Sunday, September 30, 2012

Stefan Zweig


After reviewing the letters of Stefan and Lotte Zweig, I was eager to read more of Zweig's fiction, and recently finished The Post-Office Girl, which was left unpublished at the of his death. 

The first thing to say about this novella is that, while it's well written, it's also unbalanced. The story is divided into two phases - one set in Switzerland, the other in Austria - which never fully coalesce. 

That criticism aside, this is a dark novella, one focused on a sense of exclusion and betrayal. As Zweig's post-office girl bemoans her condition in the wake of the First World War, it's as if she's speaking for Zweig, who wrote the book as he confronted his own exile from Germany as the Second World War approached.

The sensitivity of the post-office girl to her betrayal by the Austrian government (and capitalism more broadly) mirrors Zweig's sensitivity - which is highlighted in his collected letters - to the collapse of the Old European order. This disappointment was compounded by a later sense of exclusion in the 1930s as Germany and Austria adopted Nazism. 

The darkest - and most eerie - element of this novella, though, is the flirtation by its main characters with a duel suicide, the fate to which Stefan and his young wife, Lotte, succumbed while living abroad in 1942. 

I won't say whether the idea of suicide is realized in The Post-Office Girl (because the book is worthy of being read), but I will say that the air of decay that hangs over this novella is palpable, even suffocating.

It's as if Zweig is bemoaning two things by the end of the book: the death of aristocratic Europe and the betrayal of its Jewish population. 

The post-office girl is tempted by Europe, but once offered a glimpse of its riches, is pushed away, cast off as an outsider. This process is cruel and emotionless, and the result of tough book filled with vanquished dreams and frustrated characters.  


Now in paperback …

… The Brain is Wider Than the Sky by Bryan Appleyard – review | Books | The Observer. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Flannery and Teilhard …

… The Claremont Institute - Contrivance: A Theory of Everything, Signifying Nothing. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

That something is very wrong with this notion of convergence in even its highest and most elevated formulation is supported by its most eloquent critique, in "Everything That Rises Must Converge," a simple and profound short story by Flannery O'Connor. In it a mother and son travel on a city bus in the newly integrated South. The mother clings to the old ways and is clearly wrong in doing so, but, in practice, she is kind and good. The son is the apostle of progress and justice, but in practice he is smug and cruel. He represents pride in achievement, faith in emerging perfection, reason, justice, the linear concept of history. She — humility, tradition, conservation, circularity, continuity, mercy, and forgiveness.

Providential accidents …

… From Jesus Sect to Imperial Faith | Standpoint. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Spare sound, emotional power …

 Iris Dement: Church-Bred and Honky-Tonk Sanctified - WSJ.com. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Enchantment …

… Ronald Blythe...: The soft song of the trees. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

You have been warned …

… Bryan Appleyard — Close Your Mouth the Bugs Are Coming. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

More disruption...

Neuromadness...

...Your brain on pseudoscience: the rise of popular neurobollocks

The human brain, it is said, is the most complex object in the known universe. That a part of it “lights up” on an fMRI scan does not mean the rest is inactive; nor is it obvious what any such lighting-up indicates; nor is it straightforward to infer general lessons about life from experiments conducted under highly artificial conditions. Nor do we have the faintest clue about the biggest mystery of all – how does a lump of wet grey matter produce the conscious experience you are having right now, reading this paragraph? How come the brain gives rise to the mind? No one knows.

Down but not out...


Plus, we couldn't even imagine that the authorities would be so dumb that they would actually legitimize our influence by arresting us. Sure, Tsentr E tried to intimidate us by tailing us constantly. But unlike Putin, we're not chickenshit—so we didn't stop performing. The church performance was a perfect opportunity for Putin's apparatchiks to claim that our motives were religious intolerance and not political protest. This way our persecution could be framed as a righteous burning of blasphemers, as opposed to just stifling free speech.

Question of the day …


It is the same with God and the soul. The pragmatic argument in favor of them is truth-insensitive: whether or not it is a good argument is independent of whether or not God and the soul are real. For suppose I'm wrong. I live my life under the aegis of God, freedom, and immortality, but then one day I die and become nothing. I was just a bag of chemicals after all. It was all just a big joke. Electrochemistry played me for a fool. So what? What did I lose by being a believer? Nothing of any value. Indeed, I have gained value since studies show that believers tend to be happier people. But if I am right, then I have done what is necessary to enter into my higher destiny. Either way I am better off than without the belief in God and the soul. If I am not better off in this life and the next, then I am better off in this life alone.

Or, as I like to say, if, when I die, it turns out there is no God, I will never know that I was wrong. But if an atheist dies, and it turns there is a God, he will know that he was wrong.

Come one, come all …

 Meet the Authors - Chestnut Hill Book Festival.

As you can see, I will be there.

Post bumped.

Inquirer reviews …

… I review one of the books that has been short-listed for the Booker: Memory and mystery in bits, pieces.

… 13-year-old's search for a rapist.

 'The Will to Prevail': An Israeli assails Obama's policies.

… A memoir loose, baggy, authentic.

THought for the day …

We never taste happiness in perfection, our most fortunate successes are mixed with sadness.
— Pierre Corneille, who died on this date in 1684

Thought for the day …

Writing has laws of perspective, of light and shade just as painting does, or music. If you are born knowing them, fine. If not, learn them. Then rearrange the rules to suit yourself.
— Truman Capote, born on this date in 1924

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Clearing things up …

… Vanity Fair corrects Bowden story about Stephanie Lazarus case | Poynter. (Hat tip, Paul Davis.)

Clearing the record …

 The TLS blog: My Richard Brautigan mistake (but not Jarvis Cocker's).

Classics …

… AbeBooks: The Best Literary Magazines and Journals.

Something I missed …

“A very Saroyan thing to do…” | The Book Haven.

Remembering …

… Auden Alone - The Barnes and Noble Review. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

In case you wondered …

Which Language and Grammar Rules to Flout - Room for Debate - NYTimes.com. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The power of circumstance …

… Dabbler Diary – Room At The Top — The Dabbler. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

And the winners are …

… The 10 Best Narrators in Literature.

Tender killer …

… Transmissions from a Lone Star: Lessons of the Heart from a Secret Policeman | Columnists | RIA Novosti.

Rebirth and bafflement …

… Zealotry of Guerin: The Sacrifice of Isaac (Rembrandt).

RIP …

 Pip Granger - Telegraph.

Thought for the day …


Life is doubt, and faith without doubt is nothing but death.
— Miguel de Unamuno, born on this date in 1864

Friday, September 28, 2012

Dealing with adversity …

… The writer’s life. It’s not what you think. | The Book Haven.




Two troubled childhoods. Two men who grew up absent the parental care all children need. One homeless child spent time living in an urban sewer system, the other boy bounced from city to city, state to state.

Broader view rare …

Performers' Credo: Write What You Know | Sightings by Terry Teachout - WSJ.com. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Have a look …

… zmkc: Seen from a Train.

A good thing to be …

… At Home in the World - WSJ.com. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)


Q & A …

… Jeffrey Eugenides: I don’t know why Jodi Picoult is belly-aching - Salon.com. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Let's not waste it …

… The Crisis in Higher Education - Technology Review. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The average price tag for a bachelor's degree has shot up to more than $100,000. Spending four years on campus often leaves young people or their parents weighed down with big debts, a burden not only on their personal finances but on the overall economy. And many people worry that even as the cost of higher education has risen, its quality has fallen. Dropout rates are often high, particularly at public colleges, and many graduates display little evidence that college improved their critical-thinking skills. Close to 60 percent of Americans believe that the country's colleges and universities are failing to provide students with "good value for the money they and their families spend," according to a 2011 survey by the Pew Research Center. Proponents of MOOCs say the efficiency and flexibility of online instruction will offer a timely remedy.

Adjusted for inflation, my college education cost just under 17 grand. But what costs $100,000 today would have cost just under 15 grand then. But at least I got my money's worth.

View from a blind eye …

… Maverick Philosopher: Hitchens: No Understanding of Religion. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I have been going through one of those periodic disturbances of soul (born in this case of weighing myself in the balance and finding myself wanting), and so have been praying a good deal lately. I rarely ask anything of God for myself apart from that He be merciful to me, a sinner. Somehow it gets me through the day.

Now you see it …

… now you don't: How to Make a Book Disappear - Maria Konnikova - The Atlantic. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The strangeness of adaptation...

The original Amis …

… Return of the Kingsley | The American Conservative.

Spelling, too …

… When Falls the Coliseum — Punctuation 101: periods vs. comas.

Who cares?

… Pop Culture Has Turned Against the Liberal Arts - Kevin Craft - The Atlantic. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)
What gives? Why are so many works perpetuating the stereotype that liberal arts programs cater to Peter Pan boys and girls and sad-sack professors, none of whom have the emotional intelligence to deal with life's problems? Part of it could be recession-era scapegoating. And part of it is that the cultural heroes of the moment are largely start-up kings like Mark Zuckerbergs and Steve Jobses who dropped out of college to pursue fortune. You can see similar strains of thought in Scott Gerber's recent Atlantic piece critiquing the liberal arts curriculum for inadequately preparing entrepreneurs.
Once liberal arts schools moved away from being the foundation for a classical education — which prepared you doing just about anything that came you way —  they began the journey toward irrelevance. Good to bear in mind that, once upon a time, people didn't feel the need to go to college to be, say, a writer. Think Twain, Melville, Whitman, Poe, etc.

The British is coming …

… BBC News - Britishisms and the Britishisation of American English. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Thought for the day …

There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness is the true method.
— Herman Melville, who died on this date in 1891

Balance is boring...

Thursday, September 27, 2012

RIP …

 Eugene Genovese| Power Line. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

RIP …

… John R. Silber, 1926–2012 by Brian Kelly - The New Criterion. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Huh?

… Emails 'kill art of communication' | Orange UK.

Indirect communication via email and conference calling is helping kill the art of face-to-face conversation, according to a poll.
What makes emailing anymore "indirect" than sending a letter. And did letter-writing adversely affect conversation?

Quiet life, estimable work …

… Spare and elegant: The William Maxwell style. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Hmm …

… Helen Rittelmeyer: If Conservatism Has Gotten Dumbed Down, It’s Not from Any Rout of the Traditionalists. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I think this is more to the point than David Brooks's cant. Twenty years before Brooks worked for National Review, I worked for the Intercollegiate Studies Institute. That is where I first met William F. Buckley, Jr. The debate between market conservatives and what Brooks calls traditional conservatives (libertarian vs. authoritarian, as we put it back then) was quite alive at the time. Brooks — whom I happen think is mauvaise foie — conveniently forgets that the traditionalists also included among their number people who were very much in favor of censorship. I attended a meeting once where the question of what to do about "obscene books" was raised, and Buckley squelched the whole idea by pointing out that, if conservatism meant anything, it meant supporting individual freedom, and that there were few individual freedoms more precious than the freedom to read what you chose to.
Brooks apparently doesn't see economic freedom as that important. He also doesn't seem to know that conservatism of just about every stripe thinks that social problems are best dealt with by society, not government, that every ceding of social power to the state diminishes society.
What Rittelmeyer says about think-tankers I believe is largely true. But the real difference between NR today and NR under Buckley is that Buckley was an editor of genius. After all, he could discern that David Brooks had some talent. Brooks does write well. I also suspect he can think clearly and honestly. Unfortunately, he finds it professionally to his advantage to be facile and glib.

Treasure trove …

… Paul Davis On Crime: Rare Hemingway Works Go To South Carolina University Library.

What a sad, sad tale …

… John Ferrar Holms – The least productive writer in the English language — The Dabbler.

… John Ferrar Holms – The least productive writer in the English language (part 2).


These accounts are perhaps clear enough but carry a hint of something still more perverse: the way in which, for certain writers, failing or refusing to write can become an assertion of superiority. If Holms didn’t think most people were worth talking to, why should he debauch his “extraordinary mental capacity” in attempting to write for them? Perhaps above all else, Holms feared seeming pedestrian (Muir: “he could scuttle along on all fours at great speed without bending his knees; walking, on the other hand, bored him”). In a barmy sort of way, not writing can seem like a means of holding on to the purity and grandeur of one’s original ideals as an author. There’s a feeling that most writers get at times, that the stuff you manage to get down on paper falls terribly short of the shining work glimpsed in your imagination – so far short as to be almost a kind of betrayal. If you are not careful, a too-exalted sense of the things you would like to write, or ought to write, can cast a killing shadow on the things you are at all likely to write.

See also: Edwin Muir andChildhood, near and far.

Muir's autobiography is indeed marvelous, as is his poetry.

Just the facts, Ma'am …

… Urban Dictionary: The Folly of Crowds — The Dabbler. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

If it cannot provide authority, what is left to the dictionary? Spelling is simply not enough. If its definitions cannot offer some form of accuracy, of ‘truth’, then what is their purpose? The dictionary is a tool, the tool should do its job and the job is providing information one can trust. It may err, but it is hoped that these are errors of omission not commission. … The Urban Dictionary does not, let us be quite blunt, give a fuck for all that.

RIP …

… Inspector Clouseau's long-suffering boss: Herbert Lom - Telegraph.

Moxie and shrewdness …

… Book World: ‘The Casual Vacancy,’ by J.K. Rowling, has certain charms - The Washington Post.

Another view: 'Casual Vacancy' fails to conjure Harry Potter's magic. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Sentimental claptrap …

… Rachel Carson's Deadly Fantasies - Forbes.


Although the use of DDT is not risk-free, there is a vast difference between applying large amounts of it in the environment — as farmers sometimes did before it was banned in the United States — and using it carefully and sparingly to fight mosquitoes and other disease-carrying insects, as it is used in a handful of African and Asian countries even today.  It is sprayed or dusted indoors in small amounts to prevent mosquitoes from nesting, so exposures are extremely low.  …  No study has ever linked DDT environmental exposure to harm to human health.

Fiction and politics …

… Between the Lines - Lapham’s Quarterly. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

When writers nowadays invoke “politics” they are apt to be thinking about the intersection of public and private life, where the motives of individuals may well play a more decisive role in the action of a novel invested in political outcomes than in the programs of parties or movements. Not possible, any longer, for anyone taking up the subject of politics and the novel to ignore the fact that leading writers, from Mario Vargas Llosa and Milan Kundera to Pat Barker and Russell Banks, have taught us all—certainly they have taught me—to think of politics as a great deal more than the activities and stratagems of a political class, and to think of the private life as determined to a considerable extent by the wider public life.

I think this widening of the sphere of politics had led to an overall coarsening of life. After all, isn't it what totalitarian regimes were aiming at? Isn't that what made them totalitarian?

Thought for the day …

Uncertainty is the refuge of hope.
— Henri-Frederic Amiel, born on this date in 1821

Setting the record straight...

...Retrieving a History
But it does seem important to draw attention to the fact that there are approximately 850 million Hindus in India; that the constitutionally mandated official name of this country is “India” or “Bharat”, not “Hindustan”; that “Hindustan” is a usage attested for centuries, and precedes the name “Pakistan” by several hundred years, long before “Hinduism” constituted itself as a modern religious identity; that 350 million people living in India are not Hindus—they are Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Jews, Parsis, tribals, atheists and others—and this does not make them in the slightest way disadvantaged before the law when it comes to their fundamental rights as citizens; and that a discussion of religion, politics and society in contemporary India which does not proceed from a basic comprehension of the difference between “Hinduism” and “Hindutva” cannot really be taken seriously.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Incremental change...

Also born today …

… Happy Birthday, Leonard Read! | Foundation for Economic Education. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The Rushdie alarm...

...Journal of the plague years

In my view, Salman Rushdie would have been perfectly happy with the stardom he attained as the writer who chutnified English with his bravura Midnight’s Children. However, his was a more insidious cross to bear. The Satanic Verses, as has been commonly held, is a dense novel that would probably have received, at best, a footnote in Rushdie’s otherwise crackling oeuvre were it not for the fatwa. Be that as it may, the larger question is: Had there been no Satanic Verses, would we have had to invent one? As Roy says in the review, Rushdie has become a meme, an idea that is raked every time free speech is under threat. But his case is also different in that he was the first man to be so viciously hounded for questioning (he never blasphemed) certain tenets or practices of his own religion. At a time when a flimsy video on YouTube has sparked riots across the Muslim world, the Rushdie affair was a cautionary alarm for the future. The misfortune is it went off.

FYI …

… Three Stories Unlikely to Make it Beyond the Slush | Indiana Review. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)


We receive somewhere between 3,500 and 4,000 fiction submissions each year, and I spend a good deal of my time digging through those submissions to separate the bad stories from the good-and-potentially-great stories. So I thought I’d offer some insight into how I decide which stories make it out of our slush pile and which are rejected quickly.

But not in America …

Prophets Without Honours | Standpoint. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Some Images...

...from The Paris Review.

Upgrades …

… Barnes and Noble Upgrades Nook Tablets - WSJ.com.

Publishing today …

… Book Publisher Goes To Court To Recoup Hefty Advances From Prominent Writers | The Smoking Gun.

A chat with …





He has announced the six novels to compete for the £50,000 Man Booker Prize in a year he believes has been "strongest for a decade". He chaired the judges and made sure each of his colleagues had read all those in the initial running in what proved a gruelling process.
"It was hard work. In a normal year, you might read 20 novels. So to read 145 in seven months is an unnatural act," he says. "But it's an important unnatural act because in a way literary criticism is an unnatural act. It is work, a technique, a skill."

Quite a story …

… Traynor's Eye: Meeting A Troll. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

RIP …

… Andy Williams, 'Moon River' singer, dies at 84 - latimes.com. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Hmm …

… John Keats was an opium addict, claims a new biography of the poet | Books | guardian.co.uk. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I think this falls under the principle of double effect.

Professing poetics …

… Los Angeles Review of Books - A Hazard Of New Fortunes: On Bernstein's 'Attack Of The Difficult Poems'. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

FYI …

… DEARIE: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child | On The Strip Radio.

Voice of reason...

...Michael Sinan, Mr. Gay Denmark 2012, On Being Out And Proud As A Muslim
There are many Muslims that are well integrated, and they become Danish Muslims. But afterwards they experience a lot of fear, because Muslims are highly aware of what other Muslims might be saying about them. And then there are some Muslims who want to live as if they were in Saudi Arabia, for example. And I don’t agree with that.

Chilling tale …

Also born today …

… the great George Gershwin, in 1898.

 This is a wondrous performance.

Thought for the day …

Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.
— T. S. Eliot, born on this date in 1888

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Oh dear...

...Books bloggers are harming literature, warns Booker prize head judge

I think Mr Stothard's professional anxiety over the future of TLS is prompting such comments. 

Pointless snark …

… Harry Potter in The New Yorker: A Sad Tale | The American Conservative. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Purity of heart …

Dorothy Day’s Dynamic Orthodoxy | First Things.

The art of teaching …

… The American Scholar: The Hobart Shakespeareans - Paula Marantz Cohen. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

A novel of reawakening …

… A Commonplace Blog: The Island Within.

Born in Germany in 1882 to “Jews of unmixed blood” (in his own words), Lewisohn was raised as a Methodist in Charleston, South Carolina. After being told by his graduate advisor at Columbia “how terribly hard it is for a man of Jewish birth to get a good position,” he abandoned his dream of becoming an English professor and became a writer instead—novelist, critic, autobiographer. A journey to Palestine in 1925, taken on the advice of Chaim Weitzmann, caused him to embark upon “the great study” of Jewish civilization, and among the first fruits was The Island Within.

Variations on a theme …

… Philosophy, lit, etc.: Quotations that relate an old philosophical point.

Perplexing genre …

 Understanding Wisdom Literature | Books and Culture.

Who's the boss?

… The Millions : The Shoddy Afterlife of a Reality Hunger Appropriation. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

For the season …

… First Known When Lost: "Autumn Silences The Turtle Dove; -- In Blank Autumn Who Could Speak Of Love?"

Happy anniversary …

… All the News That's Fit for Profit - The Barnes andNoble Review. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Three plays …

TT: Politically personal.

Worth getting to know …

… A Map That Never Stays the Same.

Rapprochement …

… Anecdotal Evidence: "A Brightness that Seemed as Transitory as Your Youth'.

Listen in …

 James T. Farrell on a Writer's Inner Life - WNYC. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

One of the teachers who had a great influence on me, the great Bill Lynch — he taught me that literature is first and foremost about life —was a big fan of Farrell's, and, I believe, knew him.

Hard lives...

...A journey into hell
The PCC now controls most of São Paulo’s prisons (other states have prison gangs as well). It has a policy of non-communication with guards, whom it calls “Germans” (meaning Nazis). Marcos Fuchs, a lawyer at Conectas, a human-rights group in São Paulo, who has been visiting prisons since 2004 says that he does not speak to inmates without a gang boss listening in. To do otherwise risks retribution, in the form of what in prison argot is called “Gatorade” (cocaine, Viagra and water) poured down a prisoner’s throat at night, in quantities large enough to induce cardiac arrest.

Thought for the day …

Facts and truth really don't have much to do with each other.
— William Faulkner, born on this date in 1897

Monday, September 24, 2012

Also born today …

… Anthony Newley, in 1931.

Behind on the Middle Ages …

… Don't trust Wikipedia on Anselm - baltimoresun.com. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

In this corner …

 Miss Marple vs. Philip Marlowe | Postmodern Times by Eric Felten - WSJ.com. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Q & A …

… The University Bookman: Omnipotence Is Provisional. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Submissions wanted …

… Texas Review Seeks Nonfiction — BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog.

Little foibles …

… “Morte D’Urban” at Fifty — Commentary Magazine.

Dark times …

… Hannah Arendt on times “when there was only wrong and no outrage” | The Book Haven.

The trashing continues …

… The Millions : The Feminist Hate-Read Book Club Reads Naomi Wolf’s Vagina: A New Biography.

Hmm …

… Anti-Intellectualism in American Life - The Barnes & Noble Review. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

This all seems a little too pat. After all, Emerson toured the country for years lecturing to packed halls. Later on, John Cowper Powys did the same thing, once getting a prolonged standing ovation after giving a talk to a workingman's club in Chicago. The subject of his lecture? Thomas Hardy. Nowadays, "experts" are routinely extolled and are just as routinely proved wrong.

Incompleteness …

… Mikhail Bakhtin | The American Conservative. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Throughout his career he argued, sometimes overtly but often covertly, that no system can ever live up to its own claims. Like Kierkegaard before him, he understood that system is finality: if it is not final, if it is not complete, it is not a system. Yet how can our account of any human being ever be complete?

A question …

Anybody have any idea how I can get rid of the text that is blocking part of the blog?

In case you wondered …

… OUPblog — What’s in a literary name? (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Every reader of Dickens has enjoyed some of his grotesque names, like Quilp, or Uncle Pumblechook. But that’s only the beginning of criticism. His familiar names – Oliver Twist and the rest – have often developed further associations as time has gone by. Many associate ‘Oliver Twist’ with asking for more, without perhaps reflecting that ‘twist’ is Cockney slang for ‘appetite’ – and already was so in Dickens’s time. Nabokov tells us what the variants of “Lolita” mean; but what about the many other names – the motels, the places, the school register? In literature, names are often doors to meaning, and words giving glimpses of the writer’s intentions.

Thought for the day …


In a real dark night of the soul, it is always three o'clock in the morning, day after day.
F. Scott Fitzgerald, born on this date in 1896

Didn't realize he shared a birth date with my mother, who  would have been 99 today. Both fellow Librans. My birthday is three weeks from today.


Crucially...

...Silicon Valley is stupid (which is why it works)
But what the U.S. government does do is get the heck out of our way. If you want to start a business, you can just go ahead and do it with no forms at all required. This is called a “sole proprietorship.” At the end of the year when you fill out your personal income taxes, you just attach an appendix that says, “Oh yeah, and I run a business and here’s how much money I made or lost.” If you want to incorporate your business, you can do it in about an hour. The form to create a tax ID takes a minute or two to fill out. Dozens of companies compete to offer cheap and easy payroll tax processing that electronically file everything you need with the state and federal governments for a few bucks a month. The government’s role is infrastructure and facilitation.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Tantra teasing …

… A Woman of Parts - NR / Digital Articles - National Review Online. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Wherever this obsessed author looks — there it is again! The early Christian symbol of the fish, if turned upright with the head at the top and the branched tail at the bottom, resembles the uterus and the Fallopian tubes. The Egyptian craze in 1920s interior decor emphasized the triangular pyramid. The spread-out-butterfly motif in stained glass, geometry books full of deltas . . . She seeks it here, she seeks it there, she finds it nearly everywhere: Naomi Wolf has turned the vagina into the Scarlet Pimpernel.

Good news …

… So money makes us happy after all: are we surprised? | Express Comment | Express.co.uk - Home of the Daily and Sunday Express. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

As the saying goes, rich or poor, it's good to have money.

Paging Ed Pettit …

… Edgar Allan Poe: Philosophically and scientifically ahead of his time | Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Pedantry and poetry …

… Letters of Note: The Vision of Sin. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Living faith …

… Charlie Richardson's priest was flawed, but embodied Jesus's love of the fallen | Giles Fraser | Comment is free | The Guardian. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

He lived on a bottle of whisky a day and was often found slumped in his chair when he was supposed to be in church conducting a wedding. He was deeply flawed, often exhausted and cranky, but also saintly in a crazily generous sort of way. He didn't do days off. His entire life was dedicated to his parish. And he didn't care where you came from and what you had done.

Something I missed …

… Martin Amis (The Bat Segundo Show).

Who knew?

… The radical right-wing roots of Occupy Wall Street | The Great Debate. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

… the most radical of the right-wing radicals, Goldwater’s beloved speechwriter Karl Hess, moved into a houseboat, renounced politics altogether and dedicated the rest of his life to peacefully protesting the concentration of political and economic power in the hands of the new aristocracy he dubbed “the one percent.”

You read that right: The first guy to call the 99 percent to arms was the author of a speech that claimed: “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.” Goldwater had fondly referred to Hess as “my Shakespeare.”

Happy 75th …

… Happy Birthday, ‘The Hobbit’: The History of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Book - The Daily Beast.

Inquirer reviews …

… Bomb at a Haddonfield wedding.

… A collection of pop culture masquerading as a novel.

… Reporting from the land of cancer.

… Douglas on tackling a movie epic , a blacklist.

Thought for the day …

There is something in the pang of changeMore than the heart can bear,Unhappiness remembering happiness.
— Euripedes, born on this date in 480 B.C.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

For the love of it...

Yes …

… OUPblog — Remembering Dogen’s death. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

And the winners are …

… Spine Poetry Contest Winners! — The LibraryThing Blog. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Straight shooter …

… Louis Simpson R.I.P. | FrontPage Magazine. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I know that there was plenty of classroom discussion in the several courses I took with Simpson, and I know I participated quite a bit. But I don’t remember a word any of us said. What I remember is Simpson, whose anatomy lessons held – for me, anyway – a remarkable, quiet power. They communicated the very essence of literary creation and the literary experience. No nonsense. No “theory.” No jargon. I like to think they made me a more alert and appreciative reader. I regret that their value was lost on many students who had come to the English department in search of something entirely different – something that had less to do with the love of books than with, say, the love of ostentatious terminology or the determination to find in every work of literature a piece of agitprop.

Reading and writing …

… A Passion for (Literary) Fashion — Commentary Magazine. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The nearest I've come to reading a novel by Stephen King is a review I did of Black House, which he co-authored with Peter Straub. I thought that book was excellent.

Hang in there …

… On Writing Despite Rejection | TMR Blog. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Time out …

… Zealotry of Guerin: Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory (Dali).

Thought for the day …

The contemporary Church prefers to practice an electoral Catholicism. It prefers the enthusiasm of great crowds to individual conversions.
— Don Colacho 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Sic transit …

…  “I felt at home,” said Arthur Miller. Now his home will be ripped down. | The Book Haven.

A matter of convenience...

And the winners are …

… The Ig Nobel Award Winners of 2012! — Strange Herring. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

My favorite (perhaps because I was once wrote a government report):


Literature: The US Government General Accountability Office, for its “report about reports about reports that recommends the preparation of a report about the report about reports about reports.” How this differs from anything else the government does is beyond me.


Something to draw on …

… Nigeness: Chuck Jones: Paper and Pencils. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Onerous gift...

A peek at the future …

… The New MakerBot Replicator Might Just Change Your World | Wired Design | Wired.com. (Hat tip, Joseph Chovanes.)

Anniversary …

… The Bibliophilic Blogger: Kafka: Saturday Night and Sunday Morning.

Reason vs. cause …

 Review - Roger Scruton, The Face of God (Matthew O'Brien) - Academia.edu. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)


What does it mean to say that God is the reason for existence but not its cause? Itmeans that “God” has been redefined to make his presence compatible with a scientistic picture of the world as a causally-closed sequence of events. This allows us to speak about events as God’s will, without “describing it as a miraculous intervention, and wecan accept Hume’s skepticism about miracles, while acknowledging God’s presence asan agent in space in time.” Scruton thinks that here lies the importance of the first-person perspective. For it is the first-person plural, i.e., community, “that enables us to bridgethe gap opened by the [metaphysical] arguments of the philosophers, and to find thetranscendental God that is allegedly proved by those arguments as a real presence in theworld.

Thought for the day …

I guess when you turn off the main road, you have to be prepared to see some funny houses.
— Stephen King, born on this date in 1947

Thursday, September 20, 2012

More on...

...Rushdie's new book

Checking the facts…

… Malcolm Gladwell Turns Jerry Sandusky Into A Parable By Leaving Out Some Facts.

Change …

… Instapundit — READER JOSEPH WHITE EMAILS: Dear Dr. Reynolds, An interesting comparison: 1942: Der Fuehrer's Face.

In memory …

… very sad: RIP James D. Quinton 1977-2012 | Fox Chase Review.

See also: Before the Frost For James D. Quinton.

Good series …

… When Falls the Coliseum — Lisa reads Slugfest by Rosemary Harris.

No punches pulled …

… Richard Burton Diaries: 'Marlon has yet to learn to speak’ - Telegraph. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Presences …

… Encounters With the Uncanny — Meanjin. (Hat tip, Lee Lowe.)

Through a process of elimination Tandy found the experiences seemed to be caused by a fan in the lab which was producing sound in a frequency well below the range of the human ear. Armed with this result Tandy first ‘exorcised’ the ghost by having the fan removed, then later, having identified the exact frequency, reproduced the effect of the fan in experimental subjects. Intrigued, Tandy suggested the frequency must be resonating somehow with the body, causing a physiological reaction that manifested as apprehension, fear and the sense of other presences nearby, speculating further that since the effect could be reproduced it was at least possible that many supernatural experiences were the result of natural phenomena such as the wind blowing across open chimneys or pipes vibrating underground.
Many so-called supernatural experiences may well have natural causes, but it does not follow that all of them do. Similar effects can often be achieved by various means.You could, for instance, also say that supernatural experiences are characterized by the presence of low-frequency sounds.

FYI …

… How to turn Wikipedia articles into e-books | TeleRead: News and views on e-books, libraries, publishing and related topics. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Hmm …

… The Inside Story of a Controversial New Text About Jesus | History & Archaeology | Smithsonian Magazine.

The question the discovery raises, King told me, is, “Why is it that only the literature that said he was celibate survived? And all of the texts that showed he had an intimate relationship with Magdalene or is married didn’t survive? Is that 100 percent happenstance? Or is it because of the fact that celibacy becomes the ideal for Christianity?”

If none of it survived, on what grounds does she assume it existed in the first place, other than this scrap, which dates to 400 years after Jesus' time?

Thought for the day …

If the highest things are unknowable, then the highest capacity or virtue of man cannot be theoretical wisdom.
— Leo Strauss, born on this date in 1899

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Scriptural exegesis...

Fragmentary memories …

… Nigeness: 'as a roaring lion...'  (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Long and winding …

… The Novelists’ Acknowledgments — Commentary Magazine. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Better late …

… Paul Davis On Crime: Agatha Christie Essay On British Crime Fiction Has Finally Seen The Light of Day In The UK And America.

If you're in town …

… pay a visit: Hiro Sakaguchi - Seraphin Gallery.

I was at the opening on Friday.

And the winner is …

… The Associated Press: Author Elmore Leonard wins prestigious book award. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Pay heed …

advice on reading from a librarian in 1937. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Q & A …

… Paris Review - The Art of Fiction No. 41, Jack Kerouac.

Epic of the Holocaust …

… The Great Epic Poem of the Holocaust, and the Generous, Tragic Hero Who Wrote It – Tablet Magazine. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Thought for the day …

My yesterdays walk with me. They keep step, they are gray faces that peer over my shoulder. n19
— William Golding, born on this date in 1911

The non-fiction Booker...

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Hmm …

… When Falls the Coliseum — New Philip K. Dick novel too absurd to be believed.

The problem with this novel is its sheer unbelievability. The events depicted are simply absurd. For instance, we’re supposed to believe that the war-mongering, venal leader of the UniStat was for some reason given a World Peaceful Prize at the start of his term of office, yet Dick never sufficiently explains why any reputable organization would give him such an honor.

Well, has anyone ever sufficiently explained why Barack Obama was given the Nobel Peace Prize at the start of his term in office?

Rigorously inclusive …

… Ceiling or Sky? On Politics, Art, and Gender — BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog.

Libertarian Clint...

Living in hiding …

Joseph Anton by Salman Rushdie - review | Books | The Guardian. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)


… Rushdie claims that The Satanic Verses was his "least political book". It was "an artistic engagement with the phenomenon of revelation", albeit from the perspective of an "unbeliever", but "a proper one nonetheless. How could that be thought offensive?" But then authorial intentions barely seemed to matter to readers bringing to the book their own particular backgrounds, worldviews and prejudices.

Careful what you wish for...

States of silence...

...Bring up the bodies
Babur in London was written in the same spirit, one of genuine enquiry and curiosity, by a writer who had read, loved and understood the Baburnama: what might that conqueror have had to say to those who would spread fear today? It is not a frivolous question, but it has moved, with this silent, self-imposed censorship, into the category of the unanswerable — and more absurdly, into the category of questions that should be asked, but cannot be openly voiced, for fear of provoking blunt and uncomprehending violence.

You bet …

… Librarians: the Unlikely Heroes of America — The Dabbler.

I suspect dave is too modest to have sent me this.

Final cadences …

… Famous Last Notes – Music from the Deathbed — The Dabbler.

Vortex of time …

… Georg Klein: The future of the novel | Books | guardian.co.uk. (Hat tip, Lee Lowe.)

The novel no longer has to provide the guiding thread linking a historically tamed past with a critically comprehended present, a string of knots by which one is then supposed to feel one's way forward into the already looming future.

Thought for the day …

Nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections must first be overcome.
— Samuel Johnson, born on this date in 1709

Monday, September 17, 2012

Neat shot …


It's by my friend Eric Mencher and was taken at the Mémorial des Martyrs de la Déportation in Paris.

Hmm …

… On Om — Hooting Yard. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Pushback …

… Philip Roth and Wikipedia | Non-Commercial Use. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)



… Roth’s open letter is at best the (justifiably) aggrieved and confused ramblings of a man ignorantly discussing what he does not understand or remember, and at worst a deliberately malicious act inspired by nothing more than a misguided desire to flip us the Vs and maybe get paid by the New Yorker on the way.

Interview and profile …

… Bryan Appleyard — Greg Doran: The Attendant Lord. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Together at last …

… or maybe not: zmkc: Assange and Auberon Waugh.

Vim and joie de guerre …

… The TLS blog: The unapologetic Francis Spufford. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Wise words …

… Pratchett — Elberry's Ghost. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Happy engagement …

… Ivebeenreadinglately: Reading around James.

Kiss and tell …

… Jack Kerouac's ex-girlfriend lifts lid on beat novelist's rise and fall | Books | The Observer.

Joyce Johnson, an accomplished author, also dispels the myth that Kerouac's writing was effortlessly spontaneous. Where he claimed his novel On the Road was written in a blast of energy during three weeks in 1951 she recalls that he spent years revising his work and carefully crafted each paragraph.

RIP …

… James D. Quinton 1977-2012 | Fox Chase Review.

Something to say...

Round one …

… Chris Hedges: We Won—For Now - Chris Hedges' Columns - Truthdig. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Liberal apologists for Barack Obama should read Judge Forrest’s 112-page ruling. It is a chilling explication and denunciation of the massive erosion of the separation of powers. It courageously challenges the overreach of Congress and the executive branch in stripping Americans of some of our most cherished constitutional rights.

Thought for the day …

Every man, even the most blessed, needs a little more than average luck to survive this world.
— Vance Bourjaily, born on this date in 1922

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Hanging with Chuck …

… Fiddling around with Charles Dickens' papers, part 1 | Bill PeschelBill Peschel.

… Fiddling around with Charles Dickens’ papers, part 2.

The cat's meow…

… What do Truman Capote, Ernest Hemingway, Philip K. Dick, and Jean-Paul Sartre have in common? | The Book Haven. Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Answer what you asked …

… Maverick Philosopher: More on the Kraussian 'Bait and Switch'.

For the sabbath …

… Issa's Untidy Hut: "I'm Shakin'": Issa's Sunday Service, #135.

In case you wondered …

… prairiemary: WHAT IT FEELS LIKE TO WRITE WELL. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Abracadabra …

W.B. Yeats, Magus - Lapham’s Quarterly. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

A distinct aftertaste...

How it feels to live …

… Nigeness: Jeans: 'like a great thought'. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Of course, today, Sir James would be drummed out of the ranks of science by the likes of Richard Dawkins.

Very worrisome …

… Instapundit — Just for the record, this is what it looked like for a man who made a film that made the Obama Administration uncomfortable.

See also this: http://pjmedia.com/instapundit/150842/.

This is unusually harsh for Glenn. But the Constitutional questions seem pretty clear:
"Note Althouse’s strikethrough. You are not 'free' when police can come to your door after midnight and demand that you 'come downtown and answer a few questions' over a film you’ve made. Voluntarily, of course. . . ."
My friend Joseph Chovanes asked me to post something, and I was reluctant to, actually. But I decided it would be cowardly not to. And everybody knows I'm a libertarian. Or, more precisely, what my hero Albert Jay Nock was: a Tory anarchist. I wasn't going to publish Joe's name, but he insisted I do so. Brave fellow, since I am sure this is not going sit well with everybody. Let's all try to be polite.

Then there's this: I Demand to be Arrested!

In place of reviews …

… I guess: Fall Arts Preview: Books.

I haven't seen the print Inquirer yet (since I haven't been downstairs yet),  but there are no Sunday reviews online that I can find.

Thought for the day …

At the end of Revelation there is again that solemn insistence on the personal testimony, and even more solemn warning to those who would impugn it.
— Alfred Noyes, born on this date in 1880

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Vintage debate …

… Thomas Nagel and Stephen C. Meyer’s Signature in the Cell | TLS.

(I found this by virtue of a link to Nagel's blurb that dave Lull sent me.)

In case you wondered …

… Instapundit — NEWS YOU CAN USE: Worst College Majors for Your Career.

But maybe truer than others …

… An unknown vision of Middle-earth | TLS. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Miracle of grace …

… The Francis We Never Knew: Surprising Revelations About the Man From Assisi | Catholic Exchange.

Good points …

… 20011: Translations.

The man in white …

… Tom Wolfe: America's all-seeing eye - Profiles - People - The Independent. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Interesting niche …

… Stephen Burt, Poetry’s Cross-Dressing Kingmaker - NYTimes.com. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Hard words from the past …


Spheres …

… Zealotry of Guerin: Natural Sculpture.

Thought for the day …

Great literature must spring from an upheaval in the author's soul. If that upheaval is not present then it must come from the works of any other author which happens to be handy and easily adapted.
— Robert Benchley, born on this date in 1889

Voice of sanity...

...The paradox of protest

The movie―reportedly made by a Los Angeles-based Copt, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, who has been in and out of prisons since the 1990s,―has been on YouTube for weeks. But in the last few days, apparently in a bid to show that it is all a big lie, Muslims have absurdly decided to behave much in line with how the movie represents them.
It's funny how the article's intro repeats the only line in the column where the author is laying the blame on Islamophobics (that too not as a defensible cause of the violence that ensued). But for Mint's sub or web editor to have chosen that line tells us something about the state of journalism today.

Friday, September 14, 2012

For the defense …

… A Philosopher Defends Religion by Thomas Nagel | The New York Review of Books. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Plantinga discusses many topics in the course of the book, but his most important claims are epistemological. He holds, first, that the theistic conception of the relation between God, the natural world, and ourselves makes it reasonable for us to regard our perceptual and rational faculties as reliable. It is therefore reasonable to believe that the scientific theories they allow us to create do describe reality. He holds, second, that the naturalistic conception of the world, and of ourselves as products of unguided Darwinian evolution, makes it unreasonable for us to believe that our cognitive faculties are reliable, and therefore unreasonable to believe any theories they may lead us to form, including the theory of evolution. In other words, belief in naturalism combined with belief in evolution is self-defeating. However, Plantinga thinks we can reasonably believe that we are the products of evolution provided that we also believe, contrary to naturalism, that the process was in some way guided by God.

Preview farewell …

… Wigtown Festival: Jan Morris - Telegraph. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Missing in action …

… The Political Value of Novelists — Commentary Magazine. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Vintage commentary …

… E.M. Forster's "Ibsen The Romantic" | The New Republic. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Two-part invention …

… New York, New York — Commentary Magazine. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Thought for the day …

Art, of course, is a way of thinking, a way of mining reality.
— John Gardner, who died on this date in 1982

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Surprise, surprise …

… my latest column: When Falls the Coliseum — Life is a parenthesis between one darkness and another.

Freud


Freud has always been one of those thinkers about whom I've wanted to know more. And so, having enjoyed selections from Oxford's series of Very Short Introductions, I picked up Anthony Storr's overview of Freud

I must say, I was disappointed. While Storr highlights the foundations of Freudian thought, and does a good job, too, hinting at the weaknesses of Freud's theories, his analysis lacks an enthusiasm, a willingness to take things to the next level. 

True, you could argue that Very Short Introductions are not meant to do this, but I think that's not entirely accurate. 

Storr sticks with what he knows (and where Freud spent most of time): the infantile underpinnings of neurosis and the tendency among humans to discharge tension resulting from sexual discomfort and social pressures linked with the super ego. 

This is all well and good, but I would have liked a more complete application of these theories to other areas - indeed, areas where Freud's theories were perhaps not as persuasive. The chapters on literature and religion, for instance, were underdeveloped. In short. they left me wanting more. 

But in the end, Storr does make a convincing case for one thing: the totality of Freudian thought. Because while Freud failed in the end to convince critics of the "science" behind his theories, the very fact that he sought to apply them across so many fields outside psychology was itself a herculean effort - and one, in terms of its sheer intellectual effort, which is worthy of praise.

Speaking of getting things right …

… Errol Morris takes on Janet Malcolm in A Wilderness of Error. —Slate Magazine. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)
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