Sunday, January 31, 2021
One of the great commandments of science is, "Mistrust arguments from authority." ... Too many such arguments have proved too painfully wrong. Authorities must prove their contentions like everybody else.
Of course, we must take Dr. Fauci at his ever-changing word.
I've done some medical editing in my time (which only means I'm more or less medically literate), but it has seemed to me from the start that this vaccine has been rushed on to the market, and I have been skeptical from the start about the genetic factor. My wife has Parkinson's, so if she is urged to get the vaccine I fully intend to raise objections.
Saturday, January 30, 2021
… even a dry-seeming nonfiction category like “books about books” – a librarian might label them “studies of print culture” – can be dangerously fascinating.
Friday, January 29, 2021
Most of us are, I think, called to quiet, ordinary lives of faithfulness, the successes of which are largely invisible or at least unheralded. Many of the saints give us our model for this sort of quiet faithfulness. While some of them were famous and noteworthy people in their lifetimes, the vast majority of them were total nobodies as far as their societies were concerned. We know them today because they lived according to a radically different table of values: the virtues of the Kingdom of Heaven. Even then, there are tens, even hundreds, of thousands of saints whose names we don’t know, remaining anonymous and unknown in their faithfulness. The celebrity pastor is not the model—the model is the parish priest, faithfully saying the liturgy to his congregation, day in and day out for decades, without the vast majority of us ever learning his name.
Thursday, January 28, 2021
Let’s hope everyone involved remembers this when it comes to views they disagree with.
Wednesday, January 27, 2021
… Poet and UW professor Theodore Roethke moved among mysteries — and literary legacy. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)Roethke, who also won two National Book Awards for collections of his poems, followed that maxim about vulnerability to sometimes-extreme lengths. With his perennial subject as a writer the dark yet often exultant journey to the interior of the self, Roethke indeed moved among the most profound mysteries of human existence.
“It’s nuts,” Stone says. “I don’t see any way forward in the atmosphere we have [now]. We have to branch out, expanding our voice … it’s become too stifling.
Samway leaves no stone unturned in providing the chronological details of the life and publication history of John Berryman. The seven chapters of the work chronicle Giroux and Berryman’s lives from childhood to Berryman’s death in 1972. During Samway’s account of their Columbia years, we receive insights into the courses they took, the grades they received, and the relationships they had with particularly influential professors, such as Mark Van Doren.
Tuesday, January 26, 2021
… the most salient theme of the past five years was not any challenge to democracy. The great theme of the Trump years, the one historians will note a century from now, was the failure of America’s expert class. The people who were supposed to know what they were talking about, didn’t.
See also: The suicide of expertise: Glenn Reynolds.
It was the experts — characterized in terms of their self-image by David Halberstam in The Best and the Brightest — who brought us the twin debacles of the Vietnam War, which we lost, and the War On Poverty, where we spent trillions and certainly didn’t win. In both cases, confident assertions by highly credentialed authorities foundered upon reality, at a dramatic cost in blood and treasure. Mostly other people’s blood and treasure.
And these are not isolated failures. The history of government nutritional advice from the 1960s to the present is an appalling one: The advice of “experts” was frequently wrong, and sometimes bought-and-paid-for by special interests, but always delivered with an air of unchallengeable certainty.
As Richard Feynman once said, "Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts."
Schall wants his readers to realize that each of us has a decision to make, and a freely made decision it must be. After all, the “purpose of the Cosmos and our place within it” is to make possible that very decision.
People who have dealt with Family Romance said some of its services were real but the people its owner introduced to the media as customers were often themselves actors.
Monday, January 25, 2021
He paid for the Holmesburg Library I spent many a day in as a kid. It's where, one morning, I discovered H.D.'s poetry. "Pear Tree" has been a favorite of mine ever since/
Here, as he reads from the cross examination, Holland groans. “Oh God! Honestly! How he could have done that. He had one joke too many and he talked himself into prison.”
That was my conclusion when I read an account of the trial many years ago.
Yeats’s great gift, and one which poets are still learning from, would seem to be his ability, acquired “labouring in ecstasy”, to achieve maximum intensity with minimal means, using simple nouns and verbs as well as basic metres, turbocharging rhetoric to make some of the most memorable – and most-often quoted – lines in the English language.
Sayaka Murata’s 2016 tale of a woman who becomes the perfect convenience-store employee, her whole body humming with the rhythms of the store, could have been a tragedy or even a grotesque. Instead it’s a strange romance, in which Keiko is the ingenue facing down societal disapproval in order to be with her fluorescent-lit, fully stocked beloved. Keiko, far from stalling out in life, has to grow and change in order to turn her early infatuation with Smile Mart into a mature love. Keiko’s voice, rendered in English by Ginny Tapley Takamori, is bright and curious, forthright and full of a kind of discount wonder. Convenience is a bit repetitive, perhaps too blunt in insisting that Keiko longs to be “a normal cog in society.” But on the rare occasions when Keiko reaches for metaphor, she shines: A baby’s cheek is “strangely soft, like stroking a blister.” She’s a little too chromium-plated to be sweet, a little too Teflon-coated to be gentle, and yet she’s a charmer and a delight. Her joy in the store radiates off the page.
Sunday, January 24, 2021
To delve deeply into another’s psyche and try to make plain what perhaps even the subject herself has not fully realized is risky, especially with our contemporary sensitivity to cultural appropriation, but neither Ovid (nor any author of persona poetry that I can think of) felt compelled to justify their “stealth / and nerve to steal your mind and heart.” Perhaps because so many of us assume personal Flannery ownership, we react proprietarily, but in accepting these sonnets as literary creations, authorial what-if musings, I was thoroughly engaged. Did I agree? Disagree? Ever thought of that before? And so forth.
I find the ambition of Jonathan Bate’s new book a little on the mad side. Crikey, but this is daring. Attempting to squeeze the short, dazzling lives of Fitzgerald and Keats, already so much written about, into one short volume, he asks a huge amount of himself, and of his reader. Flipping between 19th-century Hampstead and 20th-century Los Angeles, between Keats’s mooning after the barely outlined figure of Fanny Brawne and Fitzgerald’s tortured relationship with the altogether more vivid creation that was his wife, Zelda, has the potential to cause a certain amount of dizziness. I felt at moments as though I was caught between two lovers. When I was with Keats, I longed to get back to Fitzgerald; when I was with Fitzgerald, I would experience a sudden, fierce pang for Keats.
Saturday, January 23, 2021
“What if, what if”, people keep wondering in Light Perpetual; “Why this life and not the other?” The novel itself, for all its intricate realism, is questing for alternative histories, other futures. How can the loss of a life be measured, Spufford asks: “How can that loss be known, except by laying this absence, now and onwards, against some other version of the reel of time?” Once we’ve switched to this “other reel”, it comes as a shock to look back, to be reminded of the history that blew these children to dust. So Spufford proceeds with acts of measuring that defeat all tapes and scales, considering the inestimable value of people by imagining them gone. The novel is both a requiem and a giving of new life, fusing death and resurrection as they are fused in the Christian liturgy: “Let light perpetual shine upon them.”
Walter and his sister were raised by their mother in a government housing project in North Philadelphia. His father had left his mother when he was “two or three years old.” Walter educated himself by reading. He got first library card when he was six or seven and every Saturday he walked to the public library and checked out multiple books.
The late Al Smith, the Inquirer editorial assistant, who was also a Baptist minister, and who married Debbie and me, grew up in that same project and knew William.
Friday, January 22, 2021
Boomers, Andrews writes, thought that they could wield the power of their predecessors without all the nasty bits. Adventuring economists like Jeffrey Sachs, for example, believed that they could teach foreign governments how to run their countries without actually having to subordinate them. Andrews argues, however, that such meddling was not less but more hubristic and presumptuous about the world than that of honest old-fashioned imperialists. It is only a shame that the neoconservatives, who planned short, painless wars to make space for the flowering of liberal democracy and ended up with long, attritive wars making space for snake oil salesmen and ethnic strife, don’t get more of a look-in here.I was born in 1941. So I am not a Boomer.
The idea that we are morally conscious agents, with free will and the power of choice, had important implications for the economic sphere as well. This more expansive and more optimistic vision of human character helped to foster new insights into the beneficial consequences of individual initiative. If people can understand what is in their spiritual interest and act on it, they can do the same for their worldly interests, improving their own lives and the lives of others, too. Adam Smith’s crucial contribution was to identify market competition as the mechanism that enables individual initiative to realize its potential.
Thursday, January 21, 2021
After writing , MacDonald was besieged with letters from readers who assumed that it was an allegory too subtle for them to grasp. Like giving up and asking for the solution to a crossword puzzle, readers appealed to the author to send them the “key” for interpreting it. MacDonald wearily explained that there was no master key – that readers were free “to take any meaning they themselves see in it.” Once again, readers have long learned to accept such a state of things, but MacDonald is the one who made it possible. It is hard to imagine a bewildering romp of a novel such as G. K. Chesterton’s (1908) were it not for MacDonald.
Wednesday, January 20, 2021
Tuesday, January 19, 2021
Kathy was everything the article says and much more besides. I feel chilly and growrn old.
I do understand that the humor-challenged among us — God bless them — may not be amused.
When the pandemic hit last year, she was at the forefront of STAT’s coverage until she herself got sick — with lung cancer, it turned out — breaking down computer modeling studies, mortality data, and wastewater analyses to help millions make sense of a disorienting barrage of un-vetted information. Sharon’s was a voice readers knew they could trust.
Might it be that many of the people who wrote such vile things to me, or pronounced upon my op-ed on social media or in actual media, were in fact offended by my pointing up the degradation of the contemporary university? Might it be that my even partially describing this degradation of higher education, and the subsequent devaluation of its degrees, ordinary and honorary, on which they feel that their prestige depends offended them more than a thousand kiddos? By mocking the state of the university, did they feel I was attacking the foundation on which their own lives have been built? Might R.R. Reno, writing about my op-ed in First Things, be on target when he writes: “That Epstein should note the obvious—that credentials are the cheap cellophane in which elites wrap themselves when they lack real achievements and nobility of soul that win respect—galls them.”
As long ago as 1931, in The Theory of Eduction in the United States, Albert Jay Nock argued that American universities were devolving to mere trining schools.
Monday, January 18, 2021
Wiman’s duelling with secular tensions is, in this book as elsewhere in Wiman’s writing, manifested in his profound empathy with the duels that others also undergo. In that sense, survival is the style for most of us. And if ‘style’ seems an inappropriate word for survival, it is a characteristic of Wiman’s very raw, visceral sense of irony. Thus, the ‘confessional’ in Wiman’s writing sits cheek by jowl with the ironic ‘sacrifice’ of so many lives. As he puts it in long poem, ‘The Parable of Perfect Silence’ with its own highly ironised title, these are ‘Hard lives hardly there’. And he admits that ‘When I began writing these lines / it was not, to be sure, inspiration but desperation, / to be alive, to believe again in the love of God.’
Travelogue, natural history, mariner’s meditation, and architecture drama, Atlantis is animated by Renzo’s restless mind and lively recollections. But it is Carlo who weaves all sorts of relevant bits into the tale. For instance, he tells us that the modern Greek word anoxis means “spring” – but originally, the word “meant the moment a ship sails into the open sea, as well as the moment when your mind grasps an idea for the first time.” Atlantis itself is Carlo’s attempt to grasp the dynamics of his father’s creativity, a force that has managed to envision work, performance, institutional and living spaces in so many different environments and cultures. The voyage trope provides an armature on which not only to erect a vision of his father, but to consider the vastness of what is manifest and hidden.
Sunday, January 17, 2021
… free societies are much more creative. One statistic I cite in my book is this: Switzerland with its eight million people has produced 25 Nobel Prize winners in science, including Einstein. The People’s Republic of China with its 1.3 billion has produced just one. That’s not a racial thing. Scientists of Chinese extraction have won Nobels in the United States, Canada and France.
Saturday, January 16, 2021
Despite the Irishness of Banville’s murder story, it nevertheless appears generic. So much so that in the second chapter, someone says that “Poirot himself appears in the scene.” This reference to Agatha Christie’s famous detective is one of many allusions Banville makes to classic literature, myths, and fairy tales. (He even references his own work, with mentions of the new State Pathologist in Dublin, Dr. Quirke, the protagonist of most Benjamin Black books.)
While small benefits cannot be excluded, we do not find significant benefits on case growth of more restrictive NPIs. Similar reductions in case growth may be achievable with less restrictive interventions.
Friday, January 15, 2021
‘Peake was synesthetic,’ explains Rachel Foss, curator of the new archive. ‘The act of drawing was often part of his literary process… It’s impossible to separate his art from his writing.’
Being close to any lion is absolutely phenomenal, their power is palpable, but with the added unique white coat it's just a privilege!!
I really tried not to use words like obsessive that pathologized her. I really tried to watch my language to the level of individual words. But every once in a while, something would slip through, and my editor would catch it. I guess I had even started thinking maybe she was more fragile than I came to discover she was. By the end of the book, she seemed so strong—strong in the sense that she had such a clear vision of her vocation, and she had such a strong will, and she wanted to fulfill her calling. Nothing could deviate her from fulfilling that literary calling.
I was so impressed by that. Of course, when severe depression struck, it was a different story. When she became ill. But in her day-to-day life this amazing sense of fortitude and strength really came across to me as I researched her.
Thursday, January 14, 2021
One thinks of Cervantes’s Don Quixote, Fielding’s Tom Jones, Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Stendhal’s Rouge et Noirand Tolstoy’s War and Peace; of Melville’s Moby-Dick, Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises; of Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom! Of these, among the most easily recognizable and celebrated titles in the history of western literature, not one exhibits a trace of the solipsism, self-referentiality, self-identity and the narrow, intolerant and vicious puppy ideology that are among the more disgusting features of the novel in the 21st century. Instead their concern is with the natural world and the creatures that inhabit it; with human society at every level and including every type of human personality; with history, war and peace; with ennobling adventure and thrilling experience; with high passions and great loves; with good versus evil; with life and death; ultimately, with the relationship between mankind and the Divine.
Normally, declarations of independence are intended to mask one’s profound loyalty to some cause or fashion. In his thinking, Pipes seems to have been that human curiosity, a genuinely independent thinker.
Sunday, January 31, 2021 at 4:00 pm Reading via Zoom
Wednesday, January 13, 2021
I deactivated my Twitter account yesterday (I hardly used it, except from time to time to tell assorted politicians to go stuff it). Of course, the servile true believers will object to what Gab has done. They also won't be celebrating World Logic Day. So don't try persuading them.
Oh, I forgot. Gab is a free speech advocate.
Over the years, Hergé became, to some extent, a victim of his own obsession. After hundreds of letters from Tintin fans were posted to Professor Calculus in Room 122 on the fourth floor of the Cornavin Hotel, the management sent Hergé a huffy letter pointing out that such a room number did not exist. But in the end, art triumphed over reality, and, when the letters kept coming, the management were obliged to introduce a Room 122 where none had been before.
Tuesday, January 12, 2021
But for Saunders, however emotive his morality may be, fiction is fundamentally moral; a badly-made story lacks moral authority and a well-made one can lead us to love better. Saunders is not wrong to trace the pulse of many literary problems to our strivings after moral salvation: Great works contain multitudes. The Russians teach us that lasting literature is not merely “something decorative,” Saunders writes, but “a vital moral-ethical tool.”
The true believers, of course, those who seem to buy into any official opinion, will naturally object.
In Di Blasi’s hands, memoir is not a work of confession. As she writes in the prologue, she views autobiography as pretense—observing the past inevitably alters it, and any memoir that fails to recognize this fact is fiction. She calls attention to her self-editing through white space, indented text that often breaks the fourth wall. As Di Blasi explained in an interview about the book, “The intent is not only to illuminate the many facets of remembering but also to reflect the process of writing and revising one’s recollections, exposing the fallibility of memory and the intrusion of self-aggrandizement.”
Monday, January 11, 2021
There are few American creations more endearing or enduring than Bugs Bunny. As voiced in the Noo Yawk accent of Mel Blanc, Bugs embodies a national character that combines street smarts with whimsy, reserve with reluctant but ultimately total engagement. He also emerged on the world stage at just the right moment in history.
So here we are again. But all is not lost. Some of us continue to love, and attempt to preserve, what Wordsworth and MacNeice loved (and feared for). Yet at times one does think of the Roman living contentedly, going about his or her daily business, seeing dust on the horizon, having never heard of Visigoths, Ostrogoths, and Vandals.
This is … an engaging, even disarmingly, honest memoir. It isn’t searingly honest. Nor is it thoroughly honest, if only because it isn’t introspectively deep. But engaging and disarming it is, whether the subject is either of his two failed marriages or his brutal separation from Minnesota Public Radio over what amounted to an essentially bogus sexual harassment claim.