Saturday, March 17, 2018

Birthday …

… Paul Davis On Crime: The Ugliest Man In Hollywood: On This Day in History Comedian Shemp Howard, One Of the Three Stooges, Was Born.

Inner conflict...

Happy Saint Patrick's Day …

When volcanos awaken …

… Zealotry of Guerin: Mount Pinatubo, Sonnet #396.

Anniversary …

… Informal Inquiries (2nd edition): Colonial America: John Adams, British evacuation, and a question of priorities and loyalties.

A Dylan musical …

 Superior native reviews “Girl From the North Country” - Perfect Duluth Day. (Hat tip, dave Lull.)

Kudos …

 NYLON — The 10 Best Femme-Fronted Bands Changing The Face Of Punk Rock.

My step-granddaughters — Emma and Sophie Hendry — are each in one of these bands, Emma in Krimewatch and Sophie in Firewalker.

Something to think on …

The past is our ultimate privacy; we pile it up, year by year, decade by decade, it stows itself away, with its perverse random recall system.
— Penelope Lively, born on this date in 1933

Heartfelt appreciation …

… These Days I Miss John Updike, a Remote and Noble Male Mentor - The New York Times. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

At first Updike bristled at the subject matter of my thesis — I was writing about fathers and children of divorce in his stories and Richard Ford’s novels — warning me not to assume that his fiction was memoir (as he warned many others). But he gradually warmed and, on and off, became a faithful and gracious correspondent, a gentle and perhaps unintentional mentor.
See also: "Why time isn’t up for Updike" - Google Search.

The origin of ideas...

Friday, March 16, 2018

Visual and verbal …

 Is It Worth 1,000 Words? Mark Sarvas on Writing Art in Fiction | Literary Hub. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Unlike music, painting gives us something visual to hang on to but, for all that, it strikes me as only marginally less challenging to write about, moving something from its medium of strength—the visual, the seen—to a compromised secondary language that is forever striving to create, at best, an impression of an original that is always fated to fall short.

Course reset …

 Informal Inquiries (2nd edition): John Adams.

I was at a luncheon for David McCullough when his biography of Adams came out. He spoke of Adams as if he were talking about an old and dear friend

Violating the spirit of the book ...

One of the year’s most anticipated Broadway plays — the screenwriter Aaron Sorkin’s adaptation of Harper Lee’s novel “To Kill a Mockingbird” — faces a legal challenge from Ms. Lee’s estate, which is suing over Mr. Sorkin’s version of the story.
In a complaint filed Tuesday in federal court in Alabama, the estate argued that Mr. Sorkin’s adaptation deviates too much from the novel, and violates a contract, between Ms. Lee and the producers, which stipulates that the characters and plot must remain faithful to the spirit of the book.
A chief dispute in the complaint is the assertion that Mr. Sorkin’s portrayal of the much beloved Atticus Finch, the crusading lawyer who represents a black man unjustly accused of rape, presents him as a man who begins the drama as a naïve apologist for the racial status quo, a depiction at odds with his purely heroic image in the novel.

Anniversary …

… Informal Inquiries (2nd edition): The Scarlet Letter - 16 March 1850.

Sociopathic con artist …

… Paul Davis On Crime: Peace, Love And Homicide: A Look Back At The Unicorn Killer In Philadelphia.

Something to think on …

The ways of Providence cannot be reasoned out by the finite mind ... I cannot fathom them, yet seeking to know them is the most satisfying thing in all the world.
— Selma Lagerlöf, who died on this date in 1940

A certain slant of light …

… Winter’s Immutable Poetics | Review 31. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The only artist who ever painted that certain slant of winter light with such immaculate verisimilitude as Monet was Brueghel. His 1565 Netherlandish painting The Hunters in the Snow encapsulates the very feel of winter, when fingers grow numb and lungs are pained from the cold.

And the winners are …

… National Book Critics Circle: National Book Critics Circle Announces Winners for 2017 Awards - Critical Mass Blog. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Mark thy calendar …




in association with PEN America

will present a poetry reading

on Gun Control and Sexual Harassment

We would love it if you would read for five minutes,

your own work, or another’s, or a combination of both

Tuesday, March 20, 7-8:30 PM

(Please note the address, there are
  other Green Line Café locations.)

     This Event Is Free


Email or text me: 215.808.9507





in association with PEN America

will present a Poetry Reading

on Gun Control and Sexual Harassment

Hosted by Leonard Gontarek


     This Event Is Free

(Please note the address, there are
  other Green Line Café locations.)

If you would like to read a poem
in the open reading, sign up in


If a body is what you want,
then here is bone and gristle and flesh.
Here is the clavicle-snapped wish,
the aorta’s opened valves, the leap
thought makes at the synaptic gap.
Here is the adrenaline rush you crave,
that inexorable flight, that insane puncture
into heat and blood. And I dare you to finish
what you’ve started. Because here, Bullet,
here is where I complete the word you bring
hissing through the air, here is where I moan
the barrel’s cold esophagus, triggering
my tongue’s explosives for the rifling I have
inside of me, each twist of the round
spun deeper, because here, Bullet,
here is where the world ends, every time.

Brian Turner

Notorious anniversary …

… Informal Inquiries (2nd edition): “Beware the Ides of March”.

Something to think on …

The main difference between men and women is that men are lunatics and women are idiots.
— Rebecca West, who died on this date in 1983


 Submissions Open for the 2018 National Book Awards. (Hat tip, Dave Lull)

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Vintage appreciation …

 The Music of the Beatles | by Ned Rorem | The New York Review of Books. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

WHY are the Beatles superior? It is easy to say that most of their competition (like most everything everywhere) is junk. More important, their superiority is consistent: each of the songs from their last three albums is memorable. The best of these memorable tunes—and the best is a large percentage (Here, There and Everywhere, Good Day Sunshine, Michelle, Norwegian Wood)—compare with those by composers from great eras of song: Monteverdi, Schumann, Poulenc.

Never mind …

 The Consciousness Deniers | by Galen Strawson | NYR Daily | The New York Review of Books. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The facts of the Denial are before us, and we have an account of how they arose: first, from a mistaken interpretation of behaviorism; then, from a mistake about what a naturalistic outlook requires. But I believe we still lack a satisfactory explanation of the Denial as long as we lack a satisfactory explanation of how these mistakes could have been made. How could anybody have been led to something so silly as to deny the existence of conscious experience, the only general thing we know for certain exists? 
The explanation is as ancient as it is simple. As Cicero says, there is “no statement so absurd that no philosopher will make it.” Descartes agrees, in 1637: “Nothing can be imagined which is too strange or incredible to have been said by some philosopher.” Thomas Reid concurs in 1785: “There is nothing so absurd which some philosophers have not maintained.” Louise Antony puts it like this in 2007: “There is… no banality so banal that no philosopher will deny it.”


… Book/DVD/Record Review | Town Topics. (Hat tip, Virginia Kerr.)

For dealers and folks who pay $25. Open to public (free) Saturday. Half price Monday.
Box day Tuesday.

Phonies …

 The Ignoble Lie by Patrick J. Deneen | Articles | First Things.

… The ruling class denies that they really are a self-perpetuating elite that has not only inherited certain advantages but also seeks to pass them on. To mask this fact, they describe themselves as the vanguard of equality, in effect denying the very fact of their elevated status and the deleterious consequences of their perpetuation of a class divide that has left their less fortunate countrymen in a dire and perilous condition. Indeed, one is tempted to conclude that their insistent defense of equality is a way of freeing themselves from any real duties to the lower classes that are increasingly out of geographical sight and mind. Because they repudiate inequality, they need not consciously consider themselves to be a ruling class. Denying that they are deeply self-interested in maintaining their elite position, they easily assume that they believe in common kinship—so long as their position is unthreatened. The part of the “noble lie” that once would have horrified the elites—the claim of common kinship—is irrelevant; instead, they resist the inegalitarian part of the myth that would then, as now, have seemed self-evident to the elites as well as the underclass. Today’s underclass is as likely to recognize its unequal position as Plato’s. It is elites that seem most prone to the condition of “false

Oh, my …

 Up from Orphanism - The Catholic Thing.

… exactly what this pop sociology has to do with Christianity’s greatest prayer is unclear. If his point is that it’s hard to believe in THE Father if you have no faith in your own (biological) daddy, I’m not sure I’ve ever read anything quite so jejune.

In case you wondered …

 Why Agatha Christie Is Still the Queen of Crime | CrimeReads. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

It is simply clever, this inversion of the cliché, but it is so much more than that. This twist of Agatha’s upon the femme fatale is also the truth: women like Arlena are not so much predators as prey. And so the twist slots the whole book into position. It solves the puzzle because it solves the character: that is why it is satisfying.
As Jule Styne said, “It's easy to be clever. But the really clever thing is to be simple.”

A varied life …

 Informal Inquiries (2nd edition): Musings on finite time well-spent doing one thing well.

Chesterton, Johnson and Unseriousness and Happy Pi Day!

Happy Pi Day!  (3.14 etc. get it?)

Sometime ago I posted about seriousness and unseriousness, and God and Plato and a book by Fr. Schall.  I went looking for it and came up with this review instead about the book, The Unseriousness of Human Affairs:
Schall's book is a series of essays that revolve around a basic question: How ought we to live our lives? He never tries to offer an answer, but he provides guidance in an array of areas, as evidenced by the book's subtitle: “Teaching, Writing, Playing, Believing, Lecturing, Philosophizing, Singing, Dancing.” To these one could add Writing and Receiving Letters, Watching Sports, and Wasting Time


… Remembering Lenny.

Conversation …

… Q & A with Ann Beattie | Oxford Magazine. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

In case you wondered …

A sense of humor ...

In a January 2016 question and answer session, Hawking credited “my work and a sense of humor” with keeping him alive.
“When I turned 21, my expectations were reduced to zero,” he said. “It was important that I came to appreciate what I did have. . . . It’s also important not to become angry, no matter how difficult life is, because you can lose all hope if you can’t laugh at yourself and at life in general.”

Blogging note …

I have obligations to meet this morning. I will resume blogging this afternoon.


Something to think on …

When common objects in this way be come charged with the suggestion of horror, they stimulate the imagination far more than things of unusual appearance; and these bushes, crowding huddled about us, assumed for me in the darkness a bizarre grotesquerie of appearance that lent to them somehow the aspect of purposeful and living creatures. Their very ordinariness, I felt, masked what was malignant and hostile to us.
— Algernon Blackwood, born on this date in 1869

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

listen in …

 Episode 260 – Jesse Sheidlower – The Virtual Memories Show.

“You don’t need to reinterpret drinks that have been perfect for 80 years.”

Promises to keep …

 Informal Inquiries (2nd edition): Blogging Note: promises must be honored.

Poetry and rap …

… Chicago’s Particular Cultural Scene and the Radical Legacy of Gwendolyn Brooks | The New Yorker. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)


… Informal Inquiries (2nd edition): Hawthorne and Melville -- changing directions.

Recalling a masterwork …

… The Other O’Connor | National Review. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

In The Living Novel, V. S. Pritchett praised those novelists “who are not driven back by life, who are not shattered by the discovery that it is a thing bounded by unsought limits, by interests as well as by hopes, and that it ripens under restriction. Such writers accept. They think that acceptance is the duty of a man.” Pritchett was talking about Walter Scott, but he could just as well have had The Edge of Sadness in mind, for it is above all a story of acceptance, a portrait of a group of men and women who find themselves forced at last to face the fact that their dreams will not come true.

Great work, sad life …

… Leningrad's Lost Photographer. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

The beat goes on …

… Humanities | Special Issue : Beat Generation Writers as Readers of World Literature. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Something to think on …

I believe the root of all happiness on this earth to lie in the realization of a spiritual life with a consciousness of something wider than materialism; in the capacity to live in a world that makes you unselfish because you are not overanxious about your own comic fallibilities; that gives you tranquility without complacency because you believe in something so much larger than yourself.
— Hugh Walpole, born on this date in 1884

Monday, March 12, 2018

Appreciation …

… To the Future Readers of Lucie Brock-Broido. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

See also: The Enchanting Poems of Lucie Brock-Broido (1956-2018), from The New Yorker Archive. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

A jesting sleuth …

… Informal Inquiries (2nd edition): The Moneylender of Toulouse (2008).

Frances McCue

My interview with the Seattle-based poet, Frances McCue, has been published in the most recent edition of Rain Taxi. We discuss a range of topics, including gentrification, architecture, and her newest collection of poems, Timber Curtain. Take a look! 

Blogging note …

I have some errands to run. I will do some more blogging when I return.

Good Lord …

 Egyptian prosecutors seek death sentence for photographer | RSF. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Spying on a citizen …

And the nominees are …

Untethered …

… A luftmensch in search of the perfect conversation: NYPL’s “curator of public curiosity” | The Book Haven.

“‘I’m the curator of public curiosity.’ I’m the midwife,” he told Will Corwin at Art Papers last year.  “When you are in the audience, you are hopefully an interested listener. In some ways, you want to be in my seat—or maybe you don’t want to be in my seat, but you imagine what you would have asked. But my goal—as I did with David Lynch, Ed Ruscha, JAY-Z, Zadie Smith, Patti Smith, or Philip Glass—is to represent the audience as best as I can, their interests and curiosities. The question that I’m trying to phrase is—I’m hoping—the question that the audience as a whole, and some people in particular, may have.”


Something to think on …

The most ingenious men are now agreed, that [universities] are only nurseries of prejudice, corruption, barbarism, and pedantry.
— George Berkeley, born on this date in 1685

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Hmm …

… There Is No Case for the Humanities - The Chronicle of Higher Education.

The humanities do not need to make a case within the university, because the humanities are the heart of the university. Golfers do not need to justify to their foursomes the rationale for hitting little white balls; philatelists do not need to explain to their stamp-collecting societies what makes them excited about vintage postage. So too, for humanists: The university can be many things, but without us, a university it will not be.
A classical education enables one to look at the world with an experienced mind, one formed by centuries of thoughtful reflection.

Behind the scenes …

 Mozart’s Diary Where He Composed His Final Masterpieces Is Now Digitized and Available Online | Open Culture. (Ht tip, Rus Bowden.)

…  it somehow feels even more of a wonder to see writings in the actual hand of the mature Mozart, at the height of his compositional powers. 

Faith, poetry, and family …

… The X Files: Elizabeth Acevedo and the Poetry of Young Identity | Village Voice. (Hat tip, G. E. Reutter.

The Poet X is Acevedo’s first novel, inspired by teaching eighth-grade English in a school that served primarily Latinx students. It follows fifteen-year-old Xiomara Batista, who struggles to reconcile her mother’s devotion to Catholicism with her own values as she prepares for confirmation.

Look and listen …

(Hat tip, G. E. Reutter.)

And the winners are …

… Winning Poems for 2018 January : IBPC.

The Judge's Page.

(Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Vintage real estate …

 Roman Military Commander's Sprawling Home Found Beneath Subway System.

Hmm …

 John Gray - Mind the Gap | Literary Review | Issue 462. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

We have been taught to think that our distinctively human activities originate in a recently evolved capacity for conscious thought, when in truth they are offshoots from life’s primordial beginnings. Not only social cooperation and the institutions of government but also art and religion spring from our essential nature as feeling beings. As Damasio writes with lapidary beauty, ‘A life not felt would have needed no cure.’
Perhaps that is why poetry seems to have come into being almost as soon as language and why our thought-processes began with myth-making.

In case you've forgotten …

… The University Bookman: Who Is Blackford Oakes? (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Actual good news …

… Teen waitress who cut diner's food for him wins scholarship [Video].

Masterwork …

The title is taken from a line in Robert Browning's Poem "Pauline" — " "Sun-treader, life and light be thine forvever!" Carl Ruggles was born on this date in 1876.


 Humanities | Special Issue : Geographies of the Beat Generation. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Bringing myth down to earth …

… A Starkly Beautiful Film About Bach, Through the Lens of His Wife’s Diary. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Marilynne Robinson

Her new collection of essays, What Are We Doing Here?

No problem with writer’s block …

… Lauran Paine – Zenith City Online. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Hmm …

The word commonly translated as faith in the Gospels is  pisteuó, which has more to do with trustworthiness than with the intellectual acceptance of a set propositions. So, for a Christian, it would seem to mean the acceptance of Christ's invitation to "follow me."
I am sure I could draw up a list of Writers of Faith, but I think the best book on what Christians mean by faith is Romano Guardini's The Living God.
Also worth noting is D. H. Lawrence's poem "The Hands of God." 

Anniversary …

… Paul Davis On Crime: A New Crime Novel On Mickey Spillane's 100th Birthday.

 I missed this yesterday, which was, of course, the anniversary.

The geometry of instnct …

 Zealotry of Guerin: Eros (Paul Klee), Sonnet #395.

About a book coming out this month …

Resonance …

 Middlemarch Thoughts | Time's Flow Stemmed. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

"Hic Rhodus, Hic Salta" or "I refute it thus"

I am reading Memories, Dreams, Reflections by C.G. Jung.  The last time I read it was in high school XX years ago, when the 60's still reverberated and pot (not "weed") was everywhere.  I mention the latter only because Jung's descriptions of his explorations into his unconscious, with objects actually ... moving around him ... was far more emotionally understandable on pot or even acid (not that I knew that but was told by others.)

But Jung acknowledges too the unreality of the unconscious world and so uses the phrase "Hic Rhodus, Hic Salta" to note that his professional challenge was to bring his subjective understanding of his unconscious down to something that actually was useful and would help his troubled patients. 

Looking up Hic Rhodus, Hic Salta it means ""Here is Rhodes, jump here" and is from Aesop's Fables, and according to the Maverick Philosopher, means "put your money where your mouth is."  Prove, in the real world, your theories, and somehow that means something like Johnson's refutation of Berkeley's immaterialism.  


EVERY SO OFTEN, I like to skip through web sites and just read, one linking to another, almost effortlessly learning about one thing, then another, then another,  Some blogs are like that internally too, the writer starting with "I was going out for a walk on the hearth that afternoon, with the wind rising on the fall afternoon, looking much like Constable's Hay Wain ..."

... and ending with some reference to Blake's Introduction to Songs of Experience:

Hear the voice of the Bard!
Who Present, Past and Future sees:
Whose ears have heard
The Holy Word

That walk'd among the ancient trees.

The erudition is reassuring and the pace is wonderful among the eternal images of nature.