Saturday, July 21, 2018

Hmm …

 “Restless digging for the deepest human truths”: playwright Christopher Shinn on “Evolution of Desire: A Life of René Girard” | The Book Haven.

Perhaps Girard’s reticence about his life derived from a conviction that his ideas were too important to get contaminated by a cult of personality, and silence protected him from such temptations.
Perhaps also because his life was his own and we have a right to privacy.

And the winners are …

Influential photos …

… These Century-Old Photos Inspired Some of the West's First Bird Refuges | Audubon. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

The Oregon Historical Society and Oregon State University recently collaborated on a project to collect and digitize much of the work of Finley and his colleagues. During 2016 and 2017 they digitized more than 6,800 images and more than 8,000 pages of manuscript materials. The small sampling featured here offers a fascinating inside look at the beginnings of the conservation movement.

Something to think on …

Violence, whether spiritual or physical, is a quest for identity and the meaningful. The less identity, the more violence.
— Marshall McLuhan, born on this date in 1911

Alessandro Baricco


Last time I posted, there was an interesting discussion which emerged around literary style. (My original post focused on the novels of Ian McEwan.) 

In that discussion, I argued that beauty alone is not a style, and that McEwan, despite his beautiful sentences, does not have much of a style. I still believe that to be true -- not least because of the novel I've just finished by the Italian writer Alessandro Baricco. 

Baricco has a clear style, and in The Young Bride he makes that known. His sentences are rambunctious and disjointed; he jumps from the first to the third person (and back); he engages in meditations on art and the creative process -- all while furthering his narrative. Reading Baricco's book was like riding on a cobbled road: there are bumps, but after a while, they give way to a certain rhythm. 

Don't be mislead: I'm not saying The Young Bride is a perfect novel: in many ways, it's quite flawed: Baricco, for one, can be quite self-indulgent. But the book does chart new territory, especially in its exploration of the bizarre. Baricco imagines a family full of quirks, and full of quirky sexual deviance. At the same time, however, there's a charming quality to that family, something about them that attracts. 

Style aside, The Young Bride is also notable for its references to theater. Baricco capitalizes the names of his central characters, for instance: the Father, the Mother, the Daughter, etc. This has the effect of establishing them as a playwright might: they interact in an artificial space devised by the author, but at the same time, they represent something real, something tangible. 

As I say, The Young Bride is not a perfect book, but on style alone, it's worthy of the attention it's garnered. I was pleased by my introduction to the world of Alessandro Baricco. 

Friday, July 20, 2018

And trip others up with …

 Edward Feser: Fallacies physicists fall for. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Scientism is simply not a coherent position.  You cannot avoid having distinctively philosophical and extra-scientific theoretical commitments, because the very attempt to do so entails having distinctively philosophical and extra-scientific theoretical commitments.  And if you think that these commitments are rationally justifiable ones – and of course, anyone beholden to scientism thinks his view is paradigmatically rational – then you are implicitly admitting that there can be such a thing as a rationally justifiable thesis which is not a scientific thesis.  Which is, of course, what scientism denies.  Thus scientism is unavoidably self-defeating.

Blogging note …

I must be away from desk yet again. Blogging will resume later on.

Anniversary …

… 50 Years Ago, Kingsley Amis Had a Midlife Crisis and Turned to James Bond for Help - The Millions. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

“I do expect to make quite a lot of money out of the venture,” Amis admitted in a 1968 article for The Observer. I’m hardly surprised. Ian Fleming ranks as the highest-earning British crime-fiction writer of all time, and his estate collected royalties on the sales of a staggering 60 million books during the two years following the author’s death. Amis only needed to hold on to this installed base of James Bond fans to ensure a life of wealth and luxury.
But Amis also ardently defended the move on its purely literary merits. A few years earlier, Amis had responded to criticisms of Fleming’s Thunderball with one of the most cogent arguments ever made for the worthiness of escapist fiction. “I think wish fulfillment is a common and normal human activity…No adult ought to feel like an adult all the time.” Even if the Bond novels simply served as a means of compensating for adolescent inferiority complexes, they would be “praiseworthy rather than blameworthy on that ground.”

RIP …

… Paul Davis On Crime: Adrian Cronauer, The Airman Who Inspired ‘Good Morning, Vietnam’ Film Has Died.

The style and the man …

… On the Art and Influence of Hemingway's Short Stories | Literary Hub. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

… it is the Hemingway style, developed slowly as he toiled away at his first book of short stories while in Paris, that distinguished his stories from reportage, a style long afterwards as codified as answers in a sophomore lit exam: Short simple declarative sentences; limited choice of words; a shortage of adjectives; Biblical phrases and cadence; stream of consciousness passages.

Observer and observed …

… Informal Inquiries: Crime Scenes: Travels in the Scriptorium by Paul Auster (2007).

A tale of two books …

 Zen and the Art of a Higher Education - Los Angeles Review of Books. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

While Pirsig’s ZAMM did the most to establish the genre, his book is neither derivative of Herrigel’s mystification and authoritarianism, nor befuddled by the slack anti-intellectualism of the knockoffs that followed it. Too many of these books, however, followed Pirsig’s title but not his book’s erudition or earnest intellectual engagement. They used “Zen” only to mock expertise, evade thinking with evidence, or badmouth analytic thought.
Still we might ask of Pirsig’s opus: What’s Zen got to do with it? If we heed Pirsig’s “Author’s Note” on the first page of the book, the answer might be: nothing. “It should in no way be associated with that great body of factual information relating to orthodox Zen Buddhist practice.” Note taken.

Something to think on …

An attitude of permanent indignation signifies great mental poverty. Politics compels its votaries to take that line and you can see their minds growing more impoverished every day, from one burst of righteous indignation to the next.
— Paul Valery, who died on this date in 1945

Subcultures

Women’s media, as a result, has never been scammier. The product sold by Refinery29, Bustle, PopSugar, and TheSkimm is bad ...
Women’s media has also run on the first-personal travails of women. Though it sets a wildly different editorial tone, the Money Diaries invoke the ghost of xoJane, which exploited readers and writers alike by holding a “contest” for the best “It Happened To Me” first-person story. What happened was that it ran an endless stream of unpaid blog posts in which readers were invited to offer up their most traumatic experiences in return for zero dollars. The site came to represent the worst of the Personal Essay Industrial Complex, in which a publication creams the profits off women’s trauma, especially women of color, in the name of feminist solidarity.

Plus ca change ...

3000 or so years after King David's United Monarchy, Israel again becomes a Jewish nation-state:
The head of the special committee that legislated the bill, MK Amir Ohana (Likud), told the plenum it could be the most important legislation in the history of the state. He said the bill had been discussed more than any of the basic laws that have been passed before.
The law's sponsor, Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman Avi Dichter, turned to Arab MKs in the final address before voting and told them: "We were here before you, and we will be here after you." But he said their rights as minorities would not be harmed by the law.  

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Good Sport...

Art consultant satirized in Sacha Baron Cohen's Who is America?:
How did you feel when you saw the final segment?I felt lucky and fortunate. Thank you, God or gods or destiny, for bringing me into the path of this comic genius and letting me be tangentially involved in a project that is noble and worthy, even if it ruffles feathers. You gotta learn to laugh and realize that without art and satire, humanity would have perished thousands of years ago. We have to identify things that are wrong in our culture and we have to find solutions and the best way to do that sometimes is to view them from a perspective that will cause less pain.
I just don’t take myself as seriously as the politicians. They put themselves in the limelight and then they act so victimized. I don’t feel like I got shammed or look like a fool. I think to most people I came off pretty good.

Anniversary …

Goats and much more …

… Another Yellow Entirely. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Sometimes Najarian reaches those moments of lyricism by employing an abrupt, almost impatient tone that contains within it helplessness, frustration, and longing. It recognizes the need to let go and believe in unseen things. In “First Kidding,” the narrator, helping a doe in labor, says, “Now go./Go home. A doe will recognize her own.” And in “With the Herd,” this same insistent voice says, “Stop calling them. Stand still. They will not stir/until you turn the light on your known face.”

Zeroing in …

… Informal Inquiries: Crime Scenes: Crime Scenes.

The poetry all around …

… Finding truth through poetry – Northeast Times.

Medical transformations...

In conclusion …

… [Poem] John Ashbery's last poem | Harper's Magazine. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden,)

And the nominees are …

… 2018 National Translation Award Longlist Celebrates Translated Works - The Millions. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Digging in…

… 'He Just Kept Digging' The Ultimate Man Cave. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Wondrous.

The wait is over …

… Most Anticipated: The Great Second-Half 2018 Book Preview - The Millions. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

In case you wondered …

 Who is the average ebook reader? — BookNet Canada. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Faith as lived …

… Dana Gioia on Timothy Murphy - Benedict XVI Institute. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Timothy Murphy’s Devotions revives this major but neglected poetic genre with variety and amplitude. In over two hundred short poems, Murphy explores the vicissitudes of modern spiritual life. Some of the poems are inspirational, celebrating the joyous mysteries of faith. Others confront the sorrows and failures of contemporary life—presenting unvarnished the painful dramas of sin, despair, repentance, and redemption. Murphy celebrates the saints, but he has not forgotten “the battered, the drunkards, the sinners,” among whom the poet still numbers himself. In these poems the drama of redemption is not abstract but personal.

Something to think on …

Life is no straight and easy corridor along which we travel free and unhampered, but a maze of passages, through which we must seek our way, lost and confused, now and again checked in a blind alley. But always, if we have faith, a door will open for us, not perhaps one that we ourselves would ever have thought of, but one that will ultimately prove good for us.
— A. J. Cronin, born on this date in 1896

Omega-3 ain't all that ...

Omega-3 no protection against heart attack or strokes, say scientists
Supplements do not offer cardiovascular benefits

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Anniversary …

 Informal Inquiries : Jessamine West — “fiction reveals truths”.

Geography of self …

 Informal Inquiries : Emily Dickinson — The Heart is the Capital of the Mind.

Spiritual, personal, and literary …

 Poet Claude McKay’s Catholic conversion - Angelus News - Multimedia Catholic News. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden)

Usages …

… Uncensored John Simon: Cultured Person. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I guess I'm not old enough to remember when exquisite was accented on the first syllable.

Reticent drama …

… Ted Kooser's 'Kindest Regards: New and Selected Poems' Review | National Review. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

What remains unspoken behind Kooser’s lines creates drama. The mystery of “Abandoned Farmhouse” is downright arresting. In this fractured home, a “Bible with a broken back” rests, “dusty with sun.” A large man once lived here, but he was “not a man for farming, say the fields / cluttered with boulders and the leaky barn.” He had a wife and child, and they struggled: “Money was scarce, say the jars of plum preserves / and canned tomatoes sealed in the cellar hole.” They survived harsh winters, rags stuffed into window frames, but “something went wrong.” Cellar jars, sealed and filled, suggest a quick exit — and so do the child’s toys “strewn in the yard / like branches after a storm.”

An odd pair …

… ‘On Mr. Cogito’s two legs’ – TheTLS. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Something to think on …

Fiction reveals truths that reality obscures.
— Jessamyn West, born on this date in 1902

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Q&A …

… Staying Nimble with a Diet of Jokes and a Pinch of Stephen Hawking: A Conversation with Leonard Mlodinow - Los Angeles Review of Books. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

… Mlodinow doesn’t simply explore the awe-inspiring complexity of the brain (there’s plenty to be awed by) but also what “thought” really means at a time when technology is speeding up our daily experiences of everything, especially the flow of information.
That acceleration challenges the brain’s top-down, analytical thinking abilities. One result is that the brain’s bottom-up thinking structures — nonlinear, highly elastic — must compensate and pick up more of the slack. That is not a bad thing, though, because elastic thinking has frequently been the source of innovation.

Hmm …

… 50 Must-Read Fiction And Nonfiction Books About Music. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)
How about Jacques Barzun or David Cairns on Berlioz? Or Michael Kennedy on Richard Strauss. Or Terry Teachout on Louis Armstrong? 

Speaking of the last, here  is my review of Pops. And here is an example of what I mean:
The thread running through this “epic journey from squalor to immortality” is the music — and the marvel of Teachout’s book is the way in which his descriptions of that music illuminate the life. Here’s what he has to say about Armstrong’s 1933 recording of Harold Arlen’s “I Gotta Right to Sing the Blues”:
… Armstrong, in a departure from his customary practice on ballads, dispenses almost entirely with Arlen’s melody, substituting instead a series of rhythmically free phrases that lead upward to a high B-flat. Four times he falls off from that shining note — and then comes the fifth fall, at the bottom of which he changes course and swoops gracefully upward to a full-throated D … Armstrong seems to have broken through to a realm of abstract lyricism that transcends ordinary human emotion. Only then does he condescend to ease back into the vicinity of the tune, returning the bedazzled listener to the everyday world.

Post bumped.

Something to think on …

Labour was the first price, the original purchase - money that was paid for all things. It was not by gold or by silver, but by labour, that all wealth of the world was originally purchased.
 — Adam Smith, who died on this date in 1790

Fake but accurate

[S]ince 2011, the psychology field has been giving itself an intensive background check, redoing more than 100 well-known studies. Often the original results cannot be reproduced ...
Psychology has millions of amateur theorists who test the findings against their own experience. The public’s judgments matter to the field, too.
It is one thing to frisk the studies appearing almost daily in journals that form the current back-and-forth of behavior research. It is somewhat different to call out experiments that became classics — and world-famous outside of psychology — because they dramatized something people recognized in themselves and in others.
They live in the common culture as powerful metaphors ... 

Nature and memory …

 Deep Water: 'A field by a river' by Pam Burr Smith - Portland Press Herald. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Listen in times two …

… Episode 277 – Nathaniel Popkin – The Virtual Memories Show.

“A city, like a book, can be read.”


 Episode 278 – Dmitry Samarov – The Virtual Memories Show.

“The curse of knowing more is that you see more.”

Monday, July 16, 2018

Family man …

 Seamus Heaney’s family on life with the great poet: ‘He was always just Dad at home' | Books | The Guardian. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

While the Heaney children grew up with his work, by a quirk of the curriculum they didn’t study him at school. It was only when in the US for a semester that Catherine had the bizarre experience of having to answer an exam question about a poem written by her father about her grandmother.

In case you wondered …

 How Donald Hall changed Ox-Cart Man from the poem to the children’s book. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)





Hall is often described as a poet of rural life and New Hampshire’s natural world, or, better, as the plain-spoken chronicler of daily life and its blisses and heartbreaks. (He lived for decades, before and after the death of his wife, poet Jane Kenyon, in the 1803 New Hampshire farmhouse that had been Hall’s grandfather’s home.) Ox-Cart Man could be dismissed as patriarchal, capitalist, and nationalist in its celebration of a New England yeoman farmer—Hall is not usually thought of as a political or particularly progressive poet—but instead, this book assures me that all our work holds good, even if we can’t see the long-term effects from here.

Hmm …

 Monday’s Biggest Issue: Are These The Five Best Natural Arguments for God? – HillFaith.

Anatomy of a masterpiece …

… A Multi-Layered Drama - WSJ. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The sun in Leonardo’s conception is crucial to communicating the most important aspect of the entire fresco: Jesus’ impending death as a consequence of the betrayal he announces. Leonardo uses the relatively new technique of linear perspective, placing the vanishing point such that if Jesus turned to look out at us it would be between his eyes. More than a pictorial device, it reinforces the Renaissance idea that linear perspective, with its basis in mathematical reason and the principles of vision, leads one toward God.

Listen in …

… The Biblio File hosted by Nigel Beale: Heloise d'Ormesson on Book Publishing in France.

Héloïse d'Ormesson is a French publisher who founded a publishing house that bears her name. She studied comparative literature at Yale Univeristy in the United States, where she landed her first job in publishing, and then returned to France to work at Flammarion as director of foreign literature, and subsequently as an editor at DenoëlLaffont, and within the Gallimard group of companies.
In 2004, she founded Editions Héloïse d'Ormesson with her partner Gilles Cohen-Solal. She is the daughter of famed French writer Jean d'Ormesson  

Shaping the American legal mind...

Blogging note …

Once again, a busy day for me away from my desk. Will blog more later on.

Bound up with each other …

… The World of Raymond Chandler and 'The Big Sleep' | CrimeReads. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The Big Sleep does more than even Chandler intended it to do. Partially by design and partly by happy contingency, the novel dramatizes a cluster of profound subjects and themes, including human mortality; ethical inquiry; the sordid history of Los Angeles in the early twentieth century; the politics of class, gender, and sexuality; the explosion of Americanisms, colloquialisms, slang, and genre jargon; and a knowing playfulness with the mystery formula—all set against a backdrop of a post-Prohibition, Depression-era America teetering on the edge of World War II. For all this, The Big Sleep reads easy. And it’s a ripping good story.

Something to think on …

Prayer is not asking for what you think you want, but asking to be changed in ways you can't imagine.
— Kathleen Norris, born on this date in 1880

Hmm …

… Cli-Fi.Net -- the world's largest online 'Cli-Fi' portal for Cli-Fi: In RADIO FREE VERMONT, set for paperback release in October, 2018, the editors of Bill McKibben's cli-fi lite novel lowercase the word EARTH all through the text, calling our home planet as "earth" rather than "Earth," with a capital E. Let's hope Bill can ask his editors to rectify this glaring gaffe in the paperback edition. Bill?



Well, I thought earth is what I work with in my garden and Earth is the planet we live on.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Poetry and faith …

… New life, new voices in Catholic letters – Catholic World Report. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

FYI …

 Jim Remsen’s History Nuggets – Embattled Freedom.

Pigeonholed no more …

… A Mad Woman on Fire: On Sylvia Plath and Female Rage - The Millions. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

There’s a long tradition of playing connect the dots between Plath’s biography and her writing. I, too, used to indulge in this line of thinking, titillated by the details of Plath’s life: her struggles with depression, her tumultuous marriage to poet Ted Hughes, her suicide. But this approach to her work feels different now too. It’s a way to diminish her writing as “personal” and thus small, even narcissistic. The argument is familiar. It’s the same one that pigeonholes fiction by and about women as “domestic novels” or movies about women as “chick flicks.” But as with those novels and movies, the issues with which Plath wrestles are the ones now consuming us: fear of female ambition, fear of the female body and the female voice, and perhaps most of all, fear of female power. The subterranean space Plath gave voice to for decades has become our daily landscape, and she serves as our sage, our guide. “I know the bottom,” she writes in “Elm.” “I know it with my great tap root: / It is what you fear. / I do not fear it: I have been there.”

Of a sort …

… The Pleasure and Satisfaction of Living | The Brooklyn Rail. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Those golden years …

 Deep Water: 'A Moderate Hike' by David Sloan - Portland Press Herald. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Worth seeing …

… Another side of Amy Winehouse: intimate photographs by her friend Blake Wood | Music | The Guardian. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

“This book, really it’s a love letter to a friend. And it’s a visual diary of us at the time when she was most celebrated by the world, but she was also really misunderstood. She was very much loved by the people around her, and I hope this comes through the work.”

FYI …

… Search Full-Text within 4M Books. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

July Poetry at North of Oxford …

… As if he is holding a sparrow by DS Maolalai.

… The Clock Marriage by Gareth Culshaw.

… Lectures on Poetry by M.V. Montgomery.

… Winter Tune-up by Charles Rammelkamp.

And aware …

 First Known When Lost: Awake.

On Friday, my cardiologist told me I wouldn't need to schedule another appointment, that I did not suffer from aFib. (I had had an episode, though, while in the hospital last summer. Turns out that was just something that sometimes happens under the circumstances.) But Stephen is right:
'How much time we have on our hands!  How little time we have on our hands! 

Is there anything he can't do?

… Donald Trump and the Return of Prescriptivism. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I am not sure what academic linguists think about Donald Trump’s unorthodox spellings and occasional bad grammar, but it is a frequent source of amusement to me that people who would in other circumstances incline to the more liberal descriptivist view are the quickest to deride Trump for the sort of mistakes their descriptivist instincts should have taught them aren’t mistakes at all. Twitter is rife with this form of insta-prescriptivism.

Smart and kind …

… Cheerful Contrarian: Freeman Dyson’s Letters - Los Angeles Review of Books. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Now let me explain briefly what has happened. An old friend of mine from Cambridge days has been at the institute for the last year and a half. While I was away in La Jolla and Los Alamos, he and Verena have fallen in love and decided to run away together. Verena came […] to tell me this, and to make a harmonious and dignified end to our marriage […] Please do not offer me your sympathy or your pity. I have been happy in this marriage, and I have no regrets now it is over. It has enriched my life in many ways, and this enrichment is permanent.

Something to think on …

The most essential and fundamental aspect of culture is the study of literature, since this is an education in how to picture and understand human situations.
— Iris Murdoch, born on this date in 1919

Saturday, July 14, 2018

And hits all the right notes …

… Big Bad Ted Sings Songs for Little Ones - The Millions. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

¬ all through his career he was, in a sense, the most boylike of poets. (Set that superlative in his trophy case, next to “Most Frightening Poet Imaginable,” “Most Handsome,” and (according to poet-critic Michael Hofmann) “Greatest English Poet Since Shakespeare.”) Calling him boylike may sound like an insult, but it is not at all. It indicates a real feat. Maintaining some kind of childlikeness is needful work for any poet, any person: it means being unacculturated to the world’s murderous norms, undimmed by its darkness, unwithered by its onslaught, not ironicized, ironed flat, or inured — while remaining, everywhere and in all things, absolutely adult and responsible. It’s no mean task. (Become as little childrenJesus said, and if Jesus said it, it isn’t easy.) Hughes carried out this imperative to remain childlike — or rather boylike, to make it gendered for this highly gendered poet. He remained forever the small-game trapper, the hill-stalker, the game-warden’s younger brother, the tobacconists’ son wandering around the shop and reading all of the comic books (of course!).

Mighty cactus …

… Zealotry of Guerin: Saguaro (Alice Guerin), Sonnet #413.

And here an interview with Christopher Guerin.

Not so fast …

… Making a Pigsty — LRB blog. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I have been told by colleagues that the archaeologists at Olympia have been surprised by the press coverage, and are planning to put out a statement correcting some of the misinformation and clarifying what they know about the find.
This tells you something about the sad state of reporting these days.

Good question …

… Montessori schools are exceptionally successful. So why aren’t there more of them? | America Magazine.

Once a child is ready to walk, she will expend tremendous effort to do so, but only when it is the right time in her development. So it is with other skills. Trying to teach, say, writing, on a rigid schedule will only convince a child that she is unable to do so, sapping not only that endeavor but her self-confidence and willingness to learn more generally. We can all attest from our personal experience that we easily become frustrated and despondent whenever we have to do things that are either far too easy or far too hard; but when our work is right at the edge of our comfort zone, challenging but doable, not only are we better at tasks, but we often find them positively thrilling.

Rather sad …

… The restless soul of Anthony Burgess | America Magazine. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

About 50 years ago, the British comedian Peter Cook performed a sketch about the doggedly reclusive Greta Garbo in which, adorned by a blonde wig, he stood up in the back of an open-topped car shouting “I vant to be alone!” through a megaphone. Burgess gave the same impression of wanting it both ways when he insisted that he was not the least bit obsessed with the subject of religion.


One wonders what he did at the end.

Something to think on

The desire of the man is for the woman, but the desire of the woman is for the desire of the man.
— Madame de Stäel, who died on thie date in 1817

Friday, July 13, 2018

Q&A …

… Paul Davis On Crime: Cold War Navy SEAL And Che Guevara In Africa: My Q&A With Former Navy SEAL And CIA Operative James M. Hawes.

Fiction and reality …

 A French Novelist Imagined Sexual Dystopia. Now It’s Arrived. - The New York Times. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

To any reader of the French writer Michel Houellebecq, this lament will sound eerily familiar. For the last 25 years, in novel after novel, Houellebecq has advanced a similar critique of contemporary sexual mores. And while Houellebecq has always been a polarizing figure — admired for his provocations, disdained for his crudeness — he has turned out to be a writer of unusual prescience. At a time when literature is increasingly marginalized in public life, he offers a striking reminder that novelists can provide insights about society that pundits and experts miss. Houellebecq, whose work is saturated with brutality, resentment and sentimentality, understood what it meant to be an incel long before the term became common.
Houellebecq’s The Map and the Territory, which won the Prix Goncourt, is also very good.

Hmm …

 Here's why Lancaster's mayor wants workplaces to be necktie-optional.

I wore ties daily during my eight years as book editor. I wasn’t diagnosed with high blood pressure until after I retired. Until then, I had always been low normal.

The Modern Artist ...

“He could look at me and you know, I don’t know why he mentioned suicide, but he could tell that I was very low,” Kanye recalled in early June over breakfast at the rustic modernist home here that he’s been renting and making music in. “Really medicated, shoulders slumped down, and my confidence was gone, which is a lot of the root of my superpower, because if you truly have self-confidence, no one can say anything to you.”
Into the Wild with Kanye West 

Murders go up too ...

at least the Ed McBain 87th Precinct novels said that I think.
Brain Study Finds People Actually Get Dumber During A Heat Wave

Redisdcovered …

… The Forgotten Master of the Ghost Story | JSTOR Daily. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Blogging note …

Once again, I have to spend most of today away from my desk. Today starts with a visit to the cardiologist. Then there are errands and more. Back later,

The shaping of language

… From ‘La Bamba’ to Houellebecq: Frank Wynne’s linguistic odyssey. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Wynne, like those exiles who had gone before him Joyce and Beckett, found that playing with a language that is not your own means “there are fascinating things you can do with it”. The more he experimented with French the more he began to think about English and the possibility of sharing his literary enthusiasms in French with his nonfrancophone friends

Something to think on …

People sometimes tell me that they prefer barbarism to civilization. I doubt if they have given it a long enough trial. Like the people of Alexandria, they are bored by civilization; but all the evidence suggests that the boredom of barbarism is infinitely greater.
— Kenneth Clark, born on this date in 1903

Sounds like it's well worth seeing …

… Movie Review: Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot - Reason.com. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

This story would seem an unlikely prospect for conversion into popular entertainment. But Van Sant's gentle narrative eccentricities (which include elements of magical realism) burnish the material. And the wonderful performances he elicits from his actors are reason enough to make a point of seeing the film.

Anniversary …

… First Love by John Clare | Poetry Foundation. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)



John Clare was born on this date 225 years ago.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Early Modern Fun...

...Let's dance!

A courtier’s tale …

Arthur Schlesinger Jr.: He's History.

Blogging note …

I have t be out all day. So no blogging until later on.

The agon of faith …

… Geoffrey Hill, Prodigal by Garrick Davis | Articles | First Things. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Besides, he was too busy asking himself questions about the reading material. I still have some of them in my lecture notes for the class: “Can the poet, by becoming virtuous in the moral sense, increase his poetic inspiration?” This was the kind of question that I gathered he was really asking himself during the course, though he never said them out loud. They were like an invisible thread, an obscure cause, behind the actual colloquy. Does God reward the moral poet in this way? Is the poet thus entirely at the mercy of God’s intentions? Does the scarcity or difficulty of a poet’s work reflect some failing in the poet?


Genuine faith raises questions, and never provides glib answers.

A good deal more than that, though …

… A writer’s writer and the inevitability of bad times - The Boston Globe.

This “inevitable” quality of life that the stories so often explore, is wholly connected to Dubus’s religious commitment as a Catholic, to taking human life seriously in the unhesitating belief that fiction is, or should be, about real people, usually in one or another kind of trouble. For Dubus this means the language of his stories is at the service of something outside itself. He is a “referential” writer, rather than a post-modernist one whose concern is with the tricks and illusions language plays. Unlike the American novelists Dubus is most indebted to — Hemingway and Faulkner — his language can sometimes feel “flat-footed” (Beattie’s word), not calling attention to itself; often we forget we are reading sentences but are put rather into more direct connection with the character’s thoughts and feelings. 
Here is Ann Beattie's piece: What Is Andre Dubus Doing, Anyway? 



And here is Richard Russo's: Learning to Love the Stories of Andre Dubus.



(Hat tip, Dave Lull)

Something to think on …

It is a modern tragedy that despair has so many spokesmen, and hope so few.
— Oscar Hammerstein II, born on this date in 1895

Hmmm ...

Kind of looks like just a rock to me but I am sure the science is settled.  

Or is it?

...

But it was painstakingly slow work, because the researchers wanted to make a compelling case that these really were tools made by hominins — and that they really were ancient. 
“We wanted to make it watertight and bombproof,” said Dr. Dennell.
In the new study, he and his colleagues argue that the stones could not have been naturally damaged. The surrounding rock had formed from grassland soil, which didn’t contain stones the size and shape of the tools. 
Instead, the researchers argue, the hominins at Lantian must have traveled miles away to mountain streams to find the right stones for making tools. The hominins carried the tools with them to use in gathering food, perhaps using sharp-edged stones to carve meat from carcasses.

I keep trying to learn the bass, for the whole Robert Palmer late '80's back up look

How Online Hobbyists Can Reaffirm Your Faith in the Internet  ... It is here, in the hobbyist internet’s daily collective struggle to make the best hamburger or grow the perfect tomato, that you can glimpse a healthier relationship with your digital devices.  And not a moment too soon. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Centenary …

… Dylan Thomas: not just a womanising drunk | Books | The Guardian. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)



Best let him speak for himself.

History and fiction …

… Informal Inquiries : "Did that really happen?" -- (Reading historical novels).

Guess they never heard of Bret Maverick …

 Liberals attack Brett Kavanaugh for 'frat boy' name | Fox News.

Your tax dollars at work …

… The DEA's List of Cannabis Slang Is Predictably Hilarious - Hit & Run : Reason.com.

Who knew?

… How a Government Program to Spread Literary Culture Hit Upon a Great Formula | Humanities. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Something to think on …

The only real sadness, the only real failure, the only great tragedy in life, is not to become a saint.
— Leon Bloy, born on this date in 1846

Jewish writer malgre lui …

 The Exuberant Joylessness of Philip Roth | commentary. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

With the sadness that attended Roth’s retirement from writing in 2012 and his death in 2018 came the realization that his work was never joyful. Funny and witty certainly, vital and intelligent always, and highly entertaining, but never plainly happy in the way a well-matched bride and groom enchant family and guests at their wedding. I was startled to find in the essay quoted above that Irving Howe calls him “an exceedingly joyless writer, even when being very funny.” He saw this before I did.

Skyrockets in flight!

On July 10, 1976, as the smoke was still clearing from America’s big bicentennial celebration, a new song slid into the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100, riding a chorus that referenced “skyrockets in flight.”
But Starland Vocal Band wasn’t singing about bombs bursting in air on its suddenly ubiquitous ditty “Afternoon Delight.” The harmonic soft-rock smash was actually about post-meridiem lovemaking.
...Phil Ramone, engineer: When something becomes good ear candy, it’s because two things are working: melody, lyric and groove. That’s three things. I lied. They all worked on this record.

Very interesting indeed …

… Torah and the Thermodynamics of Life: An Interview with Jeremy England - Jewish Review of Books. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

… I don’t want to have a divided mind. It has to be acknowledged that Tanakh is not trying to keep you comfortable with the idea of natural law, it is trying to make you uncomfortable with the idea of fixed, natural laws. That’s at least one current within it. (There are other ones that are countercurrents. There is also the Psalmist’s idea of mah rabu ma’asecha Adonai kulam be-chochma asita [how many are the things you have made, O Lord; you have made them all with wisdom]—the idea that Hashem made everything in wisdom and it has all this natural order and regularity to it. So, there are these currents in tension with one another.) But papering over that tension and saying, “It’s easy, we don’t have to worry about it”—that can come at a cost.

Listen in …

… The Biblio File hosted by Nigel Beale: Pierre Astier and Laure Pecher on Literary Agents in France.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Bloomers and more …

 O Kaplans, My Kaplans! – Boris Dralyuk. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Mr. Kaplan’s verbal pratfalls are easy pickings for comedy, but what makes the book a masterpiece is the dignity with which its author, Leonard Q. Ross, invests his hero. 

What is of import…

… Informal Inquiries : “Pastoral” by William Carlos Williams.

Dissenting voices …

 Not Everyone Loves Proust | Literary Hub. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Blogging bote …

I have a doctor's appointment in a little while and have errands to run after that. So no blogging by me until later on

In case you wondered …

… How to Make the Most of a Multi-Day Writing Conference | BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog.

Check this out …

… Dana Gioia on Twitter. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Hmm …

 Conservatives are wrong about free speech | The Spectator. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)


I think he underestimates  the problem. He certainly doesn't seem to have paid much attention to some of the antics on campus these days.

Something to think on …

Do not wait for life. Do not long for it. Be aware, always and at every moment, that the miracle is in the here and now.
— Marcel Proust, born on this date in 1871

Yay!

Scientists have discovered what they say are the world’s oldest colours – and they are bright pink.

Monday, July 09, 2018

Britain’s first man of letters …

… "As pounded gaping metal": Translating Saint Aldhelm’s Aenigmata. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)



As with many translators before me, I believe that the length, stateliness, and suppleness of English iambic pentameter provides the best substitute for Latin dactylic hexameter. The question of rhyme is a trickier one. Some classicists are adamantly opposed to the use of end-rhyme in classical translations. On the other hand, A.E. Housman always used it in his versions of Latin poems. I have not used end-rhyme in my versions of somber Latin poems, such as Tibullus’ elegies, but I have used it in my translations of humorous Latin verse because I believe that the surprises and joys of rhyme enhance any translation of a riddle.

Not that one …

… Informal Inquiries : Clinton elected.

Something to think on …

Music, uniquely among the arts, is both completely abstract and profoundly emotional. It has no power to represent anything particular or external, but it has a unique power to express inner states or feelings. Music can pierce the heart directly; it needs no mediation.
— Oliver Sacks, born on this date in 1933

A mystery …

… Forgotten Poems #45: "To Perdita," by Sarah Helen Whitman.

Not Surprising ...

A new study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology posits there's a good chance you can tell if someone is rich or poor just by looking at them.

Sunday, July 08, 2018

Much in what he says …

 Making Silly People Uncomfortable | The Russell Kirk Center. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

A conversation with John Gray.

Hmm …

… When local papers close, costs rise for local governments - Columbia Journalism Review. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)



Well, I have little doubt that without any oversight the political hacks will spend even more money. But most newspapers tend to agree with them when it comes to throwing money at problems. Newspapers also tend to focus on political solutions to problems. There are other possibilities.

The bogosphere …

… Informal Inquiries : Blogs, frogs, and Emily Dickinson.

Inquirer reviews …

'Evolution of Desire': René Girard, a man in full.

 David Lynch's 'Room to Dream' reveals only more mysteries.

Frances Metzman's 'Cha-Cha Babes of Pelican Bay': The rules of dancing, life, and rocking thongs in a retirement village.

Something to think on …

To live lightheartedly but not recklessly; to be gay without being boisterous; to be courageous without being bold; to show trust and cheerful resignation without fatalism — this is the art of living.
— Jean de La Fontaine, born on this date in 1621

and so it goes ...

GARDINER, MT—With the summer tourist season now in full gear, officials at Yellowstone National Park expressed a growing sense of concern and agitation Monday about a competing 3,500-square-mile nature reserve that recently opened directly across the street from their own park ... 

When contacted, Yello-Stone's principal owner Rick Zeller, whose park in Northern Arizona is credited with driving the Grand Canyon into bankruptcy in 2007, stated that he was simply exercising his right as an entrepreneur.
"It's a free country. You can build a park wherever you want," Zeller said. "We're just giving the people what they want—high- elevation alpine lakes, face-painting for the kids from a real Indian, a Continental Divide that'll knock your socks off—and we guarantee you'll see a bald eagle or you get a free soft drink on us. You can't beat that."
It's The Onion Sunday! 



In case you wondered...

Saturday, July 07, 2018

And all before global warming …

The 1911 Heat Wave Was So Deadly It Drove People Insane - New England Historical Society.

Thinkers all …

… Maverick Philosopher: Alan Dershowitz, Thomas Nagel, and David Benatar. (Hat tip Dave Lull.)

It is all over for the West if we don't punch back hard against the the forces of dogmatism and darkness in defense of free speech and open inquiry.


Here is my review of Mind and Cosmos.

Who knew?

 Tom Wolfe’s Lesser Known Career as a Cartoonist - The New York Times. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

View from Poland...

Have a look …

 Replay: Paul Strand’s Manhatta | About Last Night.

Unintended consequences …

… A Work of Art | by Janet Malcolm | The New York Review of Books. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Signaling …

… Zealotry of Guerin: The Virtue Wagon (Paul Klee), Sonnet #412.

Anniversary …

… Informal Inquiries : Dr. John H. Watson born on 7 July 1852.

An early look …

…at my latest review: 'Evolution of Desire': René Girard, a man in full.
This really is an extraordinary and important book.