Thursday, January 31, 2019

On the road …

… R.T.’s Marginalia : Charles Dickens — my traveling companion beckons.

Perennial …

… Poem of the Week: ‘O Bitter Love! O Death . . .’ – TheTLS. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Dueling over black …

… Anish Kapoor Owns the Rights to the Blackest Color Ever Made. Now Another Artist Is Making His Own—and It's Even Blacker. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

The Bible as literature …

… Adam Kirsch Reviews Robert Alter's Landmark Translation of the Hebrew Bible – Tablet Magazine. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Robert Alter’s newly completed English translation of the Hebrew Bible shows what it means to take the idea of the Bible as literature seriously. For Alter, the most important thing for a translator to know about the Bible is that its authors were great literary artists. This doesn’t mean that they lacked a religious purpose, of course; but it does mean that they paid close attention to literary technique, without which their writing might never have become canonical in the first place. Getting the Bible right, for Alter, means offering the English reader a literary and aesthetic experience that comes as close as possible to the Hebrew reader’s.

Take a look …

… Top Shots: The World's Best Photojournalism. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Education vs. credentialization …

… Ethika Politika | What Makes an Education Catholic. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The attempt to revive this tradition of the Liberal Arts usually goes by the name of “Classical” education. But too often I hear parents and even “classical” educators speak as if “Classical” education is one option among many. This is to fundamentally misunderstand what Classical education is. It is not Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic with some Latin vocab words thrown in. It is more than that. It is not simply a quaint educational option for Catholic Christians in the modern world; it is the education which helped to produce Catholicism in the modern world.
See also:  The Lost Tools of Learning by Dorothy Sayers.

Happiness and purpose …

… The Doctor's infinite wisdom | Standpoint. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Anniversary …

… R.T.’s Marginalia : Death and Thomas Merton.

As it happened, death took Merton by surprise, by means of short-circuited fan.

Tracking a source …

… Where Stevie Smith’s “From the Greek” Is From. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Something to think on …

George Gershwin died on July 11, 1937, but I don’t have to believe it if I don’t want to.
— John O’Hara, born on this date in 1905

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Not according to the local newspaper …

… It’s Too Cold For the Post Office [Updated] | Power Line.

just 13 days ago, the Minneapolis Star Tribune assured us that cold temperatures are a thing of the past, even in northern Minnesota ….

It can't be easy …

Anniversary …

… R.T.’s Marginalia : The Lone Ranger rides again — or does he?

The Lone Ranger never smoked, swore, or drank alcohol; he used grammatically correct speech free of slang; and, most important, he never shot to kill. More offensive to modern historical and ethnic sensibilities was the Indian scout Tonto, who spoke in a comical Indian patois totally unrelated to any authentic Indian dialect, uttering ludicrous phrases like “You betchum!”
You have to wonder about people surprised and offended that a Radio/TV series was not historically accurate. I never heard any complaints from Jay Silverheels.

Beyond nonsense …

… Natural history: The wilder side of Edward Lear | Nature. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The exquisite accuracy of Lear's natural-history paintings was achieved partly by working from living subjects whenever possible. “I am never pleased with a drawing unless I make it from life,” he wrote in 1831. His preparatory studies — stunning watercolours, often heavily annotated regarding colour and form — marvellously mix detail with spontaneity.

Some very interesting thoughts …

… with a guest appearance by Dave Lull: Bill Vallicella on Cornelius Van Til: An open mind and heart – Anthony G. Flood. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

You have to read the whole thing. But I think this passage from Joel Harrington’s Dangerous Mystic is pertinent:

For Aquinas and Eckhart, all human perceptions, however logical, remained limited by the derivative and subsequently partial nature of our understanding. As Eckhart had explained back in 1303, [God]’ s knowledge is the cause of things, whereas our knowledge is caused by them. Consequently, because our knowledge is dependent upon the being by which it is caused, with equal reasoning it is itself dependent on God’s knowledge. Human reason, like humans themselves, was a creation, a dim reflection of God that could only point to the infinite, not truly or fully convey its essence. Rational thought was accordingly limited by its own very partial experience of the universe. In other words, any speculation about God and the infinite involves not just what former U.S. secretary of defense … Donald Rumsfeld once described as known unknowns but also unknown unknowns—countless realities beyond our ability to even imagine them."

Sizing up Papa …

… A Farewell to Arms (Modern Library #74) – Reluctant Habits.

… I’d argue that one of the best ways to ken Hem is to recognize that he was a wildly accomplished giant when he placed his own ego last and that any transgressions that today’s readers detect only emerged when Hem became overly absorbed in his own self. And on this point, one can find a strange sympathy for the man, thanks in part to Andrew Farah’s recent biography, Hemingway’s Brain, which points to Ernest’s many head injuries (which included nine concussions) and concludes that he suffered from CTE, the brain disease seen in professional football players after too many years of violent tackles.

Ongoing …

… Convicted cop killer is granted another appeal, rankling Philadelphia police officers - Washington Times.

And the winner is …

… Ned Balbo wins the 2019 New Criterion Poetry Prize | The New Criterion. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Listen in …

… Words Lightly Spoken - hear a new poem from Michael Longley. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Something to think on…

Solitude is the audience-chamber of God.
— Walter Savage Landor, born on this date in 1775

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Blogging note,

I am at Jefferson University Hospital awaiting minor surgery. So I won’t be heard from again for awhile

Sounds good to me …

… My philosophical “credo”: all right (mostly) after all these years – Anthony G. Flood. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The one who inhibits and suppresses the expression of truth-seeking (and falsehood-exposing), even should the suppressor be right in a given matter, is a malefactor. In dishonoring truth and persecuting the allegedly erroneous one, he does more harm than the propagation of error ever could.

Hmm …

… Poetry in Review: Don Paterson on poetics | The Yale Review. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The reader interested in convening Paterson’s poems and theory might push off from his remarks in part 1, titled “Lyric,” on contranyms, or what he knows as “auto-antonyms such as ‘cleave,’” whose contrary meanings’ coincidence with their phonological identity “will inevitably leave, in the mouth of the English speaker, the strange aftertaste of paradox.” As it happens, Paterson is one of several poets in the past couple of decades to have opened up this compact word. Unlike many of its cousins–“pall,” for instance, and “fast”–“cleave” has contrary senses (“to hold” and “to cut”) that come from separate etyms. It is possible, however, that all words began as “enantiosemes” (to borrow Roland Barthes’s coinage) that harbored their antitheses at the outset and depended on context to determine their nonce meanings.

Well, good luck with that, folks. If that's your cup of tea, there's a whole potful for you to savor.

Mark thy calendar …

Write Like Walt Whitman - $100. PRIZE
WHITMAN At 200: Art & Democracy



Tuesday, February 19, 2019, 6 – 7:30 PM



(Please note the address, there are
other Green Line Café locations
& the 6 PM start time!)

This Event Is Free

De gustibus …

… W.M. Spackman: An Imperfect Critic | Intercollegiate Studies Institute: Educating for Liberty. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

If ever a review convinced me to never pick up the book under review, it is this one. Some of the stuff about translation is correct enough, but nothing of Spackman's that is quoted strikes me as particularly insightful. Even cranks have to prove interesting.

Something to think on …

The task of a writer is not to solve the problem but to state the problem correctly.
Anton Chekhov, born on this date in 1860

The ultimate destination …

… R.T.’s Marginalia : Going to Heaven — Emily Dickinson.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Thinking things over …

Blogging note …

I have things to do outside today. Will resume blogging when I can.

Bonding …

… Another Look takes on Walter Tevis’s “Queen’s Gambit.” And the author’s son remembers playing chess with dad. | The Book Haven.

I’m an athlete, my Dad was not. So for a father-son relationship, these games, combined with fishing, became the biggest reason we spent time together and an essential part of our friendship.

It sure goes by …

… First Known When Lost: In Time.

Yes, we are well-advised to patiently wait for the denouement.  In the meantime, it is best not to jump to conclusions, or to take anything for granted.  We live in a time when there is far too much preternatural self-assurance abroad in the human world.  There is something to be said for the acceptance, and cultivation, of uncertainty.  We are, after all, abiding in "the vale of Soul-making." Only one thing is certain.

Mixed bag …

… ‘True West’ Review: Family Feud via Tinseltown - WSJ.

… while “True West” fails to add up to a convincing dramatic whole, it still works as a vehicle for two first-class actors, and the stars of this revival qualify.
I saw the play some years ago and did not like it at all — though the production was quite good.

A good lesson …

… Teaching aid: I prepare to teach “Ulysses” for the last time – The Art Part. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

It is also worth noting that, while Mr. Bloom is ethnically Jewish, he has been baptized twice, first as a Protestant, then as a Catholic when he marries Molly.

Something to think on …

Sit down and put down everything that comes into your head and then you're a writer. But an author is one who can judge his own stuff's worth, without pity, and destroy most of it.
— Colette, born on this date in 1873

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Appreciation …

… Sheila Fitzpatrick reviews ‘The Great Terror’ by Robert Conquest and ‘The Harvest of Sorrow’ by Robert Conquest — LRB 24 January 2019. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Bruising though his polemics could be, they were evidently all part of the job from Conquest’s point of view; unlike many Sovietologists who engaged in them during the Cold War, he seemed not to feel personal malice against his targets. Eight years after The Harvest of Sorrow, I published a book on collectivisation (Stalin’s Peasants, 1994) that included a treatment of the famine that was non-intentionalist and not specifically focused on Ukraine. Conquest wrote a favourable review of it – and, when the review was turned down by the commissioning weekly, presumably because they wanted and had expected a hatchet job, sent the review to me, without comment, through a third party. Perhaps if my publisher had thought to ask him, he would have written a blurb for it, as he did later for Wheatcroft and Davies’s book (‘a truly remarkable contribution to research into this important field’), subject only to the condition that in their text, which had substantive disagreements with him, they clarify his stance on intentionality in the terms quoted above. When he ran into Wheatcroft some years later at the Hoover Institution in Stanford, he invited him home for dinner.

Poetry in extremis …

… Translation Tuesday: Poems written during the Siege of Leningrad | Books | The Guardian. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

A prophet for our time …

… Rene Girard & The Covington Catholic Boys | The American Conservative. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

It’s going to get worse — a lot worse. Christians, and conservatives, need to be prepared for it. This is why I wrote The Benedict Option, and now it’s becoming ever more difficult to deny its diagnosis. Girard is right: the abolition of what we believe in is the long-term goal. This is what #ExposeChristianSchools is about: scapegoating, straight up, with the aim of marginalizing and ultimately eliminating any public manifestation of orthodox Christianity.
If you want to know René Girard, a good place to start is with Cynthia Haven’s Evolution of Desire.

A worthy appreciation …

… Our perpetual contemporary: the digressive, prescient brilliance of DH Lawrence’s essays. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

If Lawrence remains a great writer today that is due in no small part because his enduring freshness and force is found in the travel books, in poems that were scarcely even poems, and in the scatter of his essays. For Lawrence the novel, “the one bright book of life”, was the supreme test; that’s what he staked his life on. But many of his gifts were best displayed elsewhere. 
There are also the short stories and — I have heard — the plays. Studies in Classic American Literature may not be literary criticism in the conventional sense, but it is a prose masterpiece, an accurate and precise account one man's reading experiences. The conclusion of the essay on Whitman — the part that begins, "Whitman, the great poet, has meant so much to me." — is a wondrous allegro appasionato. Larkin was right that "no one who has really thrilled to Lawrence can ever give him up."

Reviewing and making a living …

… Sinking or Swimming - The Reading Experience. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Long ago, when I did make something of a living freelancing, it was mostly by editing books, not reviewing them (though I did do reviewing). 

Indeed …

… A Great Yarn | The Russell Kirk Center. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Ahmari is a voracious and perceptive reader, and his appetite for books and ideas fuel every step of his journey from budding Marxist to postmodern materialist to classical liberal to Catholic convert. This is an intellectual biography, giving readers an inside look at the incremental and steady effect that articles, novels, magazine pieces, paragraphs, sentences, and words, words, words can have on the construction and constant revision of an engaged person’s view of the world. Remember that young Sohrab’s hope in fleeing Iran was to escape irrationality. As an adult he follows where his rational mind leads: from Friedrich Nietzsche to William S. Burroughs, from Albert Camus to Arthur Koestler, from Leo Strauss to Pope Benedict XVI.

Anniversary …

 R.T.’s Marginalia : John Updike — an American author worth remembering.

A column worth following …


In other words, a sentence tells a story not just in the way it's put together, but in the way it unfolds, including how it moves through time: where it speeds up or slows down, or pauses, or rises or falls in pitch, and so on. A good sentence performs its own meaning in the way that it unfolds.
Nausheen Eusuf is a fine poet and her thoughts on writing will be well worth following.

A touch of class …

… This Classy Winston Churchill Letter Proves Modern Men Have Forgotten How To Say Thank You. (Hat tip, David Tothero.)

Ii isn't just thank you letters that people nowadays do not know how to write.

Listen in …

… Remembering Mary Oliver (with A.M. Juster and Allison Backous Troy) - Libromania | Pippa for podcasts. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Something to think on …

Why is it that people with the most narrow of minds seem to have the widest of mouths?
— Lewis Carroll, born on this date in 1832

Saturday, January 26, 2019


… Michel Legrand (1932-2019). (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Stars …

Paul Davis On Crime: Breslin And Hamill: Deadline Artists: How Breslin And Hamill Blazed A Trail To Newspaper Glory.

Hmm …

… What Should We Do About Scandalous Artists? - WSJ. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Maybe we should just give up on the cult of the artist.

Taking drama seriously …

… and how a Rough Rider saved the day: The riots over Synge's Playboy of the Western World | (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Don't box him in …

… Why the writer Richard Rodriguez refuses to be put into a box | America Magazine. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

'“The problem is that the language—any language the young would use—already was crafted by centuries before them, by the dead of their own race or nation, villains and saints both. One must join the company of generations of tongues in order to voice oneself apart, in whatever tongue. Speaking thus becomes an act of socialization, even if it is the declaration of separation.”

Indeed …

… Helen Sung And Dana Gioia: A Fine Joint Effort | Rifftides. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The stars and life …

… Zealotry of Guerin: Deep Universe, Sonnet #441.

Something to think on …

When the soul drifts uncertainly between life and the dream, between the mind's disorder and the return to cool reflection, it is in religious thought that we should seek consolation.
— Gerard de Nerval, who died on this date in 1855

Julian Barnes

I can't say what exactly attracted me to Julian Barnes's Sense of an Ending: after all, it was the start of a new year. But there I was, face to face with this recent winner of the Booker Prize. 

And I'll admit, I'm a bit confused by it all: because while there were pieces of the novel that moved me, the book as a whole did not. Why all the praise? 

Barnes has lots to say about memory and forgetting, and about the nature of the past. But he never takes these meditations beyond what I might consider the surface: there's nothing here that came close, for instance, to the poignancy of Graham Swift's Waterland. 

Perhaps this was a result of the Barnes's approach: his novel is slight, his sentences ephemeral. This is not at all like Flaubert's Parrot, which I remember really enjoying. No, this is one of those modern novels that's just a bit too delicate. Each sentence is a thing of beauty, but the result is a thing that simply hangs there, without fully diving in. 

All of which is not to say that Ending is a failure: I maintain Barnes has assembled the start of something interesting, and that the story he weaves is -- or could be -- compelling. But it needs to be longer; it needs to expand beyond the few key memories which propel its characters. 

I understand what Barnes is proposing when he talks about the ability of memories to reemerge or to generate their own reality. But to really prove these points -- to show just how malleable our memories can be -- Barnes would have done well to present a greater number of them. The Sense of an Ending shows memory in isolation: what comes next is memory over time -- memory interacting with, and influenced by, other subtle forms of human expression. 

Friday, January 25, 2019

Anniversary and more …

 Paul Davis On Crime: W. Somerset Maugham's 'Mr. Know-All'.

Profile in hypocrisy …

… Pope Francis says 'builders of walls' sow fear and divide - CNN.

I doubt if he’ll be tearing down the ones around the Vatican anytime soon.

Anniversary …

… R.T.’s Marginalia : Virginia Woolf — then and now.

Look and listen …

… Amy Barone - YouTube.

I had a chance to meet Amy Barone the other night prior to a reading she gave in Philly. Unfortunately, I could not stick around for the reading. I also reviewed her latest collection in The Inquirer:Amy Barone's 'We Became Summer': Italy, New York, clear-eyed ...

More sound advice …

 AdviceToWriters - Advice to Writers - Read Something of Thrilling Quality. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Kay Ryan — wonderful poet, wonderful person.

Sound advice …

… Are These Bad Habits Creeping Into Your Writing? | Literary Hub. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Quite a story …

… From atheism and Marxism to Catholicism: The conversion of Sohrab Ahmari – Catholic World Report. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The Muslim who looks to the West sees the Cross.  Our two cultures could encounter one another on clearer terms if the West were not secular, standing for nothing.  That imbalance causes a lot of friction.  Having the West return to Christendom sounds like a restaging of the Crusades, but in reality it would make everyone more comfortable.
I've already ordered the Kindle edition of the book.

Something to think on …

Imagination grows by exercise, and contrary to common belief, is more powerful in the mature than in the young.
— W. Somerset Maugham, born on this date in 1874

Thursday, January 24, 2019

History in miniature …

… The Travellers Club and its journey to modernity | A. N. Wilson. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Someone died at the long central table in the Coffee Room once when I was having dinner there, an event that remained unobserved until he was offered some Stilton at the end of the meal.

Split personality …

… Auberon Waugh — a demon on the page, an angel off it | Spectator USA. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

It would be very difficult to produce a bad or boring book about Auberon Waugh — and although Attallah sometimes threatens to have a jolly good go, Waugh rides to the rescue whenever the paean becomes too fulsome. Waugh was incredibly prolific (you could compile several books like this one and still not scratch the surface) and among these old favorites are many entertaining articles I’ve never seen before.

Pieces of the forgotten …

… R.T.’s Marginalia : Flannery O’Connor’s characters keep me company.

The gift of seeing …

… Bright, Loose Change. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

As with metaphor, Stallings heightens language and sound by using them in new and surprising combinations. Phrases jump off the page: the night sky is “the upside-down/Colander of the night”; the poet wakes, “Hearing behind the typing of the rain.” She also uses meter, rhyme, assonance, and consonance to intensify the language

Image and icon …

… Studies in Iconology (Modern Library Nonfiction #80) – Reluctant Habits.

The best way to nail down what iconography entails is to think of a painting purely in terms of its visuals and what each of these elements means. Some obvious examples of iconography in action is the considerable classroom time devoted to interpreting the green light at the end of The Great Gatsby or the endless possibilities contained within the Mona Lisa‘s smile. It is, in short, being that vociferous museum enthusiast pointing at bowls and halos buried in oil and doing his best to impress with his alternately entertaining and infuriating interpretations. All this is, of course, fair game. But Panofsky is calling for us to think bigger and do better.
Enter iconology, which is more specifically concerned with the context of this symbolism and the precise technical circumstances and historical influences that created it. 

Better late …

… Paul Davis On Crime: Happy Belated Birthday To Joseph Wambaugh, Author Of 'The Onion Field' And 'The Choirboys'.

Nice to know …

… On Listening to Thomas Merton - The Catholic Thing.

A small set of talks on “The Ways of God,” a work attributed to Aquinas, reveals that Merton, even during the 1960s, retained a keen respect for St. Thomas and the Scholastics generally. A welcome find and not one Merton’s detractors would naturally suspect. And there are others. (He sometimes quotes Latin freely, often without translating but charitably boiling down the sense.)
Guess I’ll have to take another look at Father Louis.


… Walter Chandoha, the Photographer Who Popularized Cat Pictures Before the Internet, Has Died at 98 | artnet News. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Neat …

… The 1959 Project. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

That was the year I graduated from high school. The year before Ahmad Jamal had a hit with "But Not For Me."

Great shots …

… An Itinerant Photographer's Diverse Portraits of the Turn-of-the-Century American South. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

My favorite is the dog, who seems to know what's going on and is posing accordingly.

Hmm …

… Uncensored John Simon: Apologia. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

one would probably find a positive review for every four or five negative ones, which seems perfectly justified when you consider how much trash is being offered on stage and screen, and only a little less so in literature. But that would not be viewed as  a legitimate proportion by the typical reviewers, who find it more profitable to gush than to discriminate, of which, in any case, they are rarely capable.
I prefer to review books that I have enjoyed, which is why I turned my book column into a recommendation column. But I've certainly written my share of pans. The problem with reviewing a book you don't like is that you still have to read the whole thing. I remember calling Peter Handke's The Left-Handed Woman the longest 89-page novel I had ever read.

Anniversary …

 Macintosh Turns 35 - MacRumors. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)


 Diana Athill, writer and editor, dies aged 101 | Books | The Guardian. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Something to think on …

There is nothing more marvelous or madder than real life.
— E. T. A. Hoffmann, born on this date in 1776

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Yet another …

 Dutch magazine cuts ties with reporter over suspect stories | Hosted.

Just how many of these people are there out there?

Well worth reading …

 'Dangerous Mystic': A true, gripping tale of a man's perilous search for God.
I am about two-thirds of the way through Harrington's book, and John is right. It is excellent. It is especially worth reading these days ,when religion seems in many cases to have been replaced with vulgar virtue-signalling.

Hmm …

… Poetry sales soar as political millennials search for clarity | Books | The Guardian. (hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I can think of many far-better reasons to read poetry than a passion for politics.

Singular master …

… Étude, Brute? - Commentary. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Chopin …was a publicity-shunning introvert who played only his own music and performed mainly in the salons of Paris and England on increasingly rare occasions. He made his living teaching piano to well-heeled students of indifferent ability. He wrote no autobiography, died too soon to make records, and left behind no symphonies, string quartets, operas, or ballets for a later generation of writers to parse at leisure and at length.
By all rights, then, Chopin should have gone the way of the many other 19th-century pianist-composers whose renown did not outlive them. Instead, his music is as familiar today as it was at the time of his death in 1849. It is ubiquitous—but is it truly great?
I did not pay a lot of attention to Chopin's music until fairly recently. But I have come to love the nocturnes and preludes — a wonderfully poetic world of sound.

Tonight …

I am planning to stop by — but earlier.


… Russell Baker, Pulitzer-Winning Times Columnist and Humorist, Dies at 93 - The New York Times. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Something to think on …

The English language is nobody's special property. It is the property of the imagination: it is the property of the language itself.
— Derek Walcott, born on this date in 1930

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

And the nominees are …

… 2019 Edgar Nominees Announced : The Booklist Reader. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Listen in …

… Episode 304 – Edmund White – The Virtual Memories Show.

“Queerness has become less arty, less intellectual, less cultural, more physical, more gym-oriented, more commercial. Lady Gaga instead of Maria Callas.”

Blogging note …

I must take my wife to a doctor’s appointment. Blogging will resume later.

Noteworthy skeptic …

… Nathan Glazer and Conservatism - WSJ.

Glazer described himself as a “mild conservative” but voted consistently for Democrats and supported a safety net even as he was critical of the party’s left wing. Yet he saw something many liberals and even some conservatives did not: The benefits of technocratic schemes for human social improvement are usually overestimated.

Image and identity …

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

Mysteries …

… “Short Talk on Homer and John Ashbery,” by Anne Carson | The New Yorker. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

In case you wondered …

 Can a Translation Be a Masterpiece, Too? | by Tim Parks | NYR Daily | The New York Review of Books. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I pretty much has to be, which is not to say that it is exactly the same as the original. I've translated a few poems from German. I think it is possible to get across something of what it feels like to read the original.

Great screen music

… Paul Davis On Crime: A Little Night Music: The Godfather Orchestral Suite (Live) By The Danish National Symphony Orchestra.

Nino Rota was a fine composer.

And the nominess are …

… National Book Critics Circle: NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE ANNOUNCES FINALISTS FOR 2018 AWARDS - Critical Mass Blog. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I am surprised and disappointed that Cynthia Haven's Evolution of Desire was not nominated. It is a seriously major work.

Hard times …

 Free Library borrowers face long waits for books, materials — the side-effect of a shrunken materials budget. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Hard to believe that the clowns that run this city ever crack a book.


… Biography - Nathan Glazer. (Ht tip, Dave Lull.)

Something to think on …

A single grateful thought toward heaven is the most perfect prayer.
— Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, born on this date in 1729

Monday, January 21, 2019

Advice from Miss Emily …

Hear, hear …

… Masculinity Isn’t a Sickness - WSJ.

What’s unhealthy isn’t masculinity or femininity but the demeaning of masculine men and feminine women. The first of the new APA guidelines urges psychologists “to recognize that masculinities are constructed based on social, cultural, and contextual norms,” as if biology had nothing to do with it. Another guideline explicitly scoffs at “binary notions of gender identity as tied to biology.”
It seems unwise for the APA to dissociate itself from biology. Why should  anyone continue to regard psychology as a science?

Wonderful …

… Paris Review - The Swan.

In book stores now …

… Current Issue – The Hopkins Review.

I have a poem in this issue, but it's not one you can access online.

Unsettling fellow …

… Michel Houellebecq Hated Europe Before You Did – Foreign Policy. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Yet crane your head above this mix of misogyny and misanthropy and you might catch an unsparing and unsettling view of the social fractures widening on both sides of the Atlantic. Christened in the German magazine Der Spiegel as “our era’s poet” and the French journal Challenges as the “ethnologist of the West’s decline,” Houellebecq seems to channel the discontents not just of those relegated to our social peripheries, but also to the well-educated elites hunkered down in the metropoles. Herein lies another, though elusive fracture: While the peripheries are subject to a material mal à vivre, or hard life, the metropoles are spiritually mal à l’aise, or ill at ease.
I have read only one of Houellebecq's novels, The Map and the Territory.

Classic performance …

 See: Debussy’s lost interpreter: Marius-François Gaillard.

Mystery poet …

… The Elegies of Maximianus - Reviewed by Gilbert Wesley Purdy - Eclectica Magazine v23n1. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

What little evidence there is on either count is weak and circumstantial. At the end of 200 years, A. M. Juster has thrown in his lot with a new theory that a decree, by Theoderic, king of Italy from 493–526 CE, mentioning a Maximianus, may have referred to our poet. One of the elegies also seems to support the the timeframe by the fact that the poet mentions that Boethius was his mentor. The philosopher Boethius died in 524. The pieces fit.
Well, Boethius was also executed by Theodoric. So I would think one might want to keep quiet about any connection one might have had with him. I wouldn't think the connection would help in advancing one's career. More to the mystery, I guess.

Turning every page …

… The Secrets of Lyndon Johnson’s Archives, by Robert A. Caro | The New Yorker. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Papers don’t die; people do, and I was giving first priority to interviewing the men and women who, during the nineteen-thirties, had been members of a circle of New Deal insiders to which the young congressman from Texas had been admitted.

Hmm …

… BOOK REVIEW: 'Tell Your Children' by Alex Berenson - Washington Times.

But Mr. Berenson changed his thinking on the subject when his wife, Jacqueline, a Harvard and Columbia trained-psychiatrist who specializes in evaluating mentally ill criminals, told him that all the mentally ill criminals she evaluated smoked marijuana. She told her husband that all the big studies say this and that he should read them.
They probably also drank alcohol and did lots of other things that lots of people who are not in jail and not mentally ill do. Mrs. Berenson has committed the post hoc, ergo propter hoc fallacy (confusing sequence with causation). Another reason a course in classical logic is useful.

The triumph of the humorless …

… The more narcissistic our culture becomes, the less able we are to laugh at ourselves. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Tomorrow night — What Is American About American Poetry?


In Association With
WHITMAN At 200: Art & Democracy

A Poetry Reading & Conversation:
What Is American About American Poetry?

Ahmad Almallah, Catherine Bancroft,

Charles Carr, Barbara DeCesare,

M. Nzadi Keita, Peter Krok,

Cliff Lynn, Andrew Nurkin

Tuesday, January 22, 2019, 6 – 7:30 PM


Each poet will read poems of their own which they consider 
American. Poems by other American poets will be read as well.
Each poet will say a few words, informally, on what they think
makes a poem American. There will be a Q & A.

(Please note the address, there are
  other Green Line Café locations
& the 6 PM start time!)

This Event Is Free

Ahmad Almallah holds a Ph.D. in Classical Arabic Poetry from Indiana University Bloomington. He is currently a Mellon Post-Doctoral Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania, working on writing a book on Arabic love poetry and the ghazal. He held the position of Assistant Professor of Arabic and Arabic Literature at Middlebury College. Since then he has found inspiration in Philadelphia to work on writing poetry and has been involved with the Arab arts and education organization, Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture, in West Philadelphia. He is currently managing their project “Words Adorned: Andalusian Poetry and Music.”

Catherine Bancroft   writes poetry and makes art and sometimes combines them.  She has read
her poetry at Blue Marble Bookstore, Fergie’s Pub, PAFA, and other local spots. Her visual art
has appeared, among other places, at Muse Gallery and 3rd Street Gallery. A work in her Ellis
Island Series recently won Best Painting at Main Line Art Center’s Members’ Show.

Charles Carr is a "native" Philadelphian.  He has two published books of poems: paradise pennsylvania & Haitian Mudpies & Other Poems.  For five years Charles hosted a poetry series at Fergie's Pub and for the past two years has been the host of Philly Loves Poetry broadcast live on Philly Cam the first Tuesday of each month.

Barbara DeCesare is a writer in York, PA, and an editor in the streets.

M. Nzadi Keita’s most recent collection, Brief Evidence of Heaven, sheds light on Anna Murray Douglass, Frederick Douglass’s first wife.  Publications including Poet Lore   journal and The Ringing Ear: Black Poets Lean South  have featured her work.  She is a 2017 Pew Fellow in the Arts. Other supporters of her projects include the Leeway Foundation, Fine Arts Work Center, and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.  As an associate professor at Ursinus College, Keita teaches creative writing, American literature, and Africana Studies.

Peter Krok has been the Editor-in-Chief of the Schuylkill Valley Journal since 2001. 
He also serves as the humanities/poetry director of the Manayunk Roxborough Art Center where he has coordinated a literary series since 1990. His poems have appeared in the Yearbook of American Poetry, America, Mid-America Poetry Review, Midwest Quarterly, Poet Lore, Potomac Review, Blue Unicorn, and other journals. His book, Looking For An Eye, was published by Foothills Press in 2008.

Cliff Lynn is an American poet, a Gong Show reject and a Literary Death Match survivor. Literary journals such as Free Lunch, Third Point Press, Smeuse and Mount Hope have published several baker's dozens of Cliff's poems and short stories. With Rocky Jones, Cliff co-hosts The Evil Grin Poetry Series in Annapolis Maryland the second Saturday of every month. Cliff was the lead vocalist for the four-piece rock/n/roll band the Bert Harbinson Trio, which performed one song one day at the Shakemore Festival in Westminster Maryland.

Andrew Nurkin's poems have appeared in The Believer, Cimarron Review, North American Review, The Massachusetts Review, FIELD, Iron Horse Literary Review, and elsewhere. He was a 2016 Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation Fellow at the Millay Colony for the Arts and holds his MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. He currently serves as Deputy Director for Enrichment and Civic Engagement at the Free Library of Philadelphia.

Vita brevis …

… R.T.’s Marginalia: Emily Dickinson on Monday, 21 January.

Better late …

… Founder of Dead Poets Society is published, posthumously | TribLIVE. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

And well-deserved …

… More praise for “Evolution of Desire: A Life of René Girard” — was he “the last of the structuralists”? A poet speaks. | The Book Haven.

Something to think on …

In creating a work of art, the psyche or soul of the artist ascends from the earthly realm into the heavenly. There, free of all images, the soul is fed in contemplation by the essences of the highest realm, knowing the permanent noumena of things. Then, satiated with this knowing, it descends again to the earthly realm. And precisely at the boundary between the two worlds, the soul’s spiritual knowledge assumes the shapes of symbolic imagery: and it is these images that make permanent the work of art. Art is thus materialized dream, separated from the ordinary consciousness of waking life.
— Pavel Florensky, born on this date in 1882 

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Q&A …

… One Mask at a Time: An Interview with Stephen Dunn - Los Angeles Review of Books. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I think of the poems now as little successes. They show, I think, that the writer of them had some reason to continue writing.

Hmm …

 More Trouble for the Little Sisters | Charlotte Allen | First Things.

Add to this the recent questions in Congress put to a judicial nominee over his membership in the Knights of Columbus and the Democratic Party is shaping up as the anti-Catholic party in this country.

The world of espionage

… Paul Davis On Crime: My Review Of 'The Spy And The Traitor'.

A pair of birthdays …

… R.T.s Marginalia: Edward Hirsch — birthday and “Early Sunday Morning”.

A fine romance …

… 'Tolkien' Biopic Sets Early-Summer Release Date | Hollywood Reporter. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Time’ s signature …

… A Brief Detour: Invitation To An Exhibition — Maureen Mullarkey. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Handwriting as well earns a threnody in digital times. Block letters will do for a generation that communicates on a keyboard. Yet for so many of us, cursive script was our first experience with disciplined drawing. It was an expressive component of literacy.

Some music …

Ernest Chausson was born on this date in1855

Inquirer reviews …

Hamish McKenzie’s ‘Insane Mode’: The mercurial brilliance of Elon Musk in a turbulent industry.

… ‘American Dialogue’: The Founders converse about our big issues.

… Dani Shapiro’s ‘Inheritance’: Searching for genetic roots — and untangling the answers.

Something to think on …

When a man is wrapped up in himself, he makes a pretty small package.
— John Ruskin, who died on this date in 1900

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Not so easily dismissed …

… The strange voice of Edgar Allan Poe – TheTLS. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)
When I first read Poe what grabbed me from the start was the sound. And I also read the theory and took it seriously. I have never dismissed him, since I owe so much to him.

More from Poe …

… to mark his birthday: Alone” by Edgar Allan Poe | Poetry Foundation. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

It is easy to see why the French Symbolists took to him.

Hmm …

How It Is, in Time. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Read and listen …

 25 Black Gospel Songs That Have Their Roots in Slavery | Black Excellence. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

And good advice it is …

… Mary Oliver’s Advice on Writing – Brain Pickings. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Hmm …

… ‘Becoming the writer-monk’: Mary Gordon on Thomas Merton | America Magazine. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I read The Seven Storey Mountain before I went to college (if memory serves)  and was both impressed and influenced by it. But in college I read Bede Griffiths's The Golden String and thought it superior to Merton's book. Oddly, both Merton and Griffiths became, in my view, somewhat dubious figures, proving once again that it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God.

The age of credentials …

 Is this really higher education’s golden age—or is it just a gold-plated age? - The Chicago Blog | The Chicago Blog. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

One paragraph of his essay should be displayed in full, as a case study in point of view. “As the number of tenured and tenure-track professors has not grown nearly as fast as the output of the labs and research groups they direct, the increase suggests the importance of new methods for increasing output within academe. These include labor-saving technologies, such as more-powerful computer software; the growing importance of cross-disciplinary and cross-institutional collaborations, allowing for enhanced productivity through the division of labor; the growth of the postdoctoral research staff; and the changing norms of graduate-student publication. Many new PhDs have publication records that would have been sufficient for advancement to tenure in previous generations.” And this is good why? For whom? Only for those already within the walls. What you see depends strongly on where you stand to look.

And the winners are …

… Winning Poems for 2018 November : IBPC.

The Judge's Page.

(Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Read and listen …

 John Dos Passos at the 92nd Street Y. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Anniveersary …

 R.T.s Marginalia: Edgar Allan Poe — birthday dream.

Poe was born 210 years ago today. I remember, when I was about 15, spending a Saturday night reading all of Poe's poems. The next morning, when my mother and I walked to Mass, lines from them ran through my head the way snatches of popular songs often do.

Romantic revival …

 A New Window on Scriabin - The Objective Standard.

He's on his way …

 Zealotry of Guerin: Winter (Giuseppe Arcimboldo), Sonnet #440.

Something to think on …

Clearly, a civilization that feels guilty for everything it is and does will lack the energy and conviction to defend itself.
— Jean-François Revel, born on this date in 1924

Friday, January 18, 2019

Good news

… “Evolution of Desire: A Life of René Girard” goes into its third printing – and sparks some reflections in Zürich’s “Neue Zürcher Zeitung” | The Book Haven.

Best to choose carefully …

… Retaking Native Ground. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

There is a push in the academic community to showcase a new generation of indigenous poets, an effort which is admirable and overdue. The problem with that effort is that it tries to limit the style and range of the showcased poets in order to create the misimpression that all indigenous poets are writing the same kind of postmodern poetry that so many other poets are writing today.
An example of highlighting only poets with this limited esthetic is the June 2018 guest-edited “identity-based” issue of the venerable magazine Poetry. Except for some splendid innovative sonnets by Tacey M. Atsitty that open the issue, readers found only poets who rejected the rhythm and rhyme of William Jay Smith—and to a large extent rejected Smith’s accessibility to nonacademic readers.

Giving in to mobs …

Why do authors have to be ‘moral’? Because their publishing contracts tell them so | Spectator USA. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

An ‘institution’ sounds misleadingly abstract and monolithic. Corporations, universities and organizations are run by particular people. The editors and senior managers who have stuck by me are particular people. It’s time for individuals in similar positions of authority to stop folding in the face of online flak, much less giving the ‘tweet’ contractual weight. To instead push back. To show a little integrity, loyalty, and backbone. To stand up for their writers, their lecturers, their employees. To distinguish finger–pointing from fact. To staunchly weather passing Twitter storms, in the confidence that faddish communal temper tantrums will eventually exhaust themselves, or will at least move on to the next unfortunate, if only out of boredom.

Hmm …

… How experimental psychology can help us understand art | Aeon Essays. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Today, experimental philosophers and philosophically inclined psychologists are designing experiments that can help to answer some of the big philosophical questions about the nature of art and how we experience it – questions that have puzzled people for centuries, such as: why do we prefer original works of art to forgeries? How do we decide what is good art? And does engaging with the arts make us better human beings?
I don’t thinking that knowing Bach borrowed some themes from J. K. D. Fischer for use in his Well-Tempered Clavier in any way causes us to think less of Bach’s work.

Long and winding road …

… Anatomy of a Book Deal | BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog.

Getting to know Him …

… ‘God in the Qur’an’ Review: Allah, a Biography - WSJ. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The study of the parallels between the Bible and the Quran is not new; it is well-trodden academic ground. (Readers who want a more technical analysis should consult Gabriel Said Reynolds’s magisterial “The Qur’an and the Bible: Text and Commentary.”) Even so, Mr. Miles’s account stands alone, both in its generous openness of mind and in its scrupulous yet lively scholarship.

Q&A …

… John O’Hara in the 1930s: “he habitually told Americans the truth about themselves” | Library of America. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

What O’Hara did was recognize that those broad groupings could be broken down further into sub-groups and sub-sub-groups and finally individuals, noting each individual’s background and influences and personality type that added up to an explanation of the ways they spoke, wrote, and thought. He was merciless in recognizing the large role that someone’s past retained into his present, and rather than excuse a verbal slip into a slightly different speech-register as an aberration, he would seize upon it as a revealing clue to that person’s underlying nature. He jokingly described himself as “Dr. O’Hara” and his writing room as his “laboratory” where he conducted “experiments,” but he wasn’t entirely joking—he truly felt that his work was to perceive verbal mannerisms that got straight to the root of each character’s true nature.

Something to think on …

Has there ever been a society which has died of dissent? Several have died of conformity in our lifetime.
— Jacob Bronowski, born on this date in 1908

Thursday, January 17, 2019


… Poet Mary Oliver Dies at 83 | Literary Hub. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Three sisters …

… RT’s Marginalia : Anne Bronte — an apology, confession, and promise

I haven’t read Anne’s, but when I read Emily’s in high school I fell in love with her.

Blogging note …

I have to go out shortly. So blogging will resume whenever I get back.

Savory deception …

… Bakery of Lies by Judith Askew : American Life in Poetry. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

They really did dance all night …

… and all day — for days: The Dancing Plague of 1518 – The Public Domain Review. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

In full view of the public, this is the apogee of the choreomania that tormented Strasbourg for a midsummer month in 1518. Also known as the “dancing plague”, it was the most fatal and best documented of the more than ten such contagions which had broken out along the Rhine and Moselle rivers since 1374. Numerous accounts of the bizarre events that unfolded that summer can be found scattered across various contemporary documents and chronicles compiled in the subsequent decades and centuries.