Monday, October 31, 2011

Just some thoughts ...

Last night, my Sunday dinner guest was a friend of Gwen, my stepdaughter. I have known Wendy since she was maybe 8 or 9 years old. She is unusually bright - Smith graduate, M.A. in Art Education. Anyway, I remember her as a preternaturally articulate child who always had something to say, because she was very observant.
Well, last night Wendy and I had a long postprandial conversation and, as is usually the case in conversations I have with Wendy, I came away with something I think worth sharing. I realized from what we had been talking about - family, growing up, etc. - that there is no real curve to life - a beginning, a middle, and an end, a resolution of a sort. It is all middle. If one is at all alert, it is just as mysterious as you near the end as it is from the beginning. The only difference is that, as your near curtain call, the sense of ... I don't quite know what to call it, though I feel it continuously. A certain apprehension for sure. One approaches the unknown. One does not feel fear. At least I don't. I feel ... on edge, alert to every nuance of being, even, I must sadly admit, on guard.
By the way, Wendy made a most pertinent comment about the poem I posted yesterday. She noticed how right it was that I used the contraction "What's," and not the phrase "what is."

Something I missed ...

... Paul Davis On Crime: Happy Birthday To Evelyn Waugh.


What a gem Buckley's piece is.

Hmm ...

... The Decline of the Public Novel - Commentary Magazine. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)


Why can’t the explanation for the novel’s decline be both/and? Because they were socialized by a common training in writing workshops to adopt a common set of tastes and attitudes, and because these included a taste for liberal attitudinizing, American novelists lost all interest in morality and manners. Or because they inherited a metaphysical view of the universe as bereft of morality and manners, they were quick to adopt the substitute offered in graduate writing programs.


I think the worst thing for any artist is to belong to a fashionable coterie. It's the sure way to create period pieces.

In case you wondered ...

... AbeBooks: Whatever Happened to the Harry Potter Readers?

Cynthia is not pleased ...

... Shakespeare or the Earl of Oxford? “It’s a shame sometimes that dead men can’t sue.” | The Book Haven.

I felt much the same way when I read the piece, though I don't agree that the WSJ should ashamed for running it. The piece gives us Orloff's viewpoint, deplorable though that may be. I think can safe say, thanks to to article, where he is coming from. And I think that is useful.

Not necessarily good ...

... The American Political Parties Are Breaking Down | Via Meadia.


... populism, plutocracy and dynasticism have traditionally been seen as signs that a republic is in trouble.  The rise of populism means that a gap has opened up between the leadership elite of a society and ordinary voters.  Alienated from a system that is no longer seen to be working, populist voters believe that the system and the establishment are the enemy.  Clearly, an establishment which allows such a climate to flourish is an establishment without the skills or the character to lead.

Espionage ...

... Paul Davis On Crime: Operation Mincemeat: Ben Macintyre On World War II"s Greatest Deception Plot Against The Nazis.

Today's must read ...

... Bryan's piece is characteristically excellent: My Brain Scan | Bryan Appleyard. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

... a ghost appears in the machine. If Larry and I have the same brain states and yet different experiences, where is the person who is having the experience if he is not in the brain state? The hard problem is very hard.
To think there must be a "you" inside the brain seems to me to be somewhat on the order of assuming there is a "you" in the telephone receiver. The telephone is a device that enables me to hold a conversation with someone else who is someplace else. Neither of us is in the receiver. Perhaps the brain - perhaps the body - is a communications device, both receiver and transmitter, and that what the scan reveals is the pattern of its activity, not the source of it. Perhaps the "you" is elsewhere.
I don't think is necessarily a mere restatement of the hard problem. To begin with, we do not experience our selves as epiphenomena of brain activity. The traditional view, going back at least to Plato has been that the body is the vehicle of the self - a selfing device, as it were.



Correspondence ...

... Rub Out The Words: Letters from William Burroughs | Online Only | Granta Magazine. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

From the heart ...

... A Sister’s Eulogy for Steve Jobs - NYTimes.com. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Dave also sends along Walter Isaacson's The Genius of Jobs.

Killer rhymes ...

... The ABCBs Of Murder. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

And the winners are ...

... IBPC Winning Poems for September 2011.


(Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Sam and Buster ...

... Samuel Beckett's Only Cinematic Project: A Silent Film from 1965 | Brain Pickings. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Thought for the day ...


Do you not see how necessary a world of pains and troubles is to school an intelligence and make it a soul?
- John Keats, born on this date in 1795

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Talk about immortal ...

... Paul Davis On Crime: Sherlock Holmes: The Great Detective Lives On - And On.

Spécialité de la Maison

... Arkham House – Weird Fiction since 1939.

Theodicy ..

... PJ Media - The New Paganism of Biodiversity. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

A poem ...

Just Wondering

Houseplants all inside already.
First sign of winter, though
It's still October. If meaning inhabit
Particles and stars and all
Around about and in between
What's the point of early snow?

Small and beautiful ...

... Issa's Untidy Hut: Kenneth Rexroth: Sky Sea Birds Trees Earth House Beasts Flowers.

It's a movie ...

... Truth and Fiction in a Shakespeare Film: John Orloff, Screenwriter, on Creating 'Anonymous' - WSJ.com. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Poetry and collage ...

... Anecdotal Evidence: `Prophecy Is a Matter of Seeing Near Things'.

Poet in chief ...

... When Falls the Coliseum - Tyranny of the head that stifles…

... given a choice between a business man best known for being one of the assholes on Dragons Den or the former Chief of Staff of the IRA, the Irish chose a part-time politician and full-time Irish poet. While not Seamus Healy, Michael Higgins like Louis McNeice and himself brings something worthwhile to the whole mess. 

Growing pains ...

... Is Proper English Dying? And Should Us Care? (Tao Jones Column) - Speakeasy - WSJ. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

On the road ...

... Secret Dead Blog: Hitting the Highway to Hell.

The Arnolfini portrait ...

... Love letter to a painting | TLS.

... one of the remarkable features of the panel is its pedigree, for we have a good idea of who owned it, and where it was, from the day it was finished in 1434 down to our own times. Its history is not without adventure, and certainly hazardous moments, as it travelled over land and sea, escaped burning, and even survived a battle and disposition by soldiers after the fighting ended. Hicks recounts this history with aplomb, together with sketches of the owners and tales of the negotiations as the painting changed hands.

Just because it's great ...

... I presume most people get the Martin Eden reference. It's crucial.

Today's Inquirer reviews ...

... Books - philly.com.

Also born today ...

... James Laughlin, who founded New Directions, surely one of the great publishing houses. If anyone deserves never to be forgotten, he's one. He was also - and it is awful to say this as an afterthought - a real poet: The Invisible Person by James Laughlin : The Poetry Foundation.

Laughlin was a true saint of literature. Maybe he was just a saint.


Also on this date ...

... Dispatches from Zembla: Two Poems by Georg Heym.

Heym was born on this date in 1887.

Thought for the day ...

To love someone means to see him as God intended him.
- Fyodor Dostoevsky, born on this date in 1821

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Thanks to global warming ...

... it's treacherous in Philadelphia tonight. I brought in all the house plants from outside today. The global warming reference is just a joke. I've lived in this town all my 70 years and I happen for poetic reasons to pay attention to the weather. In Philadelphia, it is very unpredictable. That's why it's a nice place to live. I expect, based on my sense of the place, that it will warm up soon - and that we will have a long, cold, snowy winter.

Deadline looms ,,,

... The Rattling Wall Issue 3 Postmark Deadline is November 1!

Testimony ...

... Book Review: Why Trilling Matters - WSJ.com. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

For Halloween ,,,

... Historical Library of Witchcraft and Magic App.

Good picks ....

... Something Spooky This Way Comes. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Of the books mentioned, Blackwoord's "The Man Whom the Trees Loved" is a favorite of mine. His story "The Willows" is among the scariest I know of. Blackwood "believed that the natural world has a consciousness that operates apart from and, at times, in direct opposition to that of humankind." An experience I had in the Tuscarora State Forest some years ago leads me suspect he may have been onto something.

Forebears ...

... Was the blogosphere born in the French Enlightenment? | The Book Haven. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

For the defense ...

... Is it a mad, bad, Amazon world? | Petrona. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Odd couple ...

... AN UNEXPECTED ALLIANCE | More Intelligent Life.

Swirling light ...

... Zealotry of Guerin: Starry Night (Van Gogh).

Listen in ...

... Paul Davis On Crime: On Hemingway: Paul Hendrickson and William Kennedy Talk About Their Books On Ernest Hemingway.

Thought for the day ...

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

Friday, October 28, 2011

And it went well ...

... An Evening without Richard Dawkins - Mail Online - Peter Hitchens blog. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The American philosopher William Lane Craig had offered to debate Richard Dawkins’s book ‘The God Delusion’ with its author, in his home town (and mine) . Dawkins is around, because he has his own event in another Oxford location on Friday. But despite being in the midst of promoting a new book, Dawkins refused to come. He came up with a series of silly excuses, none of which holds water. And an empty chair was provided for him at the Sheldonian on Tuesday evening, in case he changed his mind and – yes – to mock him for his absence. Details of this controversy are all over the web, and I was impressed by the behaviour of another Oxford atheist, Daniel Came, who said Dawkins should have turned up, and had the guts to be there himself . I might say that I thought his contribution was serious, thoughtful and properly modest about the limits of what we can know. The bumptiousness and raillery of Dawkins and some other anti-God preachers was entirely absent from his discourse, and it was all the better for it.

Testing a theory ...

... Spot.us - Pitch: Along the Lincoln Highway - Update: ELIOTT ERWITT ONCE SAID...

FYI ...

... NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman Announces New Research on the Value Added By Cultural Industries.

In time for Halloween ...

... Stephen King's New Monster in '11/22/63': Lee Harvey Oswald - WSJ.com. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

A riddle ...

... RB Quiz Prize Special – The Wise Owl - The Dabbler. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Memory riffing ...

... Improvising on a Life: Memoir as Performance - BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog.

Freebee ...

... Witchfinder — Free novel — One | According To Hoyt.

And more ...

... Steve Jobs and the End of Innovation | Bryan Appleyard. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

There he saw a man neurotically repelled by the sloppy or the incomplete. He insisted that even the innards of Apple’s machines, which customers normally would never see, should be as well designed as the exterior. “For you to sleep well at night,” he said, “the aesthetic, the quality, has to be carried all the way through.” In pursuit of perfection, he could hold up the release of products for years – as he did with the iPad – or demand expensive last-minute changes. A few weeks before its launch, the first iPhone had to have its plastic screen replaced with glass because Jobs thought the plastic scratched too easily. “At its core,” wrote David Pogue, tech watcher for the New York Times, “Apple existed to execute the vi- sions in his brain. He oversaw every button, every corner, every chime. He lost sleep over the fonts in his menus, the cardboard of the packaging, the colour of the power cord.”

What Jobs brought to business was something business could surely use more of - an aesthetic sensibility. What he grasped is that a product is actually better if the aesthetic is an integral part of it.

Odd fellow ...

... Steve Jobs: A One Percenter, Gordon Gekko In Turtleneck - Forbes.


I have to say, he sounds like someone it would be interesting to meet. The challenge, possibly insurmountable, would be getting to know him. That would require establishing some sense of trust - which of course would have to be mutual.

Who knew ...

... How the Potato Changed the World | History & Archaeology | Smithsonian Magazine.

Frazzled flaneur alert ...

... The TLS blog: Quiet Cocteau.

Thought for the day ...

News is what a chap who doesn't care much about anything wants to read. And it's only news until he's read it. After that it's dead.
- Evelyn Waugh, born on this date in 1903


Thursday, October 27, 2011

RIP ...

... Adrian Berg - Telegraph.

Mendax the Contrarian...

... Julian Assange’s rebellious Life | TLS.

The language, often arch and grandiloquent, can slip out of focus. Take this chapter opening: “Disclosure is not merely an action; it is a way of life. To my mind it carries both sense and sensibility: you are what you know, and no state has the right to make you less than you are”. Assange’s account of WikiLeaks since it became world-famous does not add a lot to what we already know. The book’s most intriguing sections are those on his early life and motives. They help to explain why WikiLeaks has not been the agent of radical change its founders dreamt of.

In case you wondered ...

... Loan Plan Scores Political Points but Offers Limited Relief - Government - The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Ordinarily, I wouldn't link to something like this, but this seems so patently dishonest. See also this, from The Atlantic of all places: Obama's Student-Loan Order Saves the Average Grad Less Than $10 a Month.
Please remember, folks, I link, you decide. I figure that people who visit this blog can think for themselves. Share you thoughts, but don't assume you know what my positon is regarding all this. This is simply one factor in  the equation. What bothers me is the duplicity. (Oh, and doe sthe other side engage in duplicity? Of course. That does not excuse this duplicity.)

Weary of reminders ...

... Joan Didion's Blue Nights: A Woman Alone - Obit-Mag.com.


Quintana Roo Dunne was angry at times, and wonderfully capable of leaving her parents dumbfounded with pride and awe. Chased off Zuma Beach by lifeguards when she was 8 years old, she replied to her mother’s assertion that there must be a good reason: “Only the sharks.”
  

Works and days ...

... The best of times to write | Books | guardian.co.uk. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Lots of interesting stuff ...

over The Book Haven. Just keep scrolling.

Gulp ...

... When Falls the Coliseum - Lisa reads The Night Eternal by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan.

Q & A ...

... Marilynne Robinson: Prevenient courage | Faith & Leadership. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Faith is radical in the strict sense - going down to the root of things. Too often, however, what passes for "radical" is simply political fashion of one sort or another.

Original ...

... Snapshot.

Just the other day, some friends and I were talking about this and wondering who was in the TV production. Now I know.

The Gospel and the Godfather ...

...Parables, with rimshots.

On the town ...

... zmkc: Cultural Highlights.

The Tempest is my favorite Shakespeare play also. Glad I missed this production.

Hidden agenda ...

... Book Review: Is That a Fish in Your Ear? - WSJ.com. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The zigzag, endlessly digressive line of Mr. Bellos's exposition keeps things lively, but it's not the best way of laying out a thesis. And he does have a thesis. The subtitle of his book, "Translation and the Meaning of Everything," hints as much, while (as is mandatory with cutesy subtitles these days) reassuring readers that, while there's an important point about to be made, things aren't going to get too serious, and they won't have to work very hard.


I first caught on to this with Malcolm Gladwell, but it's also the practice of Thomas Friedman, and maybe the first to do it was David brooks with Bobos in Paradise. It is the practice of passing off as thoughtful analysis what in fact is merely the elaboration of a catchphrase.

Thought for the day ...

My education was the liberty I had to read indiscriminately and all the time, with my eyes hanging out.
- Dylan Thomas, born on this date in 1914


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Afflictions ...

... Will Self: The trouble with my blood | Books | The Guardian. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Encounter ..

... without engagement: Bruce Charlton's Miscellany: Meeting Richard Dawkins (and his wife). (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Sic transit ...

... ‘Who knows the fate of his bones?…’ - The Dabbler.

Could it be?

... Paul Davis On Crime: Are Criticisms Of Hemingway Unfair?

I liked this (from the news story): "the panel members agreed, reading his fiction reveals a different story." Yes, reading the story would be a good start.

This just in, though ...

... Answers for the Riddle of Existence � Commentary Magazine. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Two of the best American novelists now writing go out of their way to affirm religion as a meaningful replacement for the unimpressive replacements of postmodern life, but it is as if they are afraid to go too far. They curb their affirmative steps. I don’t mean to fault Quakerism at all, but even Eugenides is amusing on the fashionable opinions of its contemporary adherents (“the bulletin board outside [the meeting house] bore a flyer for an antinuke march, a plea to petition the government on behalf of Mumia Abu-Jamal,” and the bumper stickers on the cars in the parking lot “pictured Planet Earth next to the slogan SAVE YOUR MOTHER, or simply, PEACE”).



Just a thought ...

I have been restoring and reordering what passed for order in my home office, which had come to mirror my self so much that I became uncomfortable with both - self and office. I also needed to give my knees a bit of a workout. So I took a walk, and found myself wondering why I keep doing certain things, like this blog, like reviewing books. I don't have to do it, and in these parlous economic times maybe I should step out of the way for those who need it more than I do. Why not just relax and take a long, lasting look at life as it passes by?
And I was surprised to find that what worried me was ... taking that "long, lasting look at life as it passes by." Worried is not the right word. Strolling along the sidewalk just then, what I felt was something akin to existential terror, the feeling that just being alive, whatever it amounts to, deeply down, is really weird and mysterious, and nobody really knows for sure what is going on ...
Luckily, my happy-go-lucky Ur-self popped in just then, and reminded me: "Hey, yeah. But everybody knows that, or learns that, one way or another. What counts is the sense of that, the experience of whatever we humans are as we happen to be."
Postscript: The entire edifice of human thought is premised on the assumption that being can be explained. Even Richard Dawkins thinks that and has arrived at a characteristically small explanation. But suppose there is isn't any explanation? Suppose nobody really knows what the hell is going on?

Going deep ...

... Schtick Lit: My Life as an Immersion Memoirist - BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog.

A tale of two countries ...

... Transmissions from a Lone Star: Mr. Gorbachev goes to Mexico | Columnists | RIA Novosti.


... I’ve been to Russia and I’ve been to Juarez. And I can tell you that during the single day I spent in Juarez, I experienced more fear than I ever did in ten years in Russia. When you’re up against an army that kidnaps civilians, a dysfunctional government riddled with crooks and butchers, and criminals who execute school kids and clergymen for kicks, well, your vote isn’t worth a damn.

Missing the charm ...

... Buckley: William F. Buckley Jr. and the Rise of American Conservatism - The Barnes & Noble Review. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I knew Buckley only very slightly, but I can vouch for the charm. He was, in fact, an extremely nice man.

Gorgeous enrichment ...

... Literary Review - Ursula K Le Guin on Ragnarok by A S Byatt. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Online now ..

... Issue #14 - Triple Canopy.

Thought for the day ...

Happiness is the absence of the striving for happiness.
- Zhuangzi

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

True and improved ...

... The new translation of the Mass restores its beauty and splendor. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I have reviewed hundreds of pages of Latin text, with the first Novus Ordo’s rendering beside me. I defy any English-speaking Catholic in the world to defend the work, on any grounds whatsoever, linguistic, poetic, scriptural, or theological. Eventually, the Vatican, noticing that the liturgy had in fact not been translated into English, ordered that the job be done. Hence every prayer said at every Mass for every day of the year and every purpose for which a Mass may be said has in the last few years been translated, an immense undertaking.
I'll stick with the Tridentine Latin Mass, which is celebrated every Sunday at noon at my parish. There is such a thing as ritual language, too. I don't go to Mass for contemporary relevance. I go for, among other things, a sense of the timeless. (Principally, I go for the miracle.)

Better than it sounds ...

... Wagner Madness | Bryan Appleyard. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I am not much of a Wagnerian. I think his music appeals to something adolescent in us. I vastly prefer Richard Strauss. Elektra is both powerful music and powerful drama - and the power is enhanced by the economy: Strauss doesn't waste a note.

Definitions and comparisons ...

.... Apples to Apples, Please: Narrative Nonfiction and Empathy - BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog.

... the researchers didn’t compare apples with apples—they compared narrative fiction with expository nonfiction. That would be like doing a study to prove that reading memoir improves social skills better than readingjournalistic or scientific nonfiction. 

Celebrating marvels ...

... Connemara: A Little Gaelic Kingdom by Tim Robinson - review | Books | The Guardian. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Contemplating how the centuries abrade the shapes that man's "imperious eye" forces on the landscape, he writes: "If I insist on the symbolism I find in such places … it is because the flood of change threatens to bear away all such constructs of meaning, and it is the task of the topographer to shore them up. Without the occasional renewal of memory and regular rehearsal of meaning, place itself founders into shapelessness, and time, the great amnesiac, forgets all."

Conspiracy theory ...

... Laura Miller’s Black Helicopters.

Comeback ...

... Zines Have a Resurgence Among the Web-Savvy - NYTimes.com. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Different directions ...

... The Keats Brothers - The Barnes & Noble Review. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

John was the oldest of four siblings (another died in infancy), but it was his vital bond with George, two years his junior, that sustained him and nurtured the poetic work that began to emerge in his teen years.

Celebrity particles ...

... Neutrinos Find a Place in Debate and in Pop Culture - NYTimes.com. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Tonight ...

... MPS: KIRAAT & Ray Brown | MOONSTONE ARTS CENTER.

Reaching out ...





Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi

I'm not sure whether I need to take more time to process this book, but for a novel which came so highly recommended, and which has been accompanied by such sustained praise, I must admit, I'm a bit befuddled.

All right, I get the connections between the first part of Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi and Thomas Mann's famous novella; and OK, I recognize the overtones of Ginsberg, et al. in the second section, during which Jeff travels to India and experiences - in a rushed fashion, over the last 30 pages or so - a sort of deconstruction of the self.

But I guess I just don't fully get it: the novel felt fragmented to me, and if it's a book about the existence of a counterlife - or counterlives - then I'm not certain it was effective.

Sure, there were parts of this novel that I enjoyed (especially in Venice), but in the end, I saw it as two stories, really - and if they were related by way of their post-modern treatment of the self, its impossibility, and its eventual deterioration, then I missed that (or wasn't compelled by the message).

Plus, there's one last thing: is Geoff Dyer such a great writer? I mean, line by line, sentence by sentence, do his prose hold up? I quietly wondered this at times: because if the first half of the novel is a reworking of Death in Venice, then part of this reworking includes writing which borders at times on overly casual, even sloppy.

My latest column ...

... When Falls the Coliseum - Neutrinos and a flock of pigeons.

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

Monday, October 24, 2011

Summer ...

Differentia ...

... Wall Photos | Facebook. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Poor choices ...

... When Falls the Coliseum � Lisa reads The Kingdom of Childhood by Rebecca Coleman.

Together at last ...

... Virgins, Tyrants & Castles: A Brief History of Gothic Fiction on AbeBooks.

Literary agent ...

... Paul Davis On Crime: Johhny Depp Channels His Old Pal Hunter S. Thompson In "The Rum Diary'.

In case you wondered ...

... Which Magazines Earn the Most Pushcart Prizes in Nonfiction? - BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog.

He's baaack ...

... Jack the Ripper.

Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes

... Book as process, book as byproduct, book as conversation. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)


The precise thing that makes idea-driven books so valuable to readers — their immersive qualities, the intimate, one-on-one relationship they facilitate between authors and readers — also make them pretty lousy as actual sharers of ideas. Books don’t go viral. And that’s largely because the thing that makes books lucrative to authors and publishers — their ability to restrain ideas, to wall them off from the non-book-buying world — is antithetical to virality. How can books be expected to share ideas when the very point of their existence is containment?

But why does a book need to go viral? And cannot word-of-mouth cause a book to go something like viral? And why object to that "intimate one-on-one relationship"? Many authors don't writer for readers, but for, in Kierkegaard's words, "that individual whom with joy and gratitude I call my reader."

In much of the debate over the future of the book, alternatives are frequently discussed as though mutually exclusive. It is the old human tendency to see things in terms of either/or rather than both/and or even all-of-the-above. What principally characterizes the changes being brought about in communications technology is the vast widening of choices in terms of products and services, which seems matched, however - in some cases, at least - with fewer sources of the products, if not the services.
Some think Google and Amazon are looking to become the Castor and Pollux of publishing. This may well be as far as distribution and access are concerned, but will hardly be the case as to what is being distributed and accessed. Google and Amazon are premised on reaching as many users as possible. It is not in their commercial interest to pass much judgment on what is  provided.
The internet is the agora made both global and individual. You don't even have to leave your home to participate, and you retain a good deal more of your independence than you might in a crowded, entirely public space. This marks an exponential change, not merely a change of scale. It is naturally threatening to those preoccupied with control. I suspect things will go best the less interference there is in the process. 
Think of it as you might of evolution.

Sound and sense ...

... We Tell Ourselves XX in Order to XXXX | Mark Athitakis’ American Fiction Notes.

... as often as fiction writers like to discuss the “musicality” of their prose—we’re always reminded of how important it is to read it aloud—it’s unusual to see a writer concerned about that to the point where it’s the first part of the drafting process.


When William Kennedy read from his latest novel, Chango's Beads and Two-Tone Shoes,  at the Library recently, I was surprised how much his reading caused me to understand the book better. His tempo and phrasing sounded different from what I had heard in my mind's ear. I realized that I had not got it right, and when I was asked to review the book, I read it again.


Arbitrary distinction ...

... Free eBooks, Piracy & Secondhanding - shattersnipe: malcontent & rainbows. (Hat tip, dave Lull.)

...if the mass availability of free or cut-price digital books is causing authors and publishers to lose out on revenue, then you’d expect that the combined presence of friendly loans, libraries and the second-hand market would be seen as having an identical (or at least similar) effect. After all, humans are quite a mercenary species: if we can have something cheaper or for free, then why would we pay full price? Or, put another way: if I can buy all my books second-hand, grab them at the library or borrow them from my friends, then why would I ever pay full price for the same product? Why would anyone?And yet the indisputable fact is that people – and I’d even go so far as to say a majority of people – do.

Take that ...

... Occupy the Wooden Spoon: DFW will not stand for this Strunk & White bullsh*t.

Good for him.

Having her cake ...

... Emily Dickinson, Sweet Genius - NYTimes.com. (hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Thought for the day ...

Marvelous Truth, confront us at every turn, in every guise.
- Denise Levertov, born on this date in 1923

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Bukowski

On censorship...

Watching turtles ...

This afternoon, Debbie and I went to Tinicum Marsh (officially the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge), where I indulged in one of my odder pastimes: turtle watching. There is a favorite bench of mine there, at the edge of the woods by the water. About 20-odd feet from it, sticking out of the water is a fallen tree trunk onto which from time to time turtles climb. Turtles are not the most active of creatures. Indeed they excel at sitting motionless, their heads raised upwards, taking in the sun. They are wonderfully instructive in how to, as the Zen master put it, sit quietly and do nothing. It is also interesting how quickly they can slide off the log and back into the water. I find it wonderfully relaxing to watch them. Overall there were about five of them today and when they weren't basking in sunlight, you could see them gliding through the water, their heads proudly above its surface.

Poetry and drawing ...

... Lines of beauty: the art of Sylvia Plath | Books | The Observer. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden,)

Listener and watcher ...

... A life in writing: Ronald Blythe | Culture | The Guardian. (Hat tip Dave Lull.)

Blythe had no idea Akenfield would have the impact it did. Fifteen million people watched Peter Hall's film of the book, shown simultaneously on TV and in the cinema, in which Blythe had a cameo as a vicar. His portrait of village life captured a hitherto barely noticed revolution in the countryside: Akenfield marked the end of an essentially feudal pattern of farming by hand and horse that had endured for millennia. Within the lifetimes of the people he wrote about, physical hardship, poverty, deference and communities centred on the land and the church had been pushed aside by the juggernaut of industrial farming.

Q & A ...

... Why critics of MFA programs have it wrong - Salon.com. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Wondering ...

... The TLS blog: Robert Hughes: a reply?

Crime Fiction Dossier: Worlds Collide: Raymond Chandler and the Gimlet

... Crime Fiction Dossier: Worlds Collide: Raymond Chandler and the Gimlet.

In case you wondered ...

... Can evolutionary theorists ever make sense of religion? - Philosophy and Life.


Mimesis and play are so important in the story of religion because they are the precursors of ritual, that embodied way of being in the world that enacts, not thinks, understanding. If you have ever played peekaboo with a child, you were together learning about presence and absence. At a more sophisticated level, religions nurture the complex gestures of ritual and practice. Christians perform liturgies, Muslims prostrate themselves in prayer, Buddhists focus attention on breathing. This is the bread and butter of religion. Man can embody truth, reflected WB Yeats, when he cannot rationally know it...

Continuing ...

... SinC25: Denise Hamilton, #1 post of expert challenge | Petrona.

Better late ...

... If it's Thursday, It's IOW Verse Day VII - The Globe and Mail. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Risky bidness ...

... Readers Questions By Ursula K. Le Guin. (Hat tip, Lee Lowe.)

I know, at least in part, what my story means to me. It may well mean something quite different to you. And what it meant to me when I wrote it in 1970 may be not at all what it meant to me in 1990 or means to me in 2011. What it meant to anybody in 1995 may be quite different from what it will mean in 2022. What it means in Oregon may be incomprehensible in Istanbul, yet in Istanbul it may have a meaning I could never have intended…

Today's Inquirer reviews ...

... Books - philly.com.

Also born today ...

... in 1923, Ned Rorem ("Art means to dare - and to have been right").



Thought for the day ...

I am certain there is too much certainty in the world.
- Michael Crichton, born on this date in 1942


Saturday, October 22, 2011

In case you wondered ...

... Book Review: Thinking, Fast and Slow - WSJ.com. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Can our healthy selves predict how we will feel in unhealthy circumstances with enough certainty to choose whether we would want to live or die? 

Ten years ago I spent a week in an emergency care unit because of complications after an operation. I found it bearable by becoming interested in how utterly unprepared I had been for such an eventuality. I had never had an experience like that and no experience I had had prepared me for it. All sorts of things may happen to us for which we will be totally unprepared. Death is probably one of them, even though we know it is going to happen

Just a thought ...

I have spent the greater part of this afternoon making a soup according to the principles inculcated to me by my grandmother. Growing up poor has culinary advantages, among them knowing how to turn whatever is left in the refrigerator into something tasty and nutritious. (I have long thought there is something in common between putting together a good soup or stew and arriving at an authentic, personal philosophy.)
What I had in the fridge was a capon carcass, some sauerkraut, and one knockwurst. So I took off what meat was left on the carcass and used the rest to make a stock. While that was proceeding, I cut up the capon meat and the solitary knockwurst, along with onions, celery, and carrots. I also chopped a blend of parsley, lavender, basil, and rosemary (all from the garden).
Once the stock was dark and thick, I strained it and put it aside. Then, I put some butter in the pot the stock had been made in, then sautéed the onions, added the carrots, then the celery, and finally the herbs. I also sprinkled in some ground cumin and grated a very small amount of nutmeg. Once the veggies were softened a bit, I added about a cup of dry marsala, turned up the heat and let the marsala reduce to a syrup. Now it was time for the stock to be added.
Once that came to a simmer, I added the sauerkraut, then the meat. From there on it was mostly simmering and making sure the texture - and the flavors - were just right. I added a small bay leaf and in a few minutes started tasting. It needed a bit more salt. Next came some Spanish goat cheese (capricho de cabra). It still needed something, but I was almost there. Finally, I splashed in some more marsala. That did it.
I decided to recount this in order to explain why I might not do much more blogging today, and also to do a sort of blogging different from what I usually do, expanding my horizons, as it were. I get tired of just posting links.

FYI ...

... Adbusters: The Zine That Created The Occupy Movement | Literary Kicks. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Seems appropriate, given that the movement itself is more than a little retro.

So ...

... Didja hear the one about the hunchback?

Happy birthday ...

... Digital Derring-Do: Piano Virtuoso Franz Liszt’s 200th Birth Anniversary | Britannica Blog. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)
On Thursday, Debbie and I saw Lang Lang play Liszt's first concerto with the Philadelphia Orchestra. Here is what my friend David Stearns had to say about it.


Hmm ...

... Why I refuse to debate with William Lane Craig | Richard Dawkins | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I really have no dog in this fight, if only because I am one of those unfamiliar with with William Lane Craig. But if his views are as transparently false as Dawkins claims, why not confront him and demonstrate that in debate? As I read what Dawkins quotes from Craig, it seems that Craig is not defending genocide, but defending God against the charge of genocide, saying that genocide is not really what God commanded. Surely that interpretation is debatable. And in fact Dawkins raises an objection to it in this piece.

A functional country ...

... Skype and Sensibility: Estonia Lives - the European Dream - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International.

It has been noted, however, that here in the U.S., people who move from a floundering blue state to a flourishing red one tend to bring with them the voter attitudes that contributed to their blue state's floundering. Just saying. 

Q & A ...

... Columbia University Press - Blog Archive - Interview with Richard Locke, Author of Critical Children.

See also Richard Locke on Holden Caulfield.

Of two minds ...


... at least: Lionel Trilling in His Labyrinth by Michael Knox Beran - City Journal. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)


Épater le bourgeois art, Trilling suggests, becomes itself conventional, and often does little more than replace an established and possibly even wise complacency with a new and foolish one. Trilling had in mind especially the avant-garde equation of madness with a higher lucidity that became fashionable in the 1950s and 1960s, the belief that insanity is “health” and psychosis “liberation and authenticity.” Who “that has spoken, or tried to speak with a psychotic friend,” Trilling asked, “will consent to betray the masked pain of [the friend’s] bewilderment and solitude by making it the paradigm of liberation from the imprisoning falsehoods of an alienated social reality?”

Fussy little man ...

... Anecdotal Evidence: `To Become Foundlings'.

Angling ...

... Zealotry of Guerin: Catching a Catfish with a Gourd (Josetsu).

Thought for the day ...

A simple grateful thought turned heavenwards is the most perfect prayer.
- Doris Lessing, born on this date in 1919

Friday, October 21, 2011

Help needed ...

... The Typewriter (In The 21st Century) documentary – Boing Boing. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Windows ...

... On Transparency of Thought in the Essay - BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog.

Hmm ...

... The Late Word by Curtis White - Roundtable | Lapham’s Quarterly. (Hat tip, Lee Lowe.)

An odd piece, lamenting the demise of something that seems scarcely ever to have been. The reasoning seems to at least border on the circular: "But I wonder if there is really a reason to grieve the passing of this Platonic thing we have called Literature ... unless what we are in danger of losing is of another order than mere literature." How exactly does mere literature differ from Literature? And is devotion to the latter any different from devotion to  "literature’s 'nobility' "? 
To think that the book business and literature were ever really that closely aligned is also odd. One must not confuse the product with its delivery system, which is what a book is, just as a scroll once was. And the scroll has made a comeback in this electronic age.  All well and good to moon sentimentally over Murray's store and tea with Miss Austen, but it is worth noting how small a circle of devotees we are talking about. Technology has enabled anyone who thinks he has something to say to get his message out. It's up to the rest of us to decide if we are interested. What's so bad about that?

Otherwise fine ...

... The MLA’s outspoken Russ Berman on college kids: “a hard time with sentences, vocabulary, and following an argument” | The Book Haven.

In case you wondered ...

... 'Why Read Moby-Dick?': A Passionate Defense Of The 'American Bible' : Monkey See : NPR. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Thought for the day ...

I have seen great intolerance shown in support of tolerance.
- Samuel Taylor Coleridge, born on this date in 1772


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Killer tour ...

... Brevity Classic Book Review: Sarah Vowell’s Assassination Vacation � BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog.

Indeed ...

... Why Writers Should Embrace Amazon’s Takeover Of The Publishing Industry | The New Republic. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

In the long run, writers may find, for very personal reasons, that they like the free market.

Who knew ...

... Paul Davis On Crime: A Look Back At A Great Comic Writer: Hunter S. Thompson's Rolling Stone Pieces.

The thing about Thompson is that he wasn't as unusual as his acolytes seem to think. It just so happens he could write. And very well indeed at his best. But the lifestyle? I've known quite a few Hunter Thompsons. Hell, I almost was one myself.

Homer times three ...

... Three translations: 'The Iliad' retold in verse and prose | Philadelphia Inquirer | 10/09/2011.

Behind the plate ...


... Stephen Crane: The Thrill of the Unexpected: Unpacking Treasures for the Library Book Sale. (Hat tip, Virginia Kerr.)


Born in Newark on November 1, 1871, Stephen Crane is probably the only major American writer who could have had a career in the big leagues. As catcher and later short stop for the Syracuse Orangemen, he hit .272 and played the game, it was said, “with fiendish glee.” 

Albert Jay Nock also played baseball well enough to have made the minors.

Hmm ...

... Lawrence Rifkin - Transcendence Without the Bull. (Hat tip, Lee Lowe.)

One common understanding of transcendence is an encounter with a world beyond ourselves, beyond full comprehension. But why must this be interpreted as supernatural?


But why preclude such an interpretation? The reasoning seems to be, "Oh, I've had an experience that thousands of years of tradition has regarded as "supernatural," but I don't believe in the "supernatural," so I'll have to find some other way of explaining it. I know: I'll expand the comprehension of the term "natural" to include experiences usually thought to be "supernatural."

FYI ...

... A Useful List of Useful Idiots � Commentary Magazine. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)


Telling letters ...

... Epistolary Fiction: Stories Told Via Letters, Diaries & Journals on AbeBooks.

Thought for the day ...

I is another.
- Arthur Rimbaud, born on this date in 1854

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

From Maxine ...

... Book review: Red April by Santiago Roncagliolo | Petrona.

Hair today ...

... Many religions require their men to grow beards. Why does God like hairy chins? - Slate Magazine. (Hat tip, Dave lull.)

FYI ...

... Lady Chatterley’s Brother: Why Nicholson Baker Can’t Write About Sex, and Why Javier Marias Can | Conversational Reading.

Roundup ...

... Links: The Envelope Please | Mark Athitakis’ American Fiction Notes.

Translation

In the digital age...

Local literary news ...

... Lawndale poet celebrates her book release � NEast Philly.

Sic transit gloria mundi ...

... Vanished Kingdoms | Bryan Appleyard. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

This brings to mind a line of Voltaire's: "We shall set our story in a mythical kingdom, which we shall call Poland.

RIP ...

... Norman Corwin obituary: Radio's 'poet laureate' dies at 101 - latimes.com. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

FYI ...

... A Report from WTP’s “In Praise of the Essay: Practice & Form” � BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog.

Partners in song ...

... Tom Waits | The Storyteller's Secret | Cultural Conversation by Jim Fusilli - WSJ.com. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Over...

... On Andy Warhol | Bryan Appleyard. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)


The philosopher Roger Scuton argues that he had nothing to say, it really was all about money. “It is worth pointing out that there is neither beauty, nor elegance nor style in anything that Warhol did, and that the very media he chose were reflections of the moral emptiness within him. But since the result (like the silkscreens of Marilyn Monroe) convey that emptiness, there is nothing in them to understand; in no way do they present a challenge to the observer, other than the challenge to his cheque-book. And if you are extremely rich, extremely stupid and morally vacant, why not write a cheque to prove it?”
The pro-Warhol response to that is that it misses the point. The cheque book IS the aesthetic. “I think the argument one could well make,” says Noah Horowitz, “is that in some sense his whole thing, his MO, his method of production was totally tied into that [the market], and it’s one thing to analyse and criticise and do something aesthetic with that structure but Warhol embraced it and made it his aesthetic.”
So either Warhol was an empty product of money or he made art out of money. Take your pick.

Thought for the day ...

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


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Finales ...

... The Last Words Of 25 Famous Dead Writers: LOVE?

Julian Barnes Wins Booker Prize

From The New York Times...

The Reviewer's Life

A culinary experience...

Out and about ...

By the time this posts I will be out and about and unable to post. Among other things, I have to pick up my new computer at 6. Blogging will resume later on.

Rin Tin Tin and more ...

... The Bat Segundo Show: Susan Orlean.

Art and being ...

... Charlotte Salomon’s “antidotes to indifference” | The Book Haven.

For those who don’t know the background, Salomon (1917-43) was a young German Jewish artist, hiding in the south of France after the Nazi takeover. Between 1940 and 1942, she worked feverishly, often without stopping to eat or sleep, to produce about 1300 paintings.

Writers wanted ...

... Call for Creative Nonfiction, CEA Conference, March 29-31, 2012 � BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog.

Quite a tale ...

... Atheist Convert: R.J. Stove. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I had not known that David Stove committed suicide.

FYI ...

... PJ Lifestyle � Amazon Cutting out Publishers.

Thought for the day ...

Be not afraid of life. Believe that life IS worth living and your belief will help create the fact.
- James Truslow Adams, born on this date in 1878

Monday, October 17, 2011