Sunday, August 31, 2008

TV alert ...

... sort of: Apparently, the panel that I moderated at the U.S. Constitution Center in July - with Lorene Cary, Lawrence Hill and Beverly Lowry - will be on Book TV sometime tomorrow. Unfortunately they don't seem to have a schedule posted for tomorrow. If I find out when it's on, I'll be sure to update this alert. It's worth seeing - not because of me, obviously, but because of the panelists, who were excellent.

Getting in touch ...

... with "things as things." (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Theme and variations ...

... Lawrence Durrell in the ambiguous white metropolis.

Durrell seems lately to getting more of the attention he well deserves.

Blind faith ...

... which, of course, is the worst kind - indeed, no faith at all: Bryan interviews John Berger.

His writing saves him, as does the warmth and passion of his personality. His politics, meanwhile, exist in a bubble of withdrawal from reality, the correlative of his withdrawal to this hillside farmhouse.


Which reminds me of Auden's lines: "Time that with this strange excuse/Pardoned Kipling and his views,/And will pardon Paul Claudel,/Pardons him for writing well."

How refreshing ...

... The Return of Nature. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Some years ago, my foster son and I went to do some hiking in Pennsylvania's Tuscarora State Forest. We planned to sleep in the forest, then do some heavy-duty walking the next day. But we only brought sleeping bags and it started to rain pretty hard, so we gathered up our stuff and went back to our truck and spent the night stretched out in the back. Where we had settled for the night in the forest was some yards off the trail, and both of us - pretty experienced hikers - sensed how different the forest felt there than it did on the trail. It was as if the wilderness tolerated us while walking through the forest, but off the thoroughfare that was the trail we were intruders. I don't think anyone who really gets to know nature ever tends to Disnefy it.

Is there anybody out there?

... Are writers reading any of this stuff?

They have my support ...

... Criminals we can get behind.

Seems to me it's those responsible for the erroneous signs who are at fault.

Perfect for Sunday ...

... God in the Dock. (Hat tip, Lee Lowe.)

The headline for this is quite misleading. The story clarifies what faith really is all about. I should also note that I have always been most impressed by the contrast between God as frequently portrayed in the Old Testament and God as usually portrayed in the New Testament. I actually find a good deal of the Old Testament repellent.

Brief, but glorious ...

... How I Spent the Summer.

Today's Inquirer reviews ...

... From player to owner, he did it all.

... Rise and fall of a rebel journalist.

... A tender tale of events that 'overtake prediction'.

... Cold War chill in death of a spy.

Two quotations ...

"There is more selfishness and less principle among members of Congress ... than I had any conception of, before I became President of the U.S."
- James K. Polk

"I cannot, whilst President of the United States, descend to enter into a newspaper controversy."
- James K. Polk

Saturday, August 30, 2008

A chat with ...

... Theodore Dalrymple.

Catching up ...

... with Patrick Kurp at Anecdotal Evidence. Stop by and just keep scrolling.

Second generation ...

... The son of John le Carré on ninjas, mimes and his first novel. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Go to your room ...

... and stay there. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Desultory blogging ...

... it's a holiday weekend and I have a deadline to meet. So blogging will be spotty. Plan on getting up to speed after Labor Day.

For Gwen ...

... who will understand. (I have a letter from Harry Nilsson and we talked on the phone a couple of times. He had a beautiful talent and was a truly cool guy. So was I - once.)

Of course, you knew ...

... we liked Kay Ryan: Bait Goat and Crocodile Tears. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

One hell of a good review ...

... Then and Now.

Hammershøi and more ...

... in the latest batch of TLS letters.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Absolute realism...

... Cynicism and The Wire.

I do not share Bryan's apparently Calvinist view of human nature, but I largely agree with what he says here.

All right, Louie ...

... Dial M for must-see crime movies. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Maybe ...

... they should canonize him: Galileo Still Sends Church Spinning. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Give what you can ...

... What Am I Bid?

Enjoy your punctuation ...

... Apostrophe Apostle: The Girl's Like Spaghetti by Lynn Truss.

I strongly recommend getting acquainted with the BooksForKidsBlog.

What think you?

... Essay Question. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Good to know ...

... not mere rhetoric. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

What does it mean to be a poetry critic? Should a poetry critic also be a poet?

Both writers and readers can be critics and the former may well benefit from the latter more than the latter will from the former. Always good to know what your audience thinks.

Everyone, it seems ...

... is going to California - at least everyone from Britain: Induction to California.

Bryan, as we all know, attained true enlightenment in the high desert. Maxine was just there also. I've only been there once myself and except for passing up an opportunity to take up residence on a Chinese junk have never regretted coming back east. It's not for me.

Ripeness is all (cont'd.) ...

... PD James: Heroine with a taste for life. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The way of parsimony ...

... An Economic Haiku Contest. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

More pix ...

Correction: The tree is at the bottom of Vosburg Neck, where the cabin we stay in is located. The second photo is of the Susquehanna River, right at the tip of Vosburg Neck. The third is also of the Susquehanna, but in Sugar Run, somewhat farther west. They look English, I think, because there's something in me that "sees" English.






More bad news ...

... about book reviews: Mark Athitakis on the State of Alt-Weeklies. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

This bears pondering.

Top 10 thoughts ...

... the ten best articles published in philosophy this year. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Indeed ...

... AP story a little thin.

Something I missed ...

... Bryan on Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (And What It Says About Us) by Tom Vanderbilt.

For plant and book lovers,

the Scott Arboretum at Swarthmore College is hosting a book club called Nature's Narratives. They'll be discussing books by John McPhee, Jamaica Kincaid, Stanley Kunitz and others. 

Sounds like good advice ...

... See the pervert before Nasher and Shag get him!

Teens and YA librarians talk—

about technology, zines, and gaming in this podcast from the Young Adult Library Services Association.

Leave it to Nige ...

... to find something genuinely good on the tube: The Power of Television.

Catching up ...

... with Nigel Beale. You should, too. Just keep scrolling.

Wildflowers ...

From top: Goldenrod, wood sorrel, ajuga, and jewel-weed (wild impatiens, also known as touch-me-nots).




Ahead of schedule ...

... The rise of ‘before you die-ism’. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Dutch uncle ...

... A New William The Conqueror. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Three pieces ...

... from Standpoint, sent to me by Dave Lull:

Alain de Botton on Study the Birds and the Bees.

Robert Conquest on Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: Patriot, Poet and Prophet.

Roger Kimball on John Stuart Mill.

If only ...

... Richard Dawkins had a sense of humor: On God.

I am perhaps being unfair. I presume Dawkins doesn't have a sense of humor because he takes himself and his views so seriously. (Don't I take myself and my views seriously? I certainly don't take myself very seriously. As for my views, they are subject to continual revision. Dawkins's seem pretty set in stone to me.)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Very interesting indeed ...

... Out of Print Books Trends.

Lots of interesting stuff ...

... over at The Diary Junction Blog.

Once again ...

... experience trumps theory: 'Basic Instinct' author writes book about faith.


New maybe ...

... good, well that's something else: Dissecting Carmine.

A former professor of mine once said, “Form makes content.” Back then I was unable to explain my visceral rejection of this statement, but Starnino’s editorial choices prove that maxim untrue; form, in the grip of an inadequate mind, makes nothing.
Couldn't agree more. Form derives from content, not the other way around.

I beg to differ ...

... Waugh Contra Mundum: The problem Catholicism of Brideshead Revisited. (Hat tip, Paul Davis.)

I just re-read Brideshead while on vacation. Waugh could have chosen for the book's epigraph this passage from the Gospels: "The Son of Man came to call sinners, not the just." Lord Brideshead's intellectual grasp of Catholicism has turned his faith into a grotesque etiquette. Except for the old nurse and Cordelia - and the priest who attends Marchmain at the end, and who is not at all patronizing (I think I know priests better than Michael Weiss does) - there are no exemplary Catholics in the book (and by "exemplary" I do not mean that they are saints; I mean simply that they go about practicing their faith simply and correctly). They are all sinners. The mystery at the heart of the book is the mystery of God's mercy. That is why the book tends to confound the humanistic imagination.

Their romance ...

... The Love Song of Edith Wharton (1908).

For Bond fans ...

... MI6. (Hat tip, Paul Davis.)

In search of ...

... the inner candle: Richard Todd's Meditation on Authenticity. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I was working on something like this about myself while I was on vacation.

Beats me ...

... Quote Quiz.

Though I'm sure I've read the second quote before this.

Ripeness is all ...

... Late-Flowering Art. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Congratulations ...

... to me, I guess. I just noticed that this blog has toted upon more than a half-million hits. Thanks, I say, to Katie, John, and Eliza.

Innovation indeed ...

... a newspaper without employees.

The Inquirer could be heading toward being a newspaper with only managers (they, of course, are brilliant).

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Check out ...

... The Dan Schneider Interview 14: Mark Rowlands.

Unhappy campers ...

... Philly papers target managers in new round of layoffs. (Hat tip, Paul Davis.)

Well, considering how top heavy newsroom management there is, this seems only fair.

Not good elsewhere, either: New York Times Co. July revenue falls 10.1 percent.

I wonder if Pinch realizes yet that he's a fool.

Me either ...

... Not a Succedaneum ...

For those in Philadelphia,

there's a music and poetry event this evening on South Street hosted by the recently formed Community Cultural Exchange.

Reputable manifestations

We totally forgot about the literary translators convention and its financially constrained reduced number of events. We just wish, considering the amount of translating talent on hand, that the press release announcing the event were more felicitously phrased.

Good to have him back ...

... Marcus Aurelius, that is, Not Ozymandias.

Marcus's Meditations has exerted a great influence on me throughout my life.

By the way, go to Thought Experiments and just keep scrolling. Lots of good stuff, as usual.

Three for three ...

... from Nige:

... Fuels Rush In.

... Reading and Forgetting.

... Butterflies Fall Prey to Global Chilling.

Another one ...

... bites the dust: Villalon Takes Buyout at 'Chronicle'. (Hat tip, Roger Miller.)

Wisconsin woman arrested

for neglecting to return her library books. The best part is the big grin she's wearing in her mug shot—and the fact that she still refuses to bring the books back.

A welcome home poem ...

... sent by Dave Lull: Meditation on Statistical Method.

Orbiting indispensable questions ...

... Lucid Dreaming.

The noonday demon ...

... never sleeps: Curing Lethargy ... or Whatever. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Monday, August 25, 2008

No, the enemy is ...

... unclear thinking: Is faith the enemy of science? (Hat tip, Maxine Clarke.)

MacKenzie ... feels that the blind acceptance necessary for faith might “compromise one’s ability to think critically, a key ingredient in scientific thinking”.
This indicates that MacKenzie hasn't a clue as to what faith is. Blind acceptance has nothing to do with it. He might start by trying to gain some genuine understanding of the subject before going on about it. That's how sound thinking proceeds. MacKenzie's bland assumptions certainly seem to have compromised his ability to think critically.

Update: Dave Lull sends along Faith and the Human Genome.

Blogging to resume ...

... mine, that is. Though gradually over the next few days as reentry to routine existence proceeds. Katie, Eliza and John have done a great job in my absence. My thanks to them.

Here's a great list of poems to read

"when you get stuffed in your locker," compiled by Caitlin Kimball for the Poetry Foundation (I tip my hat to Mr. Dave Lull).

It never fails

that the moment you learn about something it starts popping up everywhere. I'm reviewing a charming graphic novel set in the mid to late 1800s called The Amazing Remarkable Monsieur Leotard for the Santa Barbara News-Press, and guess who's in there? Spring-Heeled Jack, who I posted about last week. When will he stop plaguing me?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Great souls connect ...

... in this case Nige and Patrick: Books, Dust and Ashes.

I am not back ...

... I am sitting on the porch outside our room at the Inn at Jim Thorpe. Tomorrow we will back in Philly. Tonight I may blog a little, but not much.

Seems only fair ...

... Nature kills a natural philosopher.

Two haiku ...

Wind shakes the branches
And sunlight splashes my face
The cries of bluejays

— Frank

Dependent on death
Mushrooms cling to dead tree bark
To keep them alive

—Debbie

Thursday, August 21, 2008

In other book signing news,

a mystery publisher has posted an ad on craigslist, looking for fakers to autograph books for two bestselling authors. The audacity! (Thanks again to Dave Lull.)

David Sedaris offends anti-smoking folks,

and other funny things happen in this short piece on book signings and comic exaggeration. (Thanks to Dave Lull for passing this on.) 

A few days ago

I read an interview with Rebecca Miller (who I can't help but feel is a little overrated as a fiction writer although I am basing this opinion entirely on her book of short stories, Personal Velocity, and I DO plan to read her new novel, The Private Lives of Pippa Lee), in which she said she'd recently enjoyed Arlington Park by Rachel Cusk, and now I'm reading it, and yeesh, I'd say it's scary-good.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Urban legends, steampunk-style.

Well, it's not steampunk, more like actual Victoriana. Has anyone else heard of Spring-Heeled Jack? I've been listening to Morrissey today (as you do), and although I've heard the song "Spring-Heeled Jim" 200,000 times in my life it occurred to me for the first time to wonder about its title: Is it a reference to something from history or literature, as so many lyrics of his are? I guess in a way it's both, because looking online I have been reading about old Jack, who was apparently a penny dreadful character and a scary man-like creature that some people claimed was real. Apparently he could jump really high and liked to terrorize and assault people on the street. If you look at the drawing of him, which appears clearer in the wikipedia entry, get ready for the fright of your life.

I've been working on an anthology

that I finally finished this weekend. It's called The House You Grew Up In, it's a collection of 17 short pieces of writing on that topic, and I published it as a zine. Our own Frank Wilson has a touching piece in it, and the poet Rane Arroyo contributed a beautiful short essay. All the writing is really very good. Steve Larder, a talented artist from the UK, made some absolutely great looking drawings for it. Have a look, why dontcha. Buy a copy, even.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Christopher Hitchens on....

......the powerful appeal of the stories of Saki.

Praising it new

Adam Kirsch gives high marks to an anthology of New Criticism.

The Radioheads!

I saw Radiohead play the Camden waterfront last night. It was a beautiful night and the band sounded incredible. (The Radioheads is a long-standing joke I have with my sister. I think that every time I've seen them play I've gone with her.) Dan DeLuca reviewed the show for the Inquirer. (Hat tip, the sister.)

Listening to the show last night I was reminded of a "literary mix tape" I made for our own Frank Wilson earlier this summer. The idea was to make a collection of rock songs that make references to books, poems, writers, and so on. Radiohead made it on there with a song from their most recent album, In Rainbows, called "Faust Arp." Others included "Billy Budd" by Morrissey and Sinead O'Connor's The Lamb's Book of Life, in which she paraphrases lines from Yeats' "Remorse for Intemperate Speech." The name of that last one sounds dull, I know, but anyone who knows the poem knows it sure isn't. Anyone else have favorite lit'ry pop songs ?

What are you reading?

Philadelphia Weekly asked a bunch of people, one of whom was me, what they're reading this summer. I was totally okay with admitting to reading Slash's autobiography (Slash, naturally), among other things. What are you all reading?

Saturday, August 09, 2008

The art of poetry...

... two interviews with Richard Wilbur. (Hat tip, David Stearns.)

Calling Wallace Stevens ...

... Southern Florida Community Overrun by Peacocks. (Fixed, thanks to Dave Lull.)

They need to ponder Domination of Black.

Desultory blogging ...

... while I have still have internet access. We are here. We stop here routinely in our way to and from Tunkhannock. The drive yesterday was awful. 309 on a Friday afternoon is slower than downtown Philadelphia. I must study the county roads.

Delightful ...

... An online Dating Service Profile.

Keep checking ...

... Petrona.

Be on the lookout ...

... Melville escapes.

A sad case ...

... Allan Massie reflects on Malcolm Lowry. (Fixed, thanks to Dave Lull.)

On this date ...

... in 1922, Philip Larkin was born. This post by Patrick Kurp is nice way of remembering him:
`A Serious House on Serious Earth'. Hat tip, Dave Lull.)


See also Birthday Boy.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Farewell ...

... for a while.

By the time this post appears, Debbie and I will be in Jim Thorpe, PA. On Sunday we will arrive at the cabin in Vosburg Neck where we will spend the next couple of weeks. Possibly a little, but probably no blogging until after we return on Aug. 25. My blogging partners are likely to post in the meantime, but they all have day jobs.

Until later, my best to all.

Specialité de l'universe ..

... We are special. Take it from a University of Guelph astrophysicist. (Hat tip, Judith Fitzgerald.)

A chat with ...

... Mary Beard. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

No idiot's delight ...

... Dostoevsky inside out.

Sic transit ...

... Suddenly being green is not cool any more.

Period piece ...

... Six Flags Over Woodstock. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

"... its target market is all too clearly those aging hippies who, like Talleyrand's Bourbons, have learned nothing and forgotten nothing."

Thank God, I am immune to nostalgia.

Unspoiled ...

... East Village, Before the Gentry. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I regret to say that my own neighborhood is being steadily gentrified. Who knows how long it will be before they'll want me to move out.

This week's batch ...

... of TLS Letters.

Calling all readers ...

... The Reading Experience Database 1450-1945. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Time and chance ...

... happeneth to them all: Chance saves Jerzy Kosinski (1969).

Irreverent and demotic ...

... Mick Imlah: master of versification.

The debate continues ...

... Reading, Concentration, and Change: A 2nd Reply to Kevin Kelly. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

"We find it harder and harder to concentrate in the ways we used to. "

I have not noticed this about myself. But then I am selective in my use of technology. I don't have a Blackberry. I don' have a cell phone. I rarely watch TV. (That to Dave for pointing out that I left out the "not".)

Thursday, August 07, 2008

A 1963 review ...

... of One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich.

Unlikely hip dude ...

... Emperor Hadrian, YouTube hero.

R.I.P. ...

... Simon Gray: rakish and versatile playwright.

... An interview: Bringing the House Down. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The revolution ...

... marches on: The Digital Pen That Will Change How You Take Notes.

I guess it's an improvement. I always took minimal notes in college - just a phrase to help me recall what was being said, because I have a good memory and for that reason would actually pay attention to what was being said. I noticed that those who took copious notes often did less well on tests. I figured it was because concentrating on taking notes kept them from concentrating on the lecture.

In the clear ...

... ‘Ulysses’ Reaches A Safe Harbor (1934).

Related posts ...

... You Still Can't Write About Muhammad.

... Apparently, The Terrorists Planned to Spam Random House's Servers. (Hat tip, Dave Lull for both.)


... links and comments by Glenn Reynolds.

I've been too busy to pay attention to this, and I'm too mentally tired to try to get a handle on it to comment. But nobody needs me to help them think.

Much in what he says ...

... or maybe not enough. Or maybe it just needs to be rearranged: LIVING WITH NEGATIVE CAPABILITY. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)
... Montaigne, a sceptic who probably had no religious beliefs himself but who used his scepticism to leave open a window to faith.


This is nonsense, which leads me to wonder what exactly it is Professor Gray doesn't understand - Montaigne or faith or both. He should read Donald Frame's biography.

Living with what Keats called 'negative capability' - 'in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason' - requires more nerve. That is why Holloway's approach to questions of faith is so admirable. It is also, I fear, why it will not catch on. Weak religion can never be popular ...


What he and Holloway call weak religion is what I would call sound religion. It is certainly what mine is and it fits Newman's understanding of faith as making us capable of bearing doubt. As for being popular, well it was Jesus who advised entering through the narrow gate. But the point isn't popularity; it's quality. Jesus thought of his followers as the salt of the earth - scattered grains seasoning the whole.

If he says so ...

... Clive Sinclair's top 10 westerns.

I don't know enough to judge.

Rather than miss any ...

... just go to Petrona and scroll.

I hope there's some fuss ...

... Fatal Fluency.

Fabulous ...

... On Having Nothing To Say.

And saying it perfectly! That's our Nige.

Readable and funny ...

... a pair of comic novels. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

R.I.P. ...

... PAULINE BAYNES: QUEEN OF NARNIA AND MIDDLE-EARTH. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Drive, he said ...

... Flash, flash, poop, poop.

I had been wondering about Peter's whereabouts.

R.I.P. ...

... Longtime Missouri poet, Charles Guenther, dies at 88.

... Saluting a life in poetry.

(Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Better and better ...

... Wallace Stevens the Inexhaustible.

Blogging hiatus ...

I am actually back in my old place at The Inquirer toiling away on a roundup of books for the fall preview issue. So blogging is going to have to be light until I find some time to do it.

Sorry, he said ...

... ‘Rabbie’ Burns Stands for Fornication (1786).

Made for each other ...

... Andy Warhol and Gertrude Stein.

Contempt in reserve ...

... Evelyn Waugh Revisited. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Miracle beverage ...

... Sorting Out Coffee’s Contradictions.

Wonder when people are going to stop and think about how many of the "health hazards" the media has droned on about over the years were phony.

Lost world ...

... `A Slow-Moving Tapestry'.

Perelman would not recognize that part of Bucks County now.

O very young ....

... The Virginia Quarterly Review’s “Young Reviewers Contest”.

Interesting discussion ...

... "A solemn thriller is really rather a bore": Raymond Chandler speaks; Ian Fleming listens. (Hat tip, Paul Davis.)

Pick a peck ...

... The Power of Peter Piper: How alliteration enhances poetry, prose, and memory.
(Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

More on death ...

... What Will Suffice. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Sounds good ...

... or maybe not: Listen to What You're Editing.

Au courant ...

... Introducing a New 'E&P' Feature on the New 'New Journalism'.
(Hat tip, Paul Davis.)

Head trips ...

... From Words Without Borders: The Influence of Anxiety: Writings on Psychiatry.

Stephen King and the Web ...

... 'N.' ... plus one. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Alternate story ...

... Nobel Prize winner imagines her parents' lives without World War I.

Perfect move ...

... Saved by the book. (Hat tip, Lee Lowe.)

More correspondence ...

... So I Have Thought of You: the Letters of Penelope Fitzgerald. (Hat tip, Judith Fitzgerald, who is not, so far as I know, related.)

Literate actor ...

... Dirk Bogarde's letters - part one. (Hat tip, Judith Fitzgerald.)

Bogarde's memoirs are worth reading. He wrote with style. Hey, he had style.

Check out ...

... Where Are the Frogs? (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Well deserved ...

... and well done: Conrad Aiken: An Appreciation.

Roll deep ...

... An interview with Luc Sante. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Posthumous security ...

... Why Raymond Carver's legacy keeps on growing. (Hat tip, Judith Fitzgerald.)

Literary IPO ...

... Penniless author sells shares in next novel. (Hat tip, Judith Fitzgerald, who says that potential investors in her next book may leave contact information here.)

The finish line ...

... On Death.
A readiness to die is, as Solzhenitsyn notes, rare in a materialist society. But it is a very healthy thing - not just in self-defence, but also as the primary aspect of nobility.
Indeed.

Rediscovery ...

... Ed Champion looks at The Novels of John P. Marquand.

Edmund Wilson probably preferred Sinclair Lewis because Lewis was more obviously didactic than Marquand. Wilson seems not to have noticed that Marquand was by far the better writer. Of course, I happen to think that Wilson himself is over-rated.

Nativity ...

... Giving birth to a book.

Quite a twofer ...

... Melville Climbs A Mountain And Catches A Whale (1850).

Today is Conrad Aiken's birthday. He is a most unjustly neglected poet. Here is

MORNING SONG OF SENLIN
(from "Senlin, A Biography")

by: Conrad Aiken (1889-1973)

      T is morning, Senlin says, and in the morning
      When the light drips through the shutters like the dew,
      I arise, I face the sunrise,
      And do the things my fathers learned to do.
      Stars in the purple dusk above the rooftops
      Pale in a saffron mist and seem to die,
      And I myself on a swiftly tilting planet
      Stand before a glass and tie my tie.

      Vine leaves tap my window,
      Dew-drops sing to the garden stones,
      The robin chips in the chinaberry tree
      Repeating three clear tones.

      It is morning. I stand by the mirror
      And tie my tie once more.
      While waves far off in a pale rose twilight
      Crash on a white sand shore.
      I stand by a mirror and comb my hair:
      How small and white my face!--
      The green earth tilts through a sphere of air
      And bathes in a flame of space.
      There are houses hanging above the stars
      And stars hung under a sea. . .
      And a sun far off in a shell of silence
      Dapples my walls for me. . .

      It is morning, Senlin says, and in the morning
      Should I not pause in the light to remember God?
      Upright and firm I stand on a star unstable,
      He is immense and lonely as a cloud.
      I will dedicate this moment before my mirror
      To him alone, and for him I will comb my hair.
      Accept these humble offerings, cloud of silence!
      I will think of you as I descend the stair.

      Vine leaves tap my window,
      The snail-track shines on the stones,
      Dew-drops flash from the chinaberry tree
      Repeating two clear tones.

      It is morning, I awake from a bed of silence,
      Shining I rise from the starless waters of sleep.
      The walls are about me still as in the evening,
      I am the same, and the same name still I keep.
      The earth revolves with me, yet makes no motion,
      The stars pale silently in a coral sky.
      In a whistling void I stand before my mirror,
      Unconcerned, I tie my tie.

      There are horses neighing on far-off hills
      Tossing their long white manes,
      And mountains flash in the rose-white dusk,
      Their shoulders black with rains. . .

      It is morning. I stand by the mirror
      And surprise my soul once more;
      The blue air rushes above my ceiling,
      There are suns beneath my floor. . .

      . . . It is morning, Senlin says, I ascend from darkness
      And depart on the winds of space for I know not where,
      My watch is wound, a key is in my pocket,
      And the sky is darkened as I descend the stair.
      There are shadows across the windows, clouds in heaven,
      And a god among the stars; and I will go
      Thinking of him as I might think of daybreak
      And humming a tune I know. . .

      Vine-leaves tap at the window,
      Dew-drops sing to the garden stones,
      The robin chirps in the chinaberry tree
      Repeating three clear tones.

More life ...

... after death: Posthumous Confusions.

Live Not By Lies ...

... Carlin Romano on Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: Truth-telling Solzhenitsyn remained great to the end.

Widening the literary conversation ...

... On becoming a blurb.

Monday, August 04, 2008

OD'ing on the ego pills ...

... THE REAL CRISIS IN BOOK REVIEWING ...

Indeed so ...

... It’s time Booker Judges told us how they make their minds up.

Thoughts out of season ...

... Solzhenitsyn's 1978 Harvard Address.

I have spent all my life under a communist regime and I will tell you that a society without any objective legal scale is a terrible one indeed. But a society with no other scale but the legal one is not quite worthy of man either. A society which is based on the letter of the law and never reaches any higher is taking very scarce advantage of the high level of human possibilities. The letter of the law is too cold and formal to have a beneficial influence on society. Whenever the tissue of life is woven of legalistic relations, there is an atmosphere of moral mediocrity, paralyzing man's noblest impulses.


Legal frames (especially in the United States) are broad enough to encourage not only individual freedom but also certain individual crimes. The culprit can go unpunished or obtain undeserved leniency with the support of thousands of public defenders. When a government starts an earnest fight against terrorism, public opinion immediately accuses it of violating the terrorists' civil rights.
What sort of responsibility does a journalist have to his readers, or to history? If they have misled public opinion or the government by inaccurate information or wrong conclusions, do we know of any cases of public recognition and rectification of such mistakes by the same journalist or the same newspaper? No, it does not happen, because it would damage sales. A nation may be the victim of such a mistake, but the journalist always gets away with it.
Having experienced applied socialism in a country where the alternative has been realized, I certainly will not speak for it. The well-known Soviet mathematician Shafarevich, a member of the Soviet Academy of Science, has written a brilliant book under the title Socialism; it is a profound analysis showing that socialism of any type and shade leads to a total destruction of the human spirit and to a leveling of mankind into death.
To defend oneself, one must also be ready to die; there is little such readiness in a society raised in the cult of material well-being. Nothing is left, then, but concessions, attempts to gain time and betrayal.


See also this.

Chronicler of bibliomania ...

... The Bookman. ( Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Maxine marches on ...

... 8: The Scent of the Night.

... 9: Losing You.

In the New Haven Review ...

... high praise for Kay Ryan's spindly, aphoristic poetry - and more; keep scrolling.

Perennial chuckles ...

... Flatulence joke is world's oldest. (Hat tip, Judith Fitzgerald, who also informs me that "Marshall McLuhan considered detective fiction the highest form of literature and jokes the be-all bend-all of intelligent discourse, especially puns." Sounds reasonable to me.)

Happy birthday ...

... Louis: Listening to Louis Armstrong.

Never too late ...

... for Medieval Shark Week: “Ipse galeos, O cara, bellos dentes habet…”

I've known this ...

... all my life: Sleep on It: How Snoozing Makes You Smarter.

Remembering Solzhenitsyn ...

... Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn, R.I.P. (Hat tip, Paul Davis.)

Check out ...

... some new Short Fiction.

Good advice ...

... Jumpstarting the Juices by Angie Ledbetter.

Be scared ...

... be very scared (just kidding): John Milton Rises From The Grave (1790).

Today's must read ...

... Thought Experiment. (I just checked one of my email accounts, and see that Dave Lull not only sent me a link to Bryan's post, but also thought I might have something to say about it.)

As I have said before, journalism lures one into an illusion of knowledge which, as the years go by, is increasingly undermined by one's increasing awareness of great ignorance.


This is true, but only of really good journalists like Bryan. And really good journalists are, of course, in the minority.

If he were to say 'I have a pain', then his accuracy would be unchallengeable by any authority, even though, as Wittgenstein pointed out, the grammar of the sentence is wrong; it should be something like, 'There is a pain in the room.'


Wittgenstein may have pointed this out, but that doesn't make it true. And I don't think it is true.

It is necessary to act as if truth is possible. This is a form of faith and, I suspect, the reason the personal has become so fashionable is because people find such faith increasingly hard or unacceptable. The personal, in short, is the secular.


Brilliant.

Go with it, Minx ...

... Weird!!

I once heard Peter Straub explain that these are moments writers be on the alert for - and that should always follow where they lead.

A good way ...

... to start the day: `To Exalt the Present and the Real'.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Time warp ...

... Lippard like Shakespeare.

Holy Beckmesser ...

... A Radical Meistersinger.

R.I.P. ...

... Alexander Solzhenitsyn dies at 89.

... Nobel laureate Alexander Solzhenitsyn dead.

... a fuller obituary from the Boston Globe: Alexander Solzhenitsyn dies at 89.

... the Times of London: Last struggle is over for Nobel laureate Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.

Scary classics ...

... Psychological Crime Novels. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The Lodger was made into a good movie,

Again, I forgot ...

... Richardson disses ‘Tom Jones’.

One-way ticket ...

... Americans lured to Communist Russia's 'workers' paradise' lived to regret it.

It certainly can be ...

... Hearing Is Believing. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Well, yes ...

... Great British Watercolors. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Pathetic ...

... this may explain more about the decline of newspapers than anything else I've seen: AngryJournalist.com.

Everytime I turn in an article, I turn in clean copy with no errors, just to have my editors f*** with it and add grammitical and style errors.

These new kids pray to the altimate pagen for thanks in the internet. Because, without the internet, nobody would talk to them.
Hmm.

A fresh look ...

... at the New Critics: When Lit-Crit Mattered. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The New Critics were still in the ascendancy when I was in college, but their advocates tended sometimes toward the overbearing. Still, I learned a lot from it (though what is "The Intentional Fallacy" other than a turgid explication of D.H. Lawrence's admonition to trust the story, not the storyteller?). But a poem is not a lab specimen; it is a portal to life.

Hooray for short fiction ...

... Wolff at the door.

Pseudo-history ...

... and its perils: Can't See the Wood for the Factoids.

Thanks to a long-deceased governor - Gifford Pinchot, who was himself a forester - Pennsylvania's state forests are among the best managed on the planet.

Nor mine ...

... The Books That Did Not Change My Life.

Off the top of my head I'd say that the book that has had the greatest influence in my life was Mother Goose. The rhymes caught my fancy immediately and the verbal sound effects I think is what led to my interest in poetry. Poe, of course, further encouraged this. Keats sealed it.

O for a draught of vintage! that hath been
Cool'd a long age in the deep-delvèd earth,
Tasting of Flora and the country-green,
Dance, and Provençal song, and sunburnt mirth!
O for a beaker full of the warm South!

Maxine ...

... on 7: The Thirteenth Tale.

I loved that book.

Plea bargaining ...

... Apollinaire and Picasso in the dock.

Could it be?

... Jeff: Has He Lost It?

Calling all poets ...

... The Times Literary Supplement Poetry Competition 2008.

Wasting away ...

... On Being Thin.

As long as Bryan feels good, more power to him. I weigh more than I did 20 years ago - though not much more - but I've always thought it was not be a good idea to weigh the same as I did when I was a youth. I am also fascinated (appalled?) by those gaunt and harried-looking men my age trying desperately (or so it seems to me) to stay in competition with guys half their age. Bear in mind, my doctor tells me I'm quite healthy (perhaps I should worry about that). I can walk the 2.2 miles from here to The Inquirer in about 35 minutes and not be remotely out of breath. In the long run, though, I will be dead.

May their tribe decrease ...

... The Trolls Among Us. (Hat tip, Lee Lowe and Dave Lull.)

Quite possibly ...

... An Overlooked Literary Genius? (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The art of storytelling is definitely underrated. It is, like the art of poetry, something one either has or doesn't. You can learn how to write verse, but poetry is a gift. So is storytelling.

Down, Rover ...

... Taming the criticism beast. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Thanks to Lee for the kind words and even kinder dedication.

Protestant Bond ...

... 007, licensed to pray.

Today's Inquirer reviews ...

... I size up John Banville's latest Benjamin Black opus: Irish novelist returns to action mode.
Note: The following paragraph should be in italic - and was when I sent it in; it's a quote from the book:
His reports on Northern Ireland during the Troubles, on the massacre in Tiananmen Square, on the Rwandan genocide, on the intifada, on the bloody afternoon in Srebrenica, not so much reports as extended and passionate jeremiads - there would be no more of them. Something had ceased in him, a light had been extinguished, he did not know why.

... Randall Miller looks at The abandoned Catholics.

... Caroline Berson ponders Warrier Girls: For their sports, women play hard but hurt harder.

... finally, this from AP:
Trying to be a good man, facing penance again.

I love dinosaurs,

and I love this guy's web comic. The pictures are always exactly the same. Genius.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Uh-oh ...

... we forgot this: ‘Middlemarch’ and ‘Karamazov’ - together at last!

Now there would be a couple: Mary Ann Evans and Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

Font encounters ...

... A Confrontation of Fonts.

Unlikely pair ...

... The Two Mr. Banvilles. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The dark wild forest ...

... of English: From A to Zyxt. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

PostSecret,

the website that posts pictures of postcards people have sent to Frank Warren, the site's creator, revealing their "secrets" (without revealing their identities) has been turned into a book and a tour and a whole big deal. They just announced new tour dates. I've heard of kids pranking this thing and I have to wonder how many of the secrets are fakes.

A follow up ...

... Templar Baloney Revisited.

And

I also just downloaded the new Nine Inch Nails album for free from the band's website. It too has been released into the world under a Creative Commons license (this one). Thank you, Internet! Thank you, Trent!

Whoa,

this looks interesting. There is a festival of online performances called UpStage taking place on August 8-9. I haven't heard of this before but according to the website UpStage is an open source server application that allows you to watch and interact with other people's performances live on a web page, without downloading any special software (you just need a Flash player plug-in or whatever). You can also download the program for free and use it to make your own art pieces, though I don't know what creating said pieces actually means in practical terms; I'll have to try it myself and see. I like this too because it's licensed under a Creative Commons copyright! Fight the power!

Together ...

... Charles Bukowski



and Tom Waits



Who says this Old Tory ain't hip.

Reality Too ...

... for July.

Oops ...

... Kafkaesque story morphs badly.

I don't know who derekcatermole is, but as someone who has edited Ed Champion, let me say that Ed's prose is never turgid, reviews are expected to have a point of view (which does not make them tendentious), and where the hell is the pomposity?