Showing posts from March, 2011

I've Heard So Much About This Amber-Eyed Hare

The Hare with the Amber Eyes--Edmund de Waal

I've heard about this on and off in many places and I'm intrigued by it.  I think I really want to read it.  This review practically drags me into it.

Joycean DNA

Booker International Prize Judge Shares

Booker International Prize Judge shares the burden of Judging.

The Booker International Prize honors a body of work rather than a single work.  Past recipients include Alice Munro, Chinua Achebe, and Ismail KadarĂ©.  Candidates for this year's award include a very mixed bag: David Malouf, Anne Tyler, John Le Carr&eacute:, Phillip Pullman (really, you couldn't manage better than that?), and Philip Roth.

Fr. Wilfrid Stinissen

A kind friend gave me the gift of an Kindle copy of Fr. Stinissen's magnificent book Into Your Hands Father.  Being a Kindle edition, my highlights and notes are made available online (another fact that I owe a great debt to my friend for making clear to me.)

Having my highlights available online makes it so much easier to write and comment about the book.  One of the point that Stinissen makes is that God speaks to us in the ordinary events of life, even those events with which we are not so pleased.

from Into Your Hands Father
Fr. Wilfrid Stinissen

If God is the creator of heaven and earth and the great director guiding the drama of the world and mankind, then I can encounter him everywhere. He pours out his love upon me in and through all that happens. “Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it” (Ps 81:10). I do not need to consider when it is wise to open my mouth and when it is better to close it. I will always have my mouth wide open. I live in a land where milk and honey …

One of My All-Time Favorites

The Dispossessed--Ursula K LeGuin reviewed

Many like Left Hand of Darkness better.  As with much of the fiction from that time, I found it too heavily laden with agenda to be a worthy work.  It's a shame because the central notion is so compelling, but that's how I viewed/view it.  The Dispossessed on the other hand while still agenda-laden, stands out from the concerns of the agenda and manifests as a complete and interesting novel.

"Not one of them'll be missed. . . "

Why the Death of the NYT book review online is GOOD for literature

via James Russell Ament

Technically, from what I've read, it isn't really a "death"  nonsubscribers to the NYT can still get up to 20 articles a month gratis, after which access would be blocked.  But the points made in the articles are at least interesting discussion starters.

Lovely supporting quotation with which I could not agree more:

If we believe that literary taste in America today is debased--weighted toward the transitory and derivative, rather than original advances in writing--then the Times bears its share of responsibility for propagating the collective delusion: for example, that Philip Roth is a writer worthy of the Nobel Prize, or that Jonathan Franzen is a writer in the league of Balzac.

Considering D. H. Lawrence

The Rainbow reviewed

I have to admit to a profound deficiency with regard to D. H. Lawrence.  I've only read some short stories, too much poetry, a few essays, and Sons and Lovers.  I read at Lady Chatterly's Lover which so profoundly bored me that I made no further attempt at Lawrence though I knew I ought to have at least Women in Love and The Rainbow under my belt.  Perhaps this will stir enough interest that I can take it up again and read.  Or perhaps not.  Those of you who are Lawrence fans--any suggestions to reignite interest?  Or is there such a thing as a Lawrence fan?

Kevin Brockmeier Alight

The Illumination reviewed

I checked this out from the library this weekend, and I am now avidly looking forward to reading it--but it follows Exiles in the Garden.

Houellebecq's Meditation on Stillness

Perhaps Faulkner's Most Accessible Masterpiece

As I Lay Dying reviewed

So accessible, indeed that a good many students in high school read it.  I did.  I didn't get much out of it at that time except a life-long abiding love for Faulkner.  I didn't attempt much more at that time, but have dipped in from time to time, returning within the past three or four years to discover a deep an wide treasure-trove of story-telling and technique.  For those with fear of Faulkner, As I Lay Dying is a very good place to start--accessible, but still deep within the Faulknerian technique and sensibility.

Midnight Mass--F. Paul Wilson

Of recent date, I have been so preoccupied with getting things done for home and work that I haven't had the wherewithal to indulge in any extensive or demanding reading.  Sometimes my brain just needs candy (as you've probably noted with some of my reviews).  This is an example of candy, but intriguing candy.

Midnight Mass is a story about vampires.  Not your sparkly teen-angst vampires, nor your tortured byronic (I call them moronic) hero vampires.  No, this hearkens back to the bad old days of Salem's Lot and They Thirst.  There's nothing noble or exalted or wonderful or thoughtful or kind or meaningful about this bunch.  They are about destruction and blood.  Period.  Could care less about art, science, technology, literature, or humanity (except as a food source).

The story starts with the Vampires having taken most, if not all of Europe and Connected Asia.  They made it to the East Coast of the United States and the assault on the country has begun.  New York City…

Neil Gaiman's Tribute to Diana Wynn Jones

I had read of Neil Gaiman's tribute to Diana Wynn Jones yesterday but had been unable to find it.

Today, thanks to Happy Catholic, I'm pleased to make it available to all.

Diana Wynn Jones, R.I.P.

I found the news at Biblioklept, googled to assure, and found this appreciation by Christopher Priest.

What a tremendous loss to the world of fantasy.  I'm so sorry to hear this news.

Barry Hannah and the Gun

BH speaks of the rumor

Gossip, and its close cousin, rumor, were both well addressed by George Harrison who referred to the one as "The Devil's Radio."

David Lodge on H. G. Wells

Prophet of the Sexual Revolution

Yet one more reason to look askance at Mr. Wells.  Some wonderful work, but some dubious thought.

Literary Haunts

Woolf in London

I am an inveterate "literary tourist."  On a geology field expedition to a GSA convention in Macomb, Illinois, I felt unavoidably dragged to Spoon River and the birthplace of Edgar Lee Masters.  I took a trip up to Amish Country in Ohio to visit Winesburg (which is not at all situated as Sherwood Anderson would have us believe).  I've walked through Dublin with Joyce and on my one trip to Fort Lauderdale when I was on my own, I went looking for Slip 17 at the boat club where Travis McGee docked "The Busted Flush."

So, naturally, articles like this really appeal to me.

Making Your Reader a Tablet

Rooting your Nook

I guess this falls into the category of  "Because I could."  I'm not certain that I fully understand the attraction of doing this given that tablets are not all that much expensive to start with and they are undoubtedly going to become more affordable.

The Way I Feel About Much of "Christian" Art (So-Labelled)

A quotation from a review on the USCCB movie review site:

"Religiously honorable, but aesthetically tentative drama"

If that doesn't describe the vast majority of the art labelled Christian, I can't think of anything better.  While I would be ecstatic over successful "Christian" Art, too often the label is used to indicate substandard writing and art in the Name of God.  It's a shame that this should so often happen.  Not all, but at least enough to give one pause when it comes to the purchase of "Christian" artwork.

LoA Story of the Week--Nathaniel Hawthorne


Horrific as it is, it shouldn't come as any surprise--the war on girls/women

And the future looks even more ominous for baby girls. Nick Eberstadt of the American Enterprise Institute points to “the fatal collision between overweening son preference, the use of rapidly spreading prenatal sex-determination technology and declining fertility.” As the magazine adds, “Over the next generation, many of the problems associated with sex selection will get worse. The social consequences will become more evident because the boys born in large numbers over the past decade will reach maturity then. Meanwhile, the practice of sex selection itself may spread because fertility rates are continuing to fall and ultrasound scanners reach throughout the developing world.”

While imbalances such as now found in China and India are unknown in the West, the practice of sex-selection abortion is found here as well. Indeed, there is no current law against the practice in the United States, whe…

The Irreplaceable Man

R.I.P--Elizabeth Taylor

R.I.P--Elizabeth Taylor

I must admit that I haven't cared much for her work--Cat on a Hot Tin Roof being the highlight for me, but I will miss her presence.  She was certainly an interesting and involved person.

Venice and Varanasi Revisited

One of Fitzgerald's Best

Lost Cities and Vanished Civilizations

Poem of the Week: Pervigilium Veneris

Pervigilium Veneris in a translation by Thomas Parnell


She paints the purple Year with vary'd show,
Tips the green gem, and makes the Blossom glow.
She makes the turgid Buds receive the Breeze,
Expand to Leaves, and shade the naked Trees.

Considerations of the Hamster

LoA: Story of the Week--Jane Rice

From the American Fantastic Tales collection: Jane Rice, "The Refugee"

I am not familiar with Ms. Rice's work, and as I am a true admirer of most Dark Fantasy/Horror stories, this lack provokes me.  Though not extremely.

Facts without Hysteria--Fukushima

MIT on Fukushima

Thanks due to a colleague at work.

Man Asian Literary Prize Winner

Bi Feiyu, author of the luminous The Moon Opera, has won for Three Sisters.

This book should be coming to me soon.  I can't wait to read it.

An Interesting List

50 Quintessential British Novels

For me the list fails by the omission of Iris Murdoch and Henry Green--Loving may be THE quintessential British novel.

The Gargoyles again

Another View of Full Dark, No Star

Stephen King's Full Dark, No Stars reviewed.

Warning: spoilers--but a nice consideration of the book with which I largely agree.

Considering Hardy

On "Neutral Tones"

A masterpiece of a poem and inspiration for one of my earlier poems also inspired by the language of Finnegans Wake.

"Can Fantasy Ever Tell the Truth?"

"Can Fantasy Ever Tell the Truth?"

Is that even a reasonable question after Tolkien? Not to mention MacDonald, Voltaire, and countless others, from the Golden Ass to Little Big?

A Look at Richard Yates

Revolutionary Road reviewed.

Frankly sounds like a depressing mess--no wonder I was never able to get through it.  However, I was able to enjoy this perceptive review.  And its companion piece.

Sandman Slim--Richard Kadrey

Genre: Dark Fantasy/Noir
1st in series

Eleven years ago, James Stark was lured to the basement of a dark house and sent to Hell, literally.  While still alive, he engaged in arena battles in Hell and gradually became one of Hells greatest champions, sending even major devils to the Hell within the Hell for vanquished spirits and the already dead.

Now he's come back to avenge the death of his girlfriend and he's spent some time out of touch so iPhones, and other commonplace items of the present are arcane oddities.  But having trained in Hell, he's ready to fight.

The prose is tight, the story well plotted and idea-rich.  James Stark is completely believable as a character and what drives him makes him more sympathetic than one would otherwise be inclined to.

The story arc traces a traditional noir thriller, while the window dressing is anything but noir.  We've got hell, heaven, and other realms all packed into a story that is a compelling roller coaster ride.


Via BooksInq: A List of Poetry blogs

The Orange Longlist: What Do You Make of It?

The Orange Longlist: What do you make of it?

Room, Goon Squad, Great House, The Invisible Bridge

The usual suspects.  I do not understand the adulation that borders on frothing over A Visit from the Good SquadThe Invisible Bridge was, perhaps, four times longer than it needed to be and, as one of my friends pointed out, a case-study of boregeous writing.

Swamplandia, on the other hand, is one that I've seen about and which intrigues me.

"The Secrets of Boys"

Dream of Ding Village--Yan Lianke

Genre: Literary Fiction/Translation

Having much enjoyed the previous effort by Lianke that I read, I was looking forward to this book.  To put your minds immediately at ease, I was not disappointed.  Indeed, if anything, this was an even better novel.

Dream of Ding Village tells the story of Ding village and three generations of the Ding family.  The father of the narrator is a schemer who is always looking for an angle to make money.  He starts his career as a "blood-head" making a fortune purchasing and selling the blood of the townspeople.  Naturally, he fails to practice even the most rudimentary hygienic and safety precautions and in due time the every family in the town has at least one family member who has succumbed to or presently has HIV/AIDS.  This not being enough for Ding Hui, he spends the rest of the book involved in various schemes.

Grandpa is deeply shamed by Ding Hui's conduct and begs him to make restitution to the town.  Naturally Ding Hui sees …

Who's Most Typical?


March is such a wonderful month--with yesterday as Pi day and today with the Ides.  So many different things to celebrate.

The Artscroll English Tanach--Rabbi Nosson Scherman

Apart from the odd character important to Mathematics and perhaps a few others (chaim), I have long since lost whatever Hebrew had come to me as a child.  I could not more read a line than I could Sanskrit, which is a shame.  I am a collector of Bibles and of Bible text and have an interlinear Greek and have always had it in mind to have in interlinear Hebrew, but have never gotten around to purchasing one.

This book, however, will join my collection of Bibles as a prize in the collection.  I am not a scholar of the Talmud nor the Midrash, so I cannot comment on how valid the "insights from classic rabbinic thought" are.  However, they are fascinating and add a new dimension to reading "The Jewish Bible."

The text is presented in a way unfamiliar to most Christian readers of Biblical Texts.  It is presented, one assumes, in the classic Jewish fashion--the Torah (the five books of Moses) The Prophets--among which we find Joshua, Judges, I and II Samuel, I and II Ki…

A Meaningful Quatrain

Fred talks about the quatrain that gives this blog its name.

He thinks bleak, but in my perverse and obstinate view, I find it sublimely beautiful and an encouragement in the carpe diem form.  The particular obscure "Oh Make Haste!"  at the end--could it not refer to the momentary taste itself?  A twisted, perhaps a tortured reading, but one that bears careful scrutiny amid the other quatrains that in a singularly un-Muslim way hard on the "Seize the Day" theme.

And if it all is for a momentary taste of being--what a wonderful and beautiful blessing.  "A momentary taste of being from the well amid the waste."  I picture a bleak gray landscape suddenly transformed.

I picture also the daily trudge through life, that suddenly is opened up in experience and in literature, by a momentary takes of being. 

Bleak sounding, but it resonates with me as the experience of a day and it holds open the prospect that if we could learn but to live our lives would be linke…

Patrick Rothfuss Reconsidered

I posted a list a couple of days ago that had on it Patrick Rothfuss's The Name of the Wind as one of the 10 best SF of the decade.  This review seems to bear that out.  (For some values of SF)

The Odd Annotation or Two

The C.S. Lewis Bible
via Books Inq.

Not, as you might think, a compendium of facts, snippets, and information about Mr. Lewis, but rather a Bible annotated (if the examples serve) with seemingly every idle thought that crossed Mr. Lewis's mind regarding the Bible.  The problem here is not Mr. Lewis so much as the question of what the majority of these jottings can add to a person's understanding.  This might be considered a piece of fabricated marginalia--and interesting merely from that point of view--but it does continue a long line of Bibles fabricated for nearly every interest--Bibles that add little to the essential understanding, but much to the thick literature of bible studies;  I anxiously await The Charlie Sheen Bible.

That said, if we regard the work as I suggested, I do have a keen interest in what it would tell me about Mr. Lewis--not so much what I would learn from it about the Bible.  Not that Mr. Lewis is not instructive in that fashion--but in reality few of h…

Fantasia on a Bear

The Wisdom of Ambrose Susan Prudhomme

I must admit to being leery of fiction that is advertised as "Christian" because it has, in the past, mostly served as a cover for not very good fiction charged with an evangelical message.  Not all, but some.  However, this sounds genuinely charming.

Murakami and Millhauser

A consideration of two works--Murakami and Millhauser

I must confess to lacking an appropriate appreciation for either author.

Requiring Further Study

An interesting, intriguing history of science fiction diagram that clamors for more attention than I can give it right now.

Vasily Grossman

The Road--Vasily Grossman--review of what sounds like a superb book of short pieces.

At the Risk of Overhyping

Much attention has been focused on Mr. King's time travel

We're told here that it is another thousand page brick of a book.  Ah, for the discrete pen of a competent copyeditor.  Having perused a couple of these in the past from Mr. King, he was far better at it when he had the assistance of someone who knew how to trim the fat--take The Stand and The Bloated Stand.  Sometimes less is better.

We must wait and see.  A thousand pages outside his normal genre.  We'll need to see what that looks like.

Anna Egan Sings the Standards

Well. . . a standard at least. 

Many thanks to those who have supported this young singer.

An Important Note Left Elsewhere

You only cease to need an editor when you cease to right.

Peter HItchens Speaks

Brief Survey of the Short Story 32: James Joyce

Another by Zeltserman

And a Notice from the Office of Readings

First, a joyous Ash Wednesday to all those who observe it--and below is one source of that joy:

From a Letter of Pope St. Clement to the Corinthians

 Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the ministers of God’s grace have spoken of repentance; indeed, the Master of the whole universe himself spoke of repentance with an oath: As I live, says the Lord, I do not wish the death of the sinner but his repentance. He added this evidence of his goodness: House of Israel, repent of your wickedness. Tell the sons of my people: If their sins should reach from earth to heaven, if they are brighter than scarlet and blacker than sackcloth, you need only turn to me with your whole heart and say, “Father,” and I will listen to you as a holy people.

From Morning Prayer

One of the intercessions caught my attention this morning:

"Teach us to be loving not only in great and exceptional moments,
but above all in the ordinary events of daily life."

I'd Be Interested to See What Hilary Mantell Makes of It

Reminds Me of Michael Pollan

Low Fat may not be so good after all

Anyone paying careful attention has to question a wealth of the supposed science behind much of the nutrition work that is going on.  It would seem to me that the closer one can get to real food--the materials that come out of nature, the better off one might be.  That just seems logical.  And it apparently is gradually being rediscovered.  Gosh, if you don't eat as many soy-lecithin coated pre-fab chicken by-product nuggets cooked in refined diesel, you might be healthier.

Cool Beyond Words

The natural world is so incredibly cool--zombie ant fungus.

Considering Whitman

Doerr Takes the Story Prize

Doerr takes the Story Prize for Memory Wall

I really must try to get through that book.

With Yiyun Li and Susan Rivecca as runner's up.

That last one really makes me wonder about the validity of the award.  Or perhaps it should make me go back and see what it was I missed this first time around.

Lewis's Translation of The Aeneid

"Lost Translation" found

A work thought to have been lost in a bonfire a year after Lewis's death has been uncovered and is to be published. 

I think I got this link from Books Inq.

Let's Kill Courtesy

Boyle's New Book

When the Killing's Done reviewed.

I picked this up at the library yesterday.  But then, I picked up many things, and a great many of them I put back down again after a page or two.  For example, who knows whether I will finish Cleaning Nabokov's House?

A Guide to the Orchestra

I Still Haven't Made It Through Under the Dome

And Steven King's time-travel novel is announced.  It will be interesting to see how he handles the themes.

What is intriguing to me is how many people think that writing outside one's home genre is something readily done.  I encounter it time and again.

"I plan to write an SF novel."

"Oh, have you read much SF."

"No, but I watch movies and TV."

It might not occur to such a one, but that acquaintance is insufficient to sustain a literary work with the specific conventions of a genre.  Many think that they will be ground-breaking and convention shattering, but to shatter conventions, one must know what the conventions are.

All this really has nothing to do with Mr. King's book--it just occurs to me as a result of a conversation that occurred this weekend.

The Magnificent and Magisterial Eudora Welty

Two stories reviewed

Crafter of exquisite, yet simple prose, purveyor of keen insight--Eudora Welty is despite all one of the finest underappreciated writers you're ever likely to find.  Too rarely do we hear her name with those of Faulkner, O'Connor, and Percy, and it is long since time to remedy the oversight.

Test Your Writing

by reading aloud

An excellent suggestion that works particularly well for poetry.  I don't know about before an audience, but I'm sure that is helpful if the audience is so attuned.  It also helps you discover, even without an audience, infelicities of phrasing that might make comprehension difficult for a reader.

Poem of the Week: Derek Mahon

"The Seasons" a quartet of short poems.  Or one longer poem.

Styron's Darkness

Describing the indescribable--Styron's Darkness Visible

The prose in such a dark memoir is, if I recall correctly, luminous and exact.  Worth your time.

LoA: Story of the Week--John Adams

University of Chicago Free E-Book--March

SF Novels of the Decade

A TOR books poll lists them

I have to admit to really liking Scalzi's Old Man's War, to not yet having penetrated the length of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell and to being relatively ignorant of the rest.  So, I must make headway in the list and see if my tastes still coincide with those of the insiders.

WiFi Seen

Underappreciated Novels?

Believer lists five for the year, including James Hynes's Next.

Indeed, I thought next a powerful novel.  I'm not sure it qualifies for underappreciated from most of the reviews I've read, but it is good to see it on a list likely to promote others to read it.

Patrick White's Last Novel

The King James Bible Readathon

KJV Readathon

One would hope that they would actually read the Authorized Version which included in-place translations of the deuterocanonical books.

Chang-Rae Lee speaks

How is a novelist like a spelunker?

Find out in this interview with Chang-rae Lee.

Regarding Symmetry

Her Fearful Symmetry reviewed

As much as I rely upon the work of critics and book reviewers, there are some times when they just can't seem to get it right.  I have suspected that the book referenced above is one of those cases, and it is nice to see a review from someone whose opinion I respect that entices me to take up a book that I have long been intrigued by.

I Just Need to Say that I'm Not Surprised

Of Invertebrates and Poetry

Look what a kind friend brought to my attention--poetry about insects.

As I wrote to this friend in response, can there be anything more wonderful than poetry about invertebrates?  It seems unlikely.  While you're there, check out some of the other posts--beautiful photography of intriguing insects and other natural things.

I Can't Say Why. . .

Kindle Publishing--The Other Side

Minas Tirith from Matchsticks

Oh So Gorgeous

"Who Owns Kafka?"

Beckett's Recollections of Joyce

Beckett recalling Joyce through an interview

And here, for my future edification and delight is the source of an anecdote that I had never truly trusted:

He was very friendly. He dictated some pages of Finnegan's Wake to me at one stage. That was later on when he was living in that flat. And during the dictation, someone knocked at the door and I said something. I had to interrupt the dictation. But it had nothing to do with the text. And when I read it back with the phrase 'Come in' in it, he said, 'Let it stand.'

Shut Up and Write

"Howl": The Graphic Novel

Joyce Carol Oates on Widowhood Reconsidered

A Widow's Story reviewed.

It's odd to reflect on another's grief and how they choose to relate it and how they choose to cope with it.  Whether or not she was engaged within a year--I don't know that we can say what that says about her experience.  Every person's experience is different and I'm just deeply grateful that such a talented person (or any person, for that matter) could find her way out of the purgatory of grief.

Supporting the Arts

An opportunity to help support a young student going abroad for training.

The song and the voice quality are truly wonderful.  Take a listen and if you are in a place to do so, please help this young lady.  I'm looking forward to hearing more of her voice in the future.