Saturday, May 31, 2008
`Being a Poet Begins With Watching'. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)
I can type faster at a computer than I ever could at a typewriter, almost as quickly as I can think. I can also quickly correct my numerous mistakes. So you can keep your Olivetti - and your nostalgia.
I think that natural selection plays a major role in the origin and development of species, but I doubt if it comes near to telling the whole story. And isn't that the problem in debates like this, the presumption that there is a simple, one-size-fits-all explanation of reality?
By the bye, mention of peacocks always brings to my mind that line in Wallace Steven's "Domination of Black," "And I remembered the cry of the peacocks," which meant a good deal more to me after I heard what a ghastly sound that cry is.
I'm with Mark on this. Before the internet, very, very few people could make their views known to the general public. Now just about everyone can. True, many of those views are pedestrian, cranky, ill-informed, etc., etc. But a good many are well-informed, incisive, original, etc., etc. And these latter are now available to the public, as they could not have been in the past. Some are proving to be more interesting and pertinent than those provided by the former gatekeepers. The latter defend themselves by pointing out that they would never have permitted those pedestrian, cranky, ill-informed outbursts to intrude on the public. But what about the others? Would they have brought them to the public's attention if they had had the opportunity? I wouldn't bet on it.
Friday, May 30, 2008
"The truth is, we live in an age of astonishing conformity. I grew up in the 1950s, supposedly the heyday of conformity, but there was much more freedom of opinion back then. And as a result, you knew that your neighbors might hold different views from you on politics or religion. Today, the notion that men of good will can disagree has disappeared. Can you imagine! Today, if I disagree with you, you conclude there is something wrong with me. This is a childish, parochial view. And of course stupefyingly intolerant. It's truly anti-American. Much of it can be laid at the feet of the environmental movement, which has unfortunately frequently been led by ill-educated and intolerant spokespersons—often with no more than a high-school education, sometimes not even that. Or they are lawyers trained to win at any cost and to say anything about their opponents to win. But you find the same intolerant tone around considerations of defense, taxation, free markets, universal medical care, and so on. There's plenty of zealotry to go around. And it's hardly new in human history."
"The idea ... is that the internet has created a networked world, so now cheap data can be found by throwing a problem out to the networked masses. ... But my fear has always been that you remove any credibility in this equation. I mean, why trust the masses in this way?! Are you nuts?"
I didn't even know people used the term masses anymore. As for "lowering the bar to the common denominator in place of letting the brightest amongst us speak up," the problem with that is "the brightest among us" are so often designated as such merely by themselves.
This piece would have been much better if the writer had noted that to be ignorant is not the same as being dumb. She serves up evidence that young people are not dumb. That may be so. But that in itself does not disprove the assertion that they are ignorant. And it isn't much good to be able to think if the information you're working with is either unsound or absent. Not only should you know what you're talking about; you should also know what you're thinking about.
I don't know if people are any dumber than they used to be, but I see no evidence that they're any smarter.
Dave also sends along a link to Standpoint. Sounds like something Nige might like. Hell, it sounds like something Nige might have founded.
... The bliss of solitude.
I do not have the emotional connection with pop music that so many people younger than I seem to have. I like it, and I can vividly remember the Sunday afternoon when I first heard Elvis Presley singing "Heartbreak Hotel" over the radio. I even remember coming home from high school one afternoon and turning on the TV to watch Bandstand - broadcast from right here in Philadelphia - and hearing that Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper had been killed in a plane crash. Why, it was the day the music died - though none of us knew that at the time. Next day, my buddies and I were exchanging the usual sick jokes about it (we were a coarse lot).
Now the Sunday afternoon I first really listened to Debussy's Nuages - that was as near to satori as I have come.
Lewis specifically said that his space trilogy was inspired by David Lindsay's A Voyage to Arcturus.
Incidentally, I never hear anyone mention Lewis's Till We Have Faces, in my view one of the best novels of the last century and Lewis's masterpiece.
Thursday, May 29, 2008
Also check out “Once, there was this kid, who…”
Kay is also very engaging in person and reads her poetry quite entertainingly. Debbie was much taken with her when we saw her at last year's WCU Poetry Conference.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
To see what I mean: Don’t read further if you are squeamish.
Update: Something more personal: George Garrett's Generosity.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
While reading this, I kept thinking of Somerset Maugham's line: "Perfection is a trifle dull."
But the last two sentences - "Karajan's utopia was something of a prison. He held the keys but used them far too infrequently." - reminded me of something C.S. Lewis wrote, that the door to Hell is locked from the inside.
If this pertained to some other field of endeavor, the media would be editorializing about it from the crack of dawn until the cows came home. In this case, their reaction would be denial and resentment - that is, if they managed to become aware of it.
Monday, May 26, 2008
Sunday, May 25, 2008
It's not a crisis in book reviewing; it's the fact that we live in an age that I find distressingly incurious — interested in material pursuits, unreflective, narcissistic, shallow. An age when the thing that's on everyone's mind is ... "Did you see 'American Idol' last night?"
I tend to agree, only I have to note that much the same complaint was being made ... when I was in high school. So we may not be any worse off, just no better off.
I wonder about this reasoning, though: " ... lesions in Wernicke’s area, located in the left temporal lobe, result in excessive speech and loss of language comprehension. People with Wernicke’s aphasia speak in gibberish and often write constantly. In light of these traits, Flaherty speculates that some activity in this area could foster the urge to blog."
Well, yes, an injury to an area of the brain results in bizarre manifestations of speech. But that hardly means that ordinary exercise of speech has its origin in brain activity. Quite the reverse, I would think. It is the ordinary exercise of speech that activates a certain region of the brain.
Friends told him to "fight the good fight," he said, but he thought the last thing the NEA needed was a fight.
"It's the wrong metaphor. The right one is a conversation, and good conversations are always changing."
Not everyone gets that: A Dim View of Dana Gioia.
Let me say upfront that I know Dana and like and admire him and his poetry. The problem I have with what Regina Hackett has to say is that the NEA is meant to serve the citizens of this country regarding art, not simply those citizens of this country who are artists. And the best way to start serving the citizens of this country regarding art is to get a conversation going that persuades those citizen's of art's value. The NEA under Dana has brought more than just Shakespeare and Tennyson to the attention of the public. It has reminded the public of writers like Steinbeck and Willa Cather (to name two that come to mind just off the top of my head) and in so doing has provided readers with what Van Wyck Brooks called a usable past, a literary context.
I think what Hackett would prefer is a government agency doing art patronage. As someone who used to peddle art, I don't think that's a good idea. Art patronage and art collection are best done by individuals not bureaucrats - or even curators, for that matter. As I have said before, visit the Phillips Collection and note the difference between what Duncan Phillips himself collected and what has been gathered since by curators.
The NEA is a government agency. In other words, a political entity. And politics works best when common ground is established. Finding that common ground is what Dana has been doing - and doing well.
Saturday, May 24, 2008
I usually follow The Inquirer's stylebook and use the term American Indian. After all, I'm a native American, too, having been born here (remember what Mr. Bloom tells the Citizen: "I'm Irish. I was born here."). I am not, however, descended from the indigenous population. But the book uses the PC phrase, so I did too.
"It is a fact of philistine life that amusement is where the money is."
"We shall miss you. Of course we shall find new writers to read, but art, like friendship, is personal, that is, unique, and no writer is replaceable by or even comparable with another. Thank you for having given us so much pleasure for so long, for having never been tedious" ...
The Auden review is among much to read, all of it with pleasure, in The Complete Works of W.H. Auden: Prose: Volume III 1949-1955 (Princeton University Press).
Friday, May 23, 2008
It’s not too bad
At first, when she’s away.
I putter about
Doing things, but when
The second day nears
Its end, I can’t help
Missing, like the necessary
Ingredient in a magic potion.
The house remains friendly
Enough, but no longer
Charms, mere property
What's to say a structure or structures will not emerge without top-down supervision or control by a process of - what should I call it? I know! Natural selection, how's that?
I'm posting this today because this is Memorial Day Weekend and I suspect that few sane people are going to be spending much time in front of their computers reading blogs or blogging. I know I plan on taking it easy.
More on the bridge here: Happy Birthday to the Great Bridge.
That is not a précis of Harry Potter.
As Albert Jay Nock observed in "On Doing the Right Thing," increasing the scope of the law necessarily "reduces the scope of individual responsibility, and this retards and cripples the education which can be a product of nothing but the free exercise of moral judgment. ... It seems to be a fond notion with the legalists and authoritarians that the vast majority of mankind would at once begin to thieve and murder and generally misconduct itself if the restraints of law and authority were removed."
Thursday, May 22, 2008
Update: Here, courtesy of Lee Lowe, is the original website: GAM3R 7H30RY.
Dave also sends me this post at Ed's: Roundup. Steven Augustine has a comment there also.
Lots to consider here.
Mindsets like this take the magic out of everything everything. "The Piper at the Gates of Dawn" is one of the best ways of grasping what Rudolf Otto was trying to get across.
A presence that disturbs me with the joy
Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man;
A motion and a spirit, that impels
All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
And rolls through all things.
Dryden's prose is worth some attention, too. Somerset Maugham praised its naturalness, which is evident in this short passage:
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
When the message isn’t born of social consciousness, it’s generally born of self-aggrandizement and cocky posturing. Either way, it’s fucking horrible to watch, even worse to listen to, and does it a disservice to actual poetry by calling itself “poetry”.
"In silence we must wrap much of our life, because it is too fine for speech, because also we cannot explain it to others, and because somewhat we cannot yet understand."
Patrick is right. This is indeed "a powerfully moving insight."
This is also the essence of Husserl’s revolution: that consciousness is intentional, that it is active, not passive. It is like a hand reaching out and grabbing things, not just a searchlight.
This is also very similar to Thomas Aquinas's theory of knowledge. For Aquinas the intellect was not a passive faculty, but an active one, which reached out toward the known and grasped its form and in so doing made the form of the known a part of the form of the knower, so that knower and known become one - and the knower is enriched in being.
I read a good chunk of Paradise Lost in March. It displays much sonorous eloquence, to be sure, but I found it hard to love. As tours of Hell go, Dante remains the better guide - and the better poet (though interestingly, both Milton and Dante are humorless).
But enough said. Do read "Rhythm Method," to which Henry links.
What say you, Minx?
I think if I had been able to stay in it - and was better at it than I was - working in the construction business is a good choice. You see something actually taking shape, you meet real people. True, you are pretty tired at the end of the day.
Link fixed - hat tip, Dave Lull. Post also bumped up.
By my count, nine women have been U.S. Poet Laureate.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Maybe the reporting wasn't so painstaking, after all: HE WAS NOT A CROOK. (Hat tip, Paul Davis - for both.)
Imagine any of those great Pulitzer-winners of the past being done today. Think the blogosphere would weigh in?
'If a poet would work politically, he must give himself up to a party; and so soon as he does that, he is lost as a poet - he must bid farewell to his free spirit, his unbiased view, and draw over his ears the cap of bigotry and blind hatred."
Or use the line I've always favored: "I'm a professor. I'm supposed to be absent-minded."
"His best poetry, to be found in Les Chimères, has a classical concentration and density and yet is also mysteriously evocative in the manner of the later Symbolists. And his semi-autobiographical stories, in Les Filles du feu, especially Sylvie, have an extraordinary nostalgic charm, the green and gold of long-lost summers."
That last phrase says it all.
Monday, May 19, 2008
Really? I don't see that these are necessarily irreconcilable.
I notice that Taki Mag also has a piece by Bill Kauffman about Ron Paul. Kauffman declares, in his usual ex cathedra manner, that in the debates Paul spoke "in the lost language of constitutionalism." I saw those debates, and Paul struck me as one of those cranks you see atop soapboxes in parks. Of course I was one of those go-go-Goldwater kids - most of whom, by the way, thought Leonard Read was a bit a nut, too.
Earlier today, I happened to read Wallace Stevens's "Esthetique du Mal." These lines in particular caught my attention:
Is the affair of logical lunatics.
The politics of emotion must appear
To be an intellectual structure. The cause
Creates a logic not to be distinguished
From lunacy ...
Ponder that. It is more to the point than anything you will read on any op-ed page.
(Hat tip, Dave Lull.)
The title of this post is explained here. There's this, too:
May blossoms fall, unalike
As snowflakes. So a coat of many colors,
Unalike as blossoms, all the ground
Now covers. One is there, unlike
Another, desires but his own.
Take his cloak, he gives his tunic
Also. But those would take his life
Beware. For one never makes another
And always is the difference.
To be honest, I trust Maxine's judgment on this, because I think her literary judgment is sound (No, that's not quite right. I edited a number of reviews Maxine wrote, and editors get to understand their writers. So I know that Maxine's literary judgments are sound.) Also, Maxine's view coincides exactly with my stepdaughter Gwen's. And Gwen's judgment, too, tends to be quite sound. It was sound even when she was a kid.
The first book I reviewed professionally was Hammarskjold's Markings.
Sunday, May 18, 2008
What I have just read in this review constitutes just about everything I know about Cherie Blair. There is much I can identify with - working class, absent father, grandmother who cleaned. Why this would bother anyone - at least to the extent that it continues to rankle years later - I do not understand. But, as I've said many times, I'm a shallow fellow. I certainly know people who are still angry over things a parent, now long dead, did or didn't do to or for them. (I am referring, of course, to people who bring this up constantly and use it to justify their often ill behavior. I do understand how that sort of hurt can stay with you.) I don't get that either.
Still, this review conveys something that makes me feel sympathetic to Cherie Blair - and certainly resentful of the boorish comment appended to the review by one Bob from Warrington.
Post has been bumped up.
... Nigel Beale (shown standing in our patio garden) came to Philly on Friday to take in the Philadelphia Book Festival and was gracious enough to pay me a couple of visits. As a result, any lingering doubts I may have had about the value and the future of blogging have been completely dispelled. You had only to watch Nigel taking pictures at the Book Trader over on Second Street to know that Nigel loves books - their look, their smell, their magic. Talking to him about literature is like talking with someone about mutual friends.
Not that many years ago, he would have been a book lover in Canada and I a reviewer in Philadelphia and anything we knew about each would have been purely accidental. Thanks to blogging we are part of a worldwide network of kindred spirits. Admission to that network is based on mutual love of books and reading and writing. Note to newspaper editors: People like Nigel and I - and Dave and Paul and Maxine and Patrick - are the people you should go to if you want to know what people who care about books and reading are really interested in. And politics and policy do not top the list, even though it appears to exhaust the list for said editors, most of whom couldn't quote a line of poetry if their lives depended on it, have never really listened to the Bach cello suites, or stood in front of a Sargent for several minutes just taking it in. It's called civilization.
I think I was able to give Nigel a glimpse of Philadelphia rather different from what the guidebooks would serve up. We had dinner last night at the Mexican restaurant around the corner (La Lupe), followed by some hot chocolate at the RIM Cafe, and thence to Molly's Bookstore, along the way encountering some of the local denizens. Next it was off to photograph some other book shops. In between, just great conversation.
The fact is, most newspapers no longer come close to providing much of interest to reading enthusiasts, because they haven't a clue as to what they are interested in. Reading litblogs would help, but I suspect the world they would encounter there would seem alien to them. After all, what kind of people would prefer reading Shakespeare to reading David Broder? Nevertheless, that global network of book lovers is only going to grow and strengthen. Whatever the future of publishing may be, it is a future that will be inextricably bound up with that network