Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Hollow my eye …

… Podcast – The Hollow Man | Virtual Memories.

Paging Dave Lull …

… Don't Know? Ask a Librarian, They Once Said.

At year's end …

… Anecdotal Evidence: `A New State of Being Staggers Me'.

The permanent moment …

 Life Stand Still Here By Marcia Dickson | BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog.

Something to think on …

The only way human beings can win a war is to prevent it.
— George C. Marshall, born on this date in 1880

In brief...

In God we trust...

...The Gospel According to Terry
Eagleton accuses most unbelievers of rejecting a theologically illiterate caricature of God unknown to classical theology. Even to say “God exists” is to commit a kind of ontological faux pas; God is “no kind of entity” but rather “the ground of all being, the condition of possibility of anything at all.” (God and the universe, he notes astutely, do not add up to two.) God is neither the metaphysical industrialist imagined by creationists, nor a claimant to ownership of the universe. God is not the Cop on the Cosmic Beat, our immensely stronger rival in a contest of wills; God’s sovereignty is “not like that of a despot, however benevolent” but rather “a power which allows the world to be itself.” Rooted in “its sharing in the life of its Creator,” our freedom and autonomy is rooted in God’s, not hemmed in or suppressed.

Taking stock...

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

FYI …

… The Fox Chase Reading Series | Fox Chase Review.

The trouble with experts …

… How Ebola Roared Back — NYTimes.com.

A man alone …

 Anecdotal Evidence: `A Way of Being in Any Circumstances'.

Looking back …

FYI …

MAKING POEMS THAT LAST – 2015!


Inbox
x

Leonard Gontarek

12:15 AM (10 hours ago)
to me
MAKING POEMS THAT LAST – 2015


A POETRY WORKSHOP WITH LEONARD GONTAREK



While there’s no guarantee you’ll become the next Robert Frost, with the guidance
 of award-winning, prolific poet Leonard Gontarek, it’s at least a possibility.
Encouraging students to explore as many avenues as possible
and remove themselves from their work, he’ll help you
 find—then strengthen—your style and voice.

                                Philadelphia Weekly, Nicole Finkbiner




Reserve a place in the class via: gontarek9@earthlink.net


The workshop will include discussions of contemporary and international
poetry, translation, the students’ poetry, and the realities of publishing poetry.

Narrative, persona, political, homage, and confessional poetry will be
covered with a focus on what makes a poet’s voice original and their own.

Specific direction and assignments will be given, with attention
to the basic elements and forms of poetry.

Through invention students will build more accurate and textured work.


The workshop will be presented in eight 2-hour sessions,
Saturdays, 11 – 1:00 PM: January 3, 10, 17, 24, 31, February 7, 14, 28.

Location: 4221 Osage Avenue in West Philadelphia.
The cost is 192 dollars for 8 sessions.
Please contact Leonard Gontarek with interest: gontarek9@earthlink.net,
215.808.9507 – Independent workshops and manuscript editing available.


www.leafscape.org/LeonardGontarek

The paperback revolution …

… The Birth of Pulp Fiction | The New Yorker. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

On June 19, 1939, a man named Robert de Graff launched Pocket Books. It was the first American mass-market-paperback line, and it transformed the industry. Whether it also transformed the country is the tantalizing question that Paula Rabinowitz asks in her lively book “American Pulp: How Paperbacks Brought Modernism to Main Street” (Princeton). She builds on a lot of recent scholarship on the way that twentieth-century literature has been shaped by the businesses that make and sell books—work by pioneers in the field, like Janice Radway and Lawrence Rainey, and, more recently, scholars like Evan Brier, Gregory Barnhisel, and Loren Glass. Paperbacks, even paperbacks that were just reprints of classic texts, turn out to have a key part in the story of modern writing.

Cautionary tale…

… True. Good. Beautiful. — The Catastrophe of Success by Tennessee Williams. (Hat tip, David Tothero.)

Something to think on …

It requires a very unusual mind to undertake the analysis of the obvious.
— Alfred North Whitehead, who died on this date in 1947

RIP …

… Remembering Stanisław Barańczak: equilibristics, “Madogism,” and the phenomenology of the queue | The Book Haven.

From the NYT desk...

Monday, December 29, 2014

Cold at heart …

… The top 10 winters in literature | Books | The Guardian. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

I had not read Algernon Blackwood's "The Glamour of the Snow," but I just did. It's terrific.

Hmm …

… After Liberalism: Can We Imagine a Humane, Post-Liberal Future? – Opinion – ABC Religion & Ethics (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)



Cowen argues that we are exiting a unique period in American history, in which we believed that there could be relative equality and relative social cohesion, and entering one in which we will effectively see the creation of two separate nations. As he writes in his book's concluding chapter, tellingly entitled "A New Social Contract?":
"The forces outlined in this book, especially for labor markets, will require a rewriting of the social contract ... We will move from a society based on the pretense that everyone is given an okay standard of living to a society in which people are expected to fend for themselves much more than they do now. I imagine a world where, say 10 to 15 percent of the citizenry is extremely wealthy and has fantastically comfortable and stimulating lives, the equivalent of current-day millionaires, albeit with better health care.
"Much of the rest of the country will have stagnant or maybe even falling wages in dollar terms, but a lot more opportunities for cheap fun and cheap education. Many of these people will ... benefit from all the free or near-free services modern technology has made available. Others will fall by the wayside.
"This framing of income inequality in meritocratic terms will prove self-reinforcing. Worthy individuals will in fact rise from poverty on a regular basis, and that will make it easier to ignore those who are left behind."
Sounds awful.

Lyric feeling, narrative zest …

… ‘The Death of Stella D’Cruz’ and other poems | The Caravan - A Journal of Politics and Culture. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

In case you wondered...

Q&A...

Here it comes...

Blogging note …

I have to go get my eyes checked, and have other errands as well. So blogging will resume later on .

For the season …

… The Carol of Seven Signs.

On the road …

… About Last Night | Happy trails.

Tight situation …

… Crimes and Detectives, Inc.: Help, I've fallen and I cannot get up, and I'm locked in this room with a murderer . . .

Darkness and cold …

… First Known When Lost: Ice And Stars.

Great story …

 In Hunting Park, nuns provide free hospice care to cancer patients.



Hey, Professor Dawkins, tell me of your atheist counterpart to this.

Something to think on …

If your daily life seems poor, do not blame it; blame yourself that you are not poet enough to call forth its riches; for the Creator, there is no poverty.
— Rainer Maria Rilke, who died on this date in 1926

In case you wondered...

...Are we living in the age of the brain?
We know a lot about how genes work. But just as we have only a rudimentary knowledge of how genomes relate to traits (genotypes to phenotypes), so too do we lack an understanding of how patterns of neural connectivity and interaction lead to thoughts, emotions, creativity and imagination, psychosis and joy. Let’s not over-state the case: it is extraordinary what we know about the basic neural mechanisms of, say, memory and vision. But not only is there no theory of the brain, there is not even a clear indication that such a thing exists. “What I still believe to be lacking,” says Marcus, “is a theory about how sets of neurons might come together to support something as complex as human cognition.”

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Good news …

… A heart-warming twist in the tale of the books industry | Books | The Guardian. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

A glowing skeleton …

… The Sunday Rumpus Essay: The Lava Lamp Of Pain - The Rumpus.net. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

FYI …

My review of James Booth's biography of Philip Larkin had to be trimmed to fit a template. My friend Mike Schaffer did a splendid job of cutting, but I thought people might want to see the whole thing. So here it is:

Philip Larkin: Life, Art and Love
By James Booth
Bloomsbury Press. 532 pp. $35

Reviewed by Frank Wilson

James Booth begins this book by reminding readers that Philip Larkin is "by common consent, the best-loved British poet of the last century." Larkin's most famous line is unprintable in a family newspaper, but almost as well-known is the beginning of "Annus Mirabilis": "Sexual intercourse began/in nineteen sixty-three … Between the end of the Chatterly ban/And the Beatles' first LP." 
There is, however, a good deal more to Larkin than wry social commentary and, though he qualifies it as "our almost-instinct almost-true," his greatest line is probably "What will survive of us is love." 
However secure Larkin's reputation as a poet, his reputation as a human being plummeted after the 1995 publication of the official biography written by former British poet laureate Andrew Motion. Booth, who was for 17 years a colleague of  Larkin's at the University of Hull, where Larkin was librarian, clearly intends this book to set the record straight. 
There is no doubt that in his correspondence Larkin was frequently given to distinctly un-PC outbursts, but Booth convincingly demonstrates that "for all his verbal transgressiveness, it is impossible to imagine Larkin ever acting with racist motives." In fact, he seems to have been almost unfailingly kind and considerate to each and all.
Nevertheless, it is a sad life that Booth recounts. The man who came to be thought of as the "bachelor hermit of Hull" simply could not commit himself to any of the several women he became involved with (and it must be said that the sexual attitudes of Larkin and his friends Kingsley Amis and Robert Conquest do seem embarrassingly indicative of arrested emotional development). 
In the end, there was only the poetry, and that, appropriately, is the lens through which Booth would have us view the life. Larkin left behind eight manuscript work books dating from 1944 to 1981 and containing practically all of his verse. Moreover, the Collected Poems, put together by his friend Anthony Thwaite, is arranged in strict chronological order. As Booth notes, "to read the poems … in the order in which they were written is to see the poet reaching fulfillment, then leaving his youth behind to embark on a troubled middle age."
Larkin's inspiration dried up some years before his death at 63 in 1985. As he said in an interview the year before, "I haven't given poetry up, but I rather think that poetry has given me up."
He is the great post-religious poet, and his work is preoccupied from first to last with an inconsolable fear of death. So it is fitting that his last truly great poem, finished in 1977, was "Aubade," which Larkin himself referred to as his "in-a-funk-about-death poem":
… this is what we fear — no sight, no sound,
No touch or taste or smell, nothing to think with,
Nothing to love or link with,
The anaesthetic from which none come round.
 Frank Wilson is a retired Inquirer book editor. Visit his blog Books, Inq. — The Epilogue. Email him at PresterFrank@gmail.com. 

Blogging will resume …

… this afternoon, when I return from Mass.

Inquirer reviews …

… Thriller insightful and harrowing.

…I review the new Philip Larkin biography: A biography corrected, but still sad.

… Give the gift of books about movies.

… How a tango-loving teen became pope.

… Author's search for a Jesus he can believe in.

… Evolutionary biologist says humans must look to themselves for salvation.

Something to think on …

The telephone book is full of facts, but it doesn't contain a single idea.
— Mortimer Adler, born on this date in 1992

If only...

...‘The David Foster Wallace Reader’, by David Foster Wallace
Also there from the first page is Wallace’s biggest subject: depression. And knowing how his own story ends makes many of the pieces extracted here difficult to read. “All this business about people committing suicide when they’re ‘severely depressed’ ”, he wrote in “The Planet Trillaphon as It Stands in Relation to the Bad Thing”: “We say, ‘Holy cow, we must do something to stop them from killing themselves!’ That’s wrong. Because all these people have, you see, by this time already killed themselves, where it really counts. By the time these people swallow entire medicine cabinets or take naps in the garage or whatever, they’ve already been killing themselves for ever so long. When they ‘commit suicide,’ they’re just being orderly.”

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Wise counsel …

… Paula Marantz Cohen: A Year of 15-Minute Daily Doses From the Harvard Classics - WSJ. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)



Uh-oh. I better hunker down, so I can keep up with Paula when we next have lunch.

Scary Christmas …

… The Diary Review: Devastation in Darwin.

Life's soundtrack …

… Anecdotal Evidence: `And the Ocean Snore'.

For the season …

… Paul Davis On Crime: A Look Back At The Beaton Marionettes' 'The Nativity' And 'Twas The Night Before Christmas'.

Seeking repose …

… Zealotry of Guerin: The Siesta (Van Gogh), Sonnet #219.

Just wondering …

I may be completely wrong about this, but as I understand it, quantum physics, at least as illustrated by Schrödinger's Cat, suggests, if it does not actually posit, that being is, as it were, not settled unless it is observed. If this be so, is not the implication that, in some sense, to some degree, consciousness is, if not prior to being, certainly necessary for being?

See also this: Does the Universe Exist if We're Not Looking?

Post bumped.

Something to think on …

A book reads the better which is our own, and has been so long known to us, that we know the topography of its blots, and dog's ears, and can trace the dirt in it to having read it at tea with buttered muffins.
— Charles Lamb, who died on this date in 1834

Inward significance...

Friday, December 26, 2014

Marginalia …

Toward the end of "Little Gidding," the last of  T. S. Eliot's Four Quartets, the following lines occur:

A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)

The line preceding these is this: "quick now, here, now, always," which is also the third from last line of "Burnt Norton," the first poem in the set. The phrase "quick now" is easy to overlook, almost as if it wanted to be like the now it refers to,  always on the move,  faster than everything.  Now is like the wind: You can feel it, but all that you can see of it is what it does — trees shaken in a gust, an old man pulling a thin coat tightly around himself to protect against it. Now is so quick, it is never quite ever. No sooner glimpsed than gone.
Whatever the connection between between "here, now, always" and the "condition of complete simplicity," it seems clear  it is the latter that costs "not less than everything."
That is the phrase that unnerves. Simplicity is not something that can be achieved. It can only be assented to by disposing of the baggage that gets in its way. That, I suspect, would be one's self. To attain complete simplicity, which I think is the same as " … to apprehend / The point of intersection of the timeless / With time" mentioned in "The Dry Salvages," the second of the Quartets, requires "a lifetime's death in love, / Ardour and selflessness and self-surrender."

For the season …

… The Grav Menorah - Video. (Hat tip, Eric Mencher.)

Puzzles …

… The Empty Spaces by Sarah Wells | BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog.

The season in poetry …

… First Known When Lost: Christmastide.

Time and tide …

… Anecdotal Evidence: `The Tidal Trickeries of Water'.

Highly recommended …

… Crimes and Detectives, Inc.: "Unforgettable Book Friday" - Critique of Criminal Reason by Michael Gregorio.

Favorites …

… The Best Films of 2014: ‘Boyhood’ and Other Rare Gems - WSJ



I've only seen two of these Birdman and Ida. The latter is great, the former is interesting, very well-acted, but actually rather lightweight.

Victorian wonders …

… Dark Roasted Blend: The Last Victorian Leviathan Steam Ship.

In case you wondered...

Something to think on …


Develop interest in life as you see it; in people, things, literature, music — the world is so rich, simply throbbing with rich treasures, beautiful souls and interesting people. Forget yourself.
— Henry Miller, born on this date in 1891

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Good God …

… It’s a holly jolly feminist minefield.

… We doctors know

a hopeless case if — listen: there's a hell
of a good universe next door; let's go

E. E. Cummings

Christmas in Manhattan …

… Books and fairy tales dominate NYC Christmas – with a few wise words from Confucius | The Book Haven.

Merry Christmas!


Something to think on …

It is necessary to dig deeper, down to the very meaning of the notion of being, and to show that the origin of all being, including that of nature, is determined by the intrinsic meaning of conscious life and not the other way around.
— Emmanuel Levinas, who died on this date in 1995

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

For the season …

… Song without music: Auden’s “For the Time Being: A Christmas Oratorio” | The Book Haven.

Twelfth Night


My final Shakespeare of the year? Twelfth Night. Read it in an afternoon; enjoyed it through and through. Not a perfect comedy, but lighthearted enough, and perfect for the first day of vacation. I always feel refreshed somehow after reading Shakespeare: as if I've returned - however temporarily - to where it all began. Happy holidays to all! --Jesse

Epiphany …

… Bryan Appleyard: A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce | The Sunday Times. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Lower education …

… CUNY newspaper editorial calls for violent protests | New York Post.

Waiting for the story …

… When Falls the Coliseum — Lisa reads Flings by Justin Taylor.

Increasingly little …

… What’s in a Cliché? | Liberty Unbound. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

We see, at the end of 2014, an apparently endless vista of small, dumpy, incoherent yet fanatically talkative figures, men and women who have never read a book or thought that they needed to, graduates (in the main) of elite schools in which social attitudes were the sole text requiring close attention, beneficiaries of a political process in which literacy carries no premium at all.

Posing stones …

… More Mind-Boggling Balanced Stone Sculptures by Michael Grab. (Hat tip, David Tothero.)

Something to think on …

Not a having and a resting, but a growing and becoming, is the character of perfection as culture conceives it.
— Matthew Arnold, born on this date in 1822 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Indeed …

… What America's Protestants Can Learn From Germany's | Spengler.

Further accolades


Congratulations again to my former professor and friend, Ron Rosbottom, on his critically acclaimed study of Paris during the German Occupation. More on When Paris Went Dark here and here. And an interview with NPR here.

Yesterday's post...

...here made me watch this and it's wonderful.


Original Bill Moyers Journal: A Life Together from BillMoyers.com on Vimeo.

Holiday rush …

I have much to do today. So my blogging won't pick up again until later.

Appreciation …

… Peter Geach : Essays in Idleness. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Charting a detour …

… Bruce Charlton's Miscellany: William Arkle - Colin Wilson - William Arkle. The wheel comes full circle. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Favorites …

… David Orr’s 10 Favorite Poetry Books of 2014 - NYTimes.com. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

That Pope! He's telling us we should be Joyful!


Pope Francis has launched a stinging attack on Vatican bureaucrats, denouncing them as "hypocritical" with a "lust for power" and guilty of "careerism and opportunism" and presenting them with a list of 15 spiritual ailments.

The list is here.  Among the ailments:
 12) Having a 'funereal face.' "In reality, theatrical severity and sterile pessimism are often symptoms of fear and insecurity. The apostle must be polite, serene, enthusiastic and happy and transmit joy wherever he goes."
And he's coming to Philadelphia soon!  To visit our own cardinal Chaput, who has already complained the Pope has sowed "confusion" from the "devil."  I wonder if the Pope will remind the Cardinal of Number 6:

6)  "Having 'spiritual Alzheimer's.' "We see it in the people who have forgotten their encounter with the Lord ... in those who depend completely on their here and now, on their passions, whims and manias, in those who build walls around themselves and become enslaved to the idols that they have built with their own hands."

In case you wondered...

Something to think on

Let us beware of irony when making judgements. Of all the dispositions of the mind, irony is the least intelligent.
— Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve, born on this date in 1804

Monday, December 22, 2014

Before The Prisoner …

… Paul Davis On Crime: My name Is Drake, John Drake: A Review Of Patrick McGoohan's Secret Agent AKA Danger Man.

RIP …

… BBC News - Singer Joe Cocker dies aged 70.

Wow …

… Kathy Shaidle, “Dream of the Rood”. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Talk about the terror at the heart of faith.

The view from the pear tree …

… The Jewish Partridge by Judy Bolton-Fasman | BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog.

Death and beards …

… on Essays After Eighty by Donald Hall (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) | On the Seawall: A Literary Website by Ron Slate (GD). (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Once and maybe future poet …

… Five Feet of Fury – Kathy Shaidle – Eve Tushnet: ‘Whenever I tell people they’ve got to read Kathy Shaidle’s 1998 poetry collection…’  (Hat tip, Davd Lull.)



Interesting how a conservative is always described as a "right-winger," which of course carries a sense of disapproval.

James Wood presents...

Something to think on …

I don't say what God is, but a name
That somehow answers us when we are driven
To feel and think how little we have to do
With what we are.
— Edwin Arlington Robinson, born on this date in 1869 

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Hear, hear …

… Rolling Stone editor Will Dana’s failures have cost everyone involved - The Washington Post.

Amanda Bennett was a damn good editor, blessed with actual imagination, and open to new ideas. She is absolutely correct in what she says here. A good many of the commenters, though, seem to have problems when it comes to reading comprehension.

Great Scott …

… Paul Davis On Crime: A Look Back At 'A Christmas Carol' With The Late Great George C. Scott As Scrooge.

FYI …

… Paul Davis On Crime: 10 Things You Might Not Know About 'A Christmas Carol'.

The mystery of faith …

… Pious Anxiety: Flannery O’Connor’s Prayer Journal | Work in Progress. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)
Pronouncements like that one (found all through her essays and letters) suggest that when it came to religious belief she hadn’t searched at all, but had been a firm believer always. The Prayer Journal shows otherwise. It is an uneven, immature, incomplete work, and these qualities contribute to its significance. It establishes that O’Connor’s religious search was desperately sincere, not just an epistolary conceit or a motif for fiction. It shows that from the beginning of her career her search involved what became the two main religious themes of her published writing: the nature of a calling, or vocation, and the question of how religious belief bears on the writing of fiction. And it illustrates how tightly the two themes came to be bound up together, for her and for her readers—so that in her work the credibility of the Catholic point of view depends not so much on argument and propositions as on her ability (as she put it) to “make belief believable,” especially in the character that is Flannery O’Connor herself.

I follow them; you should too...

Submissions sought …

… Call for CNF: Booth | BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog

The ambiguity of faith …

… Updike’s Wager: Brilliance, Doubt, and the Miracle of Existence | Public Discourse. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Inqirer reviews …

… Staff recommendations: Looking for a good book?

Something to think on …

One ought to go too far, in order to know how far one can go. 
— Heinrich Böll, born on this date in 1917

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Hmm …

… BBC - Future - Will religion ever disappear?

It’s impossible to predict the future, but examining what we know about religion – including why it evolved in the first place, and why some people chose to believe in it and others abandon it – can hint at how our relationship with the divine might play out in decades or centuries to come. 
We know why religion evolved? Well:

Understanding this requires a delve into “dual process theory”. This psychological staple states that we have two very basic forms of thought: System 1 and System 2. System 2 evolved relatively recently. It’s the voice in our head – the narrator who never seems to shut up – that enables us to plan and think logically.
This seems to be theory in rather a loose sense, more a hypothesis at best.  And all System 1 seems to amount to is this: If you think the way we think you do, then that explains what you think, which seems a dubious proposition.

The problem here seems to be that the people doing the research themselves have no inner life and can't even imagine what it means to have one. Propositions are to religion what notation is to music. They are a means to an end, not the end itself, the finger pointing at the moon, not the moon. Moreover, the practice of faith is a good deal more harrowing than its cultured despisers imagine.

A genre of death

… Crimes and Detectives, Inc.: The Sublimation and Displacement of Death through The Moonstone (R.I.P.* - 3rd Installment)



As a Catholic, I have been counseled throughout my life to consider death every day, and I pretty faithfully done so. I am perhaps somewhat less fearful of it as a result. But the mystery of it is no less now than it ever was.

Unhand that lady …

… Blaspheming Dorothy Parker � The Dish. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)



I read over that phrase myself, but I see Andrew's point. But I'm always glad to see De Vries get a plug. And you can praise someone without having to put anyone else down.

The Murdoch grip...

Speaking of Molloy …

… Artful words …



… Artful words.

Another smile …

… December, 1964 by Rebecca Gummere | BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog.

Unintended consequences …

… Paul Davis On Crime: From Poisoned Cigars To Exploding Seashells: How Half A Century Of Crackpot CIA Plans To Overthrow Fidel Castro Were Born When JFK Invited James Bond Author Ian Fleming To Dinner.

Balancing is all …

… Zealotry of Guerin: Triamphibiangle (David Birkey), Sonnet #218.

Something to think on …

Before impugning an opponent's motives, even when they legitimately may be impugned, answer his arguments.
— Sidney Hook, born on this date in 1902

Failed state...

...It wasn't the final atrocity
First, let’s openly admit that the killers are not outsiders or infidels. Instead, they are fighting a war for the reason Boko Haram fights in Nigeria, IS in Iraq and Syria, Al Shabab in Kenya, etc. The men who slaughtered our children are fighting for a dream — to destroy Pakistan as a Muslim state and recreate it as an Islamic state. This is why they also attack airports and shoot at PIA planes. They see these as necessary steps towards their utopia.

In Boston, Delhi, and others...

Friday, December 19, 2014

Samuel Beckett


Let me begin with an admission: I didn't follow any of Samuel Beckett's Molloy. Not a word. 

OK, some of it - maybe. But by and large, I was lost. Or I think I was. I found Molloy impenetrable, and the few sections of the novel I did follow were so disjointed, so opaque that I had trouble orienting them within the context of Moran's quest for the book's namesake.  

For me, Molloy remains an enigma: both as a work of art - and as a character. Ultimately, I read Becket's book as a mediation on death. The first half of Molloy represented, for me, the slow slog toward a state of inaction, of palliative decline. Meanwhile, the second half, dominated by Moran's search for Molloy, amounted to a meditation on death itself: here was Beckett evaluating, and re-evaluating, his own mortality, wrapped up as it is with Molloy's. 

"The news was bad," writes Beckett toward the end of the book, "but it might have been worse." Which, I suppose, is true. But this is a pretty bleak novel, and what light does shine through, is couched in uncertainty: as if the conclusions Beckett draws regarding death are themselves subject to study, to evaluation. In this way, Molloy seems to be a book in search of certainty - which is something, ironically, only death can guarantee. 

Tracking down bad guys …

Paul Davis On Crime: Hunting The Worst-Of-The-Worst Criminals: My Q & A With Mike Earp, Former Associate Director, U.S.Marshals Service, And Author Of 'U.S. Marshals: Inside America's Most Storied Law Enforcement Agency.

Hmm …

I recently came upon a peculiar quote: "Most people do not understand the word god is not the name of anything other than a concept, an idea in people’s minds." The quote was attributed to one Thomas Vernon, described as a professor emeritus of philosophy, as quoted by someone called Newton Joseph, Ph.D, in something called “It Is the Way You Think” (March 8, 2002). 
What is peculiar about it is that it seems to imply that a concept has no bearing on reality, which I doubt the professor really believes. Even something as abstract as justice corresponds to some actual  state of being. And the notion of bird does indeed correspond to a good many creatures so classified.

Lower education …

Bargains …

… NYRB Classics 2014 Holiday Sale.

In case you wondered …

… How I Read by Tim Parks | NYRblog | The New York Review of Books. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Tempo and more …

… John Baker's Blog — The Rhythm of Language.

A certain smile …

… Smile for Santa by Emma Kate Tsai | BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog.

Together at last …

… The TLS blog: Shakespeare, sex and scholarship.

Adventures in language …

… Tok Pisin | The Dabbler.

Not making it …

… AttackingtheDemi-Puppets: What’s Wrong with this Picture?

Favorites …

… Musicians Are Hip to These Christmas Songs - WSJ. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

In praise of De Vries …

… The Millions : A Year in Reading: William Giraldi. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)



If faith means, as John Henry Newman said it did, being capable of bearing doubt, De Vries is more of a religious writer than most. Faith, as I have experienced, is a lifelong agon.
Life is neither ugly nor beautiful, but it's original!
— Italo Svevo, born on this date in 1861

Thursday, December 18, 2014

A lovely bit of Handel …

… Paul Davis On Crime: A Little Night Music: 'Sarabande' From The Film 'Barry Lyndon'.

FYI …

… Wigilia, or, how to have a Polish Christmas | The Book Haven.

Funny foreigners …

… Slang Begins at Calais – 2. Holland | The Dabbler.

Human, all-too-human …

… Bryan Appleyard � Blog Archive � What Can’t Be Found on the Internet. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

You need to be a rounded human being to make sense of the internet. Anybody else is liable to lose contact with reality or go completely mad, which is why online is not necessarily safe for children until they have acquired the basics of judgment and reason.

And the winner is …

… Indiana Review 2015 Nonfiction Prize | BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog.

Good question …

… What Is the Point of Academic Books? - Pacific Standard: The Science of Society. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)



They would seem to be the ideAl candidates for electronic publication, especially from an ecological standpoint. The exceptions would be those that might have some appeal outside the academy.

Real-time reading …

… Crimes and Detectives, Inc.: R.I.P.* - The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins.



Writing about what you're reading while you're reading it seems a good idea.

Punctuated successes...

Poetry and life, again …

… First Known When Lost: How To Live, Part Twenty-Four: "Quiet Sympathies With Things That Hold An Inarticulate Language".

Poetry and life …

… Anecdotal Evidence: `1,025,000 Words in His Brain'.

Happy memorability …

… Bruce Charlton's Miscellany: Homes of famous writers - RW Emerson and CS Lewis - and the best reason for a pilgrimage to experience them. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)



I made my pilgrimage to Emerson's home quite a few years ago. I know there are plenty of people who disparage the Sage of Concord, but I remain an admirer. Reading "Self-Reliance" one cold, clear day in February had a lasting effect on me, one for which I remain grateful.

A matter of life, death, and meaning …

Essay Daily: Take One Daily and Call Me Every Morning: 12/18: Eva Saulitis on The Art of the Personal (Cancer) Essay. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Despite what we’re taught in workshops, the best personal essays are, on some level, our “entire existence crammed” into a limited number of pages.  Not in terms of content, but it terms of voice and force, the layers of thinking, writing and living one has accumulated.  (It strikes me that, experiencing a diagnosis of mortal illness, or perhaps I should say, the moment just after, one’s entire existence is crammed into, hones down to, one life-altering intake of breath).  Everything we are, have been, everything we’ve experienced, comes to bear upon the current writing problem, doesn’t it?  And each new essay builds upon it, like a process of geological deposition.  As Wiman puts it, that first essay he published, though addressing multiple levels of experience, demanded another essay, and then another, and eventually a collection of essays, and a collection of poems, and a completely new direction for his writing and his life.

Something to think on …

Those that embrace the entire universe with love, for the most part love nothing, but their narrow selves.
— Johann Gottfried Herder, who died on this date in 1803

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Good for him …

… Santa Comes to Jewish Christmas by Clarinda Harriss | BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog.

Young man of letters …

… Literary Lights | Standpoint. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Great site …

… even if you're not Catholic: Catholic Education Resource Center: Literature. (Hat tip, RT.

Hmm …

… Climate change: Beavers boost emissions with 800 million kg of methane every year.



Well, how much methane are they estimated to have released into the atmosphere back in the days before they were at all endangered, and what effect on climate did that have? Seems to me a baseless attack on hard-working, self-employed rodents.

The man to kill...

Local treasures...

RIP

Norman Bridwell, Creator of ‘Clifford the Big Red Dog’ Books, Dies at 86
 ...The books, which have been translated into 13 languages, have sold more than 129 million copies, according to Scholastic, and have inspired an animated television series and a full-length animated film.

Really good news …

… New translation of Zorba the Greek . (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Illusory stability …

… Nassim Nicholas Taleb and Gregory F. Treverton | How to Predict State Failure | Foreign Affairs. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

… Syria’s biggest vulnerability was that it had no recent record of recovering from turmoil. Countries that have survived past bouts of chaos tend to be vaccinated against future ones. Thus, the best indicator of a country’s future stability is not past stability but moderate volatility in the relatively recent past. As one of us, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, wrote in the 2007 book The Black Swan, “Dictatorships that do not appear volatile, like, say, Syria or Saudi Arabia, face a larger risk of chaos than, say, Italy, as the latter has been in a state of continual political turmoil since the second [world] war.” 


Something to think on …

If Christ is risen, nothing else matters. And if Christ is not—nothing else matters.
— Jaroslav Pelikan, born on this date in 1923

Making a fool of oneself …

… Op-Ed: Delaying Exams Is Not a Request from 'Coddled Millennials' | National Law Journal.

Given the admitted hypersensitivity of the author, one wonders what sort of state he is in now. Hard to say which is weirder, that it was written or that it was published.

Let the sprouts be themselves...

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

In the line of duty...

RIP …

In Memoriam: John Howard Wilson — University of Leicester. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Late bloomer …

Kirk Douglas, a poet at 98, gets personal | Culture | Jewish Journal. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Here comes another...

Heavyweight matchup …

… Maverick Philosopher: Buber Contra Buddhism.

Familiar but extraordinary …

… Crime Fiction Dossier: Book Review: "Suspicion" by Joseph Finder.

Taxonomy …

The Two Languages of Libertarians | askblog. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)



I feel certain of very little, so I guess I'm a bargainer.

Anniversary …

… Fifty Years Ago This Month, John Coltrane Recorded One of the Greatest Jazz Tracks of All Time | At the Smithsonian | Smithsonian. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Favorites …

… The Guest List: 2014 | Virtual Memories. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Holiday essay …

… Boyband Star by Tyler Gillespie | BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog.

In case you wondered …

… How You Know. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Hilbert had no patience with mathematical lectures which filled the students with facts but did not teach them how to frame a problem and solve it. He often used to tell them that "a perfect formulation of a problem is already half its solution."
Krishnamurti always said that the solution to a problem is contained within the structure of the problem.

Something to think on …

Work is much more fun than fun.
— Noël Coward, born on this date in 1899

From the newsroom....

Monday, December 15, 2014

The day's not over yet …

… so there's still time to enjoy a literary tisane: Reading the tea leaves – literature's best brews | Books | The Guardian. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Haiku …


For a moment she
Broke free, catching the houseplant's
Shadow on the wall.

Don't forget, Christians can be Humanists too!

The Case for Christian Humanism frrom Theos Think Tank:
The authors argue that the Christian faith provides a much firmer foundation for humanist beliefs than evolutionary atheism. Taking their cue from the authoritative definition of humanism by the International Humanist and Ethical Union, they argue that a commitment to reliable rationality, to moral realism and to human dignity can only be secured on a theistic basis. Ultimately, atheism saws through the branch on which humanism sits. Just as the price of freedom is eternal vigilance, so the price of humanism is philosophical rigour. The Case for Christian Humanism
 More here from the Guardian:
Early cosmologists looked into the sky for clues to the whereabouts of God, but, incomprehensibly to them, the stars led towards a random shed on the back streets of a small town in the Middle East. From then on, think of God, think of a crying infant. Not a superhuman force, not even a human being enhanced by superhero-like powers, but a gurgling, pink and fleshy homo sapiens. It is the ultimate humanist narrative.

Advice From The Masters...

Maria Popova from Brain Pickings:  
By popular demand, I’ve put together a periodically updated reading list of all the famous advice on writing presented here over the years

The wisdom that comes from experience …

Worth assigning …

Not surprisingly, given that I am a retired book review editor, I get to hear about and see a lot of books their authors or publishers would like to have reviewed. A good many of them seem worth a closer look, but I'm only one guy. Of course, when I was a book editor, I would have simply assigned them for review.
Well, the thought recently occurred to me that I could at least bring such books some attention by mentioning them here as books I would assign were I still in the business of assigning books for review. So this is the first of such posts.
Repeat Offenders is a collection of columns by Bill Bonvie. The columns have appeared in various publications around the country — including The Inquirer, The Oregonian, and The Record of Bergen County, to name just a few.
Now, the way I would go about deciding whether to review a book back in the day when I was doing that was quite simple: I'd flip through the pages and read a bit here and there to see if the writing was interesting. If it was, I'd read a bit more — in this case, a column or three.
Having done precisely that with Repeat Offenders, I can report that, back in the day, I would have assigned it for review.
Bonvie has an engaging style and a distinctly quirky outlook. His idea that, instead of having Presidential primaries, we put the candidates on trial — have them "appear in court for a thorough assessment of their competency and the various charges brought against them by their rivals" — struck me as being well worth consideration. His piece about a woman who was charged and convicted of a misdemeanor for putting change into expired parking meters offers further proof, if any was needed, that law enforcement in this country is often inane. And who knew that some people don't want a lawyer moving in next door?
I didn't read enough to gauge Bonvie's ideological predilections, presuming he has any, but judging by what I did read, his stuff is better than most of the columns you are likely to come across these days.

Submission sought …

… Creative Nonfiction Calls | BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog.

Some interesting questions

… Beyond Eastrod: Help! Did I overlook God somewhere (again) in literature? (Reconsidering nature, superstition, and God in "Bezhin Prairie").



I haven't read the story, but my guess is that the hunter is the sort of sophisticate for whom God is mostly a fairy tale — a typical liberal aristocrat of his day. As for stories in which God figures, I'd have to think about that.

Text and image …

… Leanne Shapton: The Character Artist | The Comics Journal. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Haiku …


Brown leaves and branches
Against a cloudless blue sky
A blend of seasons

And indeed they have …

… Anecdotal Evidence: `Other Debasements Will Follow'.

Hmm …

 Afrocentric Muslimah: Muslim Guilt > Catholic Guilt.

FYI …


NORTH PHILADELPHIA BOOK LAUNCH AT THE PRINT CENTER - 1614 Latimer Street, Philadelphia, PA - Tuesday, December 16, 6PM
Dear Friends, Greetings!
On Tuesday, December 16th at 6pm, The Print Center will be hosting a  a book launch and signing for my new book North Philadelphia.
The book, published by Kehrer Verlag, offers a glimpse into an urban area that is emblematic of many such regions throughout the United States, hovering between decay and possibility.  Made between 2008 and 2013, North Philadelphia combines images of dilapidated homes, vacant lots, and street corners with portraits of the neighborhood’s residents to present a multifaceted look at the landscape and people of North Philadelphia.



The book was recently reviewed by Adam Bell in Photo-eye: "Daniel Traub's North Philadelphia is not only a portrait of this often misunderstood neighborhood, but it is also a deeply personal exploration of a community Traub has long known and loved. . . .Traub does not mask the difficulties of the area, but the work is not without hope or dignity. . . .formally beautiful and elegantly conceived."
Additional information and reviews of the book can be found on my website: danieltraub.net
I look forward to seeing you. Thank you and all the best for the holidays!
Daniel

NORTH PHILADELPHIA BOOK LAUNCH AND SIGNING WITH DANIEL TRAUB
Tuesday, December 16, 20146:00 pm, Admission is FREE
The Print Center, 1614 Latimer Street, Philadelphia, PA

Your name, sir?

… Leone Sextus Tollemache | The Dabbler.

The need for repose …

 On Idleness | The Dabbler.

And the winners are …

… Digital Public Library of America � Blog Archive � GIF IT UP Winners Announced. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Something to think on …

You ask: what is the meaning or purpose of life? I can only answer with another question: do you think we are wise enough to read God's mind?
— Freeman Dyson, born on this date in 1923

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The storyteller and doctors …

The strange case of Robert Louis Stevenson - Telegraph. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

My thoughts exactly...

...when it comes to Washington, D.C.

Heartrending...

Run that by me again …

When reporters value ‘justice’ over accuracy, journalism loses - Opinion - The Boston Globe.

Or maybe this is what happens when newsrooms and journalism schools decide, like Jorge Ramos, that although they have “nothing against objectivity,” their real aspiration is to use journalism “as a weapon for a higher purpose.” Somehow it didn’t come as a shock to learn that when Dana was invited to lecture at Middlebury College in 2006, his speech was titled: “A Defense of Biased Reporting.”
Ramos and Dana should no longer be taken seriously. Someone should also explain to Ramos that "justice" means giving to each his due. Justice mandates getting all sides of a story. If these guys want to advocate, there's plenty of ways to do that. Journalism isn't one of them.

Cruel and unusual …

Up to a Point: They Made Me Write About Lena Dunham - The Daily Beast.

Ms. Dunham is 28. I was under the impression that “girls” is a demeaning term for adult women. The title must have something to do with this hipster “Irony” thing, which I confess I don’t understand. The root of the word irony is in the Greek eironeia, “liar.”

Mark thy calendar

… Celebrate Short Fiction Day.

It depends …

… First Known When Lost: Silences.



Some poets read their work quite well, and I think poets should always keep the speaking voice in mind. Kenneth Patchen was an excellent reader of his poetry. E.E. Cummings was eccentric, but very interesting. Larkin himself is worth hearing:



A Christmas story …

… "You'll have to find somewhere else to sleep".

Elementary …

 A Way We Have at the ’Varsity (Holmes Parody) | Bill Peschel.

Remembering Ross Macdonald …

… Beyond Eastrod: 13 December 1915 - another good mystery writer arrives on the scene.

The times they are a-changin' …

… AttackingtheDemi-Puppets: An Economic Model.

Internal struggle …

 Anecdotal Evidence: `They Were Still Assailing Him'.

Elemental music …

… Dragoncave: Letter to Orphée.