Sunday, February 28, 2010

Unexpected chuckles ...

... Ian McEwan: The literary novelist with a popular appeal. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

One out of five ...

... Four annoying things + One nice thing.

Continuing ...

... Reading WISE BLOOD (Part Eleven).

No one-book author ...

... Patrick Kurp On Jonathan Swift’s Poetry. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I encourage the uninitiated to read Swift’s poems for the sheer fun of it and not get distracted by obsessive allusion tracking. That can come later if the experience of reading the poems proves rewarding, and the reader has the stomach for formal verse devoted to often unpleasant matters. I can’t think of another poet, not even his great friend Pope, who makes invective and smut so amusing.

Faulty vision ...

... Violence That Art Didn’t See Coming. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

... every now and then, it seems, a gap is exposed. Events occur; art offers no guidance. The powers of imagination and attunement falter. Artists suffer a collective loss of awareness. “The culture” emits signals, but they are picked up only fitfully or are missed altogether.
Art is prophetic only in a general sense. Nietzsche quite correctly foresaw that "there will be wars such as have never happened on earth," but he did not specifically foretell the 20th century's two world wars. Indeed, when the first of those wars broke out, most writers seem to have agreed with the Kaiser that it would all be over by Christmas.

Today's Gospel ...

... recounted this.

The Transfiguration

By Edwin Muir

So from the ground we felt that virtue branch
Through all our veins till we were whole, our wrists
As fresh and pure as water from a well,
Our hands made new to handle holy things,
The source of all our seeing rinsed and cleansed
Till earth and light and water entering there
Gave back to us the clear unfallen world.
We would have thrown our clothes away for lightness,
But that even they, though sour and travel stained,
Seemed, like our flesh, made of immortal substance,
And the soiled flax and wool lay light upon us
Like friendly wonders, flower and flock entwined
As in a morning field. Was it a vision?
Or did we see that day the unseeable
One glory of the everlasting world
Perpetually at work, though never seen
Since Eden locked the gate that’s everywhere
And nowhere? Was the change in us alone,
And the enormous earth still left forlorn,
An exile or a prisoner? Yet the world
We saw that day made this unreal, for all
Was in its place. The painted animals
Assembled there in gentle congregations,
Or sought apart their leafy oratories,
Or walked in peace, the wild and tame together,
As if, also for them, the day had come.
The shepherds’ hovels shone, for underneath
The soot we saw the stone clean at the heart
As on the starting-day. The refuse heaps
Were grained with that fine dust that made the world;
For he had said, ‘To the pure all things are pure.’
And when we went into the town, he with us,
The lurkers under doorways, murderers,
With rags tied round their feet for silence, came
Out of themselves to us and were with us,
And those who hide within the labyrinth
Of their own loneliness and greatness came,
And those entangled in their own devices,
The silent and the garrulous liars, all
Stepped out of their dungeons and were free.
Reality or vision, this we have seen.
If it had lasted but another moment
It might have held for ever! But the world
Rolled back into its place, and we are here,
And all that radiant kingdom lies forlorn,
As if it had never stirred; no human voice
Is heard among its meadows, but it speaks
To itself alone, alone it flowers and shines
And blossoms for itself while time runs on.

But he will come again, it’s said, though not
Unwanted and unsummoned; for all things,
Beasts of the field, and woods, and rocks, and seas,
And all mankind from end to end of the earth
Will call him with one voice. In our own time,
Some say, or at a time when time is ripe.
Then he will come, Christ the uncrucified,
Christ the discrucified, his death undone,
His agony unmade, his cross dismantled—
Glad to be so—and the tormented wood
Will cure its hurt and grow into a tree
In a green springing corner of young Eden,
And Judas damned take his long journey backward
From darkness into light and be a child
Beside his mother’s knee, and the betrayal
Be quite undone and never more be done.

Much to consider ...

... The Rising and other books on a wet weekend.

See also Book review: The Missing by Jane Casey.

Hooked by memories ...

... John McPhee's new book gets personal. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Tune in ...

... The Bat Segundo Show: Justin Taylor.

FYI ...

... The Creative Process of Agatha Christie.

Hmm ...

... Novels via Intravenous Injection.

Mythical realms ...

... Receptacles of the subconscious. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The basement and the garret are ... places of the unformed image. They are where we store the relics of our past, the now-unused items to which we remain attached, warehouses of memory and neglect.

Wherein faith ...

... never speaks for itself: Adam Kirsch on A Novel of Unbelief. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

...that is not how most people find faith in the first place. Goldstein acknowledges as much in her last counter-proof, “The Argument from the Abundance of Arguments”: “Religions …do not justify themselves with a single logical argument, but minister to all of these spiritual needs and provide a space in our lives where the largest questions with which we grapple all come together...” The challenge Goldstein sets for herself in her latest novel is whether a writer capable of so fully inhabiting the mind of the atheist is also capable of mapping that faithful “space” in a sympathetic and convincing way.

My review ...

... of Robert Harris's Conspirata: Cicero stars in crack political thriller.

Today's Inquirer reviews ...

... The Clinton-Starr collision.

... A man compelled to walk - without knowing why.

...
Cramer offers ideas (some risky) to recoup your losses.

... also a note: Author Appearance.

Thought for the day ...

When you read and understand a poem, comprehending its rich and formal meanings, then you master chaos a little.
- Stephen Spender, born on this date in 1909

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Return engagement ...

... Pablo Picasso at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Ah, yes ...

... one worth marking: Centenary.(Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

How forget the man who first imagined a drive-in church and after-shaving mints?

See also The Return of Peter DeVries.

Something to ponder ...

Faith without soul ...

... Dry Bones. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

If religion is for this life only, then it must compete on an even plane with other worldly ideologies.

And if so, why bother. This is a very thoughtful piece, but I think it needs to be emphasized that those who take faith seriously understand that its essence - that which makes it what it is - is prayer, the lifting up of the mind and heart to God. That is why a proper liturgy reverently observed is important, and why a frivolous liturgy casually executed is so counterproductive.

And right around here ...

... Descartes Letter Found, Therefore It Is. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Erik-Jan Bos, a philosophy scholar at Utrecht University in the Netherlands who is helping to edit a new edition of Descartes’s correspondence, said that during a late-night session browsing the Internet he noticed a reference to Descartes in a description of the manuscript collection at Haverford College in Pennsylvania.

The latest buzz ...

... IEDs vs Bees.

If I weren’t in Cyprus now, reading The Sunday Times online in a dust-storm between the mosaics of Paphos and the Sahara, I think I could find a range of ancient accounts of soldiers fighting with bees, from the venomous poison-flower-eating killer bees of the Black Sea deployed against the Romans by Mithradates to the heated earthenware pots of bees hurled into rivals tents by military geniuses whose names I cannot quite now remember but could find, I think, back home.

At least it's not catching ...

.. or is it? The (Imaginary) Illness Makes The Man.

Duet ...

... old men talk by Allen Itz and Terza Rima - a defence of rhyme. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Guess not ...

... Jerry Coyne can't help himself. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Thought for the day ...

I had become, with the approach of night, once more aware of loneliness and time - those two companions without whom no journey can yield us anything.
- Lawrence Durrell, born on this date in 1912

Friday, February 26, 2010

From the Chinese ...

Ascend the Heron Tower
By Wang Chih-huan

The day's sun settles among the mountains,
The Yellow River runs out into the sea.
Yearning for a splendid scene a thousand miles away
While ascending another flight of stairs

Translated by Xiyu Huang

In his own way ...

... Wyn Morris.

Unconventional ...

... Colin Ward, RIP. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

We tend to forget. these days, that there have been libertarians on the left.

Punchy and querulous ...

... Ron Slate on Reality Hunger: A Manifesto, by David Shields.

Face to face politics ...

... How to lose an election -- the Roman (or Nicholas Winterton) way.

Quality selection ...

... Chinese Poetry, edited by Bonnie McCandless.

Over the past few days I have been collaborating with my friend Xiyu Huang on some translations from the Chinese. Actually, it would be more proper to say I have been serving as editor for Xiyu's translations. I am distinctly the junior partner in this enterprise.

Oldies ...

... Ancient times and elderly people.

Slumurbia ...

... Afrocentric Review - Maha Ever After.

So ...

... I'm a couple of days late: Wednesday's Weekly Weirditude II. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

A walk on the noir side ...

... The mean streets tour: keeping Raymond Chandler’s LA alive.

Narrators ...

... An objective, True story.

I am reading Iris Murdoch's The Sea, the Sea. It may turn out that I am wrong, but I do not trust the narrator.

The art of the tabloid ...

... The Telltale Bagel. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Dispatches ...

... from Daniel Kalder: REQUIEM FOR A TYRANT and Andrei Platonov: Russia's greatest 20th-century prose stylist?

Another round ...

... Draft Copies: Books About Drink.

Thought for the day ...

The world is my wonder, where the wind
Wanders like wind, and where the rock is
Rock. And man and woman flesh on a dream.
- George Barker, born on this date in 1913

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Postmodern ...

... or post-Soviet, or both: Mysteries at the heart of Stalin's empire.

This week's batch ...

... of TLS Letters: ‘The Brothers Karamazov’, Herbert’s couplet, Wotcher, and more!

Modestly masterful ...

... The Utterly Civilized Wilder. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Poem

... Cloud By Kay Ryan. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Last chance ...

... Deadline is Sunday: POETRY INK REGISTRATION.

Two poems ,,,

... via Rus Bowden:

The other part of truth and Funeral for a Beta fish.

Check this out ...

... The Sam Lipsyte LipSite Sweepstakes.

I'm ready ...

... Return With Us to the Thrilling Days Of Yesteryear—Via the Internet. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Radio plays work so well because the audience has to do so much of the imagining. The plays get inside you in ways only matched by ... books.

Writers vs. actors ...

... The pen is mightier than the award-winning actor. (Hat tip, Paul Davis.)

Actors often feel more comfortable playing someone other than themselves. After all, that is what they do.

Time to vote ...

... Charles Bukowski Postal Stamp.

Calling all mystery fans ...

... A Murder and a Metaphor: Litkicks Mystery Spot #1.

Nevil Shute


I'm somewhat ashamed to admit that I've only just recently finished On the Beach (1957), Nevil Shute's haunting meditation on a world dying from radiation. What's to say beside: wow, what a book! And yet, a book which reminded me of others: in its attention to catastrophe, for instance, Shute's classic had me thinking of Saramago's Blindness (1997), while its insights (into the human condition, mostly) triggered memories of Camus's The Plague (1947). Needless to say, literary associations abound - and I'm eager to tackle the film version of this masterful novel...

In praise of ...

... Dr. Dalrymple: The biggest scroungers in Britain are the public sector middle class. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Indeed ...

... Hector Spinkel/Louise Margreta (Pet’s Corner No.3).

A rarity ...

... something sensible about Apocalypse: For One Friend In Particular--The Book of Revelation.

Style and wit ...

... The Millions Interview: John Banville. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Cheering ...

... Clemence Dane - One of Life's Innocents.

Thought for the day ...

Every dogma has its day.
- Anthony Burgess, born on this date in 1917

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Classic humor ...

... Philogelos: The Laugh Addict. (hat tip, Dave lull.)

Russian studies ...

... Android Karenina and A Comedian in the Academy. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Interested outsider ...

... The Duke of Sparta and me.

Maybe ...

... Critics? You need us more than ever. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The curse of our time, in the arts, is mediocrity and ordinariness ...

True. But there are mediocre and ordinary critics as well.

Mixed bag ...

... Reactions: Is Tenure a Matter of Life or Death?

I like Michael Bérubé's comment.

Minority report ...

... Not Even Bing's: On Louis Armstrong. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I think this review is a load of crap, and especially disagree that the book offers "no new revelations about the life or the music." What it offers is a very good explication of the life in terms of the music. That's what it purports to do and, in my view, succeeds in doing.

Apparently not...

... Are There Secular Reasons? (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

... If public reason has “deprived” the natural world of “its normative dimension” by conceiving of it as free-standing and tethered to nothing higher than or prior to itself, how, Smith asks, “could one squeeze moral values or judgments about justice . . . out of brute empirical facts?” No way that is not a sleight of hand. This is the cul de sac Enlightenment philosophy traps itself in when it renounces metaphysical foundations in favor of the “pure” investigation of “observable facts.” It must somehow bootstrap or engineer itself back up to meaning and the possibility of justified judgment, but it has deliberately jettisoned the resources that would enable it do so.

Check out these guys ...

... Ravens.

See also An Important Anthology of Japanese Poetry.

Bitching and moaning ...

... all round: Martin Amis: at the centre again.

Calendar alert ...

... Reminder: Barrow and Roarty in Fox Chase Feb. 27th.

Natural selection ...

... will prevail, I suspect: The New Math of Poetry.

Include them out ...

... Thousands of authors opt out of Google book settlement. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Trio ...

... fir a time: Chesterton, Conrad, and HG Wells.

This brings to mind the line from Schiller's Don Carlos, about the lovers of Humanität being the persecutors of Menschlichkeit - the difference being between an abstraction (the former) and individual human beings (the latter).

Quartet ...

... Robert Frost, Napoleon, Gossip, and the “Thrill of Sincerity”. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Thought for the day ...

Everybody sets out to do something, and everybody does something, but no one does what he sets out to do.
- George Moore, born on this date in 1852

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

For R.T. ...

... A literary pilgrimage to O’Connor’s ‘the middle of nowhere’. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Trudging ...

... Miéville on The Road.

Something ...

... to look forward to - Black Beauty, not the Borealis royalties: Unserious money.

This gives me an opportunity to once again recommend Pops.

Blogs and pies ...

... odds & ends.

Discovery ...

... an unpublished interview. T.S. Eliot: Un Objet Trouvé. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

I think every legend has got to be interpreted according to our own age. I find that ancient themes often serve as a helpful springboard into my works. They are merely a point of departure; they help get things underway.

Speaking of Fyodor ...

... Joseph Frank on Dostoevsky. (Hat tip, Paul Davis.)

In memoriam ...

... John Keats, who died on the date in 1821: Sonnet to Sleep.

Wandering ...

... of sorts: `The Very Heart of the Planetary System'.

Ready, set, go ...

... The Clover, Bee, and Reverie Poetry Challenge 2010.

Catching up ...

... Reading WISE BLOOD (Part Seven).

Read the whole series. This is another example of how, online, books can be discussed at greater length and from different angles than the usual.

Medieval crime ...

... Lisa reads: Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin.

Literary déjà vu ...

... Lectures from the Argentine Master: Seven Nights by Jorge Luis Borges. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Calendar art ...

... V. Sundaram’s A Great Sant from Gujarat and Rajasthan (with rare translations of Dadu bhajans).

Definition ...

... from a master: Jacques Barzun on plain tone. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Paper of record ...

... The Story the New York Times Won't Touch.

Of course, if other papers had any competitive spirit they'd be all over this, but I suspect that in most cases reverence for the Old Gray Lady will win out.

My latest column ...

... No system of ideas can ever come near to encompassing the wonder of reality.

Hope despite catastrophe ...

... Apocalyptic stories painted in 'cheery hues'.

Hope despite catastrophe ...

... Apocalyptic stories painted in 'cheery hues'.

Mucho reviews ...

... The Beat.

Pondering ...

... Horror in crime fiction.

Hmm ...

... Losing the hearts of its listeners.

Well, I'm not convinced that a charismatic conductor is the answer, and Jurowski didn't impress me much when I saw him. The two premieres I heard this season - the Walker violin concerto and Danielpour's A Woman's Life - didn't impress me, either (though David Stearns liked the Danielpour, so I could be wrong). The programs this season have been largely dull affairs. The orchestra management doesn't seem to know what people want to hear, and paying a lot of money to hear some new work that doesn't impress is a lot to ask of people in hard economic times.

Transition ...

... Publishing: The Revolutionary Future. (Hat tip, Lynne Scanlon.)

The resistance today by publishers to the onrushing digital future does not arise from fear of disruptive literacy, but from the understandable fear of their own obsolescence and the complexity of the digital transformation that awaits them, one in which much of their traditional infrastructure and perhaps they too will be redundant.

Thought for the day ...

Everything depends therefore on encountering thought at its source. Such thought is the reality of man's being, which achieved consciousness and understanding of itself through it.
- Karl Jaspers, born on this date in 1883

Monday, February 22, 2010

Life imitates comedy?

... Nursing Home Residents Form a Biker Gang.


Oops ...

... Doubts Raised on Book’s Tale of Atom Bomb.

This couldn't have been checked beforehand?

Changes ...

... Nonfiction journal launches new look. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Bottoms up ...

... Lowry's Volcano. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

FYI ...

... Seymour Krim's Howl: I Was Not Destroyed, Mr. Ginsberg! (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Things no ebook can replace ...

... 25 Beautiful Japan-Themed Books.

Just a thought ...

I sometimes wonder if we do not insufficiently appreciate our periods of gloom, when nothing we have done seems of much value, when our energy ebbs and our thoughts and feelings, memories and dreams lie exposed as wreckage, detritus scattered upon wet sand, and there is nothing we could do that we could just as well not do.

Another birthday boy ...

... George Washington's Birthday. Happy Birthday to America's Indispensable Man and First President.

Sound and sense ...

... Cellar Door. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

“Poetry, in fact, is two quite distinct things,” H. L. Mencken wrote in a 1920 magazine column. “It may be either or both. One is a series of words that are intrinsically musical, in clang-tint and rhythm, as the single word cellar-door is musical. The other is a series of ideas, false in themselves, that offer a means of emotional and imaginative escape from the harsh realities of everyday.”

"... a series of ideas, false in themselves ..." Really, Henry? Spoken like a man who understands nothing of poetry.

More here, via Dave: 'Cellar door'--and more.

Riches ...

... Rexroth’s San Francisco. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Here's a sample:
Mysticism, Ethical and Chemical.

Instead of one of those outworn moralistic codes, the ethical systems of the vulgarizers of religion are simplicity itself — all you have to do is buy a paperback book at the drugstore one week and come back and buy a bottle of LSD the next, and whooey—! You can be Buddha. The word for this is charlatanism.

Dialectic writ large ...

... Plotting A Revolution.

Here are the sorts of changes he has in mind: Fiction and autobiography would mingle freely; essays and criticism would become lyrical, verse and novels essayistic. The writer would openly plagiarize peers and past masters. And all of it would be rendered in jagged, loosely connected fragments. Why? Because this resembles life, which "flies at us in bright splinters": "The novel is dead. Long live the antinovel, built from scraps."


Color me dubious.

Philly book scene ...

... Local Area Events.

At last ...

... Out from Otoliths—Paul Siegell's wild life rifle fire.

Happy 200th ...

... to Frédéric Chopin.

Psst ...

... "This Book Is Overdue!": Hot for librarian. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

At Fox Chase Review ...

... Choruses 1 By Joe Roarty.

Amid chaos and war ...

...Inside Somalia: Where poetry is revered. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Threatening poetry ...

... Louisville man charged with threatening to kill president in poem. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Testing the limits of the First Amendment, federal prosecutors have charged a Louisville man with threatening to kill the president based on a poem he wrote and recently re-posted on a neo-Nazi Web site.

I'm no constitutional lawyer, but neither am I sure that threats like this ought to be protected speech. Then again, didn't Nicholson Baker write a novel that had something to do with assassinating President Bush?

Inquiring minds ...

... Asking the questions: the Walker Percy documentary. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

An experiment ...

... and more: Authorship in the Information Age. (Hat tip, Lee Lowe.)

I have just ended a two-year experiment. Readers were invited to download six of my novels and send me a fee if they enjoyed any of them
.

This week ...

... o0n Five Chapters: A. L. Kennedy's Another — Part One.

Thought for the day ...

The soul can split the sky in two and let the face of God shine through.
- Edna St. Vincent Millay, born on this date in 1892

Edna St. Vincent Millay is one of those authors that I am sure, had I known her, I would have fallen in love with.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Normal blogging ...

... will resume tomorrow. We have a dinner party shortly and I'm the chef.

Who knew?

... “applegram”.

Well, we all know Bryan has apocalyptic predilections.

Mellow ...

... Interview with Robert Stone. (Hat tip, Paul Davis.)

Endgame ...

... Coming to terms with the final chapter. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

''If I knew that I could die at any time I wanted then suddenly every day would be as precious as a million pounds. If I knew that I could die, I would live. My life, my death, my choice.''
They were dignified, considered words. Even so, Pratchett expected all hell to break loose. To his surprise, it didn't. ''Some archbishops have said nasty things but I look on that as a plus,'' he says, lucidly and softly.

Well, the Archbishop of Canterbury did come out against revising the legal system in favor of assisted suicide, but he didn't strike me as having been nasty about it. Be that as it may, it seems that Pratchett ought to be able to exit in whatever way he wants. He may have religious convictions -- I don't know -- but whatever they may be, they evidently do not constrain him from committing suicide.
The problem, of course, has to do with those who provide assistance to those who do not in fact want it just yet.

Wow ...

... Flight of the hunter. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Good to know ...

... Angel urine is not conducive to spiritual growth, or, How not to create devotional paintings, courtesy of Isaac D'Israeli.

Shrinkage and spread ...

... Connected.

Problem solving ...

... Culture of Discussion: Education in South Korea? (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Today's Inquirer reviews ...

... Patti Smith's memoir of pre-fame life with Mapplethorpe.

... The man who made The Catch.

... Susan Balée looks at Stories of love, which ennobles all.

... Christine Ma likes Jodi Picoult's latest: Page-turner takes on Asperger's syndrome.

... Paul Davis likes the action: Thriller takes tactical shots at fame culture, liberal press.

... What your brain knows that you don't.

Some very nice observations ...

... about Corvus by L. Lee Lowe.

Thought for the day ...

May it not be that, just as we have to have faith in Him, God has to have faith in us and, considering the history of the human race so far, may it not be that "faith" is even more difficult for Him than it is for us?
- W.H. Auden, born on this date in 1907

Friday, February 19, 2010

Anger and sadism ...

... Five angry men.

Pondering ...

... The Future of Reading.

Tattle-tale shelves ...

... What they are saying about me?

Have a listen ...

... Virgina Woolf Speaking on the Radio.

Blurring lines ...

... When Creative Writing Gets Too Creative. (Hat tip, Lee Lowe.)

Lots here ...

... Kierkegaard, ignoble alchemists & battling medievalists.

Neat ...

... Floc'h!

Getting stronger ...

... Carried to Orthodoxy. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

RIP ...

... Actress and soprano singer Kathryn Grayson dies at 88.

Thought for the day ...

You can reconstruct the picture from chaos and memory's ruins.
- Kay Boyle, born on this date in 1902

Mission announced ...

... read on: Wednesday's weekly weirditude. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.) And more: What's news?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

God bless him ...

... Roger Ebert's Last Words, con't. (Hat tips, Dave Lull and Paul Davis.)

Tough guys ...

... have faith: Russians: the world's hardest writers.

I love everything Daniel writes. So here's some more: Lucifer watch: Satanists attempt to infiltrate Russian police.

And rhis: Messiah watch: Savior of all mankind already on TV so keep your eyes peeled.

Poetry from paradise ...

... Ron Slate on The Whole Island: Six Decades of Cuban Poetry.

Could this be ...

...genetically modified literature: When Creative Writing Gets Too Creative. (Hat tip, Lee Lowe.)

I mean, we are talking "fiction-nonfiction hybrid."

All Christianity divided ...

... into three parts: Anarchy in the age of the spirit. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Cox recognises the risks associated with some of the features of the age of the spirit – its fundamentalism, say, or the prosperity gospel. But he argues they can't last. They are essentially reactions against modern biblical scholarship, which means "a religion based on subscribing to mandatory beliefs is no longer viable". Hence the emphasis on the spirit. Neither does he worry that Christianity today so often feels like a Jesus-centred personality cult. Rather, Pentecostalism is a positive force, part of "an inexorable movement of the human spirit whose hour has come".

Here is something from a piece about Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) and Romano Guardini: "The celebration of the liturgy is the true self-fulfillment of the Christian, and therefore in the struggle over symbolism and the liturgy, what is at stake – Ratzinger notes, following Guardini's teaching – is the development of the essential dimension of man."

I don't think Cox understands this.

The power of romance ...

... Arthur, Merlin and love magic.

This week's batch ...

... of TLS Letters: Universities and the pursuit of truth, Deir Yassin, Céline, and more!

Rough ruminant ...

... Dance with the Bull, part I, fiction by Paul Davis.

Emblem books ...

... Word and Image. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

A music blog ...

... Comme Ci, Comme Ça.

Debbie and I met Bill Chenevert last night and I told him I'd post a link to his blog. Bill seems a very bright young man, and there are plenty of people out there into the music scene who just might want to follow his blog.

I know what he means ...

... In Praise of Online Obscurity.

... this site (Chekhov's Mistress/BudParr.com, i.e. my personal site) is going through an upheaval, so this is an issue I'm thinking about as I do that. Do I go along with the flow, or shoot for obscurity. Do I pick a topic and stay with it, do I write about what comes to mind?


Blogs are almost by definition works in progress. They are sort of where the essay was right after Montaigne invented the form. No one quite knows what direction they will take. But they are headed somewhere. And there is more life in them than there is, say, in newspapers.

Necessarily interesting ...

... Gogol by Nabokov.

Often the best kind ...

... Unreliable narrators.

At least we know ...

... they're not objective: The rules are different here (in my head).

Thought for the day ...

A person needs a little madness, or else they never dare cut the rope and be free.
- Nikos Kazantzakis, born on this date in 1883

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Preview ...

... New England Review.

Heart of the canon ...

... The Soul selects her own Society — Then — shuts the Door — (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Octogenarian debut ...

... Story behind the Story: Edward O. Wilson’s Anthill. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

No sure answers ...

... Dennis Maloney: Just Enough.

Better late ...

... Poetry News For February 14, 2010.

Apophatic commuincation ...

... The brain's negative way.

Unvarnished for sure ...

... Inviting In a Brash Outsider. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Fitzgerald Reads Shakespeare

From the University of South Carolina...

Word survivor ...

... Roger Ebert: The Essential Man. (Hat tips, Dave Lull and Paul Davis.)

Cast in bronze ...

... Sculptor chosen for Larkin statue. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Take a look ...

Hmm ...

... When is plagiarism not plagiarism?

Worth noting ...

... Other Things Being Equal.

Curious indeed ...

... "For a last proof of the stranger's constancy and attachment, he extracts more clothes and more dogs," or, D'Israeli on odd customs.

Engaged reader ...

... Reading WISE BLOOD (Part One).

What's to come ...

... Ringside at the Web Fight. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Cross reference ...

Dave Lull sends along this post of Patrick's from last year in reference to today's "Thought for the day."

Museum watch ...

... Seeing double: Some celebrated statues at Philadelphia Museum are down-sized and Seeing double: Some celebrated statues at Philadelphia Museum are down-sized.

Nothing idle about it ...

... Conversation: `A Manifold of Some Sort'.

Note Dave's comment.

A form of method ...

... The Lost Origins of the Essay. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

So then, the essay can be seen as a method rather than a product, an act of investigation that speaks from a place of inquiry, not conclusion.

I said something along these lines here.

Thought for the day ...

WHEN a man feels proud of himself, he stands erect, draws himself to his full height, throws back his head and shoulders and says with every part of his body, I am bigger and more important than you. But when he is humble he feels his littleness, and lowers his head and shrinks into himself. He abases himself. And the greater the presence in which he stands the more deeply he abases himself; the smaller he becomes in his own eyes.
But when does our littleness so come home to us as when we stand in God's presence? He is the great God, who is today and yesterday, whose years are hundreds and thousands, who fills the place where we are, the city, the wide world, the measureless space of the starry sky, in whose eyes the universe is less than a particle of dust, all-holy, all-pure, all-righteous, infinitely high. He is so great, I so small, so small that beside him I seem hardly to exist, so wanting am I in worth and substance. One has no need to be told that God's presence is not the place in which to stand on one's dignity. To appear less presumptuous, to be as little and low as we feel, we sink to our knees and thus sacrifice half our height; and to satisfy our hearts still further we bow down our heads, and our diminished stature speaks to God and says, Thou art the great God; I am nothing.
Therefore let not the bending of our knees be a hurried gesture, an empty form. Put meaning into it. To kneel, in the soul's intention, is to bow down before God in deepest reverence.
On entering a church, or in passing before the altar, kneel down all the way without haste or hurry, putting your heart into what you do, and let your whole attitude say, Thou art the great God. It is an act of humility, an act of truth, and every time you kneel it will do your soul good.
- Romano Guardini, born on this date in 1885

I am a great admirer of Guardini. His book The Living God drew me back to the Church.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

And why not?

... Philosophizing with the Chickens.

Something different ...

... Brazilian Puppet Version of Orwell’s 1984.

Artful concision ...

... Hunger Trilogy--Wang Ruowang.

Seeking refuge ...

... in art: Review of MARIE, MARIE, HOLD ON TIGHT.

Hmm ...

... Lives Like Loaded Guns: Emily Dickinson and her Family’s Feuds by Lyndall Gordon. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I'm not sure why, but all of this leaves me somehow unpersuaded. I guess I'll have to read Gordon's book.

Preview ...

... Exclusive extract: Cross Country Murder Song by Philip Wilding.

Philly book scene ...

... Local Area Events.

Off-putting hero ...

... worth getting to know: Lisa reads: The Dead Hour by Denise Mina.

Not necessarily ...

... The film fantasy of writers' lives. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

One of the things that helps The Last Station is that Tolstoy did run away from home at the end of his life and die in a train station shortly thereafter. In other words, the film has a solid basis in fact. But, as Dudley Do-Right was wont to remind us, it's a movie, not a substitute for Henri Troyat's biography.

And another ...

... Endgame: The fate of secularism.

In the second half of the book, Baker critiques contemporary arguments for secularism, beginning with a very useful look at the influential postmodern thinker Stanley Fish. Although perhaps an unlikely ally for Christians, Fish has perceptively argued, in Baker's words, that "Western liberalism has been performing an elaborate shell game for a few centuries now" by positing secularism as a neutral point of view. "There is no neutral view from nowhere" ...

Devoutly to be wished ...

... The End of Intelligent Design?

In the famous “explanatory filter” of William A. Dembski, one finds “design” by eliminating “law” and “chance” as explanations. This, in effect, makes it a zero-sum game between God and nature. What nature does and science can explain is crossed off the list, and what remains is the evidence for God. ... Cui bono? Only those people whose religious doctrines entail either Young Earth creationism or a rejection of common descent. Such people already and necessarily were in a state of war with modern science and have no choice but to fight that war to the bitter end.

Let's hope ...

... the law of unintended consequences doesn't figure in this: In Brookhaven Collider, Scientists Briefly Break a Law of Nature. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Priorities ...

... Nation's libraries get more use, less funding. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Why Orwell Endures

Remembered for his "passion for liberty and intellectual honesty...”

The State of the Past

An interesting review of Cosmopolitan Islanders...

My latest column ...

... Determinism and this gratuitous world.

Thought for the day ...

Nothing in education is so astonishing as the amount of ignorance it accumulates in the form of inert facts.
-Henry Adams, born on this date in 1838

Hear ye, hear ye ...

... Bookmark Collectors Virtual Convention. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Rich, resonant ...

... and deeply humane: Ron Slate on Director’s Cut, a novel by Arthur Japin.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Tolstoy again ...

This afternoon Debbie and I went to see The Last Station, which was mentioned in an earlier post. The review linked to there is probably right about Tolstoy's being portrayed in the film as "as a kindly, generous old lion of a man." But I don't think "the Sonya we see is the manipulative, Machiavellian, and altogether intolerable person she apparently was in her husband’s final years." That isn't the impression either Debbie or I had of the character portrayed by Helen Mirren. Good though Plummer is - and he is, in fact, great - the movie is Mirren's. And there is nothing intolerable about her Sonya.

Endeavoring to define ...

... Fiction’s job.

I know what that's like ...

... Home alone.

Manifest identity ...

... Brief Review: "Maps" by Nuruddin Farah.

Ah, those Jebbies ...

... "A continuity of labour deadens the soul," or, Thoughts for a Friday night.

Imagine that ...

... World may not be warming, say scientists. (Hat tip, Dave Lull, who also sends along this: The professor’s amazing climate change retreat.

I wonder if it would be permissible to infer from this that the science is somewhat less settled than some have claimed.

More here and here.

Here is Jones's response at Nature: 'Climategate' scientist speaks out.

Post bumped because I want as many voices heard on this as possible.

Swing and a miss ...

... Pointless Omega.

Entirely too long at 117 pages ...

Reminds me of a review of Peter Handke's The Left-Handed Woman I wrote many years ago. I called it the longest 89-page novel I had ever read.

Classic thrillers ...

... The Best of John Buchan: Three Rip-Roaring Richard Hannay Thrillers: The Thirty-Nine Steps, Greenmantle, Mr Standfast. (Hat tip, Paul Davis.)

Sounds good ...

... A climate of constructive communication. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

In trying to understand the climate system more fully, scientists could reveal greater uncertainty about the range of possible climate outcomes.

A classic ...

... Auden's A Preface to Kierkegaard. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Gray area ...

... Why John Gray is not a sceptic.(Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Hmm ...

... Are you at risk of plagiarism? (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

You could be expelled for plagiarism at the college I attended, but the accusation had to include a precise reference to the text that had been filched. Nor is plagiarism merely cheating. It is theft.

DIY ...

... The Criminalist: Birthing the Crime Lab.

Good combo ...

... ‘Dignified but Flippant’.

Making ...

... Progress on reading novels eligible for the International Dagger.

Continuing ...

... The Gateless Gate.

Thought for the day ...

The arctic loneliness of age.
- S. Weir Mitchell, born on this date in 1829

OK ...

... so I'm a day late: Chris Botti's My Funny Valentine: Happy Valentine's Day.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Good question ...

... Can creative writing be taught? (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

RIP ...

... Dick Francis: jockey, journalist and author.

Worth pondering ...

... The courage of God.

I can't find the reference, but G. K. Chesterton wrote somewhere that all those scoffers, who call God evil for creating an evil world, are right in a sense, and that God acknowledged it (in a way) by explicitly accepting the punishment for creating all that evil.

I didn't know Chesterton made the point, but it's one I have made to myself.

Conflicted ...

... by a common language: Off the Shelf: Walking the walk, talking the talk: A Brit rethinks his text. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Performance art ...

... The secrets of Malcolm Gladwell. (Hat tip, Ed Champion.)

I think this speaks well of Gladwell. It makes things better for the audience. But I am biased: I always have my text in front of me, but I, too, always make sure to have it memorized.

Faithful skeptic ...

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

I don't think we can easily separate his skepticism from his faith (as Newman said, "faith means being capable of bearing doubt"). His Catholicism seems to have been genuine. As Donald Frame notes in his wonderful biography, he "played a decisive role" in making sure the future Saint Jeanne de Lestonnac was raised a Catholic. Frame quotes Pope Pius XII as saying of Montaigne in regard to Saint Jeanne that "it is thanks to him that the little girl became a Catholic." Also Montaigne seems to have died when the Host was elevated as Mass was being said in his sick room, his last gesture being to rise up as best he could, hands clasped.

For the day ...

... Top ten favorite lines for a Valentine’s Day poem.

A chat ...

... with A. S. Byatt. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

It is clear that religion is an intrinsic part of human nature -- in ways both moving and terrifying.

The same can be said of science, too, and certainly of politics. It's the human nature that is the essential factor.

Whoops ...

... the Woopies have arrived: The silver haired revolution. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I don't know. Might this not just be another manifestation of the baby-boomers trying to stay at stage center?

Today's Inquirer reviews ...

... Time he blew his own horn.

... Ambitious mystery with much to say.

... Generosity and heroics of the Berlin airlift.

Waterlogged assumptions ...

... “Tiny purple fishes run laughing through your fingers…”

Something I missed ...

... Poetry News For February 9, 2010.

International writing ...

... Is the "New Global Novel" Dull?


Smart move ....

... I would prefer not to.

It is ... this paradigm of invalidation and erasure, with its messianic tones, that I find is so ineffective and so unhelpful to a better understanding of literature and ourselves. It makes true discourse impossible, and limits the intelligence of both sides by blinding prejudice. Humility in any case is the missing virtue of each.

Thought for the day ...

It is also said of me that I now and then contradict myself. Yes, I improve wonderfully as time goes on.
- George Jean Nathan, born on this date in 1882

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Pay a visit ...

.. to The Literary Saloon and scroll away.

Much to ponder ...

... Dante and the Henchman; or, the profession of English. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Unity in triplicate ...

... Trinity and mystery. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Of course, there is always the story of Augustine walking along the seashore and encountering a child carrying water from the ocean and pouring it into a hole he had dug in the sand. When Augustine asks the child what he is doing, the child tells him he's going to pour the entire ocean into the hole. Augustine explains to the child why that would be impossible. Whereupon the child tells Augustine that he has as good a chance of doing it as Augustine does of fully understanding the Trinity.

Well, I think so ...

... Do School Libraries Need Books? (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I just don't see this as an either/or proposition.

Not your usual hacker ...

... A Far-Reaching Menace.