Saturday, April 30, 2005
Thursday, April 28, 2005
Per birdman Wolcott, and Julia, too (see her "Headline of the Day" - can't seem to make a more specific link) - very cool. Not dissimilar to the reading of the Oxyrhynchus scrolls through new imaging technology - things thought lost forever are found again. I suspect there are more of these survivals than we know, but also extinctions and losses of which we are ignorant, lost by the casual malice of indifference or greed. And some of which we are not so ignorant - wasn't it Rummy who said, "Stuff happens..."?
Seems we have some feathers - now where's that tar?
Wednesday, April 27, 2005
Tinctures of madness cannot even begin to approach:
Ending Evil with the Power of Stupid
Before the power of the Medium Lobster, I am helpless - transcending Space and Time, what recourse have we, locked in material Space (e.g., my room, my sock drawer) and Time (e.g., the readings of my clock/wrist timepiece/nuclear tick-tock)? Nil, nil, nil!
Tuesday, April 26, 2005
Lance always asks the best questions!
I took a stab at this a couple of years ago, inspired by Neal Pollack, in his guise of political satitrist (and the literary-macho-rocker persona didn't hurt), but I got bogged down. Last I recall, I had the SupremeBuddies Ruth Ginsberg and Nino Scalia en route to participate in a summer production of Turnadot in Verona (they are both opera buffs and super when they can). There was such a show scheduled for that season, they were being pursued by a dark cloud of Initiative Prayer issuing from Pat Roberton's HQ (shades of Justice Sunday!) and - in my telling - heading for a travesty. This was shortly after the Lawrence decision, and it was just piling up too fast, but I think you get the idea. NP was a wizard with this stuff, and even he has trimmed back.
For this current effort, just go back to the first post here - I didn't know what the fuck I was going to do with it. I'd love to be running around town, listening, feeling the pulse, but my job prevents me from doing that. My Blogroll shows the people I read regularly, and I love a good piece of invective, depend on others' expertise - I will always link to them. My comments on links will be short and sweet. If I post something original and more substantive, it will be about something I really know and care about. Or for my own amusement. Readers have loved the WITW excerpts, for example (it's so nice, I took it to the desert island!).
I'm posting a melancholy graphic, above, not because that's a ruling humor for me (tho it is one that has caused a lot of trouble), but because it speaks to the rule of introspection and thoughtfulness that underlie even the most antic blogs - I give you Fafblog to prove the point.
Saturday, April 23, 2005
walking down the street, jaunty, jolly, and System is looking good. Then, all of a sudden, his eye droops, he trips, falls flat on his face - Mr. Narcolepsy! I slap him around a little and he shakes his head to clear it and we are off again - O, look at the pink dogwoods! Plop! He's down....fuck. This is going to take some time, I can see. No soup for his supper, or he'll drown. Gotta watch the wine intake at seder, too.....
Friday, April 22, 2005
Technical problems since Wednesday - you get a little upgrade, it's unhappy, and soon the grumpiness spreads; I already have one human patient (and less hair than I used to), but the apps are speaking to me again. More later.
[Evening Update: A couple of hours of brain surgery - on my own free time, I might add - and it's looking like Endless Sunshine for my little box; it was basically a conflict of exes, if you know what I mean. Hoping all will continue well in the morning.]
Tuesday, April 19, 2005
But a generous one, and just to get to read Charles Taylor on anything right now is a reward. Here he is in Newsday on the Jane Fonda memoir. I have not understood why so many of the other reviews of My Life So Far have failed to even acknowledge Fonda's achievements as an actress - in "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?" and in "Klute" especially. As Taylor says, "In those films, her apex, Fonda mixed tough straightforwardness with emotional depth better than any American actress since Barbara Stanwyck."
He also notes that those performances coincided with her period of naive political activity - but, fuck, if she hadn't been a star, doing her best work, few people would have paid much attention to her tour of North Vietnam, or invested in her their own hostility - she's the star/dupe, not dumb, but not equipped to handle the enormous complexity of a war that divided this nation at the very highest levels of command. She was in way over her head, and she was not alone. Check out Mary McCarthy in the same period - and she was, supposedly, no fool. Just not a movie star..
We lost a lot from nailing Fonda as an enemy affiliate (a reflexively stupid characterization from anyone who makes it, embarrassing if they can stand still and think for 30 seconds); but on the basis of this and other reviews and interviews, Jane did, too - there may be nothing worse for an artist than believing they might find repentence in good works and bad movies. Like Charley, I wish her well, but need we give her a hand with that lash?
Wow! Heavens to Voinovich! Look what Fred Kaplan has to say in Slate this afternoon about the Bolton nomination (there has been much buzz elsewhere, but this is expert summation):
Something amazing happened at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this afternoon. In nearly 30 years of watching Congress, off and on, I can't remember anything quite like it. [...]
A vote was scheduled for this afternoon. The panel's Democrats advanced some delaying maneuvers. The Republican chairman, Richard Lugar of Indiana, swiftly put them down. The vote looked imminent.
Then, at about 4:30 p.m., out of nowhere, George Voinovich, a Republican from Ohio, said that he hasn't attended any of the hearings on Bolton (he claimed to be busy with something or other) but, based on charges that he had just heard today, he would not "feel comfortable" voting Bolton out of committee. [...]
Lugar and Joseph Biden of Delaware, the committee's ranking Democrat, reached an accord. The Democratic and Republican staff members, working together, will investigate the new charges, calling more witnesses for interviews. The senators will go on recess. When they come back, they'll look at the probe's results. Maybe they'll call Bolton back for another hearing, perhaps to defend himself. Then they'll vote. In short, the vote is delayed by at least a couple of weeks. Meeting adjourned.
Amazing indeed. Now, two weeks of more shit hitting the fan for a guy who seems to like personal terror tactics when he doesn't like your work (there are links in posts below). Inevitably ugly, and Kaplan asks, in so many words, "Hold on to this schmuck and give the Dems a win, or garrotte him from the back seat (pace Kaplan, "(metaphorically, of course).")? Can Bush and the GOP allow such a defeat? Again - Wow!
[Update: Watch the clip from C-SPAN2 at Crook & Liars - it's less than 15 minutes of your time, but the anxiety (almost regret) in the room - on both sides - is palpable. Lugar seems quite unhappy, Boxer and Sarbanes are very articulate in their reservations (without much hope), and then Voinovich puts his foot down, almost out of nowhere, and .... well, we shall see.
For people who think these deliberations are some form of screaming match of the sort they are used to on cable news, this is a wonderful corrective.]
Monday, April 18, 2005
Laura at War and Piece has a long quote from Chris Nelson on Bolton, et al, that echoes my feelings:
"We are at the point now where the Republican Leadership refuses to allow the
possibility of a loss on anything, regardless of the merits. This renders
“debate” meaningless, since nothing said actually matters, so truth is
She has a lot more, from multiple sources, from over the weekend. And read the whole Nelson bit - it's cogent and scary. These guys are becoming more feral by the day, yet for all the power they already have, they act more and more wounded - it's the most bizarre saga of impious pride and - I think inevitable - self-destruction that I have ever seen. I don't much care who says the Word that will end this frenzy, but someone must.
Meanwhile, Back at the Principality...
I've always had a thing for Bruce McCall's bizarre, loving tributes to the Diamond Age of international travel (and that's a couple of kicks up from any so-called "Golden Age"), and he comes through with the April 18 New Yorker cover, which honors my own fiefdom, Rodentia. A lovely shield-shaped luggage sticker celebrating us as "Playground of the Giant Vole" - go look (you don't even have to buy it)!
Saturday, April 16, 2005
Obviously, I gotta nail my brother, Monkeyshines, first - he needs a debut and he's a great performer. Then, it will be Cinetrix at Pullquote. Finally, my friend Mark in Buffalo, who doesn't have a blog but will both enjoy this and pull thru with a comment post.
That's my Mr. Pointy number.
Then there is the lovely BlueGirl, who sends me comments and who is tack-sharp (I'm giving her caps outta respect). And also edwardpig, who doesn't get caps but gets included because he is doing good commentary and because he takes his handle from Edward Gorey; someday I will find a bone to pick with him and answer with a fantod.
VW would be proud to see Shakespeare's Sister realized, and so am I.(and none of that Ed de Vere's sister stuff, please!). Adam Kotsko is essential, so he's here now, tho he looks a humble weblog.. The Carpetbagger Report is important, and I like the captions. Finally, Lawyers, Guns and Money must be added because: a) too smart for their own good, b) I want them at hand when I pick fights and c) Lance pointed a wise finger.
God, there are so many smarties out there! So grand!
I lost my Friday hours in Town to snoozies - too many late-night hours blogging this last week, I guess. I see, however, that Dan Drezner wonders why Bellow isn't read more in schools. I have a comment to that post, but I urge anyone interested to read first the Tribune article that prompted the question - Drezner picked the most unenlightening (and I think eccentric) statement from the people interviewed, and then runs with that. That distorts the issue, I think.
More later today - there's so much craziness out there (e.g., "Justice Sunday"), I haven't begun to absorb it all.
However, if you missed it, see David E. on man dates - it's from last Monday, but it's very funny. What is the NYT thinking? They should have a forced screening of Harold and Kumar....
Picking up on another Drezner post - and this from a month ago - on the death of George Kennan; I know GK got very cranky, especially toward the end, but I read the Memoirs with great excitement, especially his account of the period in Riga in which he was immersed in Russian literature and culture. That intimacy gave depth to his policy analysis later, and it's something sadly lacking - and tragically undervalued - among our current foreign policy honchos.
Thursday, April 14, 2005
Wednesday, April 13, 2005
Poor rabbits - one moment the velveteen of a child's story, the next a coney to catch, a Peter, or a Playmate. There is no way of getting around this ambiguity with even a humble bunny, and no legislation can clarify how we see such a simple animal, let alone how we Bigger Brained see ourselves. If citizens want to promote or protect their own innocence, in this nation, under our Constitution, that is their responsibility and their privilege Not unusually, I defer to Digby on the political ramifications, and you can follow his links to Matt, to Amy, etc.
Off the top of my head, however, I can say this: public/political/theocratic cultural policies always fail. Islam interdicts representations of people, but we have Persian miniatures, and Mughal painting (maybe they got by just for being small....). Byzantine luxury. Books of Hours. Blood-and-guts Jacobeans. Miltonic masques (when the theatres were closed). Italian censors were constantly on Verdi's back for politically sensitive material (a royal assassination in A Masked Ball), but let infanticide, kidnapping (just before the girl takes her holy vows!), and a rather manipulative fratricide go by in Trovatore (a fave of mine, btw).
Steve Gilliard (with a couple of generations of observation supporting him) emphasizes the supremacy of peer pressure on kids, trumping the most intense pop cult assaults - and peer pressure is acceptance, imitation, or relegation to some other level, which will have its own passwords for belonging. You have to have lost both your mind and your memory to think that kids haven't developed any critical sensibility by, say, age 10 - it may not be very sophisticated, but it's there. And it wants to be better, wants to be able to make distinctions, knows it's being steamrolled by marketers on the one hand and by anxious parents and teachers on the other. It would drive me to GTA/SA, if I was there today, just for a bit of release.
Bite me, boys and girls. Culture is for grown-ups, but not when they are dumber - and more dishonest - than their kids. Need a rap on the knuckles with a ruler, they do.
For a more trenchant response to Amy Sullivan (& Co.), I refer you to Scott at LG&M.
Monday, April 11, 2005
Watching you sleep
a thing you do so well
no shove no push
on the sliding face
of sleep as on
the deep a sea bird
of a grand wingspread
trusts what it knows
and I who rumple crumple
and mash (snore) amble
and ankle about wide
awake, wanting to fold,
loving to watch sleep
embodied in you my
warm machine that draws
me back to bed
and you who turn
all around me
to love and seduce
me back to sleep "You
said 9:30, now it's
don't seem to care
cold coffee (sugar,
no milk) about time:
you never do, never
get roiled the way
I do "Should I nag
you or shut up? If
you say, I will"
glad to return to
that warm turning
to me in that
of my nights,
and more, my days.
from The Crystal Lithium 
[This is rather long, but worth it.]
We others, who have long lost the more subtle of the physical senses, have not even proper terms to express an animal's inter- communications with his surroundings, living or otherwise, and have only the word `smell,' for instance, to include the whole range of delicate thrills which murmur in the nose of the animal night and day, summoning, warning? inciting, repelling. It was one of these mysterious fairy calls from out the void that suddenly reached Mole in the darkness, making him tingle through and through with its very familiar appeal, even while yet he could not clearly remember what it was. He stopped dead in his tracks, his nose searching hither and thither in its efforts to recapture the fine filament, the telegraphic current, that had so strongly moved him. A moment, and he had caught it again; and with it this time came recollection in fullest flood.
Home! That was what they meant, those caressing appeals, those soft touches wafted through the air, those invisible little hands pulling and tugging, all one way! Why, it must be quite close by him at that moment, his old home that he had hurriedly forsaken and never sought again, that day when he first found the river! And now it was sending out its scouts and its messengers to capture him and bring him in. Since his escape on that bright morning he had hardly given it a thought, so absorbed had he been in his new life, in all its pleasures, its surprises, its fresh and captivating experiences. Now, with a rush of old memories, how clearly it stood up before him, in the darkness! Shabby indeed, and small and poorly furnished, and yet his, the home he had made for himself, the home he had been so happy to get back to after his day's work. And the home had been happy with him, too, evidently, and was missing him, and wanted him back, and was telling him so, through his nose, sorrowfully, reproachfully, but with no bitterness or anger; only with plaintive reminder that it was there, and wanted him.
The call was clear, the summons was plain. He must obey it instantly, and go. `Ratty!' he called, full of joyful excitement, `hold on! Come back! I want you, quick!'`
Oh, COME along, Mole, do!' replied the Rat cheerfully, still plodding along.
`PLEASE stop, Ratty!' pleaded the poor Mole, in anguish of heart. `You don't understand! It's my home, my old home! I've just come across the smell of it, and it's close by here, really quite close. And I MUST go to it, I must, I must! Oh, come back, Ratty! Please, please come back!'
The Rat was by this time very far ahead, too far to hear clearly what the Mole was calling, too far to catch the sharp note of painful appeal in his voice. And he was much taken up with the weather, for he too could smell something--something suspiciously like approaching snow.
`Mole, we mustn't stop now, really!' he called back. `We'll come for it to-morrow, whatever it is you've found. But I daren't stop now--it's late, and the snow's coming on again, and I'm not sure of the way! And I want your nose, Mole, so come on quick, there's a good fellow!' And the Rat pressed forward on his way without waiting for an answer.
Poor Mole stood alone in the road, his heart torn asunder, and a big sob gathering, gathering, somewhere low down inside him, to leap up to the surface presently, he knew, in passionate escape. But even under such a test as this his loyalty to his friend stood firm. Never for a moment did he dream of abandoning him. Meanwhile, the wafts from his old home pleaded, whispered, conjured, and finally claimed him imperiously. He dared not tarry longer within their magic circle. With a wrench that tore his very heartstrings he set his face down the road and followed submissively in the track of the Rat, while faint, thin little smells, still dogging his retreating nose, reproached him for his new friendship and his callous forgetfulness.
With an effort he caught up to the unsuspecting Rat, who began chattering cheerfully about what they would do when they got back, and how jolly a fire of logs in the parlour would be, and what a supper he meant to eat; never noticing his companion's silence and distressful state of mind. At last, however, when they had gone some considerable way further, and were passing some tree-stumps at the edge of a copse that bordered the road, he stopped and said kindly, `Look here, Mole old chap, you seem dead tired. No talk left in you, and your feet dragging like lead. We'll sit down here for a minute and rest. The snow has held off so far, and the best part of our journey is over.'
The Mole subsided forlornly on a tree-stump and tried to control himself, for he felt it surely coming. The sob he had fought with so long refused to be beaten. Up and up, it forced its way to the air, and then another, and another, and others thick and fast; till poor Mole at last gave up the struggle, and cried freely and helplessly and openly, now that he knew it was all over and he had lost what he could hardly be said to have found.
The Rat, astonished and dismayed at the violence of Mole's paroxysm of grief, did not dare to speak for a while. At last he said, very quietly and sympathetically, `What is it, old fellow? Whatever can be the matter? Tell us your trouble, and let me see what I can do.'
Poor Mole found it difficult to get any words out between the upheavals of his chest that followed one upon another so quickly and held back speech and choked it as it came. `I know it's a-- shabby, dingy little place,' he sobbed forth at last, brokenly: `not like--your cosy quarters--or Toad's beautiful hall--or Badger's great house--but it was my own little home--and I was fond of it--and I went away and forgot all about it--and then I smelt it suddenly--on the road, when I called and you wouldn't listen, Rat--and everything came back to me with a rush--and I WANTED it!--O dear, O dear!--and when you WOULDN'T turn back, Ratty--and I had to leave it, though I was smelling it all the time--I thought my heart would break.--We might have just gone and had one look at it, Ratty--only one look--it was close by--but you wouldn't turn back, Ratty, you wouldn't turn back! O dear, O dear!'
Recollection brought fresh waves of sorrow, and sobs again took full charge of him, preventing further speech.
The Rat stared straight in front of him, saying nothing, only patting Mole gently on the shoulder. After a time he muttered gloomily, `I see it all now! What a PIG I have been! A pig-- that's me! Just a pig--a plain pig!'
He waited till Mole's sobs became gradually less stormy and more rhythmical; he waited till at last sniffs were frequent and sobs only intermittent. Then he rose from his seat, and, remarking carelessly, `Well, now we'd really better be getting on, old chap!' set off up the road again, over the toilsome way they had come.
`Wherever are you (hic) going to (hic), Ratty?' cried the tearful Mole, looking up in alarm.
`We're going to find that home of yours, old fellow,' replied the Rat pleasantly; `so you had better come along, for it will take some finding, and we shall want your nose.'
`Oh, come back, Ratty, do!' cried the Mole, getting up and hurrying after him. `It's no good, I tell you! It's too late, and too dark, and the place is too far off, and the snow's coming! And--and I never meant to let you know I was feeling that way about it--it was all an accident and a mistake! And think of River Bank, and your supper!'
`Hang River Bank, and supper too!' said the Rat heartily. `I tell you, I'm going to find this place now, if I stay out all night. So cheer up, old chap, and take my arm, and we'll very soon be back there again.'
Still snuffling, pleading, and reluctant, Mole suffered himself to be dragged back along the road by his imperious companion, who by a flow of cheerful talk and anecdote endeavoured to beguile his spirits back and make the weary way seem shorter. When at last it seemed to the Rat that they must be nearing that part of the road where the Mole had been `held up,' he said, `Now, no more talking. Business! Use your nose, and give your mind to it.'
[...Mole's home is found....]
.Mole's face-beamed at the sight of all these objects so dear to him, and he hurried Rat through the door, lit a lamp in the hall, and took one glance round his old home. He saw the dust lying thick on everything, saw the cheerless, deserted look of the long-neglected house, and its narrow, meagre dimensions, its worn and shabby contents--and collapsed again on a hall-chair, his nose to his paws. `O Ratty!' he cried dismally, `why ever did I do it? Why did I bring you to this poor, cold little place, on a night like this, when you might have been at River Bank by this time, toasting your toes before a blazing fire, with all your own nice things about you!'
The Rat paid no heed to his doleful self-reproaches. He was running here and there, opening doors, inspecting rooms and cupboards, and lighting lamps and candles and sticking them, up everywhere. `What a capital little house this is!' he called out cheerily. `So compact! So well planned! Everything here and everything in its place! We'll make a jolly night of it. The first thing we want is a good fire; I'll see to that--I always know where to find things. So this is the parlour? Splendid! Your own idea, those little sleeping-bunks in the wall? Capital! Now, I'll fetch the wood and the coals, and you get a duster, Mole--you'll find one in the drawer of the kitchen table--and try and smarten things up a bit. Bustle about, old chap!'
He made for the cellar-door, and presently reappeared, somewhat dusty, with a bottle of beer in each paw and another under each arm, `Self-indulgent beggar you seem to be, Mole,' he observed. `Deny yourself nothing. This is really the jolliest little place I ever was in. Now, wherever did you pick up those prints? Make the place look so home-like, they do. No wonder you're so fond of it, Mole. Tell us all about it, and how you came to make it what it is.'
Then, while the Rat busied himself fetching plates, and knives and forks, and mustard which he mixed in an egg-cup, the Mole, his bosom still heaving with the stress of his recent emotion, related--somewhat shyly at first, but with more freedom as he warmed to his subject--how this was planned, and how that was thought out, and how this was got through a windfall from an aunt, and that was a wonderful find and a bargain, and this other thing was bought out of laborious savings and a certain amount of `going without.' His spirits finally quite restored, he must needs go and caress his possessions, and take a lamp and show off their points to his visitor and expatiate on them, quite forgetful of the supper they both so much needed; Rat, who was desperately hungry but strove to conceal it, nodding seriously, examining with a puckered brow, and saying, `wonderful,' and `most remarkable,' at intervals, when the chance for an observation was given him.
[...an episode of socializing with neighbours ensues, after which....]
When the door had closed on the last of them and the chink of the lanterns had died away, Mole and Rat kicked the fire up, drew their chairs in, brewed themselves a last nightcap of mulled ale, and discussed the events of the long day. At last the Rat, with a tremendous yawn, said, `Mole, old chap, I'm ready to drop. Sleepy is simply not the word. That your own bunk over on that side? Very well, then, I'll take this. What a ripping little house this is! Everything so handy!'He clambered into his bunk and rolled himself well up in the blankets, and slumber gathered him forthwith, as a swathe of barley is folded into the arms of the reaping machine.The weary Mole also was glad to turn in without delay, and soon had his head on his pillow, in great joy and contentment. But ere he closed his eyes he let them wander round his old room, mellow in the glow of the firelight that played or rested on familiar and friendly things which had long been unconsciously a part of him, and now smilingly received him back, without rancour. He was now in just the frame of mind that the tactful Rat had quietly worked to bring about in him. He saw clearly how plain and simple--how narrow, even--it all was; but clearly, too, how much it all meant to him, and the special value of some such anchorage in one's existence. He did not at all want to abandon the new life and its splendid spaces, to turn his back on sun and air and all they offered him and creep home and stay there; the upper world was all too strong, it called to him still, even down there, and he knew he must return to the larger stage. But it was good to think he had this to come back to; this place which was all his own, these things which were so glad to see him again and could always be counted upon for the same simple welcome.
Saturday, April 09, 2005
You don't know, Dave, because the movies don't get distributed here, the books translated and published. A young Bellow would not be picked up and nurtured, and he'd end up - as pretty much the only alternative for someone who was at all interested in the, "best that has been thought and said," - among, "those in the academic and literary stratosphere who are part of the global circuit of conferences and academic appointments." They know, of course, what's being read in Berlin (or Asia, or anywhere else outside of these precious borders, guarded by Minutemen) and they know the movies that will be re-made, here at the top, where it's lonely, for domestic consumption, planed smooth to go down easy.
What utter, empty triumphalist bullshit.
Friday, April 08, 2005
It's a miracle that I got so far as to post the first five questions, below - HTML was fighting me every inch. I do have people in mind to tap, but more than a few are Luddites, and the meme will have died and shriveled by the time they got back to me. Something by tomorrow, promise!
In the meantime, all go enjoy Faf's meditation on the MoonPie.
[Update: I am negligent in not crediting Charley Taylor (late of the on-the-skids A&E department of Salon) for pointing me toward Hangover Square and A Child in Time. The first came out of that review of Nick Hornby's Polysyllabic Spree, and the second as a counterweight to my own advocacy of Alan Hollinghurst (at least insofar as he addresses Thatcherism in TLOB). Until you are done, driving these teams of books takes a lot of attention - must be part of the thrill!]
This is all thanks to Lance, of course:
1. You're stuck inside Fahrenheit 451, which book do you want to be [save by memorizing]?
Pale Fire - I can be Text, Commentary, and Index (a jewel in that crown) all at once, and read myself back and forth, and dress as an athlete in scarlet wool. How other people are gonna read me is strictly up to them. Always bothered me, that F451 conceit - I mean, the Book-You, do you just rattle off in sequence? Do you allow questions? Are your readers allowed notes, or will that infect their own booky essence?
2. Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?
Matho in Salammbo - the ultimate lovestruck hunk.
Isabel Archer in Portrait of a Lady - in much the same way as Ralph, of course. So American this thing, wanting to rescue people who want to rescue people.
3. The last book you bought is?
Hangover Square - Patrick Hamilton - you have to get this from Canada!
4. What are you currently reading?
Ian McEwan - The Child in Time
Susanna Clarke - Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell
Alan Hollinghurst - The Line of Beauty - (as I have a platform here, I strongly recommend The Folding Star, too)
Neal Stephenson - Quicksilver
Gene Wolfe - The Wizard
Alan Furst - Blood of Victory
Neal Pollack - Never Mind the Pollacks
Guy Gavriel Kay - Sailing to Sarantium (per Brad DeLong)
all of them quite slowly - uninterrupted reading time is precious here, and rare.
5. Five books you would take to a deserted island?
Complete Shakespeare - it still contains the world (I'd take the Riverside edition, btw, or the complete Ardens)
In Search of Lost Time - Proust - the Aleph in a cookie
I Promessi Sposi (The Betrothed) - Alessandro Manzoni - melodrama at its best
One Hundred Years of Solitude - Garcia-Marquez - the snake bites its tail
Wind in the Willows - Grahame - ripping yarns of great purity, and finally, comfort - or comfortable yarns of great purity, and finally, ripping - I dunno.... This is not a sop to LM; one thing that you loved very early, and that holds up as well as WITW , would be welcome on that fucking island.
Now, if I was going to cheat and add a 6th it would be
Journey to the West - the Tony Yu translation. Link is to Vol. 1 - there are (of course) four volumes.
Wednesday, April 06, 2005
The first time I read Bellow was in high school, and it was Herzog - was that naive, or what? - and it was as difficult (and as wonderful, as incomprehensible) as anything I'd ever worked through. I re-read it twenty years later and Moses's skin could have been my own. By the second reading I'd lived in Hyde Park and Chicago longer than I had anywhere else, been schooled to know the minds he was writing obsessively to, and had had enough experience to be half-cracked myself. I was standing in line for a movie in LA with a doctor friend when I told him about the clarity of the second reading, and he said, "Well, you know, he's having a psychic break..." Shit, I had become used to everyone being like that; why do docs have to be such diagnosticians?
You start thinking seriously and you get restless. Bellow's people (Augie and Henderson and Herzog and Charlie Citrine, among others) are running, far and near, physically and mentally, not from but to. The body's appetites can be strong, but the mind's are even stronger - and sometimes you lose a lot in the fight to satisfy them. If some of his people run into walls or dead ends, it's head on.
I never met him, though I saw him often ay UofC and heard about him constantly. He'd come into Soc Tea with some lovely girls in tow, very dapper, a small man with a large head and big, alert, polished brown eyes. Everyone seemed to know if he'd fastened those eyes on someone else's faculty wife. He wanted to come over and read from an unpublished manuscript at the home of a professor (I was rooming there that year), and Mrs. Professor had doubts:
- (Mr. Professor) - What's the matter? Do you think he might start thinking of
you as the next Mrs. Bellow?
- (Mrs. Professor) - Well, (beat), yes..
Another professor, one I worked for, was old friends with SB's wife of the time and a frequent guest; it was a foregone conclusion that there was a limit on these things. As I said, restless.
Alfred Kazin, as I recall, thought that the influence of more conservative colleagues like Edward Shils had made Bellow recoil from a politics and culture that had been, perhaps, too liberal for its own good. Ravelstein is based on Allan Bloom, who, now famously, saw more loss than gain in the destruction of the high/low categories that the market triumph of popular culture brought with it. Bellow married high and low, too. I wish all of them had stuck around long enough to see how seriously they are taken by us little barbarians. We're restless, too, and we will find more and more in Herzog's letters to the dead thinkers whose ideas remain alive.
Monday, April 04, 2005
Amanda over at Pandagon is celebrating National Poetry Month, so here's one from me, by Elizabeth Bishop:
The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seemed filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.
Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.
Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.
I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.
I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.
-- Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look (Write it!) like disaster.
- from Geography III, 1976
Sunday, April 03, 2005
David Neiwert has the latest on C-SPAN's botching of discussion of Deborah Lipstadt's book History on Trial. He links to Charles Taylor's fierce piece in Salon about the book and the contorted defenses David Irving still seems to enjoy in the name of free speech. [For my small circle of readers, David Irving has made a career of Holocaust-denial and Hitler apologetics, and took Lipstadt to libel proceedings in the UK for her documentation of his shoddy scholarship and distortion of sources. He lost.]
C-SPAN seems to have wanted Lipstadt to replay the entire game over again, confronted by Irving, and you really have to ask why. Is there that large a Holocaust Denial constituency out there that C-SPAN is nervous about not booking a formally repudiated liar? If this was an isolated case, I suppose I would only find it a bizarre aberration, but it's not - witness the airtime the Intelligent Design folks get, the incomprehension with which TV anchors meet the word "theory" (as opposed to "hypothesis") as it is understood in the sciences, the ignorance of medical assessment and procedure in the Schiavo case. It's a fucking endless parade of sloughing off any editorial rigor, of being gutless wonders and proud of it.
Sure, academic history and science aren't the meat-and-potatoes of your average American, but neither is civics, which - one would think - hits closer to home. Yet people are buying a book about the evils of the judiciary in numbers sufficient to put it on the NYT Nonfiction Bestseller List, (it's 7 this week, up from 8) - Dahlia Lithwick, bless her, shreds it here. Trouble is, it's just another piece in this debris flow of propaganda, phony scholarship and incendiary bullshit against which the wusses at C-SPAN and their cable news and broadcast cousins appear to have no defenses left at all. Why do they still have jobs, and what the hell is the job description?
[Update: Neiwert has some Corrections to the post I linked to above, specifically about the WaPo coverage of the Lipstadt/Irving trial and their reporter's efforts in that regard. Doesn't affect my argument, but a worthy example of blogger follow-up.]