Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Unseen benevolence …

 Fargo: The True Story - Image Journal. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The series is based upon the classic Coen brothers’ film from 1996. I have no idea what the Coen brothers believe, but I put them up against anyone for depicting faith and doubt as it has been understood in the Judeo-Christian tradition. And in Noah Hawley, the creator and writer of the television series, they have found not only a man who appreciates their imaginative universe, but one who has expanded upon it in a consistent way.

And the winners are …

… Winning Poems for 2017 October : IBPC.



The Judge's Page.



(Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Q&A …

… Christian Wiman: Enabling Faith – An Interview | The Englewood Review of Books. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

We’re exhorted all of the time to love God, but I don’t know what that means. How do you love God? If I think of this in the abstract I have no idea how. All of my understanding of love is concrete and human, and so I am at a loss when some preacher just tells me to love God. But when I think of it in the context of Christianity then I see that God is incarnational, that God is in the world and that Christ gave us all sorts of models for how to love and I understand. I understand that there’s no difference between loving God and loving my wife, loving my children, loving my neighbor – that those are the same things and to love God is to love them and that there is not this separate thing called “God.”

Worth considering …

 Readers Picks For The Holidays | North of Oxford.

Come one, come all …

… Crazy Patrons Need Answers, Too — Annoyed Librarian. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Something to think on …

A bone to the dog is not charity. Charity is the bone shared with the dog, when you are just as hungry as the dog.
— Jack London, who died on this date in 1916

Revisiting a piece...

...I wrote three years ago: The little compromises of life

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

 PM quashes bid to make French less macho.

Poetry and life …

 Informal Inquiries : Emily Dickinson on pain's future and past.

Tracking the decline …

… Penn Jillette: Brandeis censored Lenny Bruce.

Brandeis banned this play about Lenny Bruce because students thought it might upset them. Maybe it’s not a good play. Who cares? I don’t have a dog in this fight. I never went to college. I’m not paying for college. College students can choose to spend their money to avoid the risk of being offended. It’s a lot of jingle — family money, scholarships, government loans and personal loans. Maybe they don’t want to pay to be challenged. That’s a lot of debt to carry to be comfortable.

Mostly good …

… Informal Inquiries : 100 Best Catholic Novels.



This is a pretty good list. I do wonder about Cornac McCarthy’s The Road being included. Besides being awful, there’s nothing Catholic about it.

Credit where due …

… Cli-Fi.Net -- the world's largest online 'Cli-Fi' portal for Cli-Fi: SPUNKY KNOWSALOT knows a lot: Bill McKibben's secretly-coded sweet dedication page nod to his wife, the writer and fellow intellectual Sue Halpern, is one for the books.

FYI …

… Your brain does not process information and it is not a computer | Aeon Essays. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The faulty logic of the IP metaphor is easy enough to state. It is based on a faulty syllogism – one with two reasonable premises and a faulty conclusion. Reasonable premise #1: all computers are capable of behaving intelligently. Reasonable premise #2: all computers are information processors. Faulty conclusion: all entities that are capable of behaving intelligently are information processors.

Blogging note …

Much to do today away from my desk. Blogging will resume whenever.

Honoring a mentor …

… Anita Desai: my literary apprenticeship with Ruth Prawer Jhabvala | Books | The Guardian. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

One day she placed in my hands a copy of To Whom She Will, her first novel that had been published in faraway England, an unimaginable distance from Alipur Road, Old Delhi. Holding it, I felt I had touched something barely considered possible – that the scribbling one did in one’s hidden corner of the world could be printed, published and read in the world beyond.

Monday, November 20, 2017

The absent beloved …

 Forgotten Poems #33: "Apart," by Clara Augusta Jones Trask.
Do read the commentary. It is informative and insightful. 

Hmm …

Ottenburg shrugged his shoulders. "A few dull young men who haven't ability enough to play the old game the old way, so they want to put on a new game which doesn't take so much brains and gives away more advertising that's what your anti-saloon league and vice commission amounts to. They provide notoriety for the fellows who can't distinguish themselves at running a business or practicing law or developing an industry. Here you have a mediocre lawyer with no brains and no practice, trying to get a look-in on something. He comes up with the novel proposition that the prostitute has a hard time of it, puts his picture in the paper, and the first thing you know, he's a celebrity. He gets the rake-off and she's just where she was before. How could you fall for a mouse-trap like Pink Alden, Archie?"
Willa Cather, The Song of the Lark

Bad guy …

Taking off …

… Informal Inquiries : Blogging Note, Benjamin Franklin, and Thanksgiving.

Vintage interview …

… Boston College magazine: My Lunch With George. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Staged seduction …

… The McPhee Method - Los Angeles Review of Books. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

…  there has to be the right way in. Any essayist on any subject knows this, and no essayist knows it better than McPhee. Finding a way in means more than having a hook or an angle. Hooks and angles are good, but they won’t take you the whole distance. You need a way of seeing the matter that is expressly your own.

Birthday poem …

… After Making Love in Winter by Sharon Olds | Poetry Magazine. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)



Sharon Olds turned 75 yesterday.

For your listening pleasure …

(Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Honoring faith as lived …

… Superior trolley operator steps toward sainthood | Superior Telegram. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Something to think on …

The ways of Providence cannot be reasoned out by the finite mind ... I cannot fathom them, yet seeking to know them is the most satisfying thing in all the world.
— Selma Lagerlöf, born on this date in 1858

Who would've thought...

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Discovering poetry …

… Figuring It out in the Air: On “The Education of a Young Poet” - Los Angeles Review of Books. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

In short, fragmented chapters that move around in time, Biespiel recounts pivotal experiences in his early life and the lives of some of his ancestors, revisiting the places where he discovered poetry, where the impulse to be a poet and learn the work of poetry occurred.

One reviewer’s choices …

… Best poetry of 2017 - The Washington Post. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Centenary …

… The Legacy of Korean Poet Yun Dong-ju - Editor's Picks - News - NHK WORLD - English. (Hat tip, G. E. Reutter.)

This year marks the 100th anniversary of Yun's birth. He is well known in his home country, and gaining attention in Japan. Last month, a civic group in the city of Uji erected a monument to Yun, whose life was cut short by the political turmoil of the times.

Malign neglect …

 “They Killed Him”: Denial of Medical Care in China and the Literary Conscience - PEN America. (Hat tip, G. E. Reutter.)

Awkward voices …

 Leontia Flynn: Serious about the butts of her jokes. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Life with Mother …

… Mother Land by Paul Theroux review – a phenomenally strange novel | Books | The Guardian. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

“Mother” – she is never named, her family of origin and pre-marital life sketched so lightly as to suggest a wilful, defiant incuriosity – is almost without redeeming features: spiteful, devious, petty, mean, treacherous.

In case you wondered …

… What We Can Learn From Multiple Translations of the Same Poem | Literary Hub. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

A translation may go smoothly for a while, and then come upon a section or line that, for any number of reasons (semantic, syntactic, stylistic, cultural), runs into trouble. The trouble spots are the places where multiple translations are most apt to differ. Looking at them carefully can take us more deeply into the nuances of both the original language and English—and, more generally, challenge our assumptions about how language itself works. More specifically, multiple translations can give us a much better sense of the poem than a single translation can, so that even if we can’t read the poem in the original language, we can come closer to that experience.

Inquirer reviews …

… including one by yours truly.

… 'Hank & Jim': Fonda and Stewart, together and apart.

… Hayden Saunier's 'How to Wear This Body': Gems that deserve rereading.

… Book World:'Orient Express': Knowing the end won't spoil the fun, of either novel or film.

Something to think on …

What is the force and power of the blessings and curses of men, even if these men be such giants as Plato and Aristotle? Does truth become more true because Aristotle blesses it, or does it become error because Plato curses it? Is it given men to judge the truths, to decide the fate of the truths? On the contrary, it is the truths which judge men and decide their fate and not men who rule over the truths. Men, the great as well as the small, are born and die, appear and disappear - but the truth remains. When no one had as yet begun to "think" or to "search," the truths which later revealed themselves to men already existed. And when men will have finally disappeared from the face of the earth, or will have lost the faculty of thinking, the truths will not suffer therefrom. 
— Lev Shestov, who died on this date in 1938

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Even Lenin approved …

… The Prime of New York City | City Journal. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

New York’s history has been so eventful that any 20-year chunk of it would make for an interesting book. But the first two decades of the Consolidation offer particularly rich material, and Wallace covers as much of it as he can. In his introduction, he describes his approach: a series of views from above that move closer and closer to the ground, from a discussion of Wall Street–Washington relations (in which such figures as J.P. Morgan and Elihu Root loom large) to the merger mania that created the trusts (from petroleum to chewing gum) and conglomerates (U.S. Steel, the first billion-dollar corporation). In models of concise summary, he offers swift yet remarkably detailed histories of the city’s investment banks, commercial banks, trust companies, and insurance companies. Wallace is a superb writer: he has the experienced scholar’s sure sense of what to put in and what to leave out, and his prose has almost breathless forward motion, keeping the reader going page after page after page. He zooms in on different levels and aspects of the urban experience: from garbage collection to opera, from zoning (introduced in New York in 1916) to immigration (this is the era of the southern Italian and eastern European Jewish mass migrations). This was also the era of the building of New York’s greatest institutions—universities, museums, and libraries. In a section on the New York Public Library, Wallace quotes Lenin, who, after reading the 1911 annual report of the New York Public Library, wrote in Pravda of his awe at what New York had accomplished: “making these gigantic, boundless libraries available, not to a guild of scholars . . . but to the masses, to the crowd, to the mob! . . . Such is the way things are done in New York.”

Companion volume …

… Informal Inquiries : Ernest Hemingway — and a different direction for reading.

Luckily for us …

… Cli-Fi.Net -- the world's largest online 'Cli-Fi' portal for Cli-Fi: "We all live in the real Anthrocene" --- a novelty song based on melody and lyrics of the Beatles' ''YELLOW SUBMARINE'' (1969), updated to the Anthropocene Age.

I took the lead-in from this poem by D. H. Lawrence.

Well, why not?

… Paul Davis On Crime: Happy 75th Birthday To Martin Scorsese, Director Of 'Goodfellas,' Casino,' and 'Mean Streets'.

Non-stop action …

… Informal Inquiries : Terminal Freeze — my BookLoons review from 2009.

To each his own …

… Derek Mahon: Why I chose the typewriter over the internet. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)



I type better at a computer keyboard. And you can use technology without being possessed by it.

Belated birthday note

… Black Earth by Marianne Moore | Poetry Foundation. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)



Marianne Moore's birthday was this past Wednesday.

RIP …

… Acclaimed Kansas City Poet Michelle Boisseau Dies At 62 | KCUR. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

This just keeps happening …

 Chinese Songwriter Formally Arrested For Song About Late Liu Xiaobo. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

A fan's notes …

… The Harvard professor of Bob Dylan studies: 'My thesis is that he has become Odysseus' | Books | The Guardian. (Ht tip, Dave Lull.)

… Thomas is engaged in a decoding of his own, looking for imagery, biblical allusions in the early days, classical references in his later years, Woody Guthrie breaking into a song like a phantom, Ovid blasting into a love stanza. Other times, unable to fathom a source, Thomas gazes in admiration at the poetry. “Where did the music come from? In the 60s, these incredible lyrics, ‘It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)’. The poetry of them, these lyrics, ‘Mr. Tambourine Man’ – ‘dance beneath the diamond sky, with one hand waving free./ Silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands./ With all memory and fate driven deep beneath the waves’. Where does that come from?”
Where all art does.

Have a look …

 Paul Davis On Crime: The Best Bond: Sean Connery's Top Four James Bond Scenes.

Hmm …

… Year One: Rhetoric & Responsibility | by Marilynne Robinson | NYR Daily | The New York Review of Books. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

To be painfully candid, I consider a great part of what is offered to students as intellectual discourse, at least in the humanities and social sciences, to be a sort of higher twaddle. This so-called learning, most recently “theory,” seems harmless in so far as it has no meaning outside the classroom, or beyond the journals and conferences that sustain it and establish the hierarchy of its practitioners. But it is deeply harmful in that it wastes time and teaches students to think and write badly, to master as they can the terms and assumptions of twaddle. It lifts words from other disciplines and languages, which for its purposes suggests a sort of sophistication that floats above particulars, above the interesting books and cultures that are its putative subject, for example. Reading, writing, and thinking are so closely linked, and learning by means of them is so highly individual, that the intrusion of fashion-driven academic pidgin between the reader and the text is a defeat of the purpose of education. 
Maybe we should stop identifying education with being schooled. Good schools are wonderful. Bad schools are pernicious.

True water bird …

… Zealotry of Guerin: American Pied-Billed Dabchick (Audubon), Sonnet #379.

Something to think on …

The more the poet grows, the deeper the level of creative intuition descends into the density of his soul. Where formerly he could be moved to song, he can do nothing now, he must dig deeper.
— Jacques Maritain, born on this date in 1882

Friday, November 17, 2017

Obsessive learning...

Philadelphia's historic past...

...Not exactly literary, but preservation does have an artistic bent.

Forgotten no more …

 Paul Davis On Crime: Getting Carter And Ted Lewis: The Great British Crime Writer You’ve Never Heard Of.

FYI …

… Books of the Year 2017 | The TLS contributors decide. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Just the fax …

… Seamus Heaney's biographer races to see poet's faxes before they fade | Books | The Guardian.

“My one terror is that his favourite communication mode was the fax, and faxes fade. So I’m going to have to find out who has faxes from him, and read them quickly. At the end, [Heaney’s publisher] Faber had a fax machine that was kept just for Seamus,” said O’Toole. (Hat tip, G.E. Reutter.)

In conclusion …

… The last dog in the world - Guernica. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

The great perhaps …

… Informal Inquiries : Coda on the occasion of death’s stealthy wooing.



One account of Rabelais's last words has him saying, "I go to seek a Great Perhaps."

Chuckles …

… Paul Davis On Crime: 20 Minute Video Of The Best James Bond Jokes, Puns and Witticisms.

In case you wondered …

… Christians & the Death Penalty | Commonweal Magazine. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Let us grant, for argument’s sake, that the death penalty is indeed a just and proportionate response to willful murder. So what? That has never been the issue for Christians, for the simple reason that the Gospel does not admit the authority of proportional justice, as either a private or a public good. The whole of the Sermon on the Mount, for instance, is a shocking subversion of the entire idea. Christ repeatedly and explicitly forbids the application of such punishment, even when (as in the case of the adulterous woman) this means contradicting the explicit commands of the Law of Moses regarding public order and divinely ordained retribution. According to Paul, all who sin stand under a just sentence of death, but that sentence has been rescinded purely out of the unmerited grace of divine mercy. This is because the full wrath of the Law has been exhausted by Christ’s loving surrender to the Cross. Again and again, the New Testament demands of Christians that they exercise limitless forgiveness, no matter how grievous the wrong, even in legal and public settings. And it insists that, for the Christian, mercy always triumphs over judgment. In a very real sense, Christian morality is nothing but the conquest of proportional justice by the disproportion of divine love.
I believe it was Auberon Waugh who pointed out that the best argument against capital punishment is that it is wrong to kill people.

Something to think on …

If you want to study writing, read Dickens. That's how to study writing, or Faulkner, or D.H. Lawrence, or John Keats. They can teach you everything you need to know about writing.
— Shelby Foote, born on this date in 1916

Thursday, November 16, 2017

More about Miss Emily …

 Informal Inquiries : "The Belle of Amherst" (and a personal postscript).

Pushback …

 I’ve been accused of white, male privilege. Here’s my response. - The College Fix.

As a sophomore this year at Chapman University, my critics judge me by the color of my skin, not by the merit of my argument. They have no idea about the hard work I put in to get here, the financial struggles I faced, the sacrifices I’ve made. They don’t know and they don’t care. They see white skin and they decide I should shut up.

Appreciation …

In recent months I’ve been obsessed again with Horgan, with wanting, again, to understand. I’ve read for the first time his burnished recollections of his friend, Igor Stravinisky: “His hands were like exposed roots in winter, all gnarl and frosty fiber.” I’ve read, again, that devastating kitten scene: “I could remember the hot thin supple body of the kitten under its wet fur, and the pitifully small tube of its neck, and the large clever space between its ears at the back, where all its thoughts seemed to come from, and the perfectly blank look on its wide-eyed face as it strove to escape me and the hurt I was possessed of.”
I’ve turned to his craft book, Approaches to Writing, after writing my own—and been epigrammatically put in my place: “How can the negative ever create?” And “We begin to ‘create’ when we see everyone else as ourselves.” And “Originality for its own sake is always dishonest and thus irrelevant.” And “Every act of art is an act of love.”

In her own words …

… The Belle of Amherst | The Point Magazine. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

This is why the Court Theatre’s staging of William Luce’s Belle of Amherst is so remarkably refreshing. The play, which opened in Chicago on November 2nd and is directed by Sean Graney, dedicates just under two hours to Dickinson’s poetic voice. Much of it is fictional, of course, but the script draws upon a rich sampling of the poems and letters, as we listen to Dickinson think and dream and sound out her stanzas. If a one-woman production based on the words and ways of Emily Dickinson sounds a bit staid, you haven’t seen Kate Fry. In between baking rhubarb cupcakes, quoting from the Springfield Republican, and gossiping about her schoolgirl days at Mount Holyoke Female Seminary, Fry recites Dickinson’s own words with unfailing gusto.

Hmm …

… Sins of omission – should Catholic confession always be confidential? | World news | The Guardian. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Odd that no mention is made of conditional absolution. There was a case where such figured when I was in high school. A four-year-old girl was raped and murdered. The person who did it was a high school student. He confessed to one of the priests at his school, who told him he could only give him absolution on condition that he turn himself in, since the sin he had committed was also a crime. The kid asked the priest if he would call the police for him, and the priest did exactly that. The business in this article about someone wanting absolution for something like adultery who has no intention of stopping the adultery sounds very strange to me, since not continuing to commit the sin is what repentance is all about.

FYI …

 The Right to Tell People What They Do Not Want to Hear’ – Lingua Franca - Blogs - The Chronicle of Higher Education. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

 If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear. 
That dictum is highly relevant today. It has no truck with the notion of “safe spaces” where topics are prohibited lest offense be caused to those of a differing persuasion; it opposes not just government censorship but also voluntary segregation into isolated media bubbles; it offers no comfort to the idea of trigger warnings permitting unwelcome subjects to be evaded; it rejects the strategy of keeping unpopular speakers off campus.
All true. Which is why the bad press universities have been getting is not unjustified. The article in the Economist has more to do with the students' views, not the administrators' actions: "University administrators, whose job it is to promote harmony and diversity on campus, often find the easiest way to do so is to placate the intolerant fifth,the article says. Well, not really. Their job is to do the right thing, and tolerating intolerance is not the way to do that.

See also: Unpopular opinions are in danger of extinction – but you can change that.
Yes. she is Evelyn Waugh's granddaughter.

More winners …

… Here Are The 2017 National Book Award Winners. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

And the winner is …

… Tawada wins inaugural Women in Translation Prize | The Bookseller.

Something to think on …

Zen does not confuse spirituality with thinking about God while one is peeling potatoes. Zen spirituality is just to peel the potatoes.
— Alan Watts, who died on this date in 1973

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Charmed and charming …

 BOOK REVIEW: 'A Bientot' by Roger Moore - Washington Times.

Later in the book Mr. Moore laments that the English language has become informal and lazy, but wanting to blend in, he offers his own old folks’ text shorthand:
“ATD — At the doctors. BTW — Bring the wheelchair. BYOT — Bring your own teeth. FWIW — Forgot where I was. IMHO — Is my hearing aid on? GGPBL — Gotta go, pacemaker battery low. ROFLACGU — Rolling on floor laughing and can’t get up. TTYL — Talk to you louder.”

Faith and polity …

 Informal Inquiries : God & Empire -- a book review (and a personal postscript).

Helping the ignorant …

 Hey Millennials: Communism Sucks, I Lived It | Trending.

Not something to look forward to …

… A History of the Future: how writers envisioned tomorrow’s world. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Bowler’s survey is packed with such arresting details, but the frame of reference in which he presents them is superficial and unilluminating. On the whole he represents those who welcome technological advance as optimistic progressives, and those who warn against its human costs as reactionary pessimists. The historical record is more interesting and more paradoxical. Many who have been optimistic about the possibilities opened up by technology have wanted to use it for purposes that would now be recognised as highly regressive; some of the most widely influential among these people have been renowned progressive thinkers. When a cult of technology is joined with fashionable ideas of human improvement, the upshot is very often gruesome inhumanity.

Footwork …

… Counting Feet: On Running and Poetic Meter | Literary Hub. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The strange analogy between running feet and poetic rhythm goes deeper than the mere units that we try to find in poems. The English word “foot” can be traced back to the Latin words pes and ped, and the corresponding Greek words pous and pod (think “podiatry”). Slugs and snails have the taxonomic label of gastropods, “stomach-feet,” because of their strange physiological arrangements.

November Poetry at North of Oxford …

… Poetic Extracts: Study #7 FasterSmarter – Guide to Microsoft® Office FrontPage® by Sean Howard.

 Roll Your-Own Lamb by Joe Dolce.

… Regarding the Shelves by David P. Kozinski.

… The Rhino by Tyrel Kessinger.

Something to think on …

Who makes quick use of the moment is a genius of prudence.
— Johann Kaspar Lavater, born on this date in 1741

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Beautiful …

It is a glorious winter day. Denver, standing on her high plateau under a thrilling green-blue sky, is masked in snow and glittering with sunlight. The Capitol building is actually in armor, and throws off the shafts of the sun until the beholder is dazzled and the outlines of the building are lost in a blaze of reflected light. The stone terrace is a white field over which fiery reflections dance, and the trees and bushes are faithfully repeated in snow—on every black twig a soft, blurred line of white. From the terrace one looks directly over to where the mountains break in their sharp, familiar lines against the sky. Snow fills the gorges, hangs in scarfs on the great slopes, and on the peaks the fiery sunshine is gathered up as by a burning-glass.
— Willa Cather, The Song of the Lark

FYI …

 Jim Remsen’s History Nuggets – Embattled Freedom.

Tracking the decline …

 At Universities, Philosophy Is The Handmaid Of Political Correctness. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Here’s the basic rundown. After class one day, MacDonald got into a conversation with some other grad students in which the topic of Islam came up, and he expressed, as he later put it, that “I was bothered that I could be killed in ten Muslim countries.” MacDonald is bisexual, and there are in fact Muslim countries in which homosexuality is punishable by death.
Notice that, as stated, MacDonald isn’t making an argument against Islam, he is merely pointing to a verifiable fact that implies something negative about Islam. If you’ve been following what’s going on in the universities, you can venture a guess at what happened next. In the Intersectionality Olympics, the constant struggle to determine which group’s “oppression” gives it power over everybody else, the top spot is closely contested between transsexuals and Islam, but Islam usually wins—even if that means downgrading such longstanding “progressive” causes as tolerance for homosexuals.

A geometry of faith …

 Through a Verse Darkly: On Kevin Hart’s “Poetry and Revelation” - Los Angeles Review of Books. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Poetry and Revelation is not less than a series of sensitive readings and bold reinterpretations of the work of a range of religious poets, but it is much more than that. This is a book with a vision of a peaceful, nay mutually enhancing ménage à trois. In Hart’s own terms, the volume takes the “conceptual shape” of a triangle with its three apexes of philosophy, revelation, and poetry undergoing equilateral, isosceles, and scalene transformations in each chapter

Hmm …

… Why Beauty Is Not Universal. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The question addressed here does not seem to be whether or not beauty is universal, but whether such universality can be demonstrated scientifically. Moreover, the point isn’t that all great works of art are liked by everyone, but rather that all great works of art have something in common with each other. Finally, beauty is hardly confined to art. I rather suspect that sunrises and sunsets have a well-nigh universal appeal.

Anniversary …

 Informal Inquiries : Moby-Dick — publication and confusion.

Quality over quantity …

… Christian Freedom | Dan Hitchens | First Things. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The Christian idea is a broader one. For Christians, freedom consists not in how many choices you have but in whether you can choose the right thing, the good thing. If Fred is keeping his options open about whether to join the Ku Klux Klan, and Ben has decided he will never do so, Fred is not freer; quite the opposite. When Einstein discovered special relativity, he did not become less free because he was now unable to believe a dozen alternative theories. When Mozart decided how the Jupiter Symphony had to end, he did not lose freedom merely because of all the other possibilities he was compelled to give up.

Listen in …

 Episode 244 – Nicholas Delbanco – The Virtual Memories Show.

“It’s a rare day when I’m not at my desk by 6.”

Something to think on …

God is an unutterable sigh, planted in the depths of the soul.
— Jean Paul, who died on this date in 1825

Unlimited tolerance...

Monday, November 13, 2017

Mark thy calendar …

An Evening of Poetry At The Green Line Café On Locust

VERY GOOD COMPANY: Poets And Their Influences


Each poet will read their own work and the work
of one poet who has been a major influence on their poetry


With CHRISTINA COOK, DAVID KERTIS & ALINA MACNEAL

Hosted by Leonard Gontarek

Tuesday, November 21, 7 PM
THE GREEN LINE CAFE
45TH & LOCUST STREETS
PHILADELPHIA, PA
greenlinecafe.com    /    215.222.3431


Presented by

THE GREEN LINE CAFÉ POETRY SERIES
        &
POETRY IN COMMON


This Event Is Free




Christina Cook is the author of A Strange Insomnia (Aldrich Press, 2016), Ricochet (Casa de Cinco Hermanas Press, 2016), and Lake Effect (Finishing Line Press, 2012). Her poems, translations, essays, and book reviews have appeared widely in journals including the New Ohio Review, Prairie Schooner, The Rumpus, and Crazyhorse. Christina received her MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and is the director of strategic writing in Penn’s development office.


David Kertis grew up in northern New Jersey and has lived in Philadelphia since 1978. His first book, Word of the Day, was recently published. From
the introduction: “We are guided from the dark to a recognizable shore which we know in our bones corresponds to how things are. Here we experience wonder and safety and a sense of peace. Certainly the poems … by David Kertis accomplish this magnificently.”


Alina Macneal is a Philadelphia-based educator/writer/poet/translator/former-architect and co-host of the Fourth Wednesday Moonstone poetry series at Fergie’s. Her poems have appeared in Apiary, Poems for the Writing, The World to Come, and Poetry 24.  In 2015 she was a finalists for the Raynes poetry prize.  She has been a part time member of the faculty at Drexel University for over 20 years.

Yeoman’s work …

… The Illusionist - The New Atlantis.

Simply enough, you cannot suffer the illusion that you are conscious because illusions are possible only for conscious minds. This is so incandescently obvious that it is almost embarrassing to have to state it. But this confusion is entirely typical of Dennett’s position. In this book, as he has done repeatedly in previous texts, he mistakes the question of the existence of subjective experience for the entirely irrelevant question of the objective accuracy of subjective perceptions, and whether we need to appeal to third-person observers to confirm our impressions. But, of course, all that matters for this discussion is that we have impressions at all.
Hart does a fine job with memes, too.



Triptych of sonnets …

 Zealotry of Guerin: Garden of Earthly Delights (Hieronymus Bosch).

RLS again …

… Paul Davis On Crime: On This Day In History Scottish Author Robert Louis Stevenson Was Born.

Anniversary …

… Informal Inquiries : Robert Louis Stevenson — success and failure.

Have it your way …

… Between You and I, I Didn’t Just Make a Mistake – Lingua Franca - Blogs - The Chronicle of Higher Education. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)



So Pinker's specious argument takes pride of place over centuries of grammar.

Master of an endangered language …

… A poet of the people – who inspired a generation. (Hat tip, G. E. Reutter.)

Remembering …

 Hedd Wyn: the shepherd poet whose story shows the stupidity of war | Giles Fraser: Loose canon | Opinion | The Guardian. (Hat tip, G.E. Reutter.)

The spirit of place …

… At home in Hawaii: Poet W.S. Merwin and the sense of place - SFGate. (Hat tip, G.E. Reutter.)

Something to think on …

Keep your eyes open to your mercies. The man who forgets to be thankful has fallen asleep in life.
— Robert Louis Stevenson, born on this date in 1850

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Neglected masterwork …

George Whitefield Chadwick was born on this date in 1854.

Fallen creatures …

 Informal Inquiries : Abraham’s Curse — a book review.

Grand old tree …

… Zealotry of Guerin: General Sherman, Sonnet #378.

For the Fallen …

… One of the most famous war poems was written in Cornwall - Cornwall Live. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Connoisseur of edges …

… Selected Poems of Thom Gunn edited by Clive Wilmer review – life on the edge | Books | The Guardian. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

RIP …

… Dolores Kendrick, Washington’s ‘first lady of poetry,’ dies at 90. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Sweet …

… The Saturday Poem: The White Horse by Colette Bryce. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

The important questions …

 Informal Inquiries : Double Feature on Faith with a personal postscript.

The Book...

...Its history, function, and meaning in eighteenth-century society

Inquirer reviews …

… 'Hannibal's Oath': His amazing feats, his mysterious career.



A fugitive from fashion …

… “The Exceptional Man”: Rereading Richard Wilbur - Los Angeles Review of Books. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Wilbur once wrote that poems “should include every resource which can be made to work,” and in his best poems, no motion is wasted. They resemble happy athletes: the flab has been trimmed, the muscles are limber.

Conscience first then the Church

Pope Francis on Saturday reaffirmed the "primacy" of using one's conscience to navigate tough moral questions in his first comments since he was publicly accused of spreading heresy by emphasizing conscience over hard and fast Catholic rules....
Primacy of conscience took primacy at Vatican II: "their faith, aroused and sustained by the Spirit of truth, the People of God, guided by the sacred teaching authority (magisterium), and obeying it, receives not the mere word of human beings, but truly the word of God." (Vatican II, The Church (1964), §12) 

Something to think on …

The religious life begins when we discover that God is not a postulate of ethics, but the only adventure in which it is worth the trouble to risk ourselves.
— Don Colacho

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Anniversary …

… Informal Inquiries : Dostoevsky’s birthday.

The bad old days …

… The Bloody History of Bible Translators - Los Angeles Review of Books. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Falling short …

… An Imperfect Portrait, Review: 'Mrs Osmond' by John Banville. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Gum Doesn't take Seven Years to Digest...

and most of your heat isn't lost by your head.  Eight “Facts” about the Human Body Debunked by Science:
As legend has it, they dressed volunteers in arctic survival suits and observed how their bodies reacted to freezing-cold temperatures. The military concluded that the volunteers lost most of their heat from their heads, seeming to ignore the fact that the head was the only body part that wasn’t protected from the elements.
Two decades later, a US Army survival manual incorporated those findings, stressing the importance of covering the head when exposed to cold conditions to avoid losing “40 to 45 percent of body heat.” A myth was born.

Q&A …

… Paul Davis On Crime: Simon Schama On Tolstoy, Waugh And Chandler.

Something to think on …

A man who lies to himself, and believes his own lies becomes unable to recognize truth, either in himself or in anyone else, and he ends up losing respect for himself and for others. When he has no respect for anyone, he can no longer love, and, in order to divert himself, having no love in him, he yields to his impulses, indulges in the lowest forms of pleasure, and behaves in the end like an animal. And it all comes from lying - lying to others and to yourself.
— Fyodor Dostoevsky, born on this date in 1821

Karl Ove Knausgaard


I'm not sure which way the reviews went, ultimately, when it comes to Karl Ove Knausgaard's most recent work, Autumn, but then, part of me doesn't care: I found Knausgaard's essays a strange and enticing mixture. Here is a celebration of the quotidian, a paean to the commonplace; here are vignettes wrapped in a protective coating; here is a shield, a voice for what we know to exist, but to which we do not always assign meaning. 

I've written before on the blog about works that I consider too precious: among these are novels by Updike, for instance. But there's a difference, I think, between being precious and poignant, and Knausgaard's essays are the latter: meaningful, restrained, emotive. In the mundane, he locates significance; in the ordinary, he identify substance. I found these reflections -- couched, in part, as an extended dialogue with Knausgaard's unborn daughter -- to be refreshing in their originality, tender in their resolve. 

Some critics have found the observations here to be cliched or sentimental; this, I think, is unfair, and is to expect of short essays something reserved for the novel. Knausgaard's goal in Autumn is not to disrupt our sense of daily routine; it is instead to celebrate that routine, and to remind us of its majesty. I found the collection supremely refreshing -- and given the weight of the world, a welcome and timely respite. 

Friday, November 10, 2017

Pushback …

… Pro-life student group wins settlement after professor tries to kick away chalk messages | Fox News.

You have permission to put it down, and I have permission to get rid of it. This is our part of free speech. College campuses are not free speech areas,” Thatcher said, “Do you understand? Obviously you don’t understand.”
Pretty dim bulb, for a professor.

When cats go bad …

… Stray cat a suspect in Japan attempted murder.

Mounting evidence …

… New Plagiarism Accusations Against Bestselling Author Jill Bialosky — The Walrus. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Plagiarism is rarely the simple cutting and pasting of another author’s work. Most often the later author tries to conceal the source with trivial changes, cloaking the identity of the original with a synonym or two, collapsing phrases from long paragraphs into a new whole. The language and structure of the original can be very difficult, however, to keep secret. In the parallel passages that follow, the wholesale copying of previous sources is so plain they must be characterized as outright theft. 

A word of caution …

… Reza Aslan doesn’t fear God. But should he fear his fellow Muslims? | The Spectator. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

He is an ambitious man who enjoys the limelight. He has already played many parts — Christian, Muslim, businessman, sociologist, lecturer, editor, presenter, producer, public intellectual, scholar, historian, creative writing tutor and performing clown. Now it looks as though he wants to become a guru.
Obviously, C.S. Lewis's Aslan is no relation.


Either way, an act of faith is needed …

Elegy …

… Alice’s Oxford | Peter Hitchens | First Things. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The new Oxford, with its fair share of Starbucks and burger joints, is far more convenient and easily negotiated than the old—though the flood of tourism means the college buildings are now mostly barred by day, or open only to those who wish to pay. If they were not, it would be impossible for anyone to do any work in them.

Timely reminder …

 Michael Longley on Poetry and Propaganda – Robert Sharp. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

We knew there was no point in versifying opinion and giving people what they wanted to hear. 
Indeed. 

Hmm …

… Cli-Fi.Net -- the world's largest online 'Cli-Fi' portal for Cli-Fi: ''How artists/novelists/film directors can rewrite the climate story with powerful storytelling'' - an interview with Australian literary critic Greg Foyster.



Here's an idea: How about if they try to accurately portray it?

Who knew?

… Unlikely Style Icons: Mr Philip Larkin | The Daily | MR PORTER. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)



Style either comes naturally, or it doesn't come at all. Nothing less hip than trying to be hip.

And the winners are …

… 2017 September : IBPC Winning Poems for September 2017.



The Judge's Page.



(Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Something to think on …

It is difficult to discriminate the voice of truth from amid the clamor raised by heated partisans.
— Friedrich Schiller, born on this date in 1759

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Kindred spirits …

 Informal Inquiries : Kafka (Franz) by Crumb and Mairowitz.

Listen in …

… Episode 241 – Barry Blitt – The Virtual Memories Show.

“It was nice to have been offered this retrospective book, but I wish it had just stopped there.”

Just what we need — quotas …

… Literary publications get mixed reviews on gender parity | The Seattle Times. (Hat tip, G.E. Reutter.)

Some editors …

… Bukowski’s poems were mangled by editors after his death. Now you can read his originals | PBS NewsHour. (Hat tips, Rus Bowden and G.E. Reutter.)

Read and listen …

… “Above the Mountaintops” | The New Yorker. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)



A very nice translation.

Poetry for commuters …

… Mass Poetry Releases Poems Into The Wild — On The T | The ARTery. (Hat tip, G.E. Reutter.)

Bad move …

… Sedigheh Vasmaghi imprisoned upon return to Iran | ICORN international cities of refuge network. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Hmm …

… What Flannery O'Connor's College Journal Reveals About the 'Confidence Gap' - The Atlantic. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Methinks O'Connor would have preferred being appreciated for her insights into faith rather than as a proto-feminist. And Julian of Norwich was pretty well known in her day and looked to by her community and by others (including Margery Kempe) as an "authority" on matters of faith.

And the winner is …

… Tom Stoppard - David Cohen Prize for Literature. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Something to think on …

A poet must be a psychologist, but a secret one: he should know and feel the roots of phenomena but present only the phenomena themselves in full bloom or as they fade away.
— Ivan Turgenev, born on this date in 1818

160 million to three

The three richest people in the US – Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and Warren Buffett– own as much wealth as the bottom half of the US population, or 160 million people. 

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

In case you wondered…

… Why Did Tolkien Care About the Jews? | PJ Media | The Barking Fox.

Anniversary and more …

 Informal Inquiries : Bram Stoker -- his birthday and my confession.

I never got into vampires, though I have been told that Stoker’s book is much scarier than any of the films, which didn’t even scare me when I was a kid.

Blogging note …

Off again. Blogging will resume later today.

Great poet, good man …

… To Imagine Excellence by A. M. Juster | Articles | First Things. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

In addition to being one of the best poets of his generation, Wilbur was the finest translator of poetry into English ever to have lived, particularly notable for his translations of Moliere’s plays. Wilbur closely echoed the sound, form, and meaning of the original text, and yet he never lost sight of the need for his words to move an audience. His lyrics transformed Leonard Bernstein’s Candide from a churning mess into an enduring musical.

Contented …

… Donald Hall, former U.S. Poet Laureate, reflects on writing in his 89th year. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Much of his writing these days is about loss. Hall stopped writing poetry years ago, when he “lost the taste,” but he still writes prose.

God help us …

… Iranian Poet Sentenced to Prison and Flogging For the Charge of “Insulting the Sacred” – Center for Human Rights in Iran. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)


A worthy goal …

… Louisiana's poet laureate is committed to showing youngsters 'the power of language' | Acadiana Home | theadvocate.com. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Appreciation …

… Black New Orleans and Creole Culture in Poetry | Campus | purdueexponent.org. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)



The great Fats Domino was of Creole descent:



Lest we forget …

… 100 Years of Communism—and 100 Million Dead - WSJ.

Behind the scenes …

… Kazuo Ishiguro: 'Write What You Know' is the Stupidest Thing I've Ever Heard | Literary Hub. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Is it possible that what we think of as genre boundaries are things that have been invented fairly recently by the publishing industry? I can see there’s a case for saying there are certain patterns, and you can divide up stories according to these patterns, perhaps usefully. But I get worried when readers and writers take these boundaries too seriously, and think that something strange happens when you cross them, and that you should think very carefully before doing so . . . I would like to see things breaking down a lot more. I suppose my essential position is that I’m against any kind of imagination police, whether they’re coming from marketing reasons or from class snobbery.

And so ... Nature


For 128 years, bug stuck in Van Gogh’s painting went unnoticed

Something to think on …

Between God and the soul there is no between.
— Julian of Norwich, born on this date in 1432

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Marvelously readable indeed …

 Informal Inquiries : Maigret (and more).

Have a listen …

… Paul Davis On Crime: A Little Night Music: Elton John's 1980's Cold War Ballad, 'Nikita'.

Poetry as conduit …

… Freshness of Words – George Herbert and Anna Akhmatova | Martyn Crucefix. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Drury suggests that Herbert’s evident love of language is more apparent than real because of his ceaseless drive towards a linguistic simplicity (just the kind of simplicity of expression that Akhmatova sought and is praised for). Herbert wanted words to correspond to the truths of experience – an idea that has got very obscured in our post-modern age, but one that most poets still doggedly adhere to.

Poems for jazz …

… Voetica Poetry Spoken. (Hat tip, Dvae Lull.)

Indeed …

… About Last Night | TT: The best of all possible mice. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Something to think on …

There is but one truly serious philosophical problem and that is suicide. Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy. All the rest — whether or not the world has three dimensions, whether the mind has nine or twelve categories — comes afterwards. These are games; one must first answer.
— Albert Camus, born on this date in 1913 

Monday, November 06, 2017

Appreciation …

… Agatha Christie’s legacy survives because her plots are so ingenious | London Evening Standard. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Speaking her mind …

Out of the blue …

… First Known When Lost: What Happens.

Two lovely trout arriving within days of each other. The World often provides us with beneficences of this sort. In my seventh decade above ground, approaching an inevitable return to dust, I am not entirely surprised when these gifts are bestowed from out of the blue. But I never take them for granted, and I am always grateful.
Mere coincidence, some might say. Not I. We place ourselves in the way of serendipity, or serendipity finds us, or perhaps both. Ah, but where does serendipity come from? I am content to let the inquiry end with that question. I have no need for an explanation. Time will tell. Or it will not.
No, not coincidence. Perhaps what the Greeks called kairos, a time appointed. Something ordained.

Rubber and wine …

… Nigeness: Hobhousiana.

Comic actor …

… Jack Benny’s Comic Program | commentary. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)
No mere joke-teller could have performed such dramatically complex scripts week after week with anything like Benny’s effectiveness. The secret of The Jack Benny Program was that its star, fully aware that he was not “being himself” but playing a part, did so with an actor’s skill. This was what led Ernst Lubitsch to cast him in To Be or Not to Be, in which he plays a mediocre Shakespearean tragedian, a character broadly related to but still quite different from the one who appeared on his own radio show. As Lubitsch explained to Benny, who was skeptical about his ability to carry off the part:
A clown—he is a performer what is doing funny things. A comedian—he is a performer what is saying funny things. But you, Jack, you are an actor, you are an actor playing the part of a comedian and this you are doing very well. 

Faith and theater …

… Informal Inquiries : Thomas Kyd's baptism and a very personal postscript.



Regarding the affairs of the world, I am on the side of Candide: "Let us cultivate our garden."








Lovely …

… Rambling Shambling Brian Doyle | Matthew Hennessey | First Things. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)



Here is His Last Game.



Something to think on …

All still lifes are actually paintings of the world on the sixth day of creation, when God and the world were alone together, without man!
— Robert Musil, born on this date in 1880

Sunday, November 05, 2017

Good intentions …

… Keynes Unable | The Weekly Standard. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

…  Thomas Hoerber’s little book … has the feel of a think-tank white paper stretched beyond its natural limits. Rather than bring the debate of yesterday to bear on our own time, as the dust jacket promises, he merely retells yesterday’s debate in today’s clichés, in order to support his arguments for greater economic regulation by the state and, especially, the European Union.