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Showing posts from July, 2010

James Reeves

One Way to Take Care of Annoying Politicians

Today's Today in History blurb was worth making more of--The First Defenestration of Prague.

The ALS Gold Medal

Let's Call It An Asian Day

The sets are glassy,
the water a tepid 86 or better,

and we have


1 maxim and 5 haikus, courtesy of Issa

let us not forget the Lilliput Review Archive

and one of Kenzaburo Oe's triumphs

Of this last, one is tempted, knowing of Oe-san's own life to call it autobiographical--but I think better would be speculative autobiography or projected autobiography. 

One is instructed well by listening to the piano compositions of Oe-san's remarkable son Hikari  and here and here

Excerpt:



Oe's novels gained new vitality as he attempted to give voice to his son who never learned to speak beyond a few limited words. The father spoke of his personal challenges saying that while that living with a child with a disability brought suffering to him, his son taught him invaluable lessons, and gradually the "burden" became a gift. The son gave meaning to the father's life. Kenzuburo Oe went on to reach the pinnacle of his profession and credits his son for this achieveme…

Those Who Care

already know, and I burden the rest of you by making the point--but new material at ". . . recollected in tranquility. . . "

More Interviews--Tom Rachman

Beyond Black--A Review

At Biblioklept, a review of Beyond Black

I may be one of the very few who did not think that Wolf Hall was all that.  I hold to my original opinion.  The writing and the technique tended toward a murkiness that added nothing to the overall story.  I did not find her prose enthralling as many seem to have done.  All that said, I must also add that I thoroughly enjoyed Wolf Hall and look forward to what is coming next.  And I've also eyed this book frequently.  Biblioklept's review makes me think that it might be well worthwhile to spend some time with it.

Gabriel Josipovici Wins Friends and Influences people

More Authors Comment

Martin Amis on Euthanasia

via Books Inq.

If You Are Not Aware. . . .

Of Wolframalpha, you should be.

A research engine of apparently enormous power.  A list of research topics by example includes:

mathematics, dates & time, statistical analysis, physics, chemistry, astronomy, engineering, life science, earth science, culture & media, people & history, word & linguistics.

Better yet, for those of you who can use it--it's available as a $2.00 iPhone or iPad app.  A lot of the information is along the lines of what is available in a dictionary or numerical table--but still a nice first place to go.

Go, enjoy.  (Try entering your birthdate)

Books, Books, and more Books: Wordsworth Reflects

from The Prelude Book V
William Wordsworth

A precious treasure had I long possessed,
A little yellow, canvas-covered book,
A slender abstract of the Arabian tales;
And, from companions in a new abode,
When first I learnt, that this dear prize of mine
Was but a block hewn from a mighty quarry—
That there were four large volumes, laden all
With kindred matter, 'twas to me, in truth,
A promise scarcely earthly. Instantly,
With one not richer than myself, I made
A covenant that each should lay aside
The moneys he possessed, and hoard up more,
Till our joint savings had amassed enough
To make this book our own. Through several months,
In spite of all temptation, we preserved
Religiously that vow; but firmness failed,
Nor were we ever masters of our wish.

And when thereafter to my father's house
The holidays returned me, there to find
That golden store of books which I had left,
What joy was mine! How often in the course
Of those glad respites, though a soft west wind
Ruffled the wat…

New Poetry

Interview! Interview!

Hemingway Look-Alike

Science Fiction--Two Lists

Zora Neal Hurston

I live a few miles away from her Florida home (Eatonville), but the LOA blog below (given ZNH's association with Marie Laveau, how appropriate) has a video of Ms. Hurston's Ethnographic work.

LOA

I just like the idea of loas.

But this means Library of America has a blog.

(via Books Inq.)

Why Do We Continue to Reward This Kind of Behavior

Nay, not continue, but positively beg for it.  Less than Zero was a sensation--fresh new, daring, a little frightening.  Imperial Bedrooms--the website, tells us much about how far we have . . . 

You supply the word.

The Song of Hiawatha

The New Crop of Literary Awards

Powers of Ten

"Is That Your Blood?"

"Oh . . . yes . . .  some of it."

The Jane Austen Fight Club

Alex and His Droogs (redux)

Shelf Life discovers one of the many delights and interesting points of Anthony Burgess's A Clockwork Orange.

I reread this book periodically, always dazzled by its aplomb; but I almost never walk away without thinking how Kubrick vastly improved the work by leaving off the last (in the British publication) chapter.  I read a rather hurt and pointed commentary from Burgess in a later restored American version that argued for the flaccid ending of the work.  But every summer, when the wife is visiting her parents with son, I watch once again that masterpiece of cinema and dwell for a moment in Kubrick's misanthropic vision.  Burgess's own is not so misanthropic--although certainly dealing with the issues of free will and what defines a person--the last chapter is, in some ways redemptive--but unfortunately so cursory.

An Older Poem

Working through the journals and gathered remnants last night, I came upon a poem of which I had no recollection whatsoever.  That is indeed a rare delight--normally I have some sense of it, some idea that it exists.  But not so with "The Four Loves"  present for those who care to make the journey.

And After the Smackdown--Some Tenderness

William Wordsworth has an enhanced sense of childhood and youth, to say the least.  His image of that innocent time propels much of what he writes, including this lengthy autobiographical poem.  But rarely is what he has to say said so beautifully as in today's passage.

from The Prelude Book 5
William Wordsworth

There was a Boy: ye knew him well, ye cliffs
And islands of Winander!—many a time
At evening, when the earliest stars began
To move along the edges of the hills,
Rising or setting, would he stand alone
Beneath the trees or by the glimmering lake,
And there, with fingers interwoven, both hands
Pressed closely palm to palm, and to his mouth
Uplifted, he, as through an instrument,
Blew mimic hootings to the silent owls,
That they might answer him; and they would shout
Across the watery vale, and shout again,
Responsive to his call, with quivering peals,
And long halloos and screams, and echoes loud,
Redoubled and redoubled, concourse wild
Of jocund din; and, when a lengthened p…

More Poetry

Poem of the Week--Robert Browning

"Two in the Campagna"

There is always a difficulty in representing the inimitable and magnificent Robert Browning--dramatic monologue, lyrical?  What to choose.  This would not have been my choice (for short lyric/dramatic, I would have selected "Caliban upon Setebos"--however, I recognize that would present some background difficulties for some readers--and the purpose of the series is to present poetry that does not make inordinate demands for background knowledge.

One thing I can say is that this presents a lovely complementary view that parallels, in some ways, The Sonnets from the Portuguese.

I'm seriously considering the next lengthy poem I may undertake to gloss might be The Ring and the Book. For lack of a better description--a novel in verse running to some 500 pages.  And much of it exquisitely beautiful in the way that only Browning can be.

By the way, I love this series of poems (Poem of the Week)--not because they are always the best poems to prese…

For Those Who Are More Wires than Flesh and Bone

I Really Love the Codex Seraphinianus

Two Poems Today

"And, in this corner, William Wordsworth. . . "

Today, a major Wordsworthian Smackdown.  There are several such in the work at large, most are sort of gentle remonstrances, but this one is pretty forceful in its thrust.

from The Prelude Book 5
William Wordsworth

These mighty workmen of our later age,
Who, with a broad highway, have overbridged
The froward chaos of futurity,
Tamed to their bidding; they who have the skill
To manage books, and things, and make them act
On infant minds as surely as the sun
Deals with a flower; the keepers of our time,
The guides and wardens of our faculties,
Sages who in their prescience would control
All accidents, and to the very road
Which they have fashioned would confine us down,
Like engines; when will their presumption learn,
That in the unreasoning progress of the world
A wiser spirit is at work for us,
A better eye than theirs, most prodigal
Of blessings, and most studious of our good,
Even in what seem our most unfruitful hours?
And I guess I would join my voice to Wordsworth's here and sa…

Blogging Unpredictable

While I have much to blog--Wordsworth, Barrett Browning and other things, time has been limited because I've recently received an iPad that I've had to become acquainted with for things happening at work.  A marvelous and frustrating machine--combining both the remarkable world of entertainment and the possible world of larger functionality.  I would say at the moment it is not ready for primetime as one's laptop--(no ability to have multiple screens, etc.  But as a palm-like device, instantly ready, it has some interest.  As an e-reader it has the considerable disadvantage of large weight--it does not rest easy in the palm, as it were.

The Reason for Less Blogging

More on David Mitchell

New Audio Archive

Dylan Thomas Reading

Draft of a Draft

Sherlock Holmes's Creator Online

Mitchell Interview

More poetry

The Great Pain of Self-Centeredness

If you stand at the center of the circle, it's hard not to think that everything in the world goes about you.

from The Prelude Book V
William Wordsworth

                My drift I fear
Is scarcely obvious; but, that common sense
May try this modern system by its fruits,
Leave let me take to place before her sight
A specimen pourtrayed with faithful hand.
Full early trained to worship seemliness,
This model of a child is never known
To mix in quarrels; that were far beneath
Its dignity; with gifts he bubbles o'er
As generous as a fountain; selfishness
May not come near him, nor the little throng
Of flitting pleasures tempt him from his path;
The wandering beggars propagate his name,
Dumb creatures find him tender as a nun,
And natural or supernatural fear,
Unless it leap upon him in a dream,
Touches him not. To enhance the wonder, see
How arch his notices, how nice his sense
Of the ridiculous; not blind is he
To the broad follies of the licensed world,
Yet innocent himself withal…

Poem of the Week--"The Candle"

As the editor notes in the article Katherine Mansfield is not known for her poetry; however, this small poem has a charm and a simplicity that resonate.  It is more like a prose poem broken into lines, but well worth your time.  As a bonus there is a link to an online version of Ms. Mansfield's "Prelude."

Father Fiction--Donald Miller

I have to start this review by noting that I am obviously not within the demographic for it.  Mr. Miller is writing for College Freshmen, and perhaps even younger men. As a result the language is loosely constructed, more like improvised speech with odd moments of even stranger humor--stuff that might appeal to college or late high school young men.  And I should note that this book holds very little of interest to women.  It is a book written by a man for men who are struggling with issues of dealing with their own fathers.  As such, it may be of interest to a majority of men of my generation--or perhaps of any generation--men being men, I doubt a generation makes much difference in the matter of fatherly participation in the lives of their offspring.

Mr. Miller grew up without a father in the house at all--a common enough experience, I expect--and perhaps a step better than those who grew up with a succession of step-fathers or "father" figures. However, a father can be ab…

Authors Read Their Works

Open Culture has a list of authors reading from their own works.

Also included are some celebrity performances.  Authors include Faulkner reading As I Lay Dying, Joyce reading from Finnegans Wake, and Wallace Stevens reading his own poetry.

Eudora Welty Speaks

The Passage--Not Yet

More on David Mitchell

From the Indigenous People of Australia

The indigenous peoples of Australia have given me some of my favorite works of art--Peter Weil's magnificent The Last Wave, the music of the didgeridoo, Werner Herzog's Where the Green Ants Dream, and several books whose titles I cannot recall--these are all derivative works, which led me so seek out the originals--and now Whispering Gums shares with us another reason for celebrating the diversity and wonder of all peoples.

New Additions to the Meaningful Menagerie

It occurred to me, while thinking about the topic linking some of my most recent writing and some of my inquiries into the world of possible topics that the beginning list could expand considerably.  And because that is so, I thought I'd list a couple of topics of interest

Tullymonstrum gregarium (shown here as a fossil along with many other lovely Mazon Creek fossils--and here as a reconstruction)

Hallucigenia sparsa--shown here with some of the other lovely members of the Burgess Shale fauna (and other Early Cambrian animals)  and here as a fossil

Brockosystis clintonensis--sorry no picture

Jaekelopterus rhenaniae--I think we'll just generalize and call them Eurypterids--or perhaps we'll go with one with which I had a close personal encounter near Rochester, New York--Pterygotus buffaloensis

The wonderful, the marvelous, the elegant, and the enormous state fossil of Ohio Isotelus, probably in its manifestation as I. gigas, but shown here among others of its kind to emphasis …

Meaningful Menagerie II

After a long evening of casting about and writing and rewriting lines that went nowhere, I have a draft of a small poem--Noctiluca scintillans.  

Noctiluca scintallans is among the loveliest of dinoflagellates, both in personal appearance and in effect. It is indeed part of the mysterious and meaningful menagerie that surrounds us all and of which we are too often unaware.

Poetry Online

Many poets publish online.  One of them kindly left me a comment which allow me to find this interesting and often stunning collection.  Do yourself a favor and check out Rain: A Dust Bowl Story.

What is it?  A novel in verse, a new Spoon River Anthology.  Many associations leap to mind.  I hope the blogmaster won't mind if I excerpt something at random to give you a sense of what you can expect:

from Rain: A Dust Bowl Story
"14. Playtime"

The boys played in their daddies’ shadows,
Freely–for these grown-ups,
Unlike mamas, did not listen
To the random nasty word,
Or the stories they portrayed.
They tumbled
Through long-legged overalls,
Swift to duck the clutches,
Scrambling, of a tall boy
Picked as the Town Drunk:
He stalked stiff, a roaring
Frankenstein. They shrieked,
Scattered, fired with finger-guns.
They would not kill him,
But captured him
And locked him up.

From their circle,
Girls glanced with disdain,
Then down to business.
First, from someone’s pocket,
Stub of c…

William Faulkner Audio Archive

Just Because It Is Lovely

from The Prelude Book V
William Wordsworth

Great and benign, indeed, must be the power
Of living nature, which could thus so long
Detain me from the best of other guides
And dearest helpers, left unthanked, unpraised,
Even in the time of lisping infancy;
And later down, in prattling childhood even,
While I was travelling back among those days,
How could I ever play an ingrate's part?
Once more should I have made those bowers resound,
By intermingling strains of thankfulness
With their own thoughtless melodies
You really don't need me to talk you through it--it's just a lovely thought nicely expressed.

Call It a Catalogue

I call them Meaningful Menagerie:


Laernodiscus porcellanae--see poem previously referenced--first in series
Amblipygid
Solifugid
Tardigrade
Vestimentiferan
Loriciferan
Appendicularian
caecilian


Elaborated Echinoderms:
Cystoid
Blastoid,
Edrioasteroid,
Cyclosystoid,
Helicoplacoid
(I'm still looking for one here--a new species perhaps a new subphylum of things found in sunken logs off the coast of New Zealand some time ago.)

Later:  ah--there it is

Xyloplax medusiformis
Concentricycloidea

I'm well aware that they aren't at the same taxonomic level nor within the same grade of clade,  but this is a list that starts the idea

A Draft

Travelogue with Art

I Need a Moment of Light

Bad day yesterday--not looking good today--so something to brighten the day:

John Polkinghorne and God in the Gaps

Chaos theory and God.

Thanks to Books Inq.

Hendrix and Pepper

Jimi Hendrix plays "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band"  in a way that only he can.

Contrast the amazing energy of the guitar with the curiously lax vocals--very much a sixties phenomenon.

Conrad's Other Work

A consideration of The Secret Agent--a strangely relevant book for our times.  And even if not, a cracking good read on many levels.

Freud or William James?

Poetry from New Zealand

At Reading for Believers, one of the bloggers is posting a series of excerpts from the poetry of James K Baxter.  Start with the linked poem and then browse more recent entries for more poetry and commentary--worth your time!

I really loved the poem from which this is excerpted:

Now I see you conquer age
As the prow of a canoe beats down
The plumes of Tangaroa.


Read the whole thing here: He Waiata mo Te Kare

Another Blog New to Me

Yesterday I was made aware of a very nice blog combining a commonplace book on writing along with the blog author's own reflections.  If you are interested in the art of writing, you might do well to spend some time at Thoughts on Fiction Writing.

"And wilt thou have me fashion into speech. . . :

from Sonnets from the Portuguese
Elizabeth Barrett Browning

And wilt thou have me fashion into speech
The love I bear thee, finding words enough,
And hold the torch out, while the winds are rough,
Between our faces, to cast light on each?---
I drop it at thy feet. I cannot teach
My hand to hold my spirit so far off
From myself---me---that I should bring thee proof
In words, of love hid in me out of reach.
Nay, let the silence of my womanhood
Commend my woman-love to thy belief,---
Seeing that I stand unwon, however wooed,
And rend the garment of my life, in brief,
By a most dauntless, voiceless fortitude,
Lest one touch of this heart convey its grief.
Mrs. Browning was more or less forbidden by her father to see Robert.  She saw him nevertheless and they carried on a courtship by correspondence and furtive meeting.  But Elizabeth also carried with her a great many burdens and wounds and while she knew she was wooed and she knew that she was loved, she found it difficult to a…

Perfect Irony: Absolute Hilarity

Image
I take the tirade/ranting from the last post and paste it into the magical engine and voila!:



I write like
Vladimir Nabokov I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Oh, I should have noted---via Scruffulans Hirsutus

Were it not for the sublime synchronicity, I probably would not have posted this.  It is worth noting that the engine used returns reliably the same result on the same swath of prose (that is it is a fake front for a randomly generated engine).  (I ran this and each of five others nine times each in different orders through the engine and reliably got the same result for each post:  variously: James Joyce, H. P. Lovecraft, Raymond Chandler, Dan Brown, Vladimir (as above), and Stephen King.  Very, very amusing lunchtime pass-time. 

The reason for this one is, most likely, the repeated use of Nabokov titles.  The others I haven't been able to figure out a reason for.

A Consideration of American Psycho

American Psycho in Retrospect

and another

Decide for yourselves--what follows is merely my own intuition and opinion about the harm this and other works of "literature" can cause.  I'm willing to say that I am possibly wrong.  I'm willing to say equally that I may disagree with those who take the opposite point of view, but I do not have any animus toward the arguments made in their favor.  But I cannot overcome my moral repugnance at some subject matter.  So, beware, statements that follow may be hyperbole and overstatement--though I've tried to keep them relatively cool and level.  I would be happy for any demurrals or any arguments that would persuade me to see the books discussed otherwise, but the horror in which I regard certain moral transgressions against innocents will be difficult if not impossible to overcome.

This particular book just gives me the opportunity to discuss a general feeling I have about books and subject matter.  Just as with Lolita, I f…

Tarkovsky Online Again

Some of these Tarkovsky films, Solaris notably, are available from the Criterion Collection which makes this a wonderful opportunity to see the work of one of the great Auteurs. (The Criterion Collection provides English Subtitles).  What a wonderful opportunity!

Reflections on Pi

LIfe of Pi revived

Whatever else may be said of it, it was certainly a far better book than Mr. Martel's most recent opus.

The Dream of the Arab and Euclid

The profound difficulty of The Prelude is, sometimes, trying to excerpt it.  There is nothing extraneous, nothing extra--every word plays its role, every sentence has its place.  That is true of any well-constructed work of art.  So I suppose I should caution the reader (although at this late date it may come as too little too late), the selection of passages is not to indicate in any way that these are the only ones worth reading, nor even that these are the great highlights of the work.  Rather, they should be read merely as a record of things that struck me as I was reading--struck me enough to note them and want to come back to them.  My real commonplace book would be completely full of nothing but Wordsworth were I to transcribe to them everything I felt worthy of transcription.  And so this is necessarily a skip over the surface--a skip that I hope encourages more readers to take up this work and to challenge themselves with tackling a book-length work of poetry.

The passage I q…

"Parts of Ulysses Are Tedious"

Well let's just say that Mr. Anthony is not going to be getting any Club Joyce awards this week.

On the other hand, congratulations are due to him on finishing the book.  And also on recognizing that, like every work of art, Ulysses has its weak moments, its moments of churlish self-indulgence, its moments of its author being in love with the endeavor more than with the finished art.  That said, for all of its imperfections, Ulysses still stands at the head of the modernist novel, and as the font from which much of the twentieth century draws its art.  It would be an exaggeration, though I suspect not much of one to say that the 20th century literary novel is either a response to or an imitation of all or parts of Ulysses.  Its influence cannot be overstated.  (How's that for hyperbole?)

Congratulations on completing the book!  Another common reader (by which I mean merely, not a Joycean Scholar) has shown that Ulysses really is a book for anyone who cares to take it on (it is…

From the Year of Henry James

An Appreciation of One of Our Better Recent Poet Laureates

Poem of the Week--"Jasmine"

On (Re-)Reading Melville

Admonishment to Fathers

We continue on our theme--because the book is entirely about the theme--of what it means to grow up without a father.

from Father Fiction
Donald Miller

Because I didn't have a father, I felt there was a club of men I didn't belong to. I would have never admitted it at the time, but I wanted to belong. I desperately wanted to belong. At the father-and-son campout, I knew Matt wasn't my dad, and I knew he probably didn't want to be there. I knew he was slightly embarrassed that in a group of men who were bonding with their sons, he was walking around with a charity case. I couldn't have put words to it back then, but I felt it. Every time I met an older man, I assumed we would not like me and would not want me around. I felt as though all the men in the world secretly met in some warehouse late at night to talk about man things, to have secret handshakes, to discuss how great it was to have a penis and what an easy thing it was to operate, how to throw a football or a …

Metamorphosis in African Gray

I don't know how this book will turn out--the premise is unique, the introduction, oblique, and the title while not unique, is reminiscent of a story in Arthur C. Clarke's Tales from the White Hart.

from The Defenestration of Bob T. Hash III
David Deans

The only place where anything fun ever seems to happen in the Acme language course book Forward with English! is in the section known as Everyday Accidents and Domestic Mishaps. To illustrate what an everyday accident or domestic mishap might consist of, various familiar and generally very careful picture book characters volunteer themselves as the unwitting victims of a moment's dapper imprudence. We wince at the sight of a chin getting scratched by a razor in a bathroom mirror, we gasp at fingers straying too near the burner of a kitchen stove, we chuckle at the picture of a fedora hat (Br. Eng.: "trilby") getting whisked off into a neighbor's hedge by a freak gust of wind; while the sight of a parrot suddenly…

Pointed Words Pointedly Pointed

I try to keep this blog G.  Maybe I venture into PG, but I'm afraid, in order to make my point the selection below must be regarded as PG-13, perhaps R.  But it's worth it.

from "Yours Will Do Nicely"
in Death Is Not an Option
Suzanne Rivecca

I could tell he was searching for an answer that would please me. "I don't know," he breathed, then kissed my face. "It's great. It's like I can feel you all around me."

I lowered my sweaty forehead to his shoulder and a sound came out, strangled and too weak for the feeling behind it, the sound you make in a dream where you try to scream and can't.  I was jealous. I wanted to feel myself all around me. What struck me about this the first time I read it was the poignancy of the last sentence.  The second time through, it seemed that the poignancy was finely balanced against an acerbic sense of humor signaled by the second-to-last sentence.  It's an ironic sentence, and I'll be the first …

Infinite Zombies v. Ulysses

Infinite Zombies v. Ulysses with a side of Interview

Robert Berry of Ulysses Seen is interviewed.  I link to the top of the page because there appears to be much here worthy of time an attention.

The Annoying, but Occasionally Insightful

from Father Fiction
Donald Miller

Here is how this broke down after having thought about it for a long time: I used to feel a kind of hopelessness about life. I assumed life was against me, that whatever bad could happen to a person was going to happen to me, It was as though there was a current I was swimming against. But it was studying this passage that changed some of that thinking. God is fathering me. God is fathering us. I know that if God loves me and wants me to succeed as much as John loves his kids and wants them to succeed, then life cannot be hopeless.

But another idea that occurred to me was I needed to change the way I understand spirituality. What I mean is, I need to allow God to father me. I needed to acknowledge him as Father and submit. Traditional language might use the term repentance. In part, this meant admitting I wanted autonomy from God, admitting I waned my own way, and asking him to change my heart. One of the issue I deal with having grown up without a fat…

Sonnets: If We Knew Not the Genesis. . .

If we did not know the genesis of the Sonnets from the Portuguese, we would be tempted to read them quite a different way--as in today's example, following closely on the heels of the last two.

from Sonnets from the Portuguese
Elizabeth Barrett Browning

XII
Indeed this very love which is my boast,
And which, when rising up from breast to brow,
Doth crown me with a ruby large enow
To draw men's eyes and prove the inner cost,---
This love even, all my worth, to the uttermost,
I should not love withal, unless that thou
Hadst set me an example, shown me how,
When first thine earnest eyes with mine were crossed,
And love called love. And thus, I cannot speak
Of love even, as a good thing of my own:
Thy soul hath snatched up mine all faint and weak,
And placed it by thee on a golden throne,---
And that I love (O soul, we must be meek!)
Is by thee only, whom I love alone.  Consider the poem without Robert Browning.  Who then might Elizabeth be writing to here.  She says that …

Spontaneous Expressions of Faith

More Swedish Girls

Climate Science Redux

possibly from Books Inq?

Climate Deniers--Public Enemies Nos. 1-496

So science becomes dogma.  Or should I say reveals the truly dogmatic that has always been just below the surface.

Hannibal in History

EAP--Best Discovered Young--Cherished for Life

Edgar Allan Poe and childhood nightmares

I remember going to the library at a very young age--perhaps fourth or fifth grade and the librarian reading to us. . . "The Tell-Tale Heart."  In fact, while writing this, I put on the first of the Alan Parson's Project's albums "Tales of Mystery and the Imagination."  But I have not forgotten the cold blue eye that so haunted the protagonist.

Harold Bloom despises Poe, balks at his entry into the canon, rails at both his prose and poetry--and I suppose it would be like coming late to the party for H. P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, Robert Howard, Richard Wagner, or an number of less-than-salutary habits often acquired in one's teen years.  All I can say is that if you have failed to acquire the taste, you have truly missed out on some of the great delights available in literature; however, there is a Golden Age for nearly every writer, and sometimes that age has passed or not yet come for an individual.  I…

The Person of Father

Donald Miller is a writer of "religious" or spiritual material that reflects (at least in this one book) on the meaning of fatherhood and how that permeates one's notion of God.

from Father Fiction
Donald Miller

And conversely, you can't blame a kid for feeling unwanted if his father takes off.   If you think about it, God gives a father a specific instinct that makes him love his kid more than anything in the world. I suppose that same instinct was floating around my father's brain, too, but for whatever reason he took one look at me and split. Even the instinct God gave him wasn't strong enough to make my dad stay. And that has made me feel, at times, there is this detestable person living within my skin who makes people feel as though they must carry me on their backs. Walking through the park one night I realized I was operating out of a feeling of inferiority. Deep inside, I believe life was for other people--that joy was for others and responsibility was …

A Note on Spirituality

from The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything
James Martin SJ

A spirituality is like a bridge. Every bridge does pretty much the same thing--gets you from one place to another, sometimes over perilous ground, or a river, or great heights. But they do so in different ways. They might be built of rope, wood, bricks, stone, or steel, as arches, cantilevers, or suspension bridges. "Hence," writes Father de Buibert, "there will be a series of different types with each one having its advantages and disadvantages. Each one is adaptable to given terrains and contours and not to others; yet each one in its own way achieves the common purpose--to provide a passage by means of an organic, balanced combination of materials and shapes."

Every spirituality offers you a distinctive "passage" to God.

A Reflection on the Arts

from Death in Venice
Thomas Mann

Verily it is well for the world that it sees only the beauty of the completed work and not its origins nor the conditions whence it sprang; since knowledge of the artist's inspiration might often but confuse and alarm and so prevent the full effect of its excellence. Strange hours, indeed, these were and strangely unnerving the labour that filled them! Strangely fruitful intercourse this, between one body and another mind! When Aschenbach put aside his work and left the beach he felt exhausted, he felt broken--conscience reproached him, as it were after a debauch.

Alex Ross on Music

Reprint Time-- The Rest Is Noise Alex Ross

The Rest is Noise--Alex Ross  on April 8, 2009 Serialism, atonalism, 12-tonalism, spectralism, minimalism, polytonalism, microtonalism, whole tonalism, tritones, open fifths, symphonies, sonatas, and music concrete. If you've ever wanted to understand classical music in the twentieth century, this book may be for you. Alex Ross introduces us to the wild world of twentieth and twenty-first century music--from Schoenberg's Harmoniolehre to John Adams's Harmoniolehre and Nixon in China. Along the way we have whole chapter divergences into the work of Jean Sibelius and Benjamin Britten.

I have to admit to not fully comprehending all that the book had to offer by way of commentary. Nevertheless, Ross opened my eyes to some of the developments within music and made me more inclined to try to understand and appreciate what had happened in this century. The book starts with Debussy, Ravel, Les Six, and Stravinsky and moves chronologically through the c…

Future Reading

From The Millions--books to look forward to (or dread) this summer

Both C (Tom McCarthy) and Now Listen to This (by Alex Ross, whose first book The Rest is Noise is a splendid guide to 20th Century Classical music and its influence) caught my attention.

Oh and a Pevear and Volkhonsky Doctor Zhivago!

Having a Mahler Moment

New American Poetry

via Dark Speech Upon the Harp

A review of the Best American Poetry: 2009

José Saramago: The Paris Review

A Paradigm of Love

from Sonnets from the Portuguese
Elizabeth Barrett Browning

XI

And therefore if to love can be desert,
I am not all unworthy. Cheeks as pale
As these you see, and trembling knees that fail
To bear the burden of a heavy heart,---
This weary minstrel-life that once was girt
To climb Aornus, and can scarce avail
To pipe now 'gainst the valley nightingale
A melancholy music,---why advert
To these things? O Belovèd, it is plain
I am not of thy worth nor for thy place!
And yet, because I love thee, I obtain
From that same love this vindicating grace,
To live on still in love, and yet in vain,---
To bless thee, yet renounce thee to thy face. The one who is loved protests that she is unworthy of love--a barren desert--a weary wandering life  ("this minstrel life that once was girt//to climb Aornus. . ."  Aornus is a mountain fortress in India that was captured as Alexander the Great invaded.  So what was once bound for glory is barren, empty, and alone. 

However, the la…

In Memory, Yet Green

You thought you had been spared.  You thought that the weary blogkeeper had forgotten his lengthy sojourn with the poet and you would hear no more from him (blogkeeper or poet).  Indeed, you thought, it is safe once again to venture by, for it has been many a day since last I saw or sensed a vestige of a poem.  Alas, for you, poor self-deceived reader who so willingly succumbs to that sense of security that creeps in when hazards have been in abeyance for some time.  For once again it is time and more than time for me to trot out the words of Mr. Wordsworth for your delight and edification; this time we sample from Book V, called "Books."

from The Prelude Book V
William Wordsworth

When Contemplation, like the night-calm felt
Through earth and sky, spreads widely, and sends deep
Into the soul its tranquillising power,
Even then I sometimes grieve for thee, O Man,
Earth's paramount Creature! not so much for woes
That thou endurest; heavy though that weight be,
Cloud-like it …

For Those Who Know only Dukas's Apprentice

First movement of the Piano Sonata in E flat minor--it's a shame Dukas has so few pieces:



Prélude Élégiaque



And the delightful, beautiful, moving, and rare: Villanelle in this arrangement for French Horn and Piano:

The Rabbi v. Christopher Hitchens

Please keep Mr. Hitchens in your thoughts and prayers as he undergoes treatment for his cancer. As a way of keeping him in mind, I offer this, found at Books Inq.  The Atheist and the Rabbi: Arguing about God with Christopher Hitchens

Cavalier Literary Couture

Books Inq. reminds us of Cavalier Literary Couture--about which I posted last week or so.  However, I just saw this journal on the newstands for the first time, and while I can't vouch for the content, the journal itself is beautifully designed, and presented.  I hope it has a long and lasting life.

One-Hit Wonders

A Short Primer on Sin

It has occurred to me in the recent past that someone should probably put together a short and lively guide called something like The Idiot's Guide to Sin; or perhaps a longer treatise, still in the vernacular, with a title like The Idiot's Guide to God's Love. Too often we are completely lost when it comes to these matters.  And perhaps that explains the remarkable breath of fresh air that blew in as I read the passage recorded below.

from Father Fiction
Donald Miller

"Yeah, I think it's wrong," I started in. "But let's not turn the idea of right and wrong into coloring book material. This is a very complex subject. Sin, if we want to call it sin, is stuff that we do that God doesn't like and the reason he doesn't like it is because he loves us, he is fathering us, and when we sin, we weaken ourselves, we confuse ourselves, we practice immaturity. He doesn't like that, not because he wants to feel powerful or right but because he wants wha…