Wednesday, July 31, 2019

RIP …

… Hal Prince, Broadway Director and Producer, is Dead at 91 | Time. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Thinking and acting …

… Was Pascal right about belief? – Mark Vernon.
… there is more to the wager than just abstract logic. Pascal simultaneously argued that what you do makes a difference to what you believe. “If you perform religious rites with enthusiasm… you will come to be devoutly religious,” he wrote.
In other words, when he talked about believing in God, he was talking about actions as well as words. He intuited the two were linked, and the striking truth is this insight is finding growing support in science.

Literary relations …

 Nigeness: Porter, Osborne, Temple, Swift.



I must read more Peter Porter.

Courage and a happy ending …

… The Year I Went Bald | The Walrus. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)
MY HAIR GENERATES many compliments. Some from those who know what I’ve been through but most from those without any idea. “It’s so curly,” they exclaim. “It’s so thick. It suits you.” I agree with them, but when I take the compliment, there’s a sense of maror, bitter herbs served at Passover, hanging over my gratitude. I earned my reconstituted curls, my darker chestnut color, my newfound ’do, but I would not wish these badges of so-called honour on the worst of enemies.

I know Sarah.  I am not surprised that she endured and prevailed. And I am so happy ,that she did,

How we got Feds …

… BOOK REVIEW: 'The Birth of the FBI' - Washington Times.

 I’m not sure the Founders would have approved.

Anniversary …

… RTs Reviews and Marginalia : Primo Levi — “Unfinished Business”.

What it says …

The Story of St. Mark's Gospel | Michael Pakaluk and Catherine Ruth Pakaluk | First Things. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Commentators today—and most priests in their homilies—move quickly to psychological or moralistic lessons they draw from Scripture. But I say: See what you can find in the literal sense. Why? Because Christianity is incarnational. The Word became flesh for a reason, so that we see it in the flesh. It’s a mistake to take a well-crafted story and say that what it is really asserting is some kind of moralistic lesson, and that the story is mere window-dressing. When people would ask Flannery O’Connor about the meaning of her stories, she would say, “The story is the meaning.” When we look at the Gospels in that way, they become intensely interesting.

Subject ill-served …

… The Bad Biographer’s Tale | The American Conservative. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

 Her discussion of “intertextuality” in Chaucer does work because Chaucer, like most classical and medieval writers, draws heavily on many writers who preceded him. However, the “places and spaces” framework quickly becomes formulaic and tiresome, and references to hybridity and liminality invariably signal a lack of careful analysis. References to “the liminality of death,” “the artisanal spaces of the Tower of London,” and the kidnapping of children as “a breathtaking display of appropriation” are unintentionally humorous.

Something to think on …

"Who is secure in all his basic needs? Who has work, spiritual care, medical care, housing, food, occasional entertainment, free clothing, free burial, free everything? The answer might be nuns and monks, but the standard reply is 'prisoners'"
— Erik von Kuenelt-Leddihn, born on this date in 1909

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Bicentenary …

… Subversive, queer and terrifyingly relevant: six reasons why Moby-Dick is the novel for our times | Books | The Guardian. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

When a modest Everyman edition appeared in London 20 years after Melville’s death in 1891, DH Lawrence declared it a work of futurism before futurism had been invented; EM Forster and WH Auden extolled its queer nature. Virginia Woolf read it three times, comparing it to Wuthering Heights in its strangeness, and noted in her 1926 diary that no biographer would believe her work was inspired by the vision of “a fin rising on a wide blank sea”.
Begging to differ: Filthy Hoare. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Post bumped.

Indeed …

It Ought to Be Gothick - The American Interest. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

T

he best way to rebuild Notre-Dame de Paris would be to restore what was there, as if the fire never happened; there is no need to commemorate a senseless accident. The structural damage will have to be repaired first. Gothic cathedrals were built with belt-and-suspenders: the nave was spanned by a ribbed stone vault, but the actual weight of the roof with its heavy lead covering, was carried on an independent wooden structure of rafters, braces, and tie-beams. The Notre-Dame fire, which started in the attic of the north transept, totally destroyed this structure. A recent report in the New York Times suggested that had the fire not been prevented from spreading to the wooden structure that supports the eight giant bells of the north tower, the damage might have been much, much worse. But it was bad enough. The roof is gone, the spire is gone, and three large portions of the thin stone vault collapsed under the weight of the falling 750-ton spire. Establishing the integrity of the surviving vault is the most pressing question. The 21 flying buttresses of the choir have been temporarily reinforced and work is currently underway to ascertain what damage the heat of the fire—and the massive quantities of water—may have caused to the stone. Replacing and repairing the vault will be a challenging task.

Appreciation …

Fr. Schall, "What Is," and Book Clubs ~ The Imaginative Conservative.

What is. That was, in fact, the heart of Schall’s many books, essays, and lectures, especially because he knew and proclaimed, unceasingly, that what is is really and ultimately a matter of Who Is: I Am Who Am, the Logos, the Alpha and Omega, the Lord of History, the Triune God.

Anniversary …

… RTs Reviews and Marginalia : First legislative assembly in America convenes in Jamestown.

Mystical fiction …

… The Geography of Rebels Trilogy by Maria Gabriela Llansol | Quarterly Conversation. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

There is magic in how Llansol puts words together—and more of the poet in her than the prose writer. The excerpt below is fairly indicative of what you will find. Note the line “the room’s lamp was extinguished, the daylight disappeared,” which appears first in parenthesis. She repeats the same phrase, this time without the parentheses, at the end of the passage. It is a surprisingly effective trick. The words reverberate in the mind like an echo, or deja-vu, or even a whisper across time.

Q&A …

… Contributor Spotlight: Diane Sahms-Guarnieri – Sequestrum.

Diffuse and superficial

… on Transatlantic Connections: A Literary History by Theresa Malphrus Welford – On the Seawall. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

FYI …

… The Czech Play That Gave Us the Word ‘Robot’ | The MIT Press Reader. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

… Čapek reflected on the origin of one of the play’s characters:
The old inventor, Mr. Rossum (whose name translated into English signifies “Mr. Intellectual” or “Mr. Brain”), is a typical representative of the scientific materialism of the last [nineteenth] century. His desire to create an artificial man — in the chemical and biological, not mechanical sense — is inspired by a foolish and obstinate wish to prove God to be unnecessary and absurd. Young Rossum is the modern scientist, untroubled by metaphysical ideas; scientific experiment is to him the road to industrial production. He is not concerned to prove, but to manufacture.

A long romance …

… “Love Between Writers”: Saul Bellow and Bette Howland - Jewish Review of Books. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Something to think on …

The different steps and degrees of education may be compared to the artificer's operations upon marble; it is one thing to dig it out of the quarry, and another to square it, to give it gloss and lustre, call forth every beautiful spot and vein, shape it into a column, or animate it into a statue.
— Thomas Gray, who died on this date in 1771

Anniversary and blessing …

 RTs Reviews and Marginalia : Stanley Kunitz — his birthday and “Benediction “.

Better late …

 Is this the oldest debut author in history? | Literary Hub. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Q&A …

… A.E. Stallings: 'I'm Optimistic About Poetry, but That's Maybe the Only Thing' | Literary Hub. (Hat tip, Dave Lull)

Rhyme is a sort of echolocation—you speak out into the world, and it answers back to you. But meter is something more internal, it is more about listening to some internal voice. To be honest, I don’t know that I can say much about meter generally, whereas I could about particular meters (Sapphics, say, or trochaic tetrameter.)

Monday, July 29, 2019

Blogging note …

I’ve done the blogging I can do for now. I must head out for a luncheon date. Back whenever.

Listen in …

 The Biblio File hosted by Nigel Beale: Charles Foran on Mordecai Richler.

I met with its author Charles Foran to talk about its subject Mordecai Richler. The guts, aggression, honesty and pride of the man - a man who did things, who wrote to stimulate conversation, and argument, who was socially engaged, who asked hard, uncomfortable questions. We also discuss Richler’s similarities to Pierre Trudeau. His taking on a whole movement over Quebec’s sign laws; his desire to write the best novel ever written, least one book that would last; about Montreal, its tensions, and his loyalty to it; and about Canadian culture, digitization and the loss of literary life

Quite a story …

… Yours, John Updike - WORKSHOP TSL - Medium. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Listen in …

… Episode 330 – Milton Glaser – The Virtual Memories Show.

Everything is design. Design is planning. It’s having an objective of any kind. When you go out to dinner, you’re designing your meal. There’s no design without intent, and there’s no life without intent.”

Something to think on …

For all that has been, Thank you. For all that is to come, Yes!
— Dag Hammarskjold, born on this date in 1905

The Great War and the taste for horror …

… The Horror of War and the Thrill of Horror – Reason.com. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

After the armistice of November 1918, a wave of vivid memoirs, plays, novels, and poems tried to grapple with the civilization-shaking event that everyone had just experienced. These gradually gave way to more sanitized recollections, as each nation tried to move on from the conflict. Yet that wartime experience didn't disappear from the culture, Poole argues. It went underground, feeding a resurgent horror genre, especially in the new medium of film. Movies transmuted the effects of poison gas, flamethrowers, machine guns, and massive artillery barrages into creatures that reminded audiences of their all-too-real confrontations with death and dismemberment. While most of Europe and America tried to turn away from an industrial war's killing fields, the horror genre stared deeply into those abysmal years and brought forth fascinating monstrosities.

In case you wondered …

… How about Catholic defenses of slavery, Nazism, and pornography? – Catholic World Report.

… I have no interest at all in defending Capitalism. But I am curious why Dettloff and America Magazine think that a philosophical system—an anti-Christian religion, in truth—that has been condemned repeatedly by the Church should be promoted in such a sophistic, sophomoric, and, yes, insultingly stupid article. 

Of ants and men …

… Are We Still Here? by David Mason : American Life in Poetry. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Sunday, July 28, 2019

We all have to start somewhere …

… Paul Davis On Crime: A Little Humor: Blonde's First Horse Ride.

Well, maybe …

… The best recent poetry – review roundup | Books | The Guardian. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

It seems to me you would have to have read all the recent poetry to say that what you’re reviewing is the best.

Good …

… Roger Scruton gets his job back | Coffee House. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Getting started …

Paul Davis On Crime: Raymond Chandler: The Art Of Beginning A Crime Story.

Anniversary …

 RTs Reviews and Marginalia : John Ashberry’s birthday.

Something I just read …

… Francis and Fundamentalism – Catholic World Report.

Ruthven points out that the “fundamentalist impulse in Islam” has a very different “form” than that found in Protestant Christianity. Although one hears of the “theocratic” impulse in fundamentalist Protestantism, that bears little resemblance to the monolithic and all-encompassing goal of Sharia pursued by Islamic fundamentalists. And what of “Catholic fundamentalism”? Interesting enough, Ruthven doubts that such a thing really exists, in large part because Catholicism is not a religion of the book (think here of the Catechism‘s statement that “the Christian faith is not a ‘religion of the book'” [par 108]), but looks to the Magisterium and Sacred Tradition, along with Sacred Scripture, for authoritative guidance. He does say, however, that if there is a form of Catholic fundamentalism, it might be what is called “intégrisme in French, integralism in English”—the belief that the pope should rule over the world; that is: “papal fundamentalism.” Go figure.
I have just come upon some pieces taking a critical look at the incumbent pontiff. I plan on linking to them as I read them.

In case you wondered …

… Nigeness: Who Needs English?

… as a degree subject, English seems to have even less to offer than it did when I was a student: sadly it has become a prime focus of the 'cultural Marxist' programme of all-round multicultural wokeness. Considering that the whole point of the humanities was to teach students to think, not to subscribe to received opinion, this is very sad.

Anniversary …

… Binsey Poplars by Gerard Manley Hopkins | Poetry Foundation. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Gerard Manley Hopkins was born on this date in 1844.

Joe Friday redux …

… TheNewVerse.News : JUST THE FACTS.

A rather pleasant fellow, actually …

… Another side of Samuel Beckett | Culture | The Guardian. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Alba’s memory echoes the Bown portrait, but she recalls a gentleness to his angularity. “He had a raspy kind of cigarillo voice, and he could be very quiet. His silences mattered as much as his words. He had an aura, but he was easy to talk to. We used to play Mozart and Schubert together, a very intimate experience. He came for dinner once a month, would recite poetry – a Shakespeare sonnet, Keats’s Ode to a Nightingale – and listen to classical music.”

Visitations …

… First Known When Lost: Three Thoughts.

Beware of the architects, and the bearers, of systems. We are all ignorant.  The sooner we acknowledge our ignorance, the better.

Qualified appreciation …

… Harold Bloom's Tragic Confession. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

… Bloom’s insights don’t resonate deeply. He is too obsessed with comparing and contrasting, rather than allowing his responses to touch us deeply. He repeats his theory that poets always wrestle with the work of the poets that have come before them, either unconsciously or consciously, and then struggle to find their own voice in reaction to what has come before. There is something anti-transformative about his assertions, often tangled up with incomprehensible jargon.

Something to think on …

The only way to test a hypothesis is to look for all the information that disagrees with it.
— Karl Popper, born on this date in 1902

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Cool …

… Incredible Photo Shows The ISS in Front of a Strangely Spotless Sun.

RIP …

… Bryan Magee obituary | Education | The Guardian. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Odd fellow. He seems to have been genuinely interested in philosophy without ever actually arriving at one of his own.

Three-dimensional illustration …

… A second career in set design | The New Criterion. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

A notorious workaholic, Sendak wrote and illustrated twenty-two books, among them classics like Where The Wild Things Are and In The Night Kitchen. He illustrated at least sixty more texts, many by “adult” writers like Tolstoy, Singer, Kleist, and Melville. The range of Sendak’s subjects is indicative; an autodidact, his extraordinary level of culture was reflected in his ardent love of music (which he considered the highest art form).
So it should come as no surprise that when he initiated his career as a set designer in 1979, he did so with gusto.

Who be he?

RTs Reviews and Marginalia : Edgar Box — crime fiction writer with a secret Identity.

Hmm …

… zmkc: Modern Mysteries - a Continuing Series.

Just in case …

… you're nearby: The prospects are fair | Brandywine Books.

Remembering …

… The Diary Review: Dark as soaring pine.



I just got the Kindle version of the diaries.

Anniversary …

… Stanley Middleton: A Centenary | Nottingham UNESCO City of Literature. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Stanley and I discovered we were neighbours and began to meet regularly, usually on Friday afternoons after I’d finished writing (he only wrote in the morning). His wife, Margaret (who, sadly, died earlier this year) was a wonderful gardener and bonded with my partner, Sue, over gardening, sharing plants and much more. The four of us spent many happy hours in that garden.

Read, watch, and listen …

 Playwright Tom Stoppard On The World Premiere Of 'Penelope'. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

A waiting angel …

 Zealotry of Guerin: The Magic Square (Albrecht Durer), Sonnet #467.

Something to think on …

When one remembers how the Catholic Church has been governed, and by whom, one realizes that it must have been divinely inspired to have survived at all.
— Hilaire Belloc, born on this dat in 1870

Friday, July 26, 2019

Bravo …

… Hero cow helps gardai catch fleeing burglar in Co Meath | The Irish Post.

The eyes have it …

… The Asses of Parnassus - Hyperopia. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Much in what he says …

… Beyond Libertarianism | J. D. Vance | First Things. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

We live in an environment that’s shaped by our laws and public policy, and we cannot hide from that fact anymore. I think the question conservatives confront at this key moment is this: Whom do we serve? Do we serve pure, unfettered commercial freedom? Do we serve commerce at the expense of the public good? Or do we serve something higher? And are we willing to use political power to actually accomplish those things?

In case you wondered …

… How Jewish journos handle hate – STU BYKOFSKY.

Hmm …

… For more than 30 years, an elephant walked in a Delco parade. Then animal rights activists took notice.



How do these people know that the elephant minds being in the parade? Maybe it likes getting out and about every once and a while.

As for the circus elephants, they're out of work now. They can't earn a nickel.

Watch and listen …

(Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

On tour…

… Buenos Aires Biblio File Backstory – Literary Tourist.
Buenos Aires was on sale. It was such a great deal, we couldn’t afford not to go. 

Prison or good news…

… RTs Reviews and Marginalia : Emily Dickinson — Of Tolling Bell I ask the cause?

I think Miss Emily thought the bells should be regarded as celebratory.

Green coils …

… Hoses — The Writer's Almanac for July 19, 2019 | Garrison Keillor. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Formidable adversary …

Paul Davis On Crime: My Washington Times Review Of 'Admiral Gorshkov: The Man Who Challenged The U.S. Navy'.

Middle age and its discontents …

… Poem: Midway - The New York Times. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Something to think on …

Thinking is difficult, that’s why most people judge.
— Carl Jung, born on this date in 1875

Careful and honest …

… Got Writer's Block? Read This Poem | Literary Hub. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

A reason for writing …

… Rereading Frost — The Writer's Almanac for July 21, 2019 | Garrison Keillor. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Someone worth getting to know …

… MARCEL TABUTEAU FIRST-HAND.

Tabuteau, who was French-American, is considered the founder of the American school of oboe playing. He served as principal oboist of the Philadelphia Orchestra from 1915 to 1954 and, just as importantly, taught at the Curtis Institute of Music (as well as privately) from 1925 (a year after Curtis opened) until his retirement in 1954.
 During those years, he came to exercise a decisive influence on the standards of classical music performance in the United States raising them to an unprecedented level. His influence upon classical musicians of every discipline continues to be felt even today.

Appreciation …

… Remembering polymath scholar Dick Macksey: “There was no one like him, and no one will follow in his tracks.” | The Book Haven.

Listen in …

… The evolution of the self – Mark Vernon.
Human consciousness has shifted dramatically over the last 5000 years. Evidence as diverse as prehistoric archeology, ancient social structures and the history of words suggests as much. 
In particular, it looks as if our sense of being individual selves is a relatively recent perception. It changes our relationship to nature, the cosmos and gods.

The heatwave of 1707

… Nigeness: 'Proud to catch cold at a Venetian door'.

Worth pondering …

… What Were Robespierre’s Pronouns? - WSJ.

It was a revolution largely run by sociopaths. One, Robespierre, the “messianic schoolmaster,” saw it as an opportunity for the moral instruction of the nation. Everything would be politicized, no part of the citizen’s life left untouched. As man was governed by an “empire of images,” in the words of a Jacobin intellectual, the new régime would provide new images to shape new thoughts. There would be pageants, and new names for things. They would change time itself! The first year of the new Republic was no longer 1792, it was Year One. To detach farmers from their superstitions, their Gregorian calendar and its saints’ days, they would rename the months. The first month would be in the fall, named for the harvest. There would be no more weeks, just three 10-day periods each month.

Absorption in the actual …

… Robert Cording, Simon Weil, and "Attention" - Image Journal. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

To look with true love at another person — say, someone who is suffering — means, for Weil, to look with an attention in which “the soul empties itself of all its own contents in order to receive into itself the being it is looking at, just as he is, in all his truth.”

Tracking the decline …

… 5 facts about the state of the news media in 2018 | Pew Research Center. (Hat tip, Paul Davis.)

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Nice guy …

… CNN Photo Editor Mohammed Elshamy Posted Anti-Semitic Tweets.



Of course anti-Semitism has become as popular in these parts as it was in Nazi Germany. (How’s that for turnabout?)

Talking to the dead …

… My Late Lunch with Oliver Sacks - Los Angeles Review of Books. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

It would never have occurred to me to imagine talking with a dead person the way you’re talking with me now,” Oliver says. “It’s why I marvel at your novels — how you can simply make things up! I’ve never understood how one does that.”

Fighting alone …

… Poem of the Week: ‘The English War’ – TheTLS. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

An endangered species?

… Metaphors grow the mind and feed the soul. Don’t lose them | Aeon Essays. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

As we see it, metaphor exists – and relies upon – the complex, emotionally resonant, arresting connections we make. These linkages, between ourselves and the world, require a degree of primary experience, as well as sensitivity to the nature and details of that experience. Metaphor is the knot between language and image, between language and sensory experience, and between language and narrative. Indeed, a growing body of research supports the view that metaphoric thinking could be deeply tied to empathy. 


In our image-saturated, over-sped world, we are losing the imaginative power to create and find meaning through metaphor

In our image-saturated, over-sped world, we are losing the imaginative power to create and find meaning through metaphorIn our image-saturated, over-sped world, we are losing the imaginative power to create and find meaning through metaphor

Clear-eyed observation…

 'I will never hear my father's voice': Ilya Kaminsky on deafness and escaping the Soviet Union | Books | The Guardian. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Kaminsky himself lost most of his hearing after contracting mumps aged four in the Ukrainian city of Odessa. “The Soviet doctor said it was just a cold and sent us away,” he says, without self-pity. This life-changing medical misjudgment would connect him with history in ways that he is still processing. “It is on the day Brezhnev dies that my mother learns of my deafness, and the odyssey of doctors and hospitals begins,” he wrote recently. “My mother shouts at senior citizens in public transport to promptly get up please and give her sick child a seat; my father, embarrassed, hides on the other side of the trolley. I cannot hear a word … Brezhnev is dead. Strangers wear black clothes in public. Thus begins the history of my deafness.”

Q&A …

 “Poetry has great work to do”: An Interview with Carolyn Forché. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

In my adulthood as a poet, I’ve always carried small notebooks with me wherever I’ve gone. I don’t chronicle my life in them, I simply write down things as I think of them. Sometimes it’ll be a line, or a list of words, or an image that I see and I take a note of it. I’m very interested in the fact that a lot of poets that I have researched, living and dead, also kept such notebooks. It seems to be a pattern with poets.

Partners in poetry …

 How Two Literary Giants Wrote Their Best Poetry - The Atlantic. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Adam Nicolson’s The Making of Poetry is a glowingly—one might almost say throbbingly—detailed account of an experimental year: the period from the summer of 1797 to the autumn of 1798 when two men, high on revolution, made a do-or-die attempt to rewire the relationship between the mind and the world. They made this attempt through the medium of poetry—one of the men was William Wordsworth, the other was Samuel Taylor Coleridge—and they failed, obviously. But the effort was glorious, and the poetry it produced (“Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey,” “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” “Kubla Khan”) is still with us.

Something to think on …

The central task of education is to implant a will and facility for learning; it should produce not learned but learning people. The truly human society is a learning society, where grandparents, parents, and children are students together.
— Eric Hoffer, born on this date in 1902

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Masterwork …

Ernest Boch was born on this date in 1880.

Worrisome …

… RTs Reviews and Marginalia : Blogging Note — living in God’s waiting room.

In case you wondered …

… The Best Books on True Crime | Five Books Expert Recommendations. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Endangered species …

… Journalism jobs: 2,000 American newspapers close in 15 years. (Hat tip, Paul Davis.)

So far as I know, the Wall Street Journal continues to flourish. It also continues to abide by rules set by the late Warren Phillips, whom I had the privilege of knowing.

Whatever the position and title, his primary focus was always journalism. Warren regarded publishing a great newspaper as a sacred trust whose ultimate mission was public service. This was well before today’s era of “fake news” and the ubiquitous blending of news and opinion. To Warren, news and opinion were separate “courses,” like meat and dessert, and news journalists should have no agenda beyond serving their readers and the broader public with honest and reliable information.

Hmm …

… The Underground Group Supplying Pittsburgh's Prisoners with Books | Literary Hub. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

While I was book editor of The Inquirer I worked with a gentleman named Bill Chaney to ship books to the Philadelphia prison system, which over the years went from having a library with few books to having one with many books. They now even have book clubs, I am told. Bill Chaney was a great guy. He passed away a couple of weeks ago. The world is now a poorer place. 

Hmm …

… A Primer for Forgetting. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Sometime in the twenties in Berlin, a certain Dr. Kurt Lewin noticed that the waiters were very good at remembering the particulars of his restaurant bill—until the bill was paid. Soon settled, soon forgotten. Lewin wondered if he hadn’t stumbled upon a fact of mental life, that the finished task drops into oblivion more easily than the unfinished.
There is a paradox at work here. We remember what we left unfinished, but should we get around to finishing it, we will forget it.

Anniversary …

… RTs Reviews and Marginalia : John D. MacDonald — a birthday celebration.

FYI …

… Cometh the Hour, Cometh the Man: A Profile of Boris Johnson - Quillette.

In Boris … it was as if I’d finally encountered the ‘real’ Oxford, the Platonic ideal. While the rest of us were works-in-progress, vainly trying on different personae, Boris was the finished article. He was an instantly recognizable character from the comic tradition in English letters: a pantomime toff. He was Sir Toby Belch in Twelfth Night demanding more cakes and ale, Bertie Wooster trying to pass himself off as Eustace H. Plimsoll when appearing in court after overdoing it on Boat Race night. Yet at the same time fizzing with vim and vinegar—“bursting with spunk,” as he once put it, explaining why he needs so many different female partners. He was a cross between Hugh Grant and a silverback gorilla.

Something to think on …

The difference between western and eastern intellectuals is that the former have not been kicked in the ass enough.
— Witold Gombrowicz, who died on this date in 1969

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Anniversary …

… Paul Davis On Crime: On This Day In History The American Crime Writer Raymond Chandler Was Born.

It’s a white whale, men …

… RTs Reviews and Marginalia : Herman Melville — then and now.

Stirring up the hornets …

… Crime writers mystified by Colm Tóibín’s criticism. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I’m not sure I get the distinction between literary fiction and genre fiction. So if I like Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw I shouldn’t like Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island? James and Stevenson were friends. I just read books. I don’t get involved with pigeonholing them.

Kipling in America …

… Five Books from Rudyard Kipling's New England | Book Marks. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

We have to remind ourselves that Emerson was Prometheus for Kipling’s generation, a great liberator, and not the Polonius we sometimes think he was. Nietzsche loved Emerson. All the avant-garde European writers, from Baudelaire to Rilke, read Emerson with reverence. And Kipling came out of that kind of background; his uncle was the Pre-Raphaelite painter Edward Burne-Jones, and he knew the socialist writer and artist William Morris when he was growing up. Emerson told his readers to trust themselves, to ignore conventions. “Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist.” Kipling’s heroes—Mowgli, Kim, and the rest—invented their own codes, lived by their own rules.
I remember the cold clear day in February — I was a sophomore in high school — when I first read Emerson’s “Self-Reliance.” It was for me a personal declaration of independence.

In case you wondered …

… Is There Any Hope For Western Europe? | Frontpage Mag. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The New York Times gets worse and worse. Even Fox News punished Jeanine Pirro recently for daring to suggest that Ilhan Omar, hijab and all, might actually be a devout follower of her own religion’s dictates. Part of the problem is that the old-fashioned type of journalist, the street-smart working-class guy who had a healthy suspicion of all elites and a well-developed BS detector and used to be played in movies by guys like Spencer Tracy, has long since died off and been replaced by privileged kids from fancy colleges and journalism schools who have been marinated for years in identity-group ideology and who are often clueless about the real world. In the last couple of years websites that were receptive to articles critical of Islam have seemed to back off from the topic. 
Well, they haven’t all died off. I’m still kicking.

Life’s thoroughfare …

… RTs Reviews and Marginalia : Where was it he had meant to go, and with whom?

So many Brownings …

… Browning Fever | Lapham’s Quarterly. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Over the course of several face-to-face exchanges, Browning assured the aging academic of their mutual intellectual understanding and thanked Corson effusively for the years spent propagating his poetry. None of this was particularly remarkable in itself—the two had met decades earlier and had even briefly traveled together in Italy. Far more noteworthy was the fact that at the time of these final conversations, Browning had been in his grave for twenty-two years.

Euolgies …

… zmkc: Valuable and Rare. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

… one thing I do not doubt is that the fearlessness Stone regularly displayed (not least when attempting to smuggle a dissident across a border, leading to a stint in a prison in Communist Hungary) - a fearlessness he seems to have encouraged in his students as well - is a much needed quality in today's peculiar and alarming world.

Something to think on …

Eventually we all have to accept full and total responsibility for our actions, everything we have done, and have not done.
— Hubert Selby, Jr., born on this date in 1928

Monday, July 22, 2019

RIP …

… Farewell Richard Macksey, legendary polymath and “the jewel in the Hopkins crown” (1931-2019) | The Book Haven.

A new kind of monster …

… BOOK REVIEW: American Predator: The Hunt for the Most Meticulous Serial Killer of the 21st Century - Washington Times.

A big, strong man, Israel Keyes killed at random as he traveled across the country, even to Alaska. He buried his “kill kits,” which included cash, guns, and body-disposal tools, at various locations in the states that he passed through and/or lived. He had no particular M.O., and he covered his tracks well. He killed at least 11 people, but no one knows the exact number of his victims.

Hmm …

… Confessions of a Grammar Nazi | Policy of Truth. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

What motivates me, rather, is a love for useful and beautiful tools that are well-designed to perform specific functions, and a dislike of seeing them used in a way that ruins them. If we misuse a phillips screwdriver (and note that I have no objection to dropping the initial majuscule on “Phillips”) to punch holes in a wall or to chip bits off of rocks, we run the risk of blunting it in such a way that we lose the ability to use it as a phillips screwdriver. Likewise, when we use “decimate” (a term that bears its etymology and associated history on its face) to mean “destroy most of” (something we have many perfectly good synonyms for already – including “devastate,” which is probably what people were aiming for when they started misusing “decimate”), we undermine our ability to use it to mean “destroy ten percent of” – a very specific meaning for which no other term exists (and we also help to render the historical use of the term unintelligible).
I think something that Lord Falkland said applies: “When it is not necessary to change, it is necessary not to change.”

Optimism …

Inquirer Management Fears Philly Could Have No Daily Paper in 5 Years. (Hat tip, Paul Davis.)
Their digital sight is awful. Quite often, if one tries to find an article that is in the print version, one cannot. So they could start by looking at the digital sites of British newspapers. These, not surprisingly, mirror the print versions of same.
The print version of The Inquirer would do much better, I suspect, if it had a serious book section. I say this, not because I used to edit The Inquirer’s book section when it still had one, but because the paper’s competitor on Sunday, the New York Times, still has a book review section. True, it is a shadow of its former self. (I have nothing against the NYT’s book section. I wrote for it once. Those were very nice checks.) The Inquirer could easily put out a book section fully competitive with the NYT’s. I suspect that readers would soon prefer paying less for The Inquirer’s than more for the NYT’s. (Of course, that would mean they were really putting out a good section — which would not be hard, though I'm not sure this sorry crew could pull it off.)
Of course, the problem is much deeper than that. The quotes from management in this article make plain that the one thing these people don’t know how to manage is a newspaper. Why the hell is Brian Tierney still involved with this operation? He’s the one who brought them to their current low estate. 
The paper has no drama critic, no book critic, no book editor. Any wonder no one takes it seriously anymore. The managers should get out more and talk to people. I don’t think they would like what they’d hear, but they’d learn something.
I give them two to three years.

A pointing finger …

… Some Thoughts on a Fine New Film 'Never look Away' - Mail Online - Peter Hitchens blog. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Make of it what you like, but can we guarantee to see evil among us at the time it is going on? Others, who thought themselves as good and kind as us, have not. It does not always appear in the same guise. It is often done by apparently good people, and for seemingly good motives.

Listen in …

… The Biblio File hosted by Nigel Beale: Top Literary Things to do in Buenos Aires.

Kit Maude is a Spanish-to-English translator. He received a bachelor’s degree in Comparative American Studies from the University of Warwick. In 2009 he moved to Buenos Aires where he currently lives. His translations have been featured in Granta, the Literary Review,  the Short Story Project, and other publications.

Wise words, actually …

 Paul Davis On Crime: Ernest Hemingway On Life And Being A Writer.

Peculiar fellow …

 Baron Corvo aka Fr. Rolfe – manwithoutqualities. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Because it a great symphony …

… by a great composer.

Clearing things up …

… Every woman has a right to have her scrotum waxed | Spectator USA. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

ALL trans people have to be respected because as an oppressed minority, they are automatically incapable of doing wrong. Identity politics tells us this. If you criticize anyone from a marginalized community, you are an evil bigot. So fellow social justice comrades, please do not be tempted to use nuance. Stay away from judging people as individuals and applying logic and reason based on each circumstance. That’s for Nazis and fascists and bigots and transphobes. No, in order to be progressive and tolerant we must group all trans people together as one homogenous mass and treat them all with the same respect, regardless of whether or not as a human being they truly deserve it. Progressives defending Jessica Yaniv can only be good for the trans community. 
There is more on this here.
‘Some of my clients are adherents to the Sikh religion. They believe that they marry for life to one husband, and that it is not permitted for a married woman to touch the genitals of a biological male (penis/scrotum) who is not their husband.’

Something to think on …

For we know when a nation goes down and never comes back, when a society or a civilization perishes, one condition may always be found. They forgot where they came from. They lost sight of what brought them along.
— Carl Sandburg, who died on this date in 1967 

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Why it is good to investigate before you report …

… Collusion? NBC Promotes ‘Fun’ FaceApp, Then Realizes It’s Russian.

Papa’s birthday …

… Paul Davis On Crime: On This Day In History American Writer Ernest Hemingway Was Born.

Time for a chuckle …

… Paul Davis On Crime: A Little Humor: Fun In Hell.

Yes, there is something to it …

… quite a lot, actually: Nigeness: Englishness (yawn).

Love in ghastly circumstances …

 “Then she spoke, in Polish, slowly. She said, ‘Co teraz?’ What now?” | The Book Haven.

Anniversary …

… RTs Reviews and Marginalia : Hemingway’s birthday.


Art and chance …

… Boris Artzybasheff, C. S. Lewis, and lost art | OUPblog. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

High praise …

… The Function of Criticism in a Time of Entropy | The Russell Kirk Center. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

 “The critic,” he insists, “should be tethered to no theory, no ideology, no asphyxiating ism.” Defying our ethos of zealous politicization, Giraldi makes so bold as to declare that “Ideology is the enemy of art because ideology is the end of imagination.”
Well, that’s for sure.

Sounds good to me …

… What Can Unite Us Catholics? - The Catholic Thing. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Inquirer reviews …

… ‘Hot, Cold, Heavy, Light’: Essays on art by a poet with a keen eye.

… ‘Late Migrations’ by Margaret Renkl: Nature, family, praise, in a book made of summer.

… ‘Joan of Arc in the English Imagination’: Girl, warrior, witch, myth, and more.

Something to think on …

People hope that if they scream loudly enough about "values" then others will mistake them for serious, sensitive souls who have higher and nobler perceptions than ordinary people. Otherwise, why would they be screaming? Moral bitterness is a basic technique for endowing the idiot with dignity.
— Marshall McLuhan, born on this date in 1911

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Listen in …

… Episode 44 —Catholics Need Poetry. But Do We Want It? —Dana Gioia | Catholic Culture. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Personal testimony …

… Can Ilhan Omar Overcome Her Prejudice? - WSJ.

… I eventually unlearned my hatred of Jews, Zionists and Israel. As an asylum seeker turned student turned politician in Holland, I was exposed to a complex set of circumstances that led me to question my own prejudices. Perhaps I didn’t stay in the Islamist fold long enough for the indoctrination to stick. Perhaps my falling out with my parents and extended family after I left home led me to a wider reappraisal of my youthful beliefs. Perhaps it was my loss of religious faith.

Hmm …

… The New York Times Says Heat Waves Are Getting Worse. The National Climate Assessment Disagrees. – Reason.com.



As evidence, the Times cites the U.S. Global Change Research Program, reporting that "since the 1960s the average number of heat waves—defined as two or more consecutive days where daily lows exceeded historical July and August temperatures—in 50 major American cities has tripled." That is indeed what the numbers show. But it seems odd to highlight the trend in daily low temperatures rather than daily high temperatures.
Not so odd, when you have an agenda that facts may get in the way of:
As it happens, chapter six of 2017's Fourth National Climate Assessment reports that heat waves measured as high daily temperatures are becoming less common in the contiguous U.S., not more frequent.
I spent 28 years working for what was then a major metropolitan daily. So I have some experience of what  journalism is supposed to be about. As a reader, what I want is an accurate and precise  account of what is going on. I’ll figure out the implications on my own.  In my case, that means I won’t bring any ideological bias to it, since I don’t happen to subscribe to any ideology. 


In case you wondered…

… Who is the last man? Peter Sloterdijk on Nietzsche | The Book Haven.

I think Nietzsche was among the very rare thinkers who had a feeling for the deep connection between moral philosophy and public relations.
This seems a dubious contribution. But I am one who thinks that Nietzsche, while entertaining to read, is overrated as a thinker.

Anniversary and proposal …

… RTs Reviews and Marginalia : Truman institutes a military draft — July 20, 1948.

Well, certainly, in these enlightened times, we wouldn’t dare deny women the privilege.

Master class …

… Replay: Stephen Sondheim rehearses “Getting Married Today” | About Last Night.

'Twas ever thus …

… Zealotry of Guerin: David with the Head of Goliath (Artemisia Gentileschi), Sonnet #466.

Exploring legends …

… Mark Haddon’s Latest Curious Incident Sails the High Seas - The Millions. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

That’s the thing about legends, ask any scholar of the classics: They get told and retold and will always reflect the attitudes of the place and time of the teller. Haddon makes these characters resonate simply by giving them a “realness” that readers of contemporary fiction crave. They may have old-fashioned names, but they’re bristling with life. When Pericles meets the Queen of Tarsus and she “stands just a little closer to him than is proper, just inside an invisible orbit of which he has never been aware before,” we readers feel the electricity between them. Sex and attraction feature prominently throughout the story, as do birth and death, terror and violence—all the elemental stuff of life that hasn’t changed one bit over the eons—and the drama feels ageless because it is.

Something to think on …

It is better to will the good than to know the truth.
— Petrarch, born on this date in 1304

Friday, July 19, 2019

Anniversary and resolution …

… RTs Reviews and Marginalia : Lord of the Rings anniversary and my reading goal.

The lyricism of relativity …

… The Universe in Verse: Cosmologist and Saxophonist Stephon Alexander Reads “Explaining Relativity” by Astronomer and Poet Rebecca Elson – Brain Pickings. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Appalling …

… When Teaching African-Americans to Read in the South Meant Risking 20 Lashes From a Bullwhip | Essay | Zócalo Public Square. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Sounds good to me …

… The charm – and artifice – of the English cottage garden | Spectator USA. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)
What was going on in cottage gardens in the 19th and early 20th centuries was both practical and inspiring. The challenge was to make the most out of not much space, not much money and not much time. Plants needed to be tough and easy to propagate, and self-seeding was encouraged. Indeed the spirit of a cottage garden — think towering hollyhocks, paths over-spilling with lavender and a laden apple tree  — is that nothing need match or be formally arranged. The only agenda is to fill your space with scent and color.

Who knew they were dangerous …

… Your Local Library May Have A New Offering In Stock: A Resident Social Worker : NPR. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Hmm …

 Hateful Conduct in Libraries: Supporting Library Workers and Patrons | Advocacy, Legislation & Issues. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)



They may want to ponder this (from a piece by Lionel Shriver that I linked to yesterday):

In striking down a law prohibiting ‘racially disparaging’ trademarks in 2017, Justice Samuel Alito wrote: ‘Speech that demeans on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, age, disability, or any other similar ground is hateful; but the proudest boast of our free speech jurisprudence is that we protect the freedom to express “the thought that we hate”.’ Justice Anthony Kennedy contributed on that same case: ‘A law that can be directed against speech found offensive to some portion of the public can be turned against minority and dissenting views to the detriment of all. The First Amendment does not entrust that power to the government’s benevolence.’

Centenary graphic …

The Magic of Iris Murdoch. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Deep-down Philly …

… Underground Philly Tour | PhillyVoice.





On a brilliant sun-drenched Saturday, a dozen travelers signed up for a guided tour sponsored by Hidden City Philadelphia. They wanted to see how what was below ground influenced what was above ground.

Something to think on …

Above all am I convinced of the need, irrevocable and inescapable, of every human heart, for God. No matter how we try to escape, to lose ourselves in restless seeking, we cannot separate ourselves from our divine source. There is no substitute for God.
— A. J. Cronin, born on this day in 1896

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Malcolm Lowry


It's not often that you read a book which walks such a fine line between failure and success. But Under the Volcano, Malcom Lowry's celebrated novel of inebriation and despair, does just that: fluctuate between stylistic genius and narrative incomprehensibility. 

The start of Volcano is promising enough: Lowry establishes his central characters -- including the troubled British consul, Geoffrey Firmin -- using a style all his own: histories overlap, time bends. But the story holds together: Firmin emerges as a character of interest, his descent into divorce and alcoholism a topic worthy of exploration. 

What comes next, however, is an experiment in narration so extreme as to make the more difficult passages of a Faulkner novel, for instance, appear elementary. If Lowry's goal in Volcano was to capture the essence of inebriation alone, then he's done so: Firmin's story becomes so opaque, so misguided, that it reaches the point of becoming unintelligible. 

And this, for me, served to frustrate: Lowry provides just enough clarity around his four main characters to spark interest in their tangled relationships, but he does little to help untangle that knot. The middle section of this novel, especially, is a real challenge, not least because Lowry is unwilling to use Firmin's alcoholism as a vehicle for change. Instead, Firmin drinks, and in so doing, sacrifices any hope at redemption. 

It's true, of course, that alcoholism can do this: it can lead to nothingness. But I wondered why Lowry committed so much to Firmin's drinking when, in the end, it doesn't advance any sort of narrative arc: in fact, it does the opposite -- it serves to stall, and compound the Firmin's associated tragedy.  

There are beautiful passages in this novel, and for that, Lowry is to be praised: for he did achieve some sort of transcendence in his doggedly poetic style. But a novel needs to tell a story, and no matter how experimental, it needs to progress. Ultimately, Under the Volcano seems less a book about Geoffrey Firmin and more one about that single topic which Lowry manages to render in three dimensions: Mexico.