Sunday, February 28, 2021
By which I mean not a “good” writer or a “bad” writer but simply a writer, a person whose most absorbed and passionate hours are spent arranging words on pieces of paper. Had my credentials been in order I would never have become a writer. Had I been blessed with even limited access to my own mind there would have been no reason to write. I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear. Why did the oil refineries around Carquinez Strait seem sinister to me in the summer of 1956? Why have the night lights in the Bevatron burned in my mind for twenty years?
Saturday, February 27, 2021
Friday, February 26, 2021
This seems to me to be much ado about very little. I've written a few. I try to be matter-of-fact and not over-the-top. I would need more than a blurb on a book cover to prompt me to buy a book.
In When These Things Begin: Conversations with Michel Treguer, Girard tells Treguer, “I’m not concealing my biography, but I don’t want to fall victim to the narcissism to which we’re all inclined.” For Girard, interviews served the same purpose as his “books of conversation”: to challenge and test his ideas while discovering new things in the company of others. Cynthia L. Haven, the author of a remarkably insightful biography of Girard, Evolution of Desire: A Life of René Girard, has now put together a selection of these interviews. They give us a good picture not only of the complexity and multifacetedness of Girard’s ideas, but also of the process through which a young professor of French literature originally operating in a rather narrow field turned into a visionary thinker of global renown, as revered as he was contested. As Haven puts it in her introduction, in “these interviews, over years and decades, Girard gradually becomes Girard, like an image slowly appearing in the developer of an old darkroom.”
Thursday, February 25, 2021
… Proust should be read slowly, 20 or so pages at a time. (When you are a thousand or so pages in and cannot help yourself from pressing on to learn what Brichot has to say about the death of Swann, you will have reached the stage at which it is probably acceptable to lie down with Proust.) Sooner or later readers will discover that the novel unfolds not slowly per se but at something that approximates the pace of life itself — or, better yet, that "real life" is blissfully Proustian.
Yes, yes, language is a living, breathing thing that’s eternally transforming… But these examples are arguably inorganic. They involve strategic lingual reinventions that are relatively new and politically motivated. Language may evolve naturally, but it also responds to manhandling. Er, if we can use that word any more.
Wednesday, February 24, 2021
Joe Sobran … cannot be absolved for the pall that has fallen over his legacy. But anybody who studies the full saga carefully and with a fair mind will conclude that the pall should not have fallen so heavily.
… polling suggests that devotees of contemporary architecture are overwhelmingly in the minority: aside from monuments, few of thepublic’s favorite structures are from the postwar period. (When the results of the poll were released, architects harrumphed that it didn’t “reflect expert judgment” but merely people’s “emotions,” a distinction that rather proves the entire point.)
… A PBS episode about Flannery O’Connor will feature interviews with Hilton Als and Mary Karr. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)
Tuesday, February 23, 2021
Monday, February 22, 2021
We want lady justice to be blind but in actuality she’s a cyborg with all-seeing, rotating night vision similar to the kind you might find on many urban street corners today from Beijing to Chicago, using the latest algorithms to isolate presumed enemies of the state.
The downside of receiving upwards of nine hundred submissions per issue is that you have to reject so many writers, and no, despite what some may think, we don’t enjoy that at all. With the quality of the submissions being so high, we find ourselves rejecting fairly good work, pieces that are maybe ninety-five percent of the way there but still aren’t perfect. The upside, of course, is that the work we eventually do publish is stunningly good. That’s the evolution that matters, of course.
“Ultimately, the issues associated with the misuse of scenarios in climate research and assessment are a matter of scientific integrity,” he concludes.
Sunday, February 21, 2021
… there is an art to the hymn, and I wish to show a little of what it is, and not from the heights of such Latin works as the Pange lingua. I will take a typical effort of the most popular hymnodist in English for more than three centuries, Isaac Watts, set to the sweet English melody Capel, one of those that Vaughan Williams found and saved. (Listen to it here.)
The cultural is the issue at hand, with all its urgency and heat. The spiritual is the developing awareness that all identifications with this or that sense of self, whilst necessary in one way are, in another, constraints. They risk cutting us off from a remarkable characteristic of human awareness: it can transcend itself. It can observe what’s happening whilst it’s happening, and realise that position as itself a state of mind. It reveals what the wisdom traditions call the dance, the emptiness, the divine.
Saturday, February 20, 2021
I have something in common with Sam Clemens. We both worked for the Philadelphia Inquirer. He as a typesetter., me as an editor.
As a teacher, the best advice Amis gave us was this: Always assume the reader is as busy, as ,as you are. He has written in and elsewhere about the fact that, as he sees it, the world is : and the reader has no time for complicated opening pages or literary puzzles. Much of what Amis has to say consists of sound advice for any writer competing in the attention economy: Hook the reader, no overly complex syntax, use line breaks liberally, no secondhand phrases, be original, see things with a poet’s eye.
Friday, February 19, 2021
These are people who make so much money from others exercising their First Amendment right of free speech that they think they can pick and choose among them. Sctew them.
As opposed to the recluse narrative, Emily was a pretty lively and social person, going by her many correspondence partners. The Morgan Library & Museum in New York City put together an ambitious exhibition of Emily’s poems that showed this side of her. This gives a little more grounding to the many party scenes on the Dickinson television show — it definitely captured the spirit of Emily that has long been ignored.
Thursday, February 18, 2021
The landscape affects the human psyche — the soul, the body and the innermost contemplations — like music. Every time you feel nature deeper you resonate better with her, finding new elements of balance and freedom.
It takes a biographer of Fiona Sampson’s lateral brilliance to re-argue EBB’s importance and to put her verse novel Aurora Leigh (a kind of poetic autobiography) back where it belongs among the great works of the period. She does by very carefully framing not just the life, which is far more vivid and complex than usually supposed, or than the awful The Barretts of Wimpole Street (you probably watched it, half asleep, after Sunday lunch once, when the world was black and white) made out.
Elizabeth was one of the first cultural influencers to understand how a virtual existence offers escape from daily life, “The escape from pangs of heart & bodily weakness ... when you throw off … what you feel to be … into another atmosphere & into other relations, where your life may spread its wings out new,” as she explained it to Browning. She escaped via paper rather than a screen, of course; but her grasp of self-invention through a kind of “second life” reminded me of all the friendships we were suddenly reconfiguring on Zoom. I also realised how closely her practice prefigured today’s digital communicators: not just the teenagers and geeks, bloggers and TikTok stars, but citizen journalists, activists and those policed by authoritarian regimes too.
Wednesday, February 17, 2021
It is difficult to say whether the same will be true this year, but a part of me hopes that churches on Wednesday will be teeming with what I have come to think of as “Chrashers.” There is something lovely about the idea of unaccustomed knees stiffening over antiseptic leather and half-familiar words being mumbled with that admixture of sheepishness and comfort familiar to any backslider.
… Bedford could easily have become a byword for wasted potential. Her life, as Hastings tells it, was a conflict between the taste for pleasure and the ambition to write. Ultimately she synthesized them, living high, partying hard, loving often, and also writing several of the 20th century’s great novels — such as A Legacy and Jigsaw — as well as some remarkable travel writing and legal reportage. But it wasn’t easy.
“Magazine,” which comes from the word for “storehouse,” shares an etymology with the French magasin, or “shop”: the concept was to bring different offerings together, and accordingly they became venues where key dramas of the early nation played out. Debate between the Federalists and the Democratic-Republicans (federal control versus states’ rights) was carried out largely in the volley of The Port Folio and The National Magazine. The dissolution of the Whigs into the Know-Nothings (the Proud Boys of the eighteen-fifties, as Lomazow likes to describe them) happened largely in the nativist turn of The American Review. These dramas are borne out in the Grolier’s one-room display, the paper trail of a nation running, stumbling, and trying to carry its unifying ideas forward.
Tuesday, February 16, 2021
Ordway solidly proves her core argument; which is that Tolkien read a great deal of 'modern' fiction (defined as post 1850 - but including works right up to the end of his life); that he enjoyed much of it; and took some works seriously enough to affect his own writing: often fundamentally.
Monday, February 15, 2021
Here’s something Will wrote that these assholes might want to ponder (though one wonders if they actually know how to think): “There are more things in heaven and earth … than are dreamt dreamt of in your philosophy.”
The left seems frantic to stop any debate – about how to handle COVID, global warming, whether "trans" women should be allowed to compete in women’s sports. Worse, it is no longer content to try to shout down views it does not like. It wants to punish the people who hold them
Without their life experience, he realized, his was the first generation of Americans tasked with upholding their fathers’ noble experiment simply by the strength of their own virtues. This, he warned, would be very difficult.
The book is guided by the structure of time. We go full circle from June through to May; summer through to spring. There is a poem for each month, just as there is a poem for each feeling. Pleasure, annoyance, boredom, spiritual awakening — we feel it all. And as the poems travel through time, the poet’s vulnerability and loneliness are palpable enough to, perhaps deliberately, make the reader feel less alone.
Sunday, February 14, 2021
As his career had progressed among the fraught cultural conditions of the Irish Revival, Synge increasingly gravitated towards the second option. His literary output began with a bucolic Romanticism, taking a turn of experiments through Decadence and symbolism. But it was the pressures of a modernising Ireland that urged him into what the scholar Mary Burke has recently called a form of “modernist provocation”.
It will be rightly pointed out that her style of poetry is influenced by rap and hip-hop rather than John Lyly, but it’s also fair to say that she’s re-invented/rediscovered a style of writing that is nevertheless indistinguishable from the euphuistic Elizabethan style (just as Elizabethan writers re-invented Iambic Pentameter after Chaucer). Lyly’s style was popular for its time, but after a point it became an easy target for satire.
He cautioned against imposing radical changes in government policy and instead suggested a gradual adjustment in attitudes
Ditlevsen's brilliance is evident when you read her confessional memoir, The Copenhagen Trilogy, which is newly available in a crisp translation by Tiina Nunnally and Michael Favala Goldman. Told in a sneakily plain, highly addictive voice, it's the portrait of the artist as a young woman who wrote as hard as she lived.
Saturday, February 13, 2021
Mythological plagues are often indications that something is very wrong, an invitation to look more closely at assumptions and injustice, a judgment. It is worth remembering that Sophocles’ famous play debuted in 429 BC. The plague of Athens had broken out the previous year, and 429 saw a second wave. The references to a plague, in combination with a criticism of state leadership, would have been eerily topical and resonant for the audience in a time of war and pandemic, for all that the play is set in a legendary past and another city.
Friday, February 12, 2021
… if you’re Macron or any sensible European observer, seeing a United States in which playing the national anthem or displaying the flag is deemed “offensive” and “problematic,” in which professors are suspended or threatened for quoting Supreme Court opinions verbatim when they contain unapproved language and which has seen months of urban riots tearing apart some of America’s biggest cities, how could you not say “no thanks”?
Thursday, February 11, 2021
THE GREEN LINE CAFÉ POETRY SERIES on ZOOM
The Branch Will Not Break –
Readings and Discussion
of the Long Poem with:
Jack Israel, Author of Sorry For Fire
David Kertis, Author of Word of the Day
Helen Mirkil, Author of Sower on the Cliffs
Presented by POETRY IN COMMON, Peace/Works
and The Green Line Café
Hosted by Leonard Gontarek
Leonard Gontarek is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.
Topic: Green Line Cafe Zoom Poetry Reading
Time: Feb 16, 2021 06:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 856 8900 5977
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I have never forgotten Joseph de Maistre’s admittedly bitchy line, “Voltaire, who touched upon every subject without ever penetrating the surface of any.”
… if Rockwell’s admirers give him a pass on this sentimentality, his detractors often turn a blind eye to his obvious technical mastery. Say what you will about his themes, the man might as well have been a camera. Indeed, his process began with an actual camera. According to that NPR piece, he “used photos, taken by a rotating cast of photographers, to make his illustrations — and all of his models were neighbors and friends,” residents of his small town of Stockbridge, Massachusetts.