Saturday, December 31, 2016

Friday, December 30, 2016

Building New Things...



A seminal work indeed …

… Colm Tóibín​​: James Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist​, 100 years on​ | Books | The Guardian. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

 I was lucky in my Catholic education. The Religious of the Sacred Heart did not allow corporal punishment.

One master on another …

… Jazz Profiles: George Shearing on Erroll Garner. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Or so they say …

… The Most Important Books of the Last Twenty Years | Literary Hub. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Of the top three, I've read only The Road, which I thought was awful.

Poetry and the silver screen …

… “Paterson” and “Neruda” - The New Yorker. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Something to think on …

Against a stupidity that is in fashion, no wisdom compensates.
— Theodor Fontane, born on this date in 1819

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Just so you know …

Don’t make fun of renowned Dan Brown.

Intimate lessons …

… Music Education on the Go - WSJ. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Remembering Debbie Reynolds …

Much in what he says …

… Isolationism is a noble American tradition. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

As a North Carolinian remarked of US intervention in the first world war in Thomas Wolfe’s novel Look Homeward, Angel (1929), ‘It’s not our fight. I don’t want to send my boys three thousand miles across the sea to get shot for those foreigners. If they come over here, I’ll shoulder a gun with the best of them, but until they do they can fight it out among themselves.’
‘Why are we over there?’ is the question asked around the dinner tables of working-class and rural families — the Deplorables whose sons (and now daughters) are vastly overrepresented in the US armed forces. No one at elite levels bothers answering them: the exigencies of empire are not fit subjects for the hoi polloi. Go back to your lottery tickets and stock-car races!

Updike in song …

(Hat tip, David Schreiber.)

Hmm …

… Oh, Sancho: The Ongoing Ride of Don Quixote in American Politics - Los Angeles Review of Books. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)



The problem, it seems to me, is essentialism — seeing things in terms of categories, pigeon-holing reality (quixotism being this author's contribution). The antidote is phenomenology — describing things in all their inconsistency and contradiction.
Our most recent presidential election provided a rich vein of both — inconsistency and contradiction — on both sides. The passionate intensity these evoked only made things seem more bizarre. Those of us inclined to cast a cold eye on politics and politicians could only roll our eyes. 

For the defense …

… The Lies, Libel, and Deceit of Molly McArdle: Rebuttal to a Hatchet Job, a Personal Reckoning with What I Actually Did, and an Exposé of Literary McCarthyism | Reluctant Habits.



I have responded to each claim by paragraph number. I do not want to give Brooklyn Magazine any traffic, but the curious can download a copy of the article here.
I have done my best to be as complete as possible and have tried to mitigate against any subjective views by sticking with the facts. I have, however, offered a few personal asides in some cases, in an effort to point out how one’s own shame and guilt is often unseen as the crowd cries loud for retribution. Since I am defending myself, I am sure that my defense will be called into question anyway. And it should. The only way we learn anything in life is through constant challenge. But if there are any mistakes, I will correct this article and hold myself fully to the fire.

Perfectly phrased …

… Paul Davis On Crime: Top 10 Slangy Crime Novels: As Well As Masterful Exercises In Suspense And Social Realism, The Best Fiction In This Genre Is Also A Rich Repository Of Slang.

Hear, hear …

… How Brexit gave us a different class of snob. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The losing half the population regarded the winning half with pity and, more often, disdain. This was a class matter: suddenly it was OK to believe that there was something fundamentally wrong with people worse off than you. Snobbery was respectable again; a dangerous development.

Something to think on …

Live your questions now, and perhaps even without knowing it, you will live along some distant day into your answers.
— Rainer Maria Rilke, who died on this date in 1926

FOR A (VERY) LIMITED TIME...

Part 1 of my serial novel NANOCLONING is FREE


Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Two poems …

 ANTHONY CRONIN. FOR A FATHER. SURPRISE. POESÍAS ESCOGIDAS EN INGLÉS. TraducciÓn al espaÑol. | ACADEMIA PARANINFO - INFORMATICA - IDIOMAS - SECRETARIADO - ESPAÑOL. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Anthony Cronin just passed away at age 88.

The light and the dark …

… The Short Story Reader's Digest: Ivan Turgenev's short story: "Bezhin Lea".

Heads I win, Tails you lose...

In a year when populist voters reshaped power and politics across Europe and the U.S., the world’s wealthiest people are ending 2016 with $237 billion more than they had at the start... 
U.S. billionaires -- including Buffett -- favored Trump’s rival Hillary Clinton. Still, they profited from his victory when they added $77 billion to their fortunes in the post-election rally fueled by expectations that regulations would ease and American industry would benefit. 
The New York real estate mogul is building a cabinet heavy on wealth and corporate connections, and light on government experience, a mix that hedge fund billionaire Ray Dalio said last week would unleash the "animal spirits" of capitalism and drive markets even higher. 

FYI …

 No, Jesus was not a “NonWhite” refugee who would have voted for … – Opacity – Medium. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)
… Jesus looked like a typical Mediterranean, that is, just like a Southern European, and quite standard at that, as we will see below. The inhabitants of the cities around the Mediterranean, by his time, were already quite similar in looks, even if they didn’t speak the same languages, and (as today, in many cases) much different from those that reside say, a hundred miles inside. And we know how Western Semites looked like, which is no different from today’s Western Syrians: like Southern Europeans; like generic Roman citizens (although most Jews were technically not citizens at the time of Jesus). Strikingly, Western Syrians (a.k.a. urban Syrians) still look the same today — in my experience they are usually indistinguishable from the Ionian Greeks, Cretans, or Cypriots who are in identity politics called “white”.

The third sphere of reality …

… Was there really a star of Bethlehem? Yes - Philosophy and Life.

In case you wondered …

… What can fiction writers bring to Edward Hopper’s paintings? - The Washington Post. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Something to think on …

It is impossible to trap modern physics into predicting anything with perfect determinism because it deals with probabilities from the outset.
— Arthur Eddington, born on this date in 1882

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

RIP …

… Richard Adams, Whose Novel ‘Watership Down’ Became a Phenomenon, Dies at 96 - The New York Times.

Rediscovery …

… The Fats Waller You’ve Never Heard | City Journal. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Kollmar’s original choice for composer was Ferde Grofé, best known as the orchestrator of George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue,” whose signature compositions were portentous concert suites. But Grofé withdrew, and it is to Kollmar’s credit that he realized that he had a top-rate pop-song composer available in Waller. Waller’s double duty as composer and performer was short-lived. During a cash crisis and in an advanced state of intoxication, Waller threatened to leave the production unless Kollmar bought the rights to his Early to Bed music for $1,000. (This was typical of Waller, who often sold melodies for quick cash when in his cups. The evidence suggests, for example, that the standards “I Can’t Give You Anything but Love” and “On the Sunny Side of the Street” were Waller tunes.) Waller came to his senses the next day, but Kollmar decided that his drinking habits made him too risky a proposition for eight performances a week. From then on, Waller was the show’s composer only, with lyrics by George Marion, whose best-remembered work today is the script for the Astaire-Rogers film The Gay Divorcée.

It's the 1930s all over again …

… Israel urges Jews to leave France as Benajmin Netanyahu continues to lash out after UN vote.

What is wrong with these people …

 and how the hell did they get advanced degrees: 'F**K YOU': Georgetown Prof Loses It On Muslim Trump Voter | The Daily Caller.

RIP …

… Carl Weber is dead at 91. He was Bertolt Brecht’s protégé and brought Germany’s experimental theater to America. | The Book Haven.

RIP …

Heinrich Schiff, Cellist and Conductor, Dies at 65. (Hat tip, David Tothero.)

Poetry in odd places …

… Sunday’s Letters: Poetry for Christmas Day | Jacksonville News, Sports and Entertainment | jacksonville.com. (Hat tip, G.E. Reutter.)

Trafficking in poetry …

… Watch: Truck covered in poetry driver wrote while working - UPI.com. (Hat tip, G.E. Reutter.)

Our town …

… Philly Loves Poetry: Herding the cats of poetry in 2017.

Barrel of laughs …

… How a Drexel prof's Christmas 'wish' stirred a Twitter tempest.



Satire, eh? Good thing thing this guy didn't take up a career in comedy. A joke about genocide?

One of his colleagues says he's an expert on Venezuela — from his comfortable perch in Philly. Love to see him tell a bunch of random Venezuelans how great their government is. Bet that would draw a lot of laughs.

Something to think on …

The most common error made in matters of appearance is the belief that one should disdain the superficial and let the true beauty of one's soul shine through. If there are places on your body where this is a possibility, you are not attractive — you are leaking.
— Charles Lamb, who died on this date in 1834

More Superior weather …

… KBJR 6 - A few surfers took advantage of today's waves on... | Facebook.



Kalli Erickson Manion skates on her Superior driveway.



(Hat tip, Dave Lull — stay warm, Dave.)

An amazing tale …

 Left in trash as a newborn, man reunites with trio who saved him | New York Post.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Quite a sight …

… Wall of Sea Smoke - Perfect Duluth Day. (Hat tip, Dave Lull — who lives in Superior, WI.)

In praise of...

...Long books. Very long books. Take a look.

Together at last …

 The John Updike Society —  Blogger considers Updike, Rabbit and Tolstoy. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Joyeux Noël

Kindred spirits …

… Anecdotal Evidence: `Johnson Was Right'.

RIP …

… George Michael. This is a very nice vocal.

The magic of bygone days …

… ArtsJournal: Daily arts news | Terry Teachout on the arts in New York City.

This fleeting world …

… First Known When Lost: Seasons.

I am an extremely slow learner. Thus, as I begin my daily afternoon walk, I often caution myself: "Look, but don't look for anything." This is a corollary to another important principle: "Don't think." (As I have stated here on more than one occasion: thinking is highly overrated.) Of course, I invariably fail to heed both of these internal admonitions.
Me, too.

Something to think on…

The world is not to be put in order; the world is order, incarnate. It is for us to harmonize with this order.
— Henry Miller, born on this date in 1890

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Lost Languages

Esperanto...from the British Library Blog.

Merry Christmas …

Copious gathering …

… Selected Poems and Prose by Percy Bysshe Shelley review – a landmark edition | Books | The Guardian. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)



Actually, Shelley's atheism and progressivism date him every bit as much as his diction.

Frre throw …

… Translation Tuesday: Poems for Michael Jordan by Francisco Ide Wolleter | Books | The Guardian. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Recommended …

… Günter Grass’s final work and other best poetry collections this month - The Washington Post. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Recommended …

… 5 Poetry Books With A Boston Connection You Should Read | The ARTery. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Christmas story …

… Instapundit — Blog Archive — CHRISTMAS EVE IN SPACE AND COMMUNION ON THE MOON: It happened on Christmas Eve, 48 years ago. 

Love and Christmas …

… Zealotry of Guerin: Ornament, Sonnet #329.

The story of a song …

… The (Christmas) Glow Worm: Steyn's Song of the Week :: SteynOnline. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Something to think on …

For the creation of a masterwork of literature two powers must concur, the power of the man and the power of the moment, and the man is not enough without the moment.
— Matthew Arnold, born on this date in 1822

Link-Fest!

More accumulated links...(and, as always, please remember, we report, you decide)

-  Why are people born with disabilities? Is this a result of sin?

- Awww.  And Awe - Awe Elicits a Desire for Order;  When Awe-Struck, We Feel Both Smaller and Larger (Google link to WSJ for non subscribers)

- Fiction Writing - the Snowflake Method

From polygamy to incest, confronting the Old Testament’s strange sexual standards

But the Science Was Settled!

Top 10 Retractions of 2016

Friday, December 23, 2016

Public Libraries

Digital solutions to sorting and theft. From the LA Times.

Lament …

… Riddle | The Georgia Review. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

The Christmas Truce...

[T]he Christmas Truce...happened in 1914. After almost six month of war, soldiers fighting for the Entente powers and soldiers fighting for the “Mittelmächte” met in No Man’s Land and celebrated Christmas together.

The soldiers exchanged gifts, sometimes addresses, and drank together. Often the truce started with a request to bury the dead comrades lying between the trenches




Hmm …

… Maverick Philosopher: Unusual Experiences and the Problem of Overbelief and Underbelief. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

 I don't see any particular reason for going beyond the experience or to base any belief upon it. The experience happened. Take it as a reminder that "there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy." The calm descended, the love was felt.

Something to think on …

We make the path by walking.
— Robert Bly, born on this date in 1926

The grace of touch …

… Their Pleas by Kelly Cherry | Poetry Magazine. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

The burden of the season …

… Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s famous poem "Christmas Bells" has a sadness to it, but there's always hope, too | The Telegraph. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden,)

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Modiano as Musician

A recent piece from Harper's:

"Since the flurry of attention that followed his Nobel win, Modiano has rarely spoken to the press, and the interviews he does grant are hardly informative. On camera Modiano appears hesitant and shy; he stammers, waves his long arms, and trails off midsentence. So I was intrigued when I learned that as a young man, Modiano wrote song lyrics, some of which were recorded by Francoise Hardy and other stars of the Sixties. I was surprised by the pop ambitions of a future laureate, and it occurred to me that Modiano’s musical collaborators might prove a more fruitful way to access this elusive writer than traditional lines of inquiry."

Interview …

… Paul Davis On Crime: The FBI's First Lady: My Q&A With Jan Fedarcyk, Former Assistant Director In Charge Of The FBI's New York Office And Author of 'Fidelity'.

See also: Spies, Crooks, Terrorists And Jan Fedarcyk, The FBI's First Lady.

Listen in …

… Episode 198 – Ed Ward | Virtual Memories.

“There’s a large narrative in this book: the popular music tradition of A&R, where songs were given to artists to record, was on its way out.”

For the season …

 Our Nights Before Christmas | BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog.

Cause for concern …

… Will our love affair with robots land us in the Natural History Museum? (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Driverless cars may turn out to be a less subtle, more spectacular example. The UK has permitted road testing, as have many American states. All the big car-makers and some big tech companies have plans to get us away from the steering wheel within the next few years. The arguments in favour are potent — greater safety, less congestion, freedom for the young, the elderly and the disabled. The arguments against are threadbare in comparison — loss of pleasure and control and a certain queasy sense that something is wrong here.

Quite a list …

 My Year of Reading: 2016 | Time's Flow Stemmed. (Hat tip, Virginia Kerr.)

Words to think about...



Hmm …

… The Novel as a Tool for Survival - The Chronicle of Higher Education. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Fiction, at its best, is phenomenological— accurately and precisely portraying things as they are. It is not tendentious.

Measuring consciousness?

What is consciousness? For centuries, philosophers, scientists, and writers have pondered the question. The concept or even the word itself is difficult to define, and because of this it is one of the most difficult subjects to study scientifically.One of the most common interpretations of consciousness is awareness or alertness, but even this is closely intertwined with other facets of consciousness such as self-awareness. While the metaphysical answer remains elusive, a group of psychologists from France has taken a slightly different approach -- is it possible to measure consciousness without completely understanding it?

Poor Dawkins - Even his science is questioned

Thanks, but no thanks, say British scientists about controversial British evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, primarily known for his criticism of religion.

Something to think on …

The basic line in any good verse is cadenced... building it around the natural breath structures of speech.
— Kenneth Rexroth, born on this date in 1905

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

In case you wondered …

What the Media Elite Think You Should Read over the Holidays | Vanity Fair. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Life and comics …

 Called It | Scott Adams' Blog. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Looking for the stories …

Fiction Inspired by Edward Hopper | Literary Hub. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

For the season …

… Cli-Fi.Net -- (the world's largest online 'Cli-Fi' portal for Cli-Fi, a subgenre of sci-fi): "The Year There Was No Christmas" - a children's story poem by an American expat living in Venezuela in late 2016, BUT WITH A HAPPY ENDING, READ IT NOW HERE VIA LINK -- PASS IT ON, NO COPYRIGHT!

Eyes being opened …

… Tuesday History: When a poet discovers the segregated South | Mountain Xpress. (Hat tip, G.E. Reutter.)

Sad news …

… Masters of Mystery: Confusion, discomfort, depression, and memory problems lead to an irreversible decision.

Good question …

… Have Public Intellectuals Ever Gotten Anything Right? - WSJ. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Something to think on …

People think that because a novel's invented, it isn't true. Exactly the reverse is the case. Biography and memoirs can never be wholly true, since they cannot include every conceivable circumstance of what happened. The novel can do that.
— Anthony Powell, born on this date in 1905

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Appeal …

… Bring More Poetry to Michigan City by Michele McDannold - GoFundMe.

Haiku …

… 'For Your Thoughts' by Nyla Matuk - Berfrois. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

A twofer …



See also: 'Krazy': Great comic, great kat, great American life

A payoff for complication …

… A Review of Joel Peckham’s Body Memory | BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog.

Listen in…

… HLC-098 Electoral College Podcast - Harvard Lunch Club Podcast.

Information sought …

… Photo: Marching To St. Vith.

Recommended …

… The Year’s Most Essential Jazz Reissue - The New Yorker. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Seasonal treat …

… Masters of Mystery: Spirit of Steamboat: A Walt Longmire Story by Craig Johnson.

Hmm …

… Newspapers Deliver Across the Ages. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)



Well, these figures indicate that 54 percent of print readers are over the age of 50. Throw in the Gen-Xers and 75 percent are over the age of 35. These would be the demographics newspapers would focus on if those managing them had any business sense. But no, they think that by writing about stuff they think appeals to the other 20 percent they will get their business and the advertisers who cater to them. In the meantime, they take their actual customer base for granted.

Breaking out of isolation …

… Siri Hustvedt on the Tangled Gender Roles in Science and Literature. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

 For many years, I have found myself awed by how difficult it can be for people in the sciences to have a productive dialogue with people in the arts and the humanities and vice versa. It is as if they have no common language. Specialization has long been with us, but since the Second World War, disciplinary isolation has only become more acute. There are many reasons for this tunnel vision, but I firmly believe that it has hurt our cultural discourse as a whole. 

Cool …

… Jazz Profiles: Christmas Time Is Here for Charlie, Vince and Ralph. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Straight up …

A No-Nonsense Machiavelli. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Something to think on …

It has always seemed to me that if you could talk about your work in fully-formed phrases, you wouldn't write it. The writing is the statement, you see, and it seems to me that the poem or the story or the novel you write is the kind of metaphor you cast on life.
— Hortense Calisher, born on this date in 1899

Picturing a Sinner's Remorse...





-










Monday, December 19, 2016

Choices …

… The most ambitious, irritating, hopeful and overrated books of 2016 — and the best one, too - The Washington Post. (Hat tip, Virginia Kerr.)

FYI …

… Flannery O'Connor: Sacred Objects: Alternate blog address for mystery fiction.

FYI …

… Oliver Bendorf, “Queer Facts About Vegetables” – howapoemmoves.

Who knew?

… Did John Updike Foresee the Trump Era? | The American Conservative. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Although Rabbit supported Humphrey in 1968, he later has a “Reagan Democrat” conversion, voting for George H.W. Bush in the final novel. If anything, he’s the fictional embodiment of a political prototype, a cross-party coalition infuriated by the loss of what communities like Brewer once symbolized: economic prosperity and a shot at a stable middle-class American life. The Rabbit novels could serve as the fictional companion to any social-policy book by Charles Murray. The realism of Updike’s characters and plot lines is a tribute to Updike’s understanding of this durable voting bloc, one that determined Hillary Clinton’s fate.

The future unleashed...

And the winners are …

 2016 October : IBPC.

The Judge's Page.

(Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Back story …

… Paul Davis On Crime: James Jones: The Thin Red Line Between Fact And Fiction.

Something to think on…

I have dreamed in my life, dreams that have stayed with me ever after, and changed my ideas; they have gone through and through me, like wine through water, and altered the color of my mind.
— Emily Brontë, who died on this date in 1848

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Hmm …

… Noam Chomsky and Tom Wolfe are Both Right and Both Wrong > New English Review. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

NYTimes Public Editor on more humility at the NYTimes

The Washington Post, is quite diverse, but its leadership is heavily white and male. At The Times, on the other hand, people of color seem shut out of all sorts of coveted jobs: the top digital strategists, the top managers, the precious ranks of cultural critics, the White House press corps, the opinion columnists, the national politics jobs — all are overwhelmingly white. 

Great waves …

… This Is What A Great Lake Looks Like After All The Vacationers Are Gone.

Doubling experience …

… Book review of Helen Garner's Everywhere I Look | Open Letters Monthly - an Arts and Literature Review.

FYI …

 Peeling the Onion of Author Publicity | Bill Peschel.

Serving the narrative …

… Summary Judgment | BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog.

Belated post …

… Happy birthday to Jane Austen, “the most unlearned and uninformed female who ever dared to be an authoress.” | The Book Haven.

Trio …

… Poetry Sunday: Three Poems from "Walking in on People," by Melissa Balmain | Women's Voices For Change. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Inquirer reviews …

… 'Boathouse Row': Glorious tale of a Philadelphia landmark.

… 'Krazy': Great comic, great kat, great American life.

 'Napoleon's Last Island': Great subject, but hard to wade through.

Something to think on …

Comedy is an escape, not from truth but from despair; a narrow escape into faith.
— Christopher Fry, born on this date in 1907

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Q&A …

… CultureCrash | On Stage with the Marx Bros. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Death, be not proud...

A hard job …

… A poetry publisher on the math of rejection | PBS NewsHour. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Hmm …

… The Music of the Future | Future Symphony Institute. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

A radical break seems to have occurred, with two consequences that the listening public find difficult to absorb: first, modern works of music tend to be self-consciously part of an avant-garde, never content to belong to the tradition but always overtly and ostentatiously defying it; second, these works seem to be melodically impoverished, and even without melody entirely, relying on sound effects and acoustical experiments to fill the void where melody should be.
Much contemporary music is designed to disguise the fact that the composer has no gift for melody. I have heard plenty of contemporary works that are not atonal, or even very dissonant, but that have no theme and no melody, but are simply arrangements of  sound effects. When I first heard, years ago, Boulez's "La complainte du lézard amoureux," I rather liked it, though it seemed to be a kind of exaggerated Debussy. But while, to paraphrase Beecham, it penetrated the ear with facility, it left the memory with little difficulty — unlike, say Esa Pekka Salonen's violin concerto, which grabbed me right from the start.

Art and life …

 Zealotry of Guerin: Las Meninas (Diego Velásquez), Sonnet #328.

Something to think on …

Experiences aren't given to us to be 'got over,' otherwise they would hardly be experiences.
— Penelope Fitzgerald, born on this date in 1916

Friday, December 16, 2016

Tadeusz Różewicz


It's not often that I sit down to read a collection of poetry, but after having found the clipping I'd saved from Tadeusz Różewicz's obituary in the New York Times, I ordered a volume of his collected poems, published in the States as Sobbing Superpower

I'm no expert on poetry, nor am I its greatest champion. That said, there was something about Różewicz's work that resonated, that I found both approachable and lasting. And more: I found his poetry without pretense, without that aggravating opacity I so often encounter in contemporary poetry. 

For me, the most memorable aspects of Różewicz's volume include:
  • His sensitivity to Polish history, and to the centrality of Poland as a geographical space
  • His recognition of what was lost, especially during the Second World War; Różewicz doesn't shy away from the brutality and hurt; he looks it square in the eye -- and the effect is haunting
  • His reach, his intellectual span; Różewicz writes about Kafka as he does Ezra Pound; the result is poetry that is at once illuminating and unexpected 
  • His simplicity; Różewicz does not obfuscate; instead, he casts a unyielding gaze; here again the result is illumination, but it is also unsettling; the Second World War is laid bare in these poems, its victims mourned and remembered
The last word is for Różewicz:

"No one remembers anymore //
The weight of a human tear"


Haiku …


Brown leaves on brown ground.
Branches bare, the park empty.
Winter's on its way.

Conversation …

… An Interview with Martin Scorsese | Commonweal Magazine. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Appreciation …

… Bob Dylan just offered the world a master class in how to accept a Nobel Prize — MobyLives.


Anniversary …

… Happy birthday, Philip K. Dick! — MobyLives. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

72 years ago today …

… the Battle of the Bulge began. It would continue until Jan.25, 1945: Photo: Shermans At St. Vith.

Hmm …

… The Language Wars | The Smart Set. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)



Rules may not be made to be broken, but there are times when they must be. As Jesus said, the law was made for man, not man for the law. But you can't know how to break them — and there are right ways and wrong ways — unless you know them in the first place.

Appreciation …

 Anthony Hecht’s Nobility | The Hudson Review. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)
The book’s title, A Thickness of Particulars, comes from a moment in Hecht’s moving narrative poem “The Transparent Man.” In it a woman of thirty years, dying of leukemia, has pretty much ceased to read (her visitor, a book-lady, has come with a “book-trolley”) and spends much of her time looking out the nursing home’s window, not so much at individual trees but at the “dense, clustered woodland” behind them. She can’t unravel them, find the riddle “beyond the eye’s solution”; and she wonders if there’s an order to the woodland she can’t see and that “set me on to wondering how to deal / With such a thickness of particulars / Deal with it faithfully, you understand, / Without blurring the issue.” Post’s title is a good one for a book that is suffused with the sometimes bewildering particulars of a Hecht poem; it acknowledges the looker’s, or the critic’s, duty to deal with them faithfully, without blurring things.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Not going gentle into that good night …

 Instapundit — OBITUARY OF THE YEAR: Irishman Dies From Stubbornness, Whiskey. “Chris Connors died, at age 67…

Online now …

… Does your data have a purpose? | McKinsey & Company.

Absolutely baffling....

Trump's populist administration: His 17 cabinet-level picks have more money than a third of American households combined

Trial and revelation …

 A grumble and a review | Brandywine Books. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I just bought the Kindle version book that is reviewed.

Honoring the fullness of the past …

… It's a Battlefield | The Weekly Standard. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Over the years, I have published several articles on Pinkerton, in hopes of bringing her metaphysical lyrics to a wider audience. I see now, however, that I have given short shrift to what may be her most lasting contribution to American letters, her five dramatic monologues in blank verse on the subject of the Civil War. These, I believe, will become classics: miniature epics that, like Virgil's Aeneid, draw public history and private tragedy into a poetic whole.
The monologues trace their source to her lifelong study of Melville. She discovered, in the background of the novelist's work, the moral and political questions percolating through the antebellum debate over slavery. Although zealots—abolitionists and "fire eaters"—sought to reduce politics to simple ideology, the greatest men of the age saw that they must steer between evils for the good of the country—often at tragic cost.

In case you wondered …

… Billy Collins On How To Become A Poet, And Why Poetry Can Be A Game : NPR. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Iconoclast …

… Interview: Peter Hitchens | Cherwell.org. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)
Despite a seemingly bottomless store of invective for the political establishment, Hitchens tells me his political activism died in 2010. “I have no further interest in directive politics,” he declares solemnly. “I write the obituary of the country.” I laugh at this. “I’m not joking!” he insists. Is he a pessimist? I ask flippantly. “Of course I am”, he gives a well rehearsed line: “any intelligent person is a pessimist. It’s what keeps them so cheerful.” Part of his dislike of government seems explained by the shoddy caliber of politicians working today: ephemeral detritus passing through a world becoming ever more vulgar and ever more trivial. “Denis Healey was Beach-master at Anzio, for goodness sake, and had seen people die at his left hand and his right hand… Now you get children, emerging from university like baby koalas, going straight into jobs where they actually attain power. It’s shocking.”

Remembering W. C. Fields …

… Burglars singing in the cellar | George Hunka. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Choice reading …

… Joseph Epstein on the history of Rome | Who Read What in 2016 - WSJ.com.



See also: Who Read What in 2016.



(Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

FYI …

… The John Updike Society — Updike letters to be published. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

How one Nobelist survived Harvard …

… What Bob Dylan Learned In Harvard Square | The ARTery. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

We link …

… you decide: It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Treason - Babilu.

Poem and painting …

… Poem of the week: RS Thomas on The Dressmakers by William Roberts | Books | The Guardian. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

History nuggets …

Hello, history mate.

You'll find some good news below about Embattled Freedom, my forthcoming book about the Underground Railroad and "black soldiery." But first, two history nuggets:

"He separated the races." Have you seen the new film Loving? Catch it if you can. It's a graceful treatment of the mixed-race Virginia couple whose lawsuit prompted the U.S. Supreme Court in 1967 to invalidate state bans on interracial marriage. For centuries interracial love had been referred to by the ugly term miscegenation.  Pennsylvania,  the focus of my book, ended its ban on miscegenation back in 1780 -- but throughout the 1800s the state experienced plenty of open fear-mongering over miscegenation by another ugly term of the era: "racial amalgamation." My book covers that. So it resonated when, in the film, we hear this quote from the Virginia trial judge's 1965 opinion: "Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix." At least Earl Warren's Supreme Court had the wisdom to finally sweep this ugliness into the juridical dustbin.

The "untamed" Maroons. A recent article in The New Yorker about current Underground Railroad scholarship made a passing reference to the Maroons. Who again? I must say I was clueless. If you, too, have never heard of the Maroons, you're missing something. They were escaped slaves, many thousands of them across generations since the 1500s, who managed to band together into self-reliant, armed communities in pockets of the South and Caribbean. They often allied with native groups in remote highlands or swamps, and their periodic raids on plantations made them feared and hated by the whites. Could  the old fugitive-slave settlement I researched in Northeastern Pennsylvania could be considered Maroon? Probably not. Although it had a degree of autonomy, and some weaponry as needed, the settlement was quite intermingled with the white village that harbored it. If you're African American or a historian, you already might be familiar with the so-called "untamed" Maroons. For the rest of us, they're one more eye-opening piece of history missing from our education. Fortunately, plenty is available about them on the internet.
Book progress. The editor for Sunbury Press is plowing through my manuscript right now. The webmaster is cooking up prototype pages of the book website. My first author talk is slated for Feb. 21 in Scranton. And with any luck my next newsletter will have info about advance book orders. Meanwhile, feel free to visit my author website, jimremsen.com, for a taste of Embattled Freedom and my previous book, Visions of Teaoga.

Help with holiday shopping …

… from yours truly: Best coffeetable books to give (and receive).

In this corner …

… Paul Davis On Crime: Ian Fleming Vs John Le Carre: Event Report On The Two Giants of Spy Novels.

The Crown...

Something to think on …

The essence of a tragedy, or even of a serious play, is the spiritual awakening, or regeneration, of the hero.
— Maxwell Anderson, born on this date in 1888

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Technology...

...and our literary future

Blogging note …

Once again, I must be out and about  most of the day. I will resume blogging sometime later on.

Centenary …

… Happy 100th Birthday, Shirley Jackson! | Literary Hub. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Nice …

… 'Paterson' director delivers love letter to N.J. city in poet's hometown | NJ.com. (Hat tip, G.E. Reutter.)



I'm looking forward to seeing this film.

The dumber generation …

… Penn Students Remove Shakespeare Portrait, Replace With Lesbian Poet. (Hat tip, G. E. Reutter.)




A year of connversation …

… The Guest List 2016 | Virtual Memories.

In short …

… Metaphors Be with You, by Mardy Grothe > All Aphorisms, All the Time. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Honored …

 Final homecoming for late poet John Montague.

Another high tree felled: Irish poets salute John Montague.

(Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Virtual resurrection …

… A century after his death, a Japanese literary giant is returning as an android – here’s why. (Hat tip, G.E. Reutter.)

Something to think on …

Readers themselves, I think, contribute to a book. They add their own imaginations, and it is as though the writer only gave them something to work on, and they did the rest.
— Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, who died on this date in 1953

RIP …

… Shirley Hazzard, internationally acclaimed Australian author, dies at 85 | Books | The Guardian. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Iris Murdoch


I must admit, now that I've finished it, I'm not sure what to do exactly with Iris Murdoch's Under the Net. The novel started strong -- or strong enough: a memorable stylist wielding an interesting story line. I was hooked.

But whereas I expected something resembling the novels of David Lodge -- fun and full of character -- the sense I had after completing Under the Net was one largely of dissatisfaction: as if Murdoch had been on the right track, only to veer off course, into a fictional realm without consequence. 

No doubt, there's something to Jake Donaghue's story, and to his interactions with his philosophical muse, Hugo Belfounder. And for the first one hundred pages or so, I felt this relationship might result in an interesting meditation on the nature of literary invention. 

But it was just as this point -- when I expected to Murdoch to the turn the corner toward ideas of inspiration and influence -- that the novel moves in a different direction: one involving Jake's love interests, and the extent to which he and Hugo get caught up, however unexpectedly, with the same group of women. 

For me, this just didn't play: I wasn't taken with the comedy of errors, and wasn't very much convinced by the ending either: where Jake discovers some sort of new beginning, where the whole thing comes full circle. 

Ultimately, I wish Murdoch had closed the loop on something else: the nature of influence in the creative process, and the extent to which our lives -- despite our best efforts otherwise -- serve as the foundations for fiction. As Murdoch seems to imply: there can be no other way.