Thursday, January 31, 2013

Intense association...

Inflexible faith...

Grief and destruction...

Q&A...

...Howard Jacobson: Difficult for art if you’re watching your manners
Once you're living in a culture where it's decided that offence is central to it, where you have to watch your manners all the time, it gets very difficult for art - and impossible for comedy. My novels are partly about this. You can't be rude to women. You can't be rude to Jews. I mean, why can't i? 

Bidding a fond farewell …

Patty Andrews died yesterday. 

Shadows on the soul …

 TT: John Gielgud's Jewish problem.

Wonderfully strange …

… zmkc: Fish Dreaming.

New and unheralded …

… Canonizing Russian Literature for the World...in English | Publishing Perspectives.

Listen in …

 New podcast Follow Your Ears wants you to exist curiously | New York Daily News. (Hat tip, Sarah Weinman.)

Remembering Norman …

… Mailer Onstage - The Barnes and  Noble Review. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Seeing …

… First Known When Lost: "Not Ideas About The Thing But The Thing Itself".

Boundaries …

 The Line Between Nonfiction and Cock-a-Doodle-Doo — BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog.

Late again …

… Issa's Untidy Hut: Johnny Baranski and Margaret Beverland: Wednesday Haiku, #100.

Q & A …

… The Millions : Getting Away with Murder: The Millions Interviews Ursula K. Le Guin.

Too bad …

 Globe slashes book section | NOW Magazine. (Hat tip, Sarah Weinman.)


In an interview with NOW [assistant editor Jack] Kirchhoff bemoaned the lack of ads "even during the busiest release season," …
I presume he is referring to ads for the book section.  Well,  I'll bet the Blue Jays don't advertise, either. But they'll sure get coverage come spring training.

Overweighted and underwritten …

 Antifragile: How to live in a world we don't understand, by Nassim Taleb - book review. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

In case you wondered …

What is Magpiety? An answer at last. | The Book Haven.

Poetry ad poets …

… Anecdotal Evidence: `You Loved Life's Dailiness'.

Soul brothers …

John And Johann. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Hmm …

… How brain science can make you a better writer | Poynter. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Short version: Learn how to write.


In the beginning …

When Newspapers Were New, or, How Londoners Got Word of the Plague - Alexis C. Madrigal - The Atlantic. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Thought for the day …



A life is either all spiritual or not spiritual at all. No man can serve two masters. Your life is shaped by the end you live for. You are made in the image of what you desire.
— Thomas Merton, born on this date in 1915

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Creeping horror and menace …

… The Purple Cloud - The Barnes and Noble Review. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Come one, come all …

… Submissions - Triple Canopy.

Back story …

… On Writing “Everything (Except What’s Important)” — BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog.

Grand slam …

 Hilary Mantel's Bring Up the Bodies: a middlebrow triumph | Books | The Guardian. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

When Olga met Ezra …

… The Quality of the Affection: Part One | New Writing | Granta Magazine. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Keep an eye out for them …

… Most Wanted Out-of-Print Books - AbeBooks.

Tyranny alert …

 The EU Ponders Crackdown on Journalism. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

A much-needed counterweight …

 Is Scientific Materialism “Almost Certainly False”? | Cross-Check, Scientific American Blog Network. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

More Frost …

… Rare Robert Frost Collection Surfaces 50 Years After His Death : NPR.

Hard to classify …

 Detectives Beyond Borders: In a Heartbeat.

Heroic persistence …

… When sonnets and science collide:Christian Bok nearing end of long quest to create a living poem. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

A classic memoir …

… PJ Lifestyle — Whittaker Chambers: Taking Freedom’s Part, Irritating Everybody in the Process. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

FYI …

 New biography of JD Salinger - latimes.com. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Framing stories …

 Comparative philosophical and metaphysical frameworks in fiction | critical rationalism blog. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Another look …

… “One of the most significant short novels in English”: Janet Lewis and The Wife of Martin Guerre, Feb. 20 event | The Book Haven.

Restoring the real …

… Anecdotal Evidence: `We Die of Words'.

I missed this one, too …

… Robert Frost: Darkness or Light? : The New Yorker. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)


It’s hard to imagine the author of “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening”—the watcher of trees and grass, of frozen lakes and forested darkness—pinning up political posters in a crowded San Francisco bar. But, while the personality that comes through in Frost’s poems was a genuine one, it was also edited. Frost the poet seems like a quiet person, a loner. But, Holden reports, Frost the man would often “sit up late and talk, eating apples, gossiping about everyone and everything, a little maliciously sometimes but always brilliantly and soundly.” Frost liked long walks in the mountains, but he also liked “sea chanteys, sports, the theatre.” He liked “to talk and read about scientific achievements and exploration.” (In “A Visit to Camelot,” her wildly entertaining memoir of a White House dinner she attended in 1962, for that year’s Nobel laureates, Diana Trilling writes, “Out of the corner of my eye I had spotted Colonel John Glenn. He was talking to, of all people, Robert Frost, and there must have been six people huddled around them, trying to hear what they were saying.”)


A day late …

… which is something to grouse about: A Short-Tempered History of the ‘Curmudgeon’ | Wordnik. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Thought for the day …

To put away one's own original thoughts in order to take up a book is a sin against the Holy Ghost.
— Barbara Tuchman, born on this date in 1912

Perplexed and delighted...

Anything for sales...

I think not...

...Can a computer carry out sophisticated literary analysis?

This is akin to the debate about writing being amenable to teaching. Sure, the tricks of the trade can be learnt but talent, no. 

In case you wondered...

Always a pleasure...

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Hear, hear …

 Obama vs. Fox News -- behind the White House strategy to delegitimize a news organization | Fox News.


 if you are a liberal – as I am – you should be the most offended, as liberalism is founded on the idea of cherishing dissent and an inviolable right to freedom of expression. 

That more liberals aren't calling out the White House for this outrageous behavior tells you something about the state of liberalism in America today. 

A sobering thought …

… Yvor Winters: “The practical mind … has destroyed every state.” | The Book Haven.

Professor Fields …

 Anecdotal Evidence: `Why Did Nancy Feel Any Loyalty to Bill Sykes?'

Alone-ness …

… "Saints and Poets, Maybe--They Do Some".

Try your luck …

… Win a free copy of The Blind Man’s Garden by Nadeem Aslam — The Dabbler.

On the move …

… TT: A personal view of the problem of perpetual motion.

More about Westlake …

 Ivebeenreadinglately: From the desk of Donald E. Westlake. Or maybe Richard Stark? Or Samuel Holt? Or Tucker Coe? Or . . . ?

Separation of church and life …

 The (Ever More) Naked Public Square | The American Conservative. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Hope and striving …

… The Unedited Man | Winter 2012-13 | Columbia Magazine. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)


Even though he generally spurned what I would call human warmth, his eyes had an encouraging glitter when the conversation was about one art or another — or history, or philosophy — which, in my presence, it almost always was. Baseball, too, with those who shared his interest. Often, though, the conversation turned to the art of correct and appropriate language, which was one of his passions, and about which, happily, we were invariably of the same opinion.

Enter now ……

The 2013 Kenyon Review Short Fiction Contest — BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog.

Yeah, and I have a bridge to sell …

… That's why they call it a trend — MobyLives. (Hat tip, dave Lull.)

A documentary …

… A Confederacy of Dunces | manwithoutqualities. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)


Wonderful places …

… Seven Places in American by Miriam Sagan | Fox Chase Review.

Q & A …

… Those Things Tumbling Around Inside | Books and Culture.

In case you wondered …

… Writers writing about writing: 'Why We Write' - latimes.com. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

'Twas ever thus …

… Mind and Matter: Noble Savages Points to Resolution in Study of War - WSJ.com. (Hat tip. Julie Chovanes.)

Thought for the day …

Any idiot can face a crisis — it's day to day living that wears you out.
— Anton Chekhov, born on this date in 1860

Walk the talk...

...The Salman Rushdie interview

Here's a simple fact. The world of Islam has to enter the modern world. It has to learn how to live in the modern world. This world in which information is free, in which people do not live according to, let's say, the cultural codes of Arabia in the 7th century. And you can see that there's a great desire among the young people. At some point, in order to thrive, those countries have to modernise their ideas, their thinking, their institutions and they have to offer their people more liberty.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Divine plenitude...

Endangered species …

A Commonplace Blog: Their naked villainy. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Parochial prodigy …

… Bryan Appleyard — Look, Stranger: Lives of Britten. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)


Britten was one of those composers who was so talented he made it look easy. But listen to his 
Missa Brevis and you will discover how truly great he was. Also, English composers have tended to be underrated, William Boyce is quite a good composer. So is Granville Bantock. If Elgar's violin concerto is not a masterpiece, no such thing exists. Then there's Vaughan Williams. And I could go on.

FYI …

… Best Science Books 2012: The top books of the year!!!!! – Confessions of a Science Librarian. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Maybe because it's, like, really good …

… The curious appeal of Alice | OUPblog. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The Power of...

...an increased vocabulary

Our gal Cynthia …

… The Cost Of Love — The Dish | By Andrew Sullivan — The Daily Beast.

Please …

Happy Birthday, Pride and Prejudice! Would you find me a date? | OUPblog.

This looks interesting …

 The 3NR | a collaborative blog about high school debate.

The proper mix …

 Anecdotal Evidence: "Let Nature Never Be Forgot'.

A real treat …

… TV review: A thrilling look at 'Shakespeare Uncovered' - latimes.com. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Problem solvers …

… Book Review: Engineers of Victory - WSJ.com. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Maybe not the best approach …

… Pedaling Lies — BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog.

Give them their money back and let it go at that.

Diversity and scope …

 Donald Westlake, the man who created Parker, and the quest for the perfect character - Grantland. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

A writer engaged …

 The Dream of the Peruvian by Adam Kirsch, City Journal Winter 2013. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)


The irony, of course, is that Vargas Llosa has had a higher public profile than almost any writer of his time. He has been famous ever since emerging in the 1960s as a leading figure of the movement called the Latin American Boom, and in 2010, he won the Nobel Prize in Literature. At the same time, he has been a vocal participant in the politics of his native Peru, even mounting a serious campaign for president in 1990. Though he lost the second round of the election to the future dictator Alberto Fujimori, Vargas Llosa established himself as one of the world’s most eloquent spokesmen for democracy and free markets—a position that puts him directly at odds with most Latin American intellectuals of his generation, who are likelier to share the dogmatic leftism of his contemporary Gabriel García Márquez. Yet even as Vargas Llosa insists on the need for reason and freedom in politics, his fiction has continued to explore the imaginative realms of unreason and obsession, primitivism and violence.

Look and listen …



  I know Felix. I think he is one of the most imaginative artists at work today. And he deserves to be better known.

For the occasion …

Today is the feast of St. Thomas Aquinas: Top 15 Quotes of Thomas Aquinas - Listverse.

Distillation …

 Excerpt: “The Collected Blurbs of John Updike”. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Benign hickeys...

...Hypochondria: An Inside Look
It’s also true that when I leave the house to go for a stroll in Central Park or to Starbucks for a latte I might just pick up a quick cardiogram or CT scan prophylactically. My wife calls this nonsense and says that in the end it’s all genetic. My parents both lived to ripe old ages but absolutely refused to pass their genes to me as they believed an inheritance often spoils the child.

Someting I missed yesterday …

 Issa's Untidy Hut: The Minotaur's Song: Issa's Sunday Service #155.

Mind-body chaos …

… One for all | Exuberant Animal. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

In case you wondered …

… ‘Trent: What Happened at the Council,’ by John W. O’Malley - Washington Post. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Thought for the day …

The woman who thinks she is intelligent demands equal rights with men. A woman who is intelligent does not.
— Colette, born on this date in 1873

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Politically astute...

Mea culpa …

…  Bishop Hill blog - Lovelock recants. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Well, I think what really needs to be applauded here is intellectual honesty.  Lovelock could still well be wrong, but that would not in any take away from the fact that he is thinking authentically, with all the risks that involves, not the least of which is offending those who have taken what you said previously and elevated it into dogma.

Without irony …

… “A chill went through me”: How a Twain scholar discovered a long-lost letter on racism | The Book Haven.

Relax …

 Norwegian Study: Global Warming Less Severe Than Feared - Slashdot. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

That's one advantage of placing your faith in science: You can find out what a fool you've made of yourself before you die.

The pleasure of her company …

… The Neglected Books Page  — A Book and A Love Affair, by Helen Bevington. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Well worth considering …

… HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER film analysis by Rob Ager.

I had never seem High Plains Drifter until last night, when I watched it on TV. I put up with the commercials because I didn't feel like doing anything else. I was pretty impressed, and I came to much the same conclusions as those arrived at in this piece. 

Mental quiet …

 Maverick Philosopher: Meditation: How Long and What to Expect.

What he really thought …

 Richard Burton’s painfully truthful diaries | TLS.

Vintage review …

… Then and Now, 1969 | TLS.

Remembering Yvor Winters …

… Anecdotal Evidence: `They Retreat Because They Are Excluded'.

FYI …

… The Case Against "APE" | Bill Peschel.

On the avian front …

… Nigeness: Thrushes, Darkling and Otherwise.

My garden feeder seems to have become the restaurant of choice for the neighborhood's house sparrows. I suppose this should bother me, but it doesn't. Every now and then, especially during migration, other birds stop in. But I noticed the other day while out during errands that a few blocks from here great numbers of robins (the American thrush) congregating along one street. There's a very small park nearby, so maybe that explains it. I used to see more mourning doves around here than I have of late. But just a few days ago, while walking up Ninth Street at dusk, I heard a cry overheard and there right above was a peregrine falcon streaking somewhere. We have starlings (not as many as we had many years ago — they introduced the falcons to cut down on their numbers — they had made quite a nuisance of themselves at  City Hall (though never as much, it seemed to me, as the politicians infesting the building).
I don't worry much about official tallies. I remember years ago, when I was on the copy desk at The Inquirer, getting a story about some birds the National Audubon Society had put on its Philadelphia watch list. One was a finch I had never heard of — and obviously had never seen in Philadelphia — and the other was the Cerulean Warbler. Any Cerulean in Philly is probably lost — though I did see some upstate a few years ago, which is where you might see them. High in the forest tress, very small, and moving constantly.

Side road …

… A Common Reader: Off the Beaten Track in the Classics by Carl Kaeppel: Aristarchus of Samos.

Look and listen …

… Issa's Untidy Hut: Cummings, the Romantic.

Attention, world …

 zmkc: This Enveloping Passion of Australians.

Inquirer reviews …

… Butterflies, the Bible, passionate fiction - the books of spring.

… Book explores how ex-slaves saw freedom.

Also born on this date …

… in 1756, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.


Thought for the day …

Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end; then stop.
— Lewis Carroll, born on this date in 1832

The question of evil...

...Paul Torday: The PG Wodehouse of moral depravity
The novel offers no such clear-cut responses to the question of evil. Nevertheless, it is hard to ignore a spiritual dimension in the story: the arc that transforms Norman Stokoe from remote bureaucrat to possible fanatical believer, for example. Describing himself as "broadly C of E", Torday says he is not preoccupied by religion per se, but by the consequences of its marginalisation in British society.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Toast to the aristocrats...

Storm warning...

Mindless rage...

Code of honor...

At last...

True grit...

Early hip-hop …

 Mary Toft: The Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits — The Dabbler.

A nice roundup …

 Quid plura? | “With a wintry, storm-blown sigh…”

A blog worth noting …

… Fragments from a Writing Desk.

Looking ahead …

 Books to Watch Out For: January Preview : The New Yorker.

Grand opening …

 SFJazz Center Opens in California - NYTimes.com. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

RIP …

… Zealotry of Guerin: Willows by Lucien Stryk.

Q & A …

… On "Tenth of December": An Interview With George Saunders : The New Yorker. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I don't think so …

 Our Hazlitt? | Commonweal magazine. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I mean no denigration of Wood. I just think Hazlitt is in another class.

Our town …

… FLP - Historical Images of Philadelphia. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Profound attachment …

… René Girard gets new honor – from the King of Spain, no less | The Book Haven.

A different knowledge …

… Why We Should Memorize Poetry : The New Yorker. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)


Memorized poems are a sort of larder, laid up against the hungers of an extended period of solitude. But today we are far less solitary than we were even a few years ago. Anyone equipped with a smartphone—many of my friends would never step outdoors without one—commands a range of poetry that beggars anything the brain can store. Let’s say it’s a gorgeous afternoon in October. You’re walking through a park, and you wish to recall—but can’t quite summon—the opening lines of Keats’ “To Autumn.” With a quick tap-tap-tap, you have it on your screen. You’re back in the nineteenth century, but you’re also in the twenty-first, where machine memory regularly supplants and superannuates brain memory.


Regarding boredom …

… Anecdotal Evidence: `The Fascinating Subject of Wood'.

A psychiatrist friend of mine once pointed out that thing to keep in my when it comes to boredom is that it is not boring. You  are bored. 

In defense of life …

… Unspeakable Conversations - New York Times. (Hat tip, Cynthia Haven.)



It is a chilly Monday in late March, just less than a year ago. I am at Princeton University. My host is Prof. Peter Singer, often called -- and not just by his book publicist -- the most influential philosopher of our time. He is the man who wants me dead. No, that's not at all fair. He wants to legalize the killing of certain babies who might come to be like me if allowed to live. He also says he believes that it should be lawful under some circumstances to kill, at any age, individuals with cognitive impairments so severe that he doesn't consider them ''persons.'' What does it take to be a person? Awareness of your own existence in time. The capacity to harbor preferences as to the future, including the preference for continuing to live.

In case you wondered …

… Skepticblog — What Should We Be Worried About? (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Stalking grass …

… Zealotry of Guerin: Harvest in the Black Hills.

Worth pondering …

 PJ Media — Understanding the Educational Mess We’re In. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)


Everything considered, and allowances made for cultural and historical differences, the Merchant Taylors’ School, in the early to middle period of English pedagogy, was a far superior secondary school to anything our contemporary ideologues and planners, whose ignorance of educational history is impressively catholic, have managed to install today. We no longer teach the classics, those documents — in the words of Melville scholar and Norton anthologist Hershel Parker — that “afford the most rich, complex, aesthetic experiences…most likely to work transforming enlightenment…in all earnest young students.” On the contrary, our current methodology, pursued in a cognitive vacancy, constitutes nothing more than another pedagogical talisman which testifies only to the bankruptcy, or the magical thinking, that has overtaken the culture of education to which we unthinkingly contribute. We have long passed the time, laments Welsh poet Gillian Clarke in her new book Ice, “when the map of the earth was something we knew by/heart.” It is as if we have simply forgotten the central axiom of human development: if you know very little, you cannot do very much. Method can never be a surrogate for substance. You must work to have something there if there is ever to be something there to work with.

On second thought …

 ‘Poetry is not dead,’ says poetry. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

RIP …

 Richard G. Stern, a Writers’ Writer, Is Dead at 84 - NYTimes.com. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Thought for the day …

When the soul drifts uncertainly between life and the dream, between the mind's disorder and the return to cool reflection, it is in religious thought that we should seek consolation.
— Gerard de Nerval, who died on this date in 1855

Wondrous deviation...

Knotty questions...

Friday, January 25, 2013

Marketing genius...

No mere showman …

… Book Review: Declaring His Genius - WSJ.com. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Humbling gloom …

… What I Learned From Philip Roth's Last Novels – Tablet Magazine. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Fiction, nonfiction, and faith …

… Essaying in the Age of Unbelief — BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog.

And a good reading it is, too …

… Happy Birthday, Robert Burns: Prince Charles Reads "My Heart's In The Highlands" | Brain Pickings. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Moody bird …

… Crow —  The Dabbler. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I happen, for some reason or other, to love crows.

Farewell …

… The American Scholar: Ending Up - Michael Dirda. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Expectations …

… In Praise of the Language Police by Tim Parks | NYRblog | The New York Review of Books. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Check this out …

 Edith Wharton's New York. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)


My friend Wendy Emery worked on the restoration of Powel House. The restoration was supervised by George Boudreau, author of Independence: A Guide to Historic Philadelphia, which I wrote about in The Inquirer. I'd link to the article, but it no longer seems to be available online.

Words of a master …

 Lewis Carroll: Through the Looking-Glass, and What Words We Found There | Wordnik. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Tracking style …

… Science of Stylometry a Weapon Against Hackers, Trolls, Malware. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)


The researchers, from Drexel University in Philadelphia, studied the leaked conversations and contributions of hundreds of anonymous users in underground online forums.

The two Indias...

Poe show …

… Paul Davis On Crime: Woe Is Poe: The TV Show 'The Following" Loses Its Literary Grip.

FYI …

… Pocket Guide to the Jaipur Literature Festival - NYTimes.com. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Learning and sanctity …

 Blessed John Henry Newman: Our Guide and Inspiration | Crisis Magazine. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)


…  passing reference must be made to later generations of famous converts on whom Newman had a major influence. These include Gerard Manley Hopkins, arguably the greatest poet in an age of great poets, who was received into the Church by Newman himself in 1866. Others who were helped significantly on their paths to Rome by Newman include Oscar Wilde, Maurice Baring, R. H. Benson, Christopher Dawson, Ronald Knox, Evelyn Waugh, Graham Greene, Muriel Spark, and Alec Guinness, to name but an illustrious few. Mention should also be made of Hilaire Belloc and J.R.R. Tolkien, two of the giants of the Catholic Revival, who were both educated at the Oratory School in Birmingham, which Newman had founded.

Humor and heartbreak …

… Anecdotal Evidence: `The Swearing of the Bargemen'.

Taking time …

… Some Company for Slow Writers | Tin House. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

A good idea …

… Transmissions from a Lone Star: Wishing You a Courteous New Year in 2013 | Columnists | RIA Novosti.


At first I found the vitriol entertaining, but now I think it’s boring, monotonous and bad for the country. The frequent demonization of opponents has left otherwise intelligent people unable to conceive that honest differences of opinion exist. In the world of rhetorical extremism the “other side” is always evil, deranged, or stupid.

Alternatives …

 A Commonplace Blog: World after world unseen. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Tracking an epidemic …

 Lance Armstrong’s confession: This is your ego on steroids - Guest Voices - The Washington Post.

When God chose Moses to lead the Jewish people, it was not because Moses leapt in the air, in the manner of Shrek’s donkey, yelling “Pick me! Pick me!” Rather Moses repeatedly protested his unworthiness. His humility qualified him for leadership. Self-effacement no longer gains traction in our age of wild narcissism. Television ads proclaim the perfection of each candidate. Our candidate is ideal and our positions unassailable. Partisan unwillingness to concede any wisdom to the other side reminds us of the great axiom of the age: anyone else’s triumph diminishes me.

Thought for the day …

I can imagine no more comfortable frame of mind for the conduct of life than a humorous resignation.
— W. Somerset Maugham, born on this date in 1874

New horizons...

Negotiating the Bard...

Get set...

Thursday, January 24, 2013

All brains, no affectation...

In case you wondered …

 Publishing is Seriously Nostalgic About Comics, But Why? | Publishing Perspectives.

Compare and contrast …

… Truthdig - Christopher Hitchens: A Jingo in Every Essential Way. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

… King: I Have a Dream. Obama: I Have a Drone. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Wow …

… Extremely Rare Color Photography of Early 1900s Paris — Curious Eggs Curious Eggs. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Vulnerable and determined …

 “Open Heart,” By Elie Wiesel - The Rumpus.net. (Hat tip, dave Lull.)

FYI …

… “Best of 2012″ Sale at Amazon — BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog.

The cost of information …

… Essay argues that Aaron Swartz was wrong | Inside Higher Ed. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Must-reads …

… AbeBooks: 50 Essential Science Fiction Books.

And the finalists are …

 BBC News - Man Booker International finalists revealed. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

A basic misunderstanding …

 Has American Fiction Lost Sight of God? | First Things. (Hat tip, Julie Chovanes.)


… part of why religion was always a compelling, even essential, aspect of literature is that novelists used to take it seriously—even those who didn’t, in the end, believe. The struggle to keep one’s faith, even in the face of suffering, and to be transformed by it, is one of the hallmarks of human experience: working out the inherent tensions between body and spirit, judgment and mercy, right and wrong—this is interioritypar excellence, and exploring that interiority, making it come alive, is what fiction is supposed to do.
See also: Restless for Good Art.

In case you wondered …

The Millions : Finding an Audience Abroad: Who’s Read in France.

Thoreau on writing …

… Anecdotal Evidence: `Concentrated and Nutty'.

Back story (cont'd.) …

Vicky Mlyniec on “This I am Allowed” and an Abundance of Heartbreak — BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog.

Timeless and Wickedly funny …

… The Book Haven | Cynthia Haven's blog for the written word.

Conversation …

… Joseph Brodsky | Tin House. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Murder, mayhem, and poetry

 When Falls the Coliseum — Lisa reads Something Red by Douglas Nicholas.

Blurring the real and the remembered …

… Michael Dirda: The Balloonist - Book Review - Truthdig. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)


Clearly a philosopher as well as an explorer and a scientist, the major believes that “the outward events of our lives bear little or no relation to what is really happening to us”: The present as much as the past can sometimes seem just a magic lantern show. Given the blurring of what is real and what is remembered, “The Balloonist,” despite its boys’-adventure trappings, quickly becomes a journey into the interior of the self. In this book, to quote an uncannily appropriate line from Wallace Stevens, “Crispin / Became an introspective voyager.”

The art of Rizzoli …

… Elegant Editions: Rizzoli’s Art Books on AbeBooks.

Reading and the book …

 Review of Andrew Piper, "Book Was There" | Inside Higher Ed. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)


His intent is not -- as the subtitle “Reading in Electronic Times” might suggest -- a screed against the e-text flood. Book Was There shows a wide knowledge of contemporary digital art and literature, and Piper makes a brief mention of his role in a collaborative project to create a computer model of the impact of The Sorrows of Young Werther on subsequent literature. Like anyone who has given the matter more than a soundbite’s worth of thought, he recognizes that the relationship between the cultural system now emerging and the previous thousand years of human civilization involves both continuities and disruptions, for both better and worse.

Thought for the day …

It is nearly always the most improbable things that really come to pass.
— E. T. A. Hoffmann, born on this date in 1776

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Another birthday …

 Nigeness: Manet Happy Returns.

And well worth noting …

… It’s Django Reinhardt’s Birthday. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Eavesdropping with intent …

 Meet the Flannery O’Connor of the Internet age - Salon.com. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Appalling …

 A Don's Life: Internet fury: or having your anatomy dissected online. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)



Hmm …

… Is poetry dead? (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)



All the prestige of poetry dates back to when it was the way you got the most vital news there is — your people’s stories. “The Iliad.” “The Odyssey.” “Gilgamesh.” All literature used to be poetry. But then fiction splintered off. Then the sort of tale you sung could be recorded and the words did not have to spend any time outside the company of their music if they did not want to. We have movies now that are capable of presenting images to us with a precision that would have made Ezra Pound keel over. All the things that poetry used to do, other things do much better. But naturally we still have government-subsidized poets. Poets are like the Postal Service — a group of people sedulously doing something that we no longer need, under the misapprehension that they are offering us a vital service.

I do not get the impression that Ms. Petri is actually familiar with much contemporary poetry — Kay Ryan, say, or Dana Gioia, neither of whom, I think, has ever been subsidized. I do think the Inaugural poem idea is one that ought to be laid to rest.

A new semester …

The American University of Paris | Center for Writers and Translators | That Other Word.

Posing uninteresting questions …

Flawed Diamond | Hoover Institution.

At its core, the book is based on a fundamental contradiction. Diamond explains that the customs of primitive societies are not applicable to the characteristics of our society; then he proceeds to use those customs as the basis for recommendations for improving everything in our society from parenting to diet. He opens the book explaining that the defining characteristic of primitive cultures is that everyone knew each other, necessitating the repair of relationships as the principal objective of justice and the establishment of rules governing the treatment of outsiders. Yet he proceeds to spend the rest of the book arguing for the use of these tribal customs to our own society

Look and listen …


RIP …

… The Wooden Spoon: Wherefore art thou, Partisan Review?

Continuities and disruptions …

 Review of Andrew Piper, "Book Was There" | Inside Higher Ed. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Details, details …

… Detectives Beyond Borders: A grammatical error, or P.G. Wodehouse on American politics.

Unending education …

 Anecdotal Evidence: `The Memory of Their Meaning Never Stops'.

I'm not so sure …

… Consider Magazine — Is University Necessary?  (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)


There are many discussions these days about how a university education leads to better employment or better pay. This is mainly true because compared to those who do not receive university education, graduates have developed stronger creative capacities, a greater ability to implement ideas, stronger intercultural skills, an enhanced ability to successfully communicate more complex ideas, and a deeper understanding of social responsibility. Employers realize this; society realizes this.
Sure. And I wrote an article about The Da Vinci Code because my boss at the time had gone to dinner over the weekend with a group of Ph.D.'s, all of whom had read the book and all of whom thought it was historically accurate and insightful. I also used to edit doctoral dissertations. The were written by smart people, smart enough to know that they would get the degree they sought by descanting as it were on the notions they had received from their preceptors — and nothing more.

A legible landscape …

… RealClearReligion - How to Read China.

Q & A …

 Writer Katie Haegele Talks About Zines, Writing, and Being Published | PDXX Collective. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Myriad cultures...

Headily allusive...

Too much diversity...

...Cultural Homogeneity and the Future of Literary Translation
In an interview in Austria Kultur, the cultural magazine published by the Austrian government, the writer Jakob Lind describes himself as “a Viennese-born Dutchman turned Israeli with an Austrian passport, Eastern European parents.” Lind lives in England, writes in German. If I translate him, what culture am I translating?

The enigmatic Beatle...

Hmm …

… Aging Newspaper Audience Presents Business Challenges | Newspaper Death Watch. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)


The news industry’s challenge is to find products that appeal to young readers …
I disagree. For one thing, the news industry has been trying to do that for decades. Its challenge is to put out something worth reading. If you picked up a paper and found yourself reading most of the stories all the way through, you'd pick up that paper again. Assuming that the only thing people are interested in is sports and gossip, and using the paper to propagandize for the politicians of your choice is a sure way to turn off lots of people. Good sports coverage is a necessity, because a lot of people are interested in sports. But a lot fewer are dependent on newspapers for their sports fixes these days. And tossing in your two cents on things people can learn about just about anywhere is a waste of everybody's time. Go out and find things that people can't find elsewhere and write about those (trust me, I could name several in this city right off the top of my head) Newspapers are dying in large part due to lack of imagination on the part of those in charge of them, most of whom suffer from a paralyzing sense of nostalgia for their glory days. You can't get anywhere by only looking in the rearview mirror.

Wise avians …

… Books on Owls | January 2013. (Hat tip, Dave Lull — though the Omnipresent Wisconsin Librarian does not seem to be included.)

Hit the road, Jack …

… On the Road again? No end in sight for Jack Kerouac’s journey - The Globe and Mail. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

In case you wondered …

… Experts on rhetoric and political communication give Obama address good, but not great, reviews | Inside Higher Ed. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.) 

Division …

… A Fable by Louise Gluck | The Writer's Almanac with Garrison Keillor. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Thought for the day …

What is really beautiful must always be true.
— Stendhal, born on this date in 1783

Festive journey...

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Extinct genre …

… Richard Blanco's inaugural poem for Obama is a valiant flop | Books | guardian.co.uk.

In this corner …

… Postmodern Discourse and Its Discontents | The American Conservative. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

A history of conflict...

Happy 76th …

 Paul Davis On Crime: Happy Birthday To Joseph Wambaugh.

Good news …

… Not dead yet: Libraries still vital, Pew report finds - latimes.com. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

By whom?

… The 10 Most Anticipated Book Adaptations of 2013 | PWxyz. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Though Debbie and I went to see Ang Lee's adaptation of The Life of Pi yesterday and we both loved it.

Introduction and excerpt …

… The Millions : Introducing The Millions Originals and An Excerpt of Our First eBook, ‘Epic Fail’.

He coulda been a branch manager …

 T.S. Eliot: Employee of the Month — Full Stop. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Back story …

… Lee Martin on His Essay “Talk Big” and the Communal Voice — BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog.

Talent scouting …

 Re- cycling Lance Armstrong on the NHS — New English Review. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Q & A …

… zmkc: The Next Big Thing.

Look who's coming …

… Krasznahorkai on “bottomless idiocy, unbounded aggression.” | The Book Haven.

Blarney …

… Anecdotal Evidence: `The Vast Uncertainties and Togetherness of the World'.

Faith and literary non-fiction …

 Writing in the Age of Unbelief. Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Ripeness is all …

… Schall at Eighty-Five. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Balance …

… Writing Haiku at the Office | Books and Culture.

Now, admittedly, these "haiku" would probably make an actual poetry teacher flush with horror. (I learned partway through my workhaiku campaign that a "real" haiku ought to include both a color and a season somehow.) But however badly I botch it, the form provides a balance between taking care to form even mundane emails with care and not adding much time to how long I'd need for composition anyway.

Cri de coeur …

… Twitter / terryteachout: One of the hardest parts of ... (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

My latest column …

… When Falls the Coliseum — Riffing and digressions.

In case you missed it …

… Watch Richard Blanco's Poem at President Barack Obama's Inauguration - Speakeasy - WSJ.

Thought for the day …

No law can give power to private persons; every law transfers power from private persons to government.
— Isabel Paterson, born on this date in 1886