Monday, February 28, 2011

From the Article Cited Before

And for my own commonplace book:

“To be a witness does not consist in engaging in propaganda or even in stirring people up, but in being a living mystery; it means to live in such a way that one’s life would not make sense if God did not exist.”
--Cardinal Emmanuel Célestin Suhard, Archbishop of Paris 1940-1949

LoA: Jack London

"To Build a Fire," Jack London

If you haven't already encountered it, I would consider this one of your "must read" stories.  Like several others I may make of point of later, this is a staple of the literary reader.  Much has stemmed from it and it is just a darned good story.

Lenten Reading Plans

Any Catholics out there have any?

I haven't figured mine out yet.  But it appears that Pope Benedict has a new volume in his Jesus books--perhaps that will make a good, if somewhat daunting read.

Amazing Sensible, Sensitive Advice

"Why I Avoid Both the Catholic Left and Right"

Thanks to Dylan for this link from Facebook.

Advice for everyone who engages in theological discussion:

My response had basically been: If the discussions frustrate you, DON’T ENGAGE IN THEM. Figure out what you’re for, not what you’re against. The road to Christ is lonely, long, and almost unbelievably rocky, and though it takes place in community, we have to also walk it alone, often in great anguish and distress, often for decades if not our whole lives.
Figure out what you are for--not what you're against.  The statement is such a basic Christian attitude, or at least should be.  Christianity would be better for it.  Christians would be better for it.  Society at large would be better for it.  Mother Teresa did this as she tended the poor in India.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Gunter Grass, In Case You're Interested

An excerpt from The Box

A book that seems to have an intriguing premise, if you care that much about Grass personally. I cannot conceive of why so many writers think their own lives make for particularly interesting reading.  On the other hand, I have to admit to being captivated by this beginning.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Thucydides Hates "Realists"

Thucydides hates realists

Surprising Houellebecq

La Carte et la Territoire reviewed

I'm surprised by much of this review.  Not the Houellebecq I'm accustomed to--at least according to this review.

Ethiopian Stone Cutters

Abraham Verghese Cutting for Stone

This is a book I've looked at on and off, this review makes me think I need to do more than look.

Audio Ulysses

Audio Ulysses

The (Lack of) Joy of Céline

Céline on joy

Djuna Barnes Reminisces

Reflections of Djuna Barnes

Moyers interviews JKG

John Kenneth Galbraith interviewed by Bill Moyers

"I contain multitudes. . ."

More on Whitman

Matchmaker, Matchmaker. . .

The Matchmaker of Kenmare Frank Delaney reviewed.

Two Cities in the Same Place

The City and the City by China Miéville

Keats Tribute

Remember John Keats

Loren Eisley Poem

"The Shore Haunter" by Loren Eisley

Talk about cultivating a sense of wonder--the thought of the lake shores on which mammoths once wandered.

Another Review of Next

Next reviewed

I liked it better than the reviewer at Hungry Like the Woolf.  I liked it a great deal, but the reviewer makes some good points.

One by Rosetti

Pastime

Two from Zeno

See what happens when you're away from blogging for a day?

Zeno's Conscience 1

Zeno's Conscience 2

A book I have long meant to take up along with Robert Musil's incomplete epic.

Philosophy is Supposed to Be Difficult

Philosophy is supposed to be difficult

A Book-Length Poem

A review of Aurora Leigh by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Why the View from Mordor?

Author explains The Last Ringbearer

E-book Piracy

E-book Piracy

Who Do You Consider the 10 Greatest Poets

You are asked to name the 10 greatest poets

My list according to their rules:

Rumi
Basho
Li Po
Tu Fu
Shakespeare
Keats
Yeats
Eliot
Wordsworth
Stevens

Now to order them

Oh well. I can't.  Let's just say this forms the top ten in my estimation. And I have to say that it is a quickly considered top ten--not one with great thought behind it.  So. . . perhaps I should think more and post again.  Though I probably won't.

Isaac Asimov--A Mentor and a Hero

This review of The End of Eternity, reminded me of my debt to Isaac Asimov.

In my youngest days, the works of Isaac Asimov--particularly The Foundation Trilogy sparked and fed a continual sense of wonder. In my convention-going days, I was able to meet and talk with the Legend and found that he was an ordinary, affable, congenial, pleasant companion for short stints.  (I cannot comment on more because I only spent a short time with him--dinner or such--each time we met--but I always enjoyed our conversation and interaction).  One could do worse than to revisit the works of Mr. Asimov--or if interested in exploring science fiction to visit them for the first time.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

How to Keep the Marginalia

Marginalia in the electronic age

At first I thought, well this is a no-brainer, one can easily annotate most texts under most e-book readers.  But the question is not the making of the marginalia, but the preservation of them under the rapidly changing protocols of internet delivery, etc.  This is essentially a librarian/curator problem and as such, it is fascinating.

Most Useful Cultural Archives

Most Useful Cultural Archives

A nice list of where to go online for some really spectacular information.  Also via Books Inq.  I think.

Almost Surfable Lake Superior

This was a cool set of waves on Lake Superior

via Books Inq, I think

What's With Elizabeth C?

Elizabeth Costello reviewed. This encapsulates my experience as well, but says it much, much better than I could do.

Ten Greatest Philosophers

Ten greatest philosophers

Rene Descartes and John Locke are the only ones referenced from the Modern Era.  I'd be interested in the opinions of any itenirant philosophers out there.

An Enthusiasm for Ms. Mantel

While I liked Wolf Hall, I was not nearly so enthusiastic as Frank is in this review.  I found her use of third person at times extremely thorny and confusing, and felt that we lingered a trifle in places where I would have preferred to speed on.  On the other hand, I enjoyed it greatly while I read it.  I must say though, that it has no lingering power with me.  Nothing from it sticks in my head as particularly provocative or evocative after having read it nearly a year ago.  This is, ultimately, how I judge the value of what I have read.

Who Doesn't Want to Be Happy?

Exploring Happiness by Sissela Bok

If there is a place where I am most often deficient in my reading of works in translation, it certainly must be works in translation.  This one sounds like a wonderful intellectual feast.  I hope I can find it in the local library soon.

(Although, it is possible this is not a translation--still, the point holds.)

If You're Reading This in Central Ohio. . .

Please remember to go out and support my good friend Randy at his Meet the Author Event in Dublin.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Aporia

"Aporia"  As always, excellent

LoA Story of the Week--Just In Time for President's Day

A short piece by Abraham Lincoln

Considering Elizabeth Bowen

Short Stories from the 20s

The End of an Era?

Chain Bookstores and their demise

via Books Inq.

"A From of Epitaph"

"A Form of Epitaph"  And before you read the last bit of commentary--see if you recognize the form.

Australian Literature: The Triumvirate

Australian literature considered: the triumvirate

Notes on and a Translation of

"Social Experiment"


The challenge of the untranslatable word

Friday, February 18, 2011

Concerning Cornwell

The Burning Land considered

The Follies of Science

"God and Gossip"

An evolutionary psychologist (ridiculous in any understanding of evolutionary principles--almost Lamarckian in its implications) tells us why humans are pathetic losers, but shouldn't look at themselves that way.

Arrian History

I don't have the Landmark Arrian, wasn't even aware of its availability.  Looks like I need to add a book to my list.

Murakami on Film

Norwegian Wood trailer

The Miracles of Leopold Bloom

From Ulysses

While I admire the whole book, probably my favorite portion is the Laestrygonians because of that magnificent walk through Dublin that doesn't culminate in the Gorgonzola sandwich, but certainly features it.

(Some/Most) Scientists Make Bad Philosophers

Facing the ex nihilo arguments of a physicist

I'll be the first to admit--I am also a bad philosopher.  The fact is, I'm just not that interested because much philosophy flies in the face of experience and therefore is immediately invalidated in the real world.  I have no interest in any argument that does not address what is here, now, and real. be that state of mind, nature of the soul, or what makes for beauty.

Additionally, I was not trained in this way of reasoning, and for most scientists, it is a set of reasonings that lack anything on which to reason.  It is often, to me, like an endless series of Euclid's postulates, all of which I need to accept before I can accept the conclusion.

For example, Aquinas baldly states that reason is a positive good.  I must accept that to go farther with Aquinas.  But what if I don't.  What if I say that reason itself is neutral--that it is the purpose to which reason is but that makes the faculty itself good or bad?  There's probably some philosophical rule that says I can't do that.  But people outside of philosophy have to wonder at all of the "givens" that must be incorporated before one can get to the end of an argument.

The reality for me has been that I have invalidated so many of the givens or questioned them so deeply that the full arguments really have no meaning for me.  (In many cases--in others, I'm too ignorant to even recognize the underlying assumptions).

So there you have it--I'm too ignorant to be a philosopher--and while I admire them deeply, I'm also too ignorant to properly appreciate much of what they do.  It's a kind of tone-deafeness of the intellectual world.

And I should leaven this with an excerpt from the post itself:

C. D. Broad took the view that “the nonsense written by philosophers on scientific matters is exceeded only by the nonsense written by scientists on philosophy.”  And that was in the days of scientists like Eddington, Einstein, Heisenberg, and Schrödinger, who actually knew something about philosophy. 

Zooming into a Spiral Galaxy

Gorgeous realization of zooming into a spiral galaxy.

Franzen Redux, or Is It More?

Model Home reviewed

Haiku Treasury Part III

Haiku Treasury

An Elegy for Borders

An Elegy for Borders

The Lighter Side of ZA

Neeta Lyffe: Zombie Exterminator

Sound like it could be a romp.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Talking Thucydides

http://blogs.the-american-interest.com/stratblog/2011/02/17/rapporteurs-report-the-peloponnesian-war-by-thucydides/

Literature and Literalism

Literature and literalism, finding the happy medium in the interpretation of Scripture.

Reading Is Overrated

Reading is overrated?

Good Lovecraftian News

Guillermo del Toro to direct At the Mountains of Madness

We'll see if funding materializes, but if he handles it with the aplomb of The Orphanage and Pan's Labyrinth with a liberal sprinkling of Hellboy, we're likely to be in for a real treat.  The first Lovecraftian treat on film (other than the Lovecraft-in-name-only Reanimator.)

Poor H.P. suffers nearly as badly as E.A. Poe and Stephen King in the transition to the silver screen.  Consider such gems as Die, Monster Die!, The Shuttered Room, The Dunwich HorrorDagon was all right, but not much related to the story.  And probably the best Lovecraftian film, In the Mouth of Madness has precious little to do with anything H. P. penned.

Against Interpretation for Kafka

Against interpretation

Icelandic Idyll

A review of The Fish Can Sing

Through the Forest with Richard Jeffries

After London continued

Great House

A review that helped me decide that it wasn't really so bad that I tried to read it twice and just couldn't manage.

Not that I found it bad or off-putting, I just couldn't get behind it in any way.  And now, I feel relieved of my duty to try to do so. 

The Great Gatsby Game

Via Biblioklept--A Run Through Gatsby Manor

More Colonial/Revolutionary Plantations

Wye House

Chamber Four Begins Publication

Notice of a New Online Literary Magazine--Chamber Four

Received notice in e-mail but have not yet had the chance to look through the whole thing.  Thought you might like to know.

"Leaving Town"

James Reeves--"Leaving Town"

Mailer v. Vidal

Mailer v. Vidal

For those who thought incivility in public was a relatively new phenomenon.  

A Delightful New Yorker Reprint

"Gems from George Eliot"

How to Make a great Novel into a Great Novel

Allegra Goodman v. Jonathan Franzen

Even from the brief description, it appears that I would need to look into the book by Ms. Goodman.  It sounds too good to be missed.

When people have sex in Freedom, heads bang on walls. In The Cookbook Collector it's a finger on the chest and then fade out. There are great flights of imagination in The Cookbook Collector – like the scene where George stumbles upon a collection of 17th-century manuscripts in the cabinets and ovens of a musty kitchen: "For a moment, he thought she was searching for the iodine, and then he saw them. Leather-bound, cloth-bound, quartos and folios, books of every size." 

I'll spare you the rest of that paragraph.  In all, it sounds to me like Goodman wins hands down.  So why so little acclaim--read the article to find out.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Escher's Waterfall

The Sculpture:

One to Add to My Collection

When I'm back in the business of buying books: The Ancient Near East

via Books Inq.

The Voynich Manuscript

One of those great and mysterious books that, while they do not abound, never fail to intrigue.

via BooksInq.

The 400th Anniversary of the KJV

The 400th Anniversary of the KJV

With Shakespeare one of the great pearls of the English Language.  Admittedly there are problems with it as a translation--but given time and age, these are remarkably few.  And of course, most of us have not been trained to wrestle with the complexities of this made-for-reverence manifestation of Jacobean English.  But, it is worth your time.

A Book I'm Enjoying Despite Myself

Heart of the City--Ariel Sabar

Despite my own expectations, I'm slowly reading through and enjoying this compendium of true love stories sparked by a New York setting.

Henry's Queens Number Five

The Fifth Queen--Ford Madox Ford

Perhaps a palliative for those who succumb to frothing at the mouth over Wolf Hall (either succumbing to the critical approval or railing against the language and historicity).  The review makes this sound like a book worth taking up.

Frankenstein Continued

Frankenstein: Lost Souls reviewed

In general, I am NOT a fan of Dead Koontz.  I've like the Thomas books.  However, this series has always been a bit persuasive.  Perhaps I should consider it.

Middle Earth According to Mordor

The Last Ringbearer Yisroel Markov


And a link to the entry on which one may find the downloadable file.


And in an odd case of synchronicity--Brandywine Books discovered this as well.

Eine Kleine Nachtmusik

Acquainted with the Night considered

Somehow I missed this first time around--but it looks like the kind of book I could sympathize with.  Never much cared for morning, but love the dusk and night.

The Unmatched Georgette Heyer

False Colours reviewed

Truffaut chats with Hitchcock

Wow, this MP3 is remarkable---Truffaut and Hitchcock together and talking cinema.

I Missed This Important Birthday, but Nigeness Did Not

Celebrating? Sax Rohmer

I'm not sure celebrate is exactly the word for encountering Mr. Rohmer's opus--if you can screen out the bigotry, the books do make for some occasionally entertaining reading.  And I suspect that without them Mr. Bond would not be amongst us.

Without Mr. Rohmer and Mr. Boothby, it is highly likely that SPECTRE would be a mere spectre of itself.

Continuing the 19th Century Apocalypse

After London, continued.

Appreciating Henry James

The Bostonians 125th Anniversary

Hard to believe that anything by James would spark a scandal.  Edith Wharton, yes, James, particularly of this period. . . well, not so much.

In his inimitable way--this is what Twain had to say on the matter:

Mark Twain famously declared that “I would rather be damned to John Bunyan’s heaven than read [The Bostonians].” Later critics developed a keener appreciation.

J.F. Powers Still Speaks

Morte D'Urban considered

A marvelous, insightful, and delightful book.

Bi Feiyu on the Man Booker Asian Prize List

Feiyu and Oe among those on the Man Booker Asian Prize List.

Science Discovers Chesterton

Science gets there, well after Chesterton

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Outer Reaches of the Solar System

A Brown Dwarf or a Gas Giant in the Outer Reaches

This is tremendously interesting--in the outer reaches of the solar system.

Surfin' on Skis

You have to be in less than full possession of your faculties to consider something like this at Jaws.

I mean, what do you do when you wipe out?  Flip off the skies, grab them, and then try to swim to shore in ski boots?   At Jaws, that's insane.

(Thought it was Pipe, but label indicates that it's Jaws)

Fascinating Byways of Early America

Ratcliffe Manor

Morality without Relgion

Morality without Religion--is it possible? 

Depends on what you mean? 

Is it sustainable--not sure that's been tested.

Darn! I Can't, So You May As Well

HMH Books in Translation Giveaway

What We Can Learn about Today from Thucydides

Thucydides on American Foreign Policy

Wonderful reading.  A glance tells us why reading the classics is a good practice beyond the mere exercise for the mind.

The Apocalypse is Ever With Us--Soon and Late

After London reviewed

Open Courses at NYU

NYU Open Courses

What's Your English?

The Queen's Rap v. Canada

Edward Thomas looks for "Home"

"Home"-- Edward Thomas

Considering Hardy's Mayor

The Mayor of Casterbridge reviewed

Three Dead Walnuts

This epigram of Pope's puts me in mind of a little ditty by Beethoven

Monday, February 14, 2011

Scariest Walkway in the World

I wouldn't want to be the one to seek out one scarier.  El Camino del Rey

Scientist Valentines

Scientist Valentines--Faraday and Copernicus both have highly attractive valentines.

Preview of a Review

Picked up an absolutely delightful volume at the library.  Richard Parks On the Banks of the River of Heaven--a collection of short stories.  In the first three stories we have a tale about how the otter in the river of heaven made things better for the lovers who needed to cross the bridge of birds; how Kali Ma incarnates in the tv of a recently divorced man--she's looking for Shiva and he's supposed to show up here; and the tale of the man who married the mermaid and his son.

Haven't read enough to post a review, but this is light, airy, full of myth and fantasy.  The stories move quickly and they are utterly delightful.  This is the kind of collection that makes you feel good as you are reading it.

Writers--One in A Million

Actually, according to statistics, something less than one in a million

Missionaries in China

The City of Tranquil Light--Bo Caldwell

I've seen this book and have been undecided about its merits.  Picked it up, fondled it, gazed upon it.  But this review is enough to encourage me to read it.  Besides that I really love the title. 

Ring Around Wagner

A Review of Tom Holt's Expecting Someone Taller--sounds delightful

Classical Music and Intelligence

Classical Music and High Intelligence

Being a major fan,  I should hope that it were true.  But, I'm dubious.  Equally I'm dubious about the other side of the proposition.  And I will note that if you have a will to, you can learn to enjoy nearly any kind of music.  One would profit from reading the Stravinsky chapter of Jonah Lehrer's Proust Was a Neuroscientist.

GAN Motif I: Child Lost in the Bush

The Great Australian Novel: Child Lost in the Bush motif considered

Poem of the Week: "The Bus to Ramallah"

"The Bus to Ramallah"--gorgeous, poignant, short and beautiful

A Comment on Multiculturalism

A rather rabid, but highly interesting comment on multiculturalism
 

Odd, I thought both Hallal and Kosher laws were, in fact, less cruel than normal slaughtering methods.  But I know nothing about the matter so I cannot say.

Note: I apologize--I am sometimes like a bull-dog when it comes to these issues, and so I post the following:

Kosher and Hallal

And I apologize in advance to any I may have offended by linking the two.  However, this, coming from an agricultural university seems to suggest that both Kosher and Hallal represent the most profound respect for and awareness of the animal to be slaughtered.  I am not an expert, but I wouldn't want to leave the field without presenting both sides.  I had always been taught that the Kosher laws were, in fact, laws to elevate humanity above the animals and to teach respect for the living things that themselves give life.  Not respect to the point of idolization, but respect to the point of reducing cruelty during an inherently brutal process.

Happy St. Valentine's Day

And this day I am reminded of one of my sojourns in Dublin when I decided to talk from my hotel down Grafton Street to the northern border of St. Stephen's Green.  Because I had not done so before, I followed the street to the next major intersection and headed north--at this point only desiring a walk.  To my surprised, I found myself let out at Whitefriars Church (a church I had spent much time and energy tying to find on a previous trip, only to discover it closed.)  This is a Carmelite Church, and thus quite dear to my heart.  I went in because the church is reputed to have within the relics of St. Valentine--and sure enough there they were.  I spent some time there requesting the intercession of St. Valentine--and curiously, it appears, in celebration of his feast day, those prayers have been, if not answered, at least addressed.

This Is Not a Game--Walter Jon Williams

Walter Jon Williams gives us a fascinating look into the world of online role playing games and gamers.  We start with our protagonist Dagmar flying into Jakarta on her way out of India and back to the U.S..  Just as she does so a currency collapse in Indonesia sends Jakarta into chaos and she finds herself trapped in the city and virtually trapped in her hotel room.  But, she's still connected.  Using those connections and getting the help of literally hundreds, if not thousands of fans, she bests the mercenaries hired by her employer to spring her from Jakarta.

Back in the states one of her best friends from college is murdered and his death caught on film by one of the gamers.  And so it goes.

Williams effectively explores the world in which all of the ingenuity and person power that goes into online games is exploited toward good ends--uncovering a murderer and undoing some of the damage cause in a world-wide currency crisis.

The book moves--fast.  The characters lively and engaging and the story compelling.  The predictive edge is nice, reasonable, and feasible.  All-in-all a nice, effective, near future thriller that will keep you reading. 

Recommended--****

Friday, February 11, 2011

One Last Excerpt that Says it All

Just as I was a dissenter on The Road, seeing in it far more optimism that others did, so too with The Angels are the Reapers  in some ways it's a positively perky little zombie apocalyse:

[Alden Bell responding] What I enjoyed most about writing the book – and what I hope readers will enjoy most about it – is the sense of unfailing optimism about the world, no matter how miserable and blighted it seems to be. The book is tragic in all the ways you might expect, of course, but there’s an underlying hope that feels like it triumphs by the end. I like that. I’m a sucker for the bittersweet ending.

Conversation with Alden Bell

Conversation with Alden Bell

an interesting excerpt:

But, yes, I think you hit the nail on the head with Cormac McCarthy. He was a huge influence on the narrative style of the book – along with other writers of the Southern Gothic genre: Tom Franklin, William Gay, Daniel Woodrell. Behind them all, of course, is William Faulkner. Faulkner is my cornerstone. Reapers is loaded with pretty overt references to him.

And, yes, I really am quite susceptible to the styles of books I’m reading. That’s one of the reasons Hummingbirds is so different from Reapers. One day I’m reading Muriel Spark, the next I’m reading Cormac McCarthy. Especially when I’m at the beginning of a novel, I try not to read anything that will derail the style – at least until the book is sufficiently established. I once got on a Virginia Woolf kick in the middle of trying to write something – and the story wound itself into such knots of internal monologue that I had to abandon it entirely.

Derek Mahon "The Chinese Restaurant in Portrush"

"The Chinese Restaurant in Portrush"

Another Celebration of Elizabeth Bishop

Elizabeth Bishop on the New Yorker.

The Reapers Are the Angels--Alden Bell

How long is the memory of the dead? 
-Quotation from the book

This book came to me recommended by an unimpeachable source--Julie at Happy Catholic.  Generally, if Julie likes it, so do I  (we're rarely mismatched that way), I think there are many things that I have truly liked that Julie has found somewhat less appealing--so my match to her recommendations is about 90%, the reverse match probably closer to 70%.  But we have high compatibility as reading partners.

Problem is, I have a very high avoidance factor with zombie novels.  No matter how many I read, they still disturb me down to the very core of my being.  Conceptually, they are just about the most awful thing I can think of short of Jaws, and most likely for the same atavistic reason.

But you didn't really stop by to listen to me natter on about my own sensibilities, did you?  You really want to know about this book, don't you?

Think James Lee Burke filtered through Cormac McCarthy's The Road with zombies.  Boy, that really wasn't very helpful was it.  Let me try another pair of words: unexpectedly lovely.

Just as the bleakness and the barrenness of the The Road was powerfully beautiful in its own way, so too this novel about the desolation of humanity (both physically and spiritually). 

Let me share a couple of moments of insight that typify the entire book:

from The Reapers are the Angels
Alden Bell

She and Maury ride in the third boxcar along with some refugees. They are huddled and helpless and look at her through eyes that seem to predict death. They are already gone, these women with their infants clutched to their breasts, these men nursing their open wounds and wondering what contagion is already spreading through their bloodstream, these sons and daughter of the earth whose spirits have already leaked out through the rips in their flesh and the cankers in their brains.

Temple hates them instinctively. Wilson, like an inadvertent grim ferryman, does not know that what he brings home is a boxcar full of death. And these dead are worse than the meatskins, because they lack even hunger.



****

But there are other places too, what used to be travelers' oases, clusters of gas stations, fast-food restaurants, motels. The windows re intact, the electricity still flowing, the sliding glass doors still operational, the recorded music still playing on tinny, distorted speakers. Ghost towns. Lost to the world entirely, these places are so dead that even the dead don't inhabit there.

The story: Temple, who sometimes calls herself Sarah Mary Williams (and if that name isn't packed with all sorts of suggestion and implication, then no name is) lives on an island off the main trend of the Florida Keys.  One day she goes to the beach to find a zombie has made it to her shore--not a functional zombie--but one nevertheless.  Seeing this as sign of a possible invasion, she packs up and heads to the mainland to resume travels that started long before the book begins.  The book is the tale of those travels and how Temple becomes mixed up in a Viking Southern Gothic Revenge archtype as she searches for the promised land to deliver a man whom she helps to his family.

The novel announces its themes in the very first paragraphs--as a good novel will.

God is a slick God. Temple knows. She knows because of all the crackerjack miracles still to be seen on this ruined globe.

Like those fish all disco-lit in the shallows. That was something, a marvel with no compare that she's been witness to. It was deep night when she saw it, but the moon was so bright it cast hard shadows everywhere on the island. So bright it was almost brighter than the daytime because she could see things clearer, as if the sun were criminal to the truth, as if here eyes were eyes of night. She left the lighthouse and went down to the beach to look at the moon pure and straight, and she stood in the shallows and let her feet sink into the sand as the patter-waves tickled her ankles. And that's when she saw it, a school of tiny fish, all darting around like marbles in a chalk circle, and they were lit up electric, mostly silver but some gold and pink too. They came and danced around her ankles, and she could feel their little electric fish bodies, and it was like she was standing under the moon and in the moon at the same time.  And that was something she hadn't seen before.  A decade and a half, thereabouts, roaming the planet earth, and she's never seen that before.

And so it goes.  I will probably have to revisit this novel in a later post to do justice to all that I think is going on here.  But the purpose of this post is to say to you--go and find this novel and read it.  Grisly, ghastly, gory, gruesome, and lit all through with some of those miracles you've just heard about.  Unexpectedly, unaccountably lovely.

One last point, and I hope this speaks as loudly as I would like it to:  I borrowed this book from the library, but I need to go out and purchase my own copy.  Need, not want. This book warrants closer reading.

Highly recommended to an Adult audience *****

Thursday, February 10, 2011

As I Had Hoped: Prof. Myers

Prof. Myers comments on the list of most essential Jewish Fiction

What Does It Mean to Be Evil?

A young woman confronts the mayhem she has caused.

from The Reapers are the Angels
Alden Bell

The thing that happened back here, she says. I mean it ain't like you asked--but anyway.

He doesn't take his eyes off the fire.

I mean I guess I been around meatskins too long, she continues. Sometimes it happens where I'll lose it. Like a switch got flicked somewhere in my brain, you know? And then my hands'll start rippin and tearin and they don't care about the whys or wherefores.

The fire pops and sizzles with the sap from the branches they found.

And it's wrong, it's  a sin as big as the world we live in, bigger even--to lay your hands on a creation of God's and snuff it out. It don't matter how ugly a thing it is, it's a sin, and God will send a terrible vengeance down on you for it--I know, I seen it. But the truth is--the truth is I don't know where I got off on the wrong track. Moses, he says I ain't evil, but then if I ain't evil. . . If I ain't evil then what am I? Cause my hands, see, they ain't seem to got no purpose except when they're bashin in a skull or slittin a throat.  That's the whole, all around truth of the matter. Them meatskins, they kill--but they ain't get any satisfaction out of it.
Maury, you sure are wandering a lonely earth--full of breach and befoulment--but the real abomination is sittin right next to you.

What she does not know and cannot gain perspective on is that the cause of the much-rued frenzy redounds highly to her credit and goes a long way toward, if not exoneration, at least extenuation.

The book has the taste, the feel, the bite sometimes of The Road. It isn't The Road, not even close--but the style and some of the choices made within the book hearken back to it in some ways.  Some call it a Southern Gothic Zombie novel, and I can agree with that--but it is a strangely, terribly lovely thing throughout and I can't wait to finish to say something that may, perhaps, be more coherent about the whole.

At the Heart of a City

Received a wonderful gift yesterday in the mail,  Heart of the City by Ariel Sabar.  What is most wonderful about it is that if I read only the introduction  (I won't, I'll read the whole thing), it will be enough to make the entire book worthwhile.

Working under the principles of environmental psychology author Ariel Sabar shares nine different love stories that begin and sometimes center around the city of New York.  But he starts with an essay that tells how he became interested and what he looked into before compiling the case studies that make up the rest of the book. 

Relating his own parents' love story, he notes that if his mother had not stepped into Washington Park, their romance might never have started:

from the Introduction to Heart of the City
Ariel Sabar

"So wait a second," I said, turning to my father. "You mean if she'd never gone into the park, you wouldn't have tried to talk to her?"

"Correct." The streets were too exposed, he said. Attractive as she was, it would have felt improper to strike up a conversation there. The park, though, was different.

I scratched my head.  But how?

It was, he said, like stepping into a village. The park shrank the city. It slowed time. With its roving paths, its fountain and trees, it filtered away the facelessness and noise of the street. Once inside, he said, people ceased being strangers. For a fleeting moment, they were on common ground. The were sharing something: not just the leaves and grass and water, but the human carnival.

It is for such observations as these that I will continue through the book.  I'm fascinated by the subject of how environment affects people, and what better reading for around Valentine's Day.

Note: This book came as an unsolicitied gift of Da Capo Press, and I am very grateful--thank you.

A Magnificent Rendezvous

Rendezvous with Rama considered

"When you ack-cinch-you-ate the negative"

On accentuating the negative in book reviews

Oedipus with Vegetables

Oedipus with Vegetables

Urban Exploration: Under City

Urban Exploration: Under City

Strangely Lovely

Tall Painting

A Brief Survey of the Short Story: Boccaccio

A Brief Survey of the Short Story: Boccaccio

A must read for everyone eventually--you'll be surprised at how many stories you recognize.

A Tribute to Brian Jacques

Brian Jacques's Animal Magic

Coming of Age

NYT to start reporting eBook bestsellers

Great Literary Brawls

Stevens v. Hemingway and others

Houellebecq and Franzen

Franzen and Houellebecq considered

Nadine Gordimer Considered

Nadine Gordimer--The Conservationist

I've been trying to figure out a place to start with Nadine Gordimer.  If anyone has suggestions, I would welcome them.

I Hope Professor Myers Comments on This

50 Essential Works of Jewish Literature

One can't help but feel a little disappointment to see Judy Blume on the list but not Jane Yolen (particularly, but not limited to The Devil's Arithmetic

Bronte, Charlotte considered

Villette

Three from Dangerous Idea

Christians are gaining in numbers, not atheists

(and I ask, is it really a numbers game?  Who cares how many?  If someone is wrong, they are no more right with many people agreeing, and if right, they are right if they are the only one to hold the view. Not that this really has anything to do with a very interesting article--just seemed a place to say it.)

Ignorance of C.S. Lewis

Ayers's near death experience

Madeleine St. John

The Woman in Black

To the best of my knowledge this is the only novel by Madeleine St. John that I have not read or even been able to get a copy of. It is great news to me to know that it is available.

Bolano to be Serialized

I suppose after 2666 it's only fair--Bolano's The Third Reich to be serialized

Cosmology

A Catholic Priest/Monk Cosmologist gives an hour long lecture

amusing and informative

A fine novel--another viewpoint

The Reapers are the Angels--my own review later this week, I hope.

Poetry by George Santayaana

Not one I'd go to for poetry, but some of this is quite fine:


His eye is subtle, but his heart is blind,

The Literature of Zombies

I have two more zombie books to read--one of which I'll report on shortly, and one that should follow quickly behind after I get an SF I've been dying to read out of the way.  But this is a way station report.

It should come as no surprise to anyone that the literature of zombies (as opposed to the vast majority of mash-ups and gore-fests that celebrate the Zombie as an object of terror) is primarily a literature of anger.  Or so it seems on brief exposure.  In each of the two novels (admittedly a very small sample, but what I'm generating right now is a working hypothesis) that take the subject as more that a gore-fest, the primary message has been that zombies act according to nature.  Nature red in tooth and claw, but nature none-the-less.  In each case as well, the acts perpetrated by those who can choose to go against nature are by far and away worse than those that come from beings acting as beings.

What do we infer or read from this?  One can approach with one of two hypotheses--either the nihilistic--humanity ain't no good no way and should we washed from the face of the Earth (not my experience) or humanity can get up to some dire evil, foulness that transcends the foulest things that nature can throw at humanity.  Equally, humanity can find the grace to conduct itself in a way that rises above this foulness and above nature.  In other words, there is nature and there is grace.

It is a valid to ask whether or not the authors of the stories intend for the zombie story to say anything at all about grace.  One needs to look at the individual story to see where the author is leading.

Now back to the primary hypothesis zombies as a literature of anger.  What I sense in most writers is an outrage at the evil we are willing to commit and put up with.  Sometimes that evil is the formation of zombies themselves.  More often it is that in a world that is designed to destroy humanity, there is a sizable fraction of the human population that is willing to assist in the destruction.  Not only to assist, but to attempt to profit and entertain themselves.

The Christian read of this is that humanity is fallen--they will indulge in the worst possible sports and horrors--or some will.  But some, aided by grace rise above the fallen nature.  This is not their own work, and it is a mysterious work--deeply mysterious.  How does one rise and another fall?  Why are some acting in accordance with a nature below nature and others in accordance with a grace that will demand self-sacrifice?  I don't expect these questions to be answered with the book, because many probably intend no such message at all.  It is incidental, it is part of the deep story of literature that crops up again and again.  I would venture to guess that it is merely thematically convenient to the story of depravity.  Because even in the righteous anger that lashes out at humanity's inhumanity, there is a sense that some will not contribute.  Some will rise above the fray.  Does this require grace and a Christian context?  Some would argue that it does not.  Myself, you know which side of that line I'm on.

In a sense good zombie fiction is a long and perhaps ignorant (not in the pejorative sense) extension of the work of Flannery O'Connor, who did not need zombies to make exactly the same points.  (Although, I must acquiesce, that she did need Satan in at least one magnificent novel.)

Perhaps more later when I've finished the most recent books and I am not quite so ignorant of the framework and the tropes of the genre as I am presently.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Woolf and Wilson on Reviewing

Woolf and Wilson on Reviewing--to summarize or not?

If I'm reading this properly, I'm probably more on the Woolf side of the equation.  There is no, for me, no real need to summarize because those details can be garnered from any number of sources.  What I want to know from a reviewer is whether the book as it stands works.

Celebrating Elizabeth Bishop

Celebrating Elizabeth Bishop

Fred Continues. . .

Fred continues his discussion of the magnificent poem from which this blog derives its title

Four Fatal Flaws--The Characters of Gone with the Wind

Four fatal flaws

Ah fiddle-dee-dee, Tomorrow is another day.  I'll think about it tomorrow--at Tara.

Nicole Krauss--Three Questions

Three Questions for Ms. Krauss

Huck Finn Continued

More on Huckleberry

What I wouldn't give now for some huckleberries, or even lingonberries.  May need a trip to Ikea.

Elizabeth Bowen's Opera

The many works of Elizabeth Bowen and what to read

And a biography of Elizabeth Bowen

I have to say that I wasn't impressed with my first try at Bowen--Death of the Heart. But while in Dublin picked up a collected Short Stories and found several things there worthy of consideration.  I've recently tried Death of the Heart again because so many whom I admire love it.  It still doesn't speak to me.  Maybe later.

The Moral Ambiguity of the AMA

Or perhaps it is simply the amorality of the AMAv

via Maverick Philosopher

The problem here is  inconsistency.  If abortion is licit then there are necessarily times when capital punishment is licit.  If capital punishment is illicit, then it follows from the innocence of the victim that so too is abortion.  I know where I stand, but I respect the opinions of those who differ consistently.  I have no use for the opinion of those who have given it half a thought and sided with whatever the flavor of the month is.

A Review of Michael Cunningham's Latest

By Nightfall

This is all the warning I need to stay away:


Although it pains us slightly to say, this is a mildly disappointing entry in the Cunningham canon. 

A disappointing entry from Mr. Cunningham, if The Hours is a measure of success is indeed one book to avoid.

Who Owns Kafka?

Who owns Kafka?

A lecture by Judith Butler--yes, THAT Judith Butler, founder, progenitor, and proud proprietor of the lesbian phallus, on Franz Kafka's works and how they found their way into print.

Wandering with Wordsworth (Dorothy)

The Ballad of Dorothy Wordsworth reviewed

"The Scholar and His Dog"

"The Scholar and His Dog" usefully glossed

Considering Wells Tower

Critique of Wells Tower

MIT Open Courseware iPhone App

MIT Open Courseware iPhone App

Werner Herzog on Chickens

"They're very prone to hypnosis. . . "

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

What's The Word. . . Oh, Yeah, Evil

Assange and Bakunin

via Books Inq.

Assange has expressed indifference to the harm that might be done to innocents in Afghanistan and Iraq as a result of his unredacted disclosures. When Amnesty International warned him of the likelihood that the Taliban would kill named informants and human rights activists, he flippantly dismissed such criticism by saying, “I’m very busy and have no time to deal with people who prefer to do nothing but cover their asses.” (The Taliban, meanwhile, have set up a commission to compare a list of 1,800 Afghan informants with the names that appeared in WikiLeaks.)

When one gives one's own life on a principle, that could be noble.  However when one is indifferent to the lives one destroys--is there any word other than evil to describe the attitude?

The Affinity Bridge--George Mann

Steampunk, a glowing policeman, a zombie plague in Whitechapel, a woman who can see into the future, automata, laudanum, and a Victorian male/female detective team to rival Inspector and Mrs. Pitt--how much more can one cram into one slender volume?

This is a rapid and fun run through Steampunk Victoriana.  It centers around two investigations: a glowing policeman who shows up to strangle the poor and destitute in Whitechapel and the crash of a huge airship on which a member of the royal family was traveling.

The mystery--entirely satisfactorily resolved.  All the elements brought together in a coherent and logical manner.  The investigation is a little drawn out--but that allows for zombie attacks, automaton attacks, visits to Cassandras, and other elements that never cause the pace to slacken. The steampunk--nicely done from a bellows-attached Queen Victoria to automated surgical machinery and airships--beautifully conceived.

Fun, tightly written, intelligent, keen.  I'm really looking forward to the second in the series--The Osiris Ritual, already available.

Oh, for those who have been paying attention and are unduly concerned, it does appear that the zombie plague in this book is caused by prions.  There is a description of spongiform damage to brain tissue that pretty much corroborates a CJD or  related syndrome cause.

Fun, enjoyable well-written light reading.  ****

Dealing with Fear

Dealing with Fear--real and dread

"What Is Artificial Intelligence?"

"What Is Artificial Intelligence?"

This One Sounds Like Fun

Bad Marie reviewed

Sad News for the Fantasy World

Brian Jacques R.I.P.

Cornell Woolrich--Master of Noir

The Bride Wore Black reviewed--perhaps one of the most magisterial of the noir works of Woolrich.

Gaiman on Copyright Piracy

I've come to value my little brother as the treasure he is--he brought this Neil Gaiman note to my attention.

Good Writing/Bad Writing

George Saunders speaks to the issue

Bogus Skepticism--Warning Signs

Bogus skepticism

via Dangerous Idea

Anne Rice--Post Christian

Probably too much ink has been spent writing about Ms. Rice's relgious convictions and opinions. Nevertheless, I like this piece greatly--it echoes some of my own thoughts and it portrays a phenomenon too common in Christianity.

From "Nice Anne Rice"

So Anne now 'follows Christ', but what Christ? It will be the loving, sympathetic teacher, gentle Jesus who is, well, somewhat effeminate really. Anne was a flower child in college, so her Jesus will be the kind of hippie Jesus we're all familiar with from that generation--a long haired, groovy kind of beach bum who meditates on mountaintops, mixes with down and outs and delivers a real cool anti establishment, John Lennon kind of sermon. Then when Anne or her son is 'persecuted' by the hard hearted, hypocritical religious leaders she'll understand how Jesus was persecuted too.

That's a real nice Jesus, and that kind of Jesus isn't unknown to the gospels, but remembering that heretics don't preach lies, they preach half truths, we have to say that the hippie, flower child 'give peace a chance' Jesus is only part of the story.

This is the Jesus and the God that Nietzsche gladly declared "dead."  I'm more along the lines of Soren Kierkegaard's Jesus,  (and I paraphrase here), "The one who is comfortable with Christ does not know Him."

Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator Prize Nominees

Books notable for their fine translations--it doesn't say anything about the quality of the book itself, but the list may provide some very interesting reading for those looking for work originally published in languages other than English.

Happy Birthday James Dean

James Dean Tribute

For those who admire him, he will ever be the rebel without a cause.  I'm not in the legion of admirers. Nevertheless, he, and a few others exemplify these sentiments:


To An Athlete Dying Young
A. E. Housman

THE time you won your town the race 
We chaired you through the market-place; 
Man and boy stood cheering by, 
And home we brought you shoulder-high. 
  
To-day, the road all runners come,     
Shoulder-high we bring you home, 
And set you at your threshold down, 
Townsman of a stiller town. 
  
Smart lad, to slip betimes away 
From fields where glory does not stay,
And early though the laurel grows 
It withers quicker than the rose. 
  
Eyes the shady night has shut 
Cannot see the record cut, 
And silence sounds no worse than cheers
After earth has stopped the ears: 
  
Now you will not swell the rout 
Of lads that wore their honours out, 
Runners whom renown outran 
And the name died before the man. 
  
So set, before its echoes fade, 
The fleet foot on the sill of shade, 
And hold to the low lintel up 
The still-defended challenge-cup. 
  
And round that early-laurelled head 
Will flock to gaze the strengthless dead, 
And find unwithered on its curls 
The garland briefer than a girl's.    

And I do have to say sentiment, because I doubt sincerely that any of these thoughts come as consolation to anyone in the situation.  There is nothing wonderful about it--and yet, there is something iconic or mythic about it.

Norwegian Science Fiction at its Best

The Journey of Neils Kim to the World Underground

This sounds like an interesting book to read for anyone interested in the history of science fiction.

A Full View of the Surface of the Sun

Exploring the Sun's Surface

Listen to This--Alex Ross

The same beautiful writing that graces his previous book, The Rest is Noise, and his New Yorker columns is  present here.  Unfortunately, there is something missing that the previous book has and which causes it to be compelling while this book is not so much so.  There was a unity of theme, a cohesion of thought and purpose that made even the less interesting portions of The Rest is Noise compelling.

There I could wade through the effusive evocations of the work of Karlheinz Stockhausen and other classical composers for whom I have little enough love even if I recognize that there was something innovative there.  Here, when I'm exposed to far too much prose extolling the virtues of Bjork or Radiohead, I know that it isn't going anywhere, that the passages I'm reading about people or groups in whom  I have little to no interest end only at whatever conclusion the article achieves.  There is no further purpose in the writing--there is no clear or coherent picture I am to derive of it of music as a whole or even modern music. For me, this was a serious weakness of the book.

Some of the articles were very fine, my interest in them dictated by my interest in the artist.  Others, such as the article on Radiohead and Bjork made me want to hear what I hadn't really listened to before.  Unfortunately when I queued it up and tried, what I heard suggested that Mr. Ross's enthusiasm was misplaced.

Nevertheless, if you want to read about music, modern and less so, there are few people who write about it with the passion, intensity, and sheer verbal command of Alex Ross.  I can recommend the book to music enthusiasts and those who want to know more about music is small doses, even while I did not get from it the same excitement and understanding that I emerged from his book with.

***1/2

Monday, February 7, 2011

Some Egyptian Fiction

Egyptian Fiction--a list

Reverence and Translation

Will the new translation of Mass make celebrations more reverent?

The summary, "I doubt it said the carpenter and shed a bitter tear. . . "

Samuel Beckett Considered

Malone Dies reviewed

via Books Inq.

Science and the Supernatural in Zombie Fiction

Do keep in mind that these are the musings of a rank amateur who has neither the breadth of reading nor the deep understanding of the field that might make for a more coherent set of speculations.  However, ignorance has never stopped me from flapping my gums and I don't see any particular reason to start now.

One of the "givens" of zombie fiction is the so-called Zombie Apocalypse.  Given that I do have a resolutely scientific mind in these matters and I had cause to ponder this question over the weekend it occurred to me that the triggering mechanism for the plague had a great deal to do with the possibility of such an apocalypse.

Let us consider the matter--if the trigger is based in the material and scientific world, it most likely consists of some strain of virus, prion, or other contagion.  This has practical consequences--either a virus, bacterium, fungal, or protozoan infection have means of redress and an incubation period.  The scenario resembles that proposed by George Mann in The Affinity Bridge: after a bite, the contagion incubates for eight or more days and then causes a condition in which there is no renewal of tissue and the victim--for reasons entirely opaque to science develops a cannabalistic urge.  As a result (1) it is conceivable that a vaccine can be developed, and (2) some will either have a natural immunity or will survive the attack and not succumb to the sickness.  Even if the infection/transformation rate is remarkably high--there will be some who do not succumb.

The prion is a more complex matter because it is less well understood.  The primary prion-mediated disease I'm aware of is Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD) and its variants including Mad Cow.  I'm not sure we completely understand infective mechanism, rates of transmission, nor completely how the human body reacts to it.  If we consider a prion infective mechanism, there is a great deal more legitimate speculation on cause and cure and incubation and just about anything else.  The other fact about prion-mediated diseases is that even when there is an "outbreak"  it tends to be a relatively small number of people with the toll adding up more through time rather than a sudden spike.  Prions do not appear to be good causal mechanisms--but as I've noted, speculation on that front certainly falls completely within the domain of reasonably considered science fiction.

Additionally, under any scientific scenario, those who are already dead remain dead. There is no reanimation of those not affected.  So, what is possible with a scientific explanation  is contagion and spreading a plague.  And what is really frightening in this world of possibility is the disease vector--whether arthropod or air-droplet, one need not be infected solely by a bite from one with the disease.  However, you can limit this scenario by proposing that like certain types of hepatitis and nearly all STDs, infection only results from contact with the bodily fluids (in this case saliva or blood) of the infected.

Even with a high transmission rate and conversion factor Apocalypse is quite unlikely under the scientific scenario.  You're not reanimating armies of the dead, you have only those who are attacked and survive the attack, or even succumb to it who become zombies. The living far outnumber the dead even under the most outrageous odds, and local housewives and newspaper boys keep their baseball bats handy.

Now let us consider a supernatural origin to a zombie plague.  In this case we can allow for the recently dead to be reanimated.  However, in everything I've touched on to date, this seems to imply an enormous army of the dead rising and causing havoc.  But even here we need to consider the simple science of the matter.  Those who have been dead, even with embalming, will not have anything viable in the way of musculature after say three-to-four months.  (Probably much less, but let's start by being generous.)  We also have to consider the modern preference for and prevalence of cremation as a means of giving the dead repose. Finally, let us also consider the sheer difficulty of finding one's way out of six-feet under (think Uma Thurman in Kill Bill 2); it is a safe assumption that only the dead in tip-top shape will make it to the surface.   Add to that those in funeral homes and morgues awaiting interment, and we have our viable zombie army population.

The supernatural scenario also has certain postulates: mortality rate is 100%, revival rate is 100% although the time period does not seem to be clear--anything from minutes to days (your actual mileage may vary, past performance is not an indicator of future returns, etc.)

Under these supernatural conditions, the likelihood of an apocalypse is greater.  Certainly if taken by surprise the normal population could be quickly reduced to the proportions observed in Rot & Ruin--although one still asks the question--if you amputate ahead of the infection/bite, what is the effect?  In the supernatural scenario, this may be of no avail, in the scientific world, as with necrotizing fasciitis,  the end result may be variable.

We are left to the question of the supernatural nature of the infection.  What caused it?  What is the element that propels it?

While often left in the background because, let's face it, most zombie stories aren't really so much about zombies as they are about humanity in extremis, this is a compellingly interesting question, because the cause both suggests a cure (in at least the realm of supernatural laws) and it tells us something about "motive."

A supernatural malignancy can have any number of causes--from demonic to divine to supernatural through an unknown agency that consists of neither of these, (an affliction of ghostly spirits perhaps--maybe zombies are in fact a supernatural disease).

You have been patient enough with me in my speculations here.  I hope I've shown that under all likely scenarios an apocalypse doesn't go well with any scientific explanation of a zombie event.  Apocalypse seems to require a supernatural event, the nature of which is almost never pinned down, and which in itself might form the intriguing nucleus of a story.

Perhaps more thoughts later as I finish The Affinity Bridge and take on The Angels Are the Reapers amongst others.

"Nothing Like the Sun"

I post this sonnet because a line popped into my head that would head a poem that would be nothing at all like this one.  But this one is always work a revisit.

Sonnet 130
William Shakespeare

My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips' red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damask'd, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:
   And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
   As any she belied with false compare.

Poem by Douglas Dunn

"On the Roofs of Terry Street"

I was struck by the image of the aerials as Chinese characters against the sky

Brighton Rock: Too Big for the Silver Screen?

A review of the film of Brighton Rock

Poem of the Week: Three Psalms

Psalm 23: Tyndale, KJV, and Thomas Sternhold

Realism Does Not Equal Adult

Realism Does Not Equal Adult--a follow-up

I agree with the essential point here--the trappings do not so much matter and define a book as adult material--it is the sensibility, themes, and contexts that allow for a work to have a more mature sensibility.

Cormac McCarthy's Debut

The Orchard Keeper reviewed

Lord Chesterfield's Whipped Cream

"Whipped Cream"

Zeltserman on Vampires Redux

Blood Crimes reviewed

Mr. Zeltserman produced one of the bang-up books of last year, and it has become obvious that I will have to look more carefully at his oeuvre.  This series, in particular has garnered praise in many corners.

Elizabeth's Bishop's 100th Birthday

LoA Celebrates

The Book Haven Notes

Mars and LeGuin

I somehow missed these before:

Kim Stanley Robinson Red Mars I

Red Mars II

The Dispossessed Ursula K. Leguin
Compared with Ayn Rand's Anthem.  To be honest, I did not notice the similarity before and I've always loved this book above other highly touted Leguin.  So I'll have to pay more attention.  Am I secretly imbibing at Ayn's well--if so it must stop.

Hitchcock's Angles and Fear of Eggs

Hitchcock's Angles

Much of this strikes me as very worked up and not really good interpretive theory.  On the other hand, I am not a scholar nor even a good student of film, so I'll leave it to others who understand the medium better to draw conclusions.

Ovaphobia

Like "She Walks in Beauty"

Poem

Truly lovely.

It's A Wise Person Who Has Ayn Rand on Her Terrifying List

Authors who terrify me. . .

An interesting list of the intellectually formidable and otherwise terrifying authors.

More on Maberry

Joanthan Maberry considered

Interviewed

Another Interview  (I don't know if this link will work--it is a link into facebook)  If you try it and it doesn't work, please let me know and I'll reprint the interview from the site.  (My brother put it together and so I think I can re-use so long as there's no objection for Mr. Maberry.)

"Reason, Mormonism, and Atheism"

"Reason, Mormonism, and Atheism"

An interestingly argued essay on why reason requires a rejection of both Atheism and Mormon theology.

LoA Story of the Week--Elizabeth Bishop

LoA Story of the Week--"Was It in His Hand?"

Unusual this week--a short story/article by Elizabeth Bishop whom we more often prize for her poetry.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Uncontacted Tribes

It's difficult for me to decide about something like this.  Is it real?  Is it simulated? It certainly seems to have all the hallmarks of the real, and yet. . .

And this, unfortunately, is precisely the kind of difficulty the film producers must face.  Too much can be faked, too much can be imitated.  But--as in all of these things, it seems the better part of err on the side of caution and on the side of humanity--siding then with those who watch what comes from above.




Interested in Writing? In Central Ohio?

Here's a event featuring a friend of mine from Dublin, Ohio.  He has a book out of writing exercises and is often featured on this blog.  If you live in Central Ohio, why not stop by and say hello.

http://www.eventbrite.com/event/1286896141/efbnen

Neurobabble and Real Science of the Mind

Neurobabble and Real Science of the Mind

via Maverick Philosopher

I love neuroscience.  Or more particularly, I love some of the strange things that can be encountered in the science of the mind--synaesthesia is most particularly interesting to me.  But I've often found myself frustrated with neuroscience for reasons I couldn't quite pinpoint.  It often seemed as though explanations were offered that explained nothing.  Or that explanations went off in search of a problem.  There was something distinctly unsatisfying with my encounters.  This article goes a long way toward explaining it and offering a glimpse of what the author calls a real science of the mind.  As to that, I cannot say because the fields he talks about are news to me--but they look like they may be fruitful areas in which to read in the future.

A Nonfiction Reading Guide to Egypt

Nonfiction reading guide to Egypt

Kunzru and Moorcock

Michael Moorcock chats with Hari Kunzru

Raymond Carver on Drinking and Writing

Raymond Carver part I

Raymond Carver part II

Stars and Daisies, Poetry and a Painting

"Daisies"

Z is for Zombie--Adam Troy Castro

I picked this up off of Netgalley on a lark. 

This is what I think you would call a "typical zombie book."  There is the bleak outlook--the apocalypse of numbers and more than a little grue and gore.

And yet, like Zombieland and Shaun of the Dead there is more than a little amusing about it. First it is an alphazombie book, carrying us through the traditional alphabetical recital of things beginnng with a certain letter related to zombies. Second there are moments in some of the 26 very short stories that are amusing--some are laugh-out-loud funny.

Overall, given that it will take the reader perhaps twenty minutes to peruse--I'd recommend it to the Zombie class. Others can easily give this one a miss.

***

The Peloponnesian War Ends

The End of the War

and a summative post featuring Auden

Friday, February 4, 2011

Walter Jon Williams on Deep State, Egypt, and Science Fiction

I hope to post shortly a review of This is Not a Game. But in the meantime--its sequel Deep State and how life imitates science fiction.

Notes on: The Modern Novel and Story

Some half-formed, less-than-half thought out gropings toward meaning.  To be continued--perhaps.

When looking at much modern fiction it often seems that the art of story telling has been lost. One reads through reams of metafictional games and post modern pandering to self.  Ulysses does not really tell a story, but collectively, we seem to have forgotten that meaningful books without story are the exception, not the rule.

Literature as game-playing has a long and interesting history--but like modern art and much of classical music in the last 50 years, one begins to feel tired of the avant-garde blather of the modern literary world.  Is Paul Auster really all that?  What about something like The Interrogative Mood--is that really meaningful or powerful or memorable fiction.  Even Jennifer Egan's powerpoint display of text as part of A Visit to the Goon Squad--what is that all about, really--how does it really enhance the story.  I am surprised and a little disappointed that people whose literary judgment I have come to trust invest so much energy and enthusiasm in this book. 

Do experiments have a place in fiction? Undoubtedly.  And they can be extremely interesting, powerful, fascinating, compelling works.  Not every experiment is a failure, though one must say that a vast majority are dead ends.  From Les Chant de Maldoror to Naked Lunch or Wittgenstein's Mistress there are books which, while in themselves interesting, no one should consider as a model for future fiction, or even much of a success as fiction themselves.  This is not to denigrate the works which are extremely posed metafictions most of the time--only to acknowledge that there are any number of one-offs that can be produced that upon closer inspection really don't fulfill our expectations of fiction.

Should all fiction adhere to a single mold?  Are we to assume that fiction has some sort of structure or set of structures that define it as what it is and deviation from which make the work we are looking at not-fiction?  If one considers the short short stories of Lydia Davis or Sam Shepherd, are we looking at fiction and is it effective and lasting.

Surname Mapper

Find out where your surname is most prevalent

For me--US, NZ, Australia, UK, CA--not much of a surprise considering its derivation and given that according to my research, the ancestor most recently imported into the country on either side of my family arrived in 1723 from, I think, Germany--but I'm not certain about that.

Cryptozoic!

So many endangered species, what is one to do?

The Tree Octopus
The Mountain Walrus
Saber-toothed Salmon (alas, no longer with us)
Fur-bearing Trout
Flying Squid
Rock Nest Monster

All brought to you by me through the courtesy of a most kind friend of the Earth.

"The Way We Read Now. . ."

"The Way We Read Now."

I think I find myself on this blogger's side.  I carry with me books from the library--hefty volumes that I want the pleasure of marking up and conversing with.  And then, I have on my iPad thousands of other books.  Books to dip into during a moment of leisure time--books to look at, savor, and enjoy for their contents but not for their sheer reality as books--a hefty chunk of artificial reality.

Books are wonderful, but what is more wonderful is the ability to read--anywhere, anytime, almost anything.