofield: The Times obituary.

I saw Scofield do Lear. It doesn't get greater than that.

Signing off with something thoughtful ..

... The Ideology of Critique 4: Ambiguity.

Tom Stoppard remembers ...

... The year of the posturing rebel. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

He's still around and still posturing.

Help for Bryan ...

... The hopes and glories of Edward Elgar. (Hat tip, Maxine Clarke.)

I have been listening to the Hilary Hahn/Colin Davis/London Symphony recording of Elgar's violin concerto. My God it is a beautiful piece of writing. In fact, I am beginning to think it is the greatest of all violin concertos.

Post has been bumped up.

Deep down things ...

... Jeanette Winterson writes about Going back to the roots. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The question of free of ebooks ...

... Here is Tobias Buckell's Free ebooks, three points, and a whole lot of rambling.

... Here is Lynn Viehl's A Freebie Sidebar.

... And here is a free ebook: Pain, Pain Perception, and Healing: A Primer for Writers.

This too ...

... 'JUST WALKING DULLY ALONG'. (Hat tip, Maxine Clarke.)

I think Susan is right, but then I think - as apparently Jesus did - that public displays of piety are best avoided. I prefer to keep my piety between myself and God. I agree with my patron saint that we should try to preach the Gospel at every moment, but only use words if necessary.

Here's the Auden poem and the Brueghel painting.

We may well ask ...

... WHAT'S SO GOOD ABOUT IT? (Hat tip, Maxine Clarke.)

For Good Friday ...

... Mark Strand: "Poem After the Seven Last Words".

And here is T.S. Eliot reading: we call this friday good


Happy birthday ...

... to Johann Sebastian Bach.

Blogging must be light ...

... until later today because I have all sorts of chores to do.

Sad news ...

... Jon Hassler, R.I.P. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

More here: Jon Hassler brought small-town Minnesota to life. (Hat tip, Roger Miller, who mentions that he has read all of Hassler's novels, and interviewed him once)

Cool Eliot ...

... Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most.

Gotta read the whole thing.

Who knew

... that Glenn has not only been crucified, but was a thief. Seems to have put the kibosh on his acting career to boot.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Good choice ...

... 'The Long Goodbye' chosen for 'One Book, One Chicago' program. (Hat tip, Paul Davis.)

Asia is a big place ...

... Malaysian writer fears Asian talent eclipsed by China.

Litblogs and the Beatles ...

... and much else besides: Growing Pains for the Litblog.

Better to have growing pains than the death throes newspapers may be having.

Very interesting ...

... Seeing Double.

Heading to Manhattan?

... here's something to consider: Appearing Elsewhere.

In time for spring ...

... "Some Poems with Trees in Them".

Check out ...

... Mark Sarvas's THURSDAY MARGINALIA.

Poetry that rocks ...

... Concerted Effort.

Paul Siegell works for my former employer and we've exchanged emails, but haven't ever met. Glad to see his book has got some attention.

The Joe Friday standard ...

... Just the Facts, Ma’Am. (Hat tip, Liz Morris.)

The difference between history and poetry, Aristotle argued, is that “the one tells what has happened, the other the kind of things that can happen. And in fact that is why the writing of poetry is a more philosophical activity, and one to be taken more seriously, than the writing of history.” Historians have turned this thinking on its head. History, not literature, is the serious stuff.


Yes, and if you read The Black Swan you will realize that history as written might well prove unrecognizable to those alive during the period being written about.

For sale ...

... Hemingway's typewriter. (Hat tip, Paul Davis.)

Fictional he ...

... Balding! Portly! American! (Hat tip, Paul Davis.)

Another Arthur Clarke obit ...

... by Charles Martin.

Mixed emotion ...

... A piano, a camcorder, and a competition.

"That Van Cliburn should be lending his name to the YouTube Contest is ironic, for he is one of the saddest examples of the damage that can be done to a serious artist who unexpectedly hits the celebrity jackpot...."

At least he told the truth ...

... British Memoirist Is Denied U.S. Entry. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

In case you wondered ...

... Why Has Date Changed for Start of Spring? (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

More on 'Smoke' ...

... The One-day-ness of History: Questions for Nicholson Baker. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

" ... if your point was to convince me that we shouldn't have fought World War II, then the book didn't work, but I'm still very glad I read it."

That was my feeling, too.

And the winners are ...

... here are the IBPC's winning poems for February.

... here is Judge Fleda Brown's commentary.

... and here is the Judge's Page.

A guessing game ...

... for springtime: On the Other Hand...

Sounds like ...

... my kind of guy: For Mark Skipworth.

A very gracious post.

Lessons from the Master ...

... Pepys Goes Online.

Something I missed ...

... Sunday Salon: Stanley Middleton.

I just finished ....

... writing about birds, so this seems appropriate: More from a magpie.

Self-explanatory ...

... Slow talk, for a change.

Honesty and non-fiction ...

... Why are we still surprised when "non-fiction" is less than truthful?

What surprises me is that professional reviewers didn't start looking closer as soon as the wolf-raising business entered the tale. A tip of the hat to that first Amazon reviewer.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Oh, and something else ...

... I forgot: Monday was Nat King Cole's birthday. He was a great jazz pianist as well as a great, great singer. Here he is playing "Tea for Two."

One final item, though ...

... even though it's a couple of days late: Irish American Poetry.

That's it for today ...

... I spent the greater part of today finishing up details of my retirement - bureaucratic details, quite tiresome. So I'm going to take break from everything and just relax for a bit.

Sad news ...

... Jonathan Williams RIP. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The magic of the library ...

... or the Logic of the Labyrinth. (Hat tip, Dave Lull - who should know.)

A look back ...

... at Bob Dylan's Beginning.

I first heard Dylan in 1963, when a college chum played that eponymous first album for me.

Is anybody listening ...

... Penguin's Missed Ebook Opportunity. (Hat tip, Maxine Clarke.)

Jimmy is right, of course. I just got my Kindle - it was a very generous retirement present from my former colleagues - and I am looking forward to making the most of it.

Between the lines ...

... Gustave Flaubert's last letters. (Hat tip, Judith Fitzgerald.)

Great minds ...

... Patrick Kurp on the J.V. Cunningham and Emily Dickinson: `Whimsical Whirligig? Or Spiritual Crisis?'

In a letter, Cunningham once gave me the best - in the sense of most useful - criticism of my poetry, telling me I had perfected a style but hadn't done anything with it yet. He was right. I hope I've improved since then.

A fond farewell ...

... The Litblog Co-op is closing down: Stock-Taking. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

My alienation from academe was in part a reaction against the prevailing modes of academic criticism, which in my view had essentially abandoned "literature itself" in favor of critical approaches that were mostly just a way of doing history or sociology by other means. I had pursued a Ph.D in literary study in order to study literature, not to validate my political allegiances on the cheap, or to study something called "culture," an artifact of which literature might be considered but given no more emphasis than any other cultural "expression."

But read the whole thing. It's excellent.


Odd ...

... this book just came up in conversation recently and I can't for the life of me remember the details: Evelyn Waugh: The Height of His Powers. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Here's something about the reviewer, L.E. Sissman.

Post has been bumped up.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

R.I.P. ...

... Science fiction author Arthur C Clarke dies aged 90.

Glenn Reynolds comments and links.

Blogging must remain light ...

... I am toiling away on an article about T.H. White's The Goshawk and J.A. Baker's The Peregrine.

On second thought ...

... this is today's must read: On The Manifestation of Excrement. (Hat tip, Maxine Clarke.)

Read the whole thing, including the comments.

Check out ...

... Alfred Corn's weblog. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Increasingly entropic ...

... Helen Vendler on Charles Wright: Snatched from the Air . (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Beautiful ...

... And gladly teach . . .

Great teachers - the most underrated natural resource.

Yes, somebody should ...

... Arthur Godfrey: How fleeting is fame.

Roger asks me if I remember this guy. How could anybody growing up in the '40s and '50s not remember him. Godfrey's realization that radio would be improved by taking the stuffiness out of it has some bearing on the competition the internet has given to traditional media. The internet is less buttoned-down.

Happy birthday ...

... to John Updike. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Today's must read ...

... Charles Simic on C.P. Cavafy: Some Sort of a Solution. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

He is certainly right that you need more than one translation of Cavafy (Aralia press has exquisitely printed three of his poems beautifully translated by James Merrill), but I am not sure I agree with what he says about the erotic poems. Something about their lack of specificity seems to me essential, conveying that however intense the experiences were at the time of their happening, they have faded into something generic whose light may flicker feebly but that still gives off a certain steady warmth. And that says something worth knowing about erotic love.

Amazing ...

... Education, Education...

Sign me up ....

... for the Society of Slow Readers: Lif'e' s too short to read five novels a week. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I read slowly for a reason: I like to hear the words, not just see them. Words, after all, begin as sound. It's isn't enough to see what someone has written. You have to hear what they have to say.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Sir Vidia watch ...

... V.S.Naipaul coverage. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Calling Peter Stothard ...

... or Mary Beard: VICIPÆDIA LATINA. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

My kind of guy ...

... Oxford Literary Festival 2008: The genuis of Tom Stoppard. (Hat tip, Judith Fitzgerald.)

Nice typo in the headline.

Good for him ...

... Novelist Terry Pratchett donates $1M to Alzheimer's research. (Hat tip, Judith Fitzgerald.)

Let's hope ...

... we an see it, too: Written Britain. (Hat tip, Maxine Clarke.)

I must confess, though, that I'm getting a bit confused. It's about "the written history of Britain" and Claire describes herself as "A British writer." But Bryan (I think) considers himself English. Could someone please explain the distinctions to us poor former colonists?

I knew ...

... he was working too hard: Meet Bryan.

There is much ...

... in what he says: Gray Demolishes the God-Bothered Atheists.

Now if we can just get people to differentiate between religion and church. The two are connected, like faith and belief, but they are not identical.

Which could explain this ...

... Novelists Strike Fails To Affect Nation Whatsoever. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

More on phony memoirs ...

... from Jessica Schneider (click on Part 2).

I think Jessica's onto something about the preference of "experience" over imagination.

The latest issue ...

... of Autumn Sky Poetry is up.

Yesterday's Inquirer reviews ...

... Carlin Romano strives to enlighten Susan Jacoby: America anti-intellectual? Now, let's think this out.

... Dan DeLuca lightens the burden on comic books: Step aside, Elvis; comics changed it all.

... Michael Harrington thinks well of two Philadelphia poets: Two who do the tough work of poetry.

... Toby Lichtig is impressed by Imre Kertesz's Detective Story : A "lonely cog" in the torturous machinery of the State .

... Steve Weinberg looks at a bio of Walt Rostow: Professor who preached war. Book has an odd title - Anerica's Rasputin. What's odd about it is that Rasputin wasn't a hawk; he was opposed to Russia's entry into World War I.

We are back ...

... but blogging is likely to be light until tomorrow. Things should be back to normal in a couple of days.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Due to technical difficulties ...

... we have been advised not to use our computer until Monday. So blogging will resume then.

And your thought ...

... newspapers were in trouble: Professing Literature in 2008. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

"Asian American literature, cultural theory, or visual/performance studies"; "literature of the immigrant experience, environmental writing/ecocriticism, literature and technology, and material culture"; "visual culture; cultural studies and theory; writing and writing across the curriculum; ethnicity, gender and sexuality studies."

Small wonder "the number of students studying English literature appears to be in a steep, prolonged and apparently irreversible decline."

However bitter the ideological battles Graff described, they were driven by the profession's internal dynamics, not by what our students wanted, or what they thought they wanted, or what we thought they thought they wanted. If grade schools behaved like this, every subject would be recess, and lunch would consist of chocolate cake.

Not necessarily. Serious students want to be taught serious subjects seriously, not trendy hogwash, however much driven by "the profession's internal dynamics."

Happy Pi Day ...

... Pi Day and the Nobel Prize Poet.

I regret to say that I am mathematical moron. Once past arithmetic, at which I am rather good, I'm hopeless. Just can't seem to get my mind around the concepts. There went my career as a scientist.

Grace under fire ...

... Nicholson Baker contributes to the discussion: Human Smoke — Part Five.

I think Baker is to be applauded for this - as is Ed for setting it all up. Interestingly, I think the discussion would make anyone who hadn't read the book want to go out and get it. As I think people should. It is a very interesting work.

Covered ...

... You Can't Judge A Book... (Well, Maybe You Can).

I once wrote a piece for The Inquirer's late, lamented Sunday Magazine in which I argued that of course you can judge a book by its cover, which was why Fabio didn't grace the cover of A Brief History of Time and Stephen Hawking wasn't on the cover of a romance named Passion Fruit.

Mark your calendar ...

... at least if you're in the Philadelphia area: DON'T MISS THIS READING! MARCH 16TH: VARRONE, SIEGELL, MARTIN!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Scary ...

... Stepfather.

Check out ...

... Awaré for the Woman who Disappears in Silence.

The tall and the short of it ...

... Short men are the jealous type. (Hat tip, Maxine Clarke.)

Thanks to a herniated disc I'm not as tall as I once was, but I'm still not the jealous type. "
E'en then would be some stooping; and I choose
Never to stoop.
Guess pride is my problem

Plus ça change …

... Empires remain, but with a new name.

I think America as an imperial entity has more in common with ancient Greece than ancient Rome. Its hegemony has as much to do with jeans and pop music as with ships and planes.

Beats fictional memoirs ...

... You've gotta love these fictional letters.

How sad ...

... In Memoriam.

The poem is very affecting, especially the final stanza.

That's what he gets ...

... for going to Scotland in the first place: Never Open With the Weather

Impressive ...

... The Woman Who's Branching Out !

And so does Bryan ...

... More on the Revolting Tattoo Habit.

I'm with Herr Loos.

Once again Nige scores ...

... on a matter of style: Stubble? Beard? What Is It?

I opted for a beard decades ago. I think it's the Victorian in me.

I wonder ...

... Frost’s prose makes a case for his self-conscious craftsmanship. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

What I wonder about isn;t the self-conscious craftsmanship, or the rightness of Jarrell's judgment, but this lead: "People think of Robert Frost these days, if they think of him at all, as the kind of old-fashioned, well-behaved New England poet who could safely be chosen to read at a presidential inauguration—a chronicler of rural beauties, family values, and snowy trips to Grandmother’s house, much anthologized by educational authorities and often quoted by people who know little about poetry, but not really very good." Is that so?

Underpants vs. blasphemy ...

... and to see who the winner is, You have to start somewhere ...

Unintended consequences ...

... Dead men's books. (Hat tip, Judith Fitzgerald.)

Give us this day ...

... our daily bread: Physicist-priest wins $1.7 million prize. (Hat tip, Maxine Clarke)

I hope no one will be offended by my irreverent lead-in.

Life with narrowing options ...

... Paul Theroux on Georges Simenon, the existential hack. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Master at work ...

... Last night, Debbie and I attended a painting demonstration by Nelson Shanks at Studio Incamminati. If you click on the Articles link on the Shanks website, you can read a piece I wrote about Nelson Shanks some years ago. So I have watched him paint before. But never from the very beginning. And I must say it was almost uncanny how the image of the model emerged on the canvas, starting with some broad slashes of grisaille. One particularly interesting thing was that, at times, it seemed to me Nelson had not got a detail quite right. Invariably it turned out he saw the detail better than I had, and by the end of the evening - the demonstration took three hours - I was seeing the model more clearly than I had at the start.
Someone really should make a documentary of one of these demonstrations. This isn't one of those TV painters tossing off a generic landscape. This is a major artist showing how you can vividly represent with paint on canvas something or someone "out there." It is a truly magical experience.

Big of them ...

... BBC to exonerate Judas in Jesus Christ drama. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The lapse in blogging ...

... will be explained tomorrow, when I hope to pick up the pace.

There is life ...

... after copyediting: Man Travels Country to Fixe Typo's. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

That's good headline on that link. I remember once, I was driving with my stepdaughter Jen, and she remarked, "My God, Frank, you're proofreading the billboards."

Style and identity ...

... `The Mind Skating Circles Round Itself'.

Count your blessings ...

... More demands from Islam. (Hat tip, Roger Miller, who sagely comments, "Marvelous. Absolutely. Bloody. Marvelous.")

You have to start somewhere ...

... Phase one: collect underpants. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Smoke detector ...

... Adam Kirsch really finds Nicholson Baker's Human Smoke underwhelming: War Games.

A book that can adduce Goebbels as an authority in order to vilify Churchill has clearly lost touch with all moral and intellectual bearings.

That sounds about right.

Sorting things out ...

... On Blasphemy.

This problem arises from the failure to differentiate between blasphemy and irreverence. The ad for the hair styler is irreverent, not blasphemous. Genuine blasphemy can only be committed by someone who genuinely believes. Really to desecrate a consecrated host requires that you accept that it is the body and blood of Jesus. Otherwise it's just an act of gross irreverence. Also, blasphemy is directed at God, not those who believe in God, however much they may take offense.To break into a church and do grievous irreverence therein is surely a crime - breaking and entering, vandalism, etc. But the failure to show reverence to what others revere, while rude, ought not to be. And if it is genuine blasphemy, it's between the blasphemer and God. And God can take of himself.

Can there evere be ....

... TOO MANY AWARDS? (Hat tip, Maxine Clarke.)

Interesting indeed ...

... David Mamet: Why I Am No Longer a 'Brain-Dead Liberal'.

Sour notes ...

... this piece on Joyce Hatto and Pianistic Plagiarism (hat tip, Dave Lull) makes reference to this piece by David Stearns: Ears don't deceive - the CD covers do.

I think David's piece benefits from being less hysterical. Perhaps records should be sent to critics minus their labels and liner notes. Maybe books should be sent to critics minus their authors' names. That would level the playing field.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A likely story ...

... CaptainB Unmasked. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

"The picture shows CaptainB and me being uncomfortable and trying not to be recognised in the rear facing seats of somebody's car."

They look to me like they're up to no good.

In the meantime, though ...

... get ready for Wednesday 12 March : launch of Online Free Expression Day plus repeat of last year’s "24-hour online demo."
(Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Good Lord ...

... it's me: Frank Wilson Event -- Save the Date.

Blogging will resume later ...

... I have various errands to run (retirement is starting to seem busier than employment).

Shallowness is the answer ...

... Human Enhancement Project in Deep Trouble.

Yesterday morning I suddenly found myself feeling depressed. It was, of course, an unpleasant feeling. As I do not like unpleasant feelings, I immediately began distracting myself with various trivialities and in a very short while my feeling of depression was gone. I know this won't work for everyone. You have to have significant depths of shallowness to draw on.

The wisdom of Nige ...

... Weather Event Not Caused By Climate Change Shock.

The future of reviewing ...

... well, maybe not that exactly, but a very interesting twist on it, to which I have just made a contribution that I presume will eventually appear. In the meantime: Human Smoke — Part One.

And here is Human Smoke — Part Two.