Friday, December 31, 2010

Reflecting on "Auld Lang Syne"

Reflecting on "Auld Lang Syne"

via Books Inq.

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

and, of course, what would a change of year be without

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

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

Paul Bowles--Born 30 December 1911, with a video of Paul Bowles reading.

And another remembrance

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 women throughout his life, and the question of why he is here in Austin and where exactly is he in his life.

The book packs several powerful punches.  I have to say that it is, in parts, quite crude and yet it seems like a valid interior monologue (though I have to say that if I'm tracing the thoughts in my own head that actually occur in words, those words do not figure prominently in them) for an educated, intellectual person.  I never had trouble believing in and even sympathizing with some of the dilemmas that Kevin notes, although I must admit to having become exasperated by his inability to see what he was doing to himself.

The story is largely about how we put life on hold until life finally takes a hold on us and drags us through.  Kevin spends much of his life drifting--not charting a course, not making any fateful determinations, not doing much of anything other than looking at women and thinking about women and being with women and thinking about other women when he is with women. . . you get the drift.

The book, surprisingly works.  And equally surprising to me, it is deeply affecting, deeply touching, and mysteriously joyful.

I have to recommend it to all--but wait until next year--it isn't that far off.

Highest recommendation--*****

Chillingly True and Relevent

"Our Masters"  an excerpt from G. K. Chesterton

Thursday, December 30, 2010

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

Hemingway writing Archibald MacLeish on Ezra 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

With Thucydides, 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 came into power and Hungary's Jews were gathered for the final solution.

Night is the story of one of these Hungarian Jews. It is spare and unrelenting. While it does not flinch at looking the horror of what happened in the face, it's merciful brevity adds more punch to the profound questions that the author makes no real attempt to address.  Where was God?  What was God doing while this happened to the chosen people?  Here was a young, ardent Jew, one who wanted to study the Kabbalah, faced with one of the greatest horrors humankind had ever brought forth.

I can add nothing to the recommendation that I noted yesterday.  But this seems to me to be required reading.  with Anne Frank, Victor Frankl, Tadeusz Borokowski, Primo Levi, Imre Kertesz and a few others, this narrative gives yet another picture, from the inside, of the horrors of that time.  Even when we are invited in through the narrow camera-view of a single person, it is beyond our ability to imagine the extent of the horror, the alienation, the complete unreality/surreality of what was undoubtedly real and happening then and there.  It is a merciful blankness on our part, but a dangerous one.  Our inability to truly grasp what occurred makes it all too probable that events may transpire to allow it to happen again.  And so, chronicles like these are valuable as signposts and warnings--constant reminders of the depths to which humanity can stoop--and our willingness to do so at the slightest provocation--or, in this instance, no provocation at all except the one we dream up.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

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’s reader on the Future, J. G.’s cleaned the floor with all the rest. While they came up with sweeping, visionary statements on technology, society, the virtual, and every other futurological motif, Ballard confined himself to four words: “The Future is boring.”

Being nearly completely tone-deaf to irony, I cannot tell in what spirit this was advanced or what its real or intended meanings are.  Is it some vast and elaborate joke, a facade, a pretend-play?  Or is it to be taken seriously.  Or is there some combination of the two?  Because I oppose irony (except dramatic irony, which makes for more interesting plays and movies) I read the manifesto as at least semi-serious--which is problematic in itself.

Reading Woolf Night and Day

Night and Day, an early novel, considered

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

"The Laureate's Curse"

Thomas Bernhard in Translation

Considering Thomas Bernhard

Three Percent Looks at HMH in Translation

A nice analysis of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt offerings in translation

And the HMH Lit in translation blog

A Revolutionary Resolution

Resolving for New Year's?  You couldn't do much better than this.

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


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"

C. S. Lewis on Pagan Gods and otherwise

via Books Inq.

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

Martial's Latin with multiple English renditions. 

Dickens's Great Book

Great Expectations in all the myriad forms

In Memoriam: Denis Dutton

Dennis Dutton One

Dennis Dutton Two--A TED Talk

Forcing Oneself to Face the Blank Page

Writing Naked, Superglue, and the programmed Freedom for eight hours of sanity.

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"

Geoffrey Scott--"All Our Joy is Enough" 


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

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?

Magazines less digital?  I don't think so, but here's one who does.

Another Review of Bound to Last

Another review of Bound to Last.

See my own, here.

Picture Perfect Paris

Picture Perfect Paris--looks wonderful

Greg Schultz on Craft in Fiction

Craft in Fiction

via Brandywine Books

Beginning our Farewells to the Year

John Clare's "The Old Year"

Hessel v. Houellebecq

And the winner is French Resistance Author Stéphane Hessel

Kindle Dethrones Potter

Amazon's best-selling item EVER?  The Kindle

Literary Themed New Year's Eve Dinner Menus

Yep--literary themed menus redux

Beautiful and (for those not caught in it) Amusing

Time-Lapse Snowstorm

How to Lose a Fond Memory

Losing a fond memory revisiting childhood reading.

Naguib Mahfouz considered

The Palace Walk reviewed

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

Review of the year in lists of two

For the Snow-Bound

John Greenleaf Whittier's "Snow-Bound" for the snow-bound.

Gratitude redux

Life itself is the gift. . . gratitude in focus

Later, via Books Inq.

Living Gratefully

Another View of Less-Than-Perfect

The Imperfectionists reviewed

My own review is here.

A Sound-Byte from Gaddis

No matter how little, it is always worth hearing from Franzen's bête noire--William Gaddis

The Rosetta Stone

Try to ignore the "Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade" feeling of some of the narration.

Orson Welles Twice

Freedom River

Les Miserables

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


Five E-Book Trends the full monty

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 make him stand out from the crowd?  I would say that he is, in fact, the apotheosis of ordinary--and perhaps in that alone extraordinary.  Mr. Bloom does not start out extraordinary, but he becomes so through the reader's investment in him.  He is an ordinary working, walking through an ordinary day in Dublin and he has not set out to accomplish the extraordinary.  Does the claim Mr. King makes aimed at saying that he does not want to create extraordinary characters who stand out in memory--characters who through their personification of all that we share allow us to stake some part of our being in their own--characters from whom we can learn important essentials of life?  I don't think that is his desire.  Surely he does not want to be consigned to the oblivion of yesterday's best-sellers?  And if we continue--we can ask the same question of any number of characters in literature.  Let's just look at Henry James--in what way is Daisy Miller extraordinary?  Isabel Archer?  Memorable, yes, extraordinary--well their lives and their ends exhibit the myriad ways in which they are terribly and terrifyingly ordinary.

Let us consider, just for a moment, the other side of that equation.  How exactly is Carrie ordinary? In her psychokinetic ability and psychological fragility?  And Randall Flagg?  And Jack Torrance--he is "ordinary" in what way.  Dolores Claiborne?  Indeed, I would argue that Mr. King got it wrong in a very big way.  Literary fiction is more often than not about ordinary people in ordinary situations who, in the course of dealing with the events of the story become extraordinary people in our minds--stand-outs from the remainder of humanity.  On the other hand, I would also say that Mr. King's people are extraordinary people in extraordinary circumstances who are sometimes overwhelmed by the circumstances, and sometimes emerge from them in some transcendent, and usually horrible way.

Enough, already I have beaten a horse that emerged from the womb dead.  But another point in the book is more worthy of consideration.  What is it that makes "Fair Extension" such a terrible, nauseous story (for me)?  And I think here, the answer is straightforward.  The attitudes undertaken by the main characters are so much in tune with the ordinary, with what any person in extremis is capable of.  From here on out, reading has become unsafe, I'll need to talk about details of the plot that will ruin the story for those who have not yet indulged in the tale.

Monday, December 27, 2010

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

"My Grandmother's Opal"

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"

A lovely poem by Andrew Young

Confused by Bolano? Join the Club.

The Savage Detectives reviewed

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

"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 things in themselves have a charm and an other-worldly elegance).  Instead it is about being present to one another and acknowledging by that presence the worth of the individual who is trying to communicate.  This is done in small ways--by using a name, by saluting with one's own name.

I know, I have an antiquated idea of how things should progress in the world of the new spelling, twitter, and text messages.  But as everyone who has been aggravated by them will attest, even my text messages make some attempt at salutation and valedictory. 

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. 

Sunday, December 26, 2010

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 the book are dark, darker by far than much of what Mr. King has produced before.  One might say that the outer darkness so prevalent in much of Mr. King's fiction has through time undergone a transformation to a deep inner darkness.  In some cases, this darkness has been provoked by incidents beyond the perpetrator's control.  But, and this is what makes "Fair Extension" so deeply disturbing, Mr. King has come to the realization that some of us choose deep darkness and evil and choose it willingly.  And Mr. King is very, very Aquinian in his understanding of this choice--no one chooses darkness for darkness, but they choose darkness because they see good.

These stories are good, well-written, haunting in the best sense of that term.  For me the most haunting being the dark choice of "Fair Extension" and the good that plays out from it--good for one--not so much for another.  Again, not a new theme for Mr. King, think Thinner.

What is refreshing is to see a distinct lack of excess, a deliberation and a control that I had thought had long since left Mr. King's command.  Also refreshing is the relative lack of political diatribe that has polluted some of the more recent (and very fine) work such as Duma Key.

For fans of this master of dark tales, highly recommended.  For those who have not yet entered the pale, you might be well advised to keep away--this form of nightshade is less poisonous, but highly addictive.


Friday, December 24, 2010

Long List of Jewish Books of the Year

Long list of best Jewish Books of the year.

And a comment on the list

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

Francis Collins Interviewed

via Books Inq.

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 Christmas day.

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'm not struck by the quality of writing, nor am I particularly partial to the notion that expletive dotted language (no matter how the expletives are disguised) is particularly the mode of conversation you want to encourage in those whose ethos and approach to life is still forming.  Words have power and when you attenuate that power with words designed for a meaningless emphasis, you are draining the language for its richness.  I know too many whose language reflects this etiolation.

There is something deeply disturbing about the present trend in YA fiction toward these very dark and exceedingly distrustful books about relationships between the generations.  The distrust and anxiety are already prevalent, and perhaps these books, along with those by Suzanne Collins, Scott Westerfeld and others merely play on this riff--but if so, it is a very long riff with little about it that suggests reconciliation.  Perhaps that is okay.  Perhaps the message is that the way you feel is common, everyone feels that one sometimes.  Perhaps not.


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 Noel pour le Roi nouvelet,
Noel nouvelet, Noel chantons ici!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Some Religion for Christmas

Some Religion for Christmas

via Books Inq.

Ted Chiang

Ted Chiang interviewed

Favorite Books of the Year

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

via Books Inq.

Seamus Heaney Considered

Seamus Heaney Reviewed by Joseph Bottum

via Books Inq.

Personal, but Really, Really Lovely

A personal thanks to the blogger at Zen Leaf for sharing her "Anniversary."

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

"I Sing of a Maiden"

Little Women

Literary Encounters a L'Australia

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

Hempel on Lish and Hannah

More Solstice Celebration

With haiku, poetry, and aphorism

Net Neutrality Not Neutrality

On Net 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

Brian Moore: Lies of Silence

"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 the more interesting aspects of the novel is the presence of Immanuel Kant (as presaged in the title--to parallel two of the master philosophers most well-known texts.)  Fortunately for us Kant is not the investigator, but, and this is the interesting twist, he does tutor our investigator in all of techniques associated with criminal investigation--thus "creating" a detective.

Before I launch into my comments about some of the problems with the book, let me give my final analysis.  Well written, highly enjoyable--well-drawn characters, some extremely unlikeable, but all a very human mix of likable and unlikable.  The author does a nice job of dealing with the real horror of the crimes and the atmosphere it creates in the city overall.  Finally, this is not "precious" the way some mysteries featuring historical characters are.  It is saved from preciousness by the fact that Kant, while central to the progress of the story is not the central intelligence behind its telling.  I can say, without reservation, that I would gladly take up another novel by the same author.

****  recommended for readers of mysteries, with some small reservations.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

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.

Monday, December 20, 2010

An Atheist Looks at the Good of Faith

An Atheist Looks at the Good of Faith

via Books Inq.

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

Treasures from the Vatican Library--a slideshow

"Like A Bad Lobster in a Dark Cellar"

Reviewing Dickens's Christmas Tales

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

30 Dumb Inventions of the Twentieth Century

via Books Inq.  and Paul Davis on Crime

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. . .

Fred looks, in some detail, at Quatrain XXXV--very much worth a peek.

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.)

The wonderful folks at Da Capo books offered me a review copy of one of their most recent, and, after all, who am I to turn down a free book--I took them up on the offer and I'm pleased that I did. Bound to Last: 30 Writers on Their Most Cherished Book is an unusual volume.  It's comprised of a series of thirty essays about, predictably books.  But this is really about books, not content, not story, not literature.  And as a result some unusual volumes find their way into the collection.  For example, Rabih Alameddine highlights as his most cherished book a battered paperback edition of Harold Robbins's The Carpetbaggers. Shahrihar Mandanipour looks to a Farsi translation of Das Kapital. Victoria Patterson, not surprisingly, considering the power of her own work, looks to William Trevor: The Collected Stories.  Perhaps the most touching of all of these is Karen Green's tribute to her late husband via The Collected Stories of Amy Hempl, and perhaps it is touching because we understand the circumstances.

Each of these essays examines an actual copy of a book--some still owned, some long since vanished, that occupies a central place in each author's life and looks at why that volume is so important.  This is really about books--about stories, but also about paper, binding, blue, covers, hard and fast real life printed on paper books.  But I should note that there is nothing, or at least very little reactionary here.  This isn't an argument for books against electronics, rather is is a celebration of the very tactility, the very corporality of books that so many people have cherish.  It is a tribute to the power of incarnation, or at very least inpaperation of words.  While I will continue to argue that what matters is what was written, no matter how conveyed, I know that I too am deeply subject to the intangible lure of the book--paper, binding, thread, ink, cover, all.  I have not left off buying or acquiring them, nor will I, even though I can carry ten thousand or more with me in my various e-book readers.

A beautiful collection--perfect for the bibliophile--I can't recommend highly enough the celebration caught between these covers--the book that, perhaps, in the future, if asked, I might choose as the one to celebrate. 


Saturday, December 18, 2010

Wow! Kevin Gave Me an Early Christmas Gift

Mr. Interpolations (with whom, I promise, I will eventually talk about Flannery O'Connor) politely requested a gift from a number of bloggers, most of whom were already on my list.  but one who was not turned out to be a real gift.  Check out

Carvana de Recuerdos.
Kevin from Canada
Nonsuch Books

Thanks Kevin, hope you like your gift when you open it.  If not, the exchange counter is open and I'm more than happy to offer something more slimming or entallating or embulking--whatever.

The Other Wilkie Collins

Wilkie Collins wrote a number of worthwhile the most famous of which are The Moonstone and The Woman in White, reviewed here.

Both are worthy of the attention of anyone who appreciates Victoriana or the classic mystery.

More on Lewis

Consider then, The Last Battle

The Murse Dilemma

How to carry your iPad/minicomp

Thanks TSO!

Personally, I carry it is in shoulder bag that I originally bought at the Smithsonian or AMNH.  I bought it with the thought that Son might use it, but he had no interest.  But it's a great little rugged green canvas field bag with lots of places for writing implements, bottles of vinegar, chisels, (tools of the geology trade) and an ample compartment of specimen bags, tags, and or/journals, iPad, present reads.  I've used it for some time now and have occasionally given thought to the spectacle I present when I lug this thing into Church (I have the Liturgy of the Hours on the iPad).  But you know what--what other people think about you is none of your business anyway--so I lug away.

Why Narnia is NOT an Allegory

What is and why Narnia isn't

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Last Book I Loved

Andrew Holleran's Grief observed.

via Mark Athitakis

Haiku of the Japanese Masters

Haiku of the Japanese Masters

Joyce Carol Oates on her collection

Joyce Carol Oates on Sourland

The Fullness of Time is Upon Us

Praying the O Antiphons

You will recognize most of these if you are familiar with "O Come, O Come Emmanuel."

(via Dark Speech upon the Harp)

Nabokov's Bent

A look at Bend Sinister 

Warning--some spoilers.

13 Underrated Books of 2010

13 Underrated Books

I haven't read many of these--but James Hynes is on my list, if only for his absurd success with The Lecturer's Tale.  However, I would put a little asterisk next to Ms. Orringer's opus and note that while I found the writing and language engaging, one member of my bookgroup (rightfully, I think) appiled Ayelet Waldman's epithet of bore-geous writing to it.  For me there was a sense of displacement in time--too much modern sensibility seemed to pervade the thoughts and actions of people in the 1930s.  It could be that the story derives from real life, there seem to be adapted elements--but even if so, it is real life that has been interpreted in the light of a completely changed culture and as a result, I never felt fully engaged because I was constantly pulled away by the tension between the story being told and the sensibility of the telling.

Two Lovely Chinese Snow Poems

Chinese Snow Poems

A Triolet to Make Your Day

"Triolet (Shipwreck Song)"

Saul Bellows Epistolary Output

Letters: Saul Bellow reviewed

Google's Ngram

Ngram--see how word usage has changed

For a nice experiment use virtue, profit as the key and the dates 1920-2000.  Then, change the first date to 1800.

Who Is the Virtuous One?

Which one is doing God's will?  An interesting question and answer.

Tournament of Books

Tournament of Books, the longlist and one handicapping

He's with Oprah, and So Am I

"I'm with Oprah on this. . . "

I'm not heavily into the talk-show circuit.  I'm not the world's number one Oprah fan; however, I do deeply admire her commitment to reading and her encouragement to millions of viewers to read.  Yes, I'm sure there are some less-than-sterling books in the reader list.  However, there have also been William Faulkner  (and we should note here that it was no less that four separate works), Anna Karenina, and now Charles Dickens.

What harm is there in making literature fun?  So what if only 1% of the readers ever fully plumbed Faulkner's depths?  That's 1% more than there would have been otherwise.  And more than that, millions picked up and tried a book that they might not have tried on their own.  So to Oprah's book club, I give two thumbs up and a whistle.

(After all, she and I are really in the same business.  I blog about books to encourage my few readers to indulge--I think that may be the impulse of many book-bloggers.)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

LIu Xiaobo's Writings to be Translated

2012: Liu Xiaobo's Writings to be translated.

via Books Inq.

Two New Journals

Dappled Things new number is out

Online Free Sample of Gilbert Magazine--Appreciate

Considering Nicholson Baker

The Mezzanine considered--go to the root directory and scroll down for more when you're done with this one.

A Richard Wilbur Tribute

Richard Wilbur Considered

Amazing Science

Science Photography in 2010

Wuthering Expectations on the best of 2010

Best of 2010 from Wuthering Expectations

What PDK Learned from UKL

What Philip K. Dick Learned about women from Ursula K. Leguin

Yes on Willeford

No on Vonnegut, yes on Willeford

I didn't agree on Vonnegut, but I could see a good case for Charles Willeford (and several others).

"Ink in the Blood"

Hilary Mantel on illness-- "Ink in the Blood."

Available only as an e-book at this point.

Happy Birthday Ms. Austen

Happy 235th!

"Heart of Darkness"

"Heart of Darkness" reviewed.

I suspect that it is not possible to read and understand 20th century literature if you have not encountered and truly worked with "Heart of Darkness."  There are few touchpoints as volatile and as encompassing as this masterwork.  I think of Naipal's A Bend in the River amongst other works that would not exist without it.

Another Dickens Christmas Number

"The Wreck of the Golden Mary" reviewed

The Coalescence Cascade

Water at 10,000 frames/sec

Alan Bennett's Novella

The Uncommon Reader--a Novella considered

The Queen reads.

Aleksandar Hemon Considered

The Lazarus Project--Aleksandar Hemon

I was unable to finish this book--not because it isn't well written, not because it isn't good, as to those things I cannot say because I never managed to become engaged.  And as engagement is a reciprocal process, I am as much at fault for what I would not leave behind as the author is for what he would not advance.

A View of "The Wasteland"

Particularly notable is the then-royal-family's view of Eliot's masterwork.

A Year of Memorable Reading

The Year in Reading--Kafka, Woolf, Joyce, etc.

In the Epicurean Mode

"Why Death is not an Evil"--Epicurus v. Silenus

What Eyecatching Covers! On Poetry!

Eyecatching covers and at least two titles of note (the others may be as well, but I admit ignorance in this case--Larkin and Plath I know.  Perhaps I need to make the acquaintance of others).

Lest We Forget

Lanzman's Shoah 25 years later

The human mind can hold horror only so long and must look away.  But it is important to look back--no matter how diluted the experience, we need the reminders of what we are capable of, lest we set out on the path to repeating the past.  It is far too easy to do when you depersonalize.

Losing Your Reality

The Succubus Vlado Zabot

This one sounds as though it could be quite interesting.

Reading Uncomfortably

Eternal Discomfiture from the year in reading

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Music as a Spiritual Practice

Spirituality for Agnostics: Music as a spiritual practice

via Books Inq.  (I think)

Season's Readings: Ewwwwwww!

The Corrections?

Really?  Is it possible to choose anything less seasonal, more profoundly antiseasonal?  As much as I did enjoy The Corrections, I certainly would NOT recommend it in this season.  And were I to recommend a novel along similar lines it would, without doubt, be Rohinton Mistry's Family Matters.

MA on Spiderhead

Mark Athitakis on George Saunders's "Escape from Spiderhead"

Spoilers alert, but the article is worth reading.

Martin Luther on Christmas

Martin Luther on Christmas

For all of his profoundly unlikeable traits, most particularly his anti-semitism, there are times when Martin Luther gets it exactly write and says it in inimitable fashion.

Online Universities and Courses

Online Universities and Courses

Shirley Jackson on "The Lottery"

Shirley Jackson on "The Lottery"

An excerpt:

Curiously, there are three main themes which dominate the letters of that first summer—three themes which might be identified as bewilderment, speculation, and plain, old-fashioned abuse. . . People at first were not so much concerned with what the story meant; what they wanted to know was where these lotteries were held, and whether they could go there and watch.

I remember reading the story in sixth or seventh grade and then seeing a short film made from it.  Ever since Jackson joined the imperishable and unmatchable ranks of my then- (and still to some extent now-) hero Edgar Allan Poe, although her talent is quite differently oriented--unique.

RIP--A Litany of Lost Writers

RIP--A litany of authors who left us in the last year--at least we have their children as a constant reminder.

London Review of Books Celebrates the Wake

Parsing Quashed Quotatoes  for commentary

Michael Wood on the Wake

Authors read Authors

Authors read Authors

Pamuk reads Nabakov,  Theroux reads Borges, Oates reads Welty,  Pullman reads Chekhov, Boyd reads Ballard

2011 from 1931

Visionaries predict three (or so) weeks from now

Two from the Late MacNeice

Two poems from late in the career of Louis MacNeice

Cynthia Ozick on Anthony Trollope

Cynthia Ozick examines Anthony Trollope

The Clauses at Christmas

The Autobiography of Santa Claus reviewed

While at the library, I picked up How Mrs. Claus Saved Christmas and was deighted to discover that it not only told us the deep secrets of the Claus family, but took place in Cromwell's England set against a real challenge to the celebration of Christmas.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Others Look at St. John of the Cross

Considering St. John of the Cross

Simon Rattle Comments on "The Nutcracker"

Simon Rattle on "The Nutcracker"  (hint, he likes it)

Genre ergo not literature?

Edward Docx repeating the old party line about the inferiority of genre fiction

The same old, and largely ignorant arguments made by fearful literati against genre fiction. So do we dismiss a certain portion of Doris Lessing's Canon becasue it is SF.  Do we toss out Margaret Atwood?

I like Frank's note with regard to this.

Also, I will note that I use the word ignorant advisedly.  Mr. Docx contends that within the genre much of the thinking about the work is already done.  Obviously he has not encountered The Man in the High Castle, The Dispossessed, Left Hand of Darkness, Babel-17, The Sparrow etc.  Obviously, there is a great deal of thinking that goes into constructing the fictional world.  Some hacks pick up the bits and pieces left around by other writers, but the majority are thinking every bit as much, and perhaps more than many writers of literary fiction.  I suppose that the Odyssey, as a brand of genre fiction (High Fantasy) is just de trop and trapped by its conventions.  And so, I would say the person who would levy this argument at genre fiction is simply ignorant of much that is within it and his opinion is tainted by that lack of knowledge.

To sum:  why is it that we must feel better about ourselves by trying to run others down.  The intrinsic worth--how is it measured?  What are the quanta of literate fiction?

"The Artistry of Memory"

"The Artistry of Memory"

Neurologists tell us that we continually remake and refashion our memories so that we never really recall what happened but the story we tell about it.  But I question the relevance, and the points raised in this article articulate those questions better than I ever could.

Teaching Tech

Google teaches your parents tech

A series of short videos on technological "literacy."


Otherworldly--The Year's Most Transporting Books

Having read Mockingjay, I can certainly agree with that choice. I've avoided The Passage until the effect of reviews, negative and positive wears off.  I'm in the midst of Hull Zero Three and find that it is one of the more persuasive SF environments in recent years.

Dan Brown's Latest

The DaVinci Code 2: The Eyes Have It!

Wharton Reviewed

The Age of Innocence considered

Huxley v. Orwell

Huxley v. Orwell

I had a short epistolary interchange with Peter Kreeft on this very issue after he contended that Huxley was the better predictor of trends, and I contended that there were elements of both dystopias that we had come to accept and even to embrace.

C. S. Lewis reviewed

Voyage of the Dawn Treader reviewed

Book, not movie.

Multiplication the Japanese Way

Multiplication the Japanese way--does it work with any set of numbers?

I'm not enough of a number theorist to say.

Philip Roth Reviewed

Nemesis considered

Man Asian Prize Longlist

Man Asian Prize Longlist

I've read at Hotel Iris, but haven't even heard of many of the rest.  Although it is interesting to see that Kenzaburo Oe has a book in the running.

Lydia Davis--Another Take

Biblioklept posts a very short story by Lydia Davis.

Far be it from me to say, but when I read things like this, I get the sense that I'm looking at Marcel Duchamp's "Fountain."  Or, to use another metaphor this is the 4' 33" of the short story world--if there is a story, it is not in the writing, but in what goes on inside the reader--and Lydia Davis is not the "author" of that story, though she is the progenitor of it.

Because an artist signs it does not make it art.  Neither is a single line a short story just because one who writes says that it is.

That's not to say that it isn't interesting, but folks, if you buy into this definition of a short story, you're also applauding the Emperor's New Clothes.

Interesting, fascinating writing--yes.  Short story--no.  But then, does Ms. Davis contend that they are?  Just because these aphorisms are collected as short stories does that cover the author's intent?

I think perhaps that there is something new here--something that is more compact than a short story, not quite a poem, and neverthless a live-wire in the writing world.

I suppose it doesn't much matter what one calls it in the end. . . for what's in a name? A rose. . . .

The Completion of a Trinity of Posts Dedicated to Juan de la Cruz

One last post for my favorite saint.  If you'd like to read a very short, complete work (although complete is perhaps not the right word for it), you could do worse than The Sayings of Light and Love which I found online at many places, but thought I would give two quite different sources:

The magnificently named "Drink from the Wadi Cherith"  
The wadi cherith has special significance for the Carmelite Order, for it was at the Wadi Cherith that Elijah (kind of a patron, founder-figure, and inspiration for the Order) was fed by the ravens on his arduous trek at God's command.   See here for my own take on the Wadi Cherith

And the Baha'i Forum

I guess I just want to make a point of his universal appeal--like all the great spiritual writers--Lao-tzu, Kung-fu tzu, Rumi, St. John of the Cross, the authors of the Sutras, etc. what he has to say gets at the core of what matters in the spiritual life and transcends mere denominational and religious "boundaries."  (I'm not a syncretist, but I do find we tend to make much more of our differences than of our similarities.)

"One Dark Night. . . "

St. John of the Cross is considered one of Spain's finest poets, although his opus is very, very small.  All four of his major works are constructed as a poetic prologue accompanied by lengthy explications of the poem.  Below is an excerpt of one of the most important works--Dark Night of the Soul.

"The Dark Night

St. John of the Cross
Stanzas Of The Soul
1. One dark night,
fired with love's urgent longings
- ah, the sheer grace! -
I went out unseen,
my house being now all stilled.

2. In darkness, and secure,
by the secret ladder, disguised,
- ah, the sheer grace! -
in darkness and concealment,
my house being now all stilled.

3. On that glad night,
in secret, for no one saw me,
nor did I look at anything,
with no other light or guide
than the one that burned in my heart.

4. This guided me
more surely than the light of noon
to where he was awaiting me
- him I knew so well -
there in a place where no one appeared.

5. O guiding night!
O night more lovely than the dawn!
O night that has united
the Lover with his beloved,
transforming the beloved in her Lover.

6. Upon my flowering breast
which I kept wholly for him alone,
there he lay sleeping,
and I caressing him
there in a breeze from the fanning cedars.

7. When the breeze blew from the turret,
as I parted his hair,
it wounded my neck
with its gentle hand,
suspending all my senses.

8. I abandoned and forgot myself,
laying my face on my Beloved;
all things ceased; I went out from myself,
leaving my cares
forgotten among the lilies.

In Honor of This Day: St. John of the Cross

From the magnificent book by the late, and profoundly missed, Fr. Thomas Dubay Fire Within: one of the classic studies of the mystical theology of St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Ptolemy's Cosmographia

Images from Ptolemy's Cosmographia

The Perfection of Destruction

More about Tea--more than you'll ever need, but, perhaps, not more than you'll ever want

Saunders and Saunders

George Saunders's wild ride

"Escape from Spiderhead"

Elusive Electronic Success

How The Atlantic turned the tides and made a tidy profit (pun intended)

via Books Inq.

First Things Poetry

Poetry for January 2011

Including a poem by Frank Wilson, from whose blog I derived the initial link


Two notes I hope I will make somewhere once they are more completely thought out:

Why Heaven and Hell Do Not Matter

Pain Is the Source of All Ritual

Neither should be taken to be quite so bleak nor so definitive as it might seem I am implying by mere title.  But thinking about matters leads one to conclusions--now, if only I can articulate those conclusion in something more than the bare lines that introduce them.

LoA Story of the Week--On Parrots

Paul Bowles on Parrots

The Weight of Opinion

Are All Opinions Equal?

Two On Dickinson

A critical review

Dickinson's recipe for black cake

Poem of the Week--David Wheatley

"St. Brenhilda on Sula Sgeir"

Another Nobel Laureate

Haldor Laxness--Under the Glacier reviewed

For those of You Who Can Handle Robert Bolano

A review of The Savage Detectives

Ghost Story Contest Winner

If you've read the short list--here's the winner

Books for Women/Men

75 Books for Women
75 Books for Men

via Books Inq

Reading in 2010

Mookse and the Gripes gives 12 for 2010

Best of NASA Shuttle Videos

Best of NASA shuttle videos 1981-2010

Now, for a Classical Interlude

Video of Glenn Gould playing bach, Leonard Berstein conducting.