Brandywine Books
Saturday, October 30, 2004

Books, Book, Bookes, and Buks

[editorial note: please forgive the recent spat of horrible headlines. See previous editorial notes from today.]

In this post, Will Duquette reads through three books and begins a fourth while awaiting jury selection. Wow! I don't know what mental exercise I would need to accomplish that, but I'd like to try it, I think. I read pitifully slow. That is, I read pitiful slowly. [editorial errata: Will actually finished or began three books in all.]

In this post, William reviews his personal experience with a Lindsey Davis book. He writes: "You know how it is when you walk into a bookstore and discover that there's a new book by a favorite author and you get excited and then you realize that it's a trade paperback and all the ones you've bought to date have been mass-market paperbacks and you really don't want to spend the extra money just to get a trade paperback that won't fit on the shelf with the others and so you decide to wait until the mass-marker edition comes out? And so you put the trade paperback down and try to erase it from your mind so that you won't pine unduly in the meantime." I love reviews like this.

In other news, Amanda of The Living Room is gearing up for NaNoWriMo next month. She says, "Thankfully, the muse decided to actually give me at least the outline for a plot."

Amityville: The Headline That Wasn’t

[editorial note: Please note last post’s editorial note.]

I don’t really keep up with the horror genre, so all I knew about The Amityville Horror was that was a pretty scary movie. Not as scary as Salem’s Lot, I’m told; but still one of the scary ones according to my brother-in-law. Today, I learned that the movie was based on a book which billed itself originally as non-fiction. Author Jay Anson recorded George and Kathy Lutz’ claims of a house haunted by the spirits of a murdered family (and apparently everything else) word for word. The book was billed as a scary variation on Rosemary’s Baby or The Omen only this version was true. The Amityville community, a parapsychologist, and even the lawyer for the murderer of the family whose spirits were supposed to be out and about questioned the Lutz’ account.

Dr. Stephen Kaplan, the parapsychologist, investigated along with many others. Kaplan said he was suspicious from the beginning. In his expose, The Amityville Horror Conspiracy, he recounts his first conversation.
I began to ask questions. What actually happened to him and his family? George…says that he simply can’t describe the psychic phenomena. But there are demons there. He even knows their names!

‘What are their names?’ I ask. [George] won’t tell me. He claims they’ll appear if he as much as mentions their names out loud.

‘Who told you that?’ I ask.
Lutz said he read it in a book and that he knew nothing about the occult two months ago, but he also said he talked to a well-known Long Island witch recently, someone who had not been in the area for over a year.

Eventually, the Lutz’ story was exposed for a hoax, and the Lutz recanted at least some of it. I learned all of this from an article at the Crime Library. The truly horrific story is the six-fold murder which inspired the hoax.

Headline: something clever about presidents

[editorial note: Our headline writers are out this weekend. We apologize for the inconvenience and promise to deny them future time-off.]

The Plain Dealer’s Andrea Simakis reviews Fraternity: A Journey in Search of Five Presidents by Bob Greene. It purports to reveal private conversations with former presidents Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, and Bush; but Reagan was not available due to his illness. Yes, this book did come out last month, but at least Greene tried to talk to Reagan, so why change the subtitle?

Simakis writes: "The Wizard of Oz figures prominently in Fraternity. Greene likens his pursuit of face time with the presidents to Dorothy's trip to Emerald City. But readers hoping for powerful insight into the minds of five--scratch that, four--men who used to rule the free world likely will feel the disappointment of the pigtailed girl from Kansas when she realized the Wizard was 'smaller and less fascinating than what his subjects presumed.'"

Is it revealing? Not really. "He tries to prepare us for the minutia by saying he wasn't out to unearth any bodies. Instead, he says he was in search of 'lowercase history history spoken quietly, history related in unhurried tones . . .'"

Read Coffee-related Headline Here

Reuters' Reporter Nichola Groom writes that Starbucks plans to increase its intake of fair-trade coffee to 60% of its total sales.
By 2007, Starbucks expects that 60 percent of its coffee will come from farmers following strict rules on everything from forestation to pesticides to labor practices. About 10 percent of Starbucks' coffee is bought from suppliers following such rules now.

"It's very aggressive," Chief Executive Orin Smith told Reuters in an interview on Thursday.

Starbucks hopes the move will protect its growing empire of 8,500 coffee shops from boycotts and bad publicity. "If you are tapped as a bad corporate citizen, the penalty is large," Smith said.
I'm sure there's an evil conspiracy we can spin out of this news.
Friday, October 29, 2004

Random Acts of Poetry Week: Sir Walter Raleigh

A Vision upon the Fairy Queen

Methought I saw the grave where Laura lay,
     Within that temple where the vestal flame
     Was wont to burn; and, passing by that way,
     To see that buried dust of living fame,
Whose tomb fair Love, and fairer Virtue kept:
     All suddenly I saw the Fairy Queen;
     At whose approach the soul of Petrarch wept,
     And, from thenceforth, those Graces were not seen:
For they this queen attended; in whose stead
     Oblivion laid him down on Laura's hearse:
     Hereat the hardest stones were seen to bleed,
And groans of buried ghosts the heavens did pierce:
     Where Homer's spright did tremble all for grief,
     And cursed the access of that celestial thief!

Taken from's Greatest Poems. Note their poem of the day.
Thursday, October 28, 2004

Random Acts of Poetry Week: du Bellay

"Heureux Qui, Comme Ulysse, A Fait un Beau Voyage" by Joachim du Bellay (1522-1560); translated by Anthony Hecht.

Great joy be to the sailor if he chart
The Odyssey or bear away the Fleece
Yet unto wisdom's laurel and the peace
Of his own kind come lastly to his start.
And when shall I, being migrant, bring my heart
Home to its plots of parsley, its proper earth,
Pot hook, cow dung, black chimney bricks whose worth
I have not skill to honor in my art. ... [see @ la lettre for original French]

I Love Books, Therefore, I Know A Ton

[by way of ArtsJournal] Pseudonymous professor Thomas Benton wonders if being a book-lover means he is a scholar. "You see, I spend more on books than I do on food," he says. "At bottom, I suspect I am a scholar because I am a bibliophile rather than the other way around." In between these two statements lies a fun description of that 'gentle madness' of book-collecting. I fully understand the feeling described here:
Nowadays, I enjoy the ritual of opening a new shipment of books from, say, Edward R. Hamilton, Daedalus, or Labyrinth, wrapping their jackets in Mylar (from Gaylord Library Supplies), and finding places for them on oak shelves that I built myself. Even if I have no immediate plans to read them, owning a selection of the best books on a variety of topics gives me a proprietary feeling over subjects which I have not yet had time to study in great detail. They are already old friends when the time comes for me to call on them.
And in another place, Benton writes that he collects partly out of convenience:
In general, it takes libraries too long to get new books. A book's moment is usually past by the time a library becomes aware of it, processes it, catalogues it, and shelves it. It's like waiting for a movie to appear at the video rental store. By the time you get it, almost no one cares about it anymore.
If by people not caring the book becomes unavailable, then perhaps that's a problem. But if by not caring people are merely chatting about something else, then what of it? Wisdom takes more time to accumulate than knowledge, and many of us know we can chat about books without having read them. I do that here, even irritating myself. I would love to know and discern the substance of a book before blogging, but I simply can't. I am a book-blogger of limited means and ability.

I think the newness of a book can outshine its value. I'm sure most writers who endeavor to pen a strong book for readers of the world to come would like their work praised by readers and critics alike within a couple months of its release, but that rarely happens. The really good ones may never stain a best-seller list, but they will be passed from reader to reader and praised or discussed steadily for years, that is, if they aren't marginalized by other literary lights at the time of their release and await rediscovery by bloggers who buying used books at library sales.
Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Random Acts of Poetry Week

In The New Criterion: "On my refusal to attend
a poet's protest against the war" by Sarah Skwire
Because I work with words, and you do too,
you ask me to come stand with you today,
thinking the words that bind us—and they do—
have brought us close enough for you to say

with confidence that you know how I feel
at such a time as this, at such a time
when I can hardly find a word that’s real
enough, can hardly find a sensate rhyme

to start to say I don’t know what to think,
may never know . . .
Read on

Gilead Part of a Growing Genre

I mentioned Marilynne Robinson's Gilead a while back; today, Dr. O'Connor blogs on a NYT Magazine article on Robinson and the creative process behind Gilead. O'Connor describes the book as part of "a growing genre of American literature--genealogical novels that draw connections between past and present by looking backward to nineteenth-century American ancestors."
Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Sarah's Interview with A. McCall Smith

Editor and reviewer Sarah Weinman has an interesting interview with Alexander McCall Smith during his Canadian book tour. On his books in general, she says:
Some find his manner too cutesy, others can’t abide the gentleness. As an avowed reader of more hardboiled fare, I sometimes want a mixture of both as an antidote, and McCall Smith just has an exceptional way with words and with character. I’m still not sure how he does it, but in almost everything he writes that is fiction, he taps into the universality of an issue, an emotional state or a moral quandary. His novels never exceed their grasp, but have an exceptional command of whatever’s within their reach. And his voice is an intuitive one, seemingly free of artifice and virtually pure.
Smith says he wants humor in his stories. "I want people to smile while they read the books. You get that most markedly in the von Igenfeld books which are really rather absurd, but also in the serial novel in the Scotsman, 44 SCOTLAND STREET, which I’m writing as I travel. . . . So, for everything, I really want to get across a feeling of fun of humor in these books, obviously more serious issues are covered in the books for adults, like in THE SUNDAY PHILOSOPHY CLUB which deals with fairly complex ones."

Also in the interview, Smith says:
One of the things which is very prominent in those books are the arguments about very petty matters, particularly who’s using which room, which I think is very, very important in people’s working lives. People get very angry about this sort of thing. If they think someone else is using their room that’s a tremendous issue. So I rather like the theme I suppose really occurs in all my books is the idea of little petty issues assuming great importance. That happens in the Mma Ramotswe books and certainly happens in PORTUGUESE IRREGULAR VERBS. Tiny little arguments among people about something very, very petty can be extremely funny in my opinion.

Misuses for your Coffee Maker

Aaron of Grace and Peace to You has pointed out some non-coffee uses of a coffee maker. "One of the more obscure uses for an espresso machine (which never fails to produce an interesting facial expression on the person I'm telling this to) is making scrambled eggs. Simply place the eggs in a steaming pitcher and use the steaming wand to heat them. It's nearly impossible to burn the eggs this way, making this very useful for lousy cooks. If you ever see 'eggs espresso' on the menu at a restaurant, that's what this is." Use the hotplate for pancakes, make ramen noodles in the carafe, or use your french press as a fish bowl. No, no, no. This actually comes from a coffee retailer. He isn't winning me over.

Random Poetry

In honor of Random Acts of Poetry Week, here's a poem I remember from my good ol' college days. I should say I was able to remember this with clarity through the help of this page on sea shanty lyrics.

"Old Joe is dead and gone to hell,
Oh, we say so, and we hope so;
Old Joe is dead and gone to hell.
Oh, poor old Joe!

He's as dead as a nail in the lamp-room door" ... well, that's enough edification for one day.

"Stop rhyming, now. I mean it!"

[by way of] "Anybody want a peanut?" This is Random Acts of Poetry Week in Canada!
VANCOUVER -- Don't be alarmed if a stranger stops you in the street today to recite a rhyming stanza for your listening pleasure. It could very well be an imaginative homeless person looking for spare change. More likely, it will be one of 27 Canadian poets who are taking part in Random Acts of Poetry Week, the first cross-country public celebration of poetry.

"It will be like an island of beauty in the middle of their day," says Wendy Morton, the poet from Sooke, B.C., on Vancouver Island, who spearheaded the event.

If it all sounds wonderfully weird, well, the event's genesis is even weirder. It all began when Morton, an insurance investigator by day, was caught speeding on her way home from a poetry reading last year. Morton offered to read the police officer a poem. He liked it, and told Morton he wasn't going to give her a ticket, but warned her not to drive so fast.

"See what you can do with poetry?" Morton says. "That was my first random act."

Elsewhere: The Brilliance of the Father

Jared writes, "The Church father Gregory of Nazianzus writes of 'the back parts of God, which he leaves behind him, as tokens of himself, like the shadows and reflection of the sun in the water, which show the sun to our weak eyes, because we cannot look at the sun himself, for by his unmixed light he is too strong for our power of perception.'"

That's beautiful.
Monday, October 25, 2004

DeLillo Papers to be Housed at University of Texas

[by way of Bookslut] Something close to 120 boxes of "notes, drafts and typescripts" from author Don DeLillo will be housed in the University of Texas' Ransom Center in Austin. Link DeLillo is the author of several books, including Americana, White Noise, and The Body Artist.

Brief Praise of Sigmund Brouwer

Not being a big fan of Christian fiction, Jen of Jen Speaks praises author Sigmund Brouwer for his Nick Barrett mysteries. Brouwer is the co-author, perhaps the work-horse author, for an end times book that is not about a future apocalypse. The Last Disciple appears to take a post-millennial viewpoint on Biblical prophecy, describing events which closely followed the Apostle John's Book of Revelations.

Tyndale House, the publisher of Left Behind, is also the publisher of this new series. Author and radio host Hank Hanegraaff is working with Brouwer. Publishers Weekly says, "Despite the series' many flaws, readers who are hungry for apocalyptic fiction may embrace it, though it remains to be seen whether they'll find a first-century apocalypse as gripping as Left Behind's 21st-century one." There's an excerpt from the book at Notice, Tyndale seems to be following the understanding learned at the Frankfurt Book Festival: any book with the word 'code' in it is bound to sell.
Sunday, October 24, 2004

The 16th Southern Festival of Books

Tennessee's Southern Festival of Books was in Memphis this year. Here's a kind of wrap-up from the hometown paper. Hmm, Charles Frazier was there.

Mencken on Dull Writers and William J. Bryan

H.L. Mencken biographer and terrific New York drama/music/etc. critic Terry Teachout recently learned of a piece Mencken wrote for Vanity Fair in 1923 in response to a question about boring writers. The famous critical thinker (1880-1956) listed ten authors with a few additional thoughts: “Dostoevski, for some reason that I don’t know, simply stumps me; I have never been able to get through any of his novels. George Eliot I started to read too young, and got thereby a taste against her that is unsound but incurable. Against Cooper and Browning I was prejudiced by school-masters who admired them. As for Lawrence and Miss Stein, what makes them hard reading for me is simply the ineradicable conviction that beneath all their pompous manner there is nothing but tosh.”

Speaking of Terry’s biography, I saw it in an interesting rare book and memorabilia collection at my alma mater, Bryan College. Bryan is named for William Jennings Bryan (1860-1925), an orator for progressive politics and Biblical principles as well as a former candidate for presidency and the secretary of state under Woodrow Wilson. Bryan’s name is known to many as the man who argued against Clarence Darrow in the trial of John Scopes. The Scopes Trial drew a lot of media attention by design; the men behind the lawsuit, the ones who recruited Scopes to take blame for teaching evolution in public school, hoped to make a name for themselves and business for the area. Publicity encouraged Bryan threw his hat into the ring for the prosecution’s side which spurred Mencken to urge Darrow to join the defense. Mencken said, "Nobody gives a damn about that yap schoolteacher. The thing to do is to make a fool out of Bryan."

The trial did not accomplish the planners objectives. It became a media event beyond their control. Darrow did put Bryan to an interrogation on the stand in an effort to make a fool out of him, and he cheated him out of a final address, in which Bryan planned to make his rebuttal. If you want to know what really happened there, forget about Inherit the Wind. Start here.

Bryan College wants to collect Bryan’s personal books and those about him, so they have worked toward that goal. A couple years ago they were offered even more--a large Mencken collection through a friendly association with a member of the H.L. Mencken Society. Representatives of the society came south to view an annual reenactment of the Scopes Trial in Dayton, TN. One of the members struck up a friendship with one of my English professors which eventually resulted in the generous donations of Mencken-related books and many copies of American Mercury, a journal he published. Today, Bryan’s library houses a unique and ironic collection of Bryan and Mencken material, side by side. With Terry’s book on the right side toward the back of the room.

Jones, Author and Award-winner

Edward P. Jones, the author of The Known World, his first book, has won the Pulitzer, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and several other awards including the Library of Virginia’s recognition for the best fiction of 2004. The latter leads this biographical article from the Richmond-Times. (alternate link)

In September, Jones was made a MacArthur Fellow by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The honor is called a "genius grant," and it comes with half a million dollars for five successive years, "no strings attached."

The MacArthur Foundation wants "to celebrate the creative individual in our midst." The award “illustrates the Foundation's conviction that talented individuals, free to follow their insights and instincts, will make a difference in shaping the future.”

Edward Jones graduated in 1972 from College of Holy Cross in Worcester, MA, and has taught creative writing in a few universities since. His 1992 short story collection, "Lost in the City," was praised by the critics. But they didn't rave like they have over The Known World.

Bill Lohmann of the Richmond-Times writes:
The idea to write about a black slaveowner developed from nothing more than a kernel of truth. Somewhere, sometime he read or heard there were blacks who owned slaves. It set his imagination to working. He constructed the layers of story largely in his mind's eye.

"All of the prewriting and rewriting and the growth of characters and situations was very much internalized," said Maurice Geracht, one of Jones English professors. "He lives in his head in many ways."

All of the traveling these days doesn't leave a lot of time to sit down and write - Jones is working on another collection of short stories that is due out next fall - but Jones said that's not a problem. "I have time to do a lot of thinking," he said.


Writing Is Rewriting

This, I did not need telling, was Anthony Blanche, the “aesthete” par excellence, a byword of iniquity from Cherwell Edge to Somerville, a young man who seemed to me, then, fresh from the sombre company of the College Essay Society, ageless as a lizard, as foreign as a Martian. He had been pointed out to me often in the streets, as he moved with his own peculiar stateliness, as though he had not fully accustomed himself to coat and trousers and was more at his ease in heavy, embroidered robes; I had heard his voice in the George challenging the conventions; and now meeting him, under the spell of Sebastian, I found myself enjoying him voraciously, like the fine piece of cookery he was.
Is this what Evelyn Waugh intended for a portion of his Brideshead Revisited? Find out that and more when Terry Teachout revisits "Unthinkable Revisions," after these short messages from our inestimable sponsors. . . .
Friday, October 22, 2004

From James Thurber’s Ladies’ and Gentlemen’s Guide to Modern English Usage

In an earlier post, I referred to this collection of useful usage articles by James Thurber. On the question of using “bad” or “badly” within a sentence like “I feel bad(ly),” Thurber advises not to use either word.
There is, of course, a special problem presented by the type of person who looks well even when he doesn’t feel well, and who is not likely to be believed if he says he doesn’t feel well. In such cases, the sufferer should say, “I look well, but I don’t feel well.” While this usage has the merit of avoiding the troublesome words “bad” and “badly,” it also has the disadvantage of being a negative statement. If a person is actually ill, the important thing is to find out not how he doesn’t feel, but how he does feel. He should state his symptoms more specifically—“I have a gnawing pain here, that comes and goes,” or something of the sort. There is always the danger, of course, that one’s listeners will cut in with a long description of how they feel; this can usually be avoided by screaming.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Novel May Be Found Dead from Neglect (and other news)

[again by way of OGIC] Erin O'Connor remarks on a Washington Post article which criticizes Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye as a bad reading. "From first page to last, "The Catcher in the Rye" is an exercise in button-pushing, and the biggest button it pushes is the adolescent's uncertainty and insecurity as he or she perches precariously between childhood, which is remembered fondly and wistfully, and adulthood, which is the great phony unknown," writes the critic Jonathan Yardley.

In an earlier post, she addresses comments on the death of the novel by one of those Nobel-prize winning novelists of whom you've never heard or read. V. S. Naipaul said upon announcing his retirement, "I have no faith in the survival of the novel. It is almost over. The world has changed and people do not have the time to give that a book requires. A book needs great thought." O'Connor says, "My sense is that Naipaul isn't saying that novels won't continue to be written and published--clearly they will, and at breakneck speed--but that it is increasingly unlikely that good ones will be written, and that this is as much the fault of novelists as it is of their readers."

Commenter Luther Blissett reminds everyone that this sort of announcement has occurred repeatedly over the history of literature. "Writers have been bemoaning or celebrating the death of the novel for over a century. Poe thought the short story would supplant the novel, because it could sustain its effect over the brief amount of time a hopped-up coffee-drinking, ceegar-smoking, newspaper-reading public had to devote to reading."

In other news, Jared has a post on what he's reading which may spark something in you.

The Thurber House in Columbus, Ohio, is twenty years old this year. I enjoy Thurber, especially his grammar guide, which recommends slugging a person who begins sillytalking at dinner party.

And Graham Greene would be 100 this month. Viking Press has published a biographical series in honor of him, if not to capitalize on him.

"Reformed People Are an Embarrassment"

I have intended to refer to and comment on this since I first saw it Monday, but I have repeated failed. So I'll refer to it without much commentary at all. David Wayne writes in response to comments made by bookseller and online editor Rob Schlapfer of The Discerning Reader and Christian Counterculture. Rob says in an interview:
Calvinism is a great study for historical theology. But it is not the gospel ? in ANY way. For awhile I thought we could deal with it along the periphery, all the while moving people on to being followers of Jesus and lovers of His Word ? not being "Reformed." But most Calvinists can't do that. They have to identify with their cause. So we are leaving it well behind. Our cause is Christ and his kingdom. Not Reformed Theology. . . .

Why do you think Lance Quinn added all those appendices to the new edition of P&Rs "The 5 Points of Calvinism"? About a "kinder gentler Calvinism"? He wrote to tell me: it was because Calvinists tend to be nasty, mean-spirited people. One always has to qualify the 5 Points with some appeal . . .

The main reason we have discontinued the vast majority of Reformed books is because the people who buy them are disproportionately mean, nasty, hateful, judgmental and EMBARRASSING to the faith. We have had ENOUGH dealing with them. I am actually a very laid-back, easy-going guy. People who know me would tell you that. But this work has taken my blood pressure off the charts.

David gives his experience with the Reformed tradition and how he was an irritable cuss in the style Rob Schlapfer dislikes. Jared gives his thoughts too, saying he has known as many free-will, non-Calvinist types who are irritable sand-line-drawers as he has Calvinist ones. Back to David's post, which ends by quoting Jonathan Edwards:
I'll close with a quote from that issue by Jonathan Edwards which explains why I will often use the term "calvinist" or "reformed" to describe myself, all the while sharing Edwards disdain for being considered to rely on Calvin:
They say, moreover, that the keeping up such a distinction of names, has a direct tendency to uphold distance and disaffection, and keep alive mutual hatred among Christians, who ought all to be united in friendship and charity, though they cannot, in all things, think alike. I confess, these things are very plausible; and I will not deny, that there are some unhappy consequences of this distinction of names . . . However the term Calvinistic is, in these days, among most, a term of greater reproach than the term Arminian; yet I should not take it all amiss, to be called a Calvinist, for distinction's sake: though I utterly disclaim a dependence on Calvin, or believing the doctrines I hold, because he believed and taught them; and cannot be justly charged with believing in every thing just as he taught.


Regarding Paperbacks

"I begin with this simple assertion: books can change people and societies. I was surprised by several publishers and editors who downplayed this seemingly basic article of faith. I suspect they are lying either to me or to themselves." —Kenneth C. Davis in Two-Bit Culture
I discovered this quote through the gracious blogging of Our Girl in Chicago, who praised the CRC Studio Project "The Paperback Revolution."
Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Truth Is Color; The False is Gray

"Where nothing can be false, truth must away—
Not least the truth that all my world is gray."
-- D. A. Carson (1946- ) quoted at the Boar's Head Tavern in a post praising Christian poetry.

I Gather It's Not Worth My Time

I've read that Patricia Cornwell's novels don't maintain their quality as they go on. Perhaps the Kay Scarpetta storyline has worn thin. For last year's novel, Blow Fly, worthy critic Deb English writes, "This is the kind of book you read while wolfing down a pound of Oreos followed by a pint of Haagen-Daz ice cream. It's trash, pure and simple." Publisher's Weekly thinks the book dwells on previous novels too much. But then some like it. The Connecticut Post calls it "on target - and spectacularly so." Library Journal says it is Cornwell's "most shocking" to date and recommends it. So what should we do, humble reader? Choose sides, of course. I'm siding with Deb. I have other things to read anyway.
Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Booker Takes 'Line of Beauty'

From the AP: "Alan Hollinghurst's novel, The Line of Beauty, a tale of a young, gay man dazzled by drugs, power and money in Margaret Thatcher's London, on Tuesday won Britain's most prestigious literary award.

"Hollinghurst beat out five other finalists to win the $90,000 Man Booker Prize. 'It's very amazing to me that the long, solitary process of writing a novel should lead to a moment like this,' Hollinghurst said in accepting the award."

Publisher's Weekly calls The Line of Beauty, "almost perfectly written" and "this novel has the air of a classic." Somehow, I doubt it, but why should I rush to judgment? Perhaps, despite the vulgar subject, the craft does have merit.

Editing History Standards Amounts to Book Burning for Some

I found an LA Times rant on Mrs. Lynne Cheney through yesterday. Stephen Ross believe Mrs. Cheney is cut from the same cloth as "dictators and slaveholders" because she encouraged the Dept. of Education to destroy thousands of guidelines on American history. He writes:
As Cheney wrote in 1994, "We are a better people than the national standards indicate, and our children deserve to know it." Cheney insisted that the standards focused too much on the negatives of the past, on the presence of such stains on our democratic legacy as the Ku Klux Klan and McCarthyism, and not enough on great heroic figures such as Paul Revere, Gen. Robert E. Lee and the Wright brothers.

What Cheney really opposes is the prominent place that "social history" has assumed over the last 30 years. Known among its practitioners as "history from the bottom up," social historians argue that American history has too often been taught as the history of famous white men, political parties and industrialists.
I wish I could evaluate these standards, which were written by professors at UCLA, but I am a humble amateur blogger who is struggling to blog anything worth reading. In this case, we have clear lines of trust drawn. Do we trust UCLA to celebrate the praiseworthy in U.S. history or have they shown themselves interested in reviving the heartache of past oppression? Do we trust Mrs. Cheney to properly evaluate national history standards or do we think she has no mind for anything but Republican or personal power?

Ross argues, "Destroying books that disagree with one's vision of history will never take us closer to truth and freedom. As President Eisenhower warned Dartmouth College graduates in June 1953: 'Don't think you're going to conceal faults by concealing evidence that they ever existed.'" Rewriting guidelines is not covering up historical evidence, nor is burning particular books wholesale censorship.

"Dare to be true: nothing can need a lie;
A fault which needs it most, grows two thereby."
-- George Herbert (1593–1633)

Monday, October 18, 2004

H. Melville said, "To produce a mighty book, you must choose a mighty theme" and as a follow-up, R.W. Emerson opined, "Excellence is the perfect excuse." There you have it. Step up to the plate and write your best, but remember what G.K. Chesterton said in times like these: "If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly."

A Good Price for Coffee

Many of us are thinking about Christmas shopping now, and I have have doubled or more my readership in the last few weeks, so I want to republish an article I wrote earlier this year on Greyfriar's Coffee in Chattanooga, TN. That doesn't mean I make a percentage of referals through this blog; only that I wholeheartedly endorse their product.
This is World Fair Trade Week, according to some, so I'd like to mention my discussion with Ian Goodman of Greyfriar's Coffee in downtown Chattanooga. A few weeks ago, I accepted his invitation to talk about fair trade, since we had exchanged a couple emails about it. Goodman is an award-winning coffee roaster who runs a great, local coffeehouse entirely too far from my home.

He told me about his reluctance to sign on with an international fair trade certifier like Transfair USA because of the cost and bureaucracy when he can accomplish the same goal, that of paying a good price to coffee farmers, by building a personal relationship with them and networking with other bean buyers to decrease distribution costs.

Transfair has a good cause. Coffee, tea, and cocoa farmers must be able to make a living off their work, and the world bean market is low now. Some countries can flood the market with poor quality beans and drive down the price for good quality farmers. If the farmers are unable to negotiate with their buyers, they may draw only a penny or two per $1 cup of joe. According to World Vision, such low prices are driving more than a few Mexican farmers north of the border to make a livable wage.

Transfair promises to correct that problem, but is their seal of approval necessary? As I found out, individual coffee buyers can apply good ethics on their own. For example, Goodman wrote in an email, "Our coffee we get from Papua New Guinea comes from a plantation that is tribally owned and operated, and a percentage of every dollar I spend goes into a fund for an annual project for the tribe. It was helped off the ground by a missionary couple from Oregon who now helps to market the raw coffee in the US." (I've been drinking some of that wonderful PNG coffee for days now. I wish I had it at work.) He said he has similar arrangements with several farmers in other countries.

But these places are not certified fair-trade. In fact, another plantation from which he buys sells both certified and uncertified beans because they paid the inspectors only enough to look over a portion of their land. The rest of their coffee is grown, harvested, and sold by the same people in the same way, but the inspectors weren't paid to look at that part of the plantation. So it remains uncertified.

And I don't care. I respect Goodman. I hope he continues to use strong ethical judgment in his coffee business, and I love his coffee, which is available online through, always linked on the sidebar.

Since this is Fair Trade Week, perhaps you should think about where the coffee you buy comes from and whether you should look for those roasters or brands who guard their farmers' livelihoods. If you're a fan of Starbucks at home, then I encourage you to try a small roaster like Goodman for your next batch of beans.

A Shot of the Joie d'Esprit, What?

Friday, October 15 was P.G. Wodehouse's birthday. He was born 10/15/1881 in Surrey, England; he died 02/14/1975. Regarding a recent set of hardcovers from Overlook Press (who remind you "that disaster can be averted if you Ring for Jeeves"), critic Roger Kimball writes of his discover of Wodehouse way, way back in 1982.
I remember the occasion vividly. I was recovering from the effects of oral surgery after a botched root canal. Thanks to some tablets prescribed by my doctor, I passed a few days lying on a sofa in a not unpleasant sort of semi-coma, almost forgetting the excavation site on the gum above my abused molar. Leafing through The Times Literary Supplement as I mended, I paused over a review of Frances Donaldson's biography of Wodehouse. It sounded like good stuff.

It was (as Wodehouse himself might have put it) the work of a moment to nip down to the local bookstore, pick up a volume or two, and nip back to my bed of modified woe. Anyone inclined to doubt the workings of Providence should attend closely to what happened next. Of the dozens of Wodehouse titles available, the one I first opened was Carry On, Jeeves (1925), a masterly collection of stories whose first chapter explains how that unsurpassable valet, the brainy Jeeves, came into the employ of the feckless chump Bertie Wooster:
Lots of people think I'm much too dependent on him. My Aunt Agatha, in fact, has even gone so far as to call him my keeper. Well, what I say is: Why not? The man's a genius. From the collar upward he stands alone. I gave up trying to run my own affairs within a week of his coming to me.
Wodehouse (the name, by the way, is pronounced "Woodhouse") was amazingly prolific; as Frances Donaldson notes, no one knows the exact extent of his output because, when young, he often wrote under other people's names or noms de plume. But we do know that over the course of his ninety-three years he wrote at least ninety-six books, wrote or collaborated on sixteen plays, and composed at least some of the lyrics and/or the book for twenty-eight musicals. The man was a writing machine. And although he often wrote at or near the top of his form, surely it was (as the Marxists say) no accident that I should have stumbled onto one of his supreme masterpieces right off the bat. These things must be fated. When St. Augustine was going through a rough patch and he heard some children chanting tolle lege--"take and read"--he picked up the Bible and it changed his life.

I won't say that my discovery of Wodehouse was quite so earth-shaking, but it was serendipitous. After two or three pages I was hooked. Had my doctor seen me then, convulsed as I was with laughter, he doubtless would have looked askance and confiscated those tablets.
In The New Criterion's blog, "Armavirumque," James Panero writes, "Malcolm Muggeridge (of all people), one of the finest essayists of the post-war period, was in charge of interviewing Wodehouse for the British security services after the war. His determination: Wodehouse 'never seems to hate anyone.... Such a temperament unfits him to be a good citizen in the mid-twentieth century.'" Being a man of substance myself, I have nothing to add to that.
Saturday, October 16, 2004

Recollecting the Masters

"Remember what the poet Shakespeare said, Jeeves."
"What was that, sir?"
"'Exit hurriedly, pursued by a bear.' You'll find it in one of his plays. I remember drawing a picture of it on the side of the page, when I was at school."

from Very Good, Jeeves!
Thursday, October 14, 2004

The Graphic Classic

Or How to Attract Non-readers to Reading
In this article, Teresa Mendoza reports on comic books used as texts in English classes, "especially in classes where teachers are desperate to engage struggling and reluctant adolescent readers."

"For a certain type of student - particularly those who are visually oriented and bright but may lack the motivation or maturity to succeed in freshman English - the graphic novel can become a 'bridge to other things.'"

Isn't our whole society growing more visually oriented? Is it possible comic books are not a good practice for non-readers because of their reliance on visual storytelling? A much better influence on students of all stripes is passionate teaching. I think enthusiasm and love are the best inspirations students can get. Though every student will not echo his English teacher's passion, he is more likely to follow one of his teachers if the teacher has something worth echoing, something inspirational.

Back to the article:
"Once kids know how to read, there is no good reason to continue to use dumbed-down materials," writes Diane rabbit's, a professor of education at New York University, in an e-mail. "They should be able to read poems, novels, essays, books that inform them, enlighten them, broaden their horizons."

Of note: Defenders of the comic book point out that many adolescent aficionados of the genre have gone on to excel at the written word. Edward P. Jones, who won this year's Pulitzer Prize for his novel, The Known World, recently admitted that he was weaned on comic books. Until he was 13, he says, he'd never read a book without a picture.

9/11 Commission Report Nominated for National Book Award

The nominees for the National Book Awards are out with a few eyebrow-elevators reports USA Today. All the fiction nominees are female New Yorkers, including Sarah Shun-lien Bynum for Madeleine Is Sleeping and Christine Schutt for Florida. In non-fiction, The 9/11 Commission Report is on the list with Jennifer Gonnerman's Life on the Outside: The Prison Odyssey of Elaine Bartlett and Stephen Greenblatt's Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare plus two others. The award Stephen King won last year, The Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, will be given to Judy Blume.

Throw Another Manuscript on the Fire, Dear

[Lifted from and BBC] In light of our recent post on rare books and manuscripts, this news almost looks like a protest. From the BBC: "Best-selling children's novelist, GP Taylor has accidentally burnt three of his original manuscripts while clearing his house before moving. Scarborough-based Graham Taylor was turning the embers on a bonfire when he noticed what was written on them. One of the original manuscripts for Shadowmancer, one of two for Wormwood and the complete manuscript of his new book Tersias were lost. The former vicar said the papers have become 'a very expensive pile of ash.' Last year, Shadowmancer alone was valued by one collector as being worth £100,000." Wormwood was released last month by Putnam.
Wednesday, October 13, 2004
Quote: "When a book leaves your hands, it belongs to God. He may use it to save a few souls or to try a few others, but I think that for the writer to worry is to take over God’s business." - Flannery O’Connor

Some Criticism Kills a Love of Literature

I noticed through Touchstone's Mere Comments that the incomparable Scrappleface lampooned deconstructionism in a fake announcement by France's President Jacques Chirac of the death of Critic Jacques Derrida. When I mentioned this news earlier, I didn't want to go into a lengthy criticism of Derrida's ideas, because a man's death isn't the right time for that. But Scrappleface's satire is funny and on target:
"Of course, we can't assert anything positively about Monsieur Derrida's recent failure to exist," said Mr. Chirac, "We can't even state that he ever did exist, since he may have been a mere metaphysical projection of our own prejudices against absolutes. However, in as much as we may categorically claim anything--Mr. Derrida will not likely be showing up for work tomorrow. Although, who is to say?"
A similar topic came up on another exciting episode of The Books Guys which aired a couple weeks ago. The hosts spoke with Nancy Schnog, "English teacher at the Potomac School in McLean, Virginia." She said was not a reader as a child, but she fell in love with literature in college and decided to make a career of it. She pursued graduate degrees and began teaching in a college English department where she ran aground on the department's strong encouragement to read into a work a political viewpoint. She said she could not examine the text for its own message. That was naïve. If she wanted to be a literary critic, she must be a feminist or Marxist critic in the vein of Derrida's deconstructionism. I call that critical bent 'elitist,' and the reason many students have lost their interesting in reading.
Tuesday, October 12, 2004

American Novelists Speak on the Election asked 31 “prominent American novelists” who they were voting to put in the White House and why. Most cast their lot with Kerry. Care to know why?

Dan Chaon of You Remind Me of Me offers the inane reason: “Like many people, I'm casting a vote for Anyone but Bush. Back in 2000, Bush seemed like a joke—a smirking, callow, old-money twit with a fake Texas accent. Now, four years later, he seems truly, frighteningly dangerous and completely without scruples. … I find myself particularly repelled by Bush's professed "Christianity," even as his administration repudiates every value that Christ represents. He's probably not the Antichrist, but he comes as close as I've seen in my lifetime.”

Amy Tan of The Opposite of Fate: “I'm voting for Kerry, because I have a brain and so does he. … The current president has done more to damage our civil rights, our environment, our standing in the world, our work toward the collective good, our sense of security.”

John Updike of Rabbit, Run will vote for “John Kerry, a man of exemplary intelligence who was brave in war and then brave in protest of war. … He won't try to perform voodoo economics with tax cuts and a raging deficit.”

Rick Moody of the Ice Storm: “It became self-evident, I think, that the Bush presidency is the most corrupt in modern history. Under the cynical disguise of evangelical Christian moralizing (and don't even get me started on Bush's moronic theology), Bush conducted (and continues to conduct) a fire sale, in which he auctioned off the entire nation to the highest corporate bidder, piece by piece. Well, that's not entirely true. Sometimes he didn't even bother to take bids.”

Joyce Carol Oates, most recently of The Falls, casts the sheep vote: “Like virtually everyone I know, I'm voting for Kerry. And probably for exactly the same reasons.” (World Editor Marvin Olasky comments on this here.)

Jonathan Franzen of The Corrections: Kerry out of trust in character and because Teresa is “hot hot hot.”

Jonathan Safran Foer, Diane Johnson, Judith Guest, Edwidge Danticat, Chang-Rae Lee, Jane Smiley, Lorrie Moore, Jennifer Egan, Russell Banks, Daniel Handler, George Saunders, and others join the above in voting for the Massachusetts senator.

Four authors admitted to supporting Bush: Orson Scott Card, Robert Ferrigno, Roger L. Simon, and Thomas Mallon. Robert Ferrigno, author of The Wake-Up, says: “Most novelists live in their imagination, which is a fine place to be until the bad guys come knock knock knocking. ... I'll be voting for Bush because his approach to stopping the people who want to kill my children is the right one, i.e., kill them first.”

Thomas Mallon of Bandbox: “The rhetorical assault [on Mr. Bush] is reminiscent of—though it far exceeds—the overheated opposition to Ronald Reagan's re-election in 1984. Back then the intellectual establishment told us how repression and apocalypse would be just around the corner if the American "cowboy" were kept in the White House for another four years. Well (as Reagan might say, his head cocked to one side), I remember a rather different result from RR's second term.”

Now, Ferrigno's comment is funny, but I don't want to suggest I believe the liberal novelists are stupid or that only the ill-informed would vote for Mr. Kerry. I admire some of these authors, and I don't most of them because I'm unfamiliar with them; but we differ on politics because we have radically opposite worldviews and we trust different information sources. I bet Chaon takes Fahrenheit 9/11 as gospel truth whereas I believe it is twisted propaganda. His values and understanding of the Bible may be my polar opposite. He probably trusts the New York Times still. This is our country division, and old media is mostly on one side of the line. I suppose most novelists are with them. On one side, essential humanism; on the other, essential theism.
Monday, October 11, 2004

Linguisticalogical Advise from Mr. Language Person

Regarding coffee cup sizes and the words we use to describe them, Dave Barry writes:
Recently, at the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and Death March, Mister Language Person noticed that a Starbuck's competitor, Seattle's Best Coffee (which also uses ''Tall'' for small and ''Grande'' for medium) is calling ITS large cup size -- get ready -- ''Grande Supremo.'' Yes. And as Mister Language Person watched in horror, many customers -- seemingly intelligent, briefcase-toting adults -- actually used this term, as in, ''I'll take a Grande Supremo.''

Listen, people: You should never, ever have to utter the words ''Grande Supremo'' unless you are addressing a tribal warlord who is holding you captive and threatening to burn you at the stake. JUST SAY YOU WANT A LARGE COFFEE, PEOPLE. Because if we let the coffee people get away with this, they're not going to stop, and some day, just to get a lousy cup of coffee, you'll hear yourself saying, ''I'll have a Mega Grandissimaximo Giganto de Humongo-Rama-Lama-Ding-Dong decaf.''

The Mad Hatter, The March Hare, and The Book Collector

[by way of ArtsJournal] Why would any one pay several thousand dollars, even hundreds of thousands of dollars, for the first edition of a book he could pick up new for under $30? It's a fascination with history, says Oxford grad and rare bookseller Rick Gekoski [link]. "This is what the book looked like on the day it was published. There is some pleasure to me, anyway, in holding The Great Gatsby and thinking this is what it looked like when F. Scott Fitzgerald saw it."

But book collectors are also a few pages short of a novel, if you know what I mean.
Book collecting is, [Gekoski] concedes, a strange passion. "I put it down to a rogue gene." His specialty is 20th century literature, so the collectors who come to him are not even getting a beautiful or remarkable object; an early Joyce is not like a Gutenberg Bible or, for that matter, a contemporary painting that everyone could see and admire. "The first edition of a rare book usually doesn't look any different from the second, so why does anyone want to have it?
Well, James Irsay of the Indianapolis Colts bought "a long roll of teletype paper covered in the scribbled script that would one day become [Jack Kerouac's] On The Road" because he loved it. There are stranger, that is more useless, things to love.
Saturday, October 09, 2004

Founder of Deconstructionist Theory Dies

French philosopher Jacques Derrida, 74, died recently of pancreatic cancer. He gave the world a critical notion that language is full of subtlety and contradiction which the writer cannot fully understand. John Lye of Brock University in Ontario, Canada described this notion called deconstructivism as the "intensity of its sense that human knowledge is not as controllable or as cogent as Western thought would have it and that language operates in subtle and often contradictory ways, so that certainty will always elude us." I suppose if this is true, then I don't even know what I'm really blogging here, so do with this news what you will.

Rowling Terminates Another Wizard

I enjoy these little Harry Potter updates. It's as if the journalists are all excited about the books' success just as they were about former president Clinton's memoir. "Ooo, ooo. He's holed up in a hotel writing his memoir!" "Hurrah! He's released it to his editor! Oh, rapture!" At least, that's how the news about My Life read to me. In Rowling's case, she has announced that another character will pass into the great beyond. A child psychologist believes she is sparing her readers by blunting the impact of this calamity.
As for Potter, Rowling told fans in an earlier interview that her teenage hero would survive at least until the seventh and final book in the series.

"He will survive to book seven, mainly because I don't want to be strangled by you lot," she said. "But I don't want to say whether he grows any older than that."

Friday, October 08, 2004

Overcoming Creativity Block

HOW magazine has a little reminder on how to renew your creativity. Have you hit a wall and can't think up a new idea? Well, the HOW creative group suggests you take a break with something completely different. Or get some rest. Or maybe review your notes and talk to the client about his expectations or the subject about itself. You could brainstorm for a new angle or take in some artwork or Scripture for inspiration. These are a few ideas on how to revive your creativity. There are many more. Perhaps the best is to ignore yourself and take interest in someone else.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

'True Artisans' Make Lame Excuses

The Livermore, California, Public Library commissioned Miami artist Maria Alquilar to compose a ceramic mural for their new building. After the unveiling of the $40,000 artwork, the library director grew upset at eleven name misspellings, names such as Einstein, Shakespeare, Vincent Van Gogh, and Michelangelo. So, the library council called the artist back to Livermore to fix it, which she will do, but not without giving the council the lip. She said: "The importance of this work is that it is supposed to unite people. They are denigrating my work and the purpose of this work."
There were plenty of people around during the installation who could and should have seen the missing and misplaced letters, she said. "Even though I was on my hands and knees laying the installation out, I didn't see it," she said. The mistakes wouldn't even register with a true artisan, Alquilar said. "The people that are into humanities, and are into Blake's concept of enlightenment, they are not looking at the words. In their mind the words register correctly."
People into the humanities, eh? People like, say, librarians? How about artisans embarrassed at their misspellings will flail around for any excuse to prop up their wounded pride? I think this calls for a little interdisciplinary or interpedagogical discipline.

Update: Alquilar has refused to correct the words which she says the mural itself choose. The AP reports that "after receiving a barrage of what she called 'vile hate mail,' Alquilar said Livermore is off her travel itinerary and there'll be no changes by her artistic hand. 'No, I will not return to Livermore for any reason,' Alquilar, of Miami, told The Associated Press in an e-mail. "There seems to be so much hatred within certain people. They continuously look for a scapegoat. I guess I am the sacrificial goat.'"

Nobel Prize in Literature Winners

From UPI--Here's a list of recent winners of the Nobel Prize in Literature, established in 1901 by Alfred Nobel.

2004 -- Elfriede Jelinek, Austria.

2003 -- John Maxwell Coetzee, South Africa.

2002 -- Imre Kertesz, Hungary.

2001 -- V.S. Naipaul, United Kingdom.

2000 -- Gao Xingjian, France.

1999 -- Gunter Grass, Germany.

1998 -- Jose Saramago, Portugal.

1997 -- Dario Fo, Italy.

1996 -- Wislawa Szymborska, Poland.

1995 -- Seamus Heaney, Ireland.

1994 -- Kenzaburo Oe, Japan.

1993 -- Toni Morrison, United States.

1992 -- Derek Walcott, St. Lucia.

1991 -- Nadine Gordimer, South Africa.

1990 -- Octavio Paz, Mexico.

1989 -- Camilo Jose Cela, Spain.

1988 -- Nagiuib Mahfouz, Egypt.

1987 -- Joseph Brodsky, United States.

1986 -- Wole Soyinka, Nigeria.

1985 -- Claude Simon, France.

1984 -- Jaroslav Seifert, Czechoslovakia.

1983 -- William Golding, United Kingdom.

1982 -- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Spain.

This year's winner is nervous about the publicity. "For the time being at least, you will be precisely what you never wanted to be -- a person in the public eye," Austrian Author Elfriede Jelinek told Reuters. They report here that she received the prize "for novels and plays that starkly depict violence against women, explore sexuality and condemn far-right politics in Europe.

The 57-year-old writer best-known for her autobiographical novel 'The Piano Teacher' -- made into a movie in 2001 -- was a surprise winner on Thursday. She is the first Austrian and ninth woman to win literature's highest accolade.

"Of course I am also happy, there is no point in being hypocritical, but I am actually feeling more desperation than happiness," she told Austrian Press Agency. "I am not made to be pulled into the public as a person. I feel threatened there."

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Truman Capote

Last Thursday would have been Truman Capote's 80th birthday had he not died twenty years ago on August 25. Capote wrote Breakfast at Tiffany's and In Cold Blood among others. In 1979, he said, "When God hands you a gift, he also hands you a whip; and the whip is intended for self-flagellation solely."

Jean Dubail of The Cleveland Plain Dealer writes:

Capote's first story was published when he was just 19, and nearly half those in the collection, Other Voices Other Rooms, appeared before he turned 24. His mistakes, therefore, are mostly those of youth, particularly didacticism and imitation. Thus we have a heavy-handed "A Mink of One's Own" and an excessively Welty-ish "My Side of the Matter."

But Capote comes much nearer the mark in "Miriam," telling with bell-like clarity the story of a widow whose solitary life is disrupted by a diabolically insistent little girl - a girl who might or might not be real. And he hits the mark squarely in "Children on Their Birthdays," the hilarious story of a preternaturally self-possessed girl who, sometimes without intending to, sets a small town aflame with jealousy and ambition.

Capote rose to fame on those stories and their provocative themes. He was drawn in to New York high society from which he drew to write among other things. In 1966, he said, "Most contemporary novelists, especially the American and the French, are too subjective, mesmerized by private demons; they?re enraptured by their navels and confined by a view that ends with their own toes." I bet he knew that narcissism first-hand.

In the '60s, he pursued the idea to write dramatic journalism by researching the neighbors, victim families, and perpetrators of serial murder in Kansas. "Of In Cold Blood, Capote said, "This book was an important event for me. While writing it, I realized I just might have found a solution to what had always been my greatest creative quandary. I wanted to produce a journalistic novel, something on a large scale that would have the credibility of fact, the immediacy of film, the depth and freedom of prose, and the precision of poetry." In Cold Blood sold out instantly, and became one of the most talked about books of its time. An instant classic, In Cold Blood brought its author millions of dollars and a fame unparalleled by nearly any other literary author since." [source PBS]

Adorable Little Rodent Status

When I added the League of Reformed Bloggers blogroll to the sidebar, I removed my Blogospheric Ecosystem description. At the time, I had evolved into a flappy bird through concise, engaging posts and generous links from superior bloggers. You can still link to my ecosystem details at The Truth Laid Bear, but they aren't pulled with a Javascript like the LRB blogroll is because I want to limit your download time. I'm sensitive, you know. Now, thanks to the LRB and perhaps word-of-mouth recommendations, I am a mole, mouse, ground hog, or varmint, naturally cute and frisky, along with dozens of others. Thank you for your support. Keep those cards and letters coming in.
Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Minding Our P's et Q's

With Banned Books Week behind us and presidential election debates before us, here is a reminder of words you don't want to confuse taken from

censure or censor: censure means 'express strong disapproval of', whereas censor means 'suppress unacceptable parts of (a book, film, etc.)'.

complacent: 'smug and self-satisfied'
complaisant: 'willing to please'

defuse: 'remove the fuse from (an explosive device)' or 'reduce the danger or tension in (a difficult situation)'
diffuse: 'spread over a wide area'.

flaunt means 'display ostentatiously', while flout means 'openly disregard (a rule)'.

ambiguous or ambivalent: ambiguous primarily means 'having more than one meaning, open to different interpretations', while ambivalent means 'having mixed feelings'.

loath: 'reluctant; unwilling'
loathe: 'dislike greatly'.

perspicuous, 'expressing things clearly', or perspicacious, which means 'having a ready understanding of things'.

tortuous: 'full of twists and turns' or 'excessively lengthy and complex'
torturous: 'characterized by pain or suffering'

New Font for Bible Translation

Tyndale House, publishers of the New Living Translation, the third most popular Bible in print, asked designer Brian Sooy to create a new font for increase readability and page efficiency. The result was called Lucerna.

"Eighteen months later, Sooy finished the new font, which followed the style of the Bible's previous type, but incorporated more rounded letters, narrower lines and shorter stems," according to this Akron newspaper.

"Sooy called it 'Lucerna,' which means 'lamp' in Latin. He said he was influenced by a Psalm that reads, 'Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.'''

[You may need to sign in to read the article. Feel free to use dnifriend email address at, which is for blog email, password hobbit1]


Had Enough of End-Times Fiction? Of Course, You Haven't!

Everyone's favorite apocalyptic-fiction authors, LaHaye and Jenkins, have decided that a prequel to the 12-book Left Behind series is not enough to adequately introduce the drama. They plan to throw together a prequel trilogy. Add to that a projected sequel or wrap-up book and the series becomes 16 books long.

This is remarkable news for me. Yesterday when writing about Stephen Donaldson's postponement of his Thomas Covenant series, I almost mentioned that perhaps Lahaye and Jenkins should have done the same with Left Behind. Now they are pressing on with not two, but four more books in the adult series, countless more in spin-off series.
Monday, October 04, 2004


I don't like to blog on some of the twisted junk published on occasion. It's easy to write something within the theme, "Look how perverted this is," and I don't like doing it. That's why I ignore some news. There's plenty of news I pass up because I can't address it soon enough, so I'm not hurting for material by passing up the ugly stuff. But Robert George's comments in one of Monday's posts to "Mere Comments" deals with larger ideas, so I direct your attention to it.

In this entry, George refers to a "respectful" NYT Book Review article and praise from Publishers Weekly of a former ballet dancer's memoir in which she claims to find spiritual ecstasy through intercourse. At first, George was shocked that the NYTBR would treat such nonsense respectfully; but on reflection, he saw it wasn't shocking at all. Perversion, he writes, "is the apotheosis of a certain form of liberalism now prominent in elite sectors of the culture. For people in the grip of this ideology, sex has displaced religious faith and taken on its functions. People seek spiritual healing, consolation, justification, meaning, and even transcendence in sexual pleasure."

Isn't this another example of the failure of secularism? By rejecting faith in God, one does not cease to believe entirely, but begins to believe in everything but God. So the perversion of the ex-dancer is respected while the traditional beliefs of the Christian are reviled as a hot-bed for terrorism.

Friendly Books

In today's rerun of Calvin & Hobbes, Susy says, "Having a book is like having a good friend with you." See Calvin's reply.

Donaldson Waited to Develop Himself Before Finishing Thomas Covenant Series

The first book in the third series of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever will be released later this month. It's called The Runes of the Earth. asked author Stephen Donaldson why he waited 20 years to work on these book since the first ones were so popular. He says he believed the challenge was beyond him, so he worked to become a better writer before taking it.

"I probably shouldn't say so in public (as it were), but that experience [writing the Second Chronicles] taught me humility on a whole new order of magnitude." He had surpassed himself in the second series and doubted he could surpass himself again without some development. "So that's what I've been doing for the past 20 years: Trying to become a better writer," he says.

Publishers Weekly calls the initial trilogy, The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, "startlingly original antiheroic fantasy resonating with echoes of both Tolkien and Philip K. Dick."
Sunday, October 03, 2004

On Reading

I've been away, and I don't know how well I will be able to blog this week. For a short post, here are a couple quotes on reading which I found in The Columbia World of Quotations. What do you think about these?

"Reading a book is like re-writing it for yourself.... You bring to a novel, anything you read, all your experience of the world. You bring your history and you read it in your own terms." -- Angela Carter (1940–1992), British author.

"Reading is merely a surrogate for thinking for yourself; it means letting someone else direct your thoughts. Many books, moreover, serve merely to show how many ways there are of being wrong, and how far astray you yourself would go if you followed their guidance. You should read only when your own thoughts dry up, which will of course happen frequently enough even to the best heads; but to banish your own thoughts so as to take up a book is a sin against the holy ghost; it is like deserting untrammeled nature to look at a herbarium or engravings of landscapes. " Arthur Schopenhauer (1788–1860), German philosopher.

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