Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Breaking the Sabbath

Police force Orthodox Rabbi to break the sabbath

This is what happens when the establishment clause overrides the free exercise clause and we cease to understand that religion is more than a personal choice.  In some cases it includes a set of "guidelines for living" that should not be arbitrarily violated.  Yes, to you and me asking someone to write down their name certainly doesn't seem like an onerous burden, but that is because many of us are not bound by the same orthopraxis as may guide an orthodox rabbi.  I am not outraged, only because I can understand how ignorance was in the ascendant here and not necessarily malice--the rule seems a subtlety, an arbitrary thing.  But, it is no less a binding rule for all of that, and in approaching people in a pluralistic culture, all people must be accorded the respect that we would accord the majority--respecting their way of life.

I've said all of this very poorly, and I'm not certain it properly encapsulates my thought--the bottom line is, understand the meaning of the request you make of an individual.  If you could see Hell before your very eyes and could see a soul plunged there because of what you asked them to do, you'd be less likely to do it.  The supernatural law that the Rabbi was rightly obeying must not be regarded as an token, an arbitrary thing lightly given or taken.

For Those Considering Writing

My long-time friend and "local" blogger has released his book Writing Assignments.  Take a look, it may be worth your while.

Another Review of Freedom

Another review of Freedom

Why do I keep posting these?  For one thing, I like The Corrections.  Liked, not loved.  I agree with this reviewer that it is highly overrated--Rohinton Mistry's Family Matters deals with essentially similar subject matter in a much more profound way.  (Aside: the other day at one blog or another, I read something that indicated that the amount of discussion of fecal matter in Family Matters rivalled that of any book published later than M. de Sade.  I would beg to differ--one need only enter Franzen's world of excess.)

For another thing, I do intend, eventually to read Freedom.  Each review potentially pushes that date into the future, but I don't mind; I'm not certain that it is really worth my time--but I do like Franzen's writing.  There is a sense, I have about Mr. Franzen, a sense similar to that I experience after enjoying a Quentin Tarantino film: just as I'm waiting for the film that Quentin makes for adults, so I am waiting for the book that Mr. Franzen writes for adults.  The difference is that Quentin is cool regardless, and if he never makes a movie for grown-ups, he's still a lot of fun.  Mr. Franzen has yet to wake up to the fact that he isn't writing grown-up books.  It's a sense, as I said.  And perhaps it is unfair to Mr. Franzen.

Banville on Bellow

Bellow's Letters reviewed by John Banville

Houellebecq and the Creative Commons

Houellebecq and Creative Commons

This will be an interesting battle testing the legal validity of a creative commons license.

Is Fear of Death Rational

Cogent observation: "Not to mention that trying to reason with a poet or any literary type is a fool's errand. "

Philip Larkin Reading

Philip Larkin Reading "Aubade"

My Friend, the Sociopath

A review of Ann Rule's first book--about Ted Bundy

I have interest in neither Ann Rule's writing nor Ted Bundy's career, but I found the review interesting.

Interview with Houellebecq

Interview with Houellebecq in the most recent Paris Review

Read about Houellebecq and H. P. Lovecraft, among other things.

Then take a gander at this commentary on Houellebecq's interview.

Must Read!--Poetry Retractions

Twitter has a purpose other than perpetual annoyance?  Who knew--Poetic Retractions

H. G. Wells's Radio Broadcasts

I love the thought of being able to hear a writer who means so much to me and who I never considered possibly hearing!  H. G. Wells Radio Broadcasts

50 for 2011 part 2

50 for 2011 part 2

Okay, so here are some books of interest.  I see that Petina Gappah has a new one due out.  After An Elegy for Easterly, I can think of only two authors I would more eagerly anticipate.  Yes, you've already guessed the first--Yiyun Li.  And the second would be Maaza Mengiste, author of the magnificent Beneath the Lion's Gaze.

But, oh my goodness, the announcement that sends chills racing up and down (and I mean that literally, as I type they are just subsiding) Rohinton Mistry has a new novel coming out.  That has to be on my very highest anticipation list!  Again, the only one I can think of in the same league would be Uwem Akpan.

The Winner of the Bad Sex Award

Drumroll please, Rowan Somerville for The Shape of Her

This must have been extraordinary considering how very, very bad Jonathan Franzen can be at his best.  The Corrections had some of the very worst I have ever read, and the brief, but nauseating excerpt I saw quoted as a nomination, Freedom easily topped the worst of The Corrections  and outdid anyone I've ever read with the possible exception of Philip Roth.

Hitchens on the Washington Novel

Hitchens on the Washington Novel

I think he is looking for the Washington Novel in all the wrong places.  From what I'm reading, I would nominate Dinaw Mengestu's The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears as a very fine Washington novel.  Yes, Washington is politics, but there is more to it than politics, and the politics there while of world importance don't tend to make for good novels, as exhibited by Mr. Hitchen's survey.  He does, however, deal with Henry Adams's magnificent Democracy, a novel I anticipated being bored by and ended up delighted with.

Ayelet Waldman on Bore-geous writing

Waldman on writing

A caution is always something worth contemplating.

Bad Poets, Worse Critics?

Or is it good poets, bad critics?

National Writers in a Supernational (or subnational) Age

McCann on national writers

Honoring C. S. Lewis

Recalling his birthday yesterday:

C. S. Lewis Quotation 1

Super Apologist, Supertaster

Jekyll and Hyde Together Again

An excerpt with a point--Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Eliot on Baudelaire

An interesting quotation from T. S. Eliot about Baudelaire considering Baudelaire's life and all.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Visit New Dork Review of Books

Visit New Dork Review of Books and scroll down for a good time.  Here are some of the neat things NDRB found on the web:

James Frey's Fiction Factory 

Dealing with DFW's Papers

Save the Words (possibly my favorite of these delicious tidbits)--I think I'll pick pamphagous, because short of Andrew Zimmern, I tend to be.

The New Book?

Lit Mag Tech

This Sounds Like One to Take Up--Unity Dow

The Screaming of the Innocent--Unity Dow reviewed

James Watson on the Cure for Cancer

James Watson discusses curing cancer

via Books Inq.

West with the Night--Beryl Markham

The review will be short as I have some conflicted feelings about the book.  At times overwritten, at time dominated by a personality that is none too likable, there remains about the book a sense of adventure, of freshness, of new insight into the whole colonial experience from the colonists' side.  On the other hand, much of the attitude of Ms. Markham, while certainly informed by the prejudices of her time, seems to be remarkably free of the condescension with which one suspects she treated her European friends.

These are the memoirs (whether or not written by Ms. Markham is subject to speculation) of Ms. Markham's time in Africa, from a little girl to an adult pilot.  We see Ms. Markham with all of her blemishes fully in place.  (The incident regarding a person dying of blackwater fever is particularly telling, and it occurs early enough in the book to resonate throughout.)

*** 1/2 Recommended to those who care for Chronicles of the 30s and prominent figures thereof, also as a counterpoint to Katherine Blixen's Out of Africa.

LoA Story of the Week--Success in Entertaining

How to Entertain Guests by Ward McAllister

Free Audio Books

Also via Books Inq.  free audio books

Two Advent Posts as Books Inq.

For the Season

Dietrich Bonhoeffer on the Season

A Review of the New Harry Potter

A review with which I pointedly disagree

I found the movie by far and away one of the best of the series in terms of direction and execution, but given its extremely weak foundation in the seventh book of the series, painful to the point of wanting to leave the theatre several times.  The teen-angst aspect kept making me wonder when Harry was going to "sparkle."

I would still recommend that fans see it--but I'm with my son on this one, hoping the second installment will be better.

On Flannery O'Connor

I'll start you with "Wildcat," but you will want to go to the home page and scroll through.

Basho Memorialized

As with the Saints honored on the day of his death: Basho memorialized twice:

Basho Memorial by Fred

Basho Memorial by Interpolations

Dali Atomicus

Dali hamming it up for the cameras, as usual

Developing Apps for iPhone and iPad

A Free online course from Stanford: Developing Apps for iPhone and iPad

Gift of a Friend

Herge meets Lovecraft

For those of you who missed them: The Adventures of Tintin at the Mountains of Madness, and Tintin and the Reanimator among others.

50 Books for 2011, part I

50 Books you might want to read in 2011

Many of these are already available, so get a jump on the new year.  The Anthony Doerr is of particular interest.

Books as Works of Art

Amazing Fore-Edge Painting  Presumably of Moby Dick.

Poem of the Week: Meet Deborah Dough

"The Epistle of Deborah Dough,"  Mary Leapor--an amusing and light trinket to start your week.

On Mishima's Temple

Temple of the Golden Pavilion reviewed and assessed. 

My opinion more than concurs, it coincides.  I've never been much impressed by Mishima, seeing his work often as one long rehearsal for his terrible and sad death. Like much of Sylvia Plath, one can only ask the question, why couldn't those closest see and help?  But then, even when one sees, I suppose help is only accepted in the mode of the receiver, who too soon passes beyond the pale of help.

On Walker Percy

Lost in the Cosmos considered

If there is anyone whose concept of grace in action is more inscrutable than Flannery O'Connor, it must be Walker Percy.  From The Moviegoer right through to The Thanatos Syndrome Percy is absolutely clear on his points, and yet that is what makes him so difficult to really understand.  What is Love in the Ruins really about? Lancelot

And yet his work makes for some of the most compelling reading you're ever likely to encounter.

Honoring the Clergy--A Poem

"The Country Clergy" R.S. Thomas

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Marilynne Robinson on William James

Marilynne Robinson on William James

Considering Cormac

Suttree examined

While I found The Road compelling and exemplary, I must admit to not being much of a fan of Mr. McCarthy's work.  As much as I've tried, I find that his vision of humanity is so radically different from, indeed, alien to my own that I can't find much of an access point.

I will point out as usual, "The fault llies not in the stars, but in [myself]."

Hoban on Riddley Walker

Russell Hoban talks about the inspiration for Riddley Walker

Stefan Zweig

Stefan Zweig--an author it sounds like I must become more acquainted with

Via Books Inq.

Sondheim is Wrong About Noel Coward

But contra the entry author--he is also wrong about Gilbert and Sullivan.  Not every moment is laugh-out-loud hilarious, but all of them have laugh-out-loud moments, and a sly, sneaking humor.  "I can write my laundry bill in Babylonic Cuneiform. . . "  We all know about the qualifications of a major general.

Waiting for Bert Lahr

An audio recording of Bert Lahr in a performance of Beckett's Waiting for Godot

via Books Inq.

Neglected Poets: Charlotte Mew

Charlotte Mew--read particularly "Rooms"

The Buried Book--David Damrosch

This is one of those books that I couldn't wait to tell you about.  Normally, I'm on a weekend hiatus, but this book demanded a review.

So, what's the big deal?  Gilgamesh.  But not just Gilgamesh.  In the course of discussing how the epic was written, lost, and eventually rediscovered, the author shares insights about Victorian Archeology, Victorian prejudice, Asshurbanipal, Sumerian, Akkadian, Old Persion, Aramaic, Philip Roth, Saddam Hussein, among other things.  The book analyzes the writing, preservation, discovery, and decoding of an epic that we have come to take for granted as part of our heritage.  All the while one contemplates its potential loss and the question of how much more may be out there waiting recovery/discovery.

For a while the author went off on a long discursion regarding Esarhaddon, the father of Asshurbanipal.  Even as I gobbled up this information about a civilization I had been taught so little about, I did wonder where in the world this was going. Well,, it turns out that Esarhaddon's paranoia encouraged Asshurbanipal's literacy, which in turn encouraged the accumulation of a library in which one of the main sources for the Akkadian Gilgamesh that has come down to us today.

Oh, and the wonders you learn about Gilgamesh the legend and Gilgamesh King of Uruk.  I hadn't realized how much we knew about Assyrian/Sumerian civilization, and so every turn of the page was an opportunity to discover something new.  You learn about types of cuneiform--Sumerian (very dead language), Akkadian (dying language), and Persian.  You learn about the "Rosetta Stone" of cuneiform (a passage I shared earlier from the book). You learn about the similarities of certain figures from the Homeric stories and the Gilgamesh story.

In short, for me, a book of wonders.  So much to learn, so much to enjoy, so much to savor in a brand new world.  A rare experience.

Highest recommendation *****

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Joyce Carol Oates on Flannery O'Connor

Joyce Carol Oates the perfect foil for Flannery

More Bach Than You Can Shake a Stick Out

The Complete Organ Works of J. S. Bach available for free download

William Seward's Thanksgiving Day Proclamation

One of a great many proclaimed Thanksgiving Days--but the one that stuck for the nation

First of Twelve--FREE!

For those who have wanted to read Anthony Powell's Dance to the Music of Time sequence--the first book will be available as a free e-book starting next week.

Happy Thanksgiving Day!

To my readers in the United States--Happy Thanksgiving Day.  May it truly be a day of giving thanks for all that we enjoy.

To my readers around the world--you are one of the things for which I am giving thanks today.  Thank you!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Turkeys and Adam's Curse

See Turkeys!  Read Yeats!

Listen to This

Times Flow Stemmed notes Alex Ross's Listen to This

I loved The Rest is Noise, indeed, I am rereading it with great interest and intensity now.  And I had hoped to pick this one up sometime soon.  Go and listen to Mr. Ross, see what Anthony has to say, and if you're of a mind to learn more about music, pick up the book!

Here is a looong video of Ross talking about The Rest Is Noise.

The Anniversary Just Past

The Assassination for JFK

But wait, there's more.  For on this same day the literary world lost both Aldous Huxley and C. S. Lewis.

On Gridlock, the Budget, and Fallen Humanity

(thanks to Mockingbird)

How often do you see language like this in a financial editorial in NYT:

from "Sin and Taxes" (editorial in the New York Times)
David Brooks

For centuries, American politicians did not run up huge peacetime debts. It wasn’t because they were unpartisan or smarter or more virtuous. It was because they were constrained by a mentality inherited from the founders. According to this mentality, a big successful nation exists in a state of equilibrium between its many factions. This equilibrium is fragile because we are flawed and fallen creatures and can’t quite trust ourselves. So all of us, but especially members of the leadership class, should practice self-restraint. Moral anxiety restrained hubris (don’t think your side possesses the whole truth) and self-indulgence (debt corrupts character).

This ethos has dissolved, on left and right. The new mentality sees the country not as an equilibrium, but as a battlefield in which the people, who are pure and virtuous, do battle against the interests or the elites, who stand in the way of the people’s happiness.

That is so true.  I weary of the constant battle rhetoric.  I weary of those strident voices so certain that they have the fullness of the truth.  The only truth I've discovered (outside of the truths of faith which are revealed) is that people tend to be a mass of flaws that they cannot even see sometimes ("Love is blind and lovers cannot see the pretty follies they themselves commit").

Sometimes, I read over what emerges from the pixelated ether and  find an arrogant, pushy, self-centered, obnoxious, know-it-all--not at all that I do not recognize as myself.

The end of all this is that one must stand ready to hear the evidence and change in accordance with the truth--which is neither so simple nor so straightforward as some would have it. I must stand prepared to listen, to try to really understand what is being said, and to change to accommodate when faced by the truth.  I stand with what Mr. Dawkins says in the clip posted yesterday--I am interested in the truth and want to live as closely as I can in correspondence with it.  Therefore, it is difficult for me to ride rough-shod over others with claims to my own monopoly on truth--I don't know it all, I don't know even very much of it, and my grasp of it is tentative and slippery.

On the Complexities of Dechipering Cuneiform

from The Buried Book
David Damrosch

Their task was much harder than the daunting challenge Champollion had faced. The pictorial quality of Egyptian hieroglyphs meant that at least some signs showed clearly what they meant, whereas the cuneiform symbols were all highly abstract. Even when the symbols once represented something concrete, the visual reference had been obscured over time. A head could be represent by two upright wedges that had once been the neck, topped by a cluster of wedges that distantly recalled an eye, nose, and head of hair. A triangular sign might have originally signified a basked or a vagina. Even when a sign's visual origin could be guessed, this information was rarely useful, as the signs were usually used for their phonetic value rather than as pictures.

Furthermore, while one of the Rosetta stone's parallel inscriptions had been in ancient Greek--which Champollion could readily read--all three inscriptions from Behistun were in cuneiform script. Rawlinson was faced with a choice of enigmas. Fortunately, one of the three was a simple script used for Old Persian, with only thirty-six characters, and Rawlinson knew two early Persian languages. He shrewdly guessed that the monumental reliefs portrayed the dominant ancient Persian king Darius the Great, together with a line of captive or subordinate kings, and by a process of trial and error began to derive the sound values for many of the names on the monument, along with formulaic phrases such as "king of kings."

Fortunately the sound values of the three dozen Old Persian characters held good for the Akkadian text, though it had hundreds of different characters and so posed a far more difficult challenge. It took fifteen years of steady work before Rawlinson could declare, in 1850, that he had deciphered most of the inscription. In this task he was greatly aided by Akkadian's close relationship to Hebrew. . . .

The book is about the rediscovery and translation of Gilgamesh--but it includes everything from Victorian Archeology to Philip Roth's The Great American Novel. One gets a sampling of the thrill of archeology and a whiff of ancient civilization--myrrh and cinnamon for those of us with a romantic turn of mind--mouse scat and dust for those inclined to langours over anything older than this century.

Freedom from Freedom--Another Take

Freedom from Freedom

Visiting the Beats Tangiers

Kerouac, Bowles, and Burroughs in Tangiers

From the Archives--An Interview with Rick Moody

Interview with Rick Moody

Gao's Mountain

Soul Mountain Xingjian Gao reviewed

Artistic Failure

Artistic failure, or not?

The writer characterizes his as an artistic failure--but I think not.  I'm with Frank, from whom I derived the post.

Neuroscience and Free Will

Neuroscience and Free Will

Unreasonably characterized in this article as a "rant."  

I hardly think the approach this professor took would qualify in any way as a rant.  It is a measured, reasoned, rational response that he should not have had to made.  To be fair, the article headline is the only place the word appears, and the article seems fair enough.

Wow! I'm So Proud of My Local College Students

The Big Cheat at UCF!

Recipes and Traditions for Thanksgiving

Here's one that struck me as pleasantly idiosyncratic--Parker for Thanksgiving.

Skillet Green Bean Casserole--not the glop from a can.

Thomas Pynchon's Banana Breakfast  (go to the root and get all the recipes from yesterday plus Eggs a la Nabacoque.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Heavenly Questions

Gjertrud Schnackenberg's most recently translated book of poetry: Heavenly Questions

The Lion's Roar

I've modified my plans (re West with the Night)  a bit from yesterday because what I wanted to include was so lengthy, that I think it better to advise you to look up the book and read the chapter.  However, to whet your appetite, I thought I might include one of the striking images that Beryl Markham conjures.

from West with the Night
Beryl Markham

The sound of Paddy's roar in my ears will only be duplicated, I think, when the doors of hell slip their wobbly hinges one day, an give voice and authenticity to the whole panorama of Dante's poetic nightmares. It was an immense roar that encompassed the world and dissolved me in it.

I can see what so impressed Hemingway in the writing.  It is vividly imagined and vividly rendered.  One can almost see Ms. Markham at her desk recalling the Elkington Lion and the incident that she recounts in so engrossing a fashion.

On Ozick

Mr. Myers comments broadly here.

And reviews here.

Thank Goodness We Have a New Bishop

Who thought THIS was a good idea?

First Today, Then Tomorrow

If you are a writer, desire to be a writer, or are just curious about the writing life, you owe it to yourself to indulge in the occasional insights into writing that you will find at the blog referenced above.

Of particular interest in the recent past:

Maintain or Grow

You Have Permission to Do Nothing

The blogkeeper is, I am pleased and privileged to say, a friend from my days in the bleak midwest.  It is wonderful that the internet has afforded me this opportunity to keep in touch, even if only peripherally--something that would, in the past, have required more effort than I can presently expend in maintaining correspondence.  No, rephrase that, more effort than I am likely to maintain--I can do whatever it is that I deem worthwhile--it's just so easy to dismiss really important things because of the trivia that crowds the scene and demands your attention.

Misinterpreting the Classics

The Classical Tradition: a review

Book Review in C minor

C by Tom McCarthy, reviewed

I thought this might give me the footstool I need to get up on my soapbox about "experimental" fiction.  But it does not appear to do so.  So, once I have the strength to climb up on my soapbox, perhaps I'll regale you with a few tidbits about experimental fiction.

Books I Wish I Hadn't Read

Books I Wish I Hadn't Read

or, for that matter started.  The first I can think of is Lolita.  This is swiftly followed, for a variety of reasons by The Dying Animal  (although, that is a much more mixed bag--there were just elements that were too nauseating for words and images I can't seem to get out of my head--much for the worse).  Ann Patchett's Bel Canto  and Berniere's Captain Corelli's Mandolin are on the list of over-hyped works--they are probably fine, but they are not nearly so fine as their various fans would make them out to be.  These are kind of the major league hitters. 

There are others that are more frivolous, so I can't say they fall in this league--they are regrettable only in that the time could have been better spent with better books.

Woolf on Hazlitt

More on Woolf's Essays--a distinct encouragement for me to reconsider.  The voice is so crisp, so plain, so very precise and inviting--everything I don't read Woolf for.

What Did the Pope Say?

For Catholics who care: what the Pope actually said.

The most recent media silliness as it swirls about the Catholic Church.  I'm amazed at the propensity for either innocently or deliberately getting it wrong.

Five Minutes with Richard Dawkins

Five Minutes with Richard Dawkins

Reporting a 68 percent certainty that there is no God.  Most interesting for this most avid of the proponents of the New Atheism and in some strange way heartening.

"He Though He Kept the Universe Alone"

"The Most of It"--Robert Frost

Celebrity Recipes

Starting with Ian McEwan's Fish Stew and progressing through other writers' specialities, Biblioklept offers us a buffet of literate eating.

Oh, you'll need to click to the main site to get to the rest of these, but I wanted to be sure to bookmark exactly so that in the future I could return.

Monday, November 22, 2010

One More from Ms. Markham

I pull out the following passage for its odd cultural resonance.

from West with the Night
Beryl Markham

It wasn't a big farm as farms went in Africa before the First World War, but it had a very nice house with a large veranda on which my father, Jim Elkington, Mrs. Elkington, and one or two other settlers sat and talked with what to my mind was always unreasonable solemnity.

Two things--one very minor, but of interest to my point about memoir.  Obviously, the book was written after the commencement (at least) of World War II.  It just struck me as a matter of interest.

Ah, but then there is the matter of the complete vanishing of Mrs. Elkington.  I can see Beryl's father, Jim Elkington, and even the shadowy figures of the other people on the veranda.  But Mrs. Elkington has no substance, her very essence is absorbed into her identity as "mate of Elkington."  And it is this sort of thinking and this sort of view of women that remains a challenge today.  While I think too much is made of some of the wilder notions of the feminist movement, the idea that all people should be respected for who they are, not who they bear a chance or chosen relationship to, is a key of human dignity.  Poor Mrs. Elkington is a shadowy figure, probably not a servant seeing as she lived in a Big House on a Kenyan  (or Tanganyikan) farm, but here she has not even that dignity--she saunters off the stage, bustle and all to vanish even from the memoir--another presence not really noted on the summer veranda.

Tomorrow, or, if all goes well this evening, the horrific but happy (for Ms. Markham) end to the tale of Paddy the Lion.

Great Whining and Wringing of Hands

The Google copyright heist?

Excuse me.  They negotiated with the copyright holders and worked out a deal.  This is a heist how?  And as to working out remuneration--the present copyright laws are so thoroughly draconian and so thorough antithetical to at least on of the purposes of a properly drafted copyright law (promoting the arts) but I shouldn't be surprised to see piracy become the norm.  When the law has gone out of its mind, no one will abide with it.  It's high time that we threw Mickey Mouse to the sharks and instituted good and reasonable copyright laws.  Laws that allow expiration at 20 years or the author's lifetime, whichever is longer.

Most-Love Meme? Most Unread? qui sait?

This list was telegraphed me by Dylan through facebook, and it seemed a public response would allow others to play as well.  So, this is supposedly a list from the BBC of books which most people will not have read 17 of.  I have bolded those that I have read.  And added some annotations.
1. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
2. The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
3. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
4. Harry Potter series – JK Rowling
5. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
6. The Bible
7. Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte

8. Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell
9. His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman--Never got through the entire first book despite many abortive attempts.  There is something lacking.
10. Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
11. Little Women – Louisa M Alcott

12. Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
13. Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
14. Complete Works of Shakespeare
15. Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
16. The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien
17. Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks
18. The Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
19. The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
20. Middlemarch – George Eliot
21. Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell

22. The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald
23. Bleak House – Charles Dickens
24. War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
25. The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
26. Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
27. Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28. Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
29. Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
30. The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
31. Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
32. David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
33. Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis
34. Emma – Jane Austen
35. Persuasion – Jane Austen
36. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis (repetitive see 33)

37. The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
38. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Berniere
39. Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
40. Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne
41. Animal Farm – George Orwell

42. The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
43. One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44. A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving
45. The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
46. Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery

47. Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
48. The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
49. Lord of the Flies – William Golding
50. Atonement – Ian McEwan
51. Life of Pi – Yann Martel
52. Dune – Frank Herbert

53. Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
54. Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
55. A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
56. The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57. A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
58. Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
59. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon
60. Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

61. Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
62. Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov I don't really know how to count this because I've sort of made it through but not completely and despite all of the Nabakov fanatics out there have no intention of finishing--ever.
63. The Secret History – Donna Tartt
64. The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
65. Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
66. On The Road – Jack Kerouac
67. Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
68. Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding
69. Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
70. Moby Dick – Herman Melville
71. Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
72. Dracula – Bram Stoker

73. The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
74. Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
75. Ulysses – James Joyce
76. The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath

77. Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
78. Germinal – Emile Zola
79. Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
80. Possession – AS Byatt
81. A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
82. Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
83. The Color Purple – Alice Walker
84. The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
85. Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
86. A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry

87. Charlotte’s Web – EB White
88. The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
89. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
0. The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
91. Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
92. The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93. The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
94. Watership Down – Richard Adams
95. A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
96. A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
97. The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
98. Hamlet – William Shakespeare

99. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
100. Les Miserables – Victor Hugo
Which merely goes to show that as in matters of found, I am more a gourmand that a gourmet.  I think I've read 79 of these.  Although the complete Shakespeare and then Hamlet seems a bit of a cheat.  And I was forced marched through Shakespeare in college, so I'm not certain it counts, even though I completed the work--I'm not sure I got as much from it as I would if I undertook the task on my own.

"The Hunting of the Snark"

An agony in eight fits illustrated.

Beautiful and fascinating.  Not certain how much the illustrations have to do with Snark so much as they have to do with the feeling conjured by entering Carroll's dangerous world.

Keats's Plaint

One line from this echoes through my head.  Many people get tunes in their heads that they can't kick out--I get fragments of poetry.  So, I'm kicking it out by giving it to any who will listen.

from "Ode to a Nightingale"
John Keats

Darkling I listen; and, for many a time
  I have been half in love with easeful Death,
Call’d him soft names in many a mused rhyme,
  To take into the air my quiet breath;
Now more than ever seems it rich to die,       
  To cease upon the midnight with no pain,
    While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad
          In such an ecstasy!
  Still wouldst thou sing, and I have ears in vain—
    To thy high requiem become a sod.

I listened to this play round and round in my head as I was out walking at lunch time.  The building we presently occupy backs up to a lovely pond (really a drainage ditch, but then most things are in Florida, and the real natural beauty of this man-made pond belies the purpose). Looking up at the sky at first I thought it November grey--the grey I remember from the endless grey skies of central Ohio--Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter, whenever you looked the clouds were either encompassing or not far away.  But when I looked again, I saw that they were not grey, but curiously undefined for my part of the country.  Here in Florida, the clouds are still fluffy and soft, but more often they have distinct boundaries, they are a compact bounded mass.  But these were more like an ocean of blur--a white, streaky, sky-invading wave of just enough cloud to make it dim--to make it November.  It went with the November mood of this stanza, and the November mood of what is presently rolling through my head and my life.

The Elkington Lion

from West with the Sun
Beryl Markham

The Elkington lion was famous within a radius of twelve miles in all directions from the farm, because, if you happened to be anywhere inside that circle, you could hear him roar when he was hungry, when he was sad, or when he just felt like roaring. If, in the night, you lay sleepless on your bed and listened to an intermittent sound that began like the bellow of a banshee trapped in the bowels of Kilimanjaro and ended like the sound of that same banshee suddenly at large and arrived at the foot of your bed, you knew (because you had been told) that this was the song of Paddy.

Two or three of the settlers in East Africa at that time had caught lion cubs and raised them in cages. But Paddy, the Elkington lion, had never seen a cage.

He had gown to full size, tawny, black-maned and muscular, without a worry or a care. He lived on fresh meat, not of his own killing. He spent his waking hours (which coincided with everybody else's sleeping hours) wandering through Elkington's fields and pastures like an affable, if apostrophic, emperor, as-troll int he gardens of his court.

These details are what make the memoir come to life.  More also the interrelationship of the last story in which she finds and saves a down aviator in the Serengetti and how we get to the story of the lion.  I'll have to see if the weaving occurs throughout the book, but so far the tapestry is tight--and as with all great tapestry, appears to be as lovely from the back as it is from the front.

Thanksgiving or Franksgiving?

Many of you probably already know this.  Some of you may have been aware at the time it was happening.  But I found this discussion of the Thanksgiving Holiday and its economics very interesting.

If I don't remember to do so later, please accept these early wishes for a very pleasant Thanksgiving Day celebration.

"Hunting the Deceitful Turkey"

With his autobiography flying off the shelves and thanksgiving just around the corner, it seems appropriate for LOA to offer us Mark Twain's tribute to the (real) national bird.

Ben Franklin proposed the turkey for the national bird and there is a delightful moment in 1776 when the three (Adams, Jefferson, and Franklin) all propose for their favorite.  We may have the bald eagle as a symbol, but if there is any bird closer to the American heart than the turkey, it's difficult to imagine what it might be.  Nearly every day I can look out of the windows of my office building to an adjacent empty field and see twenty, thirty, or more wild turkeys strutting their stuff through the field.  "Truly a noble bird. . . "

Virginia Woolf--Essayist

My Favorite Virginia Woolf

While I agree with the author of the blog about the voice of the essays, I'm not certain that the essays have enough oomph to rank with the great essayists.  The book length essays--A Room of One's Own and Three Guineas are of a different calibre, but her ordinary run of things--I'd have to review yet again, but I don't recall being impressed with her perspicacity as a reviewer or her wisdom as an essayist. 

But at the time I read them, I was something of a snob.  When I reread these posts, I discover I'm still something of a snob--but to quote Monty Python regarding having been turned into a newt, "I'm getting better."

A Walk up Soul Mountain

Excerpts and discussion of Xingjian Gao's Soul Mountain

A Velocity Challenged Gentleman

J. M. Coetzee's Slow Man reviewed

The Cartography of PKD

The Map of the world from The Man in the High Castle

45 Cultural Icons Revisited

Moments with 45 artists of the past, including Picasso, Salvidor Dali, and Arthur Conan Doyle.

Of Birth and Its Process

The Birth Machine reviewed

Not normally my cup of tea but it does sound intriguing.  I'm not up on the principles of the debate--I didn't even realize that the subject was a matter of controversy--but there you have it.

Africa by Plane

from West with the Night
Beryl Markham

You cannot hunt an animal with such a weapon [a spear] unless you know the way of his life. You must know the things he love, the things he fears, the paths he will follow. You must be sure of the quality of his speed and the measure of his courage. He will know as much about you, and at times make better use of it. . . .

That day my eyes were filled with clouds, but they were young enough eyes an they soon cleared. There were other days and other dik-dik. There were so many things.

There were dik-dik and leopard, kongoni and warthog, buffalo, lion, and the 'hare that jumps.; There were many thousands of the hare that jumps.

And there were wildebeest and antelope. There was the snake that crawls and the snake that climbs. There were birds, and young men like whips of leather, like rainshafts in the sun, like spear before a singiri.

Of her work, Hemingway had this to say:

from a Letter from Ernest Hemingway to Maxwell Perkins

Did you read Beryl Markham's book, West with the Night? I knew her fairly well in Africa and never would have suspected that she could and would put pen to paper except to write in her flyer's log book. As it is, she has written so well, and marvelously well, that I was completely ashamed of myself as a writer. I felt that I was simply a carpenter with words, picking up whatever was furnished on the job and nailing them together and sometimes making an okay pig pen. But [she] can write rings around all of us who consider ourselves writers. The only parts of it that I know about personally, on account of having been there at the time and heard the other people's stories are absolutely true. . . . I wish you would get it and read it because it is really a bloody wonderful book.

Considerable praise from such a luminary, and yet, praise that is substantiated by the book.  The prose is at times lyrical and broad, but also when required tightly focused and always streamlined.  The lyrical nature is not bought at the price of prolix descriptions of anything and everything, but rather with the same determined and careful choice of individual details--elements that make for great fiction.  Of course, there is a sense in which, memoir though it is, the book is also a fiction.  Not fiction as in the deliberate creation of a separate world, but a fiction in the sense that all of the detail all of the incident, all of the words and language written are recalled as from memory and not reconstructed to give us a sense of the place and the event.  This is not to say that it is not worthwhile as memoir, but that we must recall that all memoir is in large part fiction--reconstruction of what is past and no more accessible.  Even if every moment of our lives were subject to recording and we were to review the tapes daily (assuming it were possible), we cannot recapture except in memory our exact feelings or thoughts about what went on.  Nor will the real words say now what they said to us in that moment of time in which they were experienced.

Enough.  Ms. Markham's work is remarkable--not at all the sort of thing I would normal partake of, and all the more delightful for the break in the routine.

Friday, November 19, 2010

That Was Then, This Is Now

Tangled and the Disney Legacy

Baroque and Roll

Evening in the Palace of Reason--the review makes the book sound wonderful.

Fashion Tips from Mad Men

Fashion tips

Who'd Have Thought It? Epithalamia

Poetry for a Wedding Day

Gold Boy, Emerald Girl--Yiyun Li

Despite tremendous misgivings, I forced myself to finish Yiyun Li's most recent book Gold Boy, Emerald Girl, and now I must lament that I shall be Li-less for some unknown length of time while she prepares her next work for our delectation and delight.  And I do not use those words lightly in this case.  Every story, every line, every lineament, every breath, every character, every scene is etched in such lucid detail, such brilliant highlighting, that they come to life and play out their brief existence on the stage of the mind.

Unlike the second collections of luminaries like Jhumpa Lahiri, I did not see in these stories the abandonment of the central concerns of A Thousand Years of Good Prayers and The Vagrants.  She still loves the people she writes about.  Characters who start out as extremely unlikeable, are gradually revealed to be ordinary people, whose ordinary concerns have so shaped them as to make them unapproachable.

Each story ends on a luminous note that I am reluctant to refer to as an epiphany. It isn't an epiphany because it isn't necessarily an experience of the character, but a light dawning on the reader.  It makes the stories essentially unexcerptable, because what you most want to share is what you least desire to reveal.

Yiyun Li continues to be my favorite writer of recent date.  I am sorry to have finished this book because it means that for a time, I will only be able to visit favorites and I will be bereft of anything new.  That may be very highest praise one can give a writer--I took a month to finish the book because I was so reluctant to leave your presence.

Highest recommendation *****

Dipping in to The Prelude

from The Prelude: Book VII
William Wordsworth

Private courts,
Gloomy as coffins, and unsightly lanes
Thrilled by some female vendor's scream, belike
The very shrillest of all London cries,
May then entangle our impatient steps;
Conducted through those labyrinths, unawares,
To privileged regions and inviolate,
Where from their airy lodges studious lawyers
Look out on waters, walks, and gardens green.

The picture Wordsworth paints of life in London streets is priceless.  Go and see it out (c. lines 190).

How Could One Resist When There Are Hamadryads Involved

Another Arboricide post with the delicious title "Revenge of the Hamadryads."

Now, that's entertainment!

John Henry Newman of Blogging?

The Wisdom of the Blessed John Henry Newman

Jonathan Safran Foer

I can't agree with the philosophy, but many may be interested in Foer's most recent.

My problem with the idea of veganism is that many promote it to be the "natural" life-style.  But anyone who bothers to look at human dentition can see that it belongs to the class of animals known as omnivore's.  The part of the philosophy I can agree with is that there need not be the cruelty that is presently practiced in getting those things that we do eat.

Another thing that often bothers me about issues-oriented works like this is that they seem so narrow.  Certainly we have cruel practices in the food industry--but as a society, we tend to be fairly callous and cruel in an entirely arbitrary way.  The prevelance of abortion and the radicalism of the extremes on both sides of that issue is a revealing case in point. 

It sometimes seems to me that each person practices a kind of cruelty a hundred times a day without thinking about it.  Our summary judgments are often harsh and hurtful--we condemn our political opponents not merely for their ideas, but for their very existence.  And so forth. 

I would say if we want to direct compassion toward animals, we might well start with each other and allow that to flow out to others.  Although there is much to be said for the idea that if we eat in a way that exhibits kindness and concern, it may trickle into how we treat one another as well. 

I suppose, I just need to follow my Rabbi--"Judge not, lest ye be judged."

A Look at the NBA Winner

Lord of Misrule reviewed

And it reminds me that I also have Great House in my bag to go back to the library.

First Things 50 Best

First Things lists their 50 best blogs.  I can't agree with about 80% of them, but a few are worth attention.

Ayn Rand on Atheism

Ayn Rand, whose philosophy may be one of the most repugnant since Marx and Engels, speaking about atheism

A Frosty November Poem

"My November Guest"

Michael Cunningham: Another Should I Try Again?

Specimen Days reviewed

I haven't enjoyed anything I've tried to read by Mr. Cunningham.  This included.  Perhaps that is my myopia--perhaps it is that I enjoy his sources more than his interpretations.

Close Reading

I saw this Wednesday Night and meant to post it yesterday--a close reading of "Black Mare."

Obviously, Professor UD needs to post these things more conveniently for me!  My deep thanks for each of these that she offers to us.  They are few and far between among the many interesting things at her blog, but each one is a delight.  I love it when people share what they love and why.

Issa Gives Us an Unusual Offering (for HIm)

Heading up a round of haiku, Mary Oliver's "Farm Country."

An Interview with Olga Grushin

Olga Grushin interviewed

It's curious, in the one post by Mark A., I found a book I just finished and two that have been on my list for some time.  I've gotten each of them from the library, perhaps multiple times.  This one is in the bag to go back along with another by the same author.  Guess I'll just have to fish them out.

Stephen O'Connor's "Ziggurat"

On writing the story

The story--"Ziggurat"

via Mark Atathakis

Mark Atathakis Shows His Usual Good Sense

"Yesterday I was a guest on Minnesota Public Radio’s Midmorning program to discuss the National Book Awards and the upset win of Jaimy Gordon‘s racetrack novel, Lord of Misrule. (More on that book soon.) Asked to suggest a couple of books the NBA judges might have considered short-listing, I put in for Yiyun Li‘s Gold Boy, Emerald Girl and James HynesNext."

I haven't read Next yet, but to see it juxtaposed with Yiyun Li's latest is a mighty incentive.  Later this morning more about Yiyun Li.  Now--go read Mark.  There's a great little video embedded of Gish Jen at Boston College.  "Writing a book is like growing a tree. . ."  There is so much she says that is worth hearing and internalizing.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Voter Enthusiasm

I guess this poll played out?

On Dreamthorp

Dreamthorp--a book of essays that it sounds as though I must find.

And for those, who like me, demand immediate recourse:

The Project Gutenberg Dreamthorp

via Books Inq.

A New Look at Gulliver

Misreading Gulliver's Travels
Marvelous article c/o Books Inq.

One interesting insight:

from "Misreading Gulliver's Travels"
P. N. Furbank

That Swift means us to regard the Houyhnhnms as an ideal contrast to the wayward or sinful behavious of ordinary humanity is plainly false – indeed, frankly, rather absurd. The sooner a reader has cleared his (or her) mind of this idea the better; for it obscures the function that Swift has, in fact, and most ingeniously, assigned to the Houyhnhnms in his scheme. What he presents us with in his Houyhnhnms is an only slightly exaggerated version of the outlook of an early eighteenth-century Deist or devotee of Nature and Reason; and the point that his narrative is making, with steadily increasing force, is that, for a fallible and unwary mortal like Gulliver (or ourselves) an encounter with such rationalizing and Pharisaic doctrines could have a quite lethal effect on our character.

On the Many Meanings of Gay

"Is It Okay to Say 'Gay'?"

Exorcising Henry James

Cynthia Ozick on James's Influence

All I can say is:

(1) I doubt it

(2) I hope not

Reflecting on Writing

Two posts worth your attention--from a writer's point of view:

"Don't Just Tell Stories--Ask for Them"

Unleash All of Your Aspects

In partial response to this latter, I would recommend as well spending some time to discover those aspects.  Who are you where?  In other words, does the environment change who you are and if so how and why?  But more importantly, what lies do you tell yourself to sustain a false image.  Look beneath that and discover aspects you've never wanted to look at--all the while remember that there is One who loves you regardless of what all of those aspects look like together.  Accept who you are and get on with living--everyone of us spends too much time in the closet.

The Little Stranger--Sarah Waters

I may as well have it out with you up front.  I think I am disappointed by this book.  Having only finished it last night, it may need to linger on the intellectual palate for a while to see if there is some aftertaste, so prolonged note that pulls it from others in the same vein, but my instinct suggests that there is not.  So, know as you read that one end of my reading is a slight disappointment.  The other end, though, was a real pleasure in a story well-told and in writing that is solid, compact, allusive, subtle, and rich.  Sarah Waters writes beautifully.    I would seek out her other books but for the subject matter--none of the others has any allure for me from a distance--reading the blurbs and sampling, I've yet to find anything that would compel me through it.  And so, therein lies the delight of reading The Little Stranger I finally have accessible subject matter.  Perhaps enough so that I can revisit earlier work and now enjoy it more.

The Little Stranger is a subtle ghost story in the mode of Turn of the Screw or The Haunting of Hill House  but, as a ghost story, or an amibiguous tale of psychological suspense, it is not nearly so good as either of these.  Hundreds Hall is a stately home in Warwickshire that has seen better times.  The local doctor was once a resident of the guest house as his mother was part of the "help" that the house maintained in better times.  Having grown up and attained his medical degree, he returns to Lidcote to practice medicine and is drawn into the house and the family.  The house, naturally enough for a book of this type, attracts, develops, or otherwise manifests a ghost of a particularly malignant nature.  And the story ensues--madness, mayhem, and "Fall of the House of Usher" all rolled into one glorious and luxurious novelistic exercise.  Unfortunately the novel failed to resolve in a satisfactory fashion for me.

One thing that the story convinced me of is that the ghost story (a subgenre of dark fantasy or horror) is probably best sustained at a minimal novel length.  The length of this story, while excellent for family saga or realistic novel was just too great a span to sustain much in the way of suspense.  While reading I encountered several longeurs and spent a good deal of time frustrated with the Doctor and with the young lady he takes up with.   And perhaps this frustration upon examination will resolve into something more--taking on a more robust and heady fragrance in the overall impact of the novel.  But again, I don't think so.  Unfortunately, for the type of story this was, there was simply too much story.  All of it well told, but very little of it particularly compelling in the way a story of this sort must be.  Too much time lapses with too few indications of what is going on.  The reader begins to ask, have we an unreliable narrator?  Is the patchwork that is stitched together a deliberate play on reader's expectations?

Perhaps.  But if so, it was too long a play, and the book resolves, for me, rather flatly.  I'm left with only one question and that one it seems, admits of too easy a resolution.  Who then is the ghost that haunts this hall?  Or is it not a ghost but an "infection" a "contamination?"  And if the latter, what is the source?  I have resolved these questions to my own satisfaction;  and each reader will, but I think it was the relatively easy resolution that disappoints.

Disappointed as I was in the treatment of genre, I have to backtrack and say how delighted I was in the treatment of language.  Normally, I would have tossed aside a genre book that was moving at this pace.  But I was able to put aside the notion of genre and read for the sheer joy and delight in the language.  And it is from that perspective that I feel I can unreservedly recommend this book to everyone's attention.  Ignore the genre--this isn't the next step in the development of the ghost/suspense story.  This isn't, in my opinion a particularly strong contributor to genre fiction.  It adds nothing to what has been established by James, Onions, James, and Jackson.  However, it does add to the annals of good stories well told.  Read it for the writing, read it for the beauty of the language.  Read it for the reality of the characters  (characters who can make you feel frustrated, but in whose reality you still invest are a sign of being able to create characters vividly).


Nagiub Mahfouz in Translation

Two of the masters later novels now available in translation. 

Review of The Final Hour

Review of In the Time of Love

Why Willows?

The Wicked Literary Willow

I mention this both for the Blackwood and the Tolkien references; however, the mystery first invoked might also make for good reading.

A Vision of Hell

A Vision of Hell--a relatively mature one at that--Hell as a culmination of the choices we make.

Revisiting Christine

Stephen King at one of his pinnacles

National Book Awards

This year's winners of the National Book Award.

Odd, didn't hear as much rumble about it this year--perhaps I've grown tone deaf.  Haven't heard of the book, but there is an excerpt posted for those interested.

Another report 

The Short List  (via Books Inq.)

Frankenstein circa 1910

Frankenstein for your viewing pleasure

Realism is Stranger?

Stranger than Science Fiction

There's a good deal of truth in what is said in the article.  Every day it seems, I open my eyes to something more surreal than Dali, Magritte, or Tanguy would ever have imagined.

Too Ignorant

As tempting as the prize, I'm afraid I'm too ignorant (and maybe too lazy--you can probably google the answers)--but Lydia Davis fans should enter the contest

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Eliot and Bellow are distracting us

Kay Ryan Redux

Another of my favorite poets considered

via Books Inq.

Gorgeous Photography


via BooksInq.

A Glorious Harvest of Haiku

Silent Flowers: R. H. Blyth Translations

A Biography of Andrew Marvell

One of my favorite poets--Andrew Marvell

The Mimic Octopus

Mimic Octopus--one reason I love invertebrates so.

The Cambrian Explosion

Retiming "The Cambrian Explosion."

Interesting--because this is THE adaptive radiation that is foremost in the minds of scientists when they talk of such things.  However, it is most interesting that within that 20 MY or so all of the major body plans of all of the major phyla (and some body plans of phyla that no longer exist) were present.  There are some mysteries that might well remain mysteries, though one should not cease from trying to understand.

Thanks to the link bank at Julie's Happy Catholic.

Daily Lit

Daily Lit

If you've always meant to read it, but just never got around to it,  if you have that humongous and daunting volume staring at you, challenging you to undertake it, or if you have an iPhone or iPad and ten spare minutes on the subway (load up before you go down) you might want to consider Daily Lit.  Sign up for a book and it is delivered to you each day, in portions that you can read in 5-10 minutes.

You can get The Ambassadors, The Golden Bowl, Portrait of a Lady, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Dubliners, Ulysses, Middlemarch, or any number of other classic works.  If you really, really, really want to read it, but you don't want to make a spectacle of yourself hauling around Middlemarch, you might want to think about Daily Lit.

Jack London Considered

"To Build a Fire" reviewed

Pardon the obvious pun--but next to "The Most Dangerous Game", one of the most chilling realistic stories ever written.

God and Brand Loyalty

Do those not holding to a faith exhibit great brand loyalty?

Interesting and amusing.

via BooksInq.

John Henry Newman on Knowledge

The recently beatified John Henry Newman's Idea of a University.

The Chestertonian Enigma

The Man Who Was Thursday Audio reviewed

I do not share my coreligionists enthusiasm for Chesterton.  I've tried.  I've tried and I've tried and there is just something about him--perhaps the "hale fellow well met" sense I get from some of the essays, I don't know, but I don't enjoy much of Chesterton's work.  This book is a prime case in point.  I've read it twice and have absolutely no recollection of it whatsoever.  I often "blank" a book which holds no point of interest for me.  The review tempts me to a third reading and a possible new appreciation for Chesterton.

Krugman v. Orwell

Krugman v. Orwell

I couldn't agree more.  And to book here's Orwell's magnificent essay--a must read for all who want to be literate both in normal rhetorical use of language and in politics and the manipulation of the masses.

"Politics and the English Language."


On Choosing What to Read: One Person's Dilemma

Baker or Bolano?  How to choose.

I sympathize with this dilemma.  Often, if I finish a book without a sense of what I'm taking up next  (or really its when an entire plexus of books has come to a terminus and I haven't anything ongoing in the background) I spend hours, sometimes days casting about for whatever fits the mood of the moment. The nice thing about belong to one or more book groups is that that particular problem is often solved.  Problem is, if I'm not in the mood for the book, my opinion of it tends to be more strongly negative than the book itself might warrant.

From Biblioklept

Rapidly becoming one of my favorite lit blogs--there's a trio of posts that deserve your attention:

Henry Miller on Surrealism

An Ozark Folk Tale

And a complete story from Amy Hempel

The Physics Behind Unstoppable

See the trailer for the film and then watch the analysis of the science.  Nice diptych.

Interview with Daniyal Mueenuddin

Interview with Daniyal Mueenuddin

Author of one of the books from last year that I liked best (the one I wish has taken the National Book Award) In Other Rooms, Other Wonders.  Read in tandem with Aravind Adiga's White Tiger the two books provided different, but profound insights into the normal life of a part of the world that I too often think of as merely exotic.

Meet The Winter Queen

Elizabeth, briefly Queen of Bohemia

An Educational Moment

The Effects of Yawning in Class

While I concur in principle with the idea that it is rude to break out in loud yawns no matter how dull the lecture, I find the professor's reaction here perhaps a trifle-over-the-top.  And once he sees it on the internet, I suspect that class will experience fireworks unlike any seen heretofore.

via University Diaries

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Barack and the CB Letter to His Daughters

Review of Of Thee I Sing

Okay, just cool yer jets--dun fore he wuz prez.

Ólafsson's Icelandic Saga

A review of The Ambassador--Bragi Ólafsson

Enhance Your Empathy Centers--Yawn

Yawning your way to empathy

Not likely to win friends and influence people.

(via Books Inq.)

Quo Vadis Taste?

Does taste make you superior?

Really Lovely Meditation on Scripture

Mr. Wilson offers a deep reflection on the gospel reading from a few weeks back.

I am at a loss to say anything that would make this more worth your while.  My Catholic friends would all do themselves a favor by going to read this reflection.  I would wish for more such.  Certainly more practical and worthwhile than much of what I hear as homilies in my church.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti Interview

An interview with Lawrence Ferlinghetti

via Books Inq.

Of the beats, I always found Ferlinghetti the most accessible.  There is something particularly striking and lovely about the musicality of his poetry.

Cornwell on the Revolution

Bernard Cornwell discusses The Fort

via Books Inq.

Edith Wharton on the Death of the Book

The knoll has been tolling now for more than a century--Edith Wharton on the death of the book.

Of Replicants and Reality

Bladerunner reconsidered

A Visit with Dr. Z.

Doctor Zhivago considered

So, Then, What Constitutes a Lie?

The Nature of  a Lie

Proceeding from the natural law premise that all lying is immoral, one is then faced with the question of what constitutes a lie. 

All I can say is that if it takes this much thinking to resolve so little a problem, my life in philosophy would ultimately be a life of complete paralysis.  Also, given my obstinacy with respect to accepting "self-evident" axioms on which many of the arguments are based, I'm afraid I would be continually floundering.  Knowing this, I stay away from any but the most shallow philosophical discussions outside the realm of aesthetics, which I'm willing to argue for years because so little actually depends upon the outcome.

Dinner with Henry Miller

Dinner with Henry Miller--a film

A conversation with Henry Miller.

Rimbaud: Life in a Slideshow

A documentary life of Artur Rimbaud in a slideshow

Rimbaud, with his "Le Bateau Ivre" and Les Illuminations is among that great school of French poets including Verlaine, Baudelaire, and Mallarmé--les impressionistes et les symbolistes.

Essays by Geoff Dyer

Working the Room

After Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi, which had some interesting and amusing moments, this book of essays seems like it might hit the spot.

Dubliln IMPAC Longlist

The Longlist for the International Fiction Award

Create Your Own Balanced Budget

Take a look at the options--see what it means to balance a budget

This Review Surprises Me--The Lovely Bones

The Lovely Bones--Film

I have to admit, the positive review of this film actually surprised me.  It is evident that Mr. Jackson must have taken a huge deviation from the source materials to get so positive a review from this trusted reviewer.  What I recall most about the book (although, it certainly wasn't the only feature, and you all are already aware of my quirks when it comes to reading) is the notion of heaven as a waiting room for revenge/justice.  It does not sound as though that element plays out as strongly in the film.  Still, given the subject matter, it is unlikely that I would be able to endure it, so I leave it to others to find out and comment.

Monday, November 15, 2010

My Year of Flops

Nathan Rabin's My Years of Flops reviewed.

Sounds amusing.

Cynthia Ozick is a National Treasure

Review of Foreign Bodies, her latest work

I never fail to be amazed by her work, and I shouldn't be surprised that she seems to have undertaken James yet once again.  In her prior outing (Dictation), I believe she also took on Conrad--but it could be that I am remembering another book.  I do know that I dearly love to read Ozick's work--always polished to a high gloss.

Why Are We Supporting Repression?

"Why Are We Supporting Repression in Ethiopia?"

I have to admit that whenever I glance at a title like this, there is a quick twist of despair within.  Too often all the good that we do gets stopped at a border and a little bit is allowed to trickle in and do what it can for the selected few.  Not always, not by any means.  But the simple answer to the question is that we want to support people in need, not regimes, but one must plot one's ways around the regimes to achieve the laudable goal of supporting people.  And so we stop the trickle that gets in, and who benefits?  Still the draconian regime because they will always be sitting pretty.

LoA Story of the Week--The General Tells Us of Monmouth

George Washington recounts the Battle of Monmouth

Not Literature Debate

Start the Not Literature Debate with Anthony

And continue to his source

I haven't fully assimilated the arguments (and I will), but I have said before that arbitrary denigration of a genre or even of a particular work is less about supporting literature than it is about bolstering one's own ego and weltanschauung.

We Share a Disappointment

The Three Weissmanns of Westport reviewed

Bookish Pet Peeves

Bookish Pet Peeves

Little did I know it, but I share at least one of these, perhaps all of them.  However, the first one is the one that most seriously impacted my recent reading of Julie Orringer's  The Invisible Bridge.  Go, find out what I mean.

One of the Greats

The Master and Margarita reviewed

If you haven't read it, this is one of those books you do yourself a service by reading.  Complex, entangled, a satire and an intriguing look at Stalinist Russia.

Zen Thought on Responsibility

Zen Thought--Responsibility--a profound insight and meditation.  Where truth is, seek it out.

Yusuf Islam and Salman Rushdie Revisited

Cat Stevens on Fatwas etc.

Certainly makes you think twice about  one's former allegiance to the singer.

REAL Professional Degree-Earners

A for-hire on-line course taker

Ah, as the technology improves, cheating becomes just more and more a matter of economics.

Robbe-Grillet, the Cinema Auteur

Who knew?  N Took the Dice: A Robbe-Grillet film in a somewhat bad transfer from video--but nevertheless, there for you to see.

More on Robbe-Grillet in cinema

Wallace Stevens in Winter

"The Course of a Particular"

Dogs and Wolves and loup-garou

Well, not really directly loup-garou, but if we consider the fate of the author, it has much to tell us regarding them.

Irène Némirovsky The Dogs and the Wolves

Mr. Cromwell Reconsidered

Wolf Hall reviewed and admired

The joy of book blogs is that the conversation never ceases and we can visit now and again those things we have admired or despised and see them from a slightly different point of view.

Nietzsche on Culture

Despising men of letters and culture parasites

Just what I love of Nietzsche, so restrained, so subtle, so reserved.  It's hard to pick out from his writing what he really thinks.  Small wonder then he ended as he did.

Poem of the Week: Two Translations from Rilke

"Apollo's Archaic Torso"

And yet another translation by Stephen Mitchell

Haiku-like thangs

Two poems in the form of a haiky sorta

Title after Erik Satie

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Most Difficult Book You've Ever Read

What is the most difficult book you've ever read? One answer here, mine follows.

I'm doing to confine my answer to fiction because no one really wants to know about Ascpects of the Dynamic Manifold in Planck Space, or even worse for sheer tedium  Advanced Igneous Petrology.

So, the most difficult piece of literary fiction I've ever read has to have been The Golden Bowl In terms of sheer technical difficulty, it blew Ulysses out of the water.  Part of the reason is that so precious little actually happens in the book and the same six or so characters float around one another endlessly.  There is no compelling narrative to sweep you through the deep complexities of the story--and so in this stark environment, James's deep insights stand out.  The book is worth every minute you put into it, but you will, in all likelihood put a great many minutes into it. 


Haruki Murakami considered

Wild Sheep Chase

This Comes As Sad News--Henryk Górecki

Henryk Górecki RIP

via Books Inq.

The Silver Chari considered

The Silver Chair

I need to reread these.  Probably soon.

Leaves leave

Two autumnal poems about leaves

Friday, November 12, 2010

O'Connor On Her Education

"Blessedly unburdened by my education"  to quote the blogmaster

Seigfried Sassoon

Two poems by Sassoon

via Books Inq.

More Letters

A review of the letters of Saul Bellow

Three Posts of a More Catholic Nature

"Hail Mary" in Arabic

"Martin of Tours": a Poem

Encountering the Word of God in Sacred Scripture

Epstein on Eliot: A Response

Is Literary Culture Shutting Down?

Alternative Histories

World Building

via Books Inq.

The Murderer at the Door

The Murderer at the Door--a fascinating discussion about the natural law view of the morality of telling lies.

Bran Mak Morn Considered

Worms of the Earth

What Was New, Was New

. . . but it wasn't necessarily very good.  Another view of Gibson's Neuromancer, which by the tone of my introduction, you can tell I disagree with.

However, all that really says, is that in all fairness I need to revisit the book and see if my initial impression hold.  They certainly didn't for A Handmaid's Tale, so after a few items are swept off the table, it may be time to revisit Mr. Gibson's opus.  Given the enthusiasm it sparks, I must have missed something.  I may miss it again--that doesn't mean the book isn't worth reading.

Smaller Strangers are More Dangerous

The Little Stranger noted

I note this because of an amazing synchronicity.  The books sits to my left on my desk and the passage underscored by Bellezza is one that I read just last night--the story was actually launching itself and I was transfixed.

Books Savored

Books Savored in an animated short.

About 10 seconds into the film Printy walks by Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections.  No matter where I look, he is there to haunt me.

"All Are Stoicks. . . "

Abraham Cowley "All Are Stoicks in the Grave."

Some lively translations of a Greek original.

As Though You Hadn't Been Freedomed to Death

Here's another in the long line of blogs about Franzen's book

via Mark Athitakis

And so you ask me, if I'm so tired of them, why do I continue to post about them?  Because one day, perhaps after the furor has died down, I fully well intend to read the book and then I'll be looking for all these kinds of things and I'll have a long link library.  Or so I tell myself.

The Sea, The Sea

What could be better than a blog entry about books concerning the sea and travels?

Well, actually going to the sea and undertaking those travels, perhaps.  But still and all, given that most of us won't do that. . .

Thursday, November 11, 2010

May You Never Have Need of Recourse to These

Recommendations for reading about cancer

Mr. Myers recommends Richard John Neuhaus's beautiful and magisterial As I Lay Dying as one possible resource.  But if this blog may grant anyone a gentle benison, I again hope that no one who reads these words ever has need of this list even if they should choose to avail themselves of the resources on it.

More Western

The Short Stories of Louis L'Amour