Sunday, October 31, 2010

I fear so ...

... There's no fool like an old fool. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

It's really not quite so new a phenomenon. Remember how kings and nobles in days past would often requisition young brides for themselves from among the peasantry. What's new is that entertainers have, through celebrity, become a new form of nobility. As an old man myself, I think I can agree that they are fools. Old age is an adventure, as every stage of life is. And like every other stage, it is unique.They are going to miss out on it. And one day death will arrive, the visitor we should all try to be prepared for.

More trouble with experts ...

... Beware Our Blind Seers. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Which is why description is more informative than either prescription or judgment (though precise, accurate description is grounded in the choice of which details are significant).

Be very afraid ...

... at least if you're a star: The Star Whackers Are Coming.

Worth checking out ...

... Watch This: "My Own Eyes".

Just in time ...

... A Non-Political Election Day Poem.

It's everywhere ...

... Plagiarism in South Korea.

Exclusionary rules ...

... My net worth.

Sit back, relax ...

... Lazy Sunday Afternoon: Songs from films.

About time ...

... A Literary Editor Speaks Out!

Here you are ...

... Celebrating the imminent publication...

Keats and Beckett ...

... `I Am Leading a Posthumous Existence'

Congratulations ...

... 2011 Pushcart Nominations- The Fox Chase Review.

Works and days ...

... Watching ‘Remaindered’ amid a tsunami of work.

Good for her ...

... Why is this woman smiling? Carol Shloss, a year after the James Joyce lawsuit.

More than just ghosts ...

... Dostoevsky, Coetzee, Vargas Llosa, and Paul West on evil — just in time for Halloween!

Hear, hear ...

... Some thoughts about restricting e-readership. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The point for the reader is not price, it is access. Based on my long experience of scientific publishing, it is not necessary to restrict access geographically in order to run a viable business.
Exactly

Explaining my absence ...

Blogging has been light because I have been doing some online learning with Laura, my tech adviser. Best thing to do when you're my age is to keep learning. I have to say, it was fun learning how to use Skype and work in a vRoom and improve my skills with Audacity. I have fallen behind the tech learning curve, and will never be as adept as someone like Laura, but I can probably become a good deal more adept than many another old futzer.

Today's Inquirer reviews ...

... Warm, smart memoir by Stones' Richards.

... A Rice memoir, reflection-free.

... 'The Remarkable Rise, Fall, and Rise Again of Steve Schwarzman and Blackstone': Shining a light on an entrepreneur and his business.

... Russian crooks at large in le Carre's latest.

... Travel Bookshelf: Author unpacks an airport's secrets.

Thought for the day ...

Poetry should... should strike the reader as a wording of his own highest thoughts, and appear almost a remembrance.
- John Keats, born on this date in 1795

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Friday, October 29, 2010

Apparitions ...

... And so we bid the ghosts adieu, or, See you in the stacks!

Sweet ...

... First Light.

In case you wondered ...

... English as she is spoke.

Further thoughts ...

... regarding Beyond the Veil.

Seasonal ...

... Loose Leaves. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Consequences ...

... some years ago a young man named Michael Scott Miller visited me in my office seeking advice about how to go about a novel he was working. Well the novel is out now. It's called Ladies and Gentlemen ... The Redeemers and it has got some favorable notice here and here.

Art and lives ...

... Ron Slate on The More I Owe You, a novel by Michael Sledge.

Bottoms up ...

... The Large Glass.

Chocolate lovers alert ...

... I got an email yesterday informing me that "starting November 1, BetterWorldBooks.com, the socially responsible online used bookstore, will be including a Divine chocolate bar in every ... order of 3 or more used books. (Oh, and shipping is free in the US).

The email went on to explain that "Divine is the only Fairtrade chocolate company which is 45% owned by the farmers. While Fairtrade ensures farmers receive a better deal for their cocoa and additional income to invest in their community, company ownership gives farmers a share of Divine's profits and a stronger voice in the cocoa industry."

Thought for the day ...

I'm not afraid of death. It's the stake one puts up in order to play the game of life.
- Jean Giraudoux, born on this date in 1882

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Sounds about right ...

... Economic Sciences as Mostly a Procrustean Bed. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

But don't mess ...

... with the Koran: Muslim students in Malawi desecrate New Testaments.

The literary undead ...

... Biblio Zombies: Books to Bring Back from the Dead.

Somebody should alert Glenn Reynolds. He's big on zombies.

Talk about revival ...

... Relishing a Lost Production. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Julius Caesar has always seemed to me the best choice for modern-dress Shakespeare. It is, after all, the proto-Godfather. And have I ever mentioned that I think Terry is this country's best drama critic?


Raves for a translation ...

... first from the Paris Review: Some Kind of Beautiful Signal.

... second, from Languagehat: THE BOOKSHELF: TWO LINES.

A fine group ...

... Squeeze, Hard Rock Café, London, review. (Hope they come here.)

Hmm ...

... I'm Still Trying to Figure Out What's Wrong with This. (Hat tip, Dave Lull)

Very interesting ...

... A Catholic View of The Children's Book.

Cool kitties ...

... A Catalog of Bookstore Cats. (Statistics via Dave can be found in his appended comment.)

Forget fashion ...

... Letters from Bruce Chatwin.

Shatner might actually be amusing ...

... Future Library of America volumes.

Heady mixes ...

... Simon Hoggart's wonderful Long Lunch - with W.H. Auden, Kudu Piss and a Gorilla.

I'm not so sure ...

... HOW DOES OUR LANGUAGE SHAPE THE WAY WE THINK? (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

It seems to me that the language (in the case, say, of the Kuuk Thaayorre) could simply derive from how the world is perceived in the first place. Presumably, these people live in an environment where orienting yourself is of paramount importance, and their language reflects that. Of course, since language is passed down to us, we see the world in terms of the perceptions incorporated into that language. It could well be worthwhile to question that perpective from time to time.

Not bad ...

... Prescriptivism Forever! (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Well, I object to syllabuses. It's a ghastly locution. And I certainly use stigmata.

FYI ...

... For the Budding (or Mature) Novelist.

Check this out ...

... The Bat Segundo Show: Andrew Ervin.

I know Andrew. He used to review for me. Very nice and bright guy.

A true skeptic ...

... and Credulity. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

As usual, William James gets it right: " ... I believe there is no source of deception in the investigation of nature which can compare with a fixed belief that certain kinds of phenomenon are impossible."

Yes ...

... Getting ready for Halloween: Dana Gioia’s ghost story.

Debbie and I saw Dana read his ghost story at the WCU Poetry Conference. It's great.

Cynthia has a couple of other interesting posts: The woman the Soviets kept secret: Film on Holocaust heroine Irena Sendler Thursday! and The archaeology of sound: “This reclaims Shakespeare for us”.

Reliable praise ...

... Book Review: The Guards by Ken Bruen. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Maxine's reviews are always excellent.

Thought for the day ...

There are no poetic ideas; only poetic utterances.
- Evelyn Waugh, born on this date in 1903

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Check this out ...

... HIGHER EDUCATION BUBBLE UPDATE.

Turns of phrase ...

... I could care less.

This piece reminded me that I am more old-fashioned than I thought. I still think bemused means "befuddled" and that aggravate means "to make things worse." And I still think decimate refers to "every tenth."

Marketing, etc. ...

... The Literary Life: Goodloe Byron Gives It Away. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

A poem ...

Pilgrimage

Pray the journey lasts

Long enough to be enriched

With lingering detours

Along paths beckoning

To villages where time holds

No sway, until you find yourself

Grateful, when at last you learn

There can be no heading home.

We link ...

... you ponder: If it ain’t art, don’t call it art.

One life at a time ...

... Seeking Proof in Near-Death Claims. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I think a lot of the skepticism regarding life after death comes from the connection in many people's mind between religion and a belief in an afterlife. But there is no necessary connection between the two. It may well be that death is simply one more phase in an ongoing adventure of being. In fact, one could argue that religion has exploited the continuation of existence in order to exercise control over adherents. I happen to think that life does continue in some way, shape or form, mostly because of some experiences I've had. I also think that worship of God should focus more on simple gratitude for being in the first place.

Profile ...

... A life in books: Colm Tóibín. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Colm is a great guy.

Searching ...

... Quest for Kindness. (Hat tip, Scott Stein.)

Oh, noooo ...

... Philly Phanatic Under Suicide Watch!

Quite an afterlife ...

... Suppose You’re an Idiot. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I have never taken much part in the national veneration for Twain. This departure from the norm began quite early. I read Tom Sawyer when I was in grade school -- the summer after fourth grade, I think -- and loved it. Then I read Huckleberry Finn and was disappointed. I never took to Huck. And while I have, from time to time, enjoyed reading Twain, my overall impression is that he was more crank than sage.

Thought for the day ...

Who wants to become a writer? And why? Because it's the answer to everything. To ''Why am I here?'' To uselessness. It's the streaming reason for living. To note, to pin down, to build up, to create, to be astonished at nothing, to cherish the oddities, to let nothing go down the drain, to make something, to make a great flower out of life, even if it's a cactus.
- Enid Bagnold, born on this date in 1889

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

49 reasons ...

... to never take AskMen seriously: Top 49 Most Influential Men.

None of them have had any influence on me.

Those dreaded ...

... irreconcilable differences: Political Aporetics: Liberty Versus Equality. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Thought for the day and happy birthday ...

... I looked for someone I could quote, but found no one. Then I had to take off and wasn't going to blog at all today (I'm working on The Inquirer's holiday book roundup, which requires that I vosot my old haunts). Anyway, I come home and discover, via an email from Dave Lull, that today is Patrick Kurp's birthday. Every one of Patrick's post provides plenty to think of throughout the day, and so ... `Having Long Ago Known These Games'.
I'm not sure if it's today or tomorrow, but Katie's birthday is one or the other if memory serves. Happy birthday to all!

Monday, October 25, 2010

This is interesting ...

... On psychogeography and walking in style.

As a flâneur, I pay much attention to my appearance as I stroll about town. It requires a profound superficiality.

What might have been ...

... Oscar Wilde, Classics Scholar. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Middlesex ...

... Martin Amis on Philip Larkin's women. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

In memoriam ...

... John Berryman was born in this date in 1914. Here is Dream Song 80: Op. posth. no. 3. (Thanks to John Brumfield for the reminder.)

See also
`Love Is Multiform'. (Thanks to Jonathan for the tip.)

Continuing ...

... William James, part 2: The scientific study of religion. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

"Scientific theories are organically conditioned just as much as religious emotions are; and if we only knew the facts intimately enough, we should doubtless see 'the liver' determining the dicta of the sturdy atheist as decisively as it does those of the Methodist under conviction anxious about his soul."

Indeed.

Online now ...

... Issue 19 of Autumn Sky Poetry.

Please note: New Poem in Autumn Sky by Diane Sahms Guarnieri.

Congratulations ...

... Brian Turner, VPR Featured Poet, Named Finalist for T.S. Eliot Prize.

My contribution ...

... 6 Clicks…For the Endless Voyage: Frank Wilson.

This was fun.

Thought for the day ...

Whoever will be free must make himself free. Freedom is no fairy gift to fall into a man's lap. What is freedom? To have the will to be responsible for one's self.
- Max Stirner, born on this date in 1806

Sunday, October 24, 2010

On stage ...

... Donnie Brasco: A One-Man Play About Legendary FBI Agent Joe Pistone's Infiltration of the Mob.

About time ...

... I suppose: Paris Review Editor Frees Menagerie of Wordsmiths. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Pay a visit ...

... to The Dabbler.

Bohemian beacon ...

... Shakespeare & Company: The bookshop that thinks it's a hotel. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Previews ...

... Book Trailers.

Comvergence ...

... C.S. Lewis, “carny classics,” Joy Davidman … it all comes together.

A vintage review ...

... Hardy—Old Poet. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Numinous ...

... Trinity.

What could be better ...

... Insulted by Authors. (Hat tip, Ed Champion.)

Today's Inquirer reviews ...

... Black exodus from Southern segregation.

... Girl and nation, coming of age.

... Tales by Chilean master of malaise.

... 'Outside Looking In': Fascinating glimpses into the lives of the powerful.

... Four lives shaded by loss.

Thought for the day ...

One of the obligations of the writer is to say or sing all that he or she can, to deal with as much of the world as becomes possible to him or her in language.
- Denise Levertov, born on this date in 1923

Friday, October 22, 2010

This week's batch ...

... of TLS Letters: Bernard Faÿ and Alfred Fabre-Luce, Anne Frank, Minor Fifths, and more!

I particularly like the letter about the (non-existent) minor fifths (maybe because I had my music lesson today).

I love this ...

... YMCA - A!

Here again is my review of Peter's Spartacus Road, a book to be savored, not merely read:

In brief ...

... The A to Z of the Shortest Book Titles.

Skip "reality" ...

... Frederick Forsyth Knocks Reality TV.

Gritty realism ...

... Interview With Olivier Assavas, The Writer and Director of Carlos.

Potent sub-genre ...

... Step right up for carny classics.

See also: ESSAY / Lost in the shadow of C.S. Lewis' fame / Joy Davidman was a noted poet, a feisty Communist and a free spirit.

Posing primal questions ...

... Adam Kirsch on Counter-Revelations. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Thought for the day ...

For the last third of life there remains only work. It alone is always stimulating, rejuvenating, exciting and satisfying.
- Doris Lessing, born on this date in 1919

Thursday, October 21, 2010

More music ...

... Django.

See also Double trouble: Jalopy clip, Please Please Me.

(Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Anniversary ...

... Coltrane's "My Favorite Things": Recorded 50 Years Ago Today. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Nothing virtual ...

... Putting Your Nose Between the Pages: Infinite Riches in the Community Room.

Indeed so ...

... WE'RE NOTABLE.

The latest issue ...

... of Per Contra.

Enter now ...

... COMPETITION: Win a Slightly Foxed subscription. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Guess what ...

... We thought the internet was killing print. But it isn't. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Disgraceful ...

... NPR Fires Juan Williams After O'Reilly Appearance.

I don't always agree with Juan Williams, but I have always respected him. And I sure in hell don't think he's a bigot.

Thought for the day ...

A poet ought not to pick nature's pocket. Let him borrow, and so borrow as to repay by the very act of borrowing. Examine nature accurately, but write from recollection, and trust more to the imagination than the memory.
- Samuel Taylor Coleridge, born on this date in 1772

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Triple play ...

... Ron Slate on Three Recent Poetry Titles by Joan Swift, Nguyen Trai, and John Taylor.

Catch up ...

... on an online novel: Corduroy Mansions - A Conspiracy of Friends.

Getting noticed ...

... Girl on a Bridge Reviewed in the Miami Herald!

For the time being ...

... E.B. White on the tricky valuation of a writer’s time.

Browsing ...

... `Battered Unexpected Books'.

Advice ...

... Do not miss.

The funniest book ...

... The 1p Book Review: Jerome K Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat.

Be very scared ...

... And Speaking of Supernatural Fiction: M. R. James.

Another preview ...

... Jennifer L Rohn talks about 'The Honest Look'.

High praise ...

... Book Review: Kittyhawk Down by Garry Disher.

Also: Booksellers' choices for the new year 2011 (including a dentist).

Honoring family ...

... Condoleezza Rice praises “Extraordinary, Ordinary People” at Stanford Bookstore.

Preview ...

... “Namesake” fantasy webcomic debuts.

Digital ...

... A diverting ramble on the history of the finger.

A lively read ...

... Andrei Codrescu teaches a class, reminisces, howls, and ruminates.

Sisters ...

... Southern Soulmates.

Heart-warmingly irrelevant ...

... Peace, Love and Homicide: An Interview With Hippie Guru Murderer, Ira Einhorn.

Peculiar ...

... Nagel on Evolutionary Naturalism and the Fear of Religion. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Nagel makes it clear that he is talking about the fear of religion as such, and not merely fear of certain of its excesses and aberrations, and confesses that he himself is subject to this fear:
I speak from experience, being strongly subject to this fear myself: I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn't just that I don't believe in God and, naturally, hope there is no God! I don't want there to be a God; I don't want the universe to be like that. (130, emphasis added)

Nagel goes on to say that he may have what he calls a "cosmic authority problem." This seems to me to suggest that he also has a very primitive notion of God. Maybe he should see if he has, say, a "cosmic artist problem." The view of God as a kind of everlasting Hammurabi is an old one, but its longevity does not make it true. Subjects may genuinely love their king because he is genuinely lovable. But if he is not lovable -- if, indeed, he is hateful -- their expressions of love are purely self-protective. This is perhaps a greater problem with believers than with unbelievers. One often gets the impression that the faithful talk about God's loving us because they are afraid of saying otherwise. But the God they really believe in seems to be a stern authoritarian just waiting to catch them in some infraction of the law and punish them accordingly. But, as Jesus noted, "the law was made for man, not man for the law." A good bit of it also seems to have been made by man.

My latest column ...

... The most disconcerting thing about growing old.

Thought for the day ...

We carry within us the wonders we seek without us.
- Sir Thomas Browne, born on this date in 1605

Monday, October 18, 2010

Sage and scourge ...

... BOOK REVIEW: 'Mencken'. (Hat tip, Paul Davis.)

I have these volumes and found that after a while the vaunted style becomes tiresomely repetitive. Also, the review makes me wonder if the reviewer's acquaintance with the Scopes trial extends beyond Inherit the Wind. I have never been much of a fan of William Jennings Bryan, but he was possibly the only one of the principals in the trial who had actually read Darwin's One the Origin of Species, and Civic Biology, the textbook that Scopes used, certainly had some dubious features.

The latest issue ...

... of The Quarterly Conversation is up.

Philly book scene ...

... Local Area Events.

Tomorrow ...

A reading by Richard Burgin

6:00 PM in the Arts Cafe

introduced by: Greg Djanikian
co-sponsored by: The Creative Writing Program

Richard Burgin is a fiction writer, editor, and critic. He is the author of twelve books, including the story collections Fear of Blue Skies, The Spirit Returns, Private Fame, Man Without Memory (each of which was listed by The Philadelphia Inquireras one of the Notable Books of the Year), the novel Ghost Quartet, Conversations with Isaac Bashevis Singer (translated thus far into four foreign languages), and Conversations with Jorge Luis Borges (published to date in seven foreign editions). He has won five Pushcart Prizes for his stories and had ten others listed in the Pushcart Prize Anthology as among the year's best stories. He is the founder and editor of the internationally distributed literary journal Boulevard (now published by Saint Louis University), which has won numerous national grants, awards and honors in its 18 years of existence. His criticism has been published in literary journals such as Partisan Review, Boston Review, and Chicago Review and his book reviews have been published frequently in the New York Times Book Review and the Washington Post, among other newspapers. His book The Identity Club: New and Selected Stories was chosen as one of the Best Books of 2006 by The Times Literary Supplement.

This week ...

... At the Library.

Poetry as revelation ...

... A Revolutionary of Arabic Verse. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Well worth reading ...

... William James, part 1: A religious man for our times. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

RIP ...

... Belva Plain, 95.

Moral insurance ...

... Joseph Brodsky, Shirley Jackson, and the “no-fault Holocaust”.

Also born on this date ...

... Baldassare Galuppi, subject of a great poem by Browning.

Thought for the day ...

Religion is to mysticism what popularization is to science.
- Henri Bergson, born on this date in 1859

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Sad news ...

... Benoit Mandelbrot, 1924-2010. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Dave also sends along: Benoît Mandelbrot, Novel Mathematician, Dies at 85.

(Bumped.)

Force of nature ...

... The Prisoner of Sex. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Disturbing ...

... Nemesis.

Hmm ...

... Goodnight Scientist.

A genuine innocent ...

... `All That It Needed to Do in This World It Did'.

Salvation in the kitchen ...

... The sustaining power of the ordinary. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Cooking and gardening -- partners in joy.

Always interesting ...

... Elmore Leonard On Books, E-Books, Movies and Where the Great Crime Writer Picks Up His Snappy Dialogue.

Well, I prefer books, too, but often the Kindle is more convenient, especially if you're traveling.

Today's Inquirer reviews ...

... The black struggle for equality.

... 'The Good Daughters': Character study of two 'birthday sisters'.

... A violent encounter and an internal abyss.

... The Mick in triumph and despair.

Backyard salvation ...

... Gardening against the odds awards winner: Andrew Barnett. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

How could I doubt a judge named Frank Wilson?

Thought for the day ...

The imagination is not an escape, but a return to the richness of our true selves; a return to reality.
- George Mackay Brown, born on ths date in 1921

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Reading and walking ...

... Two Things that are Important for Writing.

Profiles in hypocrisy ...

... Don’t give him the Nobel – he’s right-wing!

Penmanship ...

... How Handwriting Trains the Brain.

Be very afraid ...

... Smiling law professors clinging to their guns.

Seeking ...

... The Argument from Design.

Very nice.

Open minds ...

... Debating Islam. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Not as he pretended ...

... The Hard Work of an Effortless Pose.

A poetic review ...

... Words For Empty And Words For Full by Bob Hicok.

FYI ...

... A brief lesson in english.

Thought for the day ...

A man who does not think for himself does not think at all.
- Oscar Wilde, born on this date in 1854

Friday, October 15, 2010

Movies and jury duty ...

... Hamptons International Film Festival (HIFF): It Takes a Tough Tailbone.

Sounds good to me ...

... BREAKING: Prosecutors of Dutch MP Geert Wilders Ask Court To Acquit on All Charges.

Not sure I get ...

... why the poems are printed in mirror images, but take a look: Eva Holubk Week.

Very nice roundup ...

... Mitteleuropa items.

Gorgeous ...

... Abstract Realism in Photography 5: Lake Superior Shore.

Take a look ...

... at hot pepper people.

Who knew?

... Move Over Nigella, I AM A Domestic Goddess.

From Shamless ...

... A New Short Story.

Progression ...

... Girl on a Bridge : Reviewed by Wendy Burk.

Words and pictures ...

... A Single Leaf.

Paul Nash ought to better known in this country.

Hard to imagine ...

... Around the campfire with Henry James.

Good news ...

... Unforgettable in More Than One Way. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

It often surprises people when I say that Mr. Cole is my favorite jazz pianist. The reason for their surprise is, alas, all too easy to understand: Most of the King Cole Trio's studio recordings for Capitol, cut between 1943 and 1950, have been out of print for years. But Hep Records, a Scottish label whose releases are readily available in this country, has just put out a CD called "Nat King Cole and His Trio: The Forgotten 1949 Carnegie Hall Concert" in which Mr. Cole's gleaming, darting pianism can be heard to good advantage.


I have vivid memories of the King Cole Trio dating back to the '40s, when I was very young. I remember playing in the living room while my grandmother did the ironing. The radio would be tuned in to a guy named Doug Arthur. The Cole Trio was standard fare. No little kid could fail to remember Cole's wondrously deft piano playing.

Tibetan salad ...

... Hello Dalai!

The visionary observer ...

... `The Better You See the Earth'.

Zeno misses dinner ...

... Space and Motion Theory.

Purpose and power ...

... Watching the Crowd.

FYI ...

... Animadversions of a reactionary.

Congratulations ...

... on a New Arrival.

Thought for the day ...

Readers are what it's all about, aren't they? If not, why am I writing?
- Evan Hunter (a.k.a., Ed McBain), born on this date in 1926

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Sad news ...

... Jack Powers – RIP.

The latest batch ...

... of TLS Letters: Heidegger and barbarism, Buddhism, Claire Clairmont, and more!

FYI ...

... 2010 National Book Award Nominees.

Pretty funny ...

Moving on ...

... AA BRONSON RESIGNS AS PRESIDENT OF PRINTED MATTER.

More on Stefan Zweig


The NYRB is set to release another of Stefan Zweig's masterful novels - this time, Journey into the Past. I greatly enjoyed the book, and wrote of a review of it recently for Rain Taxi. A link to that review can be found here.

Once again ...

... science vs. religion: Science and religion aren't friends. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Dave also sends along this:
Walls of Mush. I'm afraid I have to agree with Brandon that Coyne's "has to be one of the worst arguments I've seen on the subject, ever."

More from Dave: Investigating Atheism and atheistdelusion.

Thought for the day ...

In order to go on living one must try to escape the death involved in perfectionism.
- Hannah Arendt, born on this date in 1906

Anticipation ..

In just a few hours I will enter upon my 70th year. I am still awake because I cannot keep myself from pondering this and wondering how it could possibly have come about. On Saturday I was at my eldest nephew's house to celebrate my brother and sister-in-law's 50th wedding anniversary. I was the best man at their wedding. I was only 18 and having to speak in public , to toast them, was a horrible experience. I could never have imagined then that I would end up earning a good bit of my income from ... public speaking -- but that is anther story. Pat, my nephew, toward the end of the celebration, told me I did not look old. Nor do I feel old. A few infirmities, true, but nothing serious. Still, I simply cannot reconcile my sense of myself with being old. I am a Peter Pan type. I suspect that Gwen, my stepdaughter, whom I love as if she were my own daughter, probably could say more about this than I can possibly bring myself to, because I think she knows me better than anyone. But why go on about this, when Jacques Brel said it all years ago.

P.S. I should have been clearer - or less elliptical, or whatever. I turned 69 today -- meaning that I have entered upon my 70th year, at the end of which I will have reached 70. But thanks to everyone for the kind thoughts.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

My favorite bird ...

... `There's Nothing Crows Won't Eat from the Menu'. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

They fly into South Philly every day fro who knows where. I would love to have one -- though I would want him to be free to go his way. When I die, if there's anything to metempsychosis, I would want to come back as a crow.

Good news ...

... at least for me: Walking could protect brain against shrinking, US research says. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The study suggest that nine miles a week – or in the urban US terms of the data, 72 Pittsburgh city blocks – is the optimum distance for "neurological exercise".

Well, I've walked more than 10 miles in the past two days. And I've been walking like that all my life. I just love to walk. I am never more myself than when I am walking by myself. I don't care much about living long, but I do care about living well. And I say this on the eve of entering my 70th year. (I had to write that, in order to bring the reality home to myself. Oh my.)

Irène Nemirovsky

A Parisian exhibition honors her legacy...

Fun poetry ...

... Lynn Levin reviews JAMBANDBOOTLEG.


See also: notes on 'wild life rifle fire' by paul siegell

Pieces of genius ...

... The Magic of Roald Dahl.

The power of tunes ...

... How Broadway Conquered the World. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

This is something many contemporary composers of classical music might want to, well, take note of.

Reading ...

... John le Carre Reads An Extract from His Latest Novel, Our Kind of Traitor.

Now online ...

... VALPARAISO POETRY REVIEW: Fall/Winter 2010-2011 Issue.

Thought for the day ...

The mind is like the stomach. It is not how much you put into it that counts, but how much it digests.
- Albert Jay Nock, born on this date in 1870

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

And the winner is ...

... Man Booker Prize: Howard Jacobson is surprise winner.

Tonight ...

I just got an email alerting me to this: Russell Brand will sit down with New York Times culture reporter Dave Itzkoff in an exclusive interview today, October 12 at 6:30PM ET / 3:30PM ET. Livestream will stream this in-depth look at Russell as he discusses his latest book, "My Booky Wook 2: This Times It's Personal," his role in Julie Taymor's film of "The Tempest," and starring in the title role of the remake of "Arthur." Fans can tune into the live interview on Times Talk’s Livestream page at livestream.com/nytimes.
I'm not the most technically adroit guy in the world, but the player is embedded below. I won't be around then, because I'm going to see Antonia Byatt tonight.


Watch live streaming video from nytimes at livestream.com

Maybe ...

... they just loved him: Hunter-gatherers cared for first known ancient invalid.

Truth vs. power ...

... as much more than a mere trope: “I will embrace you with ashes”: Liu Xiaobo, the Writer.

The courtesy of consideration ...

... "That Bodleian Mind!"

Innovation ...

... Mystery Writer Parnell Hall Surfs the Kindle Zeitgeist.

Failure of nerve ...

... Bruce Bawer: Wilders on trial. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Of course, the New York Times wasn't so hot when covering the Ukrainian famine, either.

This sounds good ...

... Whisky for parents: Latin for all.

Encomium ...

... Thomas Mann on The Stature of Anton Chekhov. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Whereas Chekhov (like Maupassant, whom by the way I knew much better) confined himself to the modest dimensions of the short story; and this did not call for heroic endurance throughout the years and decades but could be tossed off by some happy-go-lucky artist in a day or two or a week or two, at most. I felt a certain disdain for this, hardly realizing then that genius can be bounded in a nutshell and yet embrace the whole fullness of life by virtue of a brevity and terseness deserving the highest admiration. Such works attain to full epic stature and can even surpass in intensity the great towering novels which inevitably flag at times and subside into noble boredom. If I understood that better in later life than in my youth, this was largely owing to my growing intimacy with Chekhov’s art; for his short stories rank with all that is greatest and best in European literature.

Rescue operation ...

... Mary Midgley's tonic against misreading Darwin. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Tonight ...

... at the Central Library: A. S. Byatt | The Children's Book.

Thought for the day ...

On the question of relating to our fellowman - our neighbor's spiritual need transcends every commandment. Everything else we do is a means to an end. But love is an end already, since God is love.
- Edith Stein, born on this date in 1891

Monday, October 11, 2010

Quite limited, actually ...

... The Jurisdiction of Science. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

... that our intellectual climate is such that so many merely scientific thinkers so consistently and so brazenly offer up their lame insights on the most momentous of topics does indeed constitute an essential aspect of our present barbarism. The attempt to understand the entirety of human existence in biological terms has less of philosophical seriousness about it, and more of professional pride. We would find ourselves in a very nearly analogous situation if a conclave of plumbers began writing books, asserting that water was the essential element in all nature, that our thoughts could best be understood as so many conduits to our actions, and that society itself is nothing other than a complex structure of pipes, aqueducts, and irrigatory canals, sending and receiving every life-giving benefit. Such a mode of philosophizing might be enjoyable for a while, but it could never be persuasive, and it could never be right.

Yes, and while Fodor and others are criticized for questioning Darwinism because they are not scientists, no one thinks to criticize Dawkins, Wilson, et al. for having no discernible philosophical or theological expertise.

Back to school ...

Last Thursday, at the invitation of my friend -- and When Falls The Coliseum editor -- Scott Stein, I visited one of the classes Scott teaches at Drexel University. It is actually an honors seminar for freshman. The subject? Blogging.
Once again, I was struck by the disconnect between what one hears about the younger generation -- they don't read, etc. -- and the reality of the young people sitting in front of me. They seemed to me to be paying attention to what this old guy was saying and those who posed questions posed good ones.
One of the students, for instance, asked what I thought was a good thing to blog about. I said anything you're really interested in. Her blog -- not surprisingly, all the kids in the class have to blog -- is called Creative Gift Ideas for People You Love. Actually, I think that's a pretty good idea for a blog, one that could turn out to serve a very real need for a lot of people.
Another good question was how to increase traffic to your blog, which reminded of me of just how much blogging is a social activity, capable of drawing together all sorts of people from all over the world, since traffic increases the more you link and are linked to in return.
I had a great time visiting this class. I hope the students found it as much as I did.

Missing my wife ...

... who is currently traveling about Turkey with some friends.

Secret Music

For Debbie

The house, when she was gone too long,

Was like a false cadence, a song

Broken off. The song resumed

When she returned, the house assumed

Its harmony. He was but the silence

Between tones, granting them sense.

He understood, better than before,

The fissure gaping at the core

Of love, dividing take from give,

Something one must learn to live

With, while the other thrives,

Defining sharply married lives.

He still could hear the song

She’d sounded to him for so long,

And even found himself content,

Engaging love’s original intent.

© 2005 F. Wilson



From elberry ...

... Cambridge, part one and Cambridge, part 2.

The latest batch ...

... of TLS Letters: Imperial definitions, Irish English, Apollinaire, and more!

This really sounds awful ...

... What’s wrong with Jonathan Franzen?

Walter Berglund, the closest Freedom has to a main character, is initially willing to limit his freedom to sleep with his eager young assistant, Lalitha, in the hope of propping up his marriage to Patty. Walter weeps with frustration when Lalitha kisses him “with aggression . . . hungry abandon”, and weeps again “into Lalitha’s hair” when finally his wife departs and the couple satisfy their hunger – leaving Walter unexpectedly desolate. Patty weeps on realizing that Walter has fallen for Lalitha, then weeps “for a long while” when he discovers that she herself has had a long-term affair with his best friend. “I swear to God, Walter. I swear to God. I’ve spent my whole life trying not to hurt you. You’re so good to me, you don’t deserve this.” Not all the dialogue in Freedom sounds as though it has been extracted from one of the flimsier episodes of Desperate Housewives, but quite a lot of it does.


... kisses him “with aggression . . . hungry abandon” -- Yuck!

Something I forgot ...

... I was away most of Saturday and blogged hardly at all. But I should have noted that October 9 is the anniversary Jacques Brel's death.

RIP ...

... Soprano Dame Joan Sutherland dies, age 83. (Hat tip, Cynthia Haven, for alerting me to the video clip.)

Tove Jansson

I've just finished Tove Jansson's The Summer Book. Simple. Elegant. Peaceful. My thoughts exactly.

Mostly true ...

... TV? Don’t waste your time, says Stanford prez.

The only things I watch with any regularity are the Phillies and movies. Sometimes PBS's Masterpiece Theater. The glimpses I get from time to time otherwise strike me as either boring or appalling.

FYI ...

... The Copyright Principles Project: Directions for Reform.

Neat ...

... perceptions.

Can't get a break ...

... Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl”: More on “Breaking up is hard to do…”

The Philly scene ...

... Metropolis.

I second this ...

... Happy 85th Birthday to One of America's Best Crime Writers, Elmore Leonard.

I've said it before, but I think it worth repeating: I think Dutch is the coolest guy I've ever met.

Speaking of the academy ...

... Hal Lewis: My Resignation From The American Physical Society.

We link ...

... you decide: Academic skirmishing.

Thought for the day ...

I'm very much aware in the writing of dialogue, or even in the narrative too, of a rhythm. There has to be a rhythm with it … Interviewers have said, you like jazz, don’t you? Because we can hear it in your writing. And I thought that was a compliment.
- Elmore Leonard, born on this date in 1925

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Saint Jack ...

... The Beat Generation, the Tea Party and the Meaning of 'Beat'. (Hat tip, Dave Lull, who is appropriately given a featured role.)

Here some serious qualifications are in order. Although 'beat' does have the connotation of 'beaten down' and 'exhausted,' this meaning is strictly secondary when compared to the term's fundamental meaning which is in the semantic vicinity of 'beatific,' 'beatitude,' The Eight Beatitudes, and the Beatific Vision (visio beata) in the theology of Thomas Aquinas. Kerouac cannot be understood apart from his Catholic upbringing. If we take Dean Moriarty (Neal Cassady) and Sal Paradise (Jack Kerouac) of On the Road as the main exemplars of beatness, there is nothing of the cool, jaded beatnik about them (the latter term an invention of the liberal media modeled on 'sputnik.') They are not cool, but hot, 'mad,' joyously affirmative. Every Kerouac aficionado thrills to the passage near the beginning of On the Road where Sal confesses: ". . . the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved . . . ." (p. 9)

Precisely right.

To the edge of confusion ...

... Ron Slate on Great House, a novel by Nicole Krauss.