Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Maybe it's something ...

... about the present: The power of the past: how historical fiction has regained its gravitas. (Hat tip, Paul Davis.)

Here, by the way, is the Man Booker 2009 shortlist. My favorite, so far, is The Children's Book.

Way to go, Dutch ...

... Elmore Leonard to receive lifetime achievement award from PEN USA. (Hat tip, Paul Davis.)

Congratulations ...

... Dionne Brand is Toronto's new poet laureate. (Hat tip, Hedgie.)

Color me skeptical ...

... Nonprofit news is good news.

I don't think newspapers would be in anywhere near the trouble they are if they simply stood apart from the fray and reported what was going on irrespective of who got hurt. Case in point: DOUBLE STANDARDS AGAIN.

As I say ...

... I am flattered: Thinking About Thinking


Competing to celebrate ...

... Poetry competition celebrates 800th Anniversary. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Challenging ...

... the American Library Association: Celebrate "Banned" Books Week! (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

... they have to alter and restrict the definition of censorship deliberately to exclude cases of the government restraining a book's publication. That's because if they go by this common definition of censorship, they have absolutely no cases to discuss. Since there is no actual book censorship in the United States, there's not much need for a group crying out against it.

Get to know ...

... Daniel Kalder.

Interesting ...

... France Divided Over Polanski Case.

The mood was even more hostile in blogs and e-mails to newspapers and news magazines. Of the 30,000 participants in an online poll by the French daily Le Figaro, more than 70 percent said Mr. Polanski, 76, should face justice. And in the magazine Le Point, more than 400 letter writers were almost universal in their disdain for Mr. Polanski.

That contempt was not only directed at Mr. Polanski, but at the French class of celebrities — nicknamed Les People — who are part of Mr. Polanski’s rarefied Parisian world. Letter writers to Le Point scorned Les People as the “crypto-intelligentsia of our country” who deliver “eloquent phrases that defy common sense.”

Proof ...

... that anybody famous can get a novel published (which is also evidence as to what is wrong with the publishing industry): One Man's Utopia. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

That Nader should think that a cartoon parrot and a TV show featuring an over-the-hill host should be enough to persuade ordinary Americans to think as he does tell you everything you need to know about what Nader thinks of ordinary Americans. Either that, or, deep down, he knows how simple-minded his ideas really are.

Why not ...

... BLURBS FROM BLOGS? (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

If Mark read the book and recommended it on his own because he liked it, I'd take that more seriously than I would a blurb from people who may have been asked to provide one. As for this business about "an unedited online venue," who cares? Is it really being suggested that the same words, the same recommendation, would carry greater weight if they had appeared in a review in a newspaper or magazine? Actually, the reason one would have confidence in what Mark says on his blog is precisely the same reason one would have confidence in what he would say in a review. Which, of course, is why I invited Mark to review for me when I was The Inquirer's book editor.

Just the facts ...

... Steve Lopez: Polanski's defenders lose sight of the true victim.

For laughs ...

... Good Humor Man. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Thought for the day ...

I was eleven, then I was sixteen. Though no honors came my way, those were the lovely years.
- Truman Capote (born Sept. 30, 1924)

Charles Dickens

He's everywhere! An interesting discussion - initiated by The Guardian...

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

RIP ...

... James Lord: biographer.

Indeed ...

... A. C. Grayling asks: Should Roman Polanski have to pay for crimes he committed 30 years ago?

And answers: "... for serious crimes against the person — rape, murder, genocide — there is every justification for a robust and unyielding refusal to let anyone ever escape punishment for them."

Put Polanski in the same cell with Phil Spector.

Quite a pair ...

... Fitzgerald, Hemingway fascinate after all these years. (Hat tip, Paul Davis.)

Back and forth ...

... Chasing Emily Farther.

Catching up ...

... with Kay Ryan, Poet Laureate, at the National Book Festival. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Mark your calendar ...

... Poetric Arts Performance: Blend--October.

Miss Lonelywriter ...

... Shameless Hussy. (Hat tip, Hedgie.)

Two out of the three ...

... are bad: Roman Polanski, George Orwell, and Salvador Dali.

It will be seen that what the defenders of Dali are claiming is a kind of benefit of clergy. The artist is to be exempt from the moral laws that are binding on ordinary people. Just pronounce the magic word “Art,” and everything is O.K.: kicking little girls in the head is O.K.

Introducing ...

... The Outlet.

Quote magnets ...

... If “Mark Twain Said It,” He Probably Didn’t. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

So there ...

... Poetry is rubbish. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

My latest column ...

... Wishful thinking and the mystery of who we are.

Literary reality show ...

... Vote Off Book Island. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

A whack ...

... at the J-word: Amartya Sen Shakes Up Justice Theory. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I note there is no mention of The Inquirer in the tagline.

Thought for today ...

Everything comes in time to those who can wait.
- François Rabelais

Monday, September 28, 2009

Surprise, surprise ...

... except for intellectually underprivileged Americans: Even in Capitalists’ Bad Times, Europe’s Socialists Suffer.

Trust me, folks. I know of whom I speak.

On the one hand ...

... Tim Rutten deplores coarseness (he also deplore Bruce Bawer's Surrender, if memory serves: A crash course in American coarseness. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

... on the other hand, where was he when Condoleeza Rice was being portrayed as Aunt Jemima: Stop Allowing The Left To Set The Rules. Perhaps he wrote a piece deploring that, too, and I just remember it.

They've begun ...

... lists of the year's best: The Times picks the 50 best paperbacks of 2009. (Hat tip. Paul Davis.)

Fascinating ...

... Birds on the wires. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Technical language ...

... otherwise known as jargon: Do you speak criminal? (Hat tip, Paul Davis.)

Having spent some time once, going around town with a guy collecting vig, I know more about this than you might think.

Here's an idea ...

... provide a good book the kind of publicity bestowed on The Lost Symbol: The Dan Brown Thing.

An "earlier age" ...

... Journalist spies: David Holden, Basil Bunting et al. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Profiles in sentimentalism ...

... David Baron call your office.

From Glenn's piece:
There's lots of interesting stuff in Baron's book about ecological change, and the folly of seeking "wilderness" without recognizing humanity's role in nature, but to me the most interesting behavior isn't the predatory nature of the cougars -- which are, after all, predators -- but the willful ignorance of human beings. So many were so invested in the notion that by thinking peaceful thoughts they could will into existence a state of peaceful affairs that they ignored the evidence right in front of them, which tended to suggest that cougars were quite happy to eat anything that was juicy, delicious, and unlikely to fight back.

Philly book scene ...

... Local Area Events, featuring Banned Books Week.

Pseuds ...

... Where nobody knows your name. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Simple enjoyment ...

... On Poetry.

RIP ...

... Alicia de Larrocha.

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

... Post-Medium Publishing.

Glimpses of a happier world ...

... buying cake. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Thought for the day ...

Old and young, we are all on our last cruise.
- Robert Louis Stevenson

Sunday, September 27, 2009

It's a job ...

... Trouble is Philip Marlowe's Business.

RIP ...

... William Safire, Times Columnist, Is Dead at 79. (Hat tip, Paul Davis.)

Picky, picky ...

... The Lost Symbol and The Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown: 50 factual errors.

Misbehavin' ...

... Sex with students? Is Terence Kealey as misunderstood as Juvenal?

For the season ...

... Fifteen Autumn Poems.

For an artist near you perhaps ...

... Artists at Work.

The technique of murder ...

... PD James, Queen of Detective Fiction: Interview.

The new literary world order ...

... For many Chinese, literary dreams go online. (Hat tip, Lee Lowe.)

"Ordinary people have started to realize the world ought to be dominated by them, rather than some media or elite," Hou added. "Online authors are breaking the rules and using totally fresh concepts."
And the media don't like it, Mr. Hou.

Bryan times 2 ...

... Mandelson and Rankin.

Perfect match ...

... The Glad Scientist.

Early in his academic career, though, he noticed that his colleagues, even the ones at the top of their game, seemed unhappy. “They were tremendously stressed about the need to get the grant money, to get the publications, to move up the academic ladder,” he recalls. “And that felt all wrong.” He joined the Peace Corps and taught astronomy at a university in Kenya. On weekends, he took his show on the road, and as impoverished villagers crowded around his telescope, peering excitedly at the moons of Jupiter, he decided that to be deprived of learning was just as tragic as being deprived of food or water.

Today's Inquirer reviews ...

... David Hiltbrand considers Pete Dexter's latest: It's really Dexter's bio, two-thirds zesty.

... tough position: A player with everything on the line.

... California dreamin': Rich portrait of a golden state.

... Margaret Atwood's latest: A fantasy world after 'Waterless Flood'.

Thought for the day ...

As things are, and as fundamentally they must always be, poetry is not a career, but a mug's game. No honest poet can ever feel quite sure of the permanent value of what he has written: He may have wasted his time and messed up his life for nothing.
- T.S. Eliot

Friday, September 25, 2009

An appeal ...

... to all my friends in England, and most especially Nige: Forget Bob Dylan. England, in the 20th century, produced a genuinely great composer: Sir Malcolm Arnold. Please listen to his nine symphonies. I can't find any of them on YouTube, but YouTube does have his frivolous. wonderfully accomplished, and delightful A Grand, Grand Overture, which I link to below. So he had a sense of humor, could write for the movies. Those symphonies tell us what it was like to be a live in the second half of the 20th century.

It is Friday night ...

... and I am spending the rest of it with A.S. Byatt. Make of that what you will.

Indeed ...

... The unbearable sadness of Michael Moore.
What we are left with then is a kind of political pornography for bien pensants in which Moore carefully orchestrates and manages his scenes and arguments to arouse a sense of anger and moral outrage in an audience which he knows desires to be thus titillated. Moore then feeds a series of stimulating scenes to the viewer, keeping that engorged muscle of angry indignation fully enflamed, until a climactic release at the end of the film. But once that climax has been reached, the world has not changed and the viewer has not participated in any meaningful form of protest, rebellion or dissent. This is ultimately an experience without real contact, without consummation, or the exchange of any bodily fluids. The energy of outrage is dissipated and fades away. The manipulated viewer simply returns to his life, most likely carrying on as a good servant of Capitalism.
Moore is a phony.

Romanian Theater

Esoterica, it's true - but still, interesting...

Maxine ponders ...

... Favourite literary heroes.

Do I have any? I was fond of Athos in The Three Musketeers. And of course Captain Ahab - for his single-minded pursuit of his vocation.

Enjoy ...

... Forgotten Book Friday - Tilt-a-Whirl.

Profile in wussiness ...

... Negroponte’s Judgment Call on Free Speech. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Francine Prose on Anne Frank ...

... Portrait of the Artist as a Young Girl. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Last symbols ...

... The Nabokov Code. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

See also Ghost Writers. (also from Dave.)

A reminder ,,,

... Noir at the Bar with "Dope Thief" author Dennis Tafoya.

Observing rules ...

... Camilleri and Pirandello.

Pirandello's The Rules of the Game is a wongerful play.

Thought for the day ...

In composing, as a general rule, run your pen through every other word you have written; you have no idea what vigor it will give your style.
- Sydney Smith

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Words fail ...

... Don’t cry at political scandal. It could be verse. (Hat tip, Paul Davis.)
The Princess and the President is a toe-curler. It is breathless, pretentious, inadvertently hilarious and monumentally self-regarding. But it is also rather magnificent, a demonstration of the melodrama that still animates the soul of French politics, and a taste for showing off that British politics has sadly lost.
Clearly, too many French politicians have been educated beyond their intelligence.

Bon voyage ...

... Launching a School of “Creative Criticism”. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Seems fair ...

... after all, God's built a pretty good case for Karen Armstrong: Karen Armstrong Builds A 'Case For God'. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

A mystery to himself ...

... William Golding and the capacity for evil.

This week's batch ...

... of TLS Letters: Vinegar in the archives, Open-minded Churchill, Seraphim, and more.

As usual ...

... more interesting stuff over at the Diary Junction Blog.

The univited ...

... With Promotion Money Tight, Authors Take to Online Sites To Toot Their Own Horns.

Accepting responsibility ...

... What might keep Mesac Damas out of heaven.

"Radiantly delightful" ...

... high praise from Evelyn Waugh: Hindoo Holiday. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

On the other hand ...

... there is the question of Liberty and Literacy. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)
It isn’t mainly illiteracy that inflates the size and force of government; it’s the power-lust of the “master” class and the narrow self-interest of the “subject” class, which is disgustingly willing to surrender freedom and future prosperity for immediate and particular rewards. Lenin was perfectly literate; so was Hitler, and so were many of their followers. It didn’t help.

Still, "the defense of a free society, especially against the attacks of literate (or technically literate) people, does require a fairly high standard of literacy." Indeed.
This is a fine piece. So read the whole thing.

Countering ...

... nostalgic, uninformed hogwash: Is the Internet melting our brains?
We hear a thousand objections of this sort throughout history: Thoreau objecting to the telegraph, because even though it speeds things up, people won't have anything to say to one another. Then we have Samuel Morse, who invents the telegraph, objecting to the telephone because nothing important is ever going to be done over the telephone because there's no way to preserve or record a phone conversation. There were complaints about typewriters making writing too mechanical, too distant -- it disconnects the author from the words. That a pen and pencil connects you more directly with the page. And then with the computer, you have the whole range of "this is going to revolutionize everything" versus "this is going to destroy everything."
Pen and pencil may connect you more to words qua words, but the typewriter, by enabling you to write almost as fast as you can think, connected you better to language as lived, thought and spoken. Hence, the greater naturalness of prose once the typewriter became the principal tool for writers. The computer advances on this, because you can correct typos immediately, hyphenate and justify the page, and print it out immediately.

Don't forget to celebrate ...

... National Punctuation Day is Thursday! (Hat tip, Paul Davis.)

Thought for today ...

Do not try to push your way through to the front ranks of your profession; do not run after distinctions and rewards; but do your utmost to find an entry into the world of beauty.
- Sydney Smith

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Match this ...

... Professor Dawkins: Father Michael van den Bogaert: Christian missionary.
Much is written of the need for “institution building” to develop the skills and attitudes that are needed for constructive social work among the poor, and Father Bogaert contributed significantly to this literature. More important, he played a major part in the establishment and evolution of three important institutions: the Xavier Institute of Social Service in Ranchi, the Xavier Institute of Management in Bhubaneswar, and the Xavier Institute of Development Action and Service in Jabalpur. He was working on the same task at the Xavier Institute for Social Action in Raipur when he died. Few men can claim to have built even one institution; he built three.
Father Michael was one person of whom one can say with confidence that he left behind nothing but good.

Desultory blogging ...

I am reading, for review, A.S. Byatt's The Children's Book. I am finding it marvelous, the sort of book in which savor every sentence, to make sure you don't get through it too fast. It has reminded me 0f what sort of absorbing, magical experience reading is meant to be. It is why my blogging has been spotty and will remain so over the next few days (I also have a deadline to meet).

Kicks in the eye ...

... Joscelyn Jurich: Satori. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Objectively bad ...

... The Lost Symbol and The Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown's 20 worst sentences. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Only yesterday afternoon, John Timpane and I were chuckling over these - from the open pages of The Lost Symbol:

"The skull was hollow, like a bowl, filled with bloodred wine." Well, of course the skull is hollow. It is, after all, a container - for the brain.

"The room like a holy sanctuary from the ancient world." Definition of sanctuary: "a sacred or holy place."

"This room was a perfect square." The room is either square or it isn't.

Edinburgh professor of linguistics Geoffrey Pullum says “Brown's writing is not just bad; it is staggeringly, clumsily, thoughtlessly, almost ingeniously bad.”
Indeed.

Classic ....

... Snapshot.

Advice I need ...

... to take to heart: A Method of Study. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Nige on Chekhov ...

... and V.S. Pritchett: 'Untenanted'.

Remembering publishing ...

... Redactor Agonistes. (Hat tip, Lee Lowe.)

High praise ...

... Her scarlet letter. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Francine Prose is the best American novelist of her generation—the baby boom generation. (Unless Marilynne Robinson [b. 1943] belongs to that generation. Then she shares the title with Robinson.)

Good news ...

... Back by popular demand, the book page returns. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Thought for the day ...

Man only likes to count his troubles, but he does not count his joys.
- Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Raymond Carver


I've just been introduced to the work of Raymond Carver - and I must say, I'm finding some of it horribly depressing. That said, the fourth story in Cathedral - 'The Compartment' - is masterfully crafted. Indeed, it was reminiscent, for me, of Hemingway's 'A Canary for One': trains, enclosed spaces, velocity, family dynamics - it's all there, cast in patient, powerful prose. I'm interested to learn more about Carver's critical reception as well as his attention (devestating, at times) to those moments of revelation which guide couples towards reunion (or worse, ruin).

Is this absurd ...

...or what? Absurdist literature, it appears, stimulates our brains.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Makes sense to me ...

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

Animated sentence ...

The nature of discourse ...

... Politicans, just stop lying to us already.

Apophasis ...

... Reveling in the Mystery. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)
What we discover, in the end, is that the intellect by itself
can never lead anyone to the virtues of the soul. Mere rational knowledge—even
about God—does not provide growth or movement toward sharing in the life of God.
Some scholars have suggested that Protestantism is built on a Gnostic scheme of
a knowledge that saves. This is too extreme. Yet Protestant Christianity's
special emphasis on knowing God and God's revelation in a very cognitive sense
suggests that its spirituality is too closely tied to a way of knowing God that
is best represented by the fact that the sermon, not the liturgy, stands at the
center of most Protestant worship services.

Plum pie ...

... P G Wodehouse will always have the last laugh. (Hat tip, Paul Davis.)

This seems useful ...

... 100 Awesome Bookhacks for Students & Bibilophiles.

The cost of art ...

... Nothing Like Depleting Your Savings Account to Get Those Creative Juices Flowing.
L. Lee Lowe is an e-novelist who has experienced modest success with her two science fiction novels and various short stories. Her stories, particularly Corvus, have loglines that prompt their potential movie trailers to play in your head and are available for free (doesn’t that make your unemployed ears perk up?) on her website.

My latest column ...

... Santayana and tragic grandeur.

Congratulations to poet, Heather McHugh....

.....for receiving a MacArthur Grant this year.

Ill endowed ...

... 'Artists' as Servants of Power. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Thought for the day ...

To be a poet is a condition rather than a profession.
- Robert Graves

Monday, September 21, 2009

He sure did ...

... the original review of The Hobbit: Professor Tolkien "has a nose for an elf".

Nige returns ...

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

Signage ...

... ‘Could you have Inspector Vimes meet Dick Tracy? And sign it “To Bill”’.

Henry Miller was a fan of Krazy Kat. And John Alden Carpenter wrote a very nice, jazzy ballet based on Krazy Kat. Beyond that, I don't know much about the strip.

The plain people ...

... and the internet: Exploring News by the Amish Online. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Something I came upon ...

... and find interesting: THE MYSTERY OF FASCISM (cont. 2).

Talk about contemporary ...

... Samuel Johnson, anti-American. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Tapping deeply ...

... Ron Slate on Petals of Zero, Petals of One, poems by Andrew Zawacki.

Free-wheeling ...

... PJ O'Rourke: a hellraiser who had to slow down. (Hat tip, Paul Davis.)

As a fervent foe of “big government”, he reluctantly accepts the need for the bank bail-out to prevent the entire financial system grinding to a halt. But he has no truck with the attempt to keep afloat the motor industry, most notably General Motors. “Saving GM was folly,” he says. “Millions of investors around the world were looking at GM and all agreed it was worthless. Then a guy who’s a lawyer with an Ivy League liberal arts education [Obama] comes along and tells me that my tax dollars are going to bail out GM. If I had wanted to own part of GM, I’d have a stockbroker.”

Philly book scene ...

... Local Area Events. This week's headliner is Lorrie Moore.

Neither Joseph nor Holmes ...

... CONRAD AND SHERLOCK IN FOX CHASE SEPT. 26TH.

Just the facts ...

... You have the right to home delivery. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Recently, Debbie and I watched He Walked by Night. She very quickly noticed its similarity to Dragnet. Sure enough, later on, Jack Webb appeared as lab technician. He later worked with the LAPD cop who served as consultant on the film to develop the series.

Early returns ...

... The Best Fiction of the Millennium (So Far): An Introduction.
... Plato's Dialogues, part 8: A man for all seasons. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

... Plato might be thought of as a religious thinker for our times. He has no doctrines, only powerful suggestions. He does not advocate belief, but rather good judgment. He is never authoritarian, instead inviting his readers to cultivate a way of life. Alongside questions about the transcendent, Plato places others about values, the good life and love – additional great concerns that are pressing for us today. "In the strange cosmic astronomy of the wandering zeitgeist," Iris Murdoch reflected, "we are closer to Plato now than in many previous centuries."
I am less persuaded by Mark's reference to Margaret Wilcox in Howards End. I think Margaret is a fundamentally intolerant busy-body.

Sharing the pain ...

... Arts community shocked by new tax burden. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Hard to feel a lot of sympathy for people who routinely want government funding and expect others to be taxed in order to provide it. On the other hand, can't see why the sports fans shouldn't have to cough up some extra shekels.

Art and history ...

... New Book Shows Historical Link to Ian Fleming's Thriller Moonraker.

Compassionate Calvinist ...

... Marilynne Robinson. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The assumption is that forgiveness is owed wherever God might want forgiveness to be given, and we don’t know, so you err on the side of forgiving. You assume your fallibility, and you also assume that anybody that you encounter is precious to God—or is God himself.
What about Michael Servetus?

Downbeat ...

... Bombay blues.

Thought for the day ...


Develop an interest in life as you see it; the people, things, literature, music - the world is so rich, simply throbbing with rich treasures, beautiful souls and interesting people. Forget yourself.
- Henry Miller

I find it amazing that so many people find themselves so interesting. I like to think I know myself pretty well. I am not that interesting.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

I await its arrival ...

... Now available: AQUINAS. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I liked The Last Superstition. I didn't mind the polemics - Feser is good at polemics - but I think the book would have been better without them.

Total depravity (again) ...

... commended and dissented to: Much Rejoicing.

The comment thread at this link is grown considerably since I first posted it, so I'm bumping it so people who may not have seen it can take a look. As I said in a comment I just added this is a model of civil discussion.

The Willie Sutton of books ...

... 'The Man Who Loved Books Too Much'. (Hat tip, Paul Davis.)

Die Leiden ...

... des jungen Elberrys: FNG.

The reason why this is so, of course, is that elberry is a conscientious teacher.

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

... delivering the daily me. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Indeed ...

... Art…is evidence of man’s opposition to mere necessity.

Easy does it ...

... The Dan Brown Sequel Generator. (Via Brandywine Books.)

Only make-believe ...

... Steven Pinker's fictions of thought.
It's this moral, and therefore, personal element that Pinker's account doesn't capture, and hence in that sense I think it can be called a fiction. He treats us as homo economicus when really we are homo moralis. Language is a window into human nature, as the subtitle of his book has it, only he doesn't really provide a look through that window. After all the moral and personal matters to us as human beings: what is an analysis of language that doesn't capture the meaning that makes most immediate sense to the users of that language? In general, this is the problem of the bio-economic discourses inherent in game theory, evolutionary psychology and the like, of which Pinker is such an adept.


Talk about provincial ...

... Trick or Tweet? Twitter launches crackdown after millions are duped by fake accounts. (Thanks to Dave Lull for correct link.)
Twitter has decided to act after Tony La Russa, the coach of an obscure American baseball team, launched a legal action over a fake account. He claimed that postings in which he appeared to make light of the death of two of his players had been ‘hurtful’.

"Obscure baseball team." Obscure to whom? Not to anyone who knows anything about baseball. Were I to refer to the manager of a cricket team - if there are such - I would refer to him as the manager of whatever team it was. I wouldn't call it an obscure cricket team simply because I don't know anything about cricket. Anyway, the St. Louis Cardinals are hardly obscure, and neither is Tony La Russa.

The meaning of @ ...

... Short Cuts. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

In case you wondered ...

... Who needs theology? Full submissions from theologians.

See also: Religion for Radicals: An Interview with Terry Eagleton.

(Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Yours truly ...

... looks at Bruce Bawer's Surrender: A double standard for news of Muslims?

This is the headline in the print version, by the way.

Today's Inquirer reviews ...

... Chronicling a journalistic giant.

... Throwing a bit more mess on the pile.

... Pedaling his musings about life, music, art, community.

Thought for the day ...

The sun is new each day.
- Heraclitus

William Trevor: A Life in Books




"I would use anything in order to tell a story, anything at all to make the story work..."


Saturday, September 19, 2009

In case you're interested ...

... Exclusive: Hear Chapter One of Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol.

Flat fee ...

... for ENC ebooks.

Killer blossoms ...

... Top 10 Most Dangerous Plants in the World.

More Philly book news ...

... 'Persepolis' is One Book, One Philadelphia winner. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Considerable ...

... The Powers of Dr. Johnson. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

In his Dictionary of the English Language, Johnson does not yet recognize the power of "nice" as the catch-all term for British near-approval, but he produces one of his little gems in defining the word: "It is often used to express a culpable delicacy." It may be time to observe that Dr. Johnson, neither by his own definition nor by ours, could ever properly have been described as nice. He lacked culpable delicacy to the exact same degree that he lacked good manners, an easy disposition, a sunny outlook, a helpful quality, an open spirit, a selfless gene, a handsome gait, or a general willingness to put his best foot forward in greeting others. If niceness was the only category known to posterity, we would long since have lost Johnson to the scrofulous regions of inky squalor, for he could be alarmingly rude.

Apropos of nothing, occurred to me this morning for some reason that my introduction to Dr. Johnson came by way of the Omnibus TV series during the 1950s that was broadcast on Sunday afternoons and was hosted by Alastair Cooke. They did a series of episodes about Johnson starring Peter Ustinov as the good doctor. It was my introduction to Ustinov as well. (A Google search indicates it ran in 1957, that it was Ustinov's American television debut, and that he won an Emmy for it. I was probably 15.)

RIP ...

... Irving Kristol, Godfather of Modern Conservatism, Dies at 89. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

A gift ...

... A sense of stillness. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

End times ...

... Facing the Final Curtain. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Dimwits in crime ...

... On crime & thrillers: stick ‘em down, fiction by Paul Davis.

Nutcracker ...

... Deconstructing ACORN.

... if your goal is to provide a propaganda service on behalf of the powers that be, then you should at least aim to be effective. But ACORN was destroyed regardless. Even worse, Jon Stewart did a skit on ACORN on Tuesday when only Fox was covering the story and then on Thursday Jay Leno made gags about the hapless community organizers in his opening routine. Both comedians assumed that their audiences already knew the story, which means that the ‘mainstream media’ isn’t setting the agenda any more — and thus can hardly be described as mainstream.

While I was out yesterday ...

... Philly's libraries were saved: Breaking News - Legislation to keep libraries open passes! (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Thought for today ...


It is possible for one never to transgress a single law and still be a bastard.
- Hermann Hesse

Friday, September 18, 2009

Back later ...

... by the time this posts I will long out here to meet up with Gwen and her husband. Blogging will resume either tonight or tomorrow.

Theory and practice ...

... Reason.tv: Sam Tanenhaus on The Death of Conservatism.

Sam seems to think conservatism is fine theoretically. He just doesn't want any conservatives to run for office or win elections. (Practical politics, after all, can be quite messy.)

True crime ...

... Philly Mob Files: Mobsters, Molls and Murder, Part III.

A terrible mystery ...

... Some are more equal than others.

Terry also quotes Richard Dawkins in today's Almanac. (Talk about counterfactual conditional thinking. Dawkins not only has no great knowledge of philosophy. He also has no great talent for it. People who have never been born are not people.)

Culture clash ...

... Continental Drift. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The big 300 ...

... for Dr. Johnson: `With This I Will Try to Be Content'. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)
“Boswell, with some of his troublesome kindness, has informed this family, and reminded me that the eighteenth of September is my birthday. The return of my birthday, if I remember it, fills me with thoughts which it seems to be the general care of humanity to escape. I can now look back upon threescore and four years, in which little has been done, and little has been enjoyed, a life diversified by misery, spent part in the sluggishness of penury, and part under the violence of pain, in gloomy discontent, or importunate distress. But perhaps I am better than I should have been, if I had been less afflicted. With this I will try to be content.”

Psst ...

... Oprah's latest pick.

Jung at heart ...

... The Holy Grail of the Unconscious. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)
Had he been a psychiatric patient, Jung might well have been told he had a nervous disorder and encouraged to ignore the circus going on in his head. But as a psychiatrist, and one with a decidedly maverick streak, he tried instead to tear down the wall between his rational self and his psyche. For about six years, Jung worked to prevent his conscious mind from blocking out what his unconscious mind wanted to show him. Between appointments with patients, after dinner with his wife and children, whenever there was a spare hour or two, Jung sat in a book-lined office on the second floor of his home and actually induced hallucinations — what he called “active imaginations.” “In order to grasp the fantasies which were stirring in me ‘underground,’ ” Jung wrote later in his book “Memories, Dreams, Reflections,” “I knew that I had to let myself plummet down into them.” He found himself in a liminal place, as full of creative abundance as it was of potential ruin, believing it to be the same borderlands traveled by both lunatics and great artists.


Here is a short documentary about Jung.

Thought for the day ...

If there were no God, there would be no Atheists.
- G.K. Chesterton

Netherland - Nevermind?

Looks like Joseph O'Neill's Netherland is headed for the Big Screen. My hope: that the film doesn't drag as badly as the book...

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The spirit of place ...

... Some Spot on Earth.

More about Agatha ...

... Celebrating Agatha Christie Week.

Maybe no one ...

... Who Should Control The Virtual Library? (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I certainly wouldn't want Google to control it. Perhaps a supervised monopoly, like AT&T used to be.

Thought-provoking ...

... Bruce Bawer LIVE from Montreal. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

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

... A New Horizon for the News. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)
Adding to the disillusionment is the growing recognition of the part that free access to the Web has played in the hemorrhaging of circulation. "When we look at why people quit buying the newspaper, it's overwhelmingly because 'I can get it for free online,'" William Dean Singleton, the CEO of MediaNews Group, the nation's fourth-largest newspaper company, recently said. Whenever the Times's Bill Keller and other top editors speak in public, they invariably encounter readers who, expressing amazement at being able to read the paper online for free, plead for ways to donate to it.

It's also worth noting that you can often get it better online - or at least in a more timely fashion. Case in point: the recent ACORN business, which the NYT was certainly not on top of. And who are these people amazed that they can read the paper online for free? When exactly did they discover this? Maybe they should read something else online. They might change their minds about donating to the Times.

Crime recipes ...

... or Thought for food.

Don't forget ...

... today' the day for Celebrating Composition of the U.S. Constitution.

Literary encounter ...

... 'Godot is here': how Samuel Beckett and Vaclav Havel changed history. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The day is past ...

... but today may be just as silly: Post for a silly day: book titles, updated.

Something else ...

... I missed: More About Agatha Christie from The Guardian.

Warm, exacting, and droll ...

... John Banville. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Nice ...

... sorry ot be late on this: RIP Patrick Swayze.

Ed's right - about Roadhouse and Swayze.

Word from Judith ...

... Move along... no ear-cheer to see / hear here :( (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Marketing ...

... With Greater Demand Comes a Higher Price.

Too true ...

... Alan Gilbert's challenge.
I sincerely hope that Alan Gilbert will prove to be a great conductor. But I have no doubt that it is far more important to the future of classical music in America for him to be a great communicator, one who finds new ways to do what Leonard Bernstein did so superlatively well in the days of the middlebrow. And I suspect that his will be the harder task: to make the case for high culture to a generation that is increasingly ignorant, if not downright disdainful, of its life-changing power and glory.
But let us not forget `The Carpenter of Destruction'.

Thought for today ...

The free, independent spirit who commits himself to no dogma and will not decide in favor of any party has no homestead on earth.
- Stefan Zweig

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Honest sculptors ...

... Palsies On the Spartacus Road.

This week's batch ...

... of TLS Letters: Lives of Samuel Johnson, Hearts and minds, Mannahatta, and more.

And here is last week's batch, which I missed.

Collective chin-rubbing ...

... SPECIAL REPORT: Ready, Aim, Charge! (Hat tip, Paul Davis.)

Then there are those like Philadelphia Inquirer Editor Bill Marimow, who feel readers should pay for all of their online news, just as they do in print. "If someone does not subscribe to the newspaper, they should pay a fee to subscribe online," he declares. "If you want to read a story, you ought to pay. Someone, either the reader, the [Web] audience, or advertisers have to pay if we are going to provide this content."

Well, go ahead and do it.

Liberty forum ...

... International Free Press Society Canada, and Free Thinking Films present an evening with Bruce Bawer.

... see also The survival of the West is at stake.

(Hat tips to Dave Lull for both links.)

Fee, fi, foes ...

... Muriel Spark and her enemies.

It was inevitable ...

... Harry Potter theme park planned.

Distinctions ...

... Genres and niche markets.

Elementary ...

... London Lookalikes: Sherlock Holmes And Vladimir Putin. (Hat tip, Maxine Clarke.)

Twelve for twelve ...

... Twelve 12-Line Poems: Round 3.

Be careful ...

... with D-list writers: The Third Man. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Not all laughs ...

... Ron Slate on I’m Dying Up Here: Heartbreak and High Times in Stand-Up Comedy’s Golden Era, by William Knoedelseder.

Congratulations to Jenny.

Baker and Poe ...

... with Levi on guitar: The Anthologist by Nicholson Baker. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Culture, democracy, tyranny ...

... and more: At Length With . . : John Freeman. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)
Culture needs authority. Sure, there is an enormous conversation occurring, but the purpose of book reviews is to present readers with the collision of sense and sensibility. The sense coming from an expert, someone who has devoted his or her entire life to reading and mastering this literary form, and the sensibility of a writer. This can be duplicated on lit blogs and in online reviews, but it can’t be replaced by democracy. That’s the tricky thing about culture. It’s not a democratic enterprise, and it’s antithetical to talk about that because democracy has infiltrated into American consciousness and into our emotional life. So it’s easy to confuse culture and democracy, but they’re not the same. Just as democracy is also often confused with capitalism.

But the authority would seem to come from familiarity with the material. And anybody can read, and read a lot, either broadly or narrowly, and on the basis of that familiarity form judgments grounded in the material.
I would not myself draw a comparison between culture and democracy. I think the comparison is with the free market. It is out of a free interplay that the spontaneous hierarchialization that we call culture emerges. As for democracy and capitalism, once you get past barter, you need to use capital - a medium of exhange - in order to make economic transactions. The issue has nothing to do with the nature of the media of exchange, but rather with who or what controls the media of exchange. As with everything else - nature, for instance - the wider the distribution the better. So I don't think any of this has much to do with democracy or authority or capitalism. It has to do with personal liberty.
Finally, if every newspaper in the country had a book section like the New York Times and made sure to review only books that had not been reviewed by any of the other book sections, you would still not come close to reviewing every thing that is being published and almost certainly many books deserving of attention would be overlooked. The internet makes it possible for more and more books to get more and more attention by more and more people.

Here's a deal ...

... 18 Lies and 3 Truths—Free Download.

Thought for the day ...

Faith is the highest passion in a human being. Many in every generation may not come that far, but none comes further.
- Søren Kierkegaard

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Whew ...

... Ted Kennedy, Victorian Hero? (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)
I've avoided comment on Ted Kennedy - de mortuis, you know - but this is too bizarre to ignore.
The upshot of their analysis, published in the journal Evolutionary Psychology, is that novels have an agonistic structure—that is, they pit protagonists against antagonists, good guys against bad guys.
Only problem is this: Protagonists are just leading characters. "Protagonists exemplify traits that evoke admiration and liking in readers," the study found ... Er, apply that to Oedipus in Oedipus Rex (Oedipus at Colonus is something else again). Apply it to the wonderful Captain Ahab. These people are fools. Great literature has characters who are complex, contradictory, inconsistent - like real people.

Wish I'd been there ...

... Deborah Gyapong: Bruce Bawer speaks in Ottawa. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I have a piece about Bruce's book coming up in Sunday's Inquirer.

A blog novel ...

... American Fever: A Tale of Romance & Pestilence.

And now, a question ...

... If New Media is a Giant Killer, Will Independent Publishing Get the Golden Eggs?

Wise words ...

... On the ropes? Robert Darnton's Case for Books. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)
Today, however, we have the means to make that utopia a reality. In many societies, despite enormous inequalities, ordinary people not only read but have access to a huge quantity of reading matter through the Internet. I would not minimize the digital divide, which separates the computerized world from the rest, nor would I underestimate the importance of traditional books. But the future is digital. And I believe that if we can resolve the current challenges facing books in ways that favor ordinary citizens, we can create a digital republic of letters. Much of my book is devoted to this premise and can be summarized in two words: digitize and democratize.

What is a book? It is a storage device. The form it takes has changed from time to time, from illuminated manuscripts to printed texts to ebooks.

Remembering Thomas Wolfe ...

... "A land more kind than home". (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

A step ...

... in the riught direction: Russia's Required Reading Recognizes Reality Under Stalin. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

It ought to be required reading over here, too.

Bryan surfaces ...

... Douglas Coupland returns with Generation A. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Odd fellow.

Most interesting ...

... Santayana the Poet.

This post links to this piece by Richard Butler: George Santayana: Catholic Atheist. And also to a Santayana Blog.
I like Butler's notion that, just as we among the faithful woefully fall short in our faith, so our atheist friends are likely to fall short in their lack of same.

Hmm ...

... Bumppo to Babbitt.

I see a greater distance between Rabbit Angstrom and George Babbitt than between Babbitt and Natty Bumppo. I actually don't see much to disparage in what Lewis describes, whereas Angstom is a hopeless vulgarian.

Second act ...

... John Calvin: Comeback Kid.
... according to Calvin, only by seeing ourselves as we really are, in our utter perversity and alienation, can we enter fully into salvation's benefits. A serious doctrine of original sin calls for a radical doctrine of redemptive grace.
Ah, but there's the rub. The doctrine of total depravity is what distinguishes Calvinism from Catholicism. Catholics do not think that original sin adversely affected man's fundamental nature. Because of original sin, we have a propensity to sin, but the nature of our being has not been rendered sinful.
I maintain further that Captain Ahab is the ultimate Calvinist: "Ahab is for ever Ahab, man. This whole act's immutably decreed. 'Twas rehearsed by thee and me a billion years before this ocean rolled. Fool! I am the Fates' lieutenant; I act under orders." Any discussion of Calvin and predestination ought to address this.
By the way, many years ago I did read a bit of Calvin's Institutes. I was very impressed by the clarity and grace of his prose.

Good for her ...

... At 92, Dame Vera Lynn Has Britain’s No. 1 Record. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

More here.

I actually remember hearing "We'll Meet Again" from time to time over the radio when I was a very small child during the war.

Thought for the day ...

All conscious nature has experiences of pleasure and pain. Man alone can deliberately will the repetition of an experience. And repetition, experienced as such, is at the heart, for good and evil, of his faculty of reasoning, and thus makes possible his language, his art, his morality, and indeed his humanity. Yet it is the enemy of life, for repetition is itself the principle, not of life but of mechanism.
- Owen Barfield

Monday, September 14, 2009

Turning from questions ...

... to doctrines: Plato's Dialogues, part 7: Plato and Christianity. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)
... Socrates himself wrote nothing. And as for Plato: "There neither is nor ever will be a treatise of mine on [philosophy]," he wrote in the Seventh Letter. "For [philosophy] does not admit of exposition like other branches of knowledge; but after much converse about the matter itself and a life lived together, suddenly a light, as it were, is kindled in one soul by a flame that leaps to it from another, and thereafter sustains itself." A struggle with life is the lifeblood of philosophy, not a struggle with words.

Makes you wonder ...

... Fasten Your Seat Belts, There’s Code to Crack.

What no one could guess, despite all advance hints about setting and subject matter, was whether Mr. Brown could recapture his love of the game. Could he still tell a breathless treasure-hunt story? Could he lard it with weirdly illuminating minutiae? Could he turn some form of profound wisdom into a pretext for escapist fun?
Could he manage to get his facts straight?

Feeding the hungry ...

... Billions Served: Norman Borlaug interviewed by Ronald Bailey.

RIP ...

... Jim Carroll: author of The Basketball Diaries. Here is a tribute.

Crisis looms ...

... All Free Library of Philadelphia Branch, Regional and Central Libraries Closed Effective Close of Business October 2, 2009.

See also
Libraries post notice warning of Oct. 2 closing. (Hat tip to Dave Lull for both links.)

Over the weekend the city left phone messages telling people trash collection would become bi-weekly for the same reason. Of course, if the hacks that run the city were at all competent, the city would be, well, not dysfunctional.

Going to hell ...

...The Endless Ending.

The latest issue ...

... of The Vocabula Review.

The latest issue ...

... of The Fox Chase Review.

See also the fox chase reading series.

Philly book scene ....

... Local Area Events.

The blogging symposium (concluded) ...

... The Function of Book Blogging at the Present Time, 14. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Blogging hiatus ...

I have to be out and about this morning. Blogging will resume later.

Thought for the day ...

People of small caliber are always carping. They are bent on showing their own superiority, their knowledge or prowess or good breeding.
- Van Wyck Brooks

Sunday, September 13, 2009

RIP ...

... William P. Alston, 1921-2009. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Attention YA writers ...

... Young adult writers! Detroit teacher of blind kids wants your ebooks for her Braille printer!

A filled heart ...

... Ernest Hemingway restored. (Hat tip, Paul Davis.)

RIP ...

... Larry Gelbart.

Today's Inquirer reviews ...

... well, this week is a preview of what's coming this fall: Big-name authors to be out in force.
Update: It wasn't easy, but thanks to The Inquirer's deputy features editor Michael Rozansky, I have found the missing components: Nonfiction and Fiction.

On another note, Ed Champion sends along this: NBCC 35th Anniversary: Into the 21st century, which includes this:
Carlin Romano, after counting his blessings for the chance to write about European intellectuals for a daily newspaper (The Philadelphia Enquirer), remarked that the NBCC is as much fun today as it was 24 years ago.
A number of people have noted that Carlin's On Books column has been absent from The Inquirer's pages for quite some time now. I have not seen Carlin in a while, so I am not in a position to comment further.
Post bumped.

Dr. Johnson ...

... and the free market: Samuel Johnson and the Virtue of Capitalism. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)