Thursday, January 21, 2021
Wednesday, January 20, 2021
Tuesday, January 19, 2021
Kathy was everything the article says and much more besides. I feel chilly and growrn old.
I do understand that the humor-challenged among us — God bless them — may not be amused.
When the pandemic hit last year, she was at the forefront of STAT’s coverage until she herself got sick — with lung cancer, it turned out — breaking down computer modeling studies, mortality data, and wastewater analyses to help millions make sense of a disorienting barrage of un-vetted information. Sharon’s was a voice readers knew they could trust.
Might it be that many of the people who wrote such vile things to me, or pronounced upon my op-ed on social media or in actual media, were in fact offended by my pointing up the degradation of the contemporary university? Might it be that my even partially describing this degradation of higher education, and the subsequent devaluation of its degrees, ordinary and honorary, on which they feel that their prestige depends offended them more than a thousand kiddos? By mocking the state of the university, did they feel I was attacking the foundation on which their own lives have been built? Might R.R. Reno, writing about my op-ed in First Things, be on target when he writes: “That Epstein should note the obvious—that credentials are the cheap cellophane in which elites wrap themselves when they lack real achievements and nobility of soul that win respect—galls them.”
As long ago as 1931, in The Theory of Eduction in the United States, Albert Jay Nock argued that American universities were devolving to mere trining schools.
Monday, January 18, 2021
Wiman’s duelling with secular tensions is, in this book as elsewhere in Wiman’s writing, manifested in his profound empathy with the duels that others also undergo. In that sense, survival is the style for most of us. And if ‘style’ seems an inappropriate word for survival, it is a characteristic of Wiman’s very raw, visceral sense of irony. Thus, the ‘confessional’ in Wiman’s writing sits cheek by jowl with the ironic ‘sacrifice’ of so many lives. As he puts it in long poem, ‘The Parable of Perfect Silence’ with its own highly ironised title, these are ‘Hard lives hardly there’. And he admits that ‘When I began writing these lines / it was not, to be sure, inspiration but desperation, / to be alive, to believe again in the love of God.’
Travelogue, natural history, mariner’s meditation, and architecture drama, Atlantis is animated by Renzo’s restless mind and lively recollections. But it is Carlo who weaves all sorts of relevant bits into the tale. For instance, he tells us that the modern Greek word anoxis means “spring” – but originally, the word “meant the moment a ship sails into the open sea, as well as the moment when your mind grasps an idea for the first time.” Atlantis itself is Carlo’s attempt to grasp the dynamics of his father’s creativity, a force that has managed to envision work, performance, institutional and living spaces in so many different environments and cultures. The voyage trope provides an armature on which not only to erect a vision of his father, but to consider the vastness of what is manifest and hidden.
Sunday, January 17, 2021
… free societies are much more creative. One statistic I cite in my book is this: Switzerland with its eight million people has produced 25 Nobel Prize winners in science, including Einstein. The People’s Republic of China with its 1.3 billion has produced just one. That’s not a racial thing. Scientists of Chinese extraction have won Nobels in the United States, Canada and France.
Saturday, January 16, 2021
Despite the Irishness of Banville’s murder story, it nevertheless appears generic. So much so that in the second chapter, someone says that “Poirot himself appears in the scene.” This reference to Agatha Christie’s famous detective is one of many allusions Banville makes to classic literature, myths, and fairy tales. (He even references his own work, with mentions of the new State Pathologist in Dublin, Dr. Quirke, the protagonist of most Benjamin Black books.)
While small benefits cannot be excluded, we do not find significant benefits on case growth of more restrictive NPIs. Similar reductions in case growth may be achievable with less restrictive interventions.
Friday, January 15, 2021
‘Peake was synesthetic,’ explains Rachel Foss, curator of the new archive. ‘The act of drawing was often part of his literary process… It’s impossible to separate his art from his writing.’
Being close to any lion is absolutely phenomenal, their power is palpable, but with the added unique white coat it's just a privilege!!
I really tried not to use words like obsessive that pathologized her. I really tried to watch my language to the level of individual words. But every once in a while, something would slip through, and my editor would catch it. I guess I had even started thinking maybe she was more fragile than I came to discover she was. By the end of the book, she seemed so strong—strong in the sense that she had such a clear vision of her vocation, and she had such a strong will, and she wanted to fulfill her calling. Nothing could deviate her from fulfilling that literary calling.
I was so impressed by that. Of course, when severe depression struck, it was a different story. When she became ill. But in her day-to-day life this amazing sense of fortitude and strength really came across to me as I researched her.
Thursday, January 14, 2021
One thinks of Cervantes’s Don Quixote, Fielding’s Tom Jones, Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Stendhal’s Rouge et Noirand Tolstoy’s War and Peace; of Melville’s Moby-Dick, Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises; of Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom! Of these, among the most easily recognizable and celebrated titles in the history of western literature, not one exhibits a trace of the solipsism, self-referentiality, self-identity and the narrow, intolerant and vicious puppy ideology that are among the more disgusting features of the novel in the 21st century. Instead their concern is with the natural world and the creatures that inhabit it; with human society at every level and including every type of human personality; with history, war and peace; with ennobling adventure and thrilling experience; with high passions and great loves; with good versus evil; with life and death; ultimately, with the relationship between mankind and the Divine.
Normally, declarations of independence are intended to mask one’s profound loyalty to some cause or fashion. In his thinking, Pipes seems to have been that human curiosity, a genuinely independent thinker.
Sunday, January 31, 2021 at 4:00 pm Reading via Zoom
Wednesday, January 13, 2021
I deactivated my Twitter account yesterday (I hardly used it, except from time to time to tell assorted politicians to go stuff it). Of course, the servile true believers will object to what Gab has done. They also won't be celebrating World Logic Day. So don't try persuading them.
Oh, I forgot. Gab is a free speech advocate.
Over the years, Hergé became, to some extent, a victim of his own obsession. After hundreds of letters from Tintin fans were posted to Professor Calculus in Room 122 on the fourth floor of the Cornavin Hotel, the management sent Hergé a huffy letter pointing out that such a room number did not exist. But in the end, art triumphed over reality, and, when the letters kept coming, the management were obliged to introduce a Room 122 where none had been before.
Tuesday, January 12, 2021
But for Saunders, however emotive his morality may be, fiction is fundamentally moral; a badly-made story lacks moral authority and a well-made one can lead us to love better. Saunders is not wrong to trace the pulse of many literary problems to our strivings after moral salvation: Great works contain multitudes. The Russians teach us that lasting literature is not merely “something decorative,” Saunders writes, but “a vital moral-ethical tool.”
The true believers, of course, those who seem to buy into any official opinion, will naturally object.
In Di Blasi’s hands, memoir is not a work of confession. As she writes in the prologue, she views autobiography as pretense—observing the past inevitably alters it, and any memoir that fails to recognize this fact is fiction. She calls attention to her self-editing through white space, indented text that often breaks the fourth wall. As Di Blasi explained in an interview about the book, “The intent is not only to illuminate the many facets of remembering but also to reflect the process of writing and revising one’s recollections, exposing the fallibility of memory and the intrusion of self-aggrandizement.”
Monday, January 11, 2021
There are few American creations more endearing or enduring than Bugs Bunny. As voiced in the Noo Yawk accent of Mel Blanc, Bugs embodies a national character that combines street smarts with whimsy, reserve with reluctant but ultimately total engagement. He also emerged on the world stage at just the right moment in history.
So here we are again. But all is not lost. Some of us continue to love, and attempt to preserve, what Wordsworth and MacNeice loved (and feared for). Yet at times one does think of the Roman living contentedly, going about his or her daily business, seeing dust on the horizon, having never heard of Visigoths, Ostrogoths, and Vandals.
This is … an engaging, even disarmingly, honest memoir. It isn’t searingly honest. Nor is it thoroughly honest, if only because it isn’t introspectively deep. But engaging and disarming it is, whether the subject is either of his two failed marriages or his brutal separation from Minnesota Public Radio over what amounted to an essentially bogus sexual harassment claim.
Sunday, January 10, 2021
Once a Catholic — to turn the baptismal theology into a slogan — always a Catholic. While the full sense of Berryman’s religious belief might rightly remain a mystery, the publication of his selected letters suggests that a new look at the poet’s faith is not merely warranted but essential to understanding his art.
I think of this every time I attend Mass, including this morning, when I kept thinking that I have been coming here since I was born (my mother took me with her when she went to Mass; even when I was much older, we attended Mass together). There is more than people think in that phrase “cradle Catholic.”
I was very moved by Berryman’s suicide. I even made a sort a pilgrimage to the site once.
Saturday, January 09, 2021
With Unlikely Angel: The Songs of Dolly Parton, musicologist Lydia Hamessley wants to return focus to Parton’s formidable skill as a songwriter. Hamessley argues persuasively that even after decades of prolific composition, resulting in dozens of studio albums and hundreds of recorded original songs, Parton has never received the public recognition that she deserves for her accomplished body of work.
… National Association of Scholars president Peter W. Wood reveals in 1620: A Critical Response to the 1619 Project, the larger purpose of the Times’s project appears to have been to promote racial grievances and resentment. Most damningly, Wood points out that a Times fact-checker who contacted a radical historian to weigh the claim that the revolution was fought to protect slavery was told that this was nonsense. But the paper ignored that input, and 1619’s creator, Nikole Hannah-Jones, herself recently said that the project was not intended to serve as history (after nearly a year of claiming the opposite).
In 2000, five years after the death of his formidably well-read friend Edward Shils, Epstein published in First Thingsthe only poem of his I have ever read, “Edward Shils in Heaven.” In it he asks: “Are there good books and journals in the place for you to read?” A Heaven without books sounds like a shoddy, low-rent Heaven, like a cheap motel.
Friday, January 08, 2021
The ease with which tens of millions of Americans have accepted irrational, unconstitutional and unprecedented police state-type restrictions on their freedoms, including even the freedom to make a living, has been, to understate the case, sobering.
It has indeed. We thought it couldn't happen here. But it looks like it has..
Since when have we started judging fiction by subject matter? So much for - well the list of books that would be found wanting if that's the standard is so long that I really don't know where to begin. The idea that subject matter should be the first port of call when making a judgment about a work of art is a very dangerous one - it points directly to a road marked “censorship”.
I think that I too shall “ retreat into the glorified past of literature published before this year.”
Rather than seeing Ahab as a representative of the old order—a theocrat who takes his people on a wild chase to “comprehend” and vanquish evil—Morrisey argues he is a modern man who is driven by a desire to conquer nature. Quaker though he may be, he is a Quaker of a strange sort—one who is happy to kill, with no particular interest in piety, and who rules over his “brothers” with an iron hand. Ahab may profess egalitarianism, but in reality he merely uses it as whetstone to sharpen his tyrannical axe.
to re-welcome workers to the city, to be sure. By building on McKim, Mead & White’s Beaux-Arts masterpiece, the new hall could begin a Midtown classical revival. Each New York neighborhood has its own unique character; what New York doesn’t need is another sterile mall.
Thursday, January 07, 2021
Peeples … expertly tacks a course between Poe’s various locales and the way in which they might reflect his stories, or may have influenced them. In most cases, Peeples explains the stories that were produced in each of the principal cities in which he lived, or the way in which the character of those cities might be suggested in various Poe stories; he may even go so far as to suggest correlations and affinities. For the most part, however, Peeples lets the reader draw his own conclusions regarding the extent to which those places might have influenced the 19th century writer. It is always nice when readers are treated like adults.
I remember editing a review by The Inquirer's excellent restaurant critic Craig LaBan. His reference to "the rubble of roast potatoes on my plate" has stayed with me ever since. But Craig does not go out of his way to be negative. As he pointed out, when I asked him to "tell me what you really think," the restaurant under review was very expensive and if you're going to ask for a lot of money for a meal, the food should measure up.
When we leave Nadia in Rome at 7, we’re taken next to a chapter titled “Resettlement Registration Form” and enter the storytelling present: Nadia is 28, living in New York City. The chapter is written as its title suggests, a form. “Citizenship: United States of America; Ghana.” … “Occupation/Skill: Waitress, Graduate Student, Writer.” Short answers give way to longer ones. “Ethnic Origin: Black. Biracial. Indo-European? Central Asian? Although I identify as Black, I am more literally Caucasian than most people who call themselves Caucasian.”
Wednesday, January 06, 2021
Thee, of course, is God, in whose existence personally I do not believe: and yet there is wisdom (is there not?) in the Psalm. If you can’t believe in the God of the Bible, it is sometimes best to act as if you did, for the faith that one’s suffering has some value or meaning beyond itself is the best way to transcend it, even if there are no indubitable metaphysical grounds for holding such a faith.
… one should not underestimate the strangeness of Mariette to its audience in 1991, even to some Catholics: it was already some decades since Vatican II’s reforms and the more complete integration of Catholics into American life. A novel about an ecstatic nun in 1906, where even the unecstatic ones wear cinctures, was bound to remind people that Catholicism can be odd. Among the other striking passages in Mariette is one in which Hansen recounts a discussion between two nuns about their lives before they entered the convent: “We talked about our childhoods.... She played in a habit just like the one that her sister wore. She whipped herself with knotted apron strings. She rebuked temptations against chastity by lying naked on thorns.” And this is before we get to the stigmata.
"It's very difficult for me, and I occasionally will have thoughts and sort of say, 'I don't know, why don't I just break down crying every day?' Because it's that bad."
"Do you sometimes?"
"Not every day, you know? There will be times that I just have memories and just think, 'Oh my God, it was just so senseless.'"
In 2020, listeners could find edification in music that met their best standards and shared their ethical concerns, or else they endured Taylor Swift selling narcissism alongside political smugness. Pop stars who place their brand on progressive ideology make pop culture seem inseparable from hive-mind conformity, but Dylan, Morrissey, Morrison, and others launched a musical offensive by releasing the best pop music of the year.
Tuesday, January 05, 2021
Monday, January 04, 2021
Sunday, January 03, 2021
While it is true that the press has always been under the protection of the Constitution (due to its “watchdog” role in American politics and society) its track record in fulfilling its duties is spotty at best. Political players with dubious ethics have always understood the power of the press and the benefits to be had by corrupting and controlling it. Thomas Jefferson, like Donald Trump today, was no stranger to a false, lying, corrupt press. Jefferson wrote during his first term that the press had,
". . . by pushing it’s licentiousness and it’s lying to such a degree of prostitution as to deprive it of all credit. and the fact is that so abandoned are the tory presses in this particular that even the least informed of the people have learnt that nothing in a newspaper is to be believed. this is a dangerous state of things, and the press ought to be restored to it’s credibility if possible.
Saturday, January 02, 2021
Elizabeth Bishop’s approach to teaching makes the reader long to be transported back to the mid-1970s, to sit in her class. After all, there was no shortage of places. She began by asking the dozen or so students who were denied the opportunity to study with Lowell to propose “three or four poets they would like to read and talk about. Does anyone have a suggestion?”