Posts

Showing posts from April, 2010

What an Artist Can Do with Limited Materials.

Girl with a Pearl Earring a la Bic  (yes, as in pens)

Perhaps more a stunt that anything else, but certainly interesting and showing some thought.

Keokuk--It Isn't Where I Want it to Be

But it says, substantially, what I wanted to say. Recalling Keokuk.

Learning about Morality from Psychopaths

Jonah Lehrer shows us how:

from The Frontal Cortex (blogsite)
Jonah Lehrer

Psychopaths can teach us a lot about the nature of morality. At first glance, they seem to have perfectly functioning minds. Their working memory isn't impaired, they have excellent language skills, and they don't have reduced attention spans. In fact, a few studies have found that psychopaths have above-average IQs and reasoning abilities; their logic is impeccable. But the disorder is associated with a severe moral deficit.

So what's gone wrong? Why are psychopaths so much more likely to use violence to achieve their goals? Why are they so overrepresented in our prisons? The answer turns us to the anatomy of morality in the mind. That's because the intact intelligence of psychopaths conceals a devastating problem: the emotional parts of their brains are damaged, and this is what makes them dangerous.

When normal people are shown staged videos of strangers being subjected to a powerfu…

From Books Inq. Hitchens and Eagleton

Some Interesting Approaches

The Literary Platform

And Netgalley.

This latter was brought to my attention yesterday and it consists of a site you can sign up on to receive electronic galleys for review of forthcoming books.  I selected three from the Houghton-Mifflin Harcourt publisher catalog (because they are well-known and have produced some interesting work in the past), but there are a number of other publishers there including smaller presses.  Saves the publisher money on galley copies, but gets the word out there.  An interesting concept, I wonder how it will catch on.

One nice thing is that you don't have to read on-line.  I had the books sent to my Kindle.  However, the books are DRM and expire after sixty days.  Although, I will have to verify, because I just got my first.

Postman Again: The Scary Reality of Network News

I've always found network news confusing, terrifying, deeply depressing, and deeply disengaging.  My father and teachers frequently insisted that I imbibe from this foul stream on a daily basis.  As soon as I came to an age where I could make my own determinations I fled from it as far as I could go.  And Postman actually pinpoints why all these things should be our natural reactions to the production.

from Amusing Ourselves to Death
Neil Postman

All television news programs being, end, and are somewhere in between punctuated with music. I have found very few Americans who regard this custom as peculiar. . . What has music to do with the news? Why is it there? It is there, I assume, for the same reason music is used in the theater and films--to create a mood and provide a leitmotif for the entertainment. If there were no music--as is the case when any television program is interrupted for a new flash--viewers would expect something truly alarming, possibly life-altering. But as long…

Exploring Typographic Man: Two Excerpts

The last excerpts last night may have gotten a little ahead of where I wanted to be as I chronicle notes for this book.  So I'm going to take a couple of steps back and record some observations, one of which I'm still evaluating, but which I find persuasive.

from Amusing Ourselves to Death
Neil Postman

It may be true, as Frederick Jackson Turner wrote, that the spirit that fired the American mind was the fact of an ever-expanding frontier. But it is also true, as Paul Anderson has written, the "it is no mere figure of speech to say that farm boys followed the plow with book in hand, be it Shakespeare, Emerson, or Thoreau." For it was not only a frontier mentality that led Kansas to be the first state to permit women to vote in school elections, or Wyoming the first state to grant complete equality in the franchise. Women were probably more adept readers than men, and even in the frontier states the principal means of public discourse issued from the printed word. Those…

In My Pursuit of the Odd, the Bizarre, the downright Freakazoidal

Too Good to Be True?

A trailer for Whisperer in Darkness the first Lovecraft film that looks like it might have something to do with something HPL wrote.

And while we're at it, why not just take a gander at the H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society Site?

Another Boston Novelty

A novelty for me, not for Boston.  In my touring Sunday, I passed by a statue of Benjamin Franklin that stands about a hundred feet away from the sidewalk plaque that celebrates the first American Public school.  I walked back to look at it and as I was exiting the fenced in area, I saw a statue of a donkey.  Now, this was odd.  I knew of the bull on/near Wall Street, but this donkey had no apparent explanation.  Walking closer I looked for an explanatory plaque.  I saw embedded in the pavement the object I sought, or so I thought.  Looking at it, it took me a moment to decipher what I saw.  There were two shoe-prints in each of which was the drawing of an elephant and at the base of this plaque, behind one if one were to stand in the shoes was the inscription--Stand in Opposition. 

I realized what it was, but still didn't know why it might be there.  Then it occurred to me (and I would have to find the dates of the statue to affirm) but I thought that plausibly this was a highly …

From Expostion to Show Business

The fall of American Reason as chronicled:

from Amusing Ourselves to Death
Neil Postman

The solution to these problems, [the vast distances and spaces separating American communities from one another in the time of the frontier] as every school child used to know, was electricity. To no one's surprise, it was an American who found a practical way to put electricity in the service of communication and, in doing so, eliminated the problem of space once and for all.  I refer, of course, to Samuel Finley Breese Morse, America's first true "spaceman." His telegraph erased state lines, collapsed regions, and, by wrapping the continent in an information grid, created the possibility of a unified American discourse.

But at a considerable cost. For telegraphy did something that Morse did not foresee when he prophesied that telegraphy would make "one neighborhood of the whole country." It destroyed the prevailing definition of information, and in doing so gave a new me…

Postman Quotation for the Day

Though one may accomplish it from time to time, it is very hard to say nothing when employing a written English sentence.

Neil Postman--Amusing Ourselves to Death.

More and more often, it seems to me, Mr. Postman is being proven wrong in this contention.  But in the past, it held true reasonably well.

The Influence of the Printed Word

from Amusing Ourselves to Death
Neil Postman

The influence of the printed word in every arena of public discourse was insistent and powerful not merely because of the quantity of printed matter but because of its monopoly.  This point cannot be stressed enough, especially for those who are reluctant to acknowledge profound differences in the media environments of then and now. One sometimes hears it said, for example, that there is more printed matter available today than ever before, which is undoubtedly true. But from the seventeenth century to the late nineteenth century, printed matter was virtually all that was available. There were no movies to see, radio to hear, photographic displays to look at, records to play.  There was no television. Public business was channeled into and expressed through print, which became the model, the metaphor, and the measure of all discourse. The resonances of the lineal, analytical structure of print, and in particular, of expository prose, could b…

Irène Némirovsky--Anti-Semite?

A preview of a forthcoming book and some short stories by Irène Némirovsky

Most people are best acquainted with her through the final two novels of a sequence that was to be called Suite Francaise when completed.  That is the title of the extant portion of the work.  Let's hope this new study of herwork puts the lie to the endless gossip that propels the literary world forward.

Aldous Huxley on Democracy

 Part I
Aldous Huxley interviewed (part II).  via Books Inq.  I think
Part III

Fits in very well with Amusing Ourselves to Death.  And Aldous speaks well to Orwell. And also speaks to Postman's central thesis.

For Those Still Interested in Climate Change and its Rhetoric

Poem of the Week--Edgar Allan Poe

Do We Need a Constitutional Amendment?

from Amusing Ourselves to Death
Neil Postman

Meanwhile former President Richard Nixon, who once claimed he lost an election because he was sabotaged by make-up men, has offered Senator Edward Kennedy advice on how to make a serious run for the presidency: lose twenty pounds. Although the Constitution makes no mention of it, it would appear that fat people are now effectively excluded from running for high political office.  Probably bald people as well. Almost certainly those whose looks are not significantly enhance by the cosmetician's art. Indeed, we may have reached the point where cosmetics has replaced ideology as the field of expertise over which a politician must have competent control.
 Many of us have experienced the same.  For example, people who are a few pounds, or even many pounds overweight who apply for a position--say receptionist, where weight and activity should pose no problem, and where appearance is otherwise impeccable.  Too often such competent and capable w…

Notes from a Walk Around Boston

Plaques in the Old North Church
Major John Pitcairn fatally wounded while rallying the Royal Marines at the Battle of Bunker Hill was carried from the field to the boats on the back of his son who kissed him and returned to duty. He died June 17, 1775 and his body was interred beneath this church

In memory of The Revd Mather Byles Jr. DD. Rector of this Parish 1768-1775 and of the Parish of St. John 1788-1814. Loyal to the King he was banished by the act of 1778 "to suffer death without benefit of clergy" if he should return
Plaque in the Holocaust Memorial Park
April 12, 1945 OHRDRUF concentration camp
THE THINGS I SAW beggar description. The visual evidence and the verbal testimony of starvation, cruelty and bestiality were so overpowering as to leave me a bit sick. . .  I made the visit deliberately in order to be in a position to give first-hand evidence of these things, if ever, in the future, there develops a tendency to charge these allegations merely to propaganda.
Dwight D. Eisenhower Su…

Aesthetics or Epistemology?

Mr. Postman addresses the question:

from Amusing Ourselves to Death
Neil Postman

. . . I must first explain that my focus is on epistemology, not on aesthetics or literary criticism. Indeed, I appreciate junk as much as the next fellow, and I know full well that the printing press has generated enough of it to fill the Grand Canyon to overflowing. Television is not old enough to have matched printing's output of junk.

And so, I raise no objection to television's junk. The best things on television are its junk, and no one and nothing is seriously threatened by it. Besides we do not measure a culture by its output of undisguised trivialities but by what it claims as significant.  Therein is our problem, for television is at its most trivial and, therefore, most dangerous when its aspirations are high, when it presents itself as a carrier of important cultural conversations.What is notable here is not that it is not an exploration of a cultural wasteland in aesthetics, but rather …

A Marvelous Adams Site

The electronic archive of the Adams family papers is beautifully designed, with lovely popover tabs filled with information about specifics in the letters--particularly useful when those tidbits help you better understand who is talking about whom and how they are related.

Scrod and Clams

Okay, one final Boston post.  Over the past two days I've been able to get into Boston enough to partake of two of my favorite Bostonian treats (other than cannoli) fresh clams (fried) and scrod (baked).  Why you need to know that, I don't know.  But what trip is complete without a menu?

Oh, and each eaten in a Boston eatery of some vintage--The Union Oyster House and Durgin-Park Market Dining Rooms.  Both wonderful meals and not exorbitant  (for lunch at any rate).

Old Stuff By Now

But I may want to see it again--John Stewart on South Park Censorship

I'm not what you'd call a great fan of Mr. Stewart's, but I do find that he is an equal opportunity offender, and in this case, he points out an absolutely critical fact that may get lost in the barrage of humor.  A group living in the United States has the freedoms won for all by our own past history.  Sitting here in Boston for a short time, that becomes so much plainer than it is day to day.  Perhaps everyone should visit Boston, turn off their iPods and their skinjacks into the net and walk the freedom trail and just listen.

Huxley and Orwell: Fire and Ice

It is fitting to begin this with the appropriate word from Frost:

Fire and Ice
Robert Frost

Some say the world will end in fire;
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
And I follow with a book that is now very old news, but one that I had not encountered before in actual book form (mostly in excerpts here and there).  I saw it on the bargain tables at Borders (thus my two visits) and debated the question of simplicity v. desire and finally decided that rather than the three I really wanted, I would get only this one that I was fairly certain I would read.

In commenting on the complementary dystopias of Orwell and Huxley, Postman has this to say:

from Amusing Ourselves to Death
Neil Postman

Contrary to common belief even among the educated, Huxley and Orwell did not prophesy the same thing. Orwell warns that w…

Report from Waltham

So, I did as I said I would and took the train down to Quincy and toured the three houses that part of the Adams National Historical Park.  There are two "birthplace homes" on a small lot, representing the early life of John Adams, and the much more stately Peacefield, a true mansion of a house, though considerably bigger now than it was after Abigail Adams's additions.  The family continued to add to it through time resulting in a truly magnificent house. 

Of interest to me were three points.  Being more acquainted with Southern Colonial residences, I was surprised to find the kitchens and the cooking areas within the main house. In most of the Southern House I've been in it is a separate building with a "butler's pantry" built into the house to serve as a warming station for food brought in from the kitchen.  The second point that impressed me is that nearly every room in the houses had a closet or storage space.  Again, in southern houses because the…

Yesterday--The Freedom Trail, Today--Quincy and the Adams's Places

I love Boston--or at least the parts of Boston I've been able to see from the Back Bay to Charlestown.  Yesterday, I went down and walked most of the Freedom trail, stopping only at the Old North Church while cheerfully munching a cannoli from Mike's--a place so famous that you can order their cannoli kit online.  This was after a lunch at the Union Oyster House and stopping by the Market and picking up a half-pound of marinated olives to munch on along the way. 

Today I've decided to chance Quincy, although the sky is fearfully overcast and it doesn't bode well for extended sightseeing.  This may be the one and only chance and while in the area I want to take advantage of it.  If I do so, I will have visited the residences of the first six presidents of the United States.  Not that I'm trying to "do" all the President's homes, but Adams has been of interest to me since I first saw the musical 1776 at Lincoln Center in the seventh grade (or thereabout…

For Those Who Have Swallowed the Kool-Aid

More on the Insanity of Copyright Laws

Hitler reacts to the takedown of Hitler parodies.  (Warning, strong language in subtitles--perhaps even in German, who knows?)  Watch it while you still can!

Sustainable Food

The Joy of James

Of the Henry variety.

from The Ambassadors
Henry James

Her mother gave it, no doubt, but her mother, to make that less sensible, gave so much else besides, and on neither of the two previous occasions, extraordinary woman, Strether felt, anything like what she was giving tonight. Little Jeanne was a case, an exquisite case of education; whereas the Countess, whom it so amused him to think of by that denomination, was a case, also exquisite, of --well, he didn't know what.

A Good Question About Natural Catastrophe Novels

A Deeply Hallucinogenic Novel

Fred looks at David Lindsay's A Voyage to Arcturus

While I've classed it as Science Fiction, it is essentially unclassifiable. Think magic realism on steroids without any realism.  A truly genre-bending essentially odd genre classic.

A Podcast Postpostmodernity

Another Literary Prize

The Orange Prize Shortlist

Include The Lacuna, Wolf Hall, and others.

A Required iPhone App

I don't have an iPhone, and I sha'n't have one until the company decides to turn over all Blackberry service to iPhones (perhaps not far in the future as most execs are now thumbing away at their iPhones) however, if I did have an iPhone--City Poems would be a required app.  I think of myself as a literary tourist.  Wherever I am sent, I seek out the historical, the unusual, and the literary.  On a trip across the bleak corn-strewn midwest through the country from Columbus, Ohio to Macomb Illinois--so flat that, as Bill Bryson stated in Lost Continent, standing on a telephone book gives you a view--I passed by (and visited) Dickson Mounds state memorial AND Garnett, Illinois, birthplace and chief setting of The Spoon River Anthology.  Similarly, while living in Ohio, I took a trip up to Amish/Mennonite country and seeing it on the map, the allure of Winesburg, Ohio was not to be resisted.  I come to Boston and walk the Freedom trail, so, there near the gravesite of John Wi…

Catching Fire--Suzanne Collins

Catching Fire is first, but not only, a more-than-capable sequel to Hunger Games. It is written in the same taut, no-nonsense style as the first and clips along at only a slightly slower pace--and slightly slower is right for the things Ms. Collins wants to continue to explore--violence and the roots of violence, society and when you must accept its mores if not its morals, identity and loss, and other kindred topics. The most important point I want to make is that although Ms. Collins seems to be as popular as Stephanie Meyers, she is by no means in the same class with her and their close association on many fan sites does a bit of injustice to Ms. Collins, who is a most capable writer.

I start to read one of her books and have a hard time putting it down, for sleep, for miles, for driving, to and from places. I can't explain what the attraction is.  Perhaps you are so engaged with the characters it is hard to part from them--you are so wrapped up in their dilemmas and problems (…

Some Thoughts About Meaning in Poetry

Often poetry is taught in school as though each poem were some sort of rebus or puzzle that needs to be deconstructed, analyzed, and reconstructed to the specifications of whatever the present school of criticism is teaching about poetry.  Most people approach a poem as though it were some sort of exotic and potential deadly animal ready to unleash its fury at the slightest provocation.

I think we have Eliot and Pound to blame for that--purposeful obscurity and the creation of the rebus/puzzle poem.  But most poetry before the twentieth century, and a good deal during and after is not at all like that.  A poem is an invitation to take a break, to share a moment with the poet, to see as he or she does.  In that seeing you'll sometimes get a message, but if you don't, it is the seeing that is the thing after all.

Who really cares what Frost's "The Silken Tent" is about?

The Silken Tent
Robert Frost

She is as in a field a silken tent
At midday when the sunny summer bre…

Drift--Victoria Patterson

Image
Drift is a collection of 13 interconnected short stories about the lives of the have-nots, the almost-haves, and the once-hads in Newport Beach, California.  When I first saw notices of it, I thought, "Oh dear, Peyton Place visits California."  But boy was I wrong.  Another case of don't trust the notices.  I picked the book up and I was entranced--immediately and completely.  Victoria Patterson has considerable talent and she has created a world akin to that of Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio--complete with grotesques and self-doubting narrator/central figures.  But no one escapes from Newport Beach.  If you want a real sense of this book think Winesburg, Ohio meets Cannery Row. Victoria Patterson is a powerhouse of a writing, creating compelling and engaging characters and weaving story lines in and out of time to show us the lives of those who are often invisible to us.

The stories are not connected chronologically and they all seem to center around a cluster …

How Would You Like to Receive a Letter That Begins Like This?

from "The Letter to Menoeceus"
Epicurus

Let no one be slow to seek wisdom when he is young nor weary in the search thereof when he is grown old. For no age is too early or too late for the health of the soul. And to say that the season for studying philosophy has not yet come, or that it is past and gone, is like saying that the season for happiness is not yet or that it is now no more.

Boy, Did I have Epicurus Wrong

In her remarkable book How Philosophy Can Save Your Life, Ms. Mccarty walks us through ten different philosophical systems that comment on different aspects of human life.  The first of these, and one close to my heart is a study of simplicity.  She chooses for her philsophers Epicurus and Charlotte Joko Beck.  What struck me in reading through this section is what a mangled impression one gets of the philosophy of Epicurus from the words in the language derived from his name.  Epicurean almost always refers to luxurious and tantalizing in a degree that goes far beyond common sense.  And yet, if the excerpt below is any indication, we have received a false impression of what Epicurus is really all about.

from How Philosophy Can Save Your Life
Marietta McCarty

"Those have the sweetest pleasure in luxury who least need it. . . . To grow accustomed therefore to simple and not luxurious diet gives us health to the full, and makes a man alert for the needful employments of life, and whe…

Beatrice and Virgil--Yann Martel

I should start this review by saying that I read and enjoyed Beatrice and Virgil, because much of the rest of what I have to say will not sound like I did.  I must also say that I really like Life of Pi mostly before everyone else jumped on board.  I liked it for reasons that, while not opposed, are certainly not in conjunction with most of the comments I've seen on it.  I liked it for sheer surrealism, for comment of religious life, and for the elegance of the mysterious island.  I say this because I find similar elements in Beatrice and Virgil which have me liking the book even while I think it does not quite achieve what the author desired.

Beatrice and Virgil is a convoluted play within a story within a metafiction.  It attempts to be philosophical both about the purposes of fiction and about the literary approaches to the holocaust.  An attempt to limn the contours of the story would likely not provide a whole lot of information about what really goes on.  Henry is an author w…

Coming Soon: Reviews of Four Books and Notes on a Fifth

Maybe write after I type this out!  Reviews of:

Yann Martel Beatrice and Virgil
Suzanne Collins Catching Fire
Victoria Patterson Drift
Hallowe'en: New Poems ed. Al Sarrantino

And notes on two books I'm presently reading:

Marietta McCarty's How Philosophy Can Save Your Life
Mary Oliver Rules for the Dance

And Now For Something Completely Different--From Open Culture

Change You Can Believe In--a brief introduction to one of the central ideas in Calculus, for those not necessarily mathematically inclined.

Biblioklept Goes Noir

And gives us a snippet of one of the all-tme great movies and movie shots--the opening of A Touch of Evil,  in which the opening shot tracks through small town Mexico the hero, heroine, and sundry street folks.  The seeming simplicity of the shot and its technical brilliance makes it memorable and incomparable.  Robert Altman gives us a similar opening shot at the beginning of another superb film, The Player. That it is not done often is a sign of just how difficult such a shot is to set up and get right.  Go, enjoy, and then see the whole thing (both whole things)--even though Touch of Evil does have the exceedingly unlikely Charlton Heston as a Mexican detective and The Player goes in and out of at least three pitches in the chief character's office (hard to call this guy a protagonist--as you'll see if you watch the film.)

Contra iPad

One of Yiyun Li's Favorites Captures the Pulitzer

Tinkers by Paul Harding

For a dissenting opinion, see here.

I'm not sure I agree with this latter, but perhaps it is a measure of the book that I started and tried but never did get through it.  I set it aside thinking to pick it back up, and I may well do someday in the near future; however. . .

I'm About a Week Early--Lexington and Concord

I may repost on the appropriate date--but what brought it to mind is that a coworker had a chance to visit and said that the bridge in question is presently under the flood.

The Concord Hymn Ralph Waldo Emerson

By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
     Their flag to April's breeze unfurled;
Here once the embattled farmers stood;
     And fired the shot heard round the world.

The foe long since in silence slept;
     Alike the conqueror silent sleeps,
     And Time the ruined bridge has swept
     Down the dark stream that seaward creeps.

On this green bank, by this soft stream,
     We place with joy a votive stone,
That memory may their deeds redeem,
     When, like our sires, our sons are gone.

O Thou who made those heroes dare
     To die, and leave their children free, --
Bid Time and Nature gently spare
     The shaft we raised to them and Thee.

The Springs of Affection--Maeve Brennan

Thanks in large part to the recommendations and comments of the great many bloggers in Literary Land, I have come upon some wonderful books to read both this year and last.  Without Mr. Myers, I would have left The Believers on the shelf and have missed a really fine book as a result.  That is only one example among many--another blogger alerted me to Amellie Nothomb, and so forth.  But Maeve Brennan was for me my own discovery.  Ever since I found the very short novel The Visitor on the shelf of the downtown Kissimmee library (from which it subsequently vanished without a trace) I have a been a fan, seeking out Ms. Brennan's work wherever I could find it.  And I have found only one book on the library shelves--The Springs of Affection, from which I have posted numerous times.

Ms. Brennan's art takes the form of chronicling unhappy marriages--deeply unhappy people married to one another and seemingly unable to live without one another, but relentlessly and inexorably unhappy--…

The International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award Shortlist

via the Literary Saloon, this short list nominated for the award:

The Believers by Zoë Heller The Elegance Of The Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery God's Own Country by Ross Raisin Home by Marilynne Robinson. In Zodiac Light by Robert Edric Netherland by Joseph O'Neill Settlement by Christoph Hein The Twin by Gerbrand Bakker Of these I have read only one--The Believers which I certainly find worthy of a nod.  I have Home on my list to read and think that there is better chance of getting through it than through Gilead.  Perhaps after finishing, I can revisit Gilead and try to find what others found so appealing in the work. I've tried reading The Elegance of the Hedgehog and must say that I wasn't in the mood--keep in mind that this says nothing whatsoever about the merits of the work.

Most Terrifying Fiction

A review of Sarah Langan's Audrey's Door and readers respond with their own scariest fiction choices.  (via Books Inq.)

Poem of the Week--Mary Robinson

A relatively unknown contemporary of Coleridge, Blake, and other contemporary poets, Mary Robinson's major work is a sonnet series titled Sappho and Phaon, from which the excerpt is taken.


Day's harbinger unfolds the liquid plain.
The rude Sea murmurs, mournful as the strain
That love-lorn minstrels strike with trembling hand,
While from their green beds rise the Syren band
With tongues aёrial to repeat my pain!


In general my experience is that if one looks to enjoy a work, one can find something worthwhile within it to enjoy.  It may not be the height of literature, expression, or profound thinking.  But then, what is diversity for.  If everything were Ulysses, then we would have no Ulysses.

Hunger Games--Suzanne Collins

Okay.  How to start this review. Perhaps a couple of facts.

Flew home Friday night.  While Sam was at dance Saturday visited the library. Read Hunger Games Saturday.  Sunday, visited the library again to pick up the sequel.

Yes--it was that good.  I've long known that when you want to read some really fine fiction you should head over to the juvenile and YA shelves.  Unlike adults, children and young adults have no patience with writing that is not engaging and fulfilling.  They have no time for books that wind around and around and around and come out . . . nowhere.

So, I have to say that without reservation Hunger Games is one of the finest pieces of fiction, adult, YA, children's I've read in a while.  Engagingly written from the point of view of Katniss--a young lady living in District twelve the novel tells the story of the Hunger Games--a brutal means of reinforcing the central power of Capital City in the nation of Panem.  Every year two tributes--one male and one f…

The Blessed Oblivion of Well-Preserved Ignorance

In this Newsweek review of LOA books (via Books Inq) the writer derides LOA for producing a complete volume of Shirley Jackson's writing, "A writer mostly famous for one short story, "The Lottery." Is LOA about to jump the shark?"

Perhaps to those who don't care to read she is know for that single short story (and rightly known for it); however, the opus of Shirley Jackson extends far beyond that, and she produced one of the finest post-Jamesian meditations on haunting and psychology ever written.  She deserves her own volume as much as any other writer in the series.

It is so easy to deride the work of those for whom we do not care for one reason or another.  And so easy to follow the multitude in the appreciation of a writer who may not deserve the plaudits.  But how difficult it is to think for oneself and to take the time to become truly acquainted with the literary landscape and appreciative not merely of the mountains, but even of the foothills and …

Another Reason to Avoid Knowing about Authors

The blogger at Bookphilia recounts difficulty in approaching Mishima's work after reading a biography--I sometimes find the same.  I may enjoy Joyce's work, but I don't really know what I think of him as a person because I don't really want my enjoyment spoiled by extraneous information.

The Tedious Self-Loathing of the Literati

This article about J. M. G. Le Clézio is one of the reasons I prefer to know less about authors than about their work.  The form of specious self-loathing and the encouragement thereto is just another symptom of the postmodern plague that permeates culture.  It is one thing to confess and repudiate real sins of the past, it is another entirely to suggest that the work of Dante, Shakespeare, Michelangelo, and thousands of others is worthless because of it.  Americans tend to do the same thing in view of the enlightenment of their European brethren. I even have friends who state that the contributions of the founding fathers were essentially useless because they were tainted by slavery.

They were indeed tainted by slavery, and we should never forget it.  Nor should we ever forget that many strove, sometimes in words only, to free themselves of it.

Sorry for the sparse posting

It is likely to continue through the next week, at least as I travel once again for a week in Waltham.

What I can say is that I was pleasantly surprised by Waltham.  Beautiful cherry trees (at least I think they were cherry trees) daffodils, hyacinths--everything I miss about the North but am not willing to endure northern winter to experience.

Ethical E-Book Piracy

The Ethicist makes his points

And to this I add that given the current state of copyright law (in strict violation of the nature of literature and the arts and the intent of the original copyright provisions) conscientious and deliberate objection to this patent injustice is, if not obligatory, at least a notable attempt to enforce the law as it was intended, not as it has been transmorgrified--largely to protect Mickey Mouse.

Open Culture notes: Faulkner

Faulkner reading from As I Lay Dying

If you are not already acquainted with Faulkner, if you've wanted to dive into the pool, but couldn't quite make out the bathymetry, you could do worse than to choose this as your entry point.  Told from the point of view of perhaps 20 some-odd characters, with the main focus on two or three of those (the Bundren Family and hangers-on) As I Lay Dying is a mordant comedy of manners of the Old South; when I read it I came to a deep understanding of some of the shenanigans I had seen (or was to see) in my own family.

Other articles of note from Open Culture Today:

Review of the iPad as e-book reader


The strange new world of nanoscience  probably better termed nanotechnology.  Nano science would imply that somehow science had shrunk overnight.

Horns--Joe Hill

I have to hand it to him, Joe Hill can certainly write.  He is a great weaver of stories--his first two books, 20th Century Ghosts and Heart-Shaped Box were remarkable debut pieces  In this, the sophomore novel, he is true to form.

That is not to say the Horns is without fault, but rather that despite its faults, the book is a very enjoyable read.  And it is worth noting that the faults spring not from timidity of purpose or an inability to handle the material, but rather from a striding ambition to deal with the big issues that horror and dark fantasy are best at exploring.

Let's start with the difficulties with the book then. They boil down to one essential point--the main point of any work of dark fiction--Joe Hill struggles and struggles hard with the nature of evil.  In some cases, this struggle results in some uneasy juxtapositions that can easily be misread.  For example in one particular setting of the book the placement of a menorah as the centerpiece can easily be misrea…

Happy Easter

Rejoice, heavenly powers! Sing choirs of angels!
Exult, all creation around God's throne!
Jesus Christ, our King is risen!
Sound the trumpet of salvation! Rejoice, O earth, in shining splendor,
radiant in the brightness of your King!
Christ has conquered! Glory fills you!
Darkness vanishes for ever! Rejoice, O Mother Church! Exult in glory!
The risen Savior shines upon you!
Let this place resound with joy,
echoing the mighty song of all God's people! My dearest friends,
standing with me in this holy light,
join me in asking God for mercy,
that he may give his unworthy minister
grace to sing his Easter praises.
The Lord be with you. And also with you. Lift up your hearts. We lift them up to the Lord. Let us give thanks to the Lord our God. It is right to give him thanks and praise. It is truly right that with full hearts and minds and voices
we should praise the unseen God, the all-powerful Father,
and his only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. For Christ has ransomed us with …

For Those in the Area of Waltham MA.

And I'm thinking one in particular--I'll be spending a week in Waltham starting on Monday.  Don't know how blogging will go.

One of My Favorite Recent SF Novels

Optimistic Science Fiction

A review of an anthology.

There are those, I believe Harlan Ellison may be foremost in this school, that would argue that all science fiction is essentially optimistic because it starts with the premise that no matter how awful and dire, there is a future.

Quid Plura Revisits the Gargoyle

Despite a difficult rhyme scheme that enforces some odd choices, this poem works fairly well--"Don't Leave Me Hanging in a City So Dead. . . "

"April is the Cruelest Month"

At Open Culture: T.S. Eliot reads from "The Wasteland"

Nice to hear it from the poet.  "I will show you fear in a handful of dust. . ."

And hearing it, I had forgotten the quotation from Baudelaire:

from "Au Lecteur"
Charles Baudelaire

C'est l'Ennui!—l'oeil chargé d'un pleur involontaire,
Il rêve d'échafauds en fumant son houka.
Tu le connais, lecteur, ce monstre délicat,
—Hypocrite lecteur,—mon semblable,—mon frère!Ennui! That monster frail!—With eye wherein
A chance tear gleams, he dreams of gibbets, while
Smoking his hookah, with a dainty smile. . .
—You know him, reader,—hypocrite,—my twin! (Three poems available here.)

Emotions in Decisions

One of my chief conflicts with Catholicism (despite the fact the I am and remain a Catholic) and with many people in it is not, contrary to what many would have you believe, anti-intellectualism, but a stringent, austere, and deadening anti-emotionalism.  If you should bring an emotional datum into an argument, no matter how pertinent the response is nearly always, "Reason must triumph."  It is refreshing to reflect on the passages below to realize that the triumph of reason is, in fact, the triumph of the emotional life.  The two strands cannot so easily be parted.  The human entity is not intellect and/or emotion but intellect entwined in emotion.  To deny the emotional life is to deny the intellectual life, as these passages demonstrate.

How We Decide
Jonah Lehrer

The simple idea connecting Plato’s philosophy to cognitive psychology is the privileging of reason over emotion. It’s easy to understand why this vision has endured for so long. It raises Homo sapiens above every o…