Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Indecision was his muse …

… Forgive Me, Father: Greatness and Disorder in James Agee’s Letters | Hazlitt. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Our destination …

… Sickness & Health | The New Psalmanazar. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

What would our forebears three or four generations ago have made this habit of unnecessary exertion, of middle-age denialists signing up in droves for spinning classes, or CrossFit, or (God forbid) parkour? Though rooted, it seems, on the denial of decay and mortality, there’s nonetheless an element of the hypocritically ascetic in it. If our employment is no longer honest enough that we break a sweat in earning our bread (only white-collar workers exercise), then we will force the sweat of virtue from our pores as an act of penance. Immediately afterwards, of course, we will trumpet our accomplishments through social media.

Tonight …

… Final Contest for the Title of National Poetry Out Loud Champion on April 30, 2014 | NEA.

One heck of a freshman …

… Meet the Poster Child for ‘White Privilege’ – Then Have Your Mind Blown.

That’s the problem with calling someone out for the “privilege” which you assume has defined their narrative. You don’t know what their struggles have been, what they may have gone through to be where they are. Assuming they’ve benefitted from “power systems” or other conspiratorial imaginary institutions denies them credit for all they’ve done, things of which you may not even conceive. You don’t know whose father died defending your freedom. You don’t know whose mother escaped oppression. You don’t know who conquered their demons, or may still conquering them now.


… Teachout Wins Bradley Prize - (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Well deserved, indeed.

Interesting …

Poets on the loose …


Long on pique …

… The Bad Grammar awards are prize stupidity | Culture | The Guardian. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

On the odd occasion when they do happen to tackle grammatical structures, these self-appointed language guardians are the ones who always get things wrong – "most tastiest" for example, isn't a mistake but a popular and perfectly valid emphatic construction. 
Does that mean, then, that what these others call bad grammar is, in fact, good grammar? Is there such a thing as correct grammar? Did Mr. Ritchie set out to write correctly when he wrote this screed, or was no such consideration necessary? The awards in question may be silly, and those awarding them may not know what they are talking or talking about, but there do seem to be rules of grammar worth observing. Perhaps Mr. Ritchie should give us an example of grammar-free communication. 

Coming home to the world …

… Encounter with the Sacred Realm | Standpoint. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

What The Soul of the World captures so beautifully is how conversion through a subject-subject encounter with God necessarily changes a person's worldview, and all the consequences of that transformation. It is to see that "being is a gift", not an accident. It is to understand ourselves as judged. It is to see other persons as uniquely individual, endowed with an inviolable dignity: "We cannot live in full personal communication with our kind if we treat all our relations as contractual. People are not for sale: to address the other as you rather than as he or she is automatically to see him or her as an individual for whom no substitutes exist."

Sic transit …

… Trailblazing gay bookstore Giovanni's Room to close.

A thought for today …

Now between the meanings of words and their sounds there is ordinarily no discoverable relation except one of accident; and it is therefore miraculous, to the mystic, when words which make sense can also make a uniform objective structure of accents and rhymes.
— John Crowe Ransom, born on this date in 1888

Give it time...

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Pushing back for liberty …

 Powerful Force Teaching Students the Very Essence of Being Americans | Cato Institute.
 … this is the state where Samuel Adams, the Sons of Liberty, the Boston Tea Party and the Committees of Correspondence continually alerted the 13 colonies under British rule to the bottomless abuses of the colonists’ rights, thereby becoming, as Thomas Jefferson was to say, a precipitating cause of the American Revolution!
… around the nation, many parents are paying rising college tuition fees without a thought about whether their sons and daughters will be guaranteed due process rights, if needed, while they’re there.

Also born on this date …

… in 1879, Sir Thomas Beecham.

Memorials …

… Paris Review – Epitaphic Fictions of Robert Louis Stevenson & Philip Larkin, Daniel Bosch. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Duke Ellington’s Birthday elaboration …

… Duke Ellington’s Birthday. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Something to ponder…

…  beyond eastrod: True or False: "Jesus thrown everything off balance."

I certainly had to ponder it before I posted this. The third question seems to me the least important, actually, since it is a counterfactual conditional. (As Umberto Eco has pointed out, the conclusion derived from a counterfactual  conditional proposition is always true precisely because the premise is false. If I had not just writ tent that sentence, I would have … you can just fill in the blanks.)The first two are something else. In her prayer journal, Flannery O'Connor notes that "even in praying it is [God] who" prays in us. The Christian commitment must be unconditional. My own Christianity is a chronicle failure, of holding back. In that, I don't think I'm much different from most people. Only the true saints do better. So Jesus can often make us feel upset, as He made many people when He walked among us. The Misfit saw Him right, but through the distorted lens of his crippled mind.


Uhm, the face of future?

Who knew?

… Twitter: No porpoise with feet. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

A thought for today …

It is an hypothesis that the sun will rise tomorrow: and this means that we do not know whether it will rise.
— Ludwig Wittgenstein, who died on this date in 1951

Q&A …

… Dunya Mikhail: Politics in Service of Poetry — FPIF. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)


… The end of a world: Poet Tadeusz Różewicz died today at 92 | The Book Haven.

A man, not an ogre …

… Frost Unplugged | The Weekly Standard. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Remembering Stefan Zweig...

Monday, April 28, 2014

Building nations …

… Book review: Discordant Neighbours | Fellowship of Reconciliation. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Listen in …

… Lynne Sharon Schwartz —Euphonic Sounds | The Virtual Memories Show.

Pushing boundaries …

… Essays Are Outrageous Like That | BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog.

Encore …

… River Teeth Literary Nonfiction Prize Series Returns | BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog.

Getting even .

… Edward St Aubyn joins the grand tradition of literary revenge | Culture | The Guardian. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The literature of gossip …

… Rumors of the Stars by Austin Allen. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

… gossip is less soul-searching than confession, but isn’t it also a shade less self-involved? Epstein notes that in literary confessionalism “one often ends up confessing other people’s sins, which comes to little more than gossip in a self-serving form.” True, but to spill the dirt on others, we at least have to learn about them. And not all gossip is unkind: it can reflect a love, even a reverence, for its subject. After all, O’Hara’s poem about Lana Turner is a kind of plea for her resurrection.

The new Inquisitors …

… Politics don't belong in science fiction: Column.

The ins and outs of politics and science fiction fandom are inside baseball to most people, though lately they've been juicier than usual. But unfortunately, this sort of thing is symptomatic of what's going on in a lot of places these days. Purging the heretics, usually but not always from the left, has become a popular game in a lot of institutions. It just seems worse in science fiction because SF was traditionally open and optimistic about the future, two things that purging the heretics doesn't go with very well.

A thought for today …

Journalist: a person without any ideas but with an ability to express them; a writer whose skill is improved by a deadline: the more time he has, the worse he writes.
— Karl Kraus, born on this date in 1874

Mixed bag...

...Hey, Big Thinker

Refreshing old message...

Ms Kakutani blesses...

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Acquaintance with tragedy …

… Creatures of a Day — Taki's Magazine. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

… we are so constituted that a single instance of human tragedy moves us more than a whole catastrophe affecting hundreds, thousands, or millions. No doubt this is testimony to the smallness of our understanding. 

Q&A …

… Being Prepared for Joy | Commonweal Magazine. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I didn’t like editing Poetry at first—or, more accurately, didn’t like being known as the editor ofPoetry. It didn’t accord with the “image” I had of myself, for one thing, but I also didn’t like negotiating the politics and personalities of the job, and I absolutely hated having to reject my friends. I would have resigned after two years had I not become sick. That trapped me—and, in a way, saved me. The great enemy for all of us is the “I” we interpose between ourselves and experience, the self we mistake for our soul. Nothing but difficulty destroys that “I.”

Inquirer reviews …

… 'Gorgeous Nothings' thinks out of the envelope about Emily Dickinson.

The winking dog …

My friend Alison Emery Brady and her service dog, Wynn.

On your mark …

… Let’s Get Ready To Read Dante’s Paradiso | The American Conservative. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I finished reading "Paradiso" in Barberino Val d'Elsa, about 20 miles south of Florence, late in the afternoon on a wonderfully sunny day in 1996. I read it in Italian, using a bilingual edition — I had taken a course in Italian before we took our trip. I remember stopping after reading one passage in particular and marveling at what a great poet Dante was. I shall try to find the time to read it again starting on May 1.

A thought for today …

Society exists for the benefit of its members, not the members for the benefit of society.

— Herbert Spencer, born on this date in 1820

Sneak peek...

...Literary style: 15 writers' bedrooms

Saturday, April 26, 2014

A composer's archives …

… Urban Gardner: David Amram Is Still Grooving to His Own Beat — (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

David Amram grew up in Feasterville, not far from where I did in Torresdale. It was all semi-rural then, and is unrecognizably different now.

Dream-surrealism …

… Pachyderme | The Comics Journal.

Indeed …

… Paul Davis On Crime: Patrick McGoohan: The Spy Who Started It All.

The Prisoner may well be the only masterpiece of television conceived as form.

Weighty asides …

… Pain and Parentheses by Christopher Benfey | NYRblog | The New York Review of Books. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The assimilation of pain into normal life happens to be a major preoccupation of thePhilosophical Investigations. Wittgenstein suggests that philosophy, with its damaging quest for certainty, has needlessly alienated us from ordinary life. Here is a parenthetical example of such alienation, from Elaine Scarry’s The Body in Pain: “To have great pain is to have certainty; to hear that another person has pain is to have doubt. (The doubt of other persons, here as elsewhere, amplifies the suffering of those already in pain.)” In such cases, skepticism about another’s pain can engender sadism. “I like a look of Agony, / Because I know it’s true,” as Emily Dickinson wrote, jokingly, one hopes.

Figuring an economist …

… Detectives Beyond Borders: Sen and sensibility: Detectives Beyond Borders schmoozes three Nobel Prize winners.

Is it worth attending grad school?...

Q&A continued …

… Detectives Beyond Borders: Casanova to Catarella: Detectives Beyond Borders interviews Andrea Camilleri's translator Stephen Sartarelli, Pt. II.

Poet and painters …

… Zealotry of Guerin: The Julia and Alice Guerin Suite.

Styles of flight …

… Zealotry of Guerin: WINGS, Sonnets #174 and #175.


One hundred years on...

A thought for today …

When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive — to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.
— Marcus Aurelius, born on this date in 121

Friday, April 25, 2014

Fiction and non …

… Polemics and Philosophy from a British Contrarian | National Review Online. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

For tomorrow …

… Leonard Gontarek sent this along:

Join us this Saturday at the Philadelphia Free Library, 1901 Vine St., Philly, in the Montgomery Auditorium.

The Philadelphia Poetry Festival is an event featuring all day poetry readings, it's an afternoon dedicated to celebrating Greater Philadelphia poetry in all of its manifestations, and to unite and showcase the diverse organizations that work throughout the region to promote and share poetry.   See the Press Release (below the actual schedule) for additional details.




* Monday Poets Series
     (Kay Wisniewski / Lamont Dixon)
* PoetryWITS
     (Elise Brand / Student Contest Winner)
      (Cathy Celley)
*  34th Street Poets   
      (B.E. Kahn /Deidra Greenleaf Allen)
* Mad Poets Society/ Young Poets
    Contest /MPR
      (Richard S. Bank / David Kertis)


* Manayunk Roxborough Art Center
      / Schuylkill Valley Journal
     (David Kozinski)
*  Moonstone Art Center
     (Charles Carr)
* The Green Line Reading & Interview
      (Leonard Gontarek / Steve Burke)
 * Farley's Bookstore -Poetry Series
(Bernadette McBride)
*  Philadelphia Writers Conference
     (James Knipp )
*  National Black Authors Tour
     (Maurice Henderson)


*  Montgomery County Poet Laureate Program
     (JC Todd / Kristina Moriconi)
*Painted Bride Quarterly
     (Paul Siegell)
*Philadelphia Stories
     (Courtney Bambrick / Margot Douiahy)
* Asian Arts Initiative
     (Juliette Lee)
*Panoramic Poetry
     (Crucial )
*  Philadelphia Poets
     (Rosemary Cappello / Maria Fama) 


 4th SET * Hosted by  LEONARD GONTAREK

     (Mai Schwartz)
* Cleaver Magazine
     (Karen Rile /Luke Stromberg)
* Musehouse: A Center for the
      Literary Arts
     (Grant Clauser / Elizabeth Leo)       
* New Purlieu Review          
      (Deborah Fries)
* The Collective at LaRose Jazz Club
      (Jody Austin)  

* Featured Guest:    KATIE FORD

 In celebration of National Poetry Month, The Philadelphia Poetry Festival will take place on Saturday, April 26, 2014, from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., in the Montgomery Auditorium, at the Philadelphia Free Library, 1901 Vine Street , Philadelphia , PA , 19103 .  Special guests include Katie Ford and Michelle Taransky.
The Philadelphia Poetry Festival is an afternoon dedicated to celebrating Greater Philadelphia poetry in all of its manifestations, and to unite and showcase the diverse organizations that work throughout the region to promote and share poetry.  Participants that have registered include: Green Line Poetry Series, Moonstone Art Center , Monday Night Poets, 34th Street Poets, National Black Authors Tour, Montgomery County Poet Laureate Program, PoetryWITS, Mad Poets, the Philadelphia Writers Conference, and others
              Twenty-plus writing organizations will present performances, as well as a representative who will give information about that particular group's projects, literary magazines, or poetry programs.   
Don't miss special guest readings by Katie Ford and Michelle Taransky!
  Katie Ford, the author of Deposition, Storm (a chapbook), Colosseum, and the forthcoming Blood Lyrics (October, 2014). Ford is the recipient of a Lannan Literary Fellowship and the Larry Levis Prize. Colosseum was named among the "Best Books of 2008" by Publishers Weekly and the Virginia Quarterly Review. Her poems have appeared in The New Yorker, Poetry, The Paris Review, The American Poetry Review, Ploughshares, and many other journals. Her poem, "Our Long War," was recently set to music by classical composer David Ludwig and performed at Carnegie Hall. She is an associate professor of English at Franklin & Marshall College . She lives in Philadelphia .
Michelle Taransky, the author of Sorry Was In The Woods (Omnidawn 2013), and Barn Burned, Then, (Omnidawn 2009), was selected by Marjorie Welish for the 2008 Omnidawn Poetry Prize. Taransky teaches courses in critical and creative writing at Penn, and is the Reviews Editor for the online poetry and poetics magazine Jacket2.
There will be an area for the circulation of program brochures, flyers and information about dozens of Philadelphia poetry and writing outlets.  Bring your favorite series' information to share! This is the area's most comprehensive poetry event solely dedicated to celebrating and showcasing Greater Philadelphia Poetry.  BE THERE OR BE SQUARE!
            For further information about this event, and to sign up, email ;  for details and information as plans progress, 

Eileen D'Angelo
Mad Poets Society

Good idea …

… Sightings: Why Not Save the Indignation for Something Worthwhile? - (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

… I'm struck by the fact that these books, as well as the other most-frequently challenged titles of the 21st century, are for the most part—if I may say so—rather less than stellar in quality. Except for "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," "Brave New World, "The Catcher in the Rye" and "Of Mice and Men," none of the books on the ALA's hot sheet comes close to qualifying as a bonafide classic. (No, "To Kill a Mockingbird" is not a classic.) If they're remotely typical of the fare that your kids are bringing home from the school library, it strikes me that you might want to consider taking to the streets for reasons other than the fact that some of them contain four-letter words.

Holy Will …

… Shakespeare at 450: Slaying the Anti-Catholic Dragons | Daily News | (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

A thought for today

All day long the door of the sub-conscious remains just ajar; we slip through to the other side, and return again, as easily and secretly as a cat.
— Walter de la Mare, born on this date in 1873

Misfit …

… Catholic Novelist, Commercial Folly | The American Conservative. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

What these letters leave to implication is that the greatest obstacle to Powers’s art was himself. The vulgarities of American culture, including those of a fast-assimilating American laity and priesthood, were his natural materials. The combination of affectionately rendered detail given bite by a sense of awkward and impossible compromises between the “officially” unworldly life of the Church and the worldly materialism with which its priests and people strain clumsily to find accommodation make Powers’s stories about parish life a quizzical joy to read. His early stories on American racism show his genius for Joycean impressionism but are also one of several indications that his range, as Flannery O’Connor noted, did not extend far beyond the rectory.

Unlikely trio …

… Sharecroppers. Migrant Workers. Adjuncts? | Vitae.

No mere side trip …

… William Faulkner in Hollywood | Garden and Gun. (Hat tip, Susan Dundon.)

There have long been famous authors who did their turns in Hollywood (Didion and Dunne, Capote, Fitzgerald), but Faulkner especially seemed to have a gift for film. As fellow novelist turned screenwriter Stephen Longstreet observed, Faulkner was “one of the few real geniuses who ever wrote for the movies.” He was so skilled, in fact, that he adapted the work of two other major novelists, Raymond Chandler and Ernest Hemingway, who also tried their hands at screenwriting.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Moral cowardice …

… Charles Lane: Gabriel García Márquez was a gifted writer but no hero — The Washington Post.

What Gabo never did was raise his voice, or lift a finger, on behalf of Cubans’ right to express themselves freely in the first place.
Far from being “a representative and voice for the people of the Americas,” he served as a de facto spokesman for one of their oppressors.

In case you wondered...

Church doings …

… Bryan Appleyard — In Praise of Mild English Faith. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

…  religion as such cannot die. Secularists always make the same mistake. They think faith is like a tumour that can be painlessly removed from the body. In fact, every society has been religious and ours, in its own strange way, still is. It is just that the church is not the place where religion is happening.
I am not at all spiritual, whatever that means. I am, however, incorrigibly religious. In my case, of course, that involves attendance at Mass. But what it involves most of all is prayer. "Something unknown," Arthur Eddington, "is doing we don't know what." That's as good a reason to pray as any.

Overrated …

… Spengler � Garcia Marquez Lied About Macondo. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I could never get into 100 Years of Solitude and I lost interest in Garcia Marquez when he explained that his friendship with Fidel Castro was based entirely on their mutual love of fishing and fish recipes. I have never thought to criticize the Commandante's bouillabaisse. His record human rights is a bit less savory.

Celebration …


Together at last …

… On Design, Books, Kickstarter and Russian Criminal Tattoos | Publishing Perspectives.

Reading patterns …

…and more: Bryan Appleyard —  Bestsellers and Our Reading Lives. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

… before the cultural pessimists rush to cry woe at our literary dependence on film and TV, it’s worth pointing out that this pattern has been unchanged since that very first list back in 1974, which contained Papillon (film), The Exorcist (film), Frederick Forsyth’s The Odessa File (film) and The World at War (television).

Helpful hints …

… What I Wish I Knew After My MFA Ended | BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog.

By the time I got to grad school, I had already been published and had worked as an editor. Grad school did not square with my experience. So I dropped out.

Gods on the street …

… & poetics | Alternatetakes2.

Try it …

… you may like it: Taking Religion Seriously — The American Magazine.

If you’re waiting for a road-to-Damascus experience, you’re kidding yourself. Taking one of the great religions seriously, getting inside its rich body of thought, doesn’t happen by sitting on beaches, watching sunsets, and waiting for enlightenment. It can easily require as much intellectual effort as a law degree. Even dabbling at the edges has demonstrated the truth of that statement to me for Judaism, Buddhism, and Taoism. I assume it’s true of Islam and Hinduism as well. In the case of Christianity, with which I’m most familiar, the church has produced profound religious thinkers for two thousand years. You don’t have to go back to Thomas Aquinas (though that wouldn’t be a bad idea). Just the last century has produced excellent and accessible work. But whomever you read, Christianity considered seriously bears little resemblance to your Sunday school lessons. You’ve got to grapple with the real thing.

Well, why not...

A thought for today …

The habit of reading is the only enjoyment in which there is no alloy; it lasts when all other pleasures fade.
— Anthony Trollope, born on this date in 1815

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Navigating life …

… Book Review: 'The Curmudgeon's Guide to Getting Ahead' by Charles Murray - (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

As Oscar Wilde noted, the only thing to do with good advice is pass it on.

Centenary lady …

… Stanford’s “Another Look” spotlights Marguerite Duras’ The Lover | The Book Haven.

…  But Did It Really Happen?

Thematic diversity...

Vocation …

… The Millions : Sacrament of Fiction: On Becoming a Writer and Not a Priest. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I quite understand.

Man of letters …

… He Worked at the Writer’s Trade |. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The Long Voyage is also a reminder of a time, not long ago, when literature had a more central place in the cultural conversation. Although he did produce some poetry, Cowley made his living writing about literature, working with literature, editing and lecturing and sitting on boards concerned with literature. What’s remarkable about that to a contemporary reader is that he did so almost entirely outside of academia. Today, with a few exceptions — this publication being one notable example — literature happens in the universities and colleges, in MFA programs, campus readings series, scholarly journals, and seminars. 
Not necessarily an improvement.

About Last Night:

… About Last Night: Roads taken. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

A thought for today …

I got disappointed in human nature as well and gave it up because I found it too much like my own.
— J. P. Donleavy, born on this date in 1926 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A good bargain...

... Hugo Williams: 'I need poems more than they need me'

A translator's tale

… Detectives Beyond Borders: "Poissonally in poisson": Detectives Beyond Borders interviews Andrea Camilleri's translator, Stephen Sartarelli — Part I.

The sound of faith …

… faith being understood not as a suite of propositions, but as a disposition toward being:

Together at last …

… On Literary Editing and the Nature of Love | BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog.

Celebration …

… Happy Birthday, Nabokov: A BBC Documentary on Lolita and Life | Brain Pickings. (Hat tip, Dave  Lull.

Windhover to the rescue …

… Piercing the Veil | Time's Flow Stemmed. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Windhover is another name for the kestrel.

Listen in …

A thought for today …

Fashion is the science of appearance, and it inspires one with the desire to seem rather than to be.
— Henry Fielding, born on this date in 1707

The Western Front...

...Newly translated journals from the French solider Louis Barthas. Their review here.

An excerpt from the essay here:

"A century after the guns of August first boomed, World War I has lost none of its power to boggle the mind. The numbers are simply too big: 65 million men under arms, 37 million casualties, 12,000 miles of trenches on the Western Front, 1.45 billion shells fired. Rather than a human event, it often seems like an immeasurable abstraction, like negative infinity. 

Louis Barthas, an enlisted man from southwestern France, managed to reduce the conflict to human scale with a pen and 19 notebooks that he filled with observations and comments from his more than four years of service in the army, most of it spent in combat on the Western Front. With Edward M. Strauss’s translation of “Poilu,” English-language readers now have access to a classic account of the war, a day-to-day chronicle of life in the trenches and a richly detailed answer to the seemingly unanswerable question: What was it like?"

Monday, April 21, 2014

Spontaneous Robert …

… 21 April (1919): Robert Frost to Marguerite Ogden Bigelow Wilkinson | The American Reader. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Final scene …

… How to Write John Updike's Deathbed - The Awl. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I’m not a great researcher. I tried to keep the death scene as clean and simple and spare as I could. I thought that less would be more. I thought that if I put in a few details that I could corroborate that that would do a lot more than trying to guess or pad or inject emotion by saying what people were feeling. Or getting them to tell me what people were feeling. I thought if I could get where they were in relation to the soon-corpse, and where they were standing and what hand gestures they made, it would say more than I was devastated by the sight of his emaciated body.

A man and his city …

… The Dickens of Detroit �. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)


Hmm …

… the editorial review: Jacques Barzun on Editing. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

My own golden rule of editing derives from Lord Falkland — if it is not necessary to change, it is necessary not to change. Apart from obvious slips — a misspelling or a dropped comma — it is best to ask questions. Even in the case of Barzun, if you think there's actually room for improvement, I don't see why one wouldn't bring it up, even at the risk of being shot down.

Just a thought …

"Verily I say unto you, Except ye turn, and become as little children, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven. " Just imagine if you could once again see the world and life and people as you did when you were a small child, when you could clearly apprehend what you sensed you would never comprehend. Imagine how things would seem if you could see them that way now and compare that point of view to those you've come to rely on — reason, passion, science, religion, literature, and the rest. Of course, it is just around the time that we arrive at that initial coalescence of apprehension that we begin to be instructed in those things, and in much else besides. We begin to be shaped and come to accept what we have been shaped into, and shaped ourselves into.

Cruisin' …

… Paul Davis On Crime: Cruising the Caribbean Aboard The Explorer Of The Seas.

In case you wondered …

… 10 Reasons Why Making a List is Not Writing | BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog.

Peculiar perplexities …

… The University Bookman: On Incomprehensibles. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

… Pascal points to at least five examples of things that we cannot but wonder about—the existence of God, the union of body and soul, the nature of the soul, creation, and original sin. In considering such issues, we might well “know” something about each topic or its denial, but we really cannot “comprehend” its full depth. If we cannot “reject” something formally, we have to leave it open. We may be sure about many things, but still realize that many aspects of reality are not so clear to us.

The talented Mr. Updike (cont'd.) …

… Louis Menand: John Updike’s Cultural Project : The New Yorker. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Check this out …

… a new interactive website and lecture series about the interface between religion and psychology: Jewish Thought and Psychoanalysis.

The inaugural lecture, you will note, is next Sunday, April 27, which is Yom Nashoah, the Day of Remembrance of the those murdered during World War II.

A thought for today …

Cheerfulness, it would appear, is a matter which depends fully as much on the state of things within, as on the state of things without and around us.
— Charlotte Brontë, born on this date in 1816

Sunday, April 20, 2014

The life and works …

… Book World: ‘Updike’ by Adam Begley — The Washington Post. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Small town online …

… The Hyperlocal Beat | The American Conservative. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

He is risen …

And it came to pass, whilst he was at table with them, he took bread, and blessed, and brake, and gave to them. And their eyes were opened, and they knew him: and he vanished out of their sight. 

He appeared to us that day to disappear 
The moment that he broke the bread,
A moment still encompassing our lives,
Drawing to itself, like a magnet at once
Minute and infinitely strong, our present,
Past and future, so that the choking dust
Along the road, the splinters on the benches
At the inn, the glare and scorching of the sun 
That afternoon have shaped and shaded
Every moment ever since. He disappeared
Into the moment, into the bread, into us,
Nourishing time with its absence.

A useful gathering …

… Dante’s Purpose-Driven Poem | The American Conservative. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I have been remiss to linking to these. I wanted to append comments to what I posted, but I should have simply posted first and commented later. These are not things suitable for skimming. They are genuinely thought-provoking, in the best sense that they force you to examine the questions raised deeply and personally. 

Travelin' bird …

… World Famous "D.C. Snowy" calling Twin Ports home for now | Northland's NewsCenter. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Inqirer reviews …

… Tracing Updike's roots.

In this first serious biography of the Pennsylvania-born author, who died at 76 in 2009, Begley relies as much on Updike's fiction as on interviews, letters, and other documents. In doing so, he validates what devoted readers have long suspected: Updike's lyrical and prolific body of work was his autobiography.
'Jackie and Campy' tells stormy tale of two baseball greats.

 'Gorgeous Nothings' thinks out of the envelope about Emily Dickinson.

A thought for today …

Once you permit those who are convinced of their own superior rightness to censor and silence and suppress those who hold contrary opinions, just at that moment the citadel has been surrendered.
— Archibald MacLeish, who died on this date in 1982

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The talented Mr. Updike (cont'd) …

… Adam Begley’s ‘Updike’ - (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Unlike historical novels that look back in time to events they describe, the Rabbit novels were about life as it unfolds; Rabbit’s adventures functioned as a social history of sorts, each installment a summary and a representation of the previous 10 years — as Updike himself wrote in his introduction to the Everyman’s Library edition of the series, “a kind of running report on the state of my hero and his nation.” The fact that Rabbit is a demonic, ethically troubled but also entirely ordinary character, together with Updike’s signature richness of style and his use of the present tense (one of the peculiarities of the Rabbit series), all serve to steer these novels away from didacticism and banality, dangers that can plague chronicles and social novels. 
I read Rabbit, Run while I was in college an detested it. This is actually a kind of back-handed tcompliment. Updike brought his hero so much to life that I loathed him as I would have had he been real.

One year on...

A man and his thinking …

… Why don't we have statues of Michael Oakeshott? � The Spectator. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The Notebooks, whose recovery we owe to the admirably painstaking work of Luke O’Sullivan, do not — it has to be admitted — reveal much about Oakeshott’s philosophy that we did not already know. But, perhaps more importantly, they reveal quite a lot about the man.

About Christian fiction …

… Q&A: Francine Rivers. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The boom in Christian fiction makes me believe there is a deepening hunger and thirst in our nation for the faith message. The genre is more realistic now than it was decades ago. It seemed to me the conflict in early romances was being tempted to be tempted but never slipping into sin. Now, writers acknowledge the brokenness in people, the anguish sin brings, the longing for answers and meaning to life. These stories resonate with people.

Simply grand …

… Zealotry of Guerin: Seagram Building (Mies van der Rohe), Sonnet #173.

A thought for today …

All that non-fiction can do is answer questions. It's fiction's business to ask them.
— Richard Hughes, born on this date in 1900

Friday, April 18, 2014

Hmm …

… On Clarity – Lingua Franca - Blogs - The Chronicle of Higher Education. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I'm not entirely sure this is altogether clear.

And living to tell it...

You've been warned...

Contrarian report …

… Thoreau’s Walden: Phony Testament of the Greens. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The book is a literary disaster. I have spent my adult life writing for a living. I can recognize good writing. [Thoreau] shows occasional flashes of brilliance, but most of the book is either irrelevant or insufferably boring. It is worse than National Public Radio's All Things Considered
This is ignorant. Thoreau's prose is modeled on that of the 17th-century writers he admired. The concluding lines of Walden are wonderful: "Only that day dawns to which we are awake. There is more day to dawn. The sun is but a morning star."
That Thoreau does not write like a 21st-century journalist  is hardly cause for criticism.
But Thoreau was a crank. "Henry," Emerson observed, "is, with difficulty, sweet." That their friendship endured, I suspect, owes more to Emerson's forbearance than to anything on Thoreau's part. Even Henry's night in jail was mostly for show. He left readily enough once Waldo had paid the fine.
Thoreau is best understood, I think, as a type of the Puritan: dour, sanctimonious, and rigid. Happily, he mostly inflicted his Puritanism on himself. His work is a record of a tormented life. Had he run away to sea, he would have ended up like Captain Ahab.

Good Friday

No more Lord no more no more
I have seen the fate
of those who trust you no more

A thought for today …

The secret of good writing is to say an old thing in a new way or to say a new thing in an old way.
— Richard Harding Davis, born on this date in 1864

Congratulations. ..

... 2013 VQR Prize Winners Announced

From the archives...

Thursday, April 17, 2014


… Nobel winner Garcia Marquez, master of magical realism, dies at 87 | Reuters.


...America's most literate cities, 2013

Trumpets and drums, please …

 E.L. Doctorow Awarded American Fiction Prize | Library of Congress Blog. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

A good choice …

… The Overrated Champion Has Been Crowned — (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

What counts is the work …

Updike by Adam Begley: A biography shows that John Updike's talent was for fiction, not domestic drama — The Independent. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

…  the business of a novelist's material, the way those closest to him are served up for the purposes of fiction, is central to what Begley is doing and, although this is anything but a Judas biography, resentment rumbles beneath the surface of its decorous, well-researched pages.

Oh, the paperwork …

… A Portrait of the Writer as a Young Obsessive Compulsive | BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog.

Family matters …

… Heart to Heart | America Magazine. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The chapter devoted to Newman’s relationship and correspondence with his nephew, John Rickards Mozley, sums up the tension between Victorian society’s fading religious inheritance and its growing materialism and rationalism. The outcome, in Newman’s eyes, was to dull the “pied beauty,” to flatten the multidimensional nature of reality. His counterstrategy was not a retreat from the world, but an untiring effort to articulate and evoke a sacramental vision: a vivid sense of “real presences.” For Newman all hints and intimations find their fulfillment in Christ’s eucharistic presence. And, though he may not have succeeded with his brothers or nephew, many, like the Jesuit priest and poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, drew enduring inspiration from Newman’s vision and witness.

First of its kind …

… Paris Review – Kingsley Amis’s James Bond Novel, Dan Piepenbring. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

… anyone who feared that Amis would fuck up the franchise with some kind of measured, literary razzle-dazzle had it all wrong; he knew how to plot. As its flap copy makes clear, Colonel Sun was not about to traffic in high-minded nuance:

A thought for today …

Love is an energy which exists of itself. It is its own value.
— Thornton Wilder, born on this date in 1897

Golden touch...

Anton Chekhov

I've just finished Chekhov's The Seagull, and I must admit, I'm perplexed: what's the play about exactly? 

Yes, it's about longing and regret, and there's a fair amount about celebrity, creativity, and intertextuality, too. But for me, coming at The Seagull with no real insight into Chekhov, and no real sense for the theatrical context, I found myself confused - not by the plot, per se, but by the finale and symbolism. 

The whole play hinges, it seems, on the idea of the gull, and that haunting line by Trigorin who sketches a scene in which a man comes along and, "having nothing better to do," seeks to "destroy." I found that line jarring, and had the sense that it hinted at violence to come. As it turns out, it did.

But I was not certain, in the end, what that violence represented and why Chekhov called the play a "comedy in four acts." Was this cynicism lost on me? Was there humor amidst the darkness? And what about the gull? What about its symbolic qualities? For me, it represented a dizzying (sometimes confusing) array of contrasts: sorrow and despair; youth and happiness; violence and finality; creativity and longing. 

...I suppose I'll have to read more Chekhov to find out. 

Rather neat...

The perfect gossip …

… Reading John Aubrey | The New Psalmanazar. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Reading the book from cover to cover is like watching old England march by in grand procession – poets, mathematicians, peasants, doctors, divines, alchemists, soldiers, scientists, astrologers, aristocrats – while an inveterate gossipmonger whispers in your ear all their public foibles and personal shames.