Tuesday, June 30, 2009

All of them - poets of sorts

Especially Leonard Cohen...

Geez ...

... The Taleb-GQ emails. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

If you send a guy the piece and he sends you a correction, use it.

Some advice ...

... for independent bookstores.

I agree. God knows, when I was a review editor I had to put up with all sorts of people importuning me on behalf of books and authors. I figured that came with the territory and I like to think I handled it with grace. I know I was never snarky about it.

Maybe ...

... The End of the Drudge Era? (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

But why confine this reasoning to "t
he horribly skewed bullshit lens of Drudge," since it would obviously apply as well to "the horribly skewed bullshit lens" of the NYT, MSNBC, etc.?

Maybe ...

... Is this the future bookstore? (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Ladies and gentlemen ...

... I was wrong. There is another Michael Jackson story worth reading: A Tragedy of Our Times. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Dubious list ...

... Newsweek's Top 100 Books: The Meta-List. (Hat tip, Paul Davis.)

Anna Karenina is better than War and Peace. No Dickens. Including Mao is risible. One could go on, but why bother?

Double bill ...

... on Between Fire and Sleep, essays by Jaroslaw Anders.

... on Been and Gone, poems by Julian Kornhauser, translated by Piotr Florczyk.

No column today ...

... I had to skip my WFTC column this week because of another project that has swallowed mosy of my time. For the same reason, blogging today will be sporadic.

Poisoned chalice ...

... Clive James declares: Give Us Poetic Justice. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Thought for the day ...

Choice of attention - to pay attention to this and ignore that - is to the inner life what choice of action is to the outer. In both cases, a man is responsible for his choice and must accept the consequences, whatever they may be.
- W. H. Auden

Monday, June 29, 2009

Passionate intensity ...

... After the Barbarians: From Gibbon to Auden. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Burckhardt's The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy is probably the only book I've read three times. His Force and Freedom ought to be mandatory reading for Americans these days.

Another query ...

I have posted this picture before. It is a watercolor Debbie did of a red Bartlett pear. Debbie is out somewhere painting right now. I said to her this morning that I thought the pear worked because it was a painting of the pear and not just a painting. My point was that, when she did it, she was more engaged with the pear than she was with making a painting. My further point is that the creation of art has to do primarily with apprehension of the world and what is in the world and only secondarily with the creation of an art object, poem, etc. Comments, please.

The difference ...

... between great talent ...

and pure genius ...

Bear in mind, I like Jack Jones. But he was young when he recorded that song. For Brel it is something more than just a song.

Another discovery ...

... For the record: "అనుక్షణికం" ఆపేసాను.

I like this ...


No Dawkins he ...

... Marx's challenge. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

However, those acts of self-realisation are increasingly thwarted in organised society. When people learn to cooperate, a struggle ensues because we become disconnected from the products of our labour. The ever-more complex modes of production manifest in capitalism lead to the deepest sense of alienation. We lose touch with the land, though can't give up on the expectation that work will fulfil us, even when it abuses and empties us.

What I find interesting is the suspicion regarding complexification. Why does it necessarily follow that, the more complex our world, the more alienated we become. The entire history of carbon compounds would appear to be characterized by complexification. If that is direction in which evolution is taking us, why should that make us feel alienated?
There is one theory regarding the origin of the word religion that has it deriving from religare, meaning "to bind back." Religion, in other words, properly understood, is that by which we maintain our connection to things and to time passing and past. I have never myself felt especially alienated, but, as I have frequently pointed out, I am uncommonly shallow.

Look out, Toronto ...

... The gospel according to Paglia. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

A query ...

... Now read this! What’s your favorite novel?

This is the sort of thing ...

... Katie used to write about in her DigitaLit column, which the geniuses now running the Inquirer didn't see the point of: Writer uses web to weave his tale. (Hat tip, Paul Davis.)

Amen ...

... Karen Armstrong and the case of the unknown God. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Authentic religion, then, is characterised by being kenotic – that is other-oriented and self-emptying; unknowing – like Socrates who did not seek to prove anything but to bring about a change of mind based upon a realisation of wise ignorance; and spiritual – in the sense of being a labour of love through which someone comes to see the transcendent in the everyday.

Yesterday afternoon, I attended a Tridentine Mass that was celebrated in my parish. Precisely because it was in Latin and sung - in other words, precisely because it was not the prosaic and wanly literal exercise that is the vernacular Mass - it moved the mind and heart to contemplate the mystery one senses - but cannot hope to define - lurking behind being. Starting in October, there will be a Tridentine Mass at my parish every Sunday at noon.

The only Michael Jackson story ...

... you need to read: My trip to Neverland, and the call from Michael Jackson I'll never forget, by Paul Theroux. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Lining the gravel roads and the golf-cart paths were little winsome bronzes of flute players, rows of grateful, grinning kiddies, clusters of hand-holding tots, some with banjos, some with fishing rods; and large bronze statues, too, like the centrepiece of the circular drive in front of Michael's house, a statue of Mercury (god of merchandise and merchants), rising 30 feet, with winged helmet and caduceus, and all balanced on one tippy-toe, the last of the syrupy sunset lingering on his big bronze buttocks, making his bum look like a buttered muffin.

Art news ...

... Art museum names Rub new director.

And the view from Cleveland: Director Timothy Rub leaving Cleveland Museum of Art to head Philadelphia Museum of Art. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Late start ...

... Peter Leonard joins father in the family business. (Hat tip, Paul Davis.)

Thought for the day ...

Art is the most beautiful deception of all. And although people try to incorporate the everyday events of life in it, we must hope that it will remain a deception lest it become a utilitarian thing, sad as a factory.
- Claude Debussy

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Blogging will resume ...

... tomorrow. The is Tridentine Mass that I am attending this afternoon, after which we well be having a dinner party.

Ahem ...

... E-mails indicate EPA suppressed report skeptical of global warming.

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

... Self-publishing, on purpose. (Hat tip, Roger Miller.)

Ultimate ecology ...

... The Voluntary Human Extinction Movement.

Can't fault them for inconsistency, I guess.

Am I the only one ...

.. who thinks the good professor may have taken leave of his senses? Dawkins sets up kids’ camp to groom atheists. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I suppose if Richard Dawkins had any sense of humor, particularly in regard to himself, he would realize that, increasingly, he is making a public fool of himself.

If you're in New York

or nearby, there are still a few hours left of the NYC Zine Fest in Brooklyn. I had a table there yesterday to sell my own zines and had a great time - met all kinds of zinesters, poets, comics artists, printers of linocuts, makers of artists' books, and the fabulous women of A Wrecked Tangle Press, who were selling their poems and stories as rolled-up "loosies" from an old cigarette machine. Makes me feel good to be alive, this community does.

For a friend ...

... Kenneth Patchen - I Feel Drunk All the Time.

Summer fun ...

... The Sunday Times 100 best holiday reads.

Glad to see Sebastian Barry's The Secret Scripture is included. The Yrsa Sigurdardottir sounds interesting, too. I reviewed Last Rituals - so did Maxine - and we both liked it.

Media Quislings ...

... Bruce Bawer calls out Western apologists for radical Islam. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Today's Inquirer reviews ...

... A quick, breezy look at slumps.

... The plight of urban young black men.

... Sisters' marriage woes put her wedding on hold.

Thought for the day ...

Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise. Seek what they sought.
- Matsuo Basho

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Rather touching, actually ...

... Taylor on Jackson death: 'My life feels so empty'.

Deep down, after all, celebrities are human, too.

I had the privilege of chatting with Harry a couple of times many years ago after I wrote a piece about him that he liked. He was an immensely charming and funny guy. I miss him.

I didn't notice ...

... but then I wasn't paying much attention, either: Jackson dies, almost takes Internet with him.

Scruples ...

... `Chipped Off the Latin'.

Interesting: "... from scrupus – a sharp stone or pebble. In other words, scruples are like having a stone in your shoe."

This brings to mind that scandal comes from the Greek skandalon, meaning "a stumbing block."

Having dinner ...

... with The Bard of Berkeley. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The group has worked in some 60 countries, he says, to help prevent the kind of cultural and environmental devastation caused by projects like the Three Gorges dam on China's Yangtze River.

Suppose some grand natural event had occurred to dam up the Yangtse, causing similar "cultural and environmental devastation." Would that be OK? And since humans are one more product of nature, isn't the dam, by extension, a product of nature, as an enormous termitary would be? We deplore man's action in one case - building a dam - and extol it in another - environmentalists resisting same. I'm just posing questions. I know nothing about the Three Gorges dam. It is the ambiguity of the underlying reasoning that interests me.

Birthday boy ...

... An Elegant Epigraph: Frank O'Hara on Writing About Experience.

Spreading fire ...


How about Cavafy ...

... Celebrating Pride in Literature.

Or Frank O'Hara?

Thought for the day ...

To be surprised, to wonder, is to begin to understand.
- José Ortega y Gasset

Friday, June 26, 2009

About time ...

... A taste of the action: Len Deighton's cult Sixties' cookbook is back. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Like Deighton, I learned cooking from my mother and grandmother. Must be a working class thing. Maybe it's why I'm healthy. We never bothered with health food crap. (Am I the only person to notice that the people in health food stores look so, well, unhealthy?)

Good point ...

... my friend Paul Davis comment on the Times's villains list: The Best Movie Villains.

Leaving Welles's Harry Lime off the list is unforgivable.

Canadian heat ...

... Sheryda Warrener reads Karen Solie. (Hat tip, Hedgie.)

Time now ...

... for the utterly politically incorrect PWSBKTW.

Folie a deux ...

... Malcolm Lowry’s Mysterious Death (1957).

See also yesterday's Baudelaire’s Harvests His Evil Flowers (1857).

Google times two ...

... from Dave Lull:

Blount Says Orphan Works No Reason to Block Google Settlement; Benefits Touted.

publisher calls Google ‘digital vampire’.

Well, vampires are popular these days.

Good for her ...

... Gov. Sanford's Wife Breaks Tradition, Not Standing By Her Man.

I'm not sure why any of this our business or what bearing it has on his ability to be an effective governor, but, like it or not, a public matter it has become.

Plumbing depths ...

... The Mystery Within.

Matching a master ...

... Here is a Hard Boiled Challenge for the Creative - Flex Your Figures of Speech!

Check out ...

... Re: Book Review Archives #7.

Ya don't need a weatherman ...

... to know which way the wind blows: The Climate Change Climate Change. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Readers of this blog will know that I am largely agnostic on this issue. But I am very interested in the nature of discourse, and the course of this debate has been fascinating to watch. What initially aroused my skepticism was the inflexible dogmatism so often on display, the refusal of so many simply to entertain the possibility that they might be wrong. The aim seemed to be not to get at the truth but to defend a position at all costs. Blame my inner Jesuit.

I second this ...

... Coconut Grove.

Thought for the day ...

The mind cannot foresee its own advance.
- Friedrich von Hayek

Thursday, June 25, 2009

This week's batch ...

.. of TLS Letters: Jane Austen editions, Isaiah Berlin, Middle East envoys, and more!

Break a leg ...

... Now's the time.

Not as long as ...

... people like Maxine and Henry are around: End of the line for science journalism?

I am more scientifically literate, I think, than most literary types - my career as a writer began when I won an essay contest sponsored by Philadelphia's Academy of Natural Sciences when I was, I think, 15. I had written about microscopic life in a pond near where I lived and the photomicrographs that accompanied my essay were mine. Had I not been so incompetent in math, science is what I would have pursued. That may be why I so admire Maxine, who not only knows science better than I can ever hope to, but can explain it with such lucidity. Henry has the same skill. People like that are treasures.

Constant Lambert conducting ...

Lighten up ...

... The forgotten pleasures of light verse. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Only an idiot ...

... could pose this question: Is Toad of Toad Hall bipolar?

Toad, of course, is not only one of the great figures in all literature, but was also a major influence on my life. So there!

Happy anniversary ...

... Fabled & Fabulous.

Odd list ...

... The 50 Best Movie Villains.

A lot to agree with - and plenty to disagree with. Good to see Alan Rickman get his due - twice. Hannibal Lector is vastly more interesting than Darth Vader. And what about Rutger Hauer in The Hitcher? Heartwarmingly creepy in my view.

In her own right ...

... The Colorful Life of Sonia Delaunay.

No wonder ...

... Nige has decided to go walking: Wrestling with Scott Walker.

Seems a far cry from Brel, but it certainly is interesting. As Nige suggests, I shall take it one track at a time.

This looks good ...

... A little taste.

Odd childhood ...

... Lisa reads: Lost Boy by Brent W. Jeffs.

Let it die ...

... a natural death, J.D. - Review of 60 Years Later: Coming Through the Rye.

Kudos to Richard for doing yeoman's work reading it.

My Scottish friend...

....wrote to tell me about NT Live, this fabulous program the UK's National Theatre is doing - broadcasting live performances of plays to around 65 movie theaters and other venues worldwide, mostly in the UK. First up, this evening: Racine's Phedre, starring Helen Mirren. Many other theaters around the world have booked the film to screen at a later date. Here are the US venues.

Thought for the day ...

I would define the poetic effect as the capacity that a text displays for continuing to generate different readings, without ever being completely consumed.
- Umberto Eco

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Word from Judith ...

... 'Sites 4 soar eyes / breaths of fresh ear . . .

... What's wrong with dramatic ironing, anyway?

The Summer 2009 issue ...

... of Simply Haiku.

In case you wondered ...


Oops ...

... Elsevier Won't Pay for Praise. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Something I missed ...

... Let the paint dry. I like Rosa Bonheur. This is Stag on Alert, In Wooded Clearing.

Fraternal ambition ...

... The Binding of Isaac. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

For summer ...

... three baseball poems via Rus Bowden (Bryan will love these, I'll bet):

Heaven by William Heyen.

Baseball by John Updike.

When Poems Become Balls and Not Strikes by E. Ethelbert Miller.

Interesting list ...

... Fantasies of Summer Reading. (Hat tip, Hedgie.)

Much bread ...

... for Big Read: National Endowment for the Arts Announces More Than $3.7 Million in Grants for the Big Read.

Oh, my ...

... this looks bad: Chris Anderson, Plagiarist? (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

A look at ...

... A Few New Works.

Indeed ...

... Infinite Summer, Why Not?

In good company ...

... me, that is: Wordsworth and Frank Wilson.

Risky business ...

... Writing Like a Doctor. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Link is fixed.

Thought for the day ...

A dramatist is one who believes that the pure event, an action involving human beings, is more arresting than any comment that can be made upon it.
- Thornton Wilder

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Great scene ...

In this corner ...

... Flame Wars in the Age of Reason (1766).

Something I missed ...

... Father's Day Poem.

So you want to be a writer ...

... Author, author: Advice for young writers-to-be. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Literary race ...

... Mendes beats Scorsese to Middlemarch movie. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The power of exile ...

... Prague Writers' Festival: Poet paints Arab world, laments fall of poetry in West. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Wedding feast ...

... Rus Bowden sends along some links from George Szirtes's daughter's wedding (Hedgie sent along one of these also):

Sestina for a Wedding.


And here are the bride and groom:

Ed Champion explains ...

... The Joys of Nicholson Baker. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I'm not much of a Nicholson Baker fan myself, but if that first sentence doesn't pull you in, I can't imagine what would.

Thinking ahead ...

... something the people in charge of newspaper continue not to do: Netflix Boss Plots Life After the DVD.

The Gateless Gate ...

... continues here and here.

See also the Introduction.

Acknowledging ...

... The Founder of American Literature. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Dave also sends along Wise Man of the American West.

Good news ...

... Get a Life, Holden Caulfield.

“The Catcher in the Rye,” published in 1951, is still a staple of the high school curriculum, beloved by many teachers who read and reread it in their own youth. The trouble is today’s teenagers. Teachers say young readers just don’t like Holden as much as they used to. What once seemed like courageous truth-telling now strikes many of them as “weird,” “whiny” and “immature.”
"... beloved by many teachers who read and reread it in their own youth." That's a problem right there. I never liked the book or Holden - which I guess amounts to the same thing.

They call this science?

... Party Animals: Early Human Culture Thrived in Crowds.

Note that nothing here can be based on direct observation. The study, such as it is, is a large conditional proposition: If this, then that. The data, so called, on which the conditional premise is based, is speculative and hypothetical. That is no way to get to know anything.

Destination ...

... heavens: Vatican’s Celestial Eye, Seeking Not Angels but Data. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Thirty-six lines ...

... "Twelve 3-Line Poems".

See also OTC 4: "Iceland's Bell" -- Iceland.

Habits of faith ...

... A Mensch for All Seasons.

Immortality ...

... of sorts: Dawn of the dead. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Local alert ...


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

... Interview with Olga Gardner Galvin.

Stories wanted ...

... Listeners, Send In Your Short Stories. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

My latest column ...

... is up: Every flower is a soul blossoming out to nature.

Thought for the day ...

What is a thousand years? Time is short for one who thinks, endless for one who yearns.
- Henri Alain-Fournier

Monday, June 22, 2009

Hard questions ...

... `Reflection, Speech, and Writing'.

I have a hard time with lists like this. I can think, off the top of my head, of two volumes I would have to have: Wallace Stevens and Cavafy. Probably Le grand Meaulnes, to remind me of who I was when I was young. I can't imagine living without Keats. Or Chaucer.
And that's as far as I'll go just now.

But, speaking of Le grand Meaulnes, I happened upon this.

I would suggest that the key to the book lies in working one's way back from the last couple of sentences: "Admirtal Meaulnes had left me one joy; I felt that he had come to take it back from me. And already I could imagine him at night, wrapping his daughter in his cloak and setting out with her for new adventures."
The book isn't about Meaulnes. It is about Francois, the narrator - and, by extension, the reader.

RIP ...

... Ali Akbar Khan: master of the lute-like sarod.

“If you practise for ten years, you may begin to please yourself, after 20 years you may become a performer and please the audience, after 30 years you may please even your guru,” he once said. “But you must practice for many more years before you finally become a true artist.”

I remember seeing him years ago - at the Academy of Music, I believe. I remember enjoying the concert immensely, but details are otherwise strangely vague. I must have been high as a kite that night.

I second this ...

... Now read this! Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina.

I consider the time I spent reading Anna Karenina as one of the most intensely alive periods of my life.

Catching up ...

... with R.T. Go to Novels, Stories, and More and scroll.

Minority report ...

... Emperor, clothes... you know the rest.

Had you told me in college that I would reach a point in my life where I would defend Ulysses, I would have said you were delusional. I crammed the book into my head for a test and remembered enough to pass. I figured that was it for me and Mr. Joyce. Enter God: I am assigned to go to Dublin and follow the route Mr. Bloom took through Dublin in order to write a piece for the centenary of Bloomsday. I read the book a second time. I have only a couple chapters to go when we arrive in Dublin. After a day of listening to Dubliners, it is suddenly easier to read and those last two chapters slip by. Joe Carter says that "Even fans of the book, though, will admit that it is almost completely unreadable without outside help." The only outside help I had was those Dubliners. Of course, I had studied Thomism, which does help, especially when Stephen is pondering on Sandymount strand.The fact is, if you don't approach it with undue reverence and start with Chapter 4, and take your time, just reading a bit at a time and waiting to digest that bit before moving on, I think you'll find it rather wonderful. I have heard Mass in the church Mr. Bloom visits, have stood by the Liffey where he stood feeding the gulls. I have come to think of him as a friend.
This is not to suggest that Joyce's book is flawless. I still agree with J.B. Priestley: "Joyce was not taking the novel anywhere; he has to be enjoyed but then bypassed. ... In terms of the novel, Joyce is an eccentric with astonishing gifts and of unquestionable genius. He is not so much a novelist as a unique combination of fantasist, humorist, scholar, poet. ... most of what we have been told about Joyce as a great modern master of the novel , changing the course of fiction, opening a way for later novelists, is nonsense. [His] are the astonishing creations of a comic poet of genius, who did whatever appealed to his idea of prose narrative in depth; and in those works he is unique and inimitable."

Psst ...

... The truth about writers. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

A poem


Lying awake late at night
He found the darkness
And the silence — the aloneness —
Comforting. Faces appeared,
Familiar, dear, and he could bear
To look. He noticed
He was listening, alert
In mind and heart and soul.
He was not afraid.

Philly book scene ...

... James Lovelock, Janet Evanovich, Rachel Simon and more: Local Area Events.

A ride worth taking ...

... A lifetime love affair with cars. (Hat tip, Paul Davis.)

"Pity the poor American car when Congress and the White House get through with it — a lightweight vehicle with a small carbon footprint, using alternative energy and renewable resources to operate in a sustainable way. When I was a kid we called it a Schwinn."
See also this about government financial acuity. Post bumped.

Poe days ...

... Haunted Poe Cabaret.

Meanwhile, in Richmond, Va., An Unhappy Hour at the Poe Museum for detective story fans. (Hat tip, Paul Davis.)

Pompous and profane ...

... Slaughterhouse.

As the subject of a big retrospective, Bacon's life certainly has a narrative power. And without anything by Giacometti or Picasso to remind us of the poetic power that can be discovered in the anti-naturalistic figure, Bacon's brutalist paintings are going to strike many observers as the only representational alternative available to an artist in our terrible times. The lack of delicacy or sensitivity-- the lack of imagination in the handling of color or line--becomes not the artist's weakness but ours, a reflection of the troubles of the age. Bacon's work is a blunt instrument, and museumgoers who begin to feel threatened or manipulated may well conclude that this is what Bacon intended. They may not be wrong. ... Bacon is another specialist in sensory deprivation. There is a Stockholm Syndrome quality about these exhibitions. They give us so little, and what we are meant to discover is that we could not possibly be satisfied with anything more.
This is an excellent piece, but I must object to this business - itself a cliché - about "our terrible times"? You want terrible times, read Barbara Tuchman's A Distant Mirror. We live in a time when you can walk down the street to CVS and get a bottle of eardrops that, had they been available in 1900, would have saved Oscar Wilde's life. Sure, awful things are happening in the world today (see Iran, North Korea, Burma, Darfur, etc.), but most of us, including Jed Perl, have been spared any encounter with them. And our feeling bad about them is not the same as experiencing them and doesn't do squat about them. A little perspective, please.

Classy of them ...

... Shooting the Messenger? (Hat tip, Gwendolyn.)

Here is an interview with Ebon Fisher.

As J.S. Mill said ...

... eloquence is heard; poetry is overheard: Overheard at the West Chester Poetry Conference. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Forbidden pleasure ...

... Ron Slate on On Kindness.

Best to not let your left hand know what the right is doing.

Thought for the day ...

The first moments of sleep are an image of death; a hazy torpor grips our thoughts and it becomes impossible for us to determine the exact instant when the "I," under another form, continues the task of existence.
- Gerard de Nerval

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Christopher Ricks ...

... on John Keats. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Recommended by Nige ...

... Machado de Assis.

See also A Good Year for the Daisies and Richard Monckton Milnes.

Word from Judith ...

... more catching up:

David Mansfield Bromige (1933-2009).

Duffy: 1 -- Commentarians: 0.

Laughin' all the way to the brink . . .

News that stays news. (Way to go, Judith. Genuine poetry is indeed the contradictory of propaganda.)

Catching up with Maxine ...

... actually, there's so much there worth reading, and I've been neglectful for so long, that your best bet is just to hie thee to Petrona and keep reading and scrolling.

Who knew?

... It's James Wood's World and We're Just Reading In It. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Think on these things ...

... The Door Interview: D. Keith Mano. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Some members of the faithful may find this shocking and disturbing, but it strikes me as what faith is all about - really thinking through the content of your act of faith, letting your thoughts lead you where they may. Genuine faith is neither easy nor pretty.

Dangerous companions ...

... From friendship to fascism in one short step.

Characteristically outstanding work from Bryan.

Some random afterthoughts of mine:

Sunnstein himself seems safely ensconced in a like-minded set, and his book sounds like another Malcolm Gladwell-style offering of cocktail-party talking points.

I worked for 28 years at a paper where most of my colleagues would cheerfully describe themselves as "liberal," and would describe me, not quite accurately, as "conservative." But during most of those years I led a life far more unconventional than my colleagues and hung with people - with whom I tended to disagree strenuously - who would cheerfully have described themselves as "radical." I have also known - and known very well - a good many people known to the public as "conservatives."
It would almost seem as if I prefer the company of those I disagree with, but I think it is more the case that most people tend to conform and do so by following the course of least resistance. I am reflexively nonconformist. "Which way are you going?" someone once asked Albert Jay Nock. "The other way," Nock replied. My sentiments exactly.
"Most people think little," Somerset Maugham observed, and most people's views are fashion statements of one sort or another. I know plenty of people who get their opinions from the New York Times exactly as they get their suits from Brooks Brothers - because both are presumably high-end, fequented by the "best people," etc.
"Belief is clinging to a rock," that oddly wise fellow Alan Watts once said. "Faith is learning how to swim." We need faith if we would plunge into the sea of uncertainty that is life, but most people are timorous and cling to the bogus certainty of cherished formulae.
Finally, I would draw your attention to some questions raised by Larry Lamb, one of Bryan's commenters: "What about legitimate convictions? What about bona fide absolutes? What about true values that require stalwart defence?"

Today's Inquirer reviews ...

... GI families poured into homes in Levittown. But the first black residents got a harsh reception: When the dream turned ugly.

... David Hiltbrand review Luis Alberto Urrea's latest: A Mexican teen's funny, heroic quest.

... Glenn Altschuler on How media have molded modern Jewish religion.

... Sandra Scofield on A walking tour of misery in an Indian town.

See also Rachel Simon on homes and hearts.

Happy Father's Day ...

my father moved through dooms of love
by E. E. Cummings

my father moved through dooms of love
through sames of am through haves of give,
singing each morning out of each night
my father moved through depths of height

this motionless forgetful where
turned at his glance to shining here;
that if(so timid air is firm)
under his eyes would stir and squirm

newly as from unburied which
floats the first who,his april touch
drove sleeping selves to swarm their fates
woke dreamers to their ghostly roots

and should some why completely weep
my father's fingers brought her sleep:
vainly no smallest voice might cry
for he could feel the mountains grow.

Lifting the valleys of the sea
my father moved through griefs of joy;
praising a forehead called the moon
singing desire into begin

joy was his song and joy so pure
a heart of star by him could steer
and pure so now and now so yes
the wrists of twilight would rejoice

keen as midsummer's keen beyond
conceiving mind of sun will stand,
so strictly(over utmost him
so hugely) stood my father's dream

his flesh was flesh his blood was blood:
no hungry man but wished him food;
no cripple wouldn't creep one mile
uphill to only see him smile.

Scorning the Pomp of must and shall
my father moved through dooms of feel;
his anger was as right as rain
his pity was as green as grain

septembering arms of year extend
yes humbly wealth to foe and friend
than he to foolish and to wise
offered immeasurable is

proudly and(by octobering flame
beckoned)as earth will downward climb,
so naked for immortal work
his shoulders marched against the dark

his sorrow was as true as bread:
no liar looked him in the head;
if every friend became his foe
he'd laugh and build a world with snow.

My father moved through theys of we,
singing each new leaf out of each tree
(and every child was sure that spring
danced when she heard my father sing)

then let men kill which cannot share,
let blood and flesh be mud and mire,
scheming imagine,passion willed,
freedom a drug that's bought and sold

giving to steal and cruel kind,
a heart to fear,to doubt a mind,
to differ a disease of same,
conform the pinnacle of am

though dull were all we taste as bright,
bitter all utterly things sweet,
maggoty minus and dumb death
all we inherit,all bequeath

and nothing quite so least as truth
--i say though hate were why men breathe--
because my Father lived his soul
love is the whole and more than all

Thought for the day ...

The desire to write grows with writing.
- Desiderius Erasmus


Dear All:
I wanted to send along greetings from Taiwan. I've been here for about a week, and will be travelling to mainland China tomorrow. Back in Philadelphia (and back to blogging, too) around July 1.
Until then,

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Literary real estate ...

... Inside Hemingway's Havana House. (Hat tip, Paul Davis.)

Please intrude ...

... upon The Private Life of J.D. Salinger.

Another warning ...

... this one concerning "narrative exhaustion": Beyond the silver screen. (Hat tip, Lee Lowe.)

Would love to have seen ...

...this: Charles Dance's island.

This week's batch ...

... of TLS Letters: Lincoln and slavery, Age of eloquence, Careless as Dickens - and more.

Old news ...

... British Library publishes online archive of 19th-century newspapers. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

This should appeal to all those editors who have yet to figure out that they're living in the 21st century. They may not know who they are, but others do.

FYI ...

...from Education Week: NCLB Found to Raise Scores Across Spectrum. Imagine that.

Faithful to books ...

... A Literary Legend Fights for a Local Library. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

'His most famous novel, “Fahrenheit 451,” which concerns book burning...' Which would lead you to think it is about government-sponsored censorship. Au conrtraire, says the author: Ray Bradbury: Fahrenheit 451 Misinterpreted. "He says the culprit in Fahrenheit 451 is not the state — it is the people."

It's not easy ...

... being a muse: Martin Amis: me and my 'terrible twin’. (Hat tip, Paul Davis.)

A conversation ...

... with David Lodge. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Hmm ...

... U.S. Climate Report Assailed.

He faults all these reports for all relying on “non-peer reviewed, unsupportable studies rather than the relevant peer-reviewed literature” and for “featuring non-peer-reviewed work conducted by the authors.”
Shouldn't this concern all scientists?

Always room ...

... Improving on perfection.

See also Almanac and Big break.

University meets noir ...

... Lean, Mean, and High-Toned Too: Richard Stark's Parker Novels. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Thought for the day ...

Poetry heals the wounds inflicted by reason.
- Novalis

Friday, June 19, 2009

Batavia meets Philadelphia ...

... via Detroit: Play Ball! Tell Stories! (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

This is a very nice piece. They would have played in Shibe Park, where I saw my first game in, I think, 1946.

An Interview with Michael Peich

Mike Peich, director of the WCU Poetry Center and co-founder of the conference, talks about the creation of West Chester University's annual poetry conference and the goals of the Poetry Center.


Interview with Molly Peacock

In this interview with Frank, Molly discusses her Master Class workshop at the WCU conference and the physical nature of poetry.


An Interview with Daniel Hoffman....

In this interview, Daniel discusses his newest collection of longer poems, entitled The Whole Nine Yards.


Interview with Donald Hall...

Frank and I had the opportunity to sit down with Donald Hall. Donald spoke primarily on the poetic process and his own experiences with the craft. More interviews coming soon.....


The year I graduated ...

... from high school: When the World Tilted--Again. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Kerouac's On the Road came out in 1957, so I guess you could say that 1959 was at least two years in the making. Also, Herman Kahn was only part of the inspiration for Dr. Strangelove. Henry Kissinger figured as well. As for Orville Prescott,"the New York Times's stuffy daily book critic," here's a snippet from his obituary:

If there was any doubt about Mr. Prescott's judgments, he defined his positions in an essay written after his retirement and published in The Saturday Review. First of all, he said that "all critics practice a craft which consists of personal, subjective opinion tempered by experience and wide reading." It was, he said, "not only inevitable but fitting and proper that they should disagree among themselves."

Then he named the contemporary novelists he thought were "worthy of thoughtful attention," but who were "excessively overpraised" by his colleagues. On Mr. Prescott's list were William Faulkner ("the most distinguished of these intermittently brilliant authors"), John O'Hara, Robert Penn Warren, John Steinbeck, Saul Bellow, John Updike, J. D. Salinger, William Styron, Henry Green, Graham Greene, Laurence Durrell, Gunter Grass and Vladimir Nabokov.

In contrast, he said, there were novelists who were "more significant and truthful interpreters of life." Their novels "represent the best fiction of the past 25 years." On this list were John P. Marquand, James Gould Cozzens, Louis Auchincloss, Conrad Richter, John Hersey, Joyce Cary, C. P. Snow Rumer Godden and Evelyn Waugh.

Debatable for sure, but there is much to be said for that list of writers he thought were "more significant and truthful interpreters of life."

Restoration ...

... Pre-Raphaelite art: the paintings that obsessed the Victorians.

How had things got to this point? It was the largely Franco-centric tastemakers of the early 20th century who stuck the knife in. Though the leading critic of the 19th century, John Ruskin, endorsed Pre-Raphaelitism as “a school of art nobler than the world has seen for 300 years”, his successor, the Bloomsbury-ite Roger Fry, dismissed the PRB as parochial, illustrative failures who dealt in “archaistic bric-à-brac”.

But Debussy, who styled himself musicien Francais, based his early cantata La Demoiselle élue on Dante Gabriel Rossetti's poem "The Blessed Damozel" and preferred Turner to Monet.

It works for me ....

... People who should be killed this week.

PETA will doubtless complain.

Time for ...

... Triple Canopy, Issue 6.

Breakthrough ...

Carrie Keesey, my wonderful assistant at the West Chester University Poetry Conference, has worked out the bugs and two more videos from the conference are up. If I played a more prominent role in these than I do, I would hesitate to say much about them. But you will be pleased to discover that I hardly figure in them at all. I am the un-Chris Matthews. But the people interviewed all have much to say that is worth hearing and they say it well. If you look at all the videos, you will have a pretty good sense of what the conference was about.
None of these would exist but for Carrie, who somehow managed, despite many other duties, to schedule the interviews, handle the camera, and do the downloading and editing. My girl Friday. Thanks, Carrie.

But how good were they ...

... when thomistically drunk? Those Medieval Monks Could Draw. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Time runs out ...

... The Newsweekly’s Last Stand. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The newsweeklies could revive their flagging fortunes by closing their New York office and scattering their staff in various towns around the country - or replacing staff with people in those towns. Then they might achieve something reflective of the people they hope will buy them. As it is, they are hopelessly parochial.

Meet the neighbors ...

... Bears and Other Predators Invade U.S. Neighborhoods.

“They’re wild animals, and they’re predators,” Mazzotti says. “Treating them with that small amount of respect and intelligence is the best thing we can do to live with them.”

No, the best thing is to make plain to them that certain areas are off-limits, and if it takes killing some of them to get that message across, so be it. Nature is not sentimental, and we should not be sentimental about nature.

Thought for the day ...

Be still when you have nothing to say; when genuine passion moves you, say what you've got to say, and say it hot.
- D.H. Lawrence

Thursday, June 18, 2009

An American original ...

Something rare ...

... a photo of D. H. Lawrence smiling.

Send a birthday wish ...

... to Aung San Suu Kyi. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Her birthday is tomorrow.

I just noticed ...

... that some posts I had scheduled for earlier today never published. I think they're up now. By the way, those videos of the WCU Poetry Conference will be posted. Blogger hasn't be able to finish uploading them, though they are shorter than the Donald Hall video. But the intrepid Carrie Keesey is working on the problem and expects to have them up soon.

An appeal to readers ...

... Dave Lull sends along this link: Finnegans Wake: Page 510. It was brought to his attention because of the use of the term blog. But what Dave - and I - would like to know is what does it mean to be "thomistically drunk"?

Every old skin in the leather world, infect the whole stock company of the old house of the Leaking Barrel, was thomistically drunk, two by two, lairking o' tootlers with tombours a'beggars, the blog and turfs and the brandywine bankrompers, trou Normend fashion, I have been told down to the bank lean clorks?

Discussion ...

... Diagnosis: The Spread of Viral Culture.

Isn't New York magazine doing what Ed Champion has been doing with his round-table email discussions? And in the case of the one Ed had of Human Smoke, Nicholson Baker himself participated. I mention this not to disparage what New York mag is doing, but to give credit for an innovation where it's due.

Centenary alert ...

... Eric Ambler: He made heroes human. (Hat tip, Paul Davis.)

Enthusiasm ..

... Harold Bloom on Blood Meridian. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Meet a polymath ...

... Ibn Khaldûn, Alexander the Great, and the Sea Monster.

Ouch ...

... I would of written would’ve if I knew what the hell I was doing.

Two poetry links ...

... from Rus Bowden:

... Last Words by Jane Shore.

I Got a Glimpse of God by Willie James King.


Thought for the day ...

Once you label me you negate me.
- Søren Kierkegaard

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Take a look ...

... at the web page of Michael Haag. Alexandria: City of Memory has to do with Durrell and Cavafy and E.M. Forster's connection with city.

Listen to ...

... Bruce Bawer on Surrender. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

See also Roger Miller's review: The Un-PC bar code.

Post bumped. (By the way, had it come my way when I was The Inquirer's book editor, I would have run Roger's review. Bawer's While Europe Slept was reviewed when I was book editor.)

Dave Lull sends along this: memo from europe.

Something different ...

Bridge Works is a small publishing company that has brought out some very worthwhile books over the years, notably Rosemary Aubert's Ellis Portal mysteries, and such books as Heather Sharfeddin's Blackbelly, which Katie Haegele called "a good old-fashioned cowboy tale that's as gritty as they come."
So I was looking forward to reading Janet Nichols Lynch's Chest Pains, which Bridge Works brought in February, and even arranged to review it for The Inquirer.
As it happened, I had problems with the book. Of course, space in newspapers is at a premium these days, and the idea of running what would at best be a mixed review of a first novel did not appeal. So the review was canceled.
The novel did get a brief, discouraging review in Publishers Weekly, which you can read at the Amazon page to which I linked.
Now I happen to pretty much agree with that review, but a question keeps popping up in my mind: Is it good for literature that papers no longer have space to pay attention to first novels?
If a person of note writes a novel, it will likely get some attention because of the author's celebrity. Ditto for a writer known for writing something besides fiction. But the journeyman writer who has published stories here and there, and who gets a novel finished and published is likely to see that book ignored, unless some reviewer decides it's really good and manages to persuade an editor to run a review of it.
Not to review such books is to leave a gap in literary dialogue of rather gigantic proportions. So I thought I would take some time here to discuss what I liked and what I didn't about Chest Pains.
The story centers on Gordon Clay, a failed bass player who teaches at a community college someplace in the boonies of California. Gordon is 42, seems older, lives with two cats, and is not in the best of shape. In fact, he's been having chest pains, though his heartaches are as much emotional as physical. (One of his students, a tone-deaf postulant nun named Sister Cecilia, gets him to the doctor.)
One night, Gordon gets a phone call from a woman in the town - though at first he thinks she's calling long distance - who sounds just like and has the same name as Carrie, his one true love from whom he split years before. This other Carrie happens to be married to another guy named Gordon Clay. This Carrie thinks her Gordon has snatched their kid.
OK, pretty coincidental all round. But it could work. But only if everything else works. And little else does.
Using his need for exercise as a pretext, Gordon visits the local playground to see if he can meet up with the new Carrie. One mother thinks he's getting too chummy with the kids and soon Gordo is getting a warning from the playground gendarme to keep his distance. I had two problems with this. One, I don't think mothers in general have yet become quite as paranoid as this suggests. Second, if you get a warning from a cop, heed it.
Eventually, Gordon meets a Polynesian single mom called Mikilauni Kukula. She's a knockout, he's smitten, and she, improbably, takes to him. (I don't know what Polynesian immigrant communities are like - I didn't even know there were any - but the one here is portrayed in a manner that is not exactly flattering.)
The action has mostly to do with Gordon's friendship with Sister Cecilia, who leaves the convent, but whose spirit remains buoyant, and his involvement with Mikilauni, which naturally does not go all that smoothly - though smoother than it deserves.
When we're with Gordon by himself, he and the novel come alive. The interaction of the college faculty is also good. The faculty members may be more caricatures than characters, but they are well drawn and effective caricatures. The problem is, whenever Gordon steps out of his house or his office, he seems to enter some fantasyland where everything is a little askew and nothing quite convinces. The incidents and turns of plot seem tacked on as needed. They are not organically connected to the characters and action. That action, by the way, pretty much just comes to a stop. There is no real sense of anything having been resolved at the end.
There is one other thing, which, while incidental, draws enough attention to itself to be seriously annoying. If you're going write about the Catholic Church, have some Catholic proof your book. The church mentioned at the beginning of Chapter Two would be called Our Lady of Lourdes, not Our Lady of the Apparitions of Lourdes. There is no part of the Mass called the Transubstantiation. Transubstantiation is Thomas Aquinas's hylomorphoic explanation of what takes place at the Consecration. People visited with the stigmata are called stigmatics, not stigmatists. Such slips cancel versimilitude for anyone who knows better.
There is some good writing in these pages, and a genuine sense of the absurd is on display from time to time. I can easily imagine someone else reading this book and enjoying it more than I did. And even though I didn't particularly like it, I do think it shows promise.

Bleakness as opportunity ...

... Living poetry: It Is Daylight by Arda Collins.

Hmm ...

... Study Refutes Depression Gene Finding.

The new analysis did, however, verify the portion of the earlier finding that showed more stressful life events translate into a substantially higher risk for depression.

Wow, do you think?

Publish and perish ...

... Higher-ed pinching pushes college presses to brink. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Of local interest ...

FYI ...

... The Inquirer now has an editorial board blog: Say What?

Also in the Inquirer ...

... Brain waves or beatific vision?

Well, if you have a vision while still in possession of your body, I would imagine there would be brain waves in connection with it.
I thought this interesting: "Or, as one researcher later suggested, had the temporal lobe of her brain been briefly hyperstimulated? This, he told her, likely induced the illusion of an unseen presence." Does this mean that hyperstimulation of the temporal lobe always creates illusions? Given that an external stimulus and our mental reaction to it are entirely different from each other (see Russell Brain, Mind, Percception and Science), one might as well conclude that everything the brain tells us is an illusion.

This really is interesting ...


An Inquirer review ...

... by our friend Roger Miller: Noir falls in Weimar Berlin.