Friday, October 31, 2008

More to afright you ...

... The top 10 ghost stories. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I haven't read the M.R. James in years, so I think I'll get it out for tonight. "The Monkey's Paw" scared the hell out of me when I was a kid.

The doctor did it ...

... ‘How Dylan actually died’. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

It seems to me an earlier biography brought this up as well, while noting that Thomas asked for the morphine and that the doctor simply gave him what he wanted (which is no excuse). At any rate he downed eight doubles, which is 16 shots - not far off the 18 claimed (unless he was claiming 18 doubles). The question is how long was he at the bar. I've downed eight doubles on many more than one occasion. A shot is 1.5 ounces. So a double is 3 ounces. Eight doubles comes to about a fifth. Any half-decent drunk can knock that much off in an afternoon. So I doubt if the drink alone did him in.

More sad news ...

... Chicago Author, Activist Studs Terkel Dies at 96. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Here's your chance ...

... to participate in a most interesting experiment in close reading: The Golden Notebook Project.

Quote of the day ...

Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans—born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage—and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this Nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.3
Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.
John F. Kennedy Inaugural Address

Lots of scary stuff ...

... over at The Bibliothecary. Just keep scrolling.

Sounds like my self ...

... The Irresponsible Self: On Laughter and the Novel — James Wood.

Ongoing Poe mystery ...

... A Piece of the Poe Puzzle Presents Itself! (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Ed Pettit better get to work.

Be very scared ...

... Once Improbable James Bond Villains Now Close To Real Thing, Spy Researcher Says. (Hat tip, Paul Davis.)

Happy Halloween ...

... “Going to a party where no one’s still alive…”

Jeff also sent along this: The Cremation of Sam McGee.

At the Phillies parade ...

Reading calculus ...

... "When years come upon you, you will find that poring over books will be an irksome task." (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Housewife ...

... From Judith's O Clytaemnestra!

Civil service ...

... Faulkner Goes Postal (1924).

Sad news ...

... William Wharton, Author, Dies at 82.

A reminder ...

... Noir at the Bar with Jonathan Maberry this Sunday, Nov. 2.

Post bumped.

Just about right ...

... The Reel Thing.

I couldn't agree more about Rain Man. What a god-awful movie. And I think Mad magazine nailed Kramer vs. Kramer with its parody: Crymore vs. Crymore. I don't find The Seventh Seal ponderous, but I do think he's right about Les Enfant du Paradis and Fred MacMurray (how about Fred in The Apartment?).
Then there's this:
The college seniors in a UCLA seminar I recently taught fancy themselves sophisticated filmgoers, but haven’t seen Grand Illusion, Chinatown, or a single John Ford, Cary Grant, or Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movie. Urbane newspaper readers, as Thomson bemoans, deem Cinema Paradiso the best foreign-language movie ever made—because they’ve seen it, and don’t know its betters (“if you haven’t read much else, then Ian Fleming’s Goldfinger may be the best book you’ve ever read”).
I have long worried that many among the young, thanks to poor instruction in history and geography, cannot properly orient themselves in time and space. (I know: I'm sounding old and cranky. Well, I am old.)

Keats and Vermeer ...

... Two Greats.

Water and stone ...

Lost, but found ...

... Duke Anthropologist Translates Poems Lost During Holocaust. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Booktown ...

... Sidney, B.C., is a destination for book lovers. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

A suite of poems ...

... compiled by Rus Bowden:

Mirror by Sylvia Plath.

The Patience of Ordinary Things by Pat Schneider.

Prodigy by Charles Simic.

The Parting Shot by Simon Armitage.

Alba by W.S. Merwin.

Nasty ...

... Translating Zbigniew Herbert. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Quote, unquote ...

... Pro Or Con Quotation Marks. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

It won't be long now ...

... Circumcision Jewish Conspiracy Theory.

These are good ...

... Roger's little rule book. (Hat tip, Ed Champion.)

"Famously reinterpretable ..."

... Who wrote the original Frankenstein?

In time for Halloween ...

... Ghost Tales. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

An epicure of lettters ...

... on `Spiritual Repasts'.

Useful advice ...

... Tips on how to run a successful used book Sale. Audio Interview with Beryl Barr.

A man of conviction ...

... Richard Dawkins embarrassed after death and subsequent resurrection. (Hat tip, Ed Pettit.)

This week's batch ...

... of TLS Letters.

Not what it used to be ...

... death, that is: Traditional Gravestones, RIP. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

My hope is that, when I die, no one thinks, let alone inscribes in stone, that I am at last fulfilling my potential.

Mine, too, I guess.

Finding depth ...

... in a willed blindness: With eyes wide shut. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

I have been reading Martory's book. Not quite sure what to make of it yet. As indicated here there are some brilliant sparks for sure.

One headline's power ...

... Best Head of the ‘70s (1975).

Yes, the Dow was down 12 points that day. But the Dow itself was below 600. At the moment it's 9220.51. Quite a spread, that.

Corespondents and correspondences ...

... Works on Paper: The letters of Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell. (Hat tips to Dave Lull and Rus Bowden.)

Vowell about that ...

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

I thought Rimbaud said, as it were, the last word on Vowels.

Touring with Maxine ...

... A morning in Tewkesbury.

What a fortunate fellow John Reid seems to have been.

How very sad ...

... Her life is a story too short.

... and this is simply heartbreaking: SHERRI By JOHN MARK EBERHART

(Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

If so ...

... they are good signs: Signs of the Times. I confess to having liked tinned corned beef, but then I was a little kid during World War II. I also liked Spam.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Crime on the coffee table ...

... Detroit noir. (Hat tip, Paul Davis.)

Good news ...

... in my neighborhood. Father Gerald Carey, the new pastor of my parish, has scheduled a sung Latin Mass for the Eve of All Souls Day, which is this Saturday. This will not be the Tridentine Mass, but it is a good way getting parishioners acquainted with the Latin text. (As the link in this earlier post indicates, "the new order of mass, promulgated by Pope Paul VI after the Second Vatican Council, was originally meant to be usually in Latin ...")
As Father Carey noted in a recent parish bulletin, "we have seen a great resurgence of interest in Gregorian Chant especially with the recordings of the monks of Santo Domingo de Silos. Many people both old and young are attracted to it because of its simplicity, beauty and timeless quality. One of the things that have been lamented though is that it is rarely heard anymore in the place where it belongs, that is, the Catholic Mass. While Chant can be therapeutic for many, above all it is first and foremost sung prayer ... (italics mine).
So if you are in the area Saturday, the Mass will be at 5. Remember, this is the church in the Italian Market. There are plenty of good reasons to visit here on a Saturday. St. Paul's is on Christian Street, betweem Ninth and 10th Streets.

Come one, come all ...

... to BookFestWindsor 2008.

Bear in mind, this blog is now a joint Canadian-American venture!

Art and landscape ...

On Saturday, Debbie and I visited a sculpture garden near Alloway, N.J., which features work by two friends. I took shots of the work and plan to post some over the next few days.


Equinox by Daniel Gantenbein


Couple by David Tothero

An election feature ...

... Howard Nemerov on Poetry and Politics.

Why, I was just chatting ...

... with this gentleman. Carlin Romano declares a truce: In literary studies, a culture-war armistice. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Comparing ...

... The Dylans.

I don't go quite as gaga over the younger Dylan as many others do, though I like his stuff well enough. The older Dylan, however, is known to have worked long and hard to achieve his spontaneous-seeming effects. The poem Brit links to is indeed excellent.

Old ordering ...

... still best: The invisible art and craft of indexing. (Hat tip, Dave Lull - who should know.)

BBC declares ...

... It's OK to Hate James Bond.

Gorgeous ...

... An Encounter With the Sublime. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

A singular subject ...

... Gwen John's forgotten scholar. (Below is a Gwen John interior.)


Speaking of Christopher Walken ...

... here is the scene that has my favorite Christopher Walken line.

Golden Poe ...

... The Ten most expensive Edgar Allan Poe books ever sold on AbeBooks.

Click on the link to hear Christopher Walken read "The Raven."

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Well, she's honest ...

... and I think she has the true scientific spirit: SOLO SCIENCE: TINKERING OUTSIDE THE TOWER. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I remember coming upon an article of hers - I may even have linked to it - in which she seemed to advance an ontological proof for the existence of memes, which I found unpersuasive. And it may be me, but what's the big deal about memory being stored in the brain? Documents are stored in file cabinets. The nature of the file cabinet has nothing to do with the content of the documents. Neither does the brain determine the nature or the content of memory. What is being recorded and stored in both instances is thought, but the recording and the storage are separate and distinct from the thought being recorded and stored.

Library ghosts ...

... in Dave's neck of the woods: Midwestern U.S.

... and in these parts: Northeastern U.S.

Getting to know ...

... our very own Judith Fitzgerald: The Writing on the Wall.

Greetings from ...

... Scott and Zelda. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

A kind commenter passes along this link, where you can hear the real Scott: Now on CD: library's treasure trove of authorial voices.

Post bumped.

Star of the precinct ...

... 'French Connection' tops cop-film poll.

Catch up ...

... on Corduroy Mansions.

Nigel's dealt a pair ...

... Canada hosts the two best Author Festivals in the World.

Old books ...

... best books, C.S. Lewis argues. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Nothing strikes me more when I read the controversies of past ages than the fact that both sides were usually assuming without question a good deal which we should now absolutely deny. They thought that they were as completely opposed as two sides could be, but in fact they were all the time secretly united—united with each other and against earlier and later ages—by a great mass of common assumptions. We may be sure that the characteristic blindness of the twentieth century—the blindness about which posterity will ask, "But how could they have thought that?"—lies where we have never suspected it ...
This, of course, is where The Black Swan is especially pertinent. Our unknown unknowns about ourselves are what get us in trouble.

Rumors of decease ...

... evidently exaggerated: Churchill area: fall aerial survey found a record high number of polar bears.

Mark your calendar, Texans ...

... and anybody else who can make the Texas Book Festival.

I'll second this ...

... Of outlaws and deconstructionists. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

"... love is more than an inventory of its parts." Indeed.

Another vacationer ...

... Bryan, pleading weariness, is taking a break from his blog. Brit will be filling in. I link to Transhumanism 3: Because somebody is wrong on the internet in order to draw your attention to the comment by Peter Burnet, with which I agree: "As much as you talk about conquering death, I get the sense this is really about preserving eternal youth and carefree irresponsibility--the Peter Pan syndrome."

A good question ...

... Is Maxine about to join Henry?

You have to scroll down a bit for Maxine's comment, but on the way you can catch John Cleese's touching eulogy for Graham Chapman. (I would have beaten Richard to that proposal, by the way, but I already knew that Malcolm had got there first. Drat!)

Not over yet ...

... The greatest story still being told.

“Even now…I seek the churches in which there is no service in progress, preferring to wander in wistful silences than to mouth words which aren’t quite sayable,” Julian says.
This sounds to me like the beginning of faith. We have a craving for certainty. Beliefs provide an illusion of certainty. Faith enables us to live with uncertainty. This is good, because there is little we can be certain of in this mutable world.

In absentia ...

... Judith has extended her vacation because of odds and ends that continue to demand her attention. So, to make up for her absence, I thought I'd post some of her poems from time to time until she returns. Here is

Elegy Written in a December State of Mind

Four in the morning, unfortunately. December
dissolves in some meterological memory of which
I know little. I want to know. I want to understand
anything; understand how my life goes quite leisurely
on . . . Yours does not. Anyhow, a lack of rain wreaks
dreadful havoc with skin and time, with scales
and such, with myths. It rained the day we sat
on the patio in some upscale bar where we traded
downscale dreams. I wanted the south; you loved
the north. That balanced us, encompassed.
We knew directions. Had no need of maps.

Valéry? "A poem's worth is its content
of pure poetry." Some call us weird; some call
us from terrains we inhabit intimately —
ultimately. Still no rain, no snow. A high-
pressure zone. Goddamn it, Gwen! What happened
to the instrument discovered; pointing beyond
those excoriating years when, after learning
the futility of bottle as prop, we dreamed
deliriously of transportation? Nights we
discussed perfect mates. All you wanted :
A love without dissolution — Complete
surrender. Complete control — A destination
in itself. Now, the mist is a blanket of doom . . .

I root here; turn stone cold; try to recall "extra-
ordinary truths of perfect adaptations." A claw
clutches edges of voice explaining unrelenting
applause of hacksaw violating chest, assorted details,
image indelibly vibrant. This raw senselessness —
anaesthetic consciousness, sheer black hue. This world —
neither various, beautiful, nor new, presses on. I knew
a woman "of apparent and convincing probability
in the production of the improbable," a beautiful shy swimmer
and also, a swan. Beyond this fog?
Mist. Rain. Fragile demon flags.

"Elegy Written in a December State of Mind,"
Ultimate Midnight (Windsor: Black Moss Press, 1992).
© 1992-2008 Judith Fitzgerald. All Rights Reserved.

A song for our times ...

... Time For A Sing-Song.

I have noted before the doom and gloom that has become the stock in trade of the media. We live in a time when you go down the street and buy the eardrops that would have saved Oscar Wilde's life and we go around moping as if the Black Death were ravaging the land.

Poem of the week ...

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

Monday, October 27, 2008

A heartsong of mercy ...

... Love letters of happiness. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

In defense of Bond ...

... Much Tutting, Bluster. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Almost missed this ...

... Today is Dylan Thomas's birthday: News from Cwmdonkin Drive.

Nige is largely right. Thomas was not simply a windbag, but a great one. And he does fit the popular image of "poet" - drunk and disorderly. That said, the voice can still cast a spell (though a friend once noted that you can read the telephone directory that way and it will sound like poetry). Here he is reading Do Not Go Gentle Into That God Night.

Old will do ...

... Oldster? Terms are old and outdated. (Hat tip, Paul Davis.)

I can't say I like to think about it, but I am no longer young. To say that I am middle-aged would be a stretch. So I guess I must be old. And it is likely that sometime within the next 20 years I will die. That's the way it is.

New life ...

... for dead tree media: Newspaper Wood. (Hat tip, Jim Carmin.)

Overdue re-appreciation ...

... Shtetl Moderne. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

It's good, too ...

... A Piece of Advice. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I have lately been spending part of each day with Augustine's Confessions and Pascal's Pensées. Book X of the Confessions is astoundingly contemporary. Don't read any of the stuff in the media about brain science without taking a look at what Augustine, 15 hundred years ago, had to say about the mind.

This week's ...

... Philly Lit Scene.

Speaking of Calvin ...

... Michael Servertus and the Fatal Book Review.

Interpretive minnow ...

... AN Wilson on Moby-Dick - a modern tragedy. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

To think of Moby-Dick in terms of the current financial unrest is symptomatic of the shallowness of much contemporary thought. That "team of blameless hangers-on" had earlier solemnly sworn "death to Moby-Dick!" Even Starbuck puts aside his reservations at the end. And to equate the Pequod with America is to reduce the book to a sociopolitical cliche.
Ahab is best understood as a consistent Calvinist who has concluded that God is neither loving nor merciful. Being an honest man, he proceeds accordingly. Darwin grand idea would have stirred not a ripple of doubt in Ahab: A world of random mutation would have struck Ahab as just the sort a Calvinist God would have made.

A new blog ...

... Here and Now. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

A great poet died on this date ...

... in 1991: George Barker.


O Who Will Speak From a Womb or a Cloud?

Not less light shall the gold and the green lie
On the cyclonic curl and diamonded eye, than
Love lay yesterday on the breast like a beast.
Not less light shall God tread my maze of nerve
Than that great dread of tomorrow drove over
My maze of days. Not less terrible that tread
Stomping upon your grave than I shall tread there.
Who is a god to haunt the tomb but Love?

Therefore I shall be there at morning and midnight,
Not with a straw in my hair and a tear as Ophelia
Floating along my sorrow, but I shall come with
The cabala of things, the cipher of nature, so that
With the mere flounce of a bird's feather crest
I shall speak to you where you sit in all trees,
Where you conspire with all things that are dead.
Who is so far that Love cannot speak to him?

So that no corner can hide you, no autumn of leaves
So deeply close over you that I shall not find you,
To stretch down my hand and sting you with life
Like poison that resurrects. O remember
How once the Lyrae dazzled and how the Novembers
Smoked, so that blood burned, flashed its mica,
And that was life. Now if I dip my hand in your grave
Shall I find it bloody with autumn and bright with stars?
Who is to answer if you will not answer me?

But you are the not yet dead, so cannot answer.
Hung by a hair's breadth to the breath of a lung,
Nothing you know of the hole over which you hang
But that it's dark and deep as tomorrow midnight.
I ask, but you cannot answer except with words
Which show me the mere interior of your fear,
The reverse face of the world. But this,
This is not death, the standing on the head
So that a sky is seen. O who
Who but the not yet born can tell me of my bourne?

Lie you there, lie you there, my never, never,
Never to be delivered daughter, so wise in ways
Where you perch like a bird beyond the horizon,
Seeing but not being seen, above our being?
Then tell me, shall the meeting ever be,
When the corpse dives back through the womb
To clasp his child before it ever was?
Who but the dead can kiss the not yet born?

Sad is space between a start and a finish,
Like the rough roads of stars, fiery and mad.
I go between birth and the urn, a bright ash
Soon blazed to blank, like a fire-ball. But
Nothing I bring from the before, no message,
No clue, no key, no answer. I hear no echo,
Only the sheep's blood dripping from the gun,
The serpent's tear like fire along the branch.
O who will speak from a womb or a cloud?

Sad news ...

... Acclaimed author Tony Hillerman dies at 83.

Blow by blow ...

... Should Europe embrace the New Atheism? John Lennox v Christopher Hitchens. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Remembering Sylvia Plath ...

... born on this date in 1932. An Elegant Epigraph: Sylvia Plath on the Act of Writing
Today
.

Something left to tell ...

... Q&A: The man Samuel Beckett trusted to be his authorized biographer. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Haiku ...

Still water. Old man
Sitting in afternoon sun.
The flight of the geese.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

September's IBPC competition ...

... the winning poems.

... the judge's page.

... the commentary.

Yes!

... ‘Must have’ Penguin Porn.

Philosopher at work ...

... Alasdair MacIntyre reviews G.E.M. Anscombe's Faith in a Hard Ground. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)
Philosophy as she does it is fresh; her arguments take unexpected turns and make unsuspected connections, and show always how much there is that had not been seen before.

That sounds about right.

Better aged ...

... Writers who improve with time.

And you can quote her ...

... Lionel Shriver on Missing the Mark. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Laughing at reviews ...

... or, Bowing out disgracefully. (Hat tip, Maxine Clarke.)

Never really angry ...

... Alan Sillitoe: Interview with the original Angry Young Man. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)
“I think all those years of writing before being published had taught me to write with precision,” he says. “I didn't want to indulge in purple passages and overwrite and use too many words. I knew that the voice and tone was just right. I had found my own way, which is just as well.”

With God on our side ...

... Headline of the Week. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

No easy way ...

... Careful What You Wish For. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Alleluia, Alleluia ...

... Rediscovering Traditionalism.
Admirers of Ratzinger insist that his traditionalism is no blinkered love of the past, no theological auto-immune disorder. As T.S.Eliot put it, tradition cannot be blindly inherited, but has to be re-discovered in every age, an enterprise that requires great labour. No one who reads Ratzinger can deny that he brings a very lively intelligence into his attempt to rediscover tradition. It is his critics of the ageing Vatican II generation who begin to look intellectually lazy.

Off the deep end ...

... Harry Potter fails to cast spell over Professor Richard Dawkins. (Hat tip, Ed Champion.)

A perfect match ...

... An 18-year-old wins the prestigious Times Stephen Spender Prize for poetry in translation.

While Spender's talents as a poet and author bloomed at prewar Oxford in the company of W.H.Auden, Christopher Isherwood, Cecil Day-Lewis and Louis MacNeice, he reliably failed to pass any exams. It seems he was simply ambivalent about having his sizeable intellect measured, as he wrote to his grandmother, when he was finally sent down: “It is no use, I am most awfully sorry, but I cannot do examinations; and Schools I never really had any ambition to do properly ... I only care really for poetry and writing.”

I only met Stephen Spender once and we chatted only briefly, but he left an indelible impression of being both intelligent and kind. This brings that impression to life.
See also: `Such Books of Rubbish on Which Children Waste Their Time'.
(Hat tip to Dave Lull for both links.)

Today's Inquirer reviews ...

... Carlin Romano looks into A mirror of Eastern Europe.

... Stuart Kaminsky ponders Bombers, boppers in 1918 Boston.

... Paul Davis on Trying the back doors of the justice system.

... Jessica Schneider on Floyd Skloot's latest memoir: A writer strives to piece together his 'Book of Self'.

... Scotia MacRae on Getting to know real 'King and I' governess.

... Nick Owcher on How Anne Rice gravitated back to light of religion. (This is a much more informative review than Christopher Buckley's shallow effort for the NYTB.)

Stamp of approval ...

... U.S. Postal Service to put Poe on postage. (Hat tip, Paul Davis.)

Saturday, October 25, 2008

It's St. Crispin's Day ...

And that's it ...

... for today. We're off to a sculpture garden in South Jersey.

Maxine passes along ...

... some Career advice from Rifkind and Skidmore.

Kindred spirits ...

... Pablo.

I continue to be amazed at the extent to which Nige and I think and feel alike. What he says about Picasso echoes almost exactly how I feel. I think Braque was on the money when he say that "Picasso used to be a great painter; now he's just a genius." Also, consider this (which is not by Picasso):

Young no more ...

... The Writer in Winter. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I remember when Updike was routinely referred to as a young writer.

007 and the birds ...

... The real James Bond in Jamaica. (Hat tip, Paul Davis.)

The ghost behind the degree ...

... The Term Paper Artist.

From Maxine ...

... The Likeness by Tana French, and other reviews.

A Goethe post ...

... the poem: Pear Tree.

... the painting: Still Life by Giorgio Morandi:


... the music: Michelangeli playing Brahms's Ballade No. 2 (regrettably out of synch, but worth seeing anyway - and certainly worth hearing):

Credentialed ...

... The seal of approval from Library Thing! (Hat tip, Maxine Clarke.)

Sam Tanenhaus considers ...

... Mr. Wizard. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Friday, October 24, 2008

Cooling off ...

... A “frost” on publishing?

Undead ...

... Raymond Chandler and the Rise of the Zombie Novels.

No social outcast ...

... Poe Man’s Immortality. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

'Home' run ...

... EVENT REPORT: MARILYNNE ROBINSON. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Gee, this seems dumb ...

... and that's the good part: London Librarys' Big Secret Dump Bin. (Hat tip, Maxine Clarke.)

Have they thought of offering them to the public for sale? They might make some money.

Affordable luxury ...

... or, Cheap Whine.

Does anyplace?

... Does Crete need more golf courses?

Sir Peter dines out ...

... Ettore's magic peacock.

All the Dave Lulls ...

... make a good point at Bryan's blog.

We agree with them.

Ah, yes ...

... Beauty, Then...

Your MSM at work ...

... Time magazine discovers Nassim Nicholas Taleb. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I particularly liked this question: "There's the famous quote Donald Rumsfeld was ridiculed for: There are things we know, things we know we don't know, and things we don't know we don't know. You're saying, basically, he's got a point."
I guess I liked it because it reminded me of something I had written in my review (published in August 2007) of The Black Swan:
Taleb tells an interesting story about a brainstorming session on risk held at Lake Como in Italy and sponsored by the Defense Department. It seems that "the military people there thought, behaved, and acted like philosophers. . . . I came out of the meeting realizing that only military people deal with randomness with genuine, introspective intellectual honesty. . . . Defense people wanted to understand the epistemology of risk. " Which is why they are comfortable using "the expression unknown unknown (as opposed to known unknown). " Yes, folks, Donald Rumsfeld wasn't speaking gibberish; he was on the cutting edge of epistemology.

In praise of excess ...

... To the creator of James Bond, with love... (Hat tip, Paul Davis.)

"Ian Fleming was a brilliant writer, womanizer, drinker and smoker."

Which beats nibbling on carrots and jogging.

Of course, then there was Casanova: Actor, Lover, Priest, Spy. And a librarian. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Mark your calendar ...

... Emerging Writers: On the Road.

Something was bound to turn up ...

... Financial crisis: We should turn to Charles Dickens in hard times, not just Little Dorrit. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Let's start the day ...

... with some Faustian fun with Alasdair Gray. See also Alasdair Gray
at the complete review
. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

About time ...

... An Elephant Sanctuary in . . . Tennessee? (Elephant Awareness Month). (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Spirit is the stuff ...

... Julian Bell gets Lost in Rothko.

This week's batch ...

... of TLS Letters. Roger Casement, Translating Euripides, Indian Queens, etc.

Touché ...

... Three things Redfern did wrong in launching his blog. (Hat tip, Paul Davis.)

Not that I'd ever read it. I've always found Doonesbury to be repellently precious.

Gems of concision ...

... The doctor writer's handbook. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The debate continues ...

... Transhumanism 2.
... transhumanism is a utopian project and it is, in this light, that it should be assessed. Every age has one or many utopian projects. All fail ...

... transhumanists ideas of the self turn out to be incoherent. Transhumanists say they can fix that, but they offer to do so by changing me into something that is not me. I will be killed and replaced by another being they will call, for the sake of argument, Bryan Appleyard. He will be an imposter.

A pinch of economics ...

... Distributism vs. Redistributism.

Few will be surprised to learn that my sympathies lie with distributism.

A new blog ...

... The Artist's Torah.

Translating ...

... Words into hype. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

A fine story ...

... by Nannette Croce: the foundations of churchill.

Our best friends ...

... the Great Thinkers. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I have lately started every morning by reading a little from Augustine's Confessions. Book X is extraordinary. Here is a sample:
What is my nature? A life that is ever varying, full of change, and of immense power. The wide plains of my memory and its innumerable caverns and hollows are full beyond compute of countless things of all kinds. Material things are there by means of their images; knowledge is there of itself; emotions are there in the form of ideas or impressions of some kind, for the memory retains them even while the mind does not experience them, although whatever is in memory must also be in the mind. My mind has the freedom of them all. I can glide from one to the other. I can probe deep into them and never find the end of them. This is the power of memory! This is the great force of life in living man, mortal though he is!

When the CIA helped ...

... the Swedish Academy: The Battle Over ‘Doctor Zhivago’.

Today's must read ...

... Songs of Love and Death.

Like Nige, I find myself listening more and more to Bach, and to even older music, Josquin in particular. I never listen the Beethoven symphonies except in concert. Occasionally, I listen to Brahms's fourth symphony. There is something about the older music that seems purer, less programmed to get across a message, less about the composer and more about the music.
And while Nige may lack the technical knowledge of the clever clods who write the liner notes, what he says communicates more about the music itself than those notes usually do.

Another golden age ...

... bites the dust: Reading Habits.

Season debut ...

... Kay Ryan Opens the 2008 Literary Season. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Inventing the Middle Ages ...

... “Then I went off to fight some battle…”

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

More than a Scarecrow ...

...a Ray Bolger clip.

The Biblioburro ...

... Acclaimed Colombian Institution Has 4,800 Books and 10 Legs. (Hat tip, Dave Lull, who I hear wants one.)

So I have heard ...

... The Greatest Catholic Writer of the 20th Century. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I have not, however, read any of J.F. Powers. But I did bring home with, when I retired, several of his books. I'll have to dig them out.

Because someone says so ...

... Wikipedia and the Meaning of Truth. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

On Wikipedia, truth is received truth: the consensus view of a subject.
That standard is simple: something is true if it was published in a newspaper article, a magazine or journal, or a book published by a university press--or if it appeared on Dr. Who.

This is pretty much the same standard that obtains in newsrooms, which is why the news has become a game of Chinese Whispers. Obviously, one can't rely on a single source of information. And you have to ask questions.

And the finalists are ...

... Canada Council for the Arts announces finalists for the 2008 Governor General’s Literary Awards. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Quote of the day ...

We have all seen men who were quick-witted, accessible to ideas and handy with their management of them, whom we should yet hesitate to call intelligent; we are conscious that the term does not quite fit.

- Albert Jay Nock, The Theory of Education in the United States

Yet this is just the sort of person who is generally acknowledged to be intelligent by the media.

Next, Maxine tackles ...

... the Financial crisis and crime fiction.

She's braver than I am.

Taking a break ...

... Our distinguished blogging partner, Judith Fitzgerald, is taking a break this week to deal with those pesky things that invariably come up in life. We can't wait till she gets back.

Maxine and Branagh ...

... Where I was yesterday.

Reach out ...

... Touching the reader so her whole being is interested in what passes.

Cover story (cont'd.) ...

... Contest finalists.

I particularly liked the Ibsen.

Taleb and Mandelbrot ...

... Top Theorists Examine Rippling Economic Turbulence. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Brought to light ...

... He's Restoring a Reputation Lost in Rembrandt's Shadow. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Has anybody besides Dave and me noticed how good the WSJ's cultural coverage has become - and that's not even counting Terry Teachout, who has been doing outstanding work for them for years.

Happy ...

... Apple Day.

A certain breed of anti-hero ...

... Updike and the Women. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Uh ...

... methinks there's something wrong here: Protect the Burglars of Bromsgrove! (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

This isn't just nuts. It is cowardly, and the clear opposite of what government is supposed to exist for.

Useful advice ...

... The art of avoiding writer's block. (Hat tip, Paul Davis.)

I have always found an imminent deadline ends my writer's block just like that.

I'll pass ...

... but I thank Bill for the alert: A big steaming pile of dumb.

Be scared ...

... but not very: Spookiness For Halloween.

An odd kerfuffle ...

... MY TUSSLE WITH JAMES JOYCE'S CENSOR. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Plus ça change ...

... Nigel Beale on The ancient art of keeping it real. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Not this guy ...

... Here's one for the men. (Hat tip, Maxine Clarke.)

Heart of Darkness is a fine work, but far from my favorite Conrad. How about Nostromo or Victory? I read Steve Coll's Ghost Wars when I was Pulitzer juror. It was one of the three we nominated. It won. It's a good book.
The interesting one on this list is Middlemarch. How'd that make it?

Hmm ...

... What price the rise of private art? (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Not to worry, though. The artists invariably are left-wing, anti-capitalist, and anti-bourgeois, ready to speak truth to power at the first sign of a credit card.

A name from the past ...

... The Bombeck Mystique.

Artistic genesis ...

... Vladimir Nabokov. Inspiration. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Uh-oh ...

... now I'm in trouble: `Extraordinary Performances'. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)
Frank Wilson has often praised Earthly Powers (1980), most recently here. As an experiment I’ve ordered it through the library.

Actually, I will be very interested to see what Patrick thinks of it.

The importance of differentiae ...

... Turned On, Plugged In, Online, & Dumb: Student Failure Despite the Techno Revolution. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

A computer is a tool. One must bring intelligence to it. One does not derive intelligence from it. Moreover, consider this:
Perhaps we are not fully aware of the extent to which instruction and education are accepted as being essentially the same thing. I think you would find, if you looked into it, for instance,that all the formal qualifications for a teacher's position rest on this understanding. A candidate is certified - is he not? - merely as having been exposed satisfactorily to a certain kind of instruction for a certain length of time, and therefore is assumed eligible to a position which we all agree that only an educated person should fill. Yet he may not be at all an educated person, but only an instructed person. We have seen many such, and five minutes' talk with one of them is quite enough to show that the understanding of instruction as synonymous with education is erroneous. They are by no means the same thing.

As for intelligence, "The word sends us back to Plato. The person of intelligence is the one who always tends 'to see things as they are,' the one who never permits his view of them to be directed by convention, by the hope of advantage, or by an irrational and arbitrary authoritarianism. He allows the current of his consciousness to flow in perfect freedom over any object that may be presented to it, uncontrolled by prejudice, prepossession or formula; and thus we may say that there are certain integrities at the root of intelligence which give it somewhat the aspect of a moral as well as an intellectual attribute."

Both quotes are from Albert Jay Nock's The Theory of Education in the United States. By Nock's standard, practically none of today's punditocracy can be regarded as intelligent.

Milestones ...

... Neal Hefti and Dave McKenna, R.I.P.

More about McKenna here.

Happy birthday ...

... Coleridge.

Nige got to the splendid "Frost at Midnight" first, so I'll go with "This Lime-Tree Bower, My Prison."

Seeing the world ...


Isaac Levitan's Autumn, The Manor.

Three-dimensional icon ...

... Florence Nightingale: Eminence Without Irony.(Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I opt for death ...

... Transhumanism Rising.

I have no interest in becoming a plastic-and-metal replica of myself, and the transhumanist vision gives me the creeps. I like life the way I liked whiskey when I drank: straight up.

Really old Yeller ...

... World's first dog lived 31,700 years ago, ate big.

Actually, I agree ...

... "We inherited from him early his abounding sense of the possibilities of the countryside." (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

This post is definitely worth reading. The single most satisfying work I ever did was as a member of a construction crew building stores. I enjoyed everything about it: the early start and comparatively early finish, the camaraderie, the sense of fulfillment when the store was finished. And the pay wasn't bad, either. The best life is probably a nice mix of physical and mental labor. St. Benedict was on to something.

Where the meaning is ...

... Marilynne Robinson At 'Home' With the Past.

High-end bathroom book ...

... sounds great: Big artists in tiny boxes.

Ouch ...

... America's Most Overrated Product: the Bachelor's Degree.

I suspect it may well be.

Less exciting ...

... and more satisfying: Paul Theroux and the Embrace of strangers.
"Most of the world is worsening, shrinking to a ball of desolation. Only the old can really see how gracelessly the world is ageing and all that we have lost. Politicians and policemen are always inferior to their citizens. No one on earth is well governed."

I fear this may well be true.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Here's your chance ...

... Be a philosopher-king for a week.

Also, do not miss this excellent post: Dostoevsky, Williams and the real question to ask about religion.
To assume that all facts equals truth is to opt for a rationalistic account of the world. And pure rationalism always leads to violence, Williams continues, because its only response to the humanly irrational is to do away with it. The rational and scientific has a central role to play in the pursuit of truth, but at some point it must give way since truth is ultimately not a matter of proving but of seeing – seeing through things and events to joy and beauty. It is a kind of loving attention, and is in that sense truth is closer to freedom and faith than reason and proof.

This is very sad ...

... Writers mourn their no-nonsense friend Pat Kavanagh, the doyenne of Britain’s literary agents.

I learned only the other day that she was gravely ill. May perpetual light shine upon her.

Trio ...

... John Grogan chooses three favorite books. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I'm OK with Steinbeck, but never warmed to Holden Caulfield, and John Irving just isn't my cup of tea. But that's all right. These aren't my picks.

A beacon of hope ...

... Van Gogh's Transcendent Vision. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Wondrous ...

... THE STUDENT by Anton Chekhov. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Talk about economy of means.

Don't bet on it ...

... The Elite Newspaper of the Future. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

In other words, an upscale version of the crap we have now, telling a self-selected group exactly what it wants to hear.

Mark your calendar ...

... 17th annual Baltimore Writers'Conference.

I spoke at one of these once. It's a pretty impressive gathering. I do think they should have invited Ed Pettit.

Worth looking at ...


... Nino Infante ~ Dreams From Brooklyn.

Debbie and I saw thse paintings before the show was hung and found them fascinating. Nino Infante has also written some poems that I think are worthwhile. I hope to post some soon.

The painting above is called Black Widow.

Too true, I fear ...

... `The Multiplication of Books'.

I seldom visit such stores, or any bookstores for that matter. I wandered about, browsing with nothing in mind and finding precisely that – nothing. Not once was I tempted to make a purchase. I wondered at all the seeming bounty – tens of thousands of titles, and almost nothing worth reading. It was like visiting a friend who has cable television.

I have cable television. My former job made some acquaintance with pop arts necessary. The funny thing is, I almost never turn on the TV except to watch a film. As for bookstore inventory, well, I saw what came into my office.

This week's ...

... Philly lit scene.

About time ...

... The Green Will Fade...

See also Thirty years of warmer temperatures go poof.

Is nothing sacred?

... Robbing the grave of Immanuel Kant.

Not so dark ...

... Byzantium 330 - 1453 at the Royal Academy: throwing new light on the Dark Ages. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Triumphalism ...

... The Aliens Are Here.

I've always found the term Unidentified Flying Object intriguing. I presume that we have all, at some time or other, seen objects flying that we could not quite identify. But the person who talks of UFOs usually doesn't think they're unidentified at all, since the term is ordinarily used to refer to what is assumed to be an extraterrestrial aircraft. I have no problem with mysterious atmospheric phenomena, but I prefer that we not leap to conclusions about them.
That said, Bryan's book sounds terrific.

Point well taken ...

... To Understand the Religious Sensibility . . . (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Yes, but ....

... `Interest, Instruction, Amusement'.

I should add that, while Johnson's Lives makes for wonderful reading, his judgments are hardly infallible (whose are?). I think he is wrong about Thomas Gray's "Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College" and also wrong about Gray's "Ode on the Death of a Favorite Cat Drowned in a Tub of Goldfishes." In both cases Johnson seems unimaginatively literal and in the latter case the good doctor displays a definite need to lighten up.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Good idea ...

... Literary Readings and What We Should Do About Them.

Poetry Off the Shelf #81 ...

... Kay Ryan on Robert Frost. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Quartet of selves ...

... Jennifer Yaros: "Nature and the Self: Dickinson, Bishop, Plath, and Oliver."

City and country ...

... Thomas Hardy and Wendell Berry. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The idealization of country life seems to be about as old as literature. But it is the work of writers, who have a tendency to airbrush out the grinding poverty and back-breaking labor that went with pastoral scene. Which is not to say that I do not find myself susceptible to such idealization.

Time now ...

... for Sunday Salon: Best books that never existed.

This should, of course, include my own.

Knowlege and homicide ...

... Bryan brings to our attention 1911 and Baader-Meinhof and Modern Terrorism.

"It is, mercifully, an anti-romantic view of these killers ..." That's good to know.

Hooray for both ...

... Realism, and Blood in Books.

Nigel is right about Ian McEwan. Saturday was also neat, tidy - and utterly contrived. I think what tends to be overlooked is that good plotting is hard. If you want to see what a really good plot looks like, though, you can do no better than to read Anthony Burgess's Earthly Powers.

A crime roundup ..

... Latest Chicago Sun-Times mystery/thriller column.

See also: Win This Book: Barry Eisler's "Fault Line".

I second this ...

... Thinking Among the Dead.

I reviewed this book. It is entertaining and informative.

Nige extols ...

... The Greatness of Cheeta.

Sunday sermon ...

Among the readings at Mass this morning was a passage from I Thessalonians in which Paul says that "our gospel hath not been unto you in word only." This immediately brought to my mind the notion that Scripture is the sole repository of faith, which in turn raises the question as to how there could have been any faith prior, for an instance, to the writing of the Gospels. But that's an old controversy that I have no interest in addressing, if only because my train of thought led elsewhere. We like to think that by writing something down we achieve a certain degree of certainty regarding it. That is what was said and here it is in good old black ink on a clear white page. But suppose someone makes a mistake while copying that text - or has made a mistake in writing it down in the first place? That mistake will be perpetuated. Why, a copyist might even take it upon himself to emend a text so that it reads more to his satisfaction.
In oral societies accuracy and precision in what is committed to memory is a sacred trust, and it has been found that one generation after another remembers what they have been taught in exactly the same way.
So what I ended up thinking about was the need so many of us seem to have for certainty in what is pretty obviously a world filled with uncertainty. A fixed text provides only the simulacrum of certainty. As do fixed doctrines and unwavering moral precepts. Now I happen to be fond of dogmatic theology. A system of dogmas provides a sound framework of symbol and image whereby to ponder one's faith. But it can also get in the way of faith. For to live in faith means to embrace both the uncertainty of being and the non-necessity of oneself. Faith takes courage. The craving for certainty is a sign of timidity.

BSRB No. 2 ...

... Mmm, Monkey meat.

Feline matters ...

... Just Asking . . . Doris Lessing. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Good for her.

Possibly not ...

... the best way of putting it: Oscar Wilde Blows It.

Today's Inquirer reviews ...

... First novelist recasts "Anna Karenina" with skill, resonance.

... A voice to answer the new atheists.

... Detective's new murder case hits very close to home.

... From Bushnell, condos and the city.

Miriam Toews Makes a Virtue of Eccentricity

Canadian novelist Miriam Toews has a big soft spot for odd ducks with broken wings.

Geoff Pevere on The China Lover


Based on the rather astonishing life and career of the real-life Japanese movie star, pop singer, journalist, and right-wing parliamentarian Yoshiko Yamaguchi (also known, in various countries and various times, as Ri Koran and Shirley Yamaguchi), The China Lover unfolds from the perspectives of three men who knew her.

James Grainger on Patrick Lane's First Novel

Acclaimed poet Patrick Lane packs the verbiage into a dark début novel of the B.C. Interior.

Jack Batten's Among the Best . . .

. . . when it comes to reviewing crime fiction.

Why Granting Bodies and Book Prizes Ignore "The Best"

"It's the fault of male academics on the judging panels," says author Louise Doughty. That may be the case in the UK; but, in Canada, it's the fault of nepotism, corrupt (usually female) national-council literary officers with an axe to slash lives for the sheer joy of inflicting pain, and jury-stacking. (IOW, power corrupts and petty power corrupts stoopidly. What goes around hangs around slurping up bucks from the public troughs, oink!)

Lynda La Plante's "Vicious" Life Story

Judith Woods: "Motherhood has made thriller-queen Lynda La Plante gentler, but she has scores to settle."

Why We Suck

Shock-comic Denis Leary has written a new book, Why We Suck, in which he questions the diagnosis of autism.

Patti Smith Film's Abso-Deffo Reverberant

Steven Sebring's Patti Smith: Dream of Life is a dream of a movie; gauzy, free-associative, and reverberant.

A True-Crime Omnibus

An anthology of crime-writing takes readers from America's earliest Puritanical days to the present.

A Sunday Suite Treat for Frank . . .

Rapper in Fine Wrappers

In his new book, The Way I Am, rapper Eminem says: "If I had to do it again, I don't know if I would. I'm glad, though, that my music has brought people together."

(Okay, no jokes about said people being brought together in graves six-feet under.)

New Yorker Will Publish World's Newest Nobel Laureate in Literature

Nobel laureate Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio, little known to American audiences before being named the winner of the literature prize, is getting another introduction to U.S. readers: His work is appearing for the first time in The New Yorker.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

To Assist Maxine Making a Decision :)

When it comes to MC's latest, The Brass Verdict, it seems the NYT's Marilyn Stasio agrees with me, too. What's a dame to do? I'd go for it (if I were you!).

Antique Muses Stir a Modern Orpheus

Jim Dine’s latest project at the Getty Villa has allowed him to meditate on two of his greatest passions over the years — sculpture and poetry.

Not a Story for the Feint of Heart


Sarah Miller cuts to the chase in her review of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.

Don Hollenbeck, Dear Pionear

A new book about Don Hollenbeck, a pioneering newsman who committed suicide in 1954, explores the anchor’s life and the roots of contemporary media criticism.

A Broom of One's Own

In "A Maid of One's Own," Claire Messud reviews Mrs. Woolf and the Servants in The Sunday Book Review. I could use a servant. No pay; but, great BeneFitz :).