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Showing posts from December, 2010

Reflecting on "Auld Lang Syne"

World's Worst Invasive Mammals

World's worst invasive mammals

Oddly, I often don't think of mammals in this category.  On the other hand, the whole list seems undoubtedly true and pervasive.

via Books Inq.

Greeting the New Year in Poetry

Let's start with an epitome:

Kobyashi Issa
New Year's Day

New Year's Day--
everything is in blossom!
I feel about average.
Tr. Robert Haas 
Then we have the inimitably cheerful Thomas Hardy
At the Entering of the New Year
and, of course, what would a change of year be without
The Darkling Thrush
For those making resolutions we have Rainer Maria Rilke's
Archaic Torso of Apollo


My own haiku:
The new year comes in the old goes out; nothing stops the baby's crying.
(I claim it for my own--but I will readily say that it is so engrained in memory that I may have stolen it from some great writer of haiku and forgotten.  If anyone reads this and recognizes the real author (if, indeed, I am not he), please let me know.)
Then we have Robert Herrick sending A New Year's Gift to Sir Simon Steward
And we can depart the subject where we entered--with Issa's quiet wisdom
New Year's Morning Kobiyashi Issa 
New Year's morning:
the ducks on the pond
quack and quack.




Happy Belated 100th

Beginning a New Year of Reading

Suggestions for those casting about for a new year of reading

I'm fortunate--I have a list as long as my arm of things to read now and in the coming months.  Right now I am reading and hope to finish today (because it is quite short) Andrew Holleran's Grief.  And immediately on its heels Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan, and perhaps I'll be able to force my way through Ms. Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad, although, I must admit, I don't hold out much hope on that one.

Other posted Reading Plans

Next--James Hynes

Oh, this was not the book to end a year on.

And with that inauspicious beginning, I'll back up to recommend this book highly to everyone.  It has been a sleeper and so there hasn't been enough written about it to prepare me for its high-powered impact.  And I will say no more about that because I want you all to endure and enjoy the surprise the probably shouldn't have been such a surprise.

Kevin, from Ann Arbor, has gone to Austin to interview for a job there.  On the way he meets a young lady who entrances him and whom he stalks through Austin.  (She must be the most completely oblivious person in the world because they have several near encounters along the way, but she never seems to recognize or note him.)  After an accident ends his stalking (not in a really predatory sense), he chances upon another woman who helps to repair the damage and has lunch with him.  Woven throughout this seeming nothing of a story line is the history of Kevin's relationships with other…

Chillingly True and Relevent

An Appreciation of the KJV

400 Years of the KJV

via Books Inq.

When I want to be lost in the sheer majesty of language, in the deep history of our literature, in mastery and beauty--there are few places to find it better than in the KJV.  Admittedly, if one wishes to study, analyze, and otherwise participate in scholarly Biblical research, it may not be the best.  But it certainly is more ear-considerate than many of the thundering, thudding, thunking modern translations.

Hemingway on Pound

MA Visits the Year in Books

Mark Athitakis notes the year in books

And I would have made a point of this one even if Yiyun Li were not at the top of the list.

Pursuing the Peloponnesian Wars

Stanley Fish on the Grace of God in True Grit

Stanley Fish comments on True Grit

And if Stanley Fish commenting on the grace of God isn't an odd enough combo for you, then you are truly in Yves Tanguy land.

The Year in Short Stories

Collections of Short Stories

Of course Yiyun Li is mentioned and lauded, otherwise, why bother?

Night Elie Wiesel

Inspired by a review I looked at yesterday, I took this book up (again?--I honestly can't recall if I've read it before, though I'm certain I've held it in my hands and nearly certain I've read it--but upon rereading remember almost nothing of it) and swiftly finished.  It is a short book.  Very short.  And like Frankl's but in some sense a mirror image of it, a powerful book. 

Elie Wiesel was a 14 year old boy living in Hungary when the Hungarian Holocaust occurred.  Now, I don't think it would be an exaggeration to say that for the majority of the war, the Hungarian Jews had a measure of protection from the Holocaust.  The ruler of Hungary refused to go along with the German plan with regard to the Jews.  That isn't to say that life was easy or without hardships or prejudice, but until 1944, the Hungarian Jews knew little or nothing of the holocaust.  That all stopped suddenly, dramatically, in 1944 when a new government, a more cooperative government…

Leads to Interesting Places

"Declaration on the Notion of 'The Future'"

And the complete manifesto from the International Necronautical Association 

Two Excerpts of interest

6. To phrase it in more directly political terms: the INS rejects the idea of the future, which is always the ultimate trump card of dominant socioeconomic narratives of progress. As our Chief Philosopher Simon Critchley has recently argued, the neoliberal versions of capitalism and democracy present themselves as an inevitability, a destiny to whom the future belongs. We resist this ideology of the future, in the name of the sheer radical potentiality of the past, and of the way the past can shape the creative impulses and imaginative landscape of the present. The future of thinking is its past, a thinking which turns its back on the future.

. . . .

25. A footnote on Ballard: When, in 2006, a range of writers, scientists, artists, architects, and misc. were asked to contribute a sentence each to Hans Ulrich Obrist…

Reading Woolf Night and Day

Old News, But New to Me--On Not Getting an African Nobelist

Thomas Bernhard in Translation

Three Percent Looks at HMH in Translation

A Revolutionary Resolution

Chesterton on Film

Alec Guinness Playing Father Brown and Chesterton Himself.

GKC's voice comes as something of a surprise to me.

Considering Pym?

Barbara Pym considered

If you haven't read her, you may want to pick up a novel and give it a whirl.  You might be pleasantly surprised.

Poetry is Politics

Poetry Out Loud examined.

via Books Inq.

The best multicultural education one can get is a grounding in the classics of one's own culture--the ability to understand how literature works at a base level in a vernacular that is comprehensible to the individual.  This was my training--and though I am occasionally mystified by my forays into other cultures, I can claim that I'm occasionally mystified by my forays into my own--it is all equal.  While much should be done to redress the historic discrimination that has kept out of our hands works of quality by women and minorities--it seems a shame to make that one of the overriding criteria for a selection of work.

Black Swan

A review of Black Swan

via Books Inq.

Sounds interesting, when I first read about it, I thought All About Eve in Ballet or, to cite one of my very favorite all time terrible, horrible, big bad movies Showgirls Goes Classical.  Apparently more than that (as what could not be?) and intriguing--but not one I'm going to race out to see.

Requiring Some Time--Life and Meaning I and II

Life and Meaning

Redux

Via Books Inq.

Caveat Lector--good stuff but not necessarily easy going.

Vincent Buckley on the Personality of Christ

The Strange Personality of Christ

Interesting and intriguing observations.  Read it!  Read them!

"Gods Must Die to Live"

Shakespeare's Sonnets

Reading Shakespeare's Sonnets

One that I must have--but know I sha'n't find in my library--any generous spirits want to send it to me?

Ha!  Thought not.

Rome v. Bilbilis

Dickens's Great Book

In Memoriam: Denis Dutton

Forcing Oneself to Face the Blank Page

Twelve Books of 2010

Twelve Books of 2010

Agreement on A Fine Balance, East of Eden, and The Imperfectionists, partial agreement with caveat on Insignificant Others.  Agreement on the merits, but not necessarily on all aspects of the analysis (a notable demurral on the interpretation of The Imperfectionists--but then, a book well-written admits of many possible views.)

"And Now for Something Completely Different. . . "

The Mummies perform Justine live

From what little one can make out of melody and lyrics, one assumes that this is Durrell's Justine not DeSade's--although from the assault on the ears, one could easily infer the latter as well.

Why Books Still Matter

The Lost Art of Reading--Why Books Still Matter

Sometimes, it seems, we go out of our way to try to show that something we enjoy or appreciate still matters, and yet the attempt in itself almost makes itself redundant.  Of course it matters, but we're preaching to the choir, for the only person likely to read a book about why books and reading matter is a person who is already convinced that they do.  Such a manifesto is unlikely to persuade the nonreader, because said person won't pick it up.  So, it is interesting.  But whatever adds dignity, vision, peace, and harmony to human life matters--and certainly reading CAN do that, even if it does not always.

The Fallen Angels Do Not Weep

"Just Like the Rain, I'll Always Be Falling. . . "

A delightful couple of lines:


"I holp no palmers whon thot thay bay seck;
No elvysh poppets twang may turvy rhyme;
Their ferney hawls I longen for to wreck"


I don't want to call them mock-medieval because the person composing them certainly has the credentials to produce a rounded medieval rhyme.  Nevertheless, the ringing Chaucerian laughter of the last line, which echoes that "thanne longen folkes to goon on pilgrimage// and palmeres for to seken straugne strondes"  from the Prologue to the Canterbury Tales certainly marks an allusiveness worth examining.

One of the Great and Neglected Golden Age Mystery Authors

Shelf Love discovers Michael Innes

Highlights of his work (for me) consist of Hamlet, Revenge!, Lament for a Maker, Hare Sitting Up, and Silence Observed--although all of them are quite good in a quiet, English, golden-age way.

"All Our Joy Is Enough"

A Novel Around Tristan and Isolde

The Metropolitan Case a novel with Tristan and Isolde at the center.

As one who learned to love Wagner early on in life, this sounds fascinating.  I'm given to understand that Wagner, like Lovecraft, Poe, and some others (perhaps even Mozart) is a taste acquired early on, and after a certain age, while appreciation may set in, true love is lost to one who hasn't already fallen.

Magazines Less Digital?

Another Review of Bound to Last

Picture Perfect Paris

Greg Schultz on Craft in Fiction

Craft in Fiction

via Brandywine Books

Beginning our Farewells to the Year

Hessel v. Houellebecq

Kindle Dethrones Potter

Literary Themed New Year's Eve Dinner Menus

Beautiful and (for those not caught in it) Amusing

How to Lose a Fond Memory

Losing a fond memory revisiting childhood reading.

Naguib Mahfouz considered

"I'm gonna send them two-by-two"

For the Snow-Bound

Gratitude redux

Another View of Less-Than-Perfect

A Sound-Byte from Gaddis

The Rosetta Stone

Orson Welles Twice

Facing Night

Elie Wiesel's Night examined

A powerful novel--spare, taut, uncompromising.  Truly one of the essentials--perhaps best balanced by a does of Victor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning or perhaps Imre Kertesz's Fatelessness (if you're made of sterner stuff than am I).

Five E-Book Trends

More on Full Dark, No Stars

I have been thinking over a couple of ideas that cropped up while reading the book.  I propose to discuss two here: why, exactly, I found "Fair Extension" as disturbing as I did and Stephen King's disingenuous distinctions.

Let's start with disingenuous distinctions.  Mr. King states in the afterward something to the effect that literary fiction is ultimately about extraordinary people in ordinary events and that he has ever fashioned his fiction from ordinary people facing extraordinary events.  Neither half of this generalization is true although one understands the underlying distinction he is trying to make.  Let's start with the first half--extraordinary people in ordinary times.  In the course of a blog entry, it isn't possible to consider every case of literary fiction; however, let's just take a few.  Let us consider for a moment Leopold Bloom.  In what way can we say that Mr. Bloom is an extraordinary person--what attributes does he have that mak…

Martian Sunset and Phobos in Transit

Martian Sunset and Phobos in Transit

Eclipse, while probably technically correct, seems strong for a body that would never fully block even the tiny Martian sun.  But interesting watching nevertheless.

Poem of the Week--Grevel Lindop

Gratitude as a Way of Life

Gratitude as a Way of Life

One of the key components to happiness in life is the ability to be grateful for what we have--not in comparison to others, not with respect to some place we would like to be--but here and now being thankful for what is in our lives.  It is, at times, very difficult because our thoughts are clouded by disordered desires.  But gratitude helps to align those desires, put them in perspective, and order our living accordingly.

And another

via Books Inq.

A Conversation with Father James Schall S. J.

Advent Conversation

via Books Inq.

Fr. Schall is well-known for his writing about literature (particularly G. K. Chesterton and other such) as well as other Catholic Matters--he's a favorite of mine for many things.

"Sky for Roof, Mountains for Walls"

Confused by Bolano? Join the Club.

LoA Story of the Week--"Horsefeathers Swathed in Mink"

Elegantly Old School

"Elegantly Old School"

Or how to revive common courtesy and knit society back together again. 

What was once common courtesy is now a rare and somewhat precious (in both senses of the word) thing.  I think about the rules we were taught for writing letters--and then I see how we commonly do e-mails.  The address line is determined to be salutation enough.  If we leave comments, we rarely trouble ourselves to acknowledge the individual behind them.  I know the electronic is metaphor for the new conversation in which we commonly do not acknowledge the speaker--but then, because we are present and evidently attentive, there is little cause to.

Courtesy, acknowledging the presence of one another, saluting the spark of the divine that travels within each one of us, is the stuff of which civil society is made--and it isn't a set of elaborate rules about whether or not one is required to wear elbow-length gloves or use the fish fork before the ice-cream knife (although those t…

How True Grit Made the Best Seller Lists

How True Grit hit the big time (first time around)

I read this book a long, long time ago and remember really loving it--not being able to read it fast enough.  I guess it was one of the first generation of YA fiction.  I'm not certain I would find it so compellingly readable now--but I'm told the new film clings more closely to the contours of the book, and that comes as welcome news.

Harry Potter Actress Threatened with Honor Killing

Harry Potter Actress Threatened with Honor Killing

via North Face

What is a shame is that a small number of practitioners of a faith, any faith, should so color our perception of the faith as a whole.  I know that as a Christian, I'm not particularly fond of abortion clinic bombers, cults in the style of David Koresh, or even (in a much different vein) a great many televangelists--all of these detract from the dignity of a truly noble and humanizing faith.  So, too, with these stories as they emerge.  I'm glad they emerge to cast light on what should not be left in darkness and so exemplify and spotlight what ought to change; however, it saddens me to think that as a result a great many will have reinforced conceptions, misconceptions, and prejudices about a system of belief.

Full Dark, No Stars--Stephen King

I received Mr. King's latest opus as a Christmas gift and finished it this morning.

The book lives up to the title, and one can only hope that it serves as a form of therapy or hope for Mr. King, for if not, the darkness is very dark indeed. For the most part, it is fairly standard King fare, rats (hearkening back to very early work in his first short story collection, which in turn hearkens back to H. P. Lovecraft's "The Rats in the Walls"), a tale of rape, near-murder and revenge, a story about a marriage--with secrets, and a Needful Things extension, which is, perhaps the ugliest and most deeply disturbing story in the book.

Indeed, it was this tale that actually caused a gut-churning nausea--not because of the details--which, in fact, were mild in the realm of Kingian detail, but the very concept of the story was deeply disturbing to me.  It truly exemplified Roethke's famous line, "Dark, dark my light and darker my desire."

All  of the stories in t…

Long List of Jewish Books of the Year

Advent Ghost Stories

"The Night After Christmas"  

There are several that you may want to take in after you read this one.

One of My Heroes: Francis Collins

A Christmas Poem

The Burning Babe
St. Robert Southwell

As I in hoary winter's night stood shivering in the snow,
Surprised I was with sudden heat which made my heart to glow ;
And lifting up a fearful eye to view what fire was near,
A pretty babe all burning bright did in the air appear ;
Who, scorchëd with excessive heat, such floods of tears did shed
As though his floods should quench his flames which with his tears were fed.
Alas, quoth he, but newly born in fiery heats I fry,
Yet none approach to warm their hearts or feel my fire but I !
My faultless breast the furnace is, the fuel wounding thorns,
Love is the fire, and sighs the smoke, the ashes shame and scorns ;
The fuel justice layeth on, and mercy blows the coals,
The metal in this furnace wrought are men's defilëd souls,
For which, as now on fire I am to work them to their good,
So will I melt into a bath to wash them in my blood.
With this he vanished out of sight and swiftly shrunk away,
And straight I callëd unto mind that it was C…

The Scorch Trials--James Dashner

The Scorch Trials is a young adult novel, follow-up to The Maze Runner.  While the puzzle and quest are neither as intricate nor as interesting as in the first book, the systematic and unremitting cruelty of WICKED continues.

The teens from The Maze Runner are forced out into the Scorch to cross one hundred miles of desert in two weeks.  The stretch leads past a city of abandoned people--quarantined victims of The Flare, called Cranks, in various states of psychological and physical collapse.  And of course, if that were not enough, other elements are stacked up against the success of the trial. The story is high energy and charges along at a good pace, though there are elements about it that would cause me not to recommend it for most young people.  They'll find it themselves, surely, and they don't need my advice about what is good for them.  However, as an adult gift-giver, these would not be in my long list of literature for young adults--this set in particular because I&#…

Christmas Greetings to All!

A day early, but as I don't plan to be on tomorrow to extend these seasonal greetings--a favorite carol:

Noel nouvelet, Noel chantons ici,
Devotes gens, crions a Dieu merci!
Chantons Noel pour le Roi nouvelet, Noel!
Chantons Noel pour le Roi nouvelet,
Noel nouvelet, Noel chantons ici!

L'ange disait! pasteurs partez d'ici!
En Bethleem trouverez l'angelet.
Chantons Noel pour le Roi nouvelet, Noel!
Chantons Noel pour le Roi nouvelet,
Noel nouvelet, Noel chantons ici!

En Bethleem, etant tous reunis,
Trouverent l'enfant, Joseph, Marie aussi.
Chantons Noel pour le Roi nouvelet, Noel!
Chantons Noel pour le Roi nouvelet,
Noel nouvelet, Noel chantons ici!

Bientot, les Rois, par l'etoile eclaircis,
A Bethleem vinrent un matinee.
Chantons Noel pour le Roi nouvelet, Noel!
Chantons Noel pour le Roi nouvelet,
Noel nouvelet, Noel chantons ici!

L'un partait l'or; l'autre l'encens bem;
L'etable alors au Paradis semblait.
Chantons Noel pour le Roi nouvelet, Noel!
Chantons …

For the Catholic Taoist

Larkin on Snow

The PoMo Drops Off the Deep End Again

Year's Best American Novel

A Considerable List of Notables

Some Religion for Christmas

Ted Chiang

Favorite Books of the Year

Another list, and one with some interesting entries--Favorite books of the year.

via Books Inq.

Seamus Heaney Considered

Personal, but Really, Really Lovely

Triffids reconsidered

John Wyndham's unread best seller

"I really got hot
when Janette Scott
fought a triffid that shoots poison and kills. . . "

Season's Readings

Literary Encounters a L'Australia

Book Munch Book of the Year

A somewhat disappointing list and a very disappointing winner.

If that's the best of the year, I would have to mourn for the state of literature that should have this at the apex.

Winter Solstice Lunar Eclipse

Winter Solstice Lunar Eclipse video

Flying home last evening, I was privileged to see the ochre full moon reflecting off of the water on Florida's east coast.  It was glorious, gorgeous, wonderful, and mysterious.  So, beautiful.  I missed this eclipse, not realizing that it was to happen--so this video is a wonderful "catch-up."

Amy Hempel Interviewed

More Solstice Celebration

Net Neutrality Not Neutrality

Wallace Stevens Plays in the Snow

"The Snowman"

Achebe's Achievement

Things Fall Apart considered

Along with Nectar in a Seive, Things Fall Apart was one of the few "multicultural books" to which I was exposed in my early formal education.

It is my contention that a thorough grounding in the pale patriarchy's canon made possible for me to access multicultural reading (take a look at the sidebar). 

All of that said, this is one of those titles that deserve again and again a place within the canon of great works.

More from Moore

"Solstice Song"

"Solstice Song"

Celebrating that shortest of days--the "beginning of winter"  though many have had it well-begun for some weeks now.

Critique of Criminal Reason--Michael Gregorio

NOTE:  R/T, Bea, Ron, you may not want to read what follows the break if you plan to read the book.  While I will try to be discrete, it may prove impossible to discuss the book without giving away some sense of it.

I saw that Fred had recommended this to R/T, and being something of a reader of mysteries, I thought I would take it up myself.  Let me start unabashedly.  Despite some problems I had with the book, which I'll detail below, overall, I enjoyed it tremendously.

The story:  A young magistrate from Nowhere, Germany is summoned by the king to Königsberg to investigate a series of murders that has the town terrorized.  On the even of possible Napoleonic invasion, many officials are convinced that these are the work of terrorists, designed to undermine the morale of the town and make it easy pickings for Napoleon's forces.  As our intrepid investigator looks deeper into the crimes, they begin to proliferate and he finds. . . well, let's not go there.

Possibly one of t…

Not Your Mother's Narnia

Sarah Palin is reading C. S. Lewis, and, predictably being attacked for it

This WSJ article speaks of one of the main themes of Dawn Treader--the importance of reading the right books, including fiction.

Posted from my iPad while waiting for a commuter flight to Miami--don't know how much more I'll be able to get to today.

An Atheist Looks at the Good of Faith

Brief Biographies

Brief Biographies of those who left too soon.

Including my second favorite composer: Felix Mendelssohn.  (My favorite in the realm--Claude Debussy).

A Professor to HIs Students: On Creative Writing

On Creative Writing

What more recommendation can you have than this beginning:


TO: My ungrateful students
RE: An inspirational letter

Oh, read it anyway. You may not need this postscript as much as I need to give it to you.

Treasures from the Vatican Library

"Like A Bad Lobster in a Dark Cellar"

Poem of the Week: Thomas Traherne

"Shadows in the Water"

Thomas Traherne gave us the Centuries of Meditations, which were, by my recollection one of those "lost" and refound collections.  Worth your attention and careful reading.

Another Seasonal Read

Secunda Pastorum

This one sounds utterly fascinating.

Countee Cullen on the Nativity

Christus natus est

One of the great crimes of the twentieth century is the virtual disappearance of Countee Cullen from the record of its poetry.  The power, integrity, and beauty of his opus is worth looking for and looking into.  A few years back a Collected Poems was published--I think it is out of print, but it's worth picking up if you should find a copy.

30 Dumb Inventions

Why Euphemism?

Euphemania reviewed

This sounds like one of those really interesting books I would never pick up if not recommended by so redoubtable a source as Biblioklept, with whom I do not agree on everything, but whose wide-ranging and eclectic interests never fail to intrigue--I have found many, many good things to read and see through the blog.

Barbara Pym: Because It's in My Reading Stack

Excellent Women reviewed

I hope we see a reevaluation and reemergence of Ms. Pym whose works I have long admired from afar and have only recently begun to explore close-up.

An Update on Mistry's Masterpiece

Underbelly provides us with an interesting look into the world that Mistry so superbly chronicled in his (to date) masterpiece A Fine Balance.

Do yourself and the world a favor--if you have not yet read it, pick up Mistry's powerful, humane, beautiful, and terrible masterpiece and read it.  Internalize it, and then act upon it.  This is the way the world is, despite Ms. Greer's denial of it.

A Tribute to Captain Beefheart

Captain Beefheart (RIP), whose magnum opus Trout Mask Replica, occupied many (far too many) of my college hours seeking first to understand, then to decide whether or not I liked it, then to figure out how it had ever made it out into the world of music at all given the less that liberal allowances of the recording industry even at that time.

Later: Frank at Books Inq.  has rounded up a number of tributes

On the Problem of Evil

Evil as It Appears to Atheists and Theists

from which I derive the quotation du jour:

"Metaphysics is the finding of bad reasons for what we believe upon instinct, but to find these reasons is no less an instinct."  F. H. Bradley

Consider then the Rubaiyat. . .

Traveling with Edith Wharton

In Morocco reviewed

I note this book with particular delight because, until today, I was in complete ignorance of it.  Now I can delight in looking forward to an Edith Wharton of which I had been unaware.

LoA--Story of the Week--Mark Twain

The Christmas Fireside (for Good Little Boys and Girls)

Knowing as I do Mr. Twain, I doubt I shall read this until well after the Christmas season--but for those for whom the Twainian brand of cynicism comes as a restorative, I offer LoA's seasonal offering.

Bound to Last Sean Manning (ed.)