Showing posts from August, 2010

Jonathan Franzen Considered

The latest novel, but more Jonathan Franzen and the phenomenon of the Literary Novelist at Biblioklept.

I must confess that I am very put off by the gushing of the critics, by the presence on Time, and by Mr. Franzen himself.  But in the short excerpts I have read, I have been very engaged by the novel.  This is one of those cases where the less one knows about the artist, the better one's chances of enjoying the work.  Precisely the reason I will not read biographies of either Matisse or Picasso.  Don't know what their lives were like, but really, really, really, don't want it to spoil my appreciation for their work.

A Dear Dead Poet Friend of Mine

Writing the poem I've written recently, I was put in mind of a poet whom I had thought largely (and unjustly) forgotten.  However, searching for Jay Bradford Fowler Jr.,  I found Psalmbook for the White Butterfly, which you can sample at Google Books.  Please do--I recommend "The Moon Has No Motion I Can Move" and "When the Secret Taper Descends."

New Poem

Richard Feynman Again

Richard Feynman: Fun to Imagine

Feynman shares the joy of physics in just over seven minutes.

What An Odd Poem

"The One Whose Reproach I Cannot Evade"

I remember the comment of a professor I had while taking an advance course in writing poetry.  Remarking on a poem I had written about Rene Magritte, he said, "Seems all very much a worked-up weirdness, not at all like the Magritte I know."  This poem by George Hitchcock seems to nail the surrealist mode precisely.  Not worked up weirdness at all--but weird nonetheless.

A Nice Review of a So-So Movie


I post this mostly because AMC ran an Elizabeth Taylor day a week or so ago and I tried, I really tried to sit through this entire thing.  But I didn't manage it.  Her performance may have been magnificent, I can't tell because the whole thing seemed very creaky to me.  I got about halfway through.  So, I admit my failing and move on.

Three Literary Judges

Priest, Schlicter, and Lowe

In the course of discussion touches upon two books by James Gould Cozzens--once quite prominent and many think unjustly neglected today.


Blogging as Business

Let's Celebrate

Lectures on Literature

The Invisible Bridge considered

A review of The Invisible Bridge

Again, one of those books I've started and lingered over so long as to defy imagination, but which I DO intend to return to and complete.  Everything about it was compelling, even the things that I had problems. with.

Review: Tom McCarthy's C

C reviewed.

I haven't managed to get through my first Tom McCarthy yet.  Not because it wasn't good, but just because there is so much out there to read and keep track of--the question for any modern work must be, is it good enough?

Houellebecq Considered

Poem of the Week--"The Pier"

"The Pier" by Vona Groarke

Said to be a young Irish poet, I do not know if the name is Irish; however, if so, and if it follows the normal rules of Irish orthography, I think the name is pronounced somewhat like a cross between Kay Ryan and Mary Oliver.  Perhaps Kay Oliver. 

All joking aside, the poem is robust, delightful, powerful in its spirit and in the capture of sheer joy and exuberance.  Go, enjoy!

On Musicians

from "Music of the Hemispheres"
Rachel Ehrenberg
in Science News,  Augsut 14, 2010: Vol. 178, No. 4

"It's one of the most complicated tasks that we have," Levintin says. "Take a symphony orchestra. What you have is 80 or 100 of the most highly trained members of our society--more highly trained than astronauts or surgeons in terms of the numbers of hours and years of preparation--and they are performing the works of some of the greatest minds that ever lived. It's really extraordinary."

A Yiyun Li Short

The Preface-Poem to Melancholy

From The Anatomy of Melancholy
Robert BurtonTHE AUTHOR'S ABSTRACT OF MELANCHOLY, ΔιαλογῶςWhen I go musing all alone Thinking of divers things fore-known. When I build castles in the air, Void of sorrow and void of fear, Pleasing myself with phantasms sweet, Methinks the time runs very fleet.   All my joys to this are folly,   Naught so sweet as melancholy. When I lie waking all alone, Recounting what I have ill done, My thoughts on me then tyrannise, Fear and sorrow me surprise, Whether I tarry still or go, Methinks the time moves very slow.   All my griefs to this are jolly,   Naught so mad as melancholy. When to myself I act and smile, With pleasing thoughts the time beguile, By a brook side or wood so green, Unheard, unsought for, or unseen, A thousand pleasures do me bless, And crown my soul with happiness.   All my joys besides are folly,   None so sweet as melancholy. When I lie, sit, or walk alone, I sigh, I grieve, making great moan, In a dark grove, or irksome den, With discontents and Furies then, A…

From The Anatomy of Melancholy

from The Anatomy of Melancholy
Robert Burton

Great travail is created for all men, and an heavy yoke on the sons of Adam, from the day that they go out of their mother's womb, unto that day they return to the mother of all things. Namely, their thoughts, and fear of their hearts, and their imagination of things they wait for, and the day of death. From him that sitteth in the glorious throne, to him that sitteth beneath in the earth and ashes; from him that is clothed in blue silk and weareth a crown, to him that is clothed in simple linen. Wrath, envy, trouble, and unquietness, and fear of death, and rigour, and strife, and such things come to both man and beast, but sevenfold to the ungodly. All this befalls him in this life, and peradventure eternal misery in the life to come.
To indulge in the complete work see this lovely Gutenberg, newly edited edition of The Anatomy of Melancholy


It's a Great Relief

Two Chapters of Franzen

Two chapters of Franzen's Freedom

For the record, I don't think he's a genius, even while I like his books--and every word out of his mouth makes me want to send him to Dafar to get a little taste of reality before he utters another syllable.  But, if the work is good, it is--I'll wait and see.

A Different View of the Holocaust

Shelf Love, rapidly becoming a favorite place to visit, reviews David Mendelsohn's The Lost: A Search for Six of the Six Million.

Again Clarel

A group read afoot of Melville's Clarel If it is as good as reported, it is to be hoped that such publicity makes more well known this, one of Melville's later works.

Spoken Verse

I'm Often Last to the Party

But those who don't already know about it--Pandora Radio is a fascinating project

Go, create your own music station.  It accommodates not only those who would input The Beatles, but also weirdos who put in Gyorgy Ligeti, Bill Nelson, and Brad Paisley to make up one station.  (I will discretely refuse to name names.)

Opera Primer

All the great Operas in 10 minutes

Not nearly as amusing as Anna Russell's magnificent exposition of the Ring Cycle--but still worth a few minutes' indulgence.

More Poetry--chez un ami

Seven random jottings

As so often happens, I find myself silenced in the presence of one whose control of and appreciation for the language results in mere drafts such as these.

And Now A Word From Our Sponsor. . .

from The Tempest, Act IV Scene I
William Shakespeare

Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Ye all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.
My favorite of Shakespeare's plays, and one of my favorite of the speeches within it.  The only one better being Prospero's farewell, an epilogue to Act V:

Now my charms are all o'erthrown,
And what strength I have's mine own,
Which is most faint: now, 'tis true,
I must be here confined by you,
Or sent to Naples. Let me not,
Since I have my dukedom got
And pardon'd the deceiver, dwell
In this bare island by your spell;
But release me from my bands
With the help o…

Interviews with British Authors

More on Sartor Resartus

Eight Poems

The Geometric Proof of the Existence of God

from The Prelude Book VI
William Wordsworth

More frequently from the same source I drew
A pleasure quiet and profound, a sense
Of permanent and universal sway,
And paramount belief; there, recognised
A type, for finite natures, of the one
Supreme Existence, the surpassing life
Which—to the boundaries of space and time,
Of melancholy space and doleful time,
Superior, and incapable of change,
Nor touched by welterings of passion—is,
And hath the name of, God. Transcendent peace
And silence did await upon these thoughts
That were a frequent comfort to my youth.
Ah, but Wordsworth did love his geometry, no matter how poorly mastered.  He saw in its beauty, simplicity and rounds the variety of existence.  He saw in it the permanence that would one infer from its survival from the time of Euclid to today.  What he did not yet know was its "ineluctable modality" and its gorgeous mutability as exhibited by the soaring expressions of Reimann and Lobachevsky (Nikolai Ivanovich--to be p…

A Letter

Fifteen Favorites

Fred lists his favorite SF books

Most of which I concur with (3-5, 8-9, 12, 16 would all be on my list), but to which I would add some of my favorite texts:

The Man in the High Castle--Philip K. Dick
Lord of Light--Roger Zelazny
The Diamond Age--Neal Stephenson

And being an ardent fan of dystopian fiction:
1984--George Orwell
Brave New World--Aldous Huxley

And debatably (not as to favorite, but as to the designation Science Fiction) I would further add:

At the Mountains of Madness--H. P. Lovecraft


Swan Song Robert R. McCammon

But favorites are not necessarily "best"  and I won't make any argument that they are.  I just fine dipping into these, among others, even if I don't read the entire thing is always a source of pleasure.


From Dangerous Idea: The Searchable Josephus

Creationism v. Intelligent Design

A review of one of my favorite books on the subject--Francis Collins's The Language of God.

Cogently, clearly, cleanly, and congenially argued, Francis Collin presents the case against both and for the ability to at once embrace the reality of evolution and the reality of the existence of God. A beautiful book that does more for the age old argument than did Stephen Jay Gould's remarkable and generous Rock of Ages.

J. P. Jones

Nabokov's Short Stories

The Joy of Skepticism

Learning to be a happy skeptic

aka The Nigerian Spam survivor's guide

Numbers and Trends

I love numbers and trends.  That's the second reason for keeping any sort of blog stats. (The main reason is to find interesting places to visit that I might otherwise miss.)

So, in examining my blog stat for several weeks I've noted an overall trend that I have not yet been able to discern the reason for.  Every week the "spike" in the week occurs on Tuesday.  Tuesday tend to have significantly higher visit rates than any other day.  I want to know why.  Are the spiderbots released on Tuesday to do their weekly webbing and indexing tasks--have people recovered from the downer of returning to work and now rejoined the blogging world?  Inquiring minds want to know.

How to Be a Good Literary Loser

Less than Mirthful

Another Bradbury Tribute

For Your Amusement

Wow! News to Me

While compiling the list for the meme in the previous I discovered that in 1935 a movie was made of The Nightlife of the Gods.  Sounds like one I need to seek out, given how much I enjoy Thorne Smith.

Stolen Meme

From A Guy's Moleskine notebook--this "life in titles" meme

(keep in mind, this refers to titles only, not necessarily to content)

In school I was: The Man Who Knew Too Much (G. K. Chesterton)

People might be surprised I’m: The Man Who Walked Through Time (Colin Fletcher)

I will never be: Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolfe (Edward Albee)

My fantasy job is: The Reader (Bernhard Schlink)

At the end of a long day I need: The Nightlife of the Gods (Thorne Smith)

I hate it when: Waiting for Godot (Samuel Beckett)

Wish I had: Peace (Gene Wolfe) or, perhaps Sanctuary (William Faulkner)

My family reunions are: One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (Alexandr Solzhenitsen)

At a party you’d find me with: The Demolished Man (Alfred Bester)

I’ve never been to: The Green Hills of Africa (Ernest Hemingway)

A happy day includes: Dandelion Wine (Ray Bradbury)

Motto I live by: "Much Ado About Nothing" (William Shakespeare)

On my bucket list: The Anatomy of Melancholy (Robert Burton)

In my…

Modernity's Uninvited Guest

Bibliographing Looks at Melville's Poetry

Concerning Clarel

An excerpt from the poem from the Melville Site 

From Clarel
Herman Melville

Yes, long as children feel affright
In darkness, men shall fear a God;
And long as daisies yield delight
Shall see His footprints in the sod.
Is't ignorance? This ignorant state
Science doth but elucidate --
Deepen, enlarge. But though 'twere made
Demonstrable that God is not --
What then? It would not change this lot:
The ghost would haunt, nor could be laid.Yea, ape and angel, strife and old debate --
The harps of heaven and the dreary gongs of hell;
Science the feud can only aggravate --
No umpire she betwixt the chimes and knell:
The running battle of the star and clod
Shall run for ever -- if there be no God.But through such strange illusions have they passed
Who in life's pilgrimage have baffled striven --
Even death may prove unreal at the last,
And stoics be astounded into heaven.Then keep thy heart, though yet but ill-resigned --
Clarel, thy heart, the issues there but mind…

Come, Let Us Worship

At the altar of Jonathan Franzen---if this isn't the most overblown review of a recent book that I've seen, it's certainly a high contender--and the type of thing more likely to alienate me from a work than engage me.

Moral grandeur, Dostoevski, Roth, Bellow, and every superlative that can lace an ecstatic review.  Methinks the review author has truly drunk the Kool-Aid.  I can't imagine how any work can live up to the expectations set up by this review.

One of My All-Time Favorite Poems

And,  malheureusement, terribly appropriate for my present passage.

In a Dark Time
Theodore Roethke

In a dark time, the eye begins to see,
I meet my shadow in the deepening shade;
I hear my echo in the echoing wood--
A lord of nature weeping to a tree,
I live between the heron and the wren,
Beasts of the hill and serpents of the den.

What's madness but nobility of soul
At odds with circumstance? The day's on fire!
I know the purity of pure despair,
My shadow pinned against a sweating wall,
That place among the rocks--is it a cave,
Or winding path? The edge is what I have.

A steady storm of correspondences!
A night flowing with birds, a ragged moon,
And in broad day the midnight come again!
A man goes far to find out what he is--
Death of the self in a long, tearless night,
All natural shapes blazing unnatural light.

Dark,dark my light, and darker my desire.
My soul, like some heat-maddened summer fly,
Keeps buzzing at the sill. Which I is I?
A fallen man, I climb out of my fear.…

Suicide and Homicide

A Review of Memory Wall

Anthony Doerr's Memory Wall reviewed.

And anyone who knows me well or knows me even a bit can imagine how entranced I am and have been with the cover photograph.  Checked the book out of the library and returned without reading.  Which is absolutely NOT a reflection on the book--but on my voracious Library habits.  I ALWAYS check out more than any three people could possibly read in the time.

Richard Stark v. Jonathan Franzen

Sartor Resartus

One of those books you hear about and see on shelves, may even glance at for an idle moment--but never in a billion years would it cross your mind to read it--Thomas Carlyle's novel Sartor Resartus.

Tom McCarthy's C

Happy 90th Mr. Bradbury

August 22, 2010, Mr. Bradbury celebrates his 90th birthday.  He and P.D. James, I believe now are chief members of this very exclusive club of nonagerian writers.

Visting Jerzy Kosinski

Again from Biblioklept--a review of Jerzy Kosinski's Steps.

Biblioklept reminds us. . .

Through the voice of Anthony Burgess--"Youth is not wise."

He doesn't say it--but if my own is any indication--youth tends to arrogance and self-assertion.

Zora Neale Hurston

Jill reports on Jonah's Gourd Vine

Read this, then go to the main site and browse through the other entries on the same.  I live within a few miles of Zora Neale Hurston's childhood home in Eatonville and have not yet visited--my bad.

Moore Moran: Unknown Poet

Unknown poet of the Stanford school, Moore Moran is profiled.

Included is a wonderful poem called "Holy Thursday."  As a student of Yvor Winters, he is in the distinguished company of J. V. Cunningham and Thom Gunn.  But this poem is the first I have read of his work.

Australian Indigenous Writers

Free Textbooks Online

Poem of the Week--"A Trace of Wings"

Another broken-line poem in the Anglo Saxon tradition:  Edwin Morgan's elegy for Basil Bunting.

Written in the Broken Lines

familiar to readers of Anglo Saxon literature and the art of alliterative poetry in general, Quid Pleura offers a reflection on the cave woman and her child:

This cavewoman and her baby make for a vivid pair nearly 200 feet above the cathedral’s north lawn. She’s hard to see; the chip on her shoulder is hard to miss.

Too Cute for School

Tolkien Video

Three New Poems

Lovely Haiku

In a review of William Howard Cohen's To Walk in Seasons

What I really love is the introductory line to the post: Another older book I've read recently to prepare for the fall haiku session 

and I love it because I initially misread it to say: Another older book I've read recently to prepare for the haiku season

I love the thought of a haiku season, which for me, would be any season--but there's something resonant about thinking about haikus in seasons.

I'm entranced by the first of the haiku offered, and amused to the point of an out-right chuckle by the second.  But all of them are strong in their own ways--go and pick your favorite, and if you're inclined to, please let me know which it is.

Hemingway the Poet

Inspired by a recent post at Shelf Love, I took in hand once again Hemingway's most deliberately poetic book, A Moveable Feast and share with you a transcription on one passage that recasts the prose to make of it more of a poetic shape.

From A Moveable Feast: The Restored Edition
Ernest Hemingway


I knew several of the men who fished the fruitful parts of the Seine between the Île St. Louis and the Square du Vert Galent and sometimes, if the day was bright, I would buy a liter of wine and a piece of bread and some sausage and sit in the sun and read one of the books I had bought and watch the fishing.
Recast--still all of Hemingway's words:

I knew several of the men
who fished the fruitful parts of the Seine
between the Île St. Louis
and the Square du Vert Galent
and sometimes, if the day was bright,
I would buy a liter of wine and a piece of bread
and some sausage and sit in the sun
and read one of the books I had bought
and watch the fishing.

Recasting adds absolu…

1984 and Animal Farm Audio

Poetry in Translation

I Had No Idea

That John Cowper Powys composed poetry--I linger around A Glastonbury Romance

"At a Station of the Metro"--Imagism Considered

Let me start with truth in advertising--the Imagist school of poetry is among my very favorite.

The only poem most people encounter by Ezra Pound, "At a Station of the Metro" is also almost the only poem anyone mentions when talking about the imagist school of poetry. As it happens, the imagist school is among my very favorite, largely because it derives much of its power and motivation from what gives most Japanese and Chinese poetry that sense of otherness and serenity that pervades the poetry from the Classical periods.

Imagism prides itself on "not taking sides."  It is the photography of the poetry world.  If there is a charged, "hidden" meaning, it is well hidden.  For example, it is hard to take much from the ambiguous stance of Mr. Pound's opus:

At a Station of The Metro
Ezra Pound

The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
petals on a wet black bough.
What are you to make of this? Is the apparition bad, good?  Are the people bland and shapel…


I noted earlier the link to this anthology site, and having perused a few of the offerings, I'd like to recommend particularly Tim Applegate, ("Blue Iris", in particular)   Tim Barnes (Loved "Winter Fog along the Willamette") and Erik Muller ("With Wang Wei').  I'm sure there are a great many others you will enjoy!

Wordsworth Revisited: Geometry Is the Mother of Invention

Wordsworth had an interest, one might almost say (given the frequency with which reference to it occurs in The Prelude), an obsession with Geometry.  In a certain way, this makes a sort of sense.  Mathematics and mysticism are not all that far apart--an interest in one is often accompanied by an interest in the other. (I take as the most famous example Blaise Pascal--but even from the very beginning--think of the legends of the Pythagorian Cult--the two have been in close proximity.)

from The Prelude Book VI
William Wordsworth

Yet may we not entirely overlook
The pleasure gathered from the rudiments
Of geometric science. Though advanced
In these inquiries, with regret I speak,
No farther than the threshold, there I found
Both elevation and composed delight:
With Indian awe and wonder, ignorance pleased
With its own struggles, did I meditate
On the relation those abstractions bear
To Nature's laws, and by what process led,
Those immaterial agents bowed their heads
Duly to serve the m…

One More from Longfellow

We start with this interesting tidbit from American History:

THE SKELETON IN ARMOR The skeleton of a man wearing a breastplate of brass, a belt made of tubes of the same metal, and lying near some copper arrow-heads, was exhumed at Fall River, Massachusetts, in 1834. The body had been artificially embalmed or else preserved by salts in the soil. His arms and armor suggest Phoenician origin. . . . (source of The Skeleton in Armor)
and Wordsworth's Vision:

The Skeleton in Armor
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Speak! speak! thou fearful guest,
Who, with thy hollow breast
Still in rude armor drest,
Comest to daunt me!
Wrapt not in Eastern balms,
But with thy fleshless palms
Stretched, as if asking alms,
Why dost thou haunt me?"

Then, from those cavernous eyes
Pale flashes seemed to rise,
As when the Northern skies
Gleam in December;
And, like the water's flow
Under December's snow,
Came a dull voice of woe
From the heart's chamber.

"I was a Viking old!
My deeds, though …

Longfellow Revisited

The Poem of the week mentioned our good friend, the much-neglected, much-maligned Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.  I include below one of his more famous poems because it is both a well-wrought poem and a nice complement to Samuel Taylor Coleridge's "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner."  Myth-making at its finest.

The Wreck of the Hesperus Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
It was the schooner Hesperus, That sailed the wintry sea; And the skipper had taken his little daughter, To bear him company. Blue were her eyes as the fairy-flax, Her cheeks like the dawn of day, And her bosom white as the hawthorn buds, That ope in the month of May. The skipper he stood beside the helm, His pipe was in his month, And he watched how the veering flaw did blow The smoke now West, now South. Then up and spake an old Sailor, Had sailed to the Spanish Main, "I pray thee, put into yonder port, For I fear a hurricane. "Last night, the moon had a golden ring, And to-night no moon we see!" T…

The Internet and the Web

via Books Inq.  The Internet and the Web

Being One of the Foremost Fans of Invertebrates

I am delighted to be able to introduce you, however indirectly, to "Important Insects"--here's one where I can truthfully say, I wish I had written this.

An Online Poetry Anthology

Blogalicious has been accepted into


A Cleverness Approaching that of Odysseus Himself

Not Free, but, Perhaps Worthwhile

A Tribute to Frank Kermode and Bernard Knox

Quoting Others

Tea at Trianon, quoting others, but enunciating principles that she has well demonstrated, asks us to consider the importance of kind words in an unkind world.   I hold with her principles so closely that I'm considered something of a misfit--for example, I also hold that a salutation in an e-mail as well as a valedictory is a way of recognizing and honoring the person with whom you are communicating.  I know in business it is an unfashionable idea to consider that a person is deserving of respect, after all we have phrases that range from "resources" to "commodities" to "human capital" to describe those with whom we work; however, if we take just a moment to recognize that when we write, we write to a person--a person who, by virtue only of being a person, is deserving of our respect whether or not that person has chosen to show the same, we are making the world a better place by a small margin.  And all of that selvage eventually adds up to real cap…

Another Review of Thousand Autumns

Hungry Like the Woolf reviews Mitchell's latest and makes some good points, but points that I don't think Mitchell accomplished particularly well in the novel.

Another Enthusiastic Review for Tana French

Faithful Place reviewed

I started one of Ms. French's books--Into the Woods, I think.  The writing was superb, but the subject matter so intense and so deeply disturbing I could not read far into it, even though I desperately wanted to follow the characters.  If ever I find the intestinal fortitude to do so, this is one writer to read.

Some Reflections from Rumi

Ghazal 838Rumiif you pass your night and merge it with dawn for the sake of heart what do you think will happen if the entire world is covered with the blossoms you have labored to plant what do you think will happen if the elixir of life that has been hidden in the dark fills the desert and towns what do you think will happen if because of your generosity and love a few humans find their lives what do you think will happen if you pour an entire jar filled with joyous wine on the head of those already drunk what do you think will happen go my friend bestow your love even on your enemies if you touch their hearts what do you think will happen
Translated by Nader Khalili
Rumi, Fountain of Fire
Cal-Earth, September 1994

In looking for this translation, I stumbled upon an interesting poetry site:  The Poet-Seers

For example, take a look at this excerpt from the Rubaiyat of Rumi.

Or this from Christina Rossetti.

Could There Be a Better Combination?

Reviewing Sarah Waters

Mookse and the Gripes review The Little Stranger--a book that has long been on my "to read" list.

Heaven Knows I Need It!

Aquinas: A Beginner's Guide reviewed at First Things

Everytime I think about my time with Aquinas I am reminded of this anecdote:

from St. Thomas Aquinas: The Dumb Ox
Gilbert Keith Chesterton

A lady I know picked up a book of selections from St. Thomas with a commentary; and began hopefully to read a section with the innocent heading, "The Simplicity of God." She then laid down the book with a sigh and said, "Well, if that's His simplicity, I wonder what His complexity is like."
I also recall, without chagrin, with something approaching simplicity myself (though not in this noble Aquinian sense) remarking on a philosopher's blog when he had solicited comment on a new explanation of God's Simplicity that, "I hadn't realized it had changed."

Michael Chabon

A review of Manhood for Amatuers that makes me think perhaps I ought to take it up again--perhaps my initial queasiness at TMI was a mood-driven alienation.

Some Book Reviews

Book Reviews--mostly of speculative fiction, some of biography, a few religious artifacts thrown in, a nice harvest in all.

I've Changed This One at Least Three Times Today

Meander Plain

It's amazing the way you work and shape and then let lie fallow and wait, and find that there is yet more shaping and moving to do.

Was Franklin a Communist?

This quotation taken from Edmund S. Morgan's Benjamin Franklin is sure to spike the blood pressure in the terminally conservative.  Or perhaps I miscalculate:

"And in a letter to a friend Franklin gave his view that, "what we have above what we can use, is not properly ours, tho' we possess it."

There are a great many ways to read this line, and I suspect that it will rapidly become one of my favorites.

A Treasure from the Comments Box

A happiness from the Happy Catholicre: Joyce

Thanks, Julie!

Maverick Philosopher Considers the Value of Truth

Is truth a value if Materialism is True?  Maverick Philosopher considers the question.

(And afterwards, go back to the top and page down for a fascinating discussion of the mathematics of infinite sets.)

John O'Hara and Laurence Sterne

A Different Nazi History

The Poetry of Melville

Wuthering Expectations looks at "The Maldive Shark"

Even the title of the entry is evocative "Pale ravener of horrible meat."

Another Joyce

I think anyone with even a passing acquaintance with this blog knows that I love Ulysses.  But that fails to cover it--except for the poetry, I love James Joyce's writing.  And A Building Roam gives a nice consideration of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.

On Peter Carey

Frisbee considers Peter Carey as a potential recepient of the Booker Prize.

My one experience with Carey failed to move--and so I'm not certain I'm prone to taking up more--but this most recent novel sounds as though it might have something of interest.

A Hemingway to Remember

Or, how to appreciate Hemingway in one easy step--Shelf Love reviews A Moveable Feast.  For much of my life I have not been a Hemingway fan--one thing or another disturbed me about the writing and the style.  But of recent date I have engaged once again with Hemingway and have discovered, once again, how my blind prejudices and theories had deprived me of the great pleasure of acquaintance with a master writer.  Too often typified as "macho" or "ham-fisted", unsubtle, and unnuanced--one who holds these views would do well to read A Moveable Feast and then reconsider the first novel--The Sun Also Rises.

A Common Lament, too Infrequently Spoken

One of the refreshing things about University Diaries is that the author says unpopular things that need to be spoken.  Take this reflection on the NMSU athletic program.

Having graduated from a University where sports was, if not all, so predominate that one couldn't wrap a thought around academics, I witnessed depredations of education in every sector--from the salaries of the top-paid Professors (some of them winners of the Nobel Prize) to the means used to make certain that key members of the sports teams passed their classes.

An Interview with Rick Moody

Big Think has Rick Moody speaking on the internet, the digital age and literature.

(via Mark Atithakis's American Fiction Notes)

Franklin's View of Sin

from Benjamin Franklin
Edmund S. Morgan

He never came to accept the Bible as a divine revelation or Jesus as the son of God. But he characteristically discover a new basis for Christian morality in the usefulness that was so unhappily missing from what he had earlier taught his friends about the rightness of everything. His new view was "that tho' certain Actions might not be bad because they were forbidden by it [the Bible], or good because it commanded them, yet probably, those actions might be forbidden because they were bad for us, or commanded because they were beneficial to us."

This is how Franklin remember his change of heart and change of mind in the autobiography, and it seems to have been a accurate description. He enunciated the same view of moral in Poor Richard's Almanack for 1739, in slightly different form: "Sin is not hurtful because it is forbidden but it is forbidden because it's hurtful. . . . Nor is a Duty beneficial because it is command…

Today at ". . . recollected in tranquility. . ."

Herodotus considered

Authors Pick the "Lost Classics"

Lost Classics that Authors will like to see revised

via Neglected Books (sorry for the delay)

Franklin Observed

It has been a while since I have enjoyed or appreciated a first paragraph so much.

from Benjamin Franklin
Edmund S. Morgan

The first thing to do is overcome the image of a man perpetually at his desk, scribbling out the mountain of words that confronts us. Because Franklin wrote so well and so much, it is natural to think of him with pen in hand. But the man we will find in his writings likes to be in open air, walking the city streets, walking the countryside, walking the deck of a ship. Indoors, he like to be with people, sipping tea with young women, raising a glass with other men, playing chess, telling jokes, singing songs.

Already I'm inclined to like Franklin.  Whether or not this is the man as he was, I cannot say.  But it is certainly a description of a man who I would give much to meet and converse with.

Mr. Morgan also contributed the guiding essay for the monumental Franklin Papers site--a truly astounding online resource that anyone with an interest in American History w…

Taking on Elizabeth Strout

Biblio reviews Olive Kitteridge in a way far more positive than I could bring myself to do.

Olive Kitteridge was supposed to be endearing.  I saw Kathy Bates in both Dolores Claiborne and Misery, nothing at all endearing and much that is freakishly horrifying in her attitude toward others.  But being a mood-driven reader, perhaps I didn't catch this wave.

New Apocalypses

Biblioklept warns us againt Justin Cronin's most recent run at it--The Passage.

If true, what a pity--I was so looking forward to reading this eventually. Sounds like Mr. Cronin has read not only Stephen King, but also Robert McCammon's magnificent Swan Song (derivative of and in many ways better than The Stand--certainly better than the unbridged mess that Stephen King couldn't resist offering to us.  Indeed, the unabridged version of The Stand stands (pardon the pun) as a definitive warning against those who constantly malign the editorial profession.  There comes a time in an author's life when his editors cease to edit--and what we get can be. . . unfortunate.)

Interesting Aphorisms

The Bed of Procrustes

Via Books, Inq.

I would post an excerpt to encourage you to read, but the copyright line suggests it would be better not to.  It is a work in progress--so I'll be interested to see where progress leads.

Freedom Reviewed

Jonathan Franzen's Freedom reviewed

While I have enjoyed Franzen's writing--the novels, the essays, the memoir, I have to say that The Corrections seemed to be obsessively self-involved and the whole to-do resulting from his reaction to being taken up by Oprah is one of those episodes any writer would rather forget.  His comments about "middle-brow" readers certainly raise the hackles and tell you a bit about what Mr. Franzen thinks of himself (rightly or wrongly).  His persistent and peculiar desire to be ranked in the legions of William Gaddis and his like (see the clever but obvious e-mails in The Corrections) bespeaks a man who has not come to terms with who he is as a writer.  I hope this book represents more of a relaxation into the talented and provocative writer who is hidden under all the apparent self-involvement.

This just in: Biblioklept offers us a Franzen Video against Videos.

I guess this is just the author's shtick.  Sometimes it's simply bett…

Goia and Woods on Poetry

Not necessarily the main thrust of the blog entry--this portion of an exchange between James Wood and Dana Gioia on poetry is quite fine.

Fine enough indeed to prompt me to encourage you to look at the entire thing--Gioia v. Wood

From Gioia's opening foray:

Reacting against this soggy status quo, the Modernists refashioned American poetry in a variety of ways. Robinson, Frost, and Jeffers created what might be called a tough-minded Naturalist style. Moore, Eliot, and Pound worked out a hard-edged objective approach. Stevens explored a different sort of impersonality steeped in metaphysical speculation. Cummings, Williams, Ransom, Crane, and Hughes each made his own contribution. Ultimately, the Modernists not only changed our poetry, but together they constituted perhaps the greatest cluster of talent in the history of American literature. Although they represented a range of aesthetics, they shared a conviction that poetry benefited from compression, intensity, and evoc…

From the Poet Who Brought You "The Wreck of the Hesperus"

A bit of Purgatory as the poem of the week

It is a shame that Longfellow is so little read these days.  A fine poet with a great hand at meter, he did produce a few potboilers in the way of verse, but he also produced poetry that sticks in one's head--the imagery and the song stay long after the poem has left--I remember from sixth grade "The Village Smithy"  and how we subtly varied it--"The muscles of his brawny arms are as strong as rubber bands."

It's easy to take shots at some of the poems--but the body of work as a whole is as strong and as flexible and resilient as that of any other poet of his time.  He has merely suffered the fate of over-reading of his lesser work--resentful school-children grew to resentful adults and refuse to read his verse.  C'est dommage ça!

A Veritable Institution

More Poems About Insects and Candlelight

Two Poems

What We Mean When We Say God is Father

What We Mean When We Say God is Father

If you're interested or inclined to, please join me as I entertain this question in a systematically unsystematic fashion.  At least I'll start and we'll see where we get.

Rebuttals to Overrated.

Green Dolphin Street

Green Dolphin Street--a giveaway, but also a short synopsis.

I have to admit to not having read everything.  This has come up again and again, and I have dismissed it in a way that I do not dismiss Georgette Heyer--as frivolous and light-weight romance.  Perhaps it is time I have given it a more fair hearing.

Simone Weil Considered

On Waiting for God.

A wonderful, cogent, concise and interesting review from a blogger who never fails to be interesting.

More on Josipovici

From A Blog a Good Friend Recently Remind Me of

I have been too infrequent a visitor to Tea at Trianon, a delightful Catholic blog with literary diversions.  Today's on Isak Dinesen.

The Flip Side of the Coin

The most underrated writers.  And I'm gratified to see on this List Anthony Hecht and Shirley Jackson.  Oh, and the enormously underrated Georgette Heyer.  Her books are out in reprint and you owe yourself the favor of indulging in at least one of them.  Rather like Angela Thirkell--you must find at least one to enjoy.

For Your Delectation and Delight

I must admit to a certain joy in seeing icongraphic figures hauled down to size.  Let's face it, we aren't in the era of incipient Shakespeares regardless of the adulatory acclaim some garner.

Most overrated contemporary American Writers (Guardian)

Most overrated contemporary American Writers (Huffington Post)

My personal favorite victims--William T. Vollman,  John Ashbery,  and Jonathan Safran Foer.  Oh, and Michael Cunningham whose The Hours must be one of the most highly overrated books of the past decade.

World Heritage App