Friday, May 31, 2013
There wd. be no bridge, no stem of stress between us and things to bear us out and carry the mind over: without stress we might not and could not say /Blood is red/ but only /This blood is red/ or /The last blood I saw was red/ not even that, for in later language not only universals would not be true but the copula wd. break down even in particular judgements.
… the turbulent 1970s were succeeded not by a new depression but by the Reagan-era boom of the 1980s, in which the Boomers metamorphosed into new folk heroes/villains, the Yuppies. Only the prosperous ones were noted as constituting a generation; the poor melted back into their communities.
This tells you a lot about authors, I think.
Thursday, May 30, 2013
He once devoted one of his syndicated columns to denouncing me for an unfavorable review I wrote of one of his novels. Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon him.
... I'm Gay, but I'm Not Switching to a Church That Supports Gay Marriage - Eve Tushnet - The Atlantic.
The Church needs to grow and change in response to societal changes. We can do so much better in serving the needs of gay/queer/same-sex attracted Catholics, especially the next generation. But I think gay Catholics can also offer a necessary witness to the broader society. By leading lives of fruitful, creative love, we can offer proof that sexual restraint isn't a death sentence (or an especially boring form of masochism). Celibacy can offer some of us radical freedom to serve others. While this approach isn't for everyone, there were times when I had much more time, space, and energy to give to people in need than my friends who were juggling marriage and parenting along with all their other commitments. I've been able to take homeless women briefly into my own home, for example, which I would not have been able to do as spontaneously—and maybe not at all—if I had not been single.
The real reason for not reviewing first novels unless they have some merit is lack of space. Whenever newspapers need to economize, among the first things they cut is book coverage. So if your space is limited, first novels have to have something to recommend in order to make the cut. And readers tend to read reviews in order to find something to read. Telling about a book by someone they never heard of that isn't all that good is rather a waste of their time. Most people are not professors of literature.
I don't think so. And this particular bit is something Frank would wanna weigh in on:
But about a month ago, my two boys, aged 11, were mugged and robbed outside a movie theatre and one was choked. Since July, our house has been burgled twice and there were another two attempted burglaries. I'm getting tired of it. I'm thinking, 'What the hell? I should be getting out of here'." "Here" being Philadelphia, where Raine lives with his wife and twin sons.
Wednesday, May 29, 2013
I've long that Grayling was overrated, but is he really that ignorant? Or does he think the rest of us are?
Can't quite tell what this is, but I think it has more to do with the author of the article than the art of David Mamet.
I warn my writing students not to submit their work to English majors, who are likely to be true believers in the anti-communication school of literature, unless they plan to do the opposite of whatever such readers suggest. Nor should they keep showing their work to the same writing group — after a year, you’ve learned everything they have to teach you, and you have nothing of value left to offer them.
This is our purpose: to make as meaningful as possible this life that has been bestowed upon us; to live in such a way that we may be proud of ourselves; to act in such a way that some part of us lives on.
Tuesday, May 28, 2013
Flannery O'Connor put up with many visitors, and many of them she made fun of: "Some Very Peculiar Types have beat a path to my door these last few years and it is always interesting to see my mother hostessing-it-up on these occasions." The visitor I have imagined most, standing on the lawn and looking up at her on the porch looking down at him with her peacock stare, is James Dickey. He'd be standing there with his blue eyes gleaming at her as they did in his sheriff act in Deliverance. This would be before he took to wearing the three-foot sombrero and believing he could speak in the voice of a lobster.
As a teenager, I realised that I needed to read beyond my staple polemicists, as well as start researching the ideas of the most egregious enemies of reason, such as Catholics, to properly defend my world view. It was here, ironically, that the problems began.See also this, courtesy of Dave Lull: You Can't Think Your Way to God.
Of course, you won't find him without using your mind.
Well, there have been worse painters.
Monday, May 27, 2013
"I do see an interest in writing for Twitter," Davis, from Massachussetts, said. "While publishers still do love the novel and people do still like to sink into one, the very quick form is appealing because of the pace of life."
In reflecting on the meaning of Christ’s passion for his own life, Wiman finds that it reveals that “the absolutely solitary and singular nature of extreme human pain is an illusion.” It is the resolutely incarnational nature of the religion that draws him in. “I am, such as I am, a Christian,” he writes, “because I can feel God only through physical existence, can feel his love only in the love of other people.” His love for his wife and children, he realizes, is both human and entirely sacred. And here the poet comes to the fore, insisting on the right to embrace contradiction without shame. “I believe in absolute truth and absolute contingency, at the same time. And I believe that Christ is the seam soldering together these wholes that our half vision — and our entire clock-bound, logic-locked way of life — shapes as polarities.”
... David Brooks on Language: Our Words Don't Reveal Our Worldview | New Republic. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)
... the faddish attempt to apply the Big Data approach to social psychology via Google’s Ngram viewer tool will shed much less light on these matters than many expect. In any language, concepts are expressed by several words and phrases at any given time, all of which morph eternally with the passage of time.
Sunday, May 26, 2013
Joan Roughgarden, an ecologist and evolutionary biologist at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, agrees that evolutionary biologists can be nasty when crossed. "I mean, these guys are impervious to contrary evidence and alternative formulations," she says. "What we see in evolution is stasis—conceptual stasis, in my view—where people are ardently defending their formulations from the early 70s."
According to the U.S. National Institutes for Health, meanwhile, the incidence of narcissistic personality disorder is nearly three times as high for people in their 20s as for the generation that is now 65 or older — 58-per-cent more college students scored higher on a narcissism scale in 2009 than in 1982. These trends strongly correlate to the rise of online connectiveness.
Perhaps it also tells us something about Janet Malcolm, and maybe something about writers — and the rest of us. Just because it is hard to depict goodness is no reason not to try. In fact, you would think it would be the ultimate challenge.What she found instead is that Sischy was, to put it simply, a good person: “a pleasant, intelligent, unassuming, responsible, ethical young woman.” Naturally, Malcolm concludes, “I . . . turned away in disappointment.”The paradox is so familiar that it barely needs remarking: goodness, which we praise so highly in life, is infertile terrain for a writer, whether a novelist or a journalist.
… [the] instrumental midsection almost always begins with a virtuoso organ performance. Then Manzarek backs off to allow Krieger to display his own skills, the sitar-influenced sound of the guitar often forming a counterpoint to, or even a fight with, the organ. Densmore’s drumming keeps the rhythm of Manzarek’s riff going—until, in the signal that the climax has arrived, the drums shift to the beat of Krieger’s guitar riff and decide the battle. The three musical Doors were, in essence, a talented jazz trio. A jazz trio, that is, who happened to back a rogue frontman heading places no jazz trio typically goes.
… Walton [was] an amiable and modest man of pious interests, for whom "Study to be quiet" (1 Thessalonians 4:11) was a favored motto. A royalist profoundly saddened by the English Civil War and the Commonwealth, he worked as an ironmonger in London near St. Dunstan's, the future parish of Ebenezer Scrooge. Walton's minister was John Donne, whom he attended in Donne's final illness and recalled with a biography. Married and widowed twice (only two of his 10 children outlived him), Walton was just shy of his 60th birthday when his book appeared, and he lived on for three more decades. His spelling was emblematic of his age, which was indifferent about such things. Isaac at birth and Isaac on his gravestone in Winchester Cathedral, he regularly signed himself simply Iz: Wa: in script and print. And of course our "Complete" was his "Compleat." When not emending his "Angler" and welcoming adjunct authors, he wrote short biographies, or Lives, of men important to church and state, and edited their prose and verse.
"I do think it is a gender thing. I intuited that writers like Beckett and Burroughs were not keen on that terrible old phrase – the pram in the hall. When I was a teenager, I was reading about how to live. I couldn't fit my sloppy, messy, hopeful, female side into that austere, male framework."
Saturday, May 25, 2013
The French philosopher Simone Weil said: ‘Absolutely unmixed attention is prayer.’ To attend, etymologically, is to ‘stretch toward’, to seek with one’s mind and senses. Paying attention is striving toward, thus presupposing a prior wanting, an expectation. We look at a work of art and hope to meet it with our looking; we already have a notion of something to be had, gotten. Reading, at those times when reading matters, we let the words condition an expectation and move toward it.
It is almost amusing how Changez never looks within himself, and always searches elsewhere for reasons and destination for his anger. In the novel, for example, the main spark for his fury is the build-up of military force between India and Pakistan following the attack on Parliament on December 11, 2001 -– something for which Changez never assigns blame except on America, which he argues was pushing India into confrontation although Pakistan had been such a loyal little ally. He doesn’t appear particularly religious, a point Hamid recently stressed in a Guardian op-ed, but he does repeatedly call Afghanistan a “fellow Muslim nation”, and talks about Lahore as being at the edge of a contiguous map of safely Muslim-majority countries, “the last Muslim city... [with an] understated bravado characteristic of frontier towns.” Changez is definitely not a Punjabi first, unlike enough other people in Lahore. “Not for us,” he says proudly of his warrior heritage at one point, “the vegetarian dishes one finds across the border to the east.” Yes, Indian Punjab, that vegetarian paradise.This is an excellent piece, much in agreement with my own poor opinion of the novel.
Friday, May 24, 2013
We fear that if we look too closely or think too clearly, or talk too much about the problem of Islamism, and the connections as well as the separations between it and Islam, then we will be sent into the cold – shunned by colleagues, not invited to this dinner party, or that conference. We may even face social death itself by being called "Islamophobic". The university today is a stultifyingly conformist institution, reminiscent of those old Soviet-era "cultural associations". The standard version, the line, is policed rigorously. And the only accredited language in which people are allowed to speak is full of well-rehearsed evasions and apologias and exculpatory frameworks.
“In New York, you can look into people’s lives. That’s the feeling I’m interested in. You don’t get that in Iowa.”
Has he been to Iowa? I have. More than once. And I've been to to New York City a lot. And I don't see his point.
These simple & backward — tribals, subsistence farmers, hardscrabble types — function in the world of real particulars, facing realities from which the urbane are eager to detach themselves. They are the people to whom the mediaeval Church was speaking, in sermons, pageants, statuary, & stained glass — rendering the ineffable in comprehensible form. To dismiss them as so many superstitious peasants awaiting liberation by literacy & technology is to misunderstand: that we, ourselves, are superstitious peasants — voting in our masses for “hope & change,” & prone to belief in every other sort of magic. Every day I see around me in the city behaviour that exhibits a credulity no peasant farmer could afford to entertain in his hard, earthy sphere & orbit.
Once I realized that thinking in patterns might be a third category, alongside thinking in pictures and thinking in words, I started seeing examples everywhere. (At this point, this third category is only a hypothesis, though I’ve found scientific support for it. It has transformed my thinking about autistic people’s strengths.)
Note that in Greenman’s view of literature there are no standards, and there are no distinctions—other than assumed workshop standards of the well-written sentence, meaningless or not, and mild situations and emotions sure not to displease writing peers. Agreement. Beyond these basics, there’s no judgment of literary works, and no way to judge them. “Some people will like the work and some won’t,” is the notion, all a matter of feelings and impressions with no thought involved.
If we are cursed to forget much of what we read, there are still charms in the moments of reading a particular book in a particular place. What I remember most about Malamud’s short-story collection “The Magic Barrel” is the warm sunlight in the coffee shop on the consecutive Friday mornings I read it before high school. That is missing the more important points, but it is something. Reading has many facets, one of which might be the rather indescribable, and naturally fleeting, mix of thought and emotion and sensory manipulations that happen in the moment and then fade. How much of reading, then, is just a kind of narcissism—a marker of who you were and what you were thinking when you encountered a text? Perhaps thinking of that book later, a trace of whatever admixture moved you while reading it will spark out of the brain’s dark places.
Thursday, May 23, 2013
Years ago, I did some fact-checking of The Da Vince Code:
One of the qualities of liberty is that, as long as it is being striven after, it goes on expanding. Therefore, the man who stands in the midst of the struggle and says, 'I have it,' merely shows by doing so that he has just lost it.
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
I reviewed Henry Miller's posthumously published Crazy Cock. It's not very good. In fact, it's pretty terrible. I said that, except for Miller aficionados, no one would want to read it. I was blurbed accordingly: "For Miller aficionados."
...An atheist was seated next to a little girl on an airplane and he turned to her and said, "Do you want to talk? Flights go quicker if you... strike up a conversation with your fellow passenger."
The little girl, who had just started to read her book, replied to the total stranger, "What would you want to talk about?"
"Oh, I don't know," said the atheist. "How about why there is no God, or no Heaven or Hell, or no life after death?" as he smiled smugly.
"Okay," she said. "Those could be interesting topics but let me ask you a question first. A horse, a cow, and a deer all eat the same stuff - grass. Yet a deer excretes little pellets, while a cow turns out a flat patty, but a horse produces clumps. Why do you suppose that is?"
The atheist, visibly surprised by the little girl's intelligence, thinks about it and says, "Hmmm, I have no idea." To which the little girl replies, "Do you really feel qualified to discuss God, Heaven and Hell, or life after death, when you don't know shit?"
And then she went back to reading her book.
This was picked up from that all-weather arbiter also called Facebook
I have collected many stories of Henry and the things he said on walking tours. He had a definite point of view. To some he was a “fuddy duddy.” His scorn for Modernist architecture made him not a few enemies. In fact, that scorn made even MAS uneasy. It’s why, in order to balance the walking tours’ point of view, MAS enlisted the aid of a MoMA intern named Ada Louise Huxtable to put together some Modernist-friendly walking tours. (As readers of this blog well know, Ada Louise Huxtable died this past January, at the age of 91. The twin deaths of Ada Louise Huxtable and Henry Hope Reed bring down the curtain on preservation’s greatest generation.) Henry later shifted his tours to the Museum of the City of New York, but he remained involved with MAS and would even lead MAS tours again.
The first moments of sleep are an image of death; a hazy torpor grips our thoughts and it becomes impossible for us to determine the exact instant when the 'I,' under another form, continues the task of existence.
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
It is unclear whether the grave problems with these books stemmed from the authors' wary job maneuvering in a depressed market or were imposed by an authoritarian academic apparatus of politically correct advisers and outside readers. But the result is a deplorable waste. What could and should have been enduring contributions to both scholarship and cultural criticism have been deeply damaged by the authors' rote recitation of theoretical clichés.If anything could kill kink, it would be the academy.
I certainly have felt this way. But as a logical matter, it doesn’t make any sense to me why that would be the case—why anything would be less meaningful simply because it doesn’t endure forever. Same with beauty—why would something be less beautiful simply because it wasn’t permanent? It existed for a while, it was meaningful for a while, it was beautiful for a while. Why is it so hard for us to get our heads around that idea?
Of course, in this country, as Glenn Reynolds likes to point out, "Scapegoated filmmaker Nakoula is still in jail."
I, too, have had a brush with grisly. Around the corner from the house where I spent my first eight years was the house where Gary Heidnik imprisoned several women he had kidnapped. Interestingly, Heidnik grew up in Cleveland.
Monday, May 20, 2013
… any struggle against the abuse and impoverishment of English online (notably, in blogs and emails).
Would that be all blogs and emails? I know of some pretty well-written blogs, and Joseph Epstein and Frederic Raphael just published a collection of their emails. As always , there is good writing and bad.
In America at least, the Puritans are always with us.
Sunday, May 19, 2013
The trouble starts at the moment when you get the crazy idea that not winning a prize means you're no good. It doesn't mean that at all. I have been a member of several judging panels. I have witnessed the strange dynamic of their functioning. Forces that outsiders can't even conceive of are at work in those meeting rooms. Under all their beautiful intelligent reasoning, prize judges, like people in every sphere of action, are driven by unconscious urges. How could it be otherwise? They are not sphinxes, or oracles, or disembodied spirits. They are people, subject to moods, full of contradictions and unacknowledged emotions and thwarted longings of their own.
In the other direction, global warming denialism seems heavily invested in a hazy conflation of the two natures. Not long ago, one congressman opined that the scientific data and theories had to be mistaken, since the Bible shows God taking direct responsibility for Nature. Perhaps this should really be called prescriptive supernaturalism — the insistence that reality itself does and must correspond to one's religious preconceptions. The penchant seems unlikely to produce much good public policy.