Friday, July 31, 2009

Zero times zero ...

... Clyde and Bonnie Died for Nihilism. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Just a thought ...

... Certain proponents of an expanded evolutionary theory are fond of explaining all sorts of things — religion and art, for example — in terms of their survival value. But if the overriding point of evolution — if I may put it that way — is survival, that point was reached right from the start. The simplest life forms — bacteria, algae, protozoa — mastered the art of survival so well and so immediately that they continue to thrive as they did from the beginning. So development beyond them into more complex life forms would hardly seem to have anything to do with survival. In other words, while the more complex form, once it does exist, must meet the challenge of survival, its emergence as a more complex entity cannot be explained as a response to that challenge. And since its origin cannot be accounted for in terms of survival, why should survival be the sole or even principal explanation of its subsequent activity?

A good way ... get kids interested in literature (warning: strong language - to put it mildly): Plus ca change.

See also Cameron Aligns Himself with Browning.

And that, I think, will conclude our detour into raunchiness.

Sad ...

... Saying goodbye to Damien, Tom and Geeta. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Extry, extry ...

... Advance PW Review: Nabokov's 'The Original of Laura'. (Hat Tip, Dave Lull.)

Censoring Jen ...

... Ed Champion wonders: Are Bookstores Being Too Censorious With Author Events?

Contrast Ed's reporting with the Guardian's. Easy to see which is better.

A poem ...


He listened in silence
As though for someone,
Or only a voice
Whispering comfort.
It would sound, he thought,
Like the water in the stream
At the foot of the hill
Below the house, echoing
In daytime the plangent
Antiphony of sunlight and trees
And at night the promissory
Ground of darkness.
He listened and waited,
Season upon season,
And came to know
Waiting and listening
Whispering comfort.

You can hear me read this poem in the Podcast block to the right.

Belated thanks ...

... to John and Jesse and Katie - and of course to Dave - for their contributions to keeping this blog alive while I was hiding in the mountains.
Thanks also to Wil D and PoetGrrrl for their fine work in covering The Gathering. The did it on short notice and did themselves proud.
The blog will be mostly out of commission today as Laura Mikowychok will be by shortly to continue aiding me in souping it up. More about that later.

Pynchon Lite ...

... Pynchon’s Drugstore Thriller.

See also Book Excerpt: ‘Inherent Vice’.

The hard part ...

... Telling Tails. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Thought for the day ...

My trade is a lonely one. I'm a craftsman, if you like. It so happens that these days singers are better paid than blacksmiths.
- Jacques Brel

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Calling Dave Lull ...

... because I think I'll leave this for a real librarian to handle: Library flavoured ice cream?

Never too late ...

... France's 'cookery bible' gets English edition. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

"I'm Italian, and in Italy and France we have the same approach to cookbooks – they take a lot of things for granted because people learn to cook at home ... "

Well, where the hell do the English learn to cook? I learned mostly from my mother and grandmother.
It would have been nice if this article had included a recipe - or some sample of what's in the book.

Settle in ...

... for a long ride: A New Page. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

This strikes me as self-indulgently long. Maybe he was paid by the word. Anyway, the lead is interminably repetitive and much else, I think, could have been cut. But the part about the development of E Ink is interesting. I don't remember all the negative reviews of the Kindle 1 myself. I have one and I like it. I didn't approach it as a conventional book, so I didn't have any problem about "turning the pages." I also assume that the technology will steadily improve and that many of the complaints - regarding illustrations, for instance - will fade with time.

Thrilling music ...

I subscribe to BBC Music Magazine - and if you like classical music you should also. Each issue comes with a CD and this month's is a recording from the BBC archives of a 1975 performance of William Walton's first symphony conducted by Adrian Boult. It is a remarkably vigorous and insightful performance, especially when you consider that Boult was 85 at the time. The first movement in particular seems to get inside not only the music but also the elusive Sir William himself. And what a great piece of music it is, as clear a window onto the 20th century as any work of art I know of.

How do they know?

I am writing this at 10:40 a.m., though it will not post until 1 this afternoon. But right now, in our tiny patio garden, a goldfinch is breakfasting happily on seeds dug out of sunflower planted by other birds during the winter. Goldfinches have visited our yard before, usually for the same reason. It seems that if we have sunflowers in the yard, goldfinches will know about it. But no goldfinches actually seem to live around here. There are plenty at Tinicum Marsh, which is about a 20-minute drive from here. So how do they find out, I wonder. Birds have wings, of course. So maybe they just do reconnaissance flights. They may just be smarter and less the prisoners of "instinct" than we think.

A friend recommends ...

... Jennifer Weiner touts some favorites. (The friend referred to is, of course, Jennifer herself, one of my favorite people.)

RIP ...

... Professor Michael Freeman: scholar of French medieval studies.

I have a number of those wonderful David Munroe recordings.

Anniversary break-down ...

... Eyes Wide Shut.

A grand achievement ...

... in my view: Something of a boulevardier. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I once ghost-wrote a book for someone. It was never published. The man I wrote it for said, after reading it, that he liked it, thought it was excellent, in fact, but that no one who knew him would for an instant believe that he wrote it. I was paid in full, by the way.

Good fortune ...

... Lawrence Durrell Discovery: The Alexandria Quartet.

Uncertainty (cont'd.) ...

... a Comment by The Physicist. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I'm always amazed why we (humans) think that we can predict to any degree of accuracy what's going to happen tomorrow. We seem to accept the fact that we can't predict the weather very well but sure believe that the stock market will make a comeback ...
Well, we are skeptical of today's weather forecast, but scads of people seem to think we can predict what the long-term trends in climate are, even though climate is as complex and dynamical system as there is.

And here's a classic observation:

To communicate with Mars, converse with spirits,
To report the behaviour of the sea monster,
Describe the horoscope, haruspicate or scry,
Observe disease in signatures, evoke
Biography from the wrinkles of the palm
And tragedy from fingers; release omens
By sortilege, or tea leaves, riddle the inevitable
With playing cards, fiddle with pentagrams
Or barbituric acids, or dissect
The recurrent image into pre-conscious terrors—
To explore the womb, or tomb, or dreams; all these are usual
Pastimes and drugs, and features of the press:
And always will be, some of them especially
When there is distress of nations and perplexity
Whether on the shores of Asia, or in the Edgware Road.

The fact is, we are always trying to game complex systems. This is the root of all superstition. Genuine faith serves the function of enabling us to live in a world that is fundamentally mysterious and unpredictable - and to savor the mystery and grow with it and by means of it. If the evolutionists want a good explanation in survival terms of why religion came about, there's one for them. But the tendency to game complex systems corrupts religion as well, reducing it to a check list of do's and don'ts, turning the sign of the cross into something on the order of casting salt over your shoulder. Real faith bestows courage, not certitude.

Oh, and here's what a physician thinks of one reform idea: Stop Paying the Crooks.
What is it with these so-called policy gurus? Knowing little or nothing about how health care really works, they haul out the bromides and throw around statistics based on taking small numbers and projecting them across large populations, to come up with scary percentages which then echo around the web and inside the hollow heads of the parrots in media newsrooms. Oh, and our politicians then use this crapola to formulate policies, which always end up having massive unintended consequences and which never achieve the results promised.

Thought for the day ...

Skepticism, like chastity, should not be relinquished too readily.
- George Santayana

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Ordinarily ...

... I would not link to this: Is There a ‘Right’ to Health Care? (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

But Beau Blue brought up the subject in a post that had to do with certainty and that mentioned health care in that connection. I also link to it because it brings to a subject sorely in need of it some dispassionate logic and personal experience (Dalrymple is an English physician).

Memoir post mortem ...

... Memoirs and McCourt. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Billy Collins mentions Augustine and Rousseau, but the real great-granddaddy of the modern memoir is Peter Abelard's Historia Calamitatem.

The Booker Long List ...

... Judges decide on Man Booker Dozen.

Oh, noooo ...

... Lust rears its noisy head in the British Library. (Hat tip, Dave Lull, who offered no comment.)

Hear, hear ...

... reducing literary criticism. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I think this is absolutely on target. I remember when I was an undergraduate (more than four decades ago) reading an article in MLA Journal about Blake's The Marriage of Heven and Hell that was far and away more difficult to parse than Blake himself. Of course, the MLA Journal has long specialized in publishing crap.

See also Diminishing Returns in Humanities Research.

Nige on art ...

... is always worth reading: Pictures from an Exhibition.

Nige mentions but does not link to Thomas Jones's A Wall in Naples. Here it is. As Nige says, it is masterly.

Last call ...


[Cheever] spent most of his time in group therapy correcting his counsellor’s grammar. “Displaying much grandiosity and pride,” they wrote in their notes. “Very impressed with self.” Eventually he fell silent. Four weeks later he emerged, shaky, fragile and subdued. “Listen, Truman,” he told Truman Capote. “It’s the most terrible, glum place you can conceivably imagine. It’s really really, really grim. But I did come out of there sober.”

Gee, the place I went to was pretty pleasant, actually. What Don Newlove says is right on the money (and Those Drinking Days is probably the best book on the subject):
First you hang on to all your old romances about your illness, then you suck your old grandiosity for every drop that’s still in it, you vigorously emphasise your uniqueness among the clods who might be recovering with you, and then you defend to the death your right to self-destruction…Starting afresh meant that a massive part of his work so far was self-pity and breast-beating. That was the last mask he couldn’t rip off. It was like tearing the beard from his cheeks.
The copyeditor in me compels me to point out that the palpitations associated with liver disease are heart palpitations not liver palpitations. You can palpate the liver, though that is something quite different. The liver does not palpitate.

Thought for the day ...

Human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind.
- William James

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Speaking of uncertainty ...

... Don't Forget Keynes.

Maybe ...

... maybe not: Doubts and Questions. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I had some intense experiences of doubt while vacationing in the mountains - or, rather, an intensified sensitivity to the uncertainty that governs our lives. In the end, it proved exhilarating, and strengthened my faith (which is not, of course, a form of certainty, but a means of living in spite of that fundamental uncertainty.)

In this connection, here is something for Sam Harris, who is so concerned about scientific illiteracy: Resisting climate hysteria.

The fact that the developed world went into hysterics over changes in global mean temperature anomaly of a few tenths of a degree will astound future generations. Such hysteria simply represents the scientific illiteracy of much of the public ...

This has much to say, actually, about what we might call the decline in standards of discourse.

See also Getting a grip on Greenland's future.

RIP ...

... Stanley Middleton. (Hat tip, Dave Lull, who also sends along Stanley Middleton Biography - Stanley Middleton comments.)

I get serious ...

... (sort of) about being shallow: Bright surfaces are richer in detail than shadowy deeps.

Thought for the day ...

Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties.
- John Milton

"It's very possible that the sweater did it..."

Fresh off the AP wire: Texas man wins Hemingway look-alike contest...

Monday, July 27, 2009

Oh, really ...

... Science Is in the Details. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

There is an epidemic of scientific ignorance in the United States. This isn’t surprising, as very few scientific truths are self-evident, and many are counterintuitive.
Our authority for this is Sam Harris, whose scientific credentials and achievements are ... I forget. Oh, he doesn't have any.

RIP ...

... Merce Cunningham Dies. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Hmm ...

... MB Meditates on MA.

I have nothing but the greatest respect for Mary Beard, but I wonder. So the meditations are a commonplace book, routine reminders of what the philosophical Roman was expected to bear in mind. Well, I think there is much to be said for a man in Marcus's position taking the time to do that. And the choice of what he wrote down presumably was his own - those commonplaces that meant something to him, which tells us something about him. I don't recall that Marcus anywhere suggests that he is an original thinker. Come to think of it, original thinking may be at times overrated. It's sound thinking we need more of.

Big guy ...

Here's a shot of a polyphemus moth that spent a day perched on the cabin. I believe these moths can't eat and live less than a week as adults (though it is quite voracious as a caterpillar). You can see the eye on his wing, which is why he is named after the king of the Cyclopes.

But not dumb ...

... “Dope” debut.

Philly book scene ...

... Local Area Events.

See also Jenkintown Shakespeare Festival.

A lot of my friends are prostitutes

and they are all talking about this book.

Stefan Zweig

I've wanted to tackle the work of Stefan Zweig for quite some time; it was only today, however, that I had the opportunity to enjoy his Journey into the Past. Like Joseph Roth's Flight without End, Zweig's Journey provides a powerful meditation on the relationship between history, memory, and identity during those final - twilight - years of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The Pushkin Press edition of Journey left me wanting to explore Zweig (and his exile from Salzburg following the Nuremberg Laws) in greater detail. It also, I should note, provided a wonderful introduction to the narrative structure of this rewarding novella: "Zweig's...method is simple," writes Paul Bailey. "Someone has a desperate story to tell, and Zweig contrives a way for him to tell it. The beauty lies in the act of telling, of exquisite self-exposure, the thrill of sending an illicit message into the unknown." To read Journey is to confront a message of love and reunion; it is also, however, to look upon Europe just before the arrival of those dark, dark clouds.

The Future of Journalism again

NYROB's take on this endlessly dismal topic.

Well worth pondering ...

... Is this a flaw in Nassim Taleb's black swan argument? (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I will have to think about this (we're still on the road).

By the way, while on vacation I read Mark Vernon's After Atheism. Highly recommended.

Good deal ...

...Desert & The Prospector: Buy together for 30% off.

Thought for the day ...

Work alone will efface the footsteps of work.
- James Abbott McNeill Whistler

Love's Labour's Lost

The Globe returns to America...

"Since the Globe cannot reconfigure American university theaters to resemble its space here, Mr. Dromgoole said he planned to make small adjustments. The lights will remain on in the theater, to try to mimic the outdoor feel of the Globe, and characters will talk directly to audience members (or look at them as they talk to other characters) in the spirit of 'the democratic shared space and the talk-back quality that was a part of Shakespeare’s original Globe productions,' he said."

Saturday, July 25, 2009


Not only is Gerhard Richter a celebrated artist, he's an accomplished writer as well. I'd particularly suggest his collected essays.

Thought for the day ...

A consistent thinker is a thoughtless person, because he conforms to a pattern; he repeats phrases and thinks in a groove.
- J. Krishnamurti

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Thought for the day ...

The obvious is the hardest thing of all to point out to anyone who has genuinely lost sight of it.
- Owen Barfield

Coetzee: smile, please

On the flight last night to Dublin, I read J.M. Coetzee's sorrowful, but nevertheless lyrical, meditation on his development as a writer, Youth. Coetzee structures this collection of essays in an odd way, referring to himself throughout as 'he' (as opposed to the first person, 'I'). The result is a reading experience dominated by a sense of distance - and, as one proceeds, despair. Waiting for the Barbarians was a dark book; so, too, was Disgrace. With Youth, my third foray into the world of Coetzee, I wondered whether this talented South African ever wagers a smile...

(A question: is there something of Rousseau's Confessions in Coetzee's Youth?)

Post Modern Ism

How Post-modern is your reading? (Hat tip, Brian K. Goodman, M.St.)

Monday, July 20, 2009

The fascinating life of Muriel Spark....... given the full treatment by Martin Stannard. Hat tip to Dave Lull.

Frank McCourt - Remembered

The passing of Frank McCourt - Storyteller, Teacher...

Thought for the day ...

People get so in the habit of worry that if you save them from drowning and put them on a bank to dry in the sun with hot chocolate and muffins they wonder whether they are catching cold.
- John Jay Chapman

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Farewell Jason Miller, Farewell The Gathering

Rebecca Marshall-Ferris generously shared her odyssey of discovery with us this morning - a documentary about Scranton’s native son Jason Miller. It was the perfect finale to our conference’s theme – There and Back Again – Time, Place and Story.

Jason began his life on the west end of Scranton. He rose to critical acclaim through the writing of play That Championship Season and the Priest in the Exorcist. His time in the spot light was brief and his downward spiral to obscurity was pitiless to his artist’s soul. He died as he lived his last years, sitting in a pub.

The film Rebecca has crafted is unflinching but gentle. She uses the controversy over a public sculpture in his memory as a vehicle to transport us through the poignant ironies of his life and the community he sprang from.

His meteoric rise was for a play written about men nostalgic for their brief time of glory. In retrospect his life’s experience followed the same path. Watching the film I wondered if at the end of his life he saw that connection too. Furthermore, his play can also be seen as a metaphor for Scranton herself – bursting forth from the coal industry then withering away to a shell of its former brilliance.

While this might sound like a depressing thing to watch, I was surprised and delighted by how much humor was in the film. I laughed out loud quite a few times. My favorite scene was of a young man aptly synthesizing why Scranton was the place Jason belonged while getting an Exorcist Tattoo.

Another thing that I appreciated about the film was how she allowed the characters of those on camera reveal themselves to the viewer. Seemingly without prejudice or value judgement the sentiments and pickadillos of the people featured in the movie are captured in equal measure.

She sets a tone that is warm but not smaltzy. She refrains from cynicism, sarcasm or any other ism that would browbeat the subject. For that I say - Bravo!

Ultimately she casts a portrait of a man and a city that are down on their luck, but still fiercely beautiful and worthy of our affection. Thank you Rebecca!

And so The Gathering comes to a close for another year – after a scrumptious brunch at the Hull Family farm. I know we were all heartened to hear that next year’s theme and lecturers are already in the works – "Chaos and Creativity – Where the Strange Crossroads Lie." Featured guestspeakers are as of now: Jennifer Armstrong, Gail Carson-Levine, Dara Sobo, and Billy Collins. Mark your calendars –July 15-18 2010.

And so, sitting in the shade in this bucolic setting, I am reluctant to rise to my feet and return to the spinning vortex that I call my life. But this weekend I was reminded by Salman Rushdie that no one’s life is ordinary. So away I go to embrace my story more fully. See you next year!


The London Review recently published an interesting (and unusually well written) essay on Maria Rosa Antognazza's new biography of Leibniz. An overview of Antognazza's work can be found here.

Thought for the day ...

There are two methods, or means, and only two, whereby man's needs and desires can be satisfied. One is the production and exchange of wealth; this is the economic means. The other is the uncompensated appropriation of wealth produced by others; this is the political means.
- Albert Jay Nock

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Maps of the Human Heart - Loung Ung makes us care.

Loung Ung did not set out to be an author. She became one in service to her cause - educating people about the realities of living in a war torn country - land mines, starvation, genocide.

During the 1970's, 1.7 million of the Khmer people died under the oppression of the Pol Pot regime in Cambodia. She lost 20 relatives - including her father, mother and 2 siblings.

At 10 years old she was transported to Vermont and began a new chapter of her life. She grew up, went to college and began working to better the condition of her fellow Khmer countrymen. But how to make people listen? How to make things happen? She knew she must bring people into her story.

She asked herself 3 key questions:
1. How to access the heart of her story?
2. How to get people to care about her story?
3. How to get people to identify themselves within the story?

She found her answers -
1. At the heart of it all was a love story in the time of war, the kind of love that serves to sustain a family during the most desperate of times.
2. To get people to care, touch the central places in all of our hearts - the human need for love, familial connection, hope and compassion.
3. Through the voice of a vulnerable child, the reader connects with their own vulnerability and joins her on the journey.

And she hopes that once she has her readers walking beside her, her cause will become theirs.

Her 3 key questions are a gift to anyone seeking to use words as a means for navigating the human heart’s avenues.

Beyond a pearl of literary wisdom, she went on to provide us the guideposts for the most perilous terrains of the human heart - the pathways marred by grief, loss and terror.

"Although I am strong outside, being strong has taken a lot of will and energy. Inside me was like shattered pieces of glass. Each day I would restore myself, gluing the pieces back in place. One day recently (while attending the Khmer Rouge tribunals in Cambodia) I suddenly felt that I was not going to shatter anymore. I was strong with less force and effort. Life is light now. The glue finally took hold.”

So she stands before us tonight as proof. It is possible, even after unthinkable catastrophe to heal, repairing oneself one bit at a time, over and over until eventually, the mending takes hold.

Please go to her website and learn more about her story and also opportunities to participate in helping others in a meaningful way.

More on Waugh

Following up on Dave Lull's posting on Evelyn Waugh earlier this week, here's an interesting essay - originally published in 1954 - from The Atlantic...

"Other Oxford contemporaries have spoken of him in a harsher vein: 'A bitter little man'..."

Hookums, Snookums and David Sedaris

This morning at The Gathering, Salman Rushdie and Gregory Maguire teamed up for an entertaining 90 minute conversation that careened from book tour war stories to playing yourself on film to useful advice for writers (for example, a wise writer knows that the time to stop editing your own work is when you've stopped making things better, and you're just making them different).

The two authors found common ground quickly as they talked about the shared experience of following David Sedaris on book tour. From there they moved on to a discussion of their mutual interest in The Wizard of Oz and it was determined that "grown-ups are not to be relied on." We also learned that if Captain Hook and The Wicked Witch of the West were to marry and have twins, they would be named Hookums and Snookums.

It sounds more surreal than it actually was (albeit not by much), but I think this gives you a taste of just how far ranging and fantastic the conversation was. Other touchpoints included:
  • "The Hollywood Ending" and how it nearly destroyed the film of The Wizard of Oz
  • The value, for authors (and, presumably, creative folk of all stripes), of using different creative media to rest the writing part of your brain while exercising other mental faculties
  • How to recreate your creative "comfort zone" while traveling. (Carry a few special items with you and consistently arrange them around your work space.)
  • The remarkable support Mr. Rushdie received during the years he was under Ayatollah Khomeini's fatwa, as people around the world wore "I am Salman Rushdie" buttons. Mr. Rushdie joked that he was able to stay hidden by wearing one of these buttons himself. (Just as an aside, I think it's important to note that Mr. Rushdie was extraordinarily patient with us in revisiting this subject. Last night he said, "If it hadn't been not at all funny, it would have been quite funny," and then addressed the topic with great humor. Today, when asked whether he would ever write a memoir about the episode, he gave us more insight into his wholly understandable desire to move past these unpleasant memories, even as he acknowledged the effects the notoriety has had upon his career. I got the sense that he never wanted to be the "poster child" for freedom of speech, but that he won't back down from the responsibility that has been thrust upon him, simply because he believes in free speech's crucial importance to the wellbeing of human civilization. As for the memoir, he said that he can foresee writing it, but that he has yet to discover the right way to make the story artistically interesting to himself.)
Watching the combined creative power of these two authors was yet another high point in what has been a truly wonderful weekend for me, and, I think, for everyone at The Gathering. And we're not done yet -- tonight we get to hear Luong Ung, another lecture that I anticipate greatly.

Note: I've heard through the grapevine that many of you would like to see images from The Gathering. It's my understanding that the web site will soon be updated with this content, and when it is I'll provide a link along with one of my posts.

Thought for the day ...

After the final no there comes a yes and on that yes the future of the world hangs.
- Wallace Stevens

Salman Rushdie - Character is fate

I came to the evening prepared for a pompous blow hard overly proud of his title and accolades. I am not sure why I thought this, maybe because some of his most highly regarded works are found to be somewhat inaccessible at least for beach reading. There I confessed it.

What I encountered was a funny, articulate man capable of generosity to his mortal foes and deprecation of his self.

After he questioned the wisdom of letting authors such as himself speak out loud to a large audience, he challenged the concept that any life is ordinary. Behind the door of our "fine" lives and families, we all know both profound wonders and horrors. We all have a story and the right to give our stories voice.

One of the chief roles of the novel during the 18th Century was to be a beacon to society - informing about the human condition, promoting social change. He offered the example of Dickens’s Nicholas Nickelby and its impact on the reform of the deplorable conditions of poor children in England.

While some might suggest that the novel as literary form has grown less relevant as a social catalyst, he suggests the opposite. In the climate of today when truth is so imperiled by mass media, political talking heads and the general public's lack of focused discernment, it is as important to justice as ever. For it is one of the few bastions left for the detailed exploration of the truths those in powerful positions would prefer is left neglected.

Sir Rushdie knows too well that the tender care of truth does not come without high costs - both to the protagonists of stories and the artists that craft them. He deftly spoke of how character and it's juxtaposition against random events seals all our fates whether we are a figure in a story or the creator of the story.

Using the term "existential crime," he warned of the tyranny that comes when those in power restrain others from following the uniquely human impulse to tell stories. After all, we are the only storytelling animals; it is part of the fabric of what makes us human.

Citing the scene in Saul Bellow's The Dean's December an incessantly barking dog eloquently demands "For God's sake, open the Universe a little more!" Sir Rushdie asserts that it is the artist's weighty task to be the expander of the Universe - an effort not esteemed by the powers that be.

All of this was great stuff, but what I found most remarkable about the evening and about the character of this man was his treatment of the whole flap over Satanic Verses. Anticipating the curiosity around that time of his life, he raised the topic himself. He showed a gentle humor around his detractors. He speaks of the time when a Pakistani film depicting him as a villain was barred from release in the UK, he advocated against its censorship. Practicing his faith in the belief that the power of transparency allows for truth to win out and crappy movies to lose money at the box office. But when pressed during Q&A on why he didn't self censor to avoid the problem, his equanimity dropped and he briskly pointed out that crimes against humanity are committed by those holding guns not those holding pens.

Tonight I heard a man of great character speak and I believe my art and my life will be the better for it.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Gathering Theme Takes Shape

As has been noted on previous posts, this year's theme at The Gathering is "There and Back Again: Time, Place and Story." Today's speakers built on the foundation from last night's kick-off, and I think, as big and ephemeral as it is, the concept is starting to take shape. That said, I'm not sure I can explain it just yet. The idea is fraught with paradox, but the sense of it, at least to me, is the idea that all stories are journeys (and vice-versa). The time and the place of the story provides a frame of reference for the journey, and those who travel down creative pathways return all the richer for their expanded perspectives.

Today's journey started with poetry reading, and one poem in particular, "Eat Dirt" by Constance Garcia Barrio provided an outstanding perspective on the richness of dirt, while starting our metaphysical travels in a suitably grounded way (if you'll excuse the pun).

After the poetry, Nancy Willard gave the first lecture, entitled "The Secret Life of Doors." My fellow blogger from the event has already described the lecture in a previous post, so I'll just mention how impressed I was by Nancy's ability to turn very big ideas into very accessible words and phrases. She truly has a gift for language.

A panel discussion followed the first lecture, and as a group we explored the notions of time, place and story in relation to music and film. Moderated by Erika Funke, this freewheeling discussion ranged from concepts of the nature of creativity to the techniques and processes of creative expression.

This was followed by lunch, which lets me offer a quick word about meals at The Gathering. Not only is the food excellent, but by sitting down at meal time with authors, speakers, and fellow participants, you really gain an appreciation of the informal -- and yet always informative -- nature of this event.

The afternoon lecture by Joanna Rudge Long tackled the synthesis of our theme with books by Charles Seife, T.S. Eliot, Lewis Carrol and Peter Sis. No small task, but Joanna, ably assisted by her husband Norwood, rose to the challenge with aplomb. So, now I know how advanced cosmology, beginnings and endings, dreams, Galileo (to gather just a few of the strands of this far-ranging lecture) contribute to the cycles of creativity and existence.

Which brings us to tonight's appearance by Salman Rushdie. I think we're all well prepared to hear his thoughts about Time, Place and Story in relation to his own special brand of fiction -- I'll let you know how it goes.

The Fabulous Mary Beard

Reviews a new bio of Marcus Aurelius.

The Gathering - Day 2 Mid-Day

The Gathering is in full swing now.

The morning program brought us the sensibilities of Nancy Willard on a quest for adventure summoning the magical portals we have all been promised via fairy tales and fantasy fiction.

As she described her own yearning for something she could not have as a child - an opening to somewhere radically different, a place where magic resides. I felt like she was talking to me. Yes! I thought. I was always aggrieved that I did not find Lucy's wardrobe, Alice's Rabbit Hole, Coraline's door to no where.

Still I am not 100% convinced they do not exist in our physical realm, doesn't physics offer us black holes and worm holes? Surely there must then be that passage in a tree or old building waiting for us all if only we have the wisdom and courage to find it and walk through?

I am persuaded that that magic door is not outside of us, it is our own openness to conjure the journey of creation - a story, an artwork, an experience.

Is it possible?

... Could we be wrong about global warming?

Evelyn Waugh and the "cult of roughing it"

Dave Lull directs us to this little bon bon about an essay the tweedy Waugh wrote on his travels in South America in the early 30s.

Thought for the day ...

Art means to dare - and to have been right.
- Ned Rorem

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Greg Maguire kicks off The Gathering

What do bumblebees, Antonin Dvorak and Babylon have in common?

Thanks to the inventive mind of Gregory Maguire, the answer to this question is not "Umm, I'll just go and get you a doctor now, OK?" Instead, not-so-coincidentally, the answer is "Time, Place and Story," which happens to be the theme for The Gathering this year.

Greg kicked off this year's event with a very funny and entertaining lecture entitled "Backyard Babylon." In addition to bees and Dvorak, it also brought together elements from the work of each of this year's featured authors, Greg's own writing, autobiographical anecdotes, and numerous other seemingly disparate topics in a highly informative thesis. While defining his views about the relationships between time, place and story, Greg also provided fascinating insights into the genesis of his Wicked Years series.

Greg's lecture was the exclamation point on a delightful opening evening that started with a meet and greet on the Keystone College campus and continued on to a convivial dinner shared by authors, guests and staff. After dinner, brief welcomes and introductions were followed by the invocation, highlighted by a lovely Hindu dance performed by Sujata Nair Mulloth.

All in all, it was a fantastic start to a highly-anticipated weekend. I can't wait to see what tomorrow brings!

Opening Event of The Gathering

The invocation this year was traditional Indian dancing performed by Sujata Nair-Mulloth. Each of her movements a devotion to Rama -the 7th avatar of Vishnu - a human perfect in every way. As I listened and watched - I am struck by the beauty and precision of her arms and legs moving. They themselves seemingly perfect. I feel that the divine has fitfully been invited to dwell among us within the room. For more on Rama:

Keystone President Boehm spoke of the college's legacy. It lives today having started as a memorial to the fallen during the Civil War. How beautiful that those who fought and died to liberate the slaves are remembered by liberating minds over 140 years later.

Gregory Macquire then took the podium and our rapt attention as well. He knitted together the theme of the Gathering - There and Back Again - Time, Place and Story into a tapestry of sage words from other accomplished authors and his own journey from childhood to parenthood. And while his prepared speech was compelling, he was especially enthralling when he answered a question about how his Book Wicked was transformed into the award winning play.

I Made it to the Gathering!!!

Although my 5 and 7 year old girls did implore me not to got to the "Scattering" as they called it, I explained it is but once a year that Mommy gets to do something for herself.

I begin to go into detail about the importance of nurturing my creative process, but they roll their eyes and ask what there is to eat. "It is OK", I say to myself, "they do not have to get it. And they will be just fine without me, just fine."

I throw my luggage in the car and drive off 10 minutes down the road. Hooray! Fending off the slings and arrows of guilt hurling children, I have arrived at the Gathering once again.

The theme this year- "There and Back Again -Time,Place and Story" already is resonating with me as I navigate the first 10 minutes of my arrival.

I think back to my uncertainty in the first minutes of the Gathering last year and how this year I am transformed - striding confidently to the correct building, having parked in the most convenient lot, free of trepidation about the unknown. I immediately see the two coolest Librarians I have ever met - my suite mates from last year. I feel welcome, I feel at home.

I am simply overjoyed to be here and grateful that I have the opportunity to be part of such a special convergence on this day... in this place... a new chapter of the Gathering begins.

The Delta

Scholars this week have repeatedly suggested James Cobb's The Most Southern Place on Earth as one of the most powerful analyses of the history and culture of the Mississippi Delta. Those interested in the Civil War and its aftermath should find this work particularly rewarding.

Them's fightin' words........

Webster’s Third: The Most Controversial Dictionary in the
English Language

Delta Tour

My tour through the Mississippi Delta continues. Yesterday, the B.B. King Museum. This afternoon, Sumner, where the Emmett Till trial was held. Finally, you should have seen The Crossroads.

Thought for the day ...

It is a myth, not a mandate, a fable not a logic, and symbol rather than a reason by which men are moved.
- Irwin Edman

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Hadley vs. Pauline

Changes are coming to A Moveable Feast...

"Mary Hemingway, the writer’s fourth and final wife, was the one who edited the first edition of A Moveable Feast, published by Scribner in 1964, cobbling it together from shards of the unfinished manuscript he left behind. She created a final chapter that dealt with the dissolution of Hemingway’s first marriage and the beginning of his relationship with Pauline, building some of it from parts of the book he had indicated he did not want included.

Early next month, Scribner, now an imprint of Simon & Schuster, is publishing a new edition of the book, what it is calling “the restored edition,” and this time it is edited by Seán Hemingway, a grandson of Hemingway and Pauline. Among the changes he has made is removing part of that final chapter from the main body of the book and placing it in an appendix, adding back passages from Hemingway’s manuscript that Seán believes paint his grandmother in a more sympathetic light."

If you've been wrestling with poetry.....

checkout this and this courtesy of Rus Bowden.

Gathering myself for The Gathering

Hello and welcome to my blog about The Gathering 2009. The Gathering is a literary conference "plus" that's taking place this weekend (July 16-19). In fact, it might be more accurate to say that it's a celebration of creativity that merely starts with the written word. It's held every year at Keystone College in La Plume, Pa -- an absolutely gorgeous region of rolling hills, quiet streams and refreshing woodlands near Scranton/Wilkes Barre.

Although this year's event is the 3rd Gathering, it will be my first. I'm really looking forward to it, especially since the featured speakers include one of my all-time literary heroes, Salman Rushdie, as well as Gregory Maguire, the author of Wicked, Loung Ung, who has written a riveting autobiography about her childhood in Cambodia, and Nancy Willard, a poet and author of children's books.

I'm not really sure what to expect, though. I've never been to any kind of literary conference before, so I'm guessing I'll feel very much like a lost puppy, at least at first. But from everything I've heard, The Gathering is a very mellow and welcoming scene -- I picture it as a range of people discussing books, big thoughts and bold ideas, but without being pretentious. There are workshops as well as lectures, and apparently some really good food, too.

Whatever happens, I'll try to bring you along for the ride with posts to this blog throughout the weekend. Please be patient with me though -- in addition to this being my first literary conference, it's also my first blog. So I guess you could say that The Gathering is also about learning to exercise your creativity in new ways (well, for me, anyway). I think it's going to be a lot of fun.

Thought for the day ...

Opinion is that exercise of the human will which helps us to make a decision without information.
- John Erskine

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Henry Miller

Several months ago, Frank Wilson lent me a copy of The Henry Miller Odyssey. If you've not seen this video documentary (1969), let me suggest that you do - it's a treat! The interviews with Miller are priceless. And it's pretty neat hearing from Durrell and Nin, too. Finally, speaking of Miller: it's worthwhile mentioning that he'd become something of the watercolorist by the end of his life. The University of Texas has archived some of his work, thank God.

Print zines as experiments in love

Thanks, Dave Lull, for telling me about this ebullient little blog post a librarian named Steve Lawson, who appears to be more than comfortable in the digital realm too, wrote about print publications.

Thought for the day ...

As long as a man stands in his own way, everything seems to be in his way.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Monday, July 13, 2009


I've just finished Anatole Broyard's Kafka Was The Rage - and I must say: what a great book! Like A Moveable Feast or Baudelaire's Parisian Prowler, Broyard's memoir of the Village captures the spirit of the age - in this case, the period immediately following the Second World War. Broyard's prose pack a real punch, and the result is a short meditation on the Bohemian Experience which is fun to read and richly rewarding. Broyard had something of the flaneur in him - and that, I think, is what makes Kafka Was The Rage so enjoyable.

Everyone he can think of who's died

Writer of hyperliterature and creator of multimedia projects Edward Picot has a new video called Everyone I Can Think of Who Has Died (a name which puts me to mind of the stories of Miranda July, a little), in which he writes those very names onto leaves and sets them sailing down a small creek near his home. Lovely little piece.

Thought for the day ...

Everyone wants to live at the expense of the state. They forget that the state wants to live at the expense of everyone.
- Frédéric Bastiat

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Southern Giant

A meditation on Faulkner's final years...

"He also said that The Sound and the Fury was the book closest to his heart because it had caused him the most anguish. It was to him, he said, what the crippled child was to its mother."

Not that Cleveland

Dear All:

Greetings from Cleveland...Mississippi. I'm attending a seminar here dedicated to a history of the blues - and blues culture - in the Delta Region. I hope to report throughout the week.

The first bit to note: It's 100 degrees. And humid.

More soon.

The Russian Scene

Exiled Soviet writer Askyonov dies in Moscow...

"After leaving the Soviet Union in 1980 and being stripped of his citizenship, Mr. Aksyonov lived for more than two decades in the United States and taught Russian literature at George Mason University. He lived briefly in Biarritz, France, then spent most of his time in recent years in Moscow."

A bit of commentary ...

... by me: A growing disconnect?

My thanks to Glenn Reynolds.

Philly book scene ....

... Chestnut Hill festival fetes local authors.

Today's Inquirer reviews ...

... Control problems KO'd Roger Clemens.

... Richard Burgin reviews Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: Nigerians, here and at home.

... Life, times, tunes of a song-writing team.

Thought for the day ...

All the efforts of the human mind cannot exhaust the essence of a single fly.
- Thomas Aquinas

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Music and health ...

... The Global Music Therapy Project.

See aloso this earlier post: A one ...

Merrily on our way ...

Around the time this post appears, Debbie and I should be arriving at the Inn at Jim Thorpe, where will spend the night before taking off tomorrow for the cabin in Vosburg Neck where will spend the next couple of weeks in wood tranquility. Posts will be very few and far between, but Katie and Jesse and John promise to keep the embers aglow and there may be something special later in the week.

In the Wright image ...

... Divine Devolution. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Or copyeditors ...

... Calling all subs. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Booking Around

Congratulations to recent Bowdoin College graduate Frances M. on the launch of her blog, Booking Around. Check it out. Clever insights abound...

Poetry at noon ...

... Saturday Verse: Kenneth Koch (1925-2002).

Wonderful ...

... Brush-Mind Book.

See also Brush Tao.

Gas analysis ...

...That Pledge.

On a lovelier note: Catalpa.

There used to a grand catalpa in our backyard in Germantown.The kids used to call it the popcorn tree.

The big guys ...

... Size Does Matter. The Longest Novels.


If you've not read Brassai's Henry Miller: The Paris Years, let me suggest that you do so! This is a fun book - and the perfect companion to his clever set of interviews with Miller, aptly titled Henry Miller: Happy Rock. While both works chart Miller's development as an author, they provide an exciting account of French history and culture as well. When Miller gets going, there's no one else like him - except, perhaps, Brassai himself!

Thought for the day ...

Science without conscience is the death of the soul.
- François Rabelais

Friday, July 10, 2009

Sounds like a good idea ...

... Don’t mess with this Hemingway. (Hat tip, Paul Davis.)

An honorable man ...

... and I say that as someone who knew him only slightly: The Catholic WFB. (Hat tip, Paul Davis.)

Pay a visit ...

... to the World eBook Fair. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

My, my ...

... Occasional Paper #1: Rudolph Delson Reviews the Official GED Practice Test.

In case you miss the PDF link, here it is.

Something I missed ...

... "Forgotten Book Friday".

As readers of this blog know, I was often in my wilder years a most indiscreet fellow. So I am better acquainted with opiates than most people. For that reason, I have long thought the connection between Coleridge's poetry and his drug use was far more tenuous than staid scholars imagine. Nobody writes anything of worth while high. You may get some thoughts and images that can prove of use later if you have the presence of mind and the energy to note them down. But it is unlikely that anyone zonked on opiates would ever think to exert himself sufficiently to write down much of anything.

Getting a foot up ...


As I recall ...

... Katie is a fan of pantoums: Jeff Newberry: "Pantoum on a Line by Weldon Kees".

Perish the thought ...

... What If Writing Were Like TV? (Hat tip, Paul Davis.)

Pretty long ...

... The Lives of Books. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

And so it is ...

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

Suggestions invited ...

... at PWSBKTW.

Hear, hear ...

... Francis Collins as Culture War Statement. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Anniversary ...

... for Sinners.

Maverick feminist No. 2 ...

... Christina Hoff Sommer on Persistent Myths in Feminist Scholarship.

Maverick feminist No. 1 ...

... Q&A: Camille Paglia. (Hat tip, Paul Davis.)

Death in the afternoon ...

... Man gored to death by bull in Pamplona run.

Thought for the day ...

The famous saying 'God is love', it is generally assumed, means that God is like our immediate emotional indulgence, not that the meaning of love ought to have something of the 'otherness' and terror of God.
- Charles Williams

Thursday, July 09, 2009

I pass this on ...

... even though I am not an enthusiast for government support of the arts. But other people do favor such support and they would want to know: Update From Jenny Hershour on Pa. Arts Cuts!

What the state giveth, the state may just taketh away - when it suits the state to do so.

Slant approach ...

... Ron Slate on Where The Money Went, short stories by Kevin Canty.

Clunkers ...

... Fired from the Canon.

Fleming in short ...

... On crime & thrillers: Quantum of Solace, Ian Fleming’s complete short stories.

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

... A new news media emerges for our new world, unseen and unexpected.

This week's batch ...

... of TLS Letters: Céline on the run, Crusaders, Tudors? - and more.

Florian Zeller

I continue to be impressed by the work of the young French author, Florian Zeller. Next up in my reading, I hope, will be his meditation on evil, a brief discussion of which can be found here.

Word cramps ...

... Panties, Tweeps! <>.

Dickens for the 21st century ...

... You DO Have Time for This. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Nige on ...

... A Better Thesaurus.

A post for noted felinophile ...

... Pete Clarey: In Scorn (and Praise) of Cats.

If you're in Philadelphia this weekend.....

check out the Chestnut Hill Book Fair.

Authenticity ...

... `Something Straight and Simple'.

It is just after 6:30 a.m. that I write this. Patrick's post is just what I needed to get the day off to a hopeful start.

Got the link right this time. Proof I wrote the original at 6:30 a.m.

Good choice ...

... Pick to Lead Health Agency Draws Praise and Some Concern. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Those who "complain about what they see as Dr. Collins’s evangelism" ought to actually read The Language of God.

Courtly love ...

... on General Hospital: “…we all leave before the morning light.”


I've been on the move a lot of late - and it's made me think of a beautiful couplet from Eliot's 'Four Quartets.'

But, as the passage now presents no hindrance
To the spirit unappeased and peregrine
Between two worlds become much like each other,
So I find words I never thought to speak
In streets I never thought I should revisit
When I left my body on a distant shore.

I've always admired this passage, particularly the concluding words.

Faithful art ...

... The Uncharacteristic Catholic Moments of Friedrich Schiller.

Thought for the day ...

Only the shallow know themselves.
- Oscar Wilde

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

What more could you want?

... Life, the multiverse and everything. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

A poem ...

Risk Analysis

Somewhere between rapture and despair
Lies the region most prefer inhabiting,
Feeling at home there, playing it safe,
Forfeiting one to be spared the other,
Learning too late escaping despair means
Taking a chance — on rapture.

Direct link to ..

... The Critical Flame.

Sharp-dressed man ...

... Due Dillinger: A Look Back at America's Classic Bank Robber, Part Two.

Popular bloodsuckers ...

... Blood, Fire, and Pillars of Smoke: The Rise of Vampires in Pop Culture.

The incomparable Maxine ...

... delivers Possibly my last word on the topic before the International Dagger winner is announced.

There's just one one problem ...

... Newspaper columnists ought to be the perfect bloggers. So why aren't more doing it well?

And what might that problem be? Most columnists are afraid of readers, and don't want to engage them. I know what I'm talking about here. Beau Blue, who posts comments here from time to time, usually disagrees with me - and I usually disagree with him, at least to some extent. But boy, would I miss his comments. How would I replace him.?And why the hell do we all have to agree on everything. I know this much about Beau: He is one hell of an interesting character. I also think he feels more deeply about poetry than a lot of well-known poets. And I could never have known anything about him were it not for the internet.

Boris Karloff alone ...

... would make this a gem: Snapshot.

A discovery ...

... Bonus Terry. I was not familiar with Wolf Kahn or his work.

An independent anniversary ...

July 4, I believe marked the sixth anniversary of ENC Press, which was founded and is run by my WFTC colleague Olga Gardner Galvin. I didn't want to post about this on a holiday weekend, so I waited until today. And I thought the best way to introduce you to the Press would be to provide some links:

Letter From the Publisher.

About ENC Press.

A Few Lessons Learned About Publishing in America.

A podcast With Olga Gardner Galvin, founder and publisher, ENC Press.

Finally, here's a bit about ENC's latest: Monkey See, by Walt Maguire.

Good news ...

... Divers rescue Captain, the swimming budgie.

The geography of allegory ...

... C.S. Lewis and the angel & devil on your shoulder. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I have read most of C.S. Lewis's works and - if I do say so myself - am better informed theologically than most of my contemporaries (and certainly most of those younger than I), having studied theology for four years (I was interested in it, too, and did well). My feeling is that The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is a better work of apologetics than Mere Christianity (itself a far less interesting book than The Abolition of Man), precisely because it is an allegory.

Give it back ...

... to readers: Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. (Hat tip, Paul Davis.)

Competition ...

... Google to Challenge Microsoft With Computer Operating System.

Experts, religion ...

... Karen Armstrong and more over at Opacity. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I just spent a good bit of time scrolling through this and I think you will find it to be well worth your time as well. Regarding Platonism, though, I think this passage from Plato's Letter II (addressed to Dionysius of Syracuse) is worth noting:
It is a very great safeguard to learn by heart instead of writing. It is impossible for what is written not to be disclosed. That is the reason why I have never written anything about these things, and why there is not ans will not be any written work of Plato's own. What are now called his are the work of a Socrates embellished and modernized.
Kathleen Raine notes somewhere that Plato also insisted that there was nothing original in his teaching, that he was simply passing on an ancient wisdom that had been handed down to him.

Keep a weather eye on ...

... Prolonged Sunspot Drought Ends as New Spots Appear.

Check out ...

... The Critical Flame :: Issue 2. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Hey, book folks ...

... a chance to win some money: The Tag Your It Contest! For 30 Seconds of your time win $100!

Anniversary time ...

... 60 Years of the National Book Awards.

Thought for the day ...

I have found some of the best reasons I ever had for remaining at the bottom simply by looking at the men at the top.
- Frank Moore Colby

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Lovely ...

... Chagall.

Branching out ...

... A. S. Byatt contributes to Kimbell Art Museum’s exhibition catalogue.

Play ball ...

... Baseball novels from top to bottom.

Mike Peich, the director of the WCU Poetry Conference, and I went to the Phillies game last night, which turned out to be the highest-scoring game in the franchise's history. Mike has season tickets and the seats were right down along the first base line. Going to a baseball game always makes me feel young again.

The complete interviews ...

... from the West Chester University Poetry Conference. As I have said before, these are worth looking at because of the people interviewed and certainly not because of the skill of the interviewer.

Interview with Donald Hall...

Interview with Daniel Hoffman....

Interview with Molly Peacock

An Interview with Michael Peich

An Interview with Dale Schellenger

Not your usual ...

... self-help book: Almanac of Awesomeness.

Click over ...

... to Peter Stothard and just keep scrolling and reading. Lots of interesting stuff. I particular recommend the Michael Jackson post.

The illusion of control ...

... 'Black Swan' author Nassim Taleb meets 'Dance with Chance' team. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Maverick criminals ...

... Public Enemies: The Lore and Lure of 20th-Century Outlaws. (Hat tip, Paul Davis.)

More than just words ...

... After a 44-year labour of love, world’s biggest thesaurus is born. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Flesh tones ...

... Lisa reads: Tattoo Machine: Tall Tales, True Stories and My Life in Ink by Jeff Johnson.

Check out ...

... Narrative Magazine.

What is the problem ...

... with these people? Author offers apologies over Twitter'd review backlash. (Hat tip, Vikram Johri.)

No one is obligated to like what you write or agree with it. They may well express their dislike or disagreement in harsh terms. That is one of the risks you take in publishing anything. How the hell can a published author not learn to live with this? And why make an ass out of yourself by saying things you then have to apologize for. And, if that's what you felt like saying and went ahead and said it, why apologize? Either don't say it in the first place or stand by it.

My latest column ...

... is up: Poetry is the soul of art.

BITE's new look ...

I have received a number of compliments on this blog's recent makeover. The compliments, however, should not be directed to me, but rather to a very bright young lady named Laura Mikowychok, whom I met at the West Chester University Poetry Conference and who helped me and Carrie Keesey with the videos. Laura - brave girl - is actually teaching me how to do things that I hope will improve this site, such as podcasts and videos. (I figure if I have to learn this stuff I may as well have an attractive young woman as my tutor.)
At any rate, the current design is entirely Laura's doing. I was really taken with it when she sent me a picture of it Sunday night. It is is precisely what I was hoping for. You'll be hearing more about Laura here as I make progress in becoming a geratric geek.

A one ...

... and a two: Why Music is So Important to Health. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

A thoughtful and thought-provoking post to which I shall return.

No W.C. Fields he ...

... New Art Museum chief always loved Phila. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Maybe he can do some about Redlining art ...

Via negativa ...

... All quiet on the God front.

Armstrong is not presenting a case for God in the sense most people in our idolatrous world would think of it. The ordinary man or woman in the pew or on the prayer mat probably thinks of God as a kind of large version of themselves with mysterious powers and a rather nasty temper.

I wouldn't be so fast to presume as to what the ordinary man or woman in the pew thinks. "A musicologist," Sir Thomas Beecham said, "is a man who can read music but can't hear it." The same is true of the person for whom religion is a strictly intellectual enterprise. Armstrong goes too far, it would seem to me, asserting in effect that the apophatic cancel out the kataphatic. It is true that an exclusive focus on the latter can be profoundly misleading, but someone firmly grounded in the former can make skillful use of the latter. Blackburn's is a very good review, though, which perhaps Gordon McCabe - who comments on a review of Armstrong's book here (hat tip, Dave Lull). "The Tao that can be named is not the Tao." What is so difficult about the notion that there is at the very center of being an unfathomable mystery?