Friday, December 14, 2018

RIP …

… Nancy Wilson, Grammy winning jazz singer, dies at 81.

Listen in …

… BBC Radio 4 - Great Lives, Russell Kane on Evelyn Waugh(Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

A view from abroad …

… Donald Trump is a Good President | Harper's Magazine(Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Best to read the whole thing.

Or maybe a humanist …

… The last intellectual | The fertile mind of Lionel Trilling. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)
Lionel Trilling (1905–75) was, in the words of Adam Kirsch, the editor of Life in Culture: Selected letters, “an intellectual, a thinker about society, politics, and ideas”. Trilling, too, thought himself an intellectual. On December 16, 1953, he explained the term to an enquirer from Oxford. It “isn’t a word that charms me, but it is, in this country at least, rather forced on one. I use it with much of the sense of ‘intelligentsia’ in it”. He added: “Maybe we should say clercs!”, again suggesting the language’s inhospitality to the offending noun, even in its American variety. He elaborated impishly “that intellectuals are those people whom those of my students who aspire to be intellectuals call intellectuals!” When, in the preface to Beyond Culture(1965), Trilling spoke of New York intellectuals, he was remembering a TLS reviewer who had said one of his books was mostly addressed to a narrow class of New York intellectuals “as judged by [my] own brighter students in Columbia”. In his response, Trilling instinctively turned to the differences in “intellectual temperament” between educated Englishmen and educated Americans. The noun “intellectual” occurs frequently in the letters. It suggests a broader range of interests than “critic” and presupposes some public activism, though in England, and in American academic circles, Trilling is mainly known as a critic, once an admired species.

Bravo …

… Sacramento News & Review - The man who saved reading - Feature Story - Local Stories - December 13, 2018(Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Something to think on …

He is free who knows how to keep in his own hands the power to decide at each step, the course of his life, and who lives in a society which does not block the exercise of that power.
— Salvador de Madariaga, who died on this date in 1978

Thursday, December 13, 2018

In case you wondered …

… The Best Books of 2018 for Young Readers | Penn GSE.

Hair today, gone tomorrow …

… Is the Beard Trend Over? - WSJ.

Well, I’ve sported one for more than half a century. So I know what it was like to have one when almost nobody else did. And I’m sure in hell not going to shave it off now.

An economy for persons …

… Belloc’s Humane Defense of Personhood and Property.

[The] role of property was once a central principle of all Catholic social teaching with its ambitious language of “third ways” and “integral humanism.”  Since the mid-twentieth century, unhappily, the Church has more sought to christen that unity of socialism and servility called the modern welfare state. It would do well to recover the more pugnacious revolutionist spirit of Belloc.

Taking faith seriously …

… Spark’s Chance Grace by Christopher J. Scalia | Articles | First Things. (Hat tip, Dave Lull)

… Spark’s Catholicism is difficult to categorize. The protagonist of The Comforters is described as a “critical but conforming” Catholic who believed “that the True Church was awful, though unfortunately, one couldn’t deny, true.” It seems fair to apply this description to Spark herself. Her biographer, Martin Stannard, reports that the loss of the Latin Mass upset her, but also says that she doesn’t seem to have actually attended church very often. She once commented that “Some of the Church’s teachings are very foolish,” suggesting that its emphasis on natural law in contraception contradicted its emphasis on “supernatural law” elsewhere.
The genuine practice of faith is as personal as the practice of poetry or music or any art.

Online now …

… the latest issue of Triple Canopy.

Meanwhile …

… China Jails Guangdong Musician Who Sang About Liu Xiaobo. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Pretty courageous …

… Released From Jail, Artist Tania Bruguera Vows to Remain in Cuba to Continue Her Fight Against a New Censorship Law | artnet News. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Yes …

Grand old man …

… Ferlinghetti speaks out at 99, his voice as vital as ever - SFGate. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Not much of a future for this kid …

Abridged Version …

… 'Slave Bible' Converted Slaves to Christianity by Omitting Parts That Could Lead to Uprising. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)



I wonder if it was ever widely circulated in the U.S.

Indeed …

Top Shots. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Not what you might think …

… John Lanchester — The Case of Agatha Christie — LRB 20 December 2018. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Christie produced a range of formal experiments so extensive that it’s quite difficult to think of an idea she didn’t try, short of setting a Poirot novel in a school for wizards. (Spoilers throughout all the next paragraphs. Though having said that, it’s a peculiar property of Christie’s work, speaking as someone who has reread several of the books multiple times, that you quite often forget, until you’re a significant way in, that you’ve read the book before; and even after that, you quite often forget whodunnit. Quite a few Christie fans have told me they’ve had the same experience. These are signs, perhaps, that the specifics of outcome are as unimportant to Christie’s readers as they were to her, and the main interest on both sides is formal and technical. You don’t mind rereading in the same way you don’t mind rereading a poem; you don’t care about re-encountering plot details just as you don’t care about re-encountering a rhyme.)

Anniversary …

 Beyond Eastrod : Ross Macdonald (Kenneth Millar) birthday.

December Poetry at North of Oxford …

… The Child Who... by Maria Keane.

… The Teacher by Joan McNerney.

… Dry Spell by Ann Christine Tabaka.

… 2 poems by Len Krisak.

A sad, sad story …

 Beyond Eastrod : Blogging Note — no more fiction but only history.

Hmm …

… Carlo Rovelli: In physics, the difference between past and present is extraordinarily slippery | Spectator USA. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

What is wrong is the extrapolation of our human experience of time to the entire reality of time. The analogy with the flat earth is pretty good: it’s not wrong to say that earth is essentially flat in London. If an architect assumes that the ground is flat for building a house he’s not wrong. The house will not fall down. But of course if we look at Earth from a distance, it’s not flat. You start to see the discrepancies. Our perceptions are not wrong, they’re just imprecise. If we try to use them to understand the universe at large, then we go wrong.
Time lived is different from time abstracted from life, just as music played is different from a musical score.

Contrasting views …

… Father, Son, Sinner, Saint - Image Journal.

The church wouldn’t approve of my taking Denis Johnson as a patron saint, but I wonder if he minds. Johnson, son of a diplomat working at the intersection of propaganda and spy craft; published poet at age nineteen, serious drinker and drug addict for the decade that followed; sober, more or less, for the four after that; playwright, teacher, journalist in the world’s worst hellholes; writer of some of the finest short stories and novels to appear in America in the past fifty years, taken by liver cancer in 2017. There are plenty of people who’ve never read him, but it’s hard to find anyone who’s read him—or who knew him—and doesn’t love him. He’s what you might call a blue-collar writer’s writer. He also survived more than one life crash and forged beauty from the ashes. I could use intervention from someone like that.
On the other hand: Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson.

At its pulpy heart Johnson's latest is yet another unthrilling CIA thriller, welded together with the Hollywood-forged boilerplate of conspiracies and mysterious, extragovernmental cabals. Not content to write an honest, mindlessly diverting thriller, Johnson pursues a Big Statement about — what? The course of American empire? Making an unholy pact with the devil? You got me, and I read every one of its 624 pages.
(Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I can't comment, since I haven't read anything by Denis Johnson.  But reading — and reviewing — are not exact sciences.

Something to think on …

The men of the past had convictions, while we moderns have only opinions.
— Heinrich Heine, born on this date in 1797

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Anniversary …

… Beyond Eastrod : Flaubert’s commas and dancing bears.

And the winners are …

 2018 October : IBPC Winning Poems for October 2018.



The Judge's Page.



(Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Something I wrote a while ago …

In the July 14, 2000 issue of the Times Literary Supplement, David Wheatley begins his review of  Letters of Louis MacNeice by noting that “the Greeks thought of the past as stretching out before them while the future waited behind their backs.” 
I am not sure if I ever knew this, and had long since forgotten it, but I do know that I have often thought this way. It has long seemed to me that when we are born we get in line behind all those who are already here and those who come after get in line in turn behind us.
This is but one of a number of odd ways I have of looking at time. I also have this notion that we really only experience one full year of life — our first. Our second year represents one-half of our lives up to that time, our third year a third, and so on. I am now living one-sixty-ninth of my life. This, I think, explains why time seems to go faster the older we get.
Time is the measure of duration, which is characterized by change, often not for the better. Things wear out the longer they go on. I was astonished recently to come upon a picture of myself from 12 years ago. My hair was still dark brown, my beard but a mix of brown and gray. Now the beard is white and the hair is gray tending to white. 
Yet people still tell me I look younger than my years. If this be so, it must be because I still walk with a youthful swagger: I don’t feel old yet.
I am listening just now to a recording of Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. My first recording of this was by the Philadelphia Orchestra with Philippe Entrement as the soloist. At the time it was made, Entremont was a very handsome young man in his 20s. He is now a portly gentleman of 76. Looking at a photo of him as he looks today, it is impossible to see any trace of the dashing young man he once was.
One of the characters in Strindberg’s great play The Ghost Sonata is a character called the Mummy. She once was a beautiful young woman. In fact, a statue of her as she was when she was young and beautiful is on display in the house where the action takes place. The Mummy herself, however, old and wizened beyond recognition, now lives hidden away in a closet. At one point the Student, who is the play’s protagonist, encounters her looking at the statue. He is stunned to learn that the statue is she as she once was. “Yes,” she tells him, “life does that to us.” 
It is an unforgettable scene.
The Greeks’ view of time goes a long way toward explaining why the passage of time so often takes us by surprise: It is creeping up on us from behind. 
And yet … there is that feeling we have, when we think over our lives, that less and less of it is before us and more and more behind. Past and future alike creep up on us.
What I find interesting in all of this is the metaphors we use for time. The Greeks were right, of course: We enter upon a show that has been going on long before we made our entrance and will likely continue going on for a good long time after we have made our exit.
On the other hand, once we make that entrance, we go off on our own and the metaphor shifts from an event we have joined to a journey we are taking. Hence, the memory of the places we have been, the people we have met, the things we have done.
So far as I can tell, all of this makes clear only one thing: That time, that measure of our living duration, is peculiarly mysterious, and that its mystery mirrors the mystery of our happening to be in the first place.

Character assassination …

… Shame Storm by Helen Andrews | Articles | First Things. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

In October 2010, I appeared on a panel to promote a book of essays by young conservatives, Proud to Be Right: Voices of the Next Conservative Generation. The moderator was Jonah Goldberg. One of the other panelists was my ex-boyfriend Todd Seavey. During the Q&A, Todd launched into a rant about my personal failings. He accused me of opposing Obamacare on the grounds that it would diminish human suffering, which allegedly I preferred to increase; of wanting to repeal laws against fistfights for the same reason; of being a sadistic and scheming heartbreaker in my personal life; and of generally living according to a “disturbing” and “brutal” set of values. For three minutes and forty-five seconds, which, unfortunately for me, were captured on film for broadcast two weeks later on C-SPAN2, he made an impassioned case that I was a sociopath.
Mr. Seavey's behavior was appalling. 

Hmm …

… Almanac: Eric Hoffer on instant gratification | About Last Night.

The passage of life …

 First Known When Lost: Interval.

From darkness into light, thence back into darkness.  "Passing from winter into winter again."  But there are always compensations along the way.  On one of last week's clear afternoons, a half-hour or so before the sun disappeared beyond the Olympic Mountains, I walked north down an avenue of bare trees.  The stout grey-brown trunks of the trees were already wrapped in the shadows of dusk.  But the branches overhead were bathed in yellow sunlight, shining in the pale blue sky.  The smallest twig was gilded in gold.

Listen in …

… Episode #4: Depredation of Art with Jonathan Leaf by Curriculum Vitae. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)
Why Jonathan Leaf wrote his play Pushkin in iambic pentameter.

A study in contrast …

 Kawaii, Somber Japan, by Linh Dinh - The Unz Review. (Hat tip, Felix Giordano.)

On the way to Tan Son Nhat Airport, the young taxi driver asked where I was flying to.
“Tokyo, I answered. “It’s my second time. They have a great subway system, brother,” and it is the most reliable, cleanest, safest and easiest I’ve ever used, with great amenities at most stations. “Who knows when Vietnam will have something similar?”
He guffawed, “We’re five hundred years behind them!”

Listen in …

… The Guest List 2018 – The Virtual Memories Show.

We asked the past year’s podcast-guests for the favorite books they read in 2018 and the books they hope to read in 2019 for our special year-end Guest List episode! Nearly three dozen guests participated …

RIP …

… RORATE CAELI: Professor Robert Spaemann, Philosopher and Advocate of the Traditional Mass, Dies at 91. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Spaemann was a profoundly faithful Catholic who used his brilliant intellect to defend the Faith, rather than to explain it away. He always had a deep respect for the simple faith of children. In an interview posted by Rorate in 2016, he said the following:
I once assisted at a Corpus Christi procession in the diocese of Feldkirch in Austria, presided over by the bishop, who is a member of Opus Dei. At the station altars, the bishop turned his back on the monstrance while reciting the prayers. I said to myself that if a child saw that, he could no longer believe that the Lord is present in the Sacred Host, because the little one knows very well that when you are talking to someone, you don’t turn your back on him. Things like that are very important. There is no point in the child studying his catechism if what he learns is contradicted before his eyes.

Getting to know him …

… A life more ordinary: inside Philip Larkin’s extraordinary everyday | Prospect Magazine. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

…  Larkin’s private life was a sideshow; that his poetry, along with its attendant literary activities, was his real life; and that anyone who couldn’t grasp that fundamental fact shouldn’t be talking about him at all, lest they leave his true heritage at the mercy of tin-eared misrepresentation.

Something to think on …

I have a superstition that if I talk about plot, it's like letting sand out of a hole in the bottom of a bag.
— Shirley Hazzard, who died on this date in  2016

Resolution …

… Beyond Eastrod : Blogging Note — “Brevity is the soul of wit”.

Nancy Mitford


I was surprised to find that it was more than two years ago that I first read the work of Nancy Mitford. I wrote on the blog about her most celebrated novel, The Pursuit of Love

I've now returned to Mitford -- this time by way of Love in a Cold Climate. As with Pursuit, this novel is good fun: it's lively, clear, and knowing. Mitford captures a world of aristocracy -- of manors and manners -- that no longer exists, but which provided considerable fodder for that group of novelists led by Evelyn Waugh. 

Mitford, of course, fit right in: Love in a Cold Climate reads in part as a Waugh novel might. Which is not to say that it's derivative; I mean that instead as high praise: Mitford uses a seemingly simple plot to cast light on the quirks and priorities of her characters. Cedric and Sonia, especially, emerge as more than their riches alone. 

If there's a critique of Love in a Cold Climate it's the extent to which the main character -- Fanny -- appears rather flat: she marries and has children, but neither of these developments seems significant to the plot, or to Mitford's observations. Perhaps there was another novel Mitford imagined for Fanny: but this was certainly not it. She is less a character here than a vehicle for reflection. 

All told, this is a great book; it's as a novel should be, really: crisp, determined, and rhythmic. I highly recommend both Cold Climate and Pursuit to those who are new to Mitford's legacy.  

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

A fellow worth remembering …

… Sir David Brewster - Brewster Kaleidoscope Society.

Blogging note …

As is often the case on Tuesday, I must be out and about. Blogging will resume later on.

Anniversary …

… Beyond Eastrod : Jim Harrison — an old geezer in Montana.

Eyewitness account …

… Paris police underestimated the madness of the crowd. | Claire Berlinski, City Journal.

I spent Saturday speaking to the Gilets Jaunes near the Bastille, where I figured I’d have a good vantage point on a traditional protest site. I walked with them as they slowly made their way to the city hall, or Hôtel de Ville. It was obvious from a single glance that these weren’t Parisians, but rural people who couldn’t afford to buy expensive Parisian clothes or get chic haircuts. I instantly understood why Macron rubs them the wrong way. They looked worn out; their hands and faces were lined; they were mainly in late middle-age. They seemed to be decent, respectable, weary people who had worked hard all their lives, paid their taxes, and played by the rules.
People at the Charles de Gaulle Étoile saw something else entirely. There, the police were physically overwhelmed by about 5,000 Gilets Jaunes who had come explicitly prepared to do violence. About 200 demonstrators showed their ID and allowed police to search them before they entered a security zone on the Champs-Elysées, but the rest refused to play by the rules. From about 8 am, hostile crowds of Gilets Jaunes emerged, in large numbers, from all the avenues around the Arc de Triomphe, trying to push their way onto the Champs-Elysées. The police were physically overpowered because so many of them were protecting the Champs-Elysées and the perimeter around the area where government buildings are concentrated. They were overrun. There were no cops behind the rioters to stop them from burning cars on the other avenues around the Étoile. 

Listen in …

… The Biblio File hosted by Nigel Beale: Anne Fadiman on her father Clifton and The Lifetime Reading Plan.

Second wind …

… Against the Clock review: fizzingly exuberant poems. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The writing in these poems is not really “late style”, as considered by Edward Said in his book of that title, which, in Said’s version of it, tends to generate masterpieces that nevertheless are broken or incomplete – the Aeneid, Bach’s final fugue, Proust’s À la recherche – but rather a return to earlier powers. There is nothing in late Mahon of Yeats’s “why should not old men be mad?”, for although the poems in Against the Clock return again and again to the theme of age and ageing – “Now that you’re seventy-five,/sails idly fluttering . . .” – there is a youthful spring to the metre, and an almost boyish, mischievous joy in the handling of language and the devising of imagery …

Q&A …

 John Updike, Pennsylvania, and “the matter of America” | Library of America. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Curious to learn more about what Updike himself once referred to as his “Pennsylvania thing,” we turned to Jack De Bellis, professor emeritus at Lehigh University and the author of six books on John Updike, for further insight into the small-town milieu that proved to be such an abiding source of inspiration for the author.

Something to think on …

It's a universal law — intolerance is the first sign of an inadequate education. An ill-educated person behaves with arrogant impatience, whereas truly profound education breeds humility.
— Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, born on this date in 1918

Monday, December 10, 2018

Hmm …

… It’s hard to be gay and Catholic. It doesn’t have to be. - The Washington Post. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

If you say you’ll kick out any gay candidates, you don’t end up with no gay candidates. You end up with those gay candidates willing to lie or unwilling to admit their longings even to themselves. You end up with those gay people least likely to learn chastity in an all-male, high-pressure environment where they must keep their secret for as long as possible. It’s like a machine for destroying souls.
Gay or straight, if you want to be a priest, you have to promise to be celibate. Being gay is not a sin.

Anniversary …

… Beyond Eastrod : Dickinson v. Twain.

And a plea to Santa …

… Beyond Eastrod : Flannery O’Connor and Caroline Gordon.

The mystery of Progression …

… Forgotten Poems #53: "Incompleteness," by Adelaide Anne Procter.

Hear, hear …

… Best American Anniversary —  Read a Friend's Heart.

Mysterious ways …

… Letters of Flannery O’Connor and Caroline Gordon Chronicle Long Friendship & Mutual Influence | National Review. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Especially in light of this new volume of letters — in which we read page after page of Gordon’s admiration for Catholic churches in Rome; her dating of letters with the Catholic saint or feast of the day; her constant requests for intercessory prayer and promises of prayers for others — O’Connor’s assessment of her friend as “basically irreligious” strikes the reader with nothing less than mystical force. How in the world did O’Connor see that Gordon — who clearly admired the Church, thought of herself as an orthodox believer, and often attended daily Masses, among other things — was in fact what we might call a practical spiritualist? In other words, was Gordon someone who intellectually admired the rituals and culture of the Church without actually integrating them into her whole existence, body and soul?
Gordon did eventually become Catholic.

Indeed …

… The only way forwards is backwards – learn Latin! - The Oldie. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

After receiving her gong, [Dame Mary Beard] said, 'It’s important to learn where we’ve been and where we’ve come from, and for people to have access to some of the most extraordinary and influential literature in world culture.'

In case you wondered …

… Why You Should Read Devotional Poetry in 2019. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

…  if we read enough devotional poetry, that reading will take us to corners of the spiritual life that might otherwise remain unvisited. For example, in compiling my anthology I was surprised by how many poems contemplate what our impending death will be like or what the actual moment of dying will be like.

More pushback …

… Paul Davis On Crime: Baby, Its Still Cold Outside: Dean Martin’s Daughter Says She Will Continue To Sing ‘Baby It’s Cold Outside’ After Song Was Pulled From Ohio Station. (hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Something to think on…

Forever is composed of nows.
— Emily Dickinson, born on this date in1830

Sunday, December 09, 2018

More on that song …

… Daughter of 'Baby, It's Cold Outside' writer Frank Loesser blames Bill Cosby for recent radio bans. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Very interesting …

 Essay Daily: Talk About the Essay: Dec 9: Silas Hansen on Sarah Einstein’s “Self-Portrait in Apologies”. (Hat tip,  Virginia Kerr.)

This last question asks students to tell me the single essay we read that taught them the most about writing creative nonfiction, the most important thing it taught them, and how they did something similar in their own work.

     Every semester, without fail, no matter what other essays I teach, a solid 75% of students (often more) choose the same essay: “Self-Portrait in Apologies” by Sarah Einstein.


Anniversary …

… Beyond Eastrod : John Milton — birthday, biography, and more.

Song of the hour …

Me, too …

… You can hate me as much as you like – it’s not a crime | Spectator USA.

Hate crimes can be committed against some groups, but not against others. Thus the assault on a woman motivated by a prejudice against women is a hate crime; the assault on a redhead motivated by a prejudice against redheads is not. But it was as a redhead that I was bullied at school, and if you doubt the prejudice against redheads can be destructive read Jules Renard’s Poil de carotte.
If someone hits me in the face with a baseball bat it fairly safe presume such person is not fond of me, But I would not want him prosecuted for his preferences and predilections. I would want him prosecuted for a crime already long on the books — aggravated assault.

In tune with heaven …

… At a Solemn Music by John Milton | Poetry Foundation(Hat tip, Rus Bowden, who reminds that today is Milton’s 410th birthday.)

Knowledge and meaning …

Gaertner gives a fine explanation of Barfield’s remarkable book on the scientific revolution, Saving the Appearances—whose title is a phrase long used by natural philosophers to indicate that their theories were attempts to find the simplest explanation consistent with what the senses told them. It was a modest approach, for it never claimed to have the final truth about the physical world. Barfield argues that the great scientific thinkers of the Renaissance cast aside this modesty and claimed that their theories not only saved the appearances but were completely true. Kepler and Galileo, Barfield says, “began to affirm that the heliocentric hypothesis not only saved the appearances, but was physically true.” This attitude has led today to an overweening certainty among some scientists (and even more among many non-scientists) that science has all the answers, including answers to metaphysical and humanistic questions. Such scientism is contradicted by all the Inklings, along with many other modern thinkers. As Jewell and Butynskyi (whose essay begins by tracing the development of this attitude in the nineteenth century) put it, “The Inklings called for scientism’s adherents to recognize that science can respect, even if it cannot explain, the mythic or metaphysical.”

In between worlds …

… Old Age by Edmund Waller | Malcolm Guite(Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Listen in …

… Terry Teachout: interview with Debbie Millman. (Hat ti, Dave Lull.)

Something to think on …

Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties.
— John Milton, born on this date in 1608

Saturday, December 08, 2018

Interesting take …

… A 1940s French film is one of the most Catholic horror movies ever made | America Magazine. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

… this fictionalized story of Bernadette Soubirous, a French peasant girl who claims she sees a mysterious “Lady” in a secluded part of the city dump, follows a classic horror-film structure in order to make a theological point that could not be more urgent and contemporary.
I watched the film recently and thought Jennifer Jones did a fine job doing the hardest thing for an actor — making goodness credible.

Here is my review of Franz Werfel's novel.

Behavior and usage …

… Brian Bilston on Twitter: "A Christmas poem about being haunted by ghostly grammarians.… " (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Hmm …

… ‘Brideshead Revisited’ changed my life. Can it work its magic on the ‘Downton Abbey’ generation? | America Magazine. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

We have somehow hurtled past the supposed end of history into a volatile new order, where diversity surges alongside inequality, old alliances have been alternately reformed and fractured, technology both connects and divides us, and even war has been decentralized, disaggregated and outsourced. Were he alive now, Waugh would find a surfeit of black-comic grist for his satirical mill.
I first read Brideshead during the summer between my sophomore and junior years of college. It was on a list of books we were required to read in preparation for a course in the novel. I chose it because I had recently read Waugh's Decline and Fall, which I found hilarious. I figured Brideshead would be a fun read. But not long into it, I paused, and said to myself, "I think this is the saddest book I have ever read." That sadness, I think, it the key to its power. It is the sadness born of the absence of faith.

You can't have one without the other …

… Imagination and truth – Mark Vernon. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Charming monster …

… Zealotry of Guerin: Boar Hound (Alice Bea Guerin), Sonnet #434.

Something to think on …

You can fool too many of the people too much of the time.
— James Thurber, born on this date in 1894

Making a soul appear...

Friday, December 07, 2018

Hmm …

… France braces for trouble, Macron to address 'yellow vest' anger | Reuters.

The way we were …

… Medieval skeleton’s boots reveal harsh realities of life on the Thames | Ars Technica

The boots, combined with evidence from his bones, suggest that the man may have died on the river while trying to earn a living. The condition of his bones suggests that he was about 35—near the upper end of average life expectancy for a man in Tudor England, which ranged from around 35 to around 42. It had been a hard life of intense physical work, leaving the man with signs of osteoarthritis, which would, no doubt, have caused considerable aches and pains. Deep grooves worn into his teeth suggest the nature of that work: that kind of wear often comes from passing or holding a rope between one’s teeth, as a medieval fisherman or sailor might have done.

The afterlife …

… Damn It All. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)
The Penguin Book of Hell, edited by the Fordham history professor Scott Bruce, is an anthology of sadistic fantasies that for millions of people over many centuries laid a claim to sober truth. Not all people in all cultures have embraced such fantasies. Though the ancient Egyptians were obsessively focused on the afterlife, it was not suffering in the Kingdom of the Dead that most frightened them but rather ceasing altogether to exist. At the other extreme, in ancient Greece the Epicureans positively welcomed the idea that when it was over it was over: after death, the atoms that make up body and soul simply come apart, and there is nothing further either to fear or to crave. Epicurus was not alone in thinking that ethical behavior should not have to depend on threats and promises: Aristotle’s great Nicomachean Ethics investigates the sources of moral virtue, happiness, and justice without for a moment invoking the support of postmortem punishments or rewards.
Well, Jesus refers to the everlasting fire, which seems to me to give a hell a temporal dimension. Eternity is not time  going on forever. It is timelessness. So I think it reasonable to posit that Hell may only last until the end of time. The Abbé Mugnier famously said that he believed in Hell because it was a doctrine of the Church, but added that he didn't have to believe anyone was there.  While looking up the Abbé to check on this, I came upon a piece I wrote in which he figures. It has some bearing on all this, so here it is;
Look at the moon, not at the finger.

Triumph of the spirit …

 Lectures on Proust in a Soviet Prison Camp. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

And as he digs more deeply into À la recherche
du temps perdu something miraculous happens.
The huge chasm between the affluent Parisian man
of the world Marcel Proust and the incarcerated Polish prisoners begins to
narrow. Proust, after all, may have gained renown as a witty and charming
presence in the salons of his day, but when he embarked in earnest on his
career as a novelist, he renounced this fashionable world and isolated himself
to an almost pathological degree. Not only did he rarely leave his home, but he
sequestered himself even more tightly in his bedroom, where he had the walls
lined with cork to prevent sounds and pathogens entering from the outside.
The analogy of a prisoner in an isolation cell comes immediately to mind.

Q&A …

… Scholars Talk Writing: Hyphens, Oxford Commas, and Pronoun Preferences - The Chronicle of Higher Education. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The important thing is that the decisions rest with the writer. The copy editor has to suppress her ego. But the writer doesn’t have to be an ass. In general, the better the writer, the more open he or she is to being copy-edited. The best writers need the least copy-editing and are also the most open to being copy-edited.
As a former copy editor,  I can vouch for this.

Recommended …

… 15 Black Authors to Read in 2019 | Black Excellence.



25 Black Poets You Should Know.



(Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

An eye for detail, and the heart to go with it …

 Prairie Spring by Willa Cather - Poems | Academy of American Poets. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)



Cather was born on this date in 1873.

A formidable task …

… Can you rewrite the Bible? This man has made it his mission - The Jewish Chronicle. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Attempting to answer his own questions, he produced a “feisty” article in which “I took to task modern scholars for spending all their time hunting down Akkadian loan words while they showed no ability to read a story.”
Well, he isn't trying to rewrite it. He's translating it more accurately (and rather gracefully). I might just get a copy.


Something to think on …

There are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before.
— Willa Cather, born on this date in 1873

Thursday, December 06, 2018

Indeed …

… Instapundit — REMINDER: All modern American presidents exercise power that is morally and constitutionally illegit…

Worth noting …

… Effect of Aspirin on Disability-free Survival in the Healthy Elderly | NEJM.

Very nice …

 Poem of the Week: ‘Evidence’ – TheTLS. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

And the winner is …

… 2018 Thurber Prize Winner Announced : The Booklist Reader. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

A wonderful poem …

… On Poetry: Finding the spirit of holiness | Local News | record-eagle.com. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Centenary …

… Untethered | Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn as he saw himself. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Solzhenitsyn, at long last, found his writer’s refuge up a winding road from the town of Cavendish, Vermont. There, he expanded and winterized a Swiss-style wooden house and erected a tower for his library, archives and, on the top floor, multiple tables, where he worked standing up because of sciatica. An underground tunnel connected the two structures. “Now,” he writes, “I had the office of my dreams, spacious, with a high ceiling and bright windows (there were even windows in the roof, and no attic beneath them).” The compound, which he christened “Five Brooks”, also acquired an interior chapel dedicated to St Sergius of Radonezh. The author swam, played tennis, scythed grass and sawed wood, while contemplating the past and future of Russia in “the American wilderness”.

A cool Christmas …

… A Reflection: Vince Guaraldi Trio — A Charlie Brown Christmas : Aquarium Drunkard. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

In May 2012, when the Library of Congress included the Vince Guaraldi Trio’s A Charlie Brown Christmas in its selections for the National Recording Registry, it said, “A Charlie Brown Christmas introduced jazz to millions of listeners.” That feels right. School-age children were able to access jazz because it was couched in cartoon and Christmas. Like the Christmas special itself, Guaraldi’s compositions reside beneath the veil of tradition. Shroud removed, you find in each something much deeper.

He knew whereof he wrote …

… The Grandfather of New Nature Writing Was a Bird-Loving Poet | Literary Hub. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Through his rootedness in one place, during his twenties and thirties John Clare produced some of the finest nature poems ever written. However, for over a century these were neglected by literary critics and the general public alike, until from the 1950s onwards his reputation was restored and rehabilitated. Today he is widely hailed as one of the most influential of all writers on nature.

Hear, hear …

… The importance of the novella: Bartleby the Scrivener by Herman Melville — MobyLives. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Cause for concern …

… Fears Grow for Tania Bruguera After Cuban Authorities Detain the Activist-Artist | artnet News. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Sad tale …

… Poetry Twitter Erupts Over Plagiarist Ailey O’Toole. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

At the center of the controversy is a void: O’Toole herself, and her unexplained motivations. Poetry is as intimate as it is non-remunerative, a tiny part of the small word of books where writers lay themselves bare and mine the darkest corners of their lives for art. To steal the words of another poet isn’t just theft, but violation. Yet what O’Toole did wasn’t just outrageous; it’s also deeply weird, from her self-incriminating emails and interviews to the Scooby Doo-esque denouement: She would have gotten away with it — maybe — if not for her own seemingly compulsive need to advertise what she’d done.

A subtle eye …

… Vivian Maier's Rare Color Works Show the Mysterious Photographer in a New Light—See Them Here | artnet News. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Many of the pictures are more vibrant—a shock of bright red lipstick, say, or a buttery bunch of flowers abandoned by a street post—and they often offer clues to the political and societal shifts underway when they were taken, such as newspaper headlines and cinema posters.

Something to think on …

If God were small enough to be understood, He would not be big enough to be worshipped.
— Evelyn Underhill, born on this date in 1875

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Taking it personally …

Dr. Frankenstein, call your office …

… First ever sun-dimming experiment will mimic volcanic eruption in attempt to reverse global warming | The Independent.

Something to wrap your head around …

… Revisiting the Dyson Sphere - Scientific American Blog Network.

Somebody tell The Inquirer …

… What’s behind a recent rise in books coverage? - Columbia Journalism Review(Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Art and money …

… State of the Art - Taki's Magazine - Taki's Magazine(Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Appreciation …

… Underrated: Jonathan Haidt | Standpoint.  (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Haidt argued from a coolly scientific, even-handed perspective, demonstrating that our political and religious convictions are deeply rooted in human nature and hence largely impervious to rational analysis. We are ingenious at finding reasons to justify our gut feelings: “Anyone who values truth should stop worshipping reason.”

The march of time …

… Beyond Eastrod : Onward against the odds — thoughts on life expectancy and figuring out the basics while time permits.

Blogging note …

I have to take my wife to a couple of appointments today, so blogging will resume sometime later.

Listen in …

… The Biblio File hosted by Nigel Beale: David Frum on Trumpocracy and Trump: The Novel.

A timely thriller …

 How thriller writer Frederick Forsyth sees cyber warfare - Washington Times.

According to Mr. Forsyth’s publisher, Putnum, his new thriller was inspired by the cyberterrorism cases of Lauri Love and Gary McKinnon, two computer hackers who have Asperger’s Syndrome, like Mr. Forsyth’s fictional character, the Fox, a teenager named Luke Jennings.

Cautionary tale …

… Military Book Review The Storm Before the Storm: The Beginning of the End of the Roman Republic.

Art and technology …

… An art gallery in your pocket: See Vermeer’s paintings in augmented reality. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

… now, you can experience all of Vermeer's known artworks in one place for the first time. Thanks to the Mauritshuis museum in the Netherlands and other cultural institutions guarding Vermeer’s legacy, they’re available in Pocket Gallery, a brand new feature on the Google Arts & Culture app. Pocket Gallery uses augmented reality, so you can pull out your phone and step into a virtual exhibition space to see all of his works, curated by experts from the Mauritshuis. All 36 of his paintings—including the missing masterpiece and the famous “Girl with a Pearl Earring”—hang lifesize and perfectly lit. As you step closer, you’ll see each painting in stunning detail and can learn more about each piece.   

In case you wondered …

… How the Ancients can help the Moderns | Standpoint. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

What is perhaps more surprising than the enduring appeal of studying the Classics through the ancient languages is a developing demographic trend: despite this being a discipline whose civilisation was primarily controlled by men, and almost exclusively created by men, Classics has seen in recent decades a predominance of female undergraduates. The average cohort of Cambridge Classicists, for instance, has comprised 61 per cent women over the last five years. Across the UK sector, UCAS reported in 2017 that the student body for “Linguistics, Classics and related" subjects has 3.3 female undergraduates for every male. It is true that there is a general preponderance of female students in UK universities (58 per cent of the 2016-17 cohort), but it is increasingly marked in the Classics. Among younger (under 35) classical academics in the UK, women are also slightly in the majority. Such a trend seems to be replicated among British secondary schools: the proportion of women taking classical subjects at A Level has risen steadily over the last ten years, from 53 per cent (2009) to over 62 per cent (2018); for Classical Civilisation, two-thirds of candidates are female.

Here is Donna Zuckerberg's blog.

A most interesting list …

 Here are the Biggest Nonfiction Bestsellers of the Last 100 Years | Literary Hub. (Hat tip, Dave Lull..)

Dialogue …

… Shakespeare: Mimesis and desire | Standpoint. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

In 2005, Girard met Harrison, author of Juvenescence: A Cultural History of Our Age; Forests: The Shadow of Civilisation; and The Dominion of the Dead, for a two-part interview on Harrison’s celebrated Entitled Opinions radio and podcast series, available on iTunes. Together, they recapped Girard’s long career and thought. This is the first of the two interviews. Both transcripts will be included in the forthcoming Conversations with René Girard (Bloomsbury), edited by Cynthia L. Haven, who is also the author of Evolution of Desire: A Life of René Girard (2018).

Something to think on …

I think that modern physics has definitely decided in favor of Plato. In fact the smallest units of matter are not physical objects in the ordinary sense; they are forms, ideas which can be expressed unambiguously only in mathematical language.
— Werner Heisenberg, born on this date in 1901

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Anniversary …

… Beyond Eastrod : Thomas Carlyle and Charles Dickens.

FYI …

… A Note to My Catholic Friends about Hanukkah | Spengler.

There is a deeper side to the story, though. The eight-branched candelabra of Hanukkah is not a mere remembrance of the Eternal Light of the destroyed Temple. It is actually the flame of the Temple, relocated to the Jewish home. Every Jewish home is a temple in minature.

Correspondence …

… “Just a touch of wildness” — or, How Evelyn Underhill schooled C. S. Lewis on the ways of God | Carl McColman.

Perhaps what it all comes to is this, that I feel your concept of God would be improved by just a touch of wildness.

Q&A …

… Camille Paglia: ‘Hillary wants Trump to win again’ | Spectator USA. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I have been trying for decades to get my fellow Democrats to realize how unchecked bureaucracy, in government or academe, is inherently authoritarian and illiberal. A persistent characteristic of civilizations in decline throughout history has been their self-strangling by slow, swollen, and stupid bureaucracies. The current atrocity of crippling student debt in the US is a direct product of an unholy alliance between college administrations and federal bureaucrats — a scandal that ballooned over two decades with barely a word of protest from our putative academic leftists, lost in their post-structuralist fantasies. Political correctness was not created by administrators, but it is ever-expanding campus bureaucracies that have constructed and currently enforce the oppressively rule-ridden regime of college life.

Q&A …

… Camille Paglia: ‘Hillary wants Trump to win again’ | Spectator USA. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I have been trying for decades to get my fellow Democrats to realize how unchecked bureaucracy, in government or academe, is inherently authoritarian and illiberal. A persistent characteristic of civilizations in decline throughout history has been their self-strangling by slow, swollen, and stupid bureaucracies. The current atrocity of crippling student debt in the US is a direct product of an unholy alliance between college administrations and federal bureaucrats — a scandal that ballooned over two decades with barely a word of protest from our putative academic leftists, lost in their post-structuralist fantasies. Political correctness was not created by administrators, but it is ever-expanding campus bureaucracies that have constructed and currently enforce the oppressively rule-ridden regime of college life.

Listen in …

… Episode 298 – Summer Pierre – The Virtual Memories Show.

A mix-tape isn’t just saying, ‘I want you to enjoy this’, it’s, ‘I want you to enjoy me making this.'”

Recommended …

 Notting_Hill_Eds on Twitter. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Blogging note …

It's one of those days when I have to be out and about. Blogging will resume later on.

Mentoring …

… TT: Entry from an unkept diary | About Last Night.

Learning a craft …

… 'We Begin in Gladness' delves into how poets teach themselves to write their best - CSMonitor.com. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

In “We Begin in Gladness,” Craig Morgan Teicher assigns himself the task of explaining how poets teach themselves to write their best. His title comes from a couple of lines by William Wordsworth: “We Poets in our youth begin in gladness; / But thereof come in the end despondency and madness.”

Listen in …

 … 1888 Podcast Center | 237 – Pico Iyer.

Words, words, words …

… The American Heritage Dictionary usage panel: Defining Characteristic - The Dictionary and Us. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Time, obviously, makes it own decisions about what is right and wrong in usage, and tracking the many changes wrought by history as it comes barreling through a dictionary is a major part of the work of professional lexicographers. In 1972, for instance, usage editor Bohle pointed out that the courtesy title Ms. had become common enough that it could no longer be ignored by a standard English dictionary—this was shortly before Ms.magazine popularized the term even further. Graham wrote the entry, and Ms. appeared for the first time in a dictionary, along with the first definitions for sexism and liberated woman.