Tuesday, June 30, 2015

An extraordinary poem …

… Midsummer Twilight Ramp.

Amazing …

 Amid Puerto Rico debt woes, reality hits San Juan streets | Miami Herald Miami Herald.

Yet many people continue to look to politicians and government to solve these problems, conveniently forgetting that politicians and government created them. I guess we can thank the media for this. Journalists have long since forgotten this maxim of Mencken's: "The only way a reporter should look at a politician is down."

Today's music …

Tangled disappearances …

… When Falls the Coliseum — Lisa reads Of Things Gone Astray by Janina Matthewson.

Reading in prison …

… Anecdotal Evidence: `More Than Grilled Chicken and Wine'.

Debut scheduled …

… About Last Night | In the director’s chair.

Ina flash …

 Review of Flash Fiction International | BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog.

Once upon a time …

… Beyond Eastrod: the journey continues: To read or not to read novels (part 3), or how literature saved my life - Margaret Mitchell, Charles Bukowski, Emily Dickinson, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and Beyond Eastrod.

Something to think on …

It is impossible to communicate to people who have not experienced it the undefinable menace of total rationalism.
— Czeslaw Milosz, born on this date in 1911

Listen in …

… Episode 123 – The Hidden Wish of Words — James Merrill: Life and Art | Virtual Memories.

Monday, June 29, 2015

In Praise of University Presses

From The Guardian:

"...At the moment, I don’t think there’s a trade publishing house producing high-calibre, serious non-fiction of the quality and variety of Yale University Press; and snapping at its heels are Harvard, Oxford, Princeton, Cambridge and Chicago. As the literary editor of a middlebrow news magazine I’m finding ever more of the reviews I commission are from such presses."

Sam Leith, the author of the piece, is right: I'd take a work of non-fiction published by a university press any day of the week over a "smart thinking" book of history or criticism.

Musical magic …

Last Tuesday evening I attended a reception for the opening of an exhibition at the Free Library called No Home To Go To: The Story of Baltic Displaced Persons 1944-1952. The exhibition was curated by my friend Irene Brokas Chambers, who was herself one of those displaced during that time. The exhibition is very emotionally charged and well worth seeing. It will there all summer.
At the reception, I met two very interesting women: Beth-Ellen Kroope and Donna Morein. Beth-Ellen caught the spirit of the exhibition perfectly by simply noting how touching it was. Touching was just the right word. But Donna gave me a little present that I shall never forget. Donna is a mezzo-soprano and a very good one. We got talking about Richard Strauss and she drew me aside and sang in my ear sotto voce a passage from the Presentation of the Rose duet from Strauss's Rosenkavalier. She sang this very beautiful music every bit as beautifully as it deserves to be. But for me it truly was a magical moment. I shall never hear that music again without remembering this very private performance. It will remain a cherished memory for as long as I have a memory.

Lamentations II

at the Anonymous Poet

Today's music …

An encouraging word …

… The crisis in non-fiction publishing | Books | The Guardian. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

These days I’m very seldom excited by a trade non-fiction title, roaring as most of them are down the middle lane of the same motorway, to the degree I’m excited by the original and vital byways that university presses are exploring for the general reader.

Haiku - On An Encounter With Frank

skipping together
music dancing with the air
your laughter and mine



A Poetry Workshop With Leonard Gontarek

A Free 4-Week Workshop

July 1, 8, 15, 29, 2015.   All Wednesdays, 6-7:30 PM

Walnut Street West Library – 40th & Walnut Streets (SE Corner) Philadelphia 19104

Contact: gontarek9@earthlink.net

This workshop is presented free through the generosity of Mad Poets Society.
It is open to everyone.

*Students will gain a fuller understanding of poetry in our world and improve
their poetic skills.
*International and American Poetry will be discussed, with a focus
on what makes a poet’s voice original, what makes the voice their own,
and the ways in which the poet speaks directly to the reader.
Students will learn to identify, and trust, the same qualities in their poems,
and establish voice as a working principle in their poetry.
*The workshop is designed to identify and develop the sense of place
in the poet’s work. The aim is to firmly root the poem where it takes place,
so the subject matter and concerns of the poem will unfold around it.
*Specific direction and assignments will be given, with attention
to the basic elements and forms of poetry. Through invention,
students will build more accurate and textured work.
*The workshop is structured to accommodate poets at any level of accomplishment.

Leonard Gontarek is the author of five books of poems:
St. Genevieve Watching Over Paris, Van Morrison Can’t Find His Feet,
Zen For Beginners, Déjà Vu Diner, He Looked Beyond My Faults and
Saw My Needs (Hanging Loose Press, 2013). His poems have appeared
in American Poetry Review, Field, Poet Lore, Verse, Exquisite Corpse,
Handsome, Fence, Blackbird, The Awl, Poetry Northwest, Spinning Jenny,
and in the anthologies, The Best American Poetry, The Working Poet,
Poems for the Writing: Prompts for Poets, and Joyful Noise: American
Spiritual Poetry. He twice received poetry fellowships from the
Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and was the 2011 Philadelphia
Literary Death Match Champion. Since 2006, he has conducted 1000
poetry workshops in venues including, The Moonstone Arts Center,
Musehouse, The Kelly Writers House, University City Arts League,
the Philadelphia Arts in Education Partnership, and a weekly
Saturday workshop from his home in West Philadelphia.
He hosts the Green Line Café Reading and Interview Series.

While there’s no guarantee you’ll become the next Robert Frost, with the guidance of award-winning, prolific poet Leonard Gontarek, it’s at least a possibility. Encouraging students to explore as many avenues as possible and remove themselves from their work, he’ll help you find—then strengthen—your style and voice.

                                                Philadelphia Weekly

He’s a poet’s poet.                             The Philadelphia Inquirer

Fox Chase reviews …

Portrait of an Artist as a Young Poseur by Doug Holder.

Sum and Substance by K Pankajam.

Even in Quiet Places By William Stafford.

On second thought …

… Beyond Eastrod: the journey continues: The novel is NOT dead (i.e., ignore the premature obituary in which Beyond Eastrod consigned all fiction to the graveyard of worthless artifacts).

The Chairman's centenary …

… Ian Penman — Swoonatra — LRB 2 July 2015. ( Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Sinatra combined all the contradictions of postwar America into one immaculate figure. Public confidence and private terrors. Great distances and perplexing intimacy. Single malt and double lives in Miami, Washington, London, Rome. Sinatra is the Cold War torch singer par excellence: unreliable narrator, star witness, mole in his own life. What better song to soundtrack the early 1960s than Sinatra’s ‘How Little We Know’ (1963), which works as a breezy allegory on head-in-the-sand hedonism (‘How little we understand … how ignorant bliss is’), nuclear realpolitik (‘that sudden explosion when two tingles intermingle’) and early Mad Men-style fatalism: ‘The world around us shatters/How little it matters.’ As JFK-approved envoy for the New Frontier, Sinatra would seem a gift for Western propaganda, a walking billboard for Kapital’s ‘good life’. But there are many moments in his catalogue – from The Manchurian Candidate(1962) to his strange Cheever-esque musical novella Watertown (1970) – when the rosy façade falls away, revealing something far more ambiguous and often pretty gruesome. He was, I think, a man drawn to expressing something light-filled and democratic and orderly, while being all the time acutely aware of the dark chaos within, just below the well-groomed skin.

Faith and art (cont'd.)

… Redeemed from Death? | Commonweal Magazine. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

What makes me a Catholic writer is that the faith I profess contends that out of love—love—for such troubled, flawed, struggling human beings, the Creator, the First Cause, became flesh so that we, every one of us, would not perish. I am a Catholic writer because this very notion—whether it be made up or divinely revealed, fanciful thinking or breathtaking truth—so astonishes me that I can’t help but bring it to every story I tell.
Doubt always shadows faith. As John Henry Newman said, "faith means being capable of bearing doubt." But the lifeblood of faith is prayer.

Then and now …

… Late reflections on Wolf Hall: will the real Thomas More please stand up? | The Book Haven.

I think that Bolt's More is a truer representation of his original than Mantel's Cromwell is of hers. I don't think Bolt had as much of an ax to grind as Mantel does.
… I watched the film again with two young people. (Well … young-ish … compared to me, anyway.) The low-budget film often adheres to polished stage conventions rather than modern film conventions (Scofield won a Tony as well as an Oscar for the role), and the actors wore far too much make-up. That’s not what bugged my companions, however – not the main thing, anyway. They couldn’t imagine any principle worth dying for, when a simple lie could get you off the hook. That divide proved more unbreachable even than pancake makeup. I’ve since learned that this mindset is usual among Millennials.
How interesting, considering how preoccupied with self Millennials are said to be. What is the self, if there is nothing worth sacrificing it for?

Choosing not to see …

… The University Bookman: ‘Spoken with Sufficient Seriousness. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Something to think on …

Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.
— Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, born on this date in 1900

What You Can't Say

The roblem is, there are so many things you can't say. If you said them all you'd have no time left for your real work. You'd have to turn into Noam Chomsky...
I don't think we need the viso sciolto so much as the pensieri stretti. Perhaps the best policy is to make it plain that you don't agree with whatever zealotry is current in your time, but not to be too specific about what you disagree with. Zealots will try to draw you out, but you don't have to answer them. If they try to force you to treat a question on their terms by asking "are you with us or against us?" you can always just answer "neither"...
Best of all, probably, is humor. Zealots, whatever their cause, invariably lack a sense of humor. They can't reply in kind to jokes. They're as unhappy on the territory of humor as a mounted knight on a skating rink. Victorian prudishness, for example, seems to have been defeated mainly by treating it as a joke. Likewise its reincarnation as political correctness. "I am glad that I managed to write 'The Crucible,'" Arthur Miller wrote, "but looking back I have often wished I'd had the temperament to do an absurd comedy, which is what the situation deserved. 
By Paul Graham.  

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Good for the readers …

 Newspaper faces firestorm after attempted crack-down on anti-gay marriage op-eds | Fox News.

"More than once yesterday I was referred to as 'f****t-lover,' among other slurs," he wrote. "And that's the point that I was trying to make with our statement: We will not publish such slurs any more than we would publish racist, sexist or anti-Semitic speech.
Oh, come on.  We all know perfectly well that they would never publish anything like that. Nor would anyone expect them to. Be honest, sir. You're a closet despot who got caught.

Stupid Genuises

Hawking using Israeli technology to tell people not to deal with Israel, Chomsky denying that 2 million Cambodian were massacred, Fischer idolizing Hitler – these examples show that geniuses are sometimes far stupider than ordinary people.

Catholic Novelist = Failed Novelist

 I would concede to being a cultural Catholic—I recognize the aftershocks of Catholicism on certain avenues of my worldview, on my conception of the dramatic, and acknowledge my enormous debt to Father Gerard Manley Hopkins, to Misters Chesterton and Waugh and Greene, to Dr. Percy and Ms. Flannery O’Connor—but is one really to be cubicled as a “Catholic novelist” because one brooked a Catholic boyhood and parochial education, because one was warped in all the right ways by writers who were Catholic?
Here’s what I know with an almost religious surety: to be tagged a Catholic novelist is to be tagged a failed novelist.

Ho-hum …

… Altruism Shrugged: Unforgiving Morality of Ayn Rand’s Forgotten Novel | The New Republic. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I was never able to make my way through Rand's prose, and the reference to her in this piece as a "philosophizer" seems to me quite accurate. So “it has to be either reason or faith,” according to Rand. But you can not use reason to demonstrate that reason is the sole source of truth. Rationalism itself begins with an act of faith — in reason.

Inquirer reviews …

… 'Reagan: The Life': A balanced look at the Gipper's legacy.

Kate Walbert's 'Sunken Cathedral': Wise and beautifully written.

… David Shipler's 'Freedom of Speech' probes limits of freedom.

… 'The Great Fire' by Lou Ureneck: Timely and vivid account of a genocidal moment.

 Through presidents' wives, insights into U.S. history.

Something to think on …

All great men are gifted with intuition. They know without reasoning or analysis, what they need to know.
— Alexis Carrel, born on this date in 1873

The dangers of reading …

… Diseases Incident to Literary and Sedentary Persons — LRB blog. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Synecdoche of contemplation...

...Public benches: the seat of civilisation
Laurel and Hardy, the indomitable losers of the Great Depression, articulate this idea in their 1932 film Scram! The pair are charged with vagrancy. They plead not guilty. “On what grounds?” asks the judge. “We weren’t on the grounds,” replies Laurel. “We were sleeping on a park bench.”

Saturday, June 27, 2015

And the silver lining...

Triple play …

… Beyond Eastrod: the journey continues: The death of the novel, the rise of curmudeonly cynicism, and my return to other reading interests.

Today's music …

Unobtrusively impressive …

… First Known When Lost: "That Man Couldn't Look Out Of A Window Without Seeing Something That Had Never Been Seen Before".

Who knew?

… Antonin Scalia Is the Supreme Court's Greatest Writer | The New Republic. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Scalia’s reactionary jurisprudence has made him a polarizing figure, but the pungency of his writing is widely admired even by those who fear that he will return America to the dark ages. Writing in the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy in 1993, Harvard law professor Charles Fried hailed Scalia as possessing “a natural talent” of “the kind which distinguishes a Mozart from a Salieri.” In the Journal of the Legal Writing Institute in 2003, Yury Kapgan claimed that Scalia’s decisions are “as close to literature as court opinions come.”
 Of course, good writing tends to suggest clear thinking as well.

Hmm …

… Reading Is Forgetting by Tim Parks | NYRblog | The New York Review of Books. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

If "our reactions to a book on first reading are irrelevant," then there doesn't seem much point to reviewing, and maybe Parks would agree. To borrow from the motto of the Abbey of Theleme, one should read as one will.


...It Is Accomplished
We are not disordered or sick or defective or evil—at least no more than our fellow humans in this vale of tears. We are born into family; we love; we marry; we take care of our children; we die. No civil institution is related to these deep human experiences more than civil marriage and the exclusion of gay people from this institution was a statement of our core inferiority not just as citizens but as human beings. It took courage to embrace this fact the way the Supreme Court did today.

Voices in the dark …

 Forest Witches (Klee), Sonnet #248.

In case you wondered...

Something to think on …

For this reason, to study English literature without some general knowledge of the relation of the Bible to that literature would be to leave one's literary education very incomplete.
— Lafcadio Hearn, born on this date in 1850

Friday, June 26, 2015

Haiku …

Overcast night sky.
A soft wind rings the wind chimes.
He heads off to bed.

The antilibrary …

… What unread books can teach us | Life and style | The Guardian. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Take a look at this …

… Sainte-Chapelle: 360 degree view of Paris chapel's kaleidoscopic stained-glass windows - Telegraph. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

A return to fiction …

… To Kill a Man - Jim Webb - POLITICO Magazine.

Literature grounded in faith …

… The Millions : Ancient Arts: On Independent Catholic Literature and Edward Mullany’s ‘The Three Sunrises’. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The book begins with the novella Legion, which is prefaced by a scene from the story of the Gerasene demoniac. The novella’s unnamed central character appears by turns nondescript, mysterious, and malevolent. His strangeness causes him to lose his office job. He only appears human when interacting with, or thinking about, his mother. His visits to her home are the few moments when the narrative is not focused on urban loneliness.
The usage of “legion” suggests the possibility of multiple characters, or a certain supernatural sense. Mullany delivers the novella in prose-poetic vignettes that sometimes only last a paragraph. In the first scene, the character slices a vein on his forearm with a razor, drips the blood into a coffee mug, and drinks it. Elsewhere, limbs and skulls are hidden in his apartment. Not quite Baltimore Catechism fare.

Well, in the Gospel passage, Jesus asks the possessing demon his name, and he answers, "My name is Legion, for we are many."

It is a fearful thing …

… to fall into the hands of the Living God: Beyond Eastrod: the journey continues: I wake and feel the fell of dark, not day -------------- words from Gerard Manley Hopkins.

Faith is never easy, actually.

And finally...

In case you wondered...

Something to think on …

To find joy in work is to discover the fountain of youth.
— Pearl Buck, born on this date in 1892

Shooting from the lip …

 No, Pope Francis, it is not hypocritical for the good to make weapons - Opinion - The Boston Globe.
At the very same rally in Turin in which he excoriated those who make and sell munitions, Francis retroactively decried the failure of the Western democracies to do more to stop the Nazi genocide and Stalin’s terror. “The great powers had photographs of the railway routes that brought the trains to the concentration camps,” he said. “Tell me, then: Why did they not bomb them?
Does the pontiff hear his own words? He laments the failure to bomb the rail lines and save millions of lives. Who would have made those bombs? Who would have made the bombers to deliver them? Who made the guns and tanks and missiles that did, in the end, defeat Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan? Were all of them conniving merchants of death?

Thursday, June 25, 2015

But the Science Was Settled!...

The red, bloodshot eyes that people get after being in a swimming pool aren’t caused by chlorine, as thought — but by what happens when people urinate in the water.
People weeing in the pool means the urine reacts with chlorine to create a chemical compound that hurts the eyes, according to the US’s Healthy Swimming Program. 

Drug-addled haze...

Hmm …

 Pope Francis's Guardinian Encyclical | RealClearReligion.

I, too, am a big fan of Romano Guardini. But I don't think Guardini would be as big a fan of large international bureaucracies as Pope Francis seems to be.

Watch and listen …

… The Millions : The Book Report: Episode 21: Seven Millions Questions with Catie Disabato. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Epiphany …

 Haruki Murakami: The Moment I Became a Novelist ‹ Literary Hub.

Q&A …

 The Interview: With a lot of poetry comes lots of bad poetry says Donald Hall | New Hampshire  (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Something to think on …

Sometimes the first duty of intelligent men is the restatement of the obvious.
— George Orwell, born on this date in 1903

A Poem

The birds sing in the trees
Around me
If I listen
If I listen
To their song
And God

A Symphony
Many and One
With the soft air blowing on my skin
And the two black puppies
Running in the yard
Happy at the day and everything

I sit
And try to listen
I believe Lord help me in my disbelief
And my weakness
Like the Word thrown on rock
Or tangled with thorns

The stupidity
The selfishness
The minor thoughts and things to do stealing so much time
And sometimes so horrendously painful
Lost and hurt and lonely
Toiling in the dirt and desert

Why can’t I sit here and now
And forever listening 
To the Symphony
In sound and light and gentle wind 
and happy puppies
Thanking You for this garden

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Enter now …

 The 2015 Barthelme Prize for Short Prose | BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog.

The pit of the self …

 Franz Wright: Solving the Problems of Poetry. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Haiku …

So blue sky. White clouds.
Oak tree's early summer green.
So much time gone by.

Today's music …

Appreciation …

… Paul Davis On Crime: The Charm of Evil: Martin Scorsese On 'The Third Man': The Best Revelation In All Cinema.

Look and listen …

Learning to drive …

… Anecdotal Evidence: `I Had to Learn Fast'.

A matter of degree…

 Does a True Artist Care What His Audience Thinks? - The New York Times. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Q & A …

 Love for Sale: Billie Holiday’s Greatest Songs — The Barnes & Noble Review. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Submissions invited …

… River Teeth Book Prize Opens Submissions | BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog.

Something to think on …

A good question is never answered. It is not a bolt to be tightened into place but a seed to be planted and to bear more seed toward the hope of greening the landscape of idea.
— John Ciardi, born on this date in 1916

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

A personal recommendation …

 Refresh Computer Repair | #1 In Philadelphia Area Computer Repair.

This is who I use whenever I need work done on my computer. Last week, the printer died. I let Kevin choose the replacement and he came back on Friday to install it, etc. Excellent service.

Good move …

… Will Book Publishers Ever Start Fact-checking? — Vulture.

In September, Tim Duggan Books, the editor’s eponymous new imprint under the Crown Publishing Group, will be the first ever to offer fact-checking as a service paid for by the publisher. Duggan declined to discuss his imprint yet, and one agent describes the fact-checking policy as “in flux.” But for months, Duggan has been quietly promoting in-house fact-checking as a special feature of his new shop. New York Times reporter Scott Shane confirms that his book, Objective Troy — the second on Duggan’s list — was fact-checked by Andy Young, an experienced freelancer hired by Crown.

Well, well, well …

 Darwinian Inheritance and the Evolution of Evolutionary Theory - Campaign for Open Science.   (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

… The taboo on the inheritance of acquired characteristics was lifted at the beginning of the twenty-first century, with the recognition of epigenetic inheritance, meaning inheritance over and above the genes. Some kinds of epigenetic inheritance depend on small RNA molecules (sRNA), others on the methylation of DNA, others on modifications to the proteins that bind to DNA. The genes are not changed through mutation, but are switched on or off through the way they are packaged. The discovery that some of these changes are inherited through eggs, sperm and pollen marks a revolutionary change in modern biology.

Bloomsbury on the Delaware …

… A Literary Night in West Philadelphia ‹ Literary Hub. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Remembering …

… Gunther Schuller died on Sunday. He was 89.

She saw the way we looked …


Today's music …

An appealingly human figure …

… Boswell Gets His Due | Liberty Unbound. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Something to think on …

Life is a wonderful thing to talk about, or to read about in history books - but it is terrible when one has to live it.
— Jean Anouilh, born on this date in 1910

Monday, June 22, 2015


 Gunther Schuller — Composer, Educator, Musician — Dies At 89 | ARTery. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Copy Right

Precisely here lies the paradox of the transmission of sacred texts. On the one hand, the scribes of such texts take great pains to copy them faithfully. At the same time, though, any error creeping into them is likely to become permanent, since it quickly gains sacred stratus in its own right.

Swing vote...

...Justice Anthony Kennedy’s Tolerance Seen in His Sacramento Roots
Sometime in the 1980s, a gay couple moved a few doors down from the Kennedys in Land Park; Mr. Genshlea recalls their arrival as “not a big deal.” Judge Kennedy took Mr. Meese and his wife to a housewarming party at the male couple’s home, according to a 1987 article in The Los Angeles Times, which quoted a friend expressing the future justice’s attitude: “If they can tolerate me, I can sure tolerate them.”

The last western…

 Paul Davis On Crime: 'Justified’ EP Chris Provenzano Inks AMC Overall Deal, To Adapt Elmore Leonard’s ‘Gunsights.


Mystery Writers Key West Fest 2015 Key West Conference.

Just a thought …

Prayer and sacrifice would seem to be the essential notes underlying religion. Christianity advances the striking notion that God sacrificed himself as an expiation for his creatures' shortcomings, and this must surely be the point of departure for any discussion thereof, and it can only be discussed within the context of mankind's age-old practice of sacrificing (sometimes other humans) to God or the gods. To counter it with talk derived from modern, positivist science is to miss the point entirely,and to waste everybody's time.

Prayer and story …

 Words Made Flesh: Literature And The Language Of Prayer : NPR.

Q & A …

… The Quiet Rebels of Russian Translation ‹ Literary Hub.

Today's music …

Back to alchemy …

… The Climate Wars' Damage to Science — Quadrant Online. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Excusing failed predictions is a staple of astrology; it’s the way pseudoscientists argue. In science, as Karl Popper long ago insisted, if you make predictions and they fail, you don’t just make excuses and insist you’re even more right than before. The Royal Society once used to promise “never to give their opinion, as a body, upon any subject”. Its very motto is “nullius in verba”: take nobody’s word for it. Now it puts out catechisms of what you must believe in. Surely, the handing down of dogmas is for churches, not science academies. Expertise, authority and leadership should count for nothing in science. The great Thomas Henry Huxley put it this way: “The improver of natural knowledge absolutely refuses to acknowledge authority, as such. For him, scepticism is the highest of duties; blind faith the one unpardonable sin.” Richard Feynman was even pithier: “Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.”

Hmm …

… Confessions of a Catholic Novelist | The New Republic. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

If I understand this, Giraldi seems to think that being a novelist and Catholic are somehow incompatible. But I can't why see that should be, anymore than being a gardener and Catholic would be incompatible. Here is something else from Flannery O'Connor: “Dear God, tonight ... you have given me a story. Don’t let me ever think ... that I was anything but the instrument for Your story — just like the typewriter was mine. Please let the story, dear God, in its revisions, be made too clear for any false & low interpretation. ... I wish you would take care of making it a sound story because I don’t know how, just like I didn’t know how to write it but it came.”

That is pretty much how I understand the connection between art and faith. A lived faith is reflected in the work because the faith shapes the identity of the artist. Giraldi doesn't seem to have progressed very far as a Catholic. I am also a cradle Catholic, but my faith is not in a set of propositions (though I duly recite the Creed). As William A. Luijpen, O. S. A.,  put it, "when the believer calls, shouts or whispers the name 'God,' he expresses the mystery of his existence." Giraldi might try looking into that.

Something to think on …

You don't start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it's good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That's why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence.
— Octavia Butler, born on this date in 1947

Sunday, June 21, 2015

For Father's Day …

… Paul Davis On Crime: Father's Day: 20 Uplifting Quotes.

Winning WWII would have been hard without them …

… your Holiness: Pope says weapons manufacturers can't call themselves Christian - Yahoo News Canada.

This is dismaying to hear from a religious leader. Surely he knows that evil is not a problem of engineering. This legal adjustment or that is not going to make it go away. Someone should bring to the Pontiff's attention something wise Will Durant said: "To speak ill of others is a dishonest way of praising ourselves. Nothing is often a good thing to say, and always a clever thing to say."
I'm beginning to think this Papacy is already being governed by the law of diminishing returns.

In Memoriam: James Salter

I saw that Frank posted a link to The New York Times obituary on James Salter, who passed away on Friday at the age of 90. Here's another piece from The New Yorker.

I've only read one of Salter's novels - A Sport and a Pastime - but what a book it is: sexual, beautiful, sorrowful...the list goes on. Salter was a gifted stylist, and that novel, in particular, manifest his talents. It has always been, for me, a perfect book, one that yearns deeply for France, one that casts the erotic in Salter's own rueful light. 

I was pleased to find this morning that Salter - born, interestingly, Horowitz - sat for an interview with The Paris Review in 1992. Here's a link. Combing Salter's approach to life and literature has made me want to read others of his novels, including Light Years, which is next on my list. If it's anything like A Sport and a Pastime - with its crystalline prose and profound sense of place, of space - I'm certain to be impressed once more.

RIP, James Salter. He was, as The Times noted, the true "writer's writer." 

Birthday anniversary …

Henry Ossawa Tanner, in my view one of the truly great painters of religious subjects, was born on this date in 1859. This is The Annunciation.

The humanity of speech …

… Denis Donoghue: Why WB Yeats matters. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

So Yeats has been intuiting the life common to all forms of it and bringing particular forms to the state of being intelligible. This is easy with landscape, because landscape has nothing to say for itself: if it seems to be eloquent, it is our eloquence. In The Wild Swans at Coole the streams are “companionable” not because they just are but because Yeats sees them as such, bringing them to that version of intelligibility.

Remembering with advantages …

… The American Scholar: The High Road to Narnia - George Watson. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Like Pound and Eliot before them, Tolkien and Lewis had something worth saying. Modern fiction, they believed, had lost the plot. Pound and Eliot, who led the Parisian riffraff, did not tell stories, and Joyce and Virginia Woolf seemed to think it the least interesting thing a novelist ever did. Nobody retold ancient and traditional tales. But art is tradition. The Greeks called Memory the mother of the Muses, and Lewis, whose training was classical, believed the Ancients had got it right. Originality is the most overrated of the virtues, and in The Discarded Image(1964), which appeared months after his death, Lewis imagined someone challenging Chaucer and Shakespeare to explain why they so seldom invented stories, and their reply: “Are we reduced to that?” No wonder he was amused in his last years by the complaint that the Narnia stories were unoriginal. They were meant to be.

Inquirer reviews …

… Svetlana, 'Stalin's Daughter,' chronicled in new biography.

… Beth Kepthart's 'One Thing Stolen': Poignant yet nest-bound.

… Kamel Daoud's 'Mersault Investigation' retells Camus' 'Stranger' from Arab viewpoint.

… Georges Simenon's Maigret novels in delightful new translations.


… James Salter, a ‘Writer’s Writer’ Short on Sales but Long on Acclaim, Dies at 90 - The New York Times.

Something to think on …

No matter how widely you have travelled, you haven't seen the world if you have failed to look into the human hearts that inhabit it.
— Donald Culross Peattie, born on this date in 1898


“To create a tool that may be responsible since its inception for a billion dollars in damages, and still to evade arrest despite all that up to this point, is just amazing to me,” Jackson said. “Until he’s in custody, and he’s in custody somewhere where he’ll stay in custody, I don’t think we’ll see the last of it.” 

Shutting sites down and shutting people up

To live in a world where every stray, overheated Internet comment—however trollish and stupid it may be—can be interpreted as an actionable threat to be investigated by a federal grand jury is to live in a world where the government is telling the public and media to just shut up already. 

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Just wondering …

A thought occurred to me recently regarding evolution. Before posting anything about it, though, I wanted to make sure my understanding of evolution was sound. I'm still not certain of that, but at least my understanding turned out to coincide with what Wikipedia has to say on the matter: "Evolution by means of natural selection is the process by which traits that enhance survival and reproduction become more common in successive generations of a population. … The central concept of natural selection is the evolutionary fitness of an organism. Fitness is measured by an organism's ability to survive and reproduce, which determines the size of its genetic contribution to the next generation."
Fitness and survival constitute the alternating current of genetic transmission. This, however, makes me wonder on what grounds life progressed beyond unicellular plants and animals. Those are still with us, and have been here from the start. They are obviously fit, and just as obviously have solved the survival problem. Indeed, given that they reproduce by division into two, they could be said to have solved the problem of immortality as well. 
Fitness and survival do not seem to necessitate further development. Is there a biochemical principle of complexification? It would seem the theory of evolution — at least if understood in a completely materialistic manner — seems woefully incomplete without providing a raison d'être for complex life forms. Wikipedia says that "evolution has no long-term goal and does not necessarily produce greater complexity. Although complex species have evolved, they occur as a side effect of the overall number of organisms increasing …." I don't get this. I don't see how an increase in the number of simple life forms makes the development of complex life forms even likely, let alone necessary. There ought to be a better explanation than that. 


From my son -- about Father's Day

“Do you still celebrate Father’s day?” my roommate asked, matter of factly, while we sat on the back porch listening to music and drinking PBRs.
I shrugged it off.
“I still have a father, so yeah.” I told her while laughing off the question, trying to convince myself it was a silly thing for her to ask. I just wanted to go back to talking about who was sleeping with who. In fact, comedy was always a deflection device for me. I don’t want to talk about myself, because then I would have to address the existence of my thoughts, problems, and flaws. Self reflection is painfully necessary thing for me. Her question was a response to the news that my father was born a human male but has transitioned, over the past few years, into a female.

Life imitates art?

… At least three killed in Austria after man drives into crowd before 'stabbing passers-by' in Graz - Europe - World - The Independent.

An incident chillingly similar to this occurs at the beginning of Stephen King's Mr. Mercedes.

Haiku …

Side streets in blossom,
The sky a tarnished silver:
The last day of spring.

Today's music …

Down below …

 The Cellar Dweller - Nightmare Magazine.

Enter now …

… Flash CNF Contest at Blue Earth Review | BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog.

Swindler's tale …

… Review: Dean Jobb’s Empire of Deception chronicles the thrilling tale of swindler Leo Koretz - The Globe and Mail.

Bummer …

… Short-term art: When murals fall to developers.

Q & A …

… Terry Riley’s Maximal Minimalist Music - The Daily Beast.

And the winner is …

 Simon Armitage wins Oxford professor of poetry election | Books | The Guardian. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Spooky …

… Zealotry of Guerin: The Black Tree, Sonnet #247.

Something to think on …

When you re-read a classic you do not see in the book more than you did before. You see more in you than there was before.
— Clifton Fadiman, who died on this date in 1999

Marked by...

Caitlyn Jenner and femininity

The Master and the mother...

Friday, June 19, 2015

Haiku …

Cloudy Friday sky,
Just days before summer's here.
He thinks of his wife.

A Poem

It’s strange, really
being part of a class
that a famous priest claims
has no moral legitimacy

No reason for existing aside from sexual deviancy
or mental illness he says
nor reason for me existing at all
except in mortal sin

God weeps for you he says
and your lifestyle
as a good Catholic and a priest for the Lord
I must tell you you are a sinner and blasphemer and are going to hell

Says the priest
not knowing
of my lifestyle

or my works 

or of my love for God 
and my fellow person
and John 3:16
and God Is Love

It is really strange
being a person 
condemned by a priest
as a sinner and blasphemer

I know
I'm not the first