Saturday, May 31, 2014

You have been warned...

Stefan Zweig

He's back! Again.

Milan Kundera

After battling with Faulkner, I wanted to actually read something, and so I returned to Kundera, who's fallen out of favor a bit in recent years, but whose style and erudition has always impressed me. 

I'd wanted to read The Art of the Novel for a number of years, and had the good fortune to do so last week. For me, Kundera's book reads as a lament for Europe. True, it's about the novel and its evolution. But it's really about what it is to be European, and what it is to consider oneself a European writer. 

Kundera released The Art of the Novel before the advent of the European Union - and before, for that matter, the collapse both of the Iron Curtain and the Soviet Union. He was writing at a time when what it was to be European - particularly Central European - was not proscribed by laws or regulations. It was a time when Europe - for Kundera, at least - represented a shared cultural space.

It's funny because for all of Kundera's intellect, parts of this collection border on naive (or, to be more generous, hopeful). Kundera imagines Europe as the center of the world's cultural evolution - and he places Central Europe at the heart of it all. For him, the Continent is united in its appreciation for modernity, in its question to overcome the nightmare captured by Kafka. 

And it's not that I necessarily disagree with that sentiment: it's more that, today, in 2014, Europe feels as fragmented as it ever has - this despite the emergence of the European Union and other international agencies designed to leverage that shared European spirit. I'm not certain there is a collective past for the "citizens" of Europe, though, like Kundera, I'd like to think there is. (And when I do, I begin to feel more like a mystic than a realist.)

The Art of the Novel is a fast read, a rewarding tour of Kundera's approach to writing and creativity. I still maintain that his three great novels - Laughter and Forgetting, Unbearable Lightness, and The Joke - stand up to anything written over the past 60 years. And that's because Kundera is a master of the situational: his characters are empty vessels designed to react to absurdity, to situations that induce laughter, whether appropriate or otherwise. Were Kundera to write another novel today, I could imagine his characters responding with tragic laughter to the slow disintegration of the land he loves: Europe. 

The last word is for Kundera:

"...Great novels are always a little more intelligent than their authors." 

The tributes keep coming …

A Belated Birthday Quatrain for Mike Peich
It's not the height, it's the view
you get at seventy, sweep in lieu
of excess, and a new mood, too:
inside the harvest-calm, what's true.
                                        Molly Peacock

There once was a man named Mike Peich.
Never a thing not to like.
Winnowy and able,
Diane sees Clark Gable.
Too bad he's no longer a tyke.
                                             Lori Vermeulen

Happy Birthday to Mike Peich

The tall skinny boy you were at twenty
looks from the bathroom mirror as you stand
trimming his white moustache at  seventy.
A toast to every grain of hour-glass sand!
                                              Marilyn Nelson

For Michael Peich, on his Seventieth Birthday

You live where I once lived, and fled, two hundred
Miles southeast along the Lincoln highway:
The outskirts of Philadelphia, starred by great
White boles of sycamores and ruddy barns
And white-washed cottages.

Housman wrote that—winter snow or spring-
Blossoming cherry—we can only hope
For three score years and ten,
Which only leaves me seven more, and you
Then none at all, so we must reason well:

Those rhymes are long out-dated, pre-pre-modern
As we are post-post-hoc, intent
On decades more, festooned with snow and flowers.
You should enjoy the highways where I went
And thrive among my blue remembered hills.
                                               Emily Grosholz

There are more to come. I will get to them before the day is out.

Beastly good humor …

… Masterpiece: Saki's 'Beasts and Super-Beasts' - WSJ. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Along with Ronald Firbank, Saki set the tone—outrageous and epigrammatic—for the English school of comic fiction (and drama) that runs from Evelyn Waugh and Noël Coward to Ivy Compton-Burnett and Roald Dahl. Saki's own light-hearted contes cruels elegantly depict practical jokes gone wrong, childhood savagery, the inanities of country-house life or kindly, beneficent nature unexpectedly turning deadly, and yet they remain as fizzily delicious as a Pimm's cup on a summer's day. Now, of course, these tales of languid aesthetes named Reginald, Clovis or Egbert also seem more or less camp, suitable for illustration by Edward Gorey and suffused with ever-fresh cynicism: "The Government of the day, which from its tendency to be a few hours behind the course of events had been nicknamed the Government of the afternoon.…"
That last sentence sounds disturbingly contemporary.

Sehnsucht …

… Zealotry of Guerin: Wall Painting From The Temple Of Longing (Klee).

A thought for today

There is no week nor day nor hour when tyranny may not enter upon this country, if the people lose their roughness and spirit of defiance.

— Walt Whitman, born on this date in 1819

Friday, May 30, 2014

Amen, brother …

… beyond eastrod: "Trigger Warning": some things you read or hear in this course will cause you to think!

Cast your vote …

 … Debate Club:Do Trigger Warnings Have a Place in Academia? — US News.

Let's hope the managing director of the GE Hatchet looks for work outside journalism.

A roundup …

of pieces on Shirley Jackson. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Beautiful …

(Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The spirit of place …

 Nothing but Gray Skies: 6 Reasons Minnesota Is the Best Place for Scandinavian Noir, by Connie Fletcher | Booklist Online. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Nothing happens …

… Fear And Self-Loathing In Scandinavia: The Fiction Of Karl Ove Knausgaard —  The Daily Beast. (Hat tip, dave Lull.)

I started the first volume, but just couldn't get into it.

Native son …

… Boom Magazine — The Boom Interview: Richard Rodriguez California Soul. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

… did I live in California? Yes. But I don’t know which one, and I’ve lived in several, and now I live in the Chinese city that’s populated with kids who are making billions of dollars by distracting us from our reality. So, yes.

Sad anniversary …

… Desmond And The Cats. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

A thought for today …

A work of art that contains theories is like an object on which the price tag has been left.
— Alexander Pope, who died on this date in 1744

Read an extract from...


The riposte...

...Thomas Piketty Responds to Criticism of His Data


...Jhumpa Lahiri shares her writing advice

Thursday, May 29, 2014

More on Kinsley vs. Greenwald …

… NY Times Book Review, Michael Kinsley, Glenn Greenwald Controversy | New Republic. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Kinsley is surely correct that the press cannot have unlimited freedom to publish any government secret. What would we say about a journalist who published American battle plans, or the location of nuclear weapons silos, or the identity of undercover agents? Just as Kinsley said, someone has to decide where to draw the curtain of secrecy, without worrying that any individual with an Internet connection can poke holes in it. Yet Greenwald is also convincing when he writes that, were we to leave such decisions entirely up to the government, we would be left in the dark about all kinds of wrongdoing that could not survive public exposure. Here is a genuine conflict of values, and the side one takes depends on one’s view of the dangers of anarchy versus the dangers of tyranny.
Kinsley would have a point if anyone had been endangered by Snowden's revelations. I have seen no evidence that anyone has. What has been revealed is the government's attempt to turn this country into a surveillance state. James Clapper lied under oath to a Congressional committee. There's where the outrage should be focused.  

Sort of …

… Kirsten Powers: Glenn Greenwald vs. fellow journalists.

Kinsley has long been more of a courtier than a journalist.

Backstory …

… Movement and the Essay: Josey Foo | BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog.

How nice …

… Whoa! Religion chapter added to AP Stylebook.

When I was growing up, I was often told I would need to know mathematics when I got out into the real world. This was dismaying, since my mathematical skills are, to put it charitably, minimal. As it happened, my knowledge of philosophy and theology proved much more advantageous.

Congratulations …

… to our friend Rus Bowden, whose accompanies this piece: These 5 Foods Will Be Harder to Grow in a Warmer World.

I love the photo, the article not so much.

Appreciation …

… Remembering Maya Angelou – In the Words of Poets | Fox Chase Review.

Missing some punchlines …

… Cavafy in English accents | TLS. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

A thought for today …

One may understand the cosmos, but never the ego; the self is more distant than any star.
— G. K. Chesterton, born on this date in 1874

What courage looks like …

… BBC News - Clive James 'saying goodbye' through his poetry. (Hat tip, Dave lull.)

"The secret … is to keep a sense of proportion. I'm at the hospital two or three times a week usually and... if you hang around a hospital long enough, you'll see things that'll remind you that you've had a lucky life. If you can see at all, you've had a lucky life.

That thing called parenting...

...Mommy-daddy time
Senior identifies three main reasons why modern parents (according to her limited definition) feel more burdened by parenthood than their forebears. One is that they tend to have greater expectations of the existential satisfaction that children – and life in general – will bring them. With their unprecedented array of ‘lifestyle options’, their tendency to regard happiness and self-actualisation as entitlements and their habit of constantly taking their own emotional temperature, contemporary adults are poorly prepared, she argues, for the self-sacrificing work that child-rearing demands.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The art of letters …

… Letters of Note  — The Barnes & Noble Review. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Atmospheric history …

… The American Scholar: Whores de Combat - Charles Trueheart. (Hat tip, Susan Dundon.)

Of the actual Hotel Florida in Madrid, “a ten-story marble-clad jewel box” a bit down on its heels and favored by “a polyglot collection of journalists, French and Russian pilots, and opportunistic ladies of the evening,” Hemingway said, with characteristic grandiosity, “You could learn as much at the Hotel Florida in those years as you could learn anywhere in the world.”

Who knew?

… “The most wired country in the world”: Estonia’s prez at Stanford | The Book Haven.

I didn't know, that's for sure.

The beauty and the beastly …

… You Tell ’Em, Duke Porn Star. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Another person is always a Thou, because she has a face; she foredooms every effort to reduce her to an It, because objects do not have faces. Her face establishes her uniqueness, her irreducibility to interests or explanatory context, her being-in-herself. You may perhaps account for her behavior, but you can never account for her face.

γνῶθι σεαυτόν …

… Review of Simon Blackburn, 'Mirror, Mirror: The Uses and Abuses of Self-Love' @insidehighered.

Writing in the 18th century, David Hume found the self to be elusive: “For my part, when I enter most intimately into what I call myself, I always stumble on some particular perception or other, of heat or cold, light or shade, love or hatred, pain or pleasure…. When my perceptions are removed for any time, as by sound sleep; so long as I am insensible of myself, and may truly be said not to exist.”
Well, the self is elusive, to be sure, at least if you want to define it, but to assert that one "may truly be said not to exist" when one is sound asleep is patently ridiculous, whether said by Hume or anyone else. 


… Legendary author Maya Angelou dies -

The pathetic joke formerly known as higher education …

… Joseph Epstein: A New Entry in the Annals of Academic Cravenness - (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Movies have of course long been rated and required to note such items as Adult Language, Violence, Nudity—ratings that are themselves a form of trigger warning. Why not books, even great classic books? The short answer is that doing so insults the intelligence of those supposedly serious enough to attend college by suggesting they must not be asked to read anything that fails to comport with their own beliefs or takes full account of their troubled past experiences.
More here:  The BDS Bullies Take Over.

It's the 1930s all over again. 
In the last few years, the "Boycott Divestment and Sanctions" ("BDS") campaign has grown on college campuses. Presented as a "human rights movement," its apparent goal is a broad-based boycotting of the Jewish State because of alleged human rights violations. However, a YouTube video of anti-Israeli activists at Galway University shows the real face of BDS. 

A thought for today …

You can get all A's and still flunk life.
— Walker Percy, born on this date in 1916

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Favorites …

… beyond eastrod: Problem: Choosing books for literature classes . . .

Couples …

… Novels About Famous Writers' Wives & Susan Scarf Merrell's Shirley | New Republic.

Though it bears the name of a now-famous literary giant, Susan Scarf Merrell's new novel, Shirley, is part of this spate of novels that examine the constellation surrounding famous men. Based on the life of Shirley Jacksonauthor of the short story “The Lottery” and We Have Always Lived in the Castle, and a number of masterpieces in an eerie, minor keythe novel chronicles Jackson’s life with her husband, Stanley Edgar Hyman. Hyman was a famous literary critic in his dayinspiring acolytes among his peers and students at Bennington College, where he taught for much of his adult life. It was Hyman, rather than Jackson, who was considered the intellectual of the couple during their lifetimes. It was Jackson, however, who paid the bills, with her stories and novels, while also taking care of her children. 
When I was in college, which was more than half a century ago, and Shirley Jackson was still alive, it seems to me she was better known, at least to the general public, than her husband.

Monster mash …

… New Statesman | How the west embraced Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Reading the essays brought together here, you would hardly realise that Mao was responsible for one of the biggest human catastrophes in recorded history. Launched by him in 1958, the Great Leap Forward cost upwards of 45 million human lives. “When there is not enough to eat, people starve to death,” Mao observed laconically. “It is better to let half of the people die so that the other half can eat their fill.” He did not specify how those condemned to perish would be made to accept their fate. Ensuing events provided the answer: mass executions and torture, beatings and sexual violence against women were an integral part of a politically induced famine that reduced sections of the population to eating roots, mud and insects, and others to cannibalism. When Mao ordered an end to the horrific experiment in 1961, it was in order to launch another. The Cultural Revolution was nothing like as costly in fatalities, but it left a trail of broken lives and cultural devastation, the memory of which is one of the chief sources of the post-Mao regime’s legitimacy.
Despots have always been able to rely on large cadres of intellectual toadies. Scribes throughout history  have lusted for power  and have readily abused it.


Tweeters …

… 10 authors who are brilliant at Twitter | Books | The Guardian. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

More poems in praise of Peich …

Mike — a gnarly tree?
Hardly.  Poetry
is sweet perennially
and wine improves with time.
So years can be kind.
Poetry and wine,
vintage friendships too -
all that you have done,
and have yet to do...
Laden with fruit, boughs bend.
Thank you,  dear old friend.
Happy Birthday to you.

                              Rachel Hadas

Cheers & Happy Birthday, Mike!

Friends, let’s fete an honored guest,
Michael Peich who is the best
patron of poetic arts
near and dear to all our hearts.

Founder of Aurelia Press
finest printer in the West
Chester village and environs,
hallowed virtue that outshines

any folks might care to name.
(This poem is limping, though not lame.)
Founder of the Feast we share
each new June, foul or fair,

celebrating formal verse—
(ok, it's gone from bad to worse)—
our gratitude for all you do
contained in poems we write for you

o’er brims the shallow metric cup
each time we fill the damn thing up.
We toast you, still, with shouts and cheers
and wish you seventy more years!

                     Angela O'Donnell

I am a Founder—
—For Mike Peich’s 70th Birthday
Ever fondly, from Kate Light  

I am a Founder—and you’ll see,
Although don’t write poetry—
My praise West Chester ever chants—

And so do the poets, and the pod’iums, and the plants!
And so do the poets, and the pod’iums, and the plants!
The poets and the pod’iums and the plants.

O’er a bottle of fine wine
Was born a Conference divine.
And now West Chester’s rafters dance—

As so do the poets, and the pod’iums, and the plants!
And so do the poets, and the pod’iums, and the plants!
The poets and the pod’iums and the plants!

'Though other callings call,
You may still find me in this hall,
Because West Chester was my first romance,
Including the poets, and the pod’iums, and the plants!
Including the poets, and the pod’iums, and the plants!

The poets and the pod’iums
(All the poets send encomiums—)
And the plants!

                                      Kate Light

For Mike Peich on His Birthday

The lowly fish thatswims through brackish lakes;
The weapon brandishedto a soldier’s end;
The peak arisenthrough tectonic quakes;
The toll road where,with one reluctant hand,
You pay and go yourway; cheerleaders’ jumps
Quite complicated anda bit absurd;
The submarine,submerged, that gently bumps
A rock, a wreck, acoral reef; a word
That firemen use tostop a fire from spreading
When they lift thepole it signifies;
Pi Kappa Alpha fratboys always heading
For the keg—All these,you realize,
And far more bear andshare the name of “Pike,”
Though only one’sworth celebrating: Mike.
                                        Ned Balbo


… Katz & Lenfest Buy Two Philly Newspapers For $88 Million | Big Trial | Philadelphia Trial Blog.

Preview …

… EarlyWord: The Publisher | Librarian Connection � LIFE OF CRIME Trailer. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Literary brawl …

… A Forgotten Waugh | The American Spectator. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

What gives the Waugh-Oldmeadow title fight its particular significance, unrepeatable in our egalitarian epoch, is its gentlemanly language. The combatants exhibited an ire that would not have been out of place on cage-fighters in a Bangkok brothel. But they expressed their ire in the lexicon of Downton Abbey. Could this joust acquire a fresh import in an age awash in religious scandals?

Who would've thought?

...Fifty Shades of Grey is really a self-help book, says academic

Who knew?

… You’re probably using the wrong dictionary | the blog. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

It’s as if someone decided that dictionaries these days had to sound like they were written by a Xerox machine, not a person, certainly not a person with a poet’s ear, a man capable of high and mighty English, who set out to write the secular American equivalent of the King James Bible and pulled it off.

Artist's residence …

… Sea Level: Living in Hans Hoffman’s House | BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog.

A thought for today …

Some people think that all the equipment you need to discuss religion is a mouth.
— Herman Wouk, born on this date in 1915

Short, weighty, and to the point …

… Laudator Temporis Acti: The Art of the Aphorist. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Just a thought …

The fundamental premise of science (and philosophy) is that by means of observation and ratiocination we can arrive at a true understanding of the nature of things. That you can arrive at all sorts of facts by such means is indisputable. But an accumulation of facts, however comprehensive and well-ordered, remains just that, and does not necessarily lead to any understanding beyond that. I am increasingly inclined to suspect that we cannot, in fact, think our way to an essential understanding of anything. I think the premise is a category error. Being simply isn't a problem of thought.
There are, really, only two possibilities: a something underlying things or a someone behind them. The two are not as sharply differentiated as they are usually portrayed. If the first is true, each of us is the end point of a chain of impersonal and purposeless causation. We just happen to be and there really isn't anything we can do about it.
If the second is true we can assent to and embrace our role as creatures or else futilely resist same.
Thinking about this recently caused me to have a minor crisis of faith, since there really is no way of deciding which of the myriad explanations of things may be correct. Then I realized that I was still presuming that the nature of things is something we can figure out. So, given that I experience myself and others as who, not what, my natural inclination is to assume there is a someone behind things. In fact, my default mode of apprehending being is personification. I am naturally inclined to regard birds, trees, even stones and streams, as selves, not things.
My godson John, who is 15 and of a philosophical bent, recently said to me that what I call "soul" is what he would call "experience," which struck me as a deft intuitive attempt to reconcile empiricism and idealism. There can be little doubt that I know my self in terms of my experiences. But I am not identical with my experiences. I do not experience my self as experiences experiencing. My self is a someone experiencing, and my self exerts an influence on what I experience, tailoring it to itself. My self, I would say, is the product of my soul — the spark lit by the someone behind things — and the world encountering each other.
Which leaves us with Meister Eckhart's suggestion: "Let God work in you, give the work to God, and have peace. Don't worry if He works through your nature or above your nature, because both are His, nature and grace."

Happy birthday Alan!

...Party Like Bilbo

Good stuff...

...Desmond Elliott Prize shortlist announced

Monday, May 26, 2014

In memoriam …

… Zealotry of Guerin: Gassed (John Singer Sargent), Sonnet #180.

The debate continues...

Writing and survival …

… Ian Parker: The Real Life of Edward St. Aubyn : The New Yorker. (Hat tip, Dave Lull)

I am beginning to suspect that Tolstoy had it backwards: Unhappy families are all fundamentally alike, differencing only details.

A pilgrim's passage …

… Rosemary Tonks – A Mystery Solved � The Dabbler. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)


What you haven't read in the paper …

… On Eve of Inky Auction, Reporters Reading Tea Leaves | Big Trial | Philadelphia Trial Blog.

Norcross, supposedly the representative of the forces of darkness, wanted an "open and transparent process," according to the letter his lawyer sent the judge in Delaware who ordered the auction.
Katz, supposedly the champion of journalistic integrity in Philadelphia, not only wanted to ban reporters and the Newspaper Guild from witnessing the auction; he also didn't want the amount of the winning bid divulged.

A thought for today …

Man is most nearly himself when he achieves the seriousness of a child at play.
— Heraclitus 

The question of merit...

Sunday, May 25, 2014

The art of teaching — and a question …

… beyond eastrod: It's showtime! . . . Monty Python in the classroom!

I had so many good teachers. I will have think about the question for a while.

Pushback …

… A Response to Michael Kinsley — The Intercept. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

… by far the most remarkable part of the review is that Kinsley–in the very newspaper that published Daniel Ellsberg’s Pentagon Papers and then fought to the Supreme Court for the right to do so (and, though the review doesn’t mention it, also published some Snowden documents)–expressly argues that journalists should only publish that which the government permits them to, and that failure to obey these instructions should be a crime ….


Sounds like fun...

Inquirer reviews …

… I review Sebastian Barry's latest novel: A book to be heard, not just read.

… 'Dangerous Rhythm': When Hollywood sings and dances.

… The upside of war.

Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.
— Ralph Waldo Emerson, born on this date in 1803

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Encounter and enthusiasm …

… Laudator Temporis Acti: A Bond Between People. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The problem with initiates …

… Bryan Appleyard — Neuroscience and Nigel Farage. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

… I think – actually I am sure but I am trying to be humble – that this mystical scientism has infected thinking on the left much more than on the right. The structure of much left thinking is that there is a greater truth visible only to the initiated. This truth may be Marxist or it may simply be some cocktail of social justice, technological progress, historical inevitability, whatever. The exact content is not the point, the anti-democratic conviction that the people must be led to see what is good for them is.

In memoriam …

… “The air of an enfant terrible”: remembering Nobel poet Joseph Brodsky on his 74th birthday | The Book Haven.

Wow. I didn't realize he was only a year or so older than I.

Sins of conviction …

… Zealotry of Guerin: Dante and Virgil in Hell (Bouguereau), Sonnet # 179.

Feeling slightly incompetent...

...Michael Cunningham interview: Shining a light on ageing, love, and innocence

Friday, May 23, 2014

Hmm …

… beyond eastrod: Hey, all you time-wasting, narcissistic egoists out there . . . Defend yourselves against the indictment . . . guilty or not guilty!

Why would blogging be more narcissistic than any other form of writing? I suspect the psychologist knows about blogging mostly by hearsay.

In case you wondered …

Paul Davis On Crime: Sherlock Holmes: Can A Fictional Man Be A London Icon?

Pushback …

… So Jon Stewart…Will You Take the Dare? | Fox Chase Review.

Awareness …

… God and mindfulness — Philosophy and Life. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

… mindfulness teachers will stick to secular language such as "training the observer" or "simply noticing". That's right, that's the practice. But why do that if letting go were letting go into a godless, heartless void? It seems to me that, in practice, mindfulness nurtures the experience of knowing the God "in whom we live and move and have our being".

Fighting oblivion...

A thought for today …

Nothing is more foreign than the world of one's childhood when one has truly left it.
— Pär Lagerkvist, born on this date in 1891


...Beauty ≠ truth
An insistence that the ‘beautiful’ must be true all too easily elides into an empty circularity: what is true must therefore be beautiful. I see this in the conviction of many chemists that the periodic table, with all its backtracking sequences of electron shells, its positional ambiguities for elements such as hydrogen and unsightly bulges that the flat page can’t constrain, is a thing of loveliness. There, surely, speaks the voice of duty, not genuine feeling. The search for an ideal, perfect Platonic form of the table amid spirals, hypercubes and pyramids has an air of desperation.

Plenty, it seems...

For the birds …

… The Millions : Seeing the Birds Through the Trees. (Hat tip, Dave lull.)

Karl Ove Knausgaard

I'm enticed by his work - though it seems a herculean effort.

Tadeusz Rozewicz

RIP. I've not read his work, but I'm now thinking I should. I was moved by his obituary in the NYT.

Thursday, May 22, 2014


...and the legacy of the First World War



...Report: Arabic ‘Fourth Most Translated’ Literary Language in the US in 2014
So while it’s possible to complain that not much of the whole Arabic corpus is translated into English, it’s not because there’s a lack of interest in Arabic. As “Three Percent’s” name indicates, there is an overall shortage of translations into English, where only 2-5 percent of total literary output is made up of works in translation. But if there are any languages being cheated, it’s not Arabic. It’s Hindi, Bengali, and other Indian languages.

High praise...

More poems for the poetry impresario …

Happy Birthday to Mike Peich

The tall skinny boy you were at twenty
looks from the bathroom mirror as you stand
trimming his white moustache at  seventy.
A toast to every grain of hour-glass sand!

                                    Marilyn Nelson

Seventieth Birthday Encomium to Michael Peich

To one who stood where Barber stood,
And said, "Hey, why not get some rhyme here?"
Who sips rich pinot, calls it good,
And scoffs at mention of Bud Lime beer;

To one with Phillies seats reserved,
And dapper with his white mustache;
One, like a pickle, well preserved,
Balanced and tall, as the White Ash,

I send this period of praise,
To set his character on the page,
And wish that still more happy days
May crown his seventy years of age.

                                 James Matthew Wilson

Good old Mike Peich,
He's really still a tyke:
At seventy he's able
To drink us under the table.

                                   Ernest Hilbert


"Forgive all friends' poems,"
Says Buddha.  Christ concurs.  Mike --
Smiles behind the stache?

                                     Mark Dawson

Excavation …

… Paris Review – Exploring Alexander Pope’s Grottoes, Sadie Stein. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Instruction from the universe …

… “Well, next thing will happen to me is I’ll be locked up.” Joseph Brodsky on his private revelations | The Book Haven.

A thought for today …

For strange effects and extraordinary combinations we must go to life itself, which is always far more daring than any effort of the imagination.
— Arthur Conan Doyle, born on this date in 1859


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Not so bad after all …

… I Want You To Love Adverbs, Guardians Of Surprise — Beyond The Margins. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Adverbs are modifiers. They modify – which means they change, alter, amend, that part of speech to which they are subordinate. In other words, they are not unnecessary emphasizers as in, “She shouted loudly.” They don’t exist to reiterate, but to provide a specificity not provided by the verb, and therefore to shade and even alter the verb’s meaning in that particular sentence. She shouted reluctantly. She shouted, predictably. She shouted unceasingly. She shouted hopelessly. She shouted victoriously. She shouted wistfully – somehow, despite the power of her voice.

The art of provocation …

… beyond eastrod: Tell me if I am wrong: Confessions of an eccentric and retired pedagogue — or how Lady Brett Ashley became a low-life alcoholic whore (among a whole crowd of alcoholics).

I believe that too many students have been too accustomed to being told what to think about a novel, story, poem, or play (or any other subject that they study). The students' analytical and critical instincts (and skills, if students can further develop them) have been too often preempted by dim-witted teachers who pontificate and prescribe from the podium, marker board, and projected computer screens because they know no other more creative and engaging pedagogical approach. Students also hurt themselves and preempt their own abilities by too often turning to online summary sites (e.g., SparkNotesand Wikipedia) rather than giving themselves permission to think more (either correctly or incorrectly) about a reading assignment. 

In memoriam …

… Gabriel Kolko, RIP — Hit & Run : (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Poor babies …

… US students request 'trigger warnings' on literature | Books | The Guardian. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Just label all books "For Adults Only."

Not discussing race is, you know, racist …

… Junot Díaz condemns creative writing courses for 'unbearable too-whiteness' | Books | The Guardian. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

A thought for today …

Some people will never learn anything, for this reason, because they understand everything too soon.
— Alexander Pope, born on this date in 1688

Strictly private …

… Judge Bans Media From Inky Auction | Big Trial | Philadelphia Trial Blog.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

About time...

Listen in …

… Podcast: Mimi Pond – The Customer is Always Wrong | Virtual Memories.

Maybe they don't belong in college …

… Best of the Web Today: Parental Guidance Requested —

Students have demanded trigger warnings at Oberlin College, Rutgers University, the University of Michigan and George Washington University as well as UCSB. The Times reproduces an excerpt from an Oberlin "draft guide," which reads: "Triggers are not only relevant to sexual misconduct, but also to anything that might cause trauma. Be aware of racism, classism, sexism, heterosexism, cissexism, ableism, and other Issues of privilege and oppression. Realize that all forms of violence are traumatic, and that your students have lives before and outside your classroom, experiences you may not expect or understand." ("Cissexism" refers to prejudice in favor of men and women who identify themselves, respectively, as men and women.)
A capacity for thought does not appear to have played any part in gaining them admission to college.

Defending freedom of thought and speech …

… Ruth J. Simmons speaks at Smith College's 136th commencement: audio |

What might have been …

… from P. J. O'Rourke: My Commencement Speech to Rutgers’ Geniuses: Go Forth and Fail — The Daily Beast.

It’s a shame [Condoleezza Rice] was busy. You might have heard something useful from a person who grew up poor in Jim Crow Alabama. Who lost a friend and playmate in 1963 when white supremacists bombed Birmingham’s Sixteenth Street Baptist Church. Who became an accomplished concert pianist before she tuned her ear to the more dissonant chords of international relations.

Backstory …

… A Second Pass at Overpass Into Fog | BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog.

Art and life …

… Muriel Spark: the author as dictator - Telegraph. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

How did Spark arrive at such an unsettlingly settled world view? Her biography holds some clues. As diligently recounted in Martin Stannard’s 2009 Life, she was brought up between worlds. Born Muriel Camberg, her father was Jewish and her mother Presbyterian. Even after becoming a Catholic, she continued to call herself a Gentile-Jewess. (The Mandelbaum Gate, her longest if not her most successful novel, explores her dual religious heritage.) At the age of 19, she married Sydney Oswald Spark, who was 13 years her senior, and sailed with him to Southern Rhodesia. He turned out to be violently unstable and, soon after the birth of her son Robin in 1938, she separated from him. Her fears of what might have happened had she stayed, surface in her harrowing story “Bang-Bang You’re Dead”. Desperate to leave Africa, she undertook the dangerous wartime journey back to Britain. (She left Robin behind; their relationship never recovered.) At a labour exchange in London, the woman interviewing her noticed she was reading a novel by Ivy Compton-Burnett; she recommended her to Foreign Intelligence, where she stayed for the rest for the war.

Q&A …

… Nicholas Shakespeare on Bruce Chatwin | Five Books | Five Books. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Chatwin was a great writer, but the restlessness that drove him is less easy to pin down. Readers sense a tension behind the work. While the prose is clear, vivid and confident, the author seems opaque, unmoored and capable of whirring off in all directions. He copied into one of his signature Moleskine notebooks this telling line from Montaigne: “I ordinarily reply to those who ask me the reason for my travels, that I know well what I am fleeing from, but not what I am looking for.”

More poems for Mike …

… and more will be posted as I have the time:

For Mike’s 70th
Some saps who don’t know Mike pronounce it Peech,
just like the Anglo-Saxon hemisteech,
but, truthfully, that word is hemistich,
which rhymes, of course, with Wilbur’s knickname, Dick.
But now I’ve wandered too far from the man,
who, with Alyssa, Brent, and fair Diane,
carries the honored name that we all like,
that spondee of eight decades, The Mike Peich.
                                                  David Yezzi

Seventieth Birthday Encomium to Michael Peich

To one who stood where Barber stood,
And said, "Hey, why not get some rhyme here?"
Who sips rich pinot, calls it good,
And scoffs at mention of Bud Lime beer;

To one with Phillies seats reserved,
And dapper with his white mustache;
One, like a pickle, well preserved,
Balanced and tall, as the White Ash,

I send this period of praise,
To set his character on the page,
And wish that still more happy days
May crown his seventy years of age.

                                           James Matthew Wilson

                Batty at the Vet

Since I’m an old guy, let’s not talk of age
But Michael Peich and baseball. Set the stage:
Late May, 2001. The park: The Vet,
As cruel a place as baseball parks can get.
Mike had sweet tickets, shared (nice guy) with me;
I balked my boss, met Mike, and we commenced
With dog and brew our donnybrook against
The hated Expos.
All that chilly night
Bad luck brought out Mike’s grief, good luck his spite.
Exultant when we scored, when they, bereft,
Peich gave himself until no self was left,
Inhabiting the game’s release, the joy
Of being what most men remain: a boy
Indelible. For Michael Peich is one 
Of those who see exalted worth in fun,
Embrace the old game, knowing it’s not true,
Cheer, not because they don’t – because they do.
You share the taste with those who share with you
In the same spirit – as Mike Peich would do.
To watch Mike Baseball, you would not have guessed
That this professor ever had professed
Of poetry, or wine, or type set well.
He gave the Phillies heart, the umpires hell:
“Go get new glasses, zebra!” was his call.
“Let’s go, now! We can do this!” “Kill the ball!”
The Phillies, who’d done all that could be done
To the lose the game, trailed by a single run.
And now the diapered bottom of the ninth
Which is, if you ask me, the very plinth
For any statue titled Failure. Plus
The closing pitcher boded bad for us: 
If I had patience, I’d write a sestina
About the wily, voweled Ugueth Urbina,
Reliever mean. Mike: “Gut him, Phils!” The louts
Of Philly slogged about, and made two outs. …
Scott Rolen reached … Abreu, too … and fate
Selected next a not so bad ungreat
Named Travis Lee. He practice-swung, tapped spikes,
And right away, allowed two perfect strikes
To split the plate. The cold crowd groaned. For who
Would think he’d do what Casey could not do?
Mike Peich. “It only takes one hit,” he said.
“We got this. One good single. We’re not dead
Yet” – and a good thing, too, for Travis Lee
Remembered some long-hid ability
And swung in one-time grace. Strike three reversed,
Exploded out, as if this were rehearsed,
And as Mike gazed in slack-jawed, blissed delight, 
Jackhammered a parabola through the night.
As dented ball completed its career
Fought over in the bleachers, and a cheer
Robbed all of hearing, Michael, a bear on bike,
Did something I shall only call The Peich –
Watusi? Stroke? Electrocution? Bump? –
His shoulders unacquainted with his rump,
His dance partaking of the Philly dance
Of disbelief, of “Thank you, Ma’am” to chance,
And now he joined the mad scene in the aisles,
Mike’s smile the wide quintessence of all smiles.
I’ve emptied my poetic portmanteau.
Where Mike’s concerned, here’s all you need to know:
Exulting with that crowd of loyal lives
He jumped not high in air, and gave high fives
In happiness so generous and good
He would have given sixes if he could.

                                                     John Timpane