Brandywine Books
Monday, January 31, 2005

Does Snobbery Hinder Book Marketing?

This afternoon, I posted a viewpoint on Collected Miscellany about an article which complains about publishing people doing a horrible job at marketing. In short, I think the writer, who is a book representative *and a yankee (I do believe),* exemplifies the problems about which he complains. I won't go into it here, but there is one comment I want to quote and remark on. He complains about low reading statistics and concludes the paragraph with this: "And the general anti-intellectual jihad emanating from Washington and the neocon think tanks casts a long and depressing shadow."

Couple this with what appears to be a bit of snarkiness from a New York Times story on one of the President's favorite books. The article is called, "Bush's Book Club Picks a New Favorite." The article describes a time in November when the President asked Natan Sharansky to visit the White House in order to discuss his book, The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror.

So, the President loves the book. Is it good humor or snobbery that calls it his book club favorite? And where is the crusade against intellect? I don't get that feel from the Heritage Foundation or the Manhattan Institute. Is it possible this sort of liberal snub poisons book marketing at every level? Does it prevent commentators from being trusted, thus ruining their recommendations? Does it breed a superiority complex among book selectors, meaning certain book clubs and many book reviews are chosen more by the anticipated reaction among liberal snobs than among the reading public? Could this be one reason why some of us don't read the NY Times?
Saturday, January 29, 2005

Blog Announcement

I have accepted an invitation by Kevin Holtsberry to join him and David Thayer in blogging on Collected Miscellany. Thank you, Kevin. I feel honored.

My future posts here will probably become shorter with a link to the other blog, or I may post one thing here and another there. I don't know. I don't read and write quickly enough to blog independently for two sites, especially two sites of similar theme. I think it will be a good opportunity. Collected Miscellany is better connected than Brandywine Books and has many more readers.

Please take a look at Collected Miscellany for adding to your bookmarks and blogrolls. It's a good literary site already. I hope my contributions will increase its value. I will still maintain this one for a while. I like the name.

Lot, His Daughters, and Jesus' Heritage

The NYT Sunday Book Review summarizes a Stanford English professor's book on Lot and a father-daughter complex. Do you remember the ugly story of Lot and his two daughters after the judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah? Professor Robert Polhemus thinks of it in terms of the Lot complex. Genesis 19:30-38 record Lot's eldest daughter suggesting they preserve themselves by become pregnant through their father. The Times says, "What's more, biblical genealogy traces Lot's seed through David all the way to Jesus. Ultimately, the hope of mankind, of 'a new heaven and a new earth,' arrives through an act of incest."

The last sentence strikes me as being too strong. The child brought about through Lot and his firstborn daughter was the father of the Moabite people. Hundreds of years later, Ruth, who was a Moabite, married Boaz and became the grandmother of King David, in whose family Jesus was born (speaking in human terms). So "ultimately," I don't think you make such a strong statement.

Jesus' heritage has far more immorality in it than Lot's part. Here part of Jesus' background from the opening words of Matthew:
Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram, and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, 5and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king. And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah . . .
Judah and Tamar. Judah thought he was visiting a temple prostitute, but it was actually his daughter-in-law, Tamar, who deceived him. Her motive is complicated, involving the Lord's direct and fatal punishment of two of Judah's three sons and a cultural rule that when the wife of one brother is widowed, she is given to another brother to bear a child in the name of first. You can read it in Genesis 38. Whatever label you can give to this perversion, it's just as ugly as Lot's.

Rahab. Boaz's mother, Rahab was a repentant prostitute. Despite her repentance and helping the Israelites in Jericho, she is known forever as a prostitute, which may be the Lord's way of driving home a point.

The wife of Uriah. Solomon, known the world over as the wisest man who ever lived, was born of a woman who was stolen from her first husband by King David. I have no idea whether Bathsheba was an intentional accomplice in the adultery or an unwilling victim, but the deed was done. The Lord took the child conceived in at that time, but their second born was Solomon.

I believe this is the advertised immorality in the Lord Jesus heritage. Anything else is more subtle. Many of kings after Solomon were certainly not moral men, but their deeds did not result in genealogical names. The big question, which I alluded to with Rahab, is why would the Lord record all of this so clearly or allow it to happen in the first place? I think His motive--well, one of his motives because His full reasoning is beyond understanding--is to drive home the point that you and I can repent and follow Him no matter what has happened in our past. No matter what we've done or has been done to us.

It's easy to fall into Percy Shelley's dark hero mentality, that we are too stained, too wicked to be redeemed by the Lord's work; but that is simple pride. Even prostitutes, pagans, and adulterers can be saved from their sins. The only one who cannot be saved is the one who never believes he needs it.

I Caught a Deadly Virus, but I May Be Able to Blog in a Few Days

[by way of Thinklings] John of Rabe Ramblings has a good post on a condition I think is inevitable: egocentric blogging about blogging.
Everywhere I turn on the Internet, more and more blogs are filled with more and more angst-filled posts about how blogging relates to the rest of some blogger's daily life, whether or not they should continue, the existential import of all of it, blogging goals for the future, why someone is not going to be able to post anything for the next 4 1/2 hours, who's ranked where in the blog "ecosystem," and the future posts someone is planning deep within the recesses of his/her mind for which we are presumably to wait by the computer with anxious anticipation until this veritable cybergold flows from brain to keyboard to internet ether.
His response to the blogosphere is that blogs are disponsible, light-weight reading in general which is often forgotten later. He's right for the most part. Blogs are close to conversation. We may remember a good point, but we often forget the context of who and what. I hope I can provide a step-up in value to personal blogs, but I may be deceiving myself in believing I accomplish that goal.

Oh, well. I may not be able to blog for the next few hours. Don't sit by your computer. Go read, love, live, and avoid the ice on the roads. Heh, heh--as if you need me to tell you.

Adventurer Begins Fiction Series

Tim Severin, a British explorer and owner of the Kon-Tiki raft fame, is turning to fiction for future adventures. The 64-year-old author has released in the U.K. Viking: Odinn’s Child, the first of three adventures to be published this year. The Independent reports that Severin “has spent his adult life taking historical legends and showing in detail how they might be fact. Sinbad the Sailor, Jason and the Argonauts, Robinson Crusoe, and Ulysses have all been given the Severin treatment. He is now doing the opposite. In the novel, he charts the early years of Thorgils Leifsson, born in 999, grandson of Erik the Red. The Viking empire, reaching out to North America, is coming under the spell of the ‘White Christ,’ or Christianity.”

The paper goes on:

Although a late convert, [Severin] seems at present to relish novel-writing. “I did worry at first that what I was doing was lightweight by comparison with what had gone before. As writing progressed though I got much more comfortable with it as I realised just how much fact I could get into the text. I always felt on my journeys that they were only worth doing if one had a chance of improving knowledge. Now I can see the same applies to these novels.”
Of course, I called Severin promptly after reading this article and got him to confess that he is a big fan of Lars Walker's fiction and feels his work should be considered fan-fic imitating Walker's. Of course, the previous sentence is a complete lie, and I hope each author appreciates the humor.

Friday, January 28, 2005

"I get words all day through; first from him now from you!"

The use and abuse of words is at the heart of American politics. I'm sure it's been true of politicians throughout time in every civilization. Is the issue a right or a privilege? Is it moral or immoral? A lie, misstatement, or misunderstanding? The claim I may hate the most is the one in which a person is accused of not answering a question when he has answered it.

"Did you lie about the details?"
I reported our best understanding of the evidence.
"But you were wrong!"
I regret that.
"So did you or did you not lie about the evidence?"
Please don't impune my integrity.
"You're not answering my question!"

This week, I noticed some bloggers complaining about James Dobson's criticism of a video promoting the We Are Family Foundation. Dobson complained, not about SpongeBob as some would have it known, but the promotion of the foundation, which seeks to enlist children in a tolerance pledge "to have respect for people whose abilities, beliefs, culture, race, sexual identity or other characteristics are different from my own." The sticking point is equating sexual preference with the other things. Notice I used a different word than they did. And the New York Times used different words than Dobson did, thereby misrepresenting his critique.

Perhaps bloggers are similarly outraged at the new Secretary of Education's decision to recall taxes used for an unaired "PBS for Kids" program. The episode of "Postcards From Buster" includes two lesbian couples. Nothing perverse in the show, but the lifestyle of the couples is tacitly accepted. Some PBS affiliates complained, reports The secretary responded by writing the PBS president to say that parents wouldn't like it and the show's funding was not intended to "introduce this kind of subject matter to children, particularly through the powerful and intimate medium of television."

Of course, the usual suspects are upset. A homosexuality anti-defamation spokesman said, "Secretary Spellings' attempt to create and enforce a policy of invisibility for gay and lesbian families is a profoundly offensive display of intolerance, one that imposes on our children an agenda of ignorance under the guise of 'education.'"

Tolerance. Leeway for differences, for understandable deviations from a standard. That's the whole argument. By calling the secretary's action "intolerance," one assumes the lesbian mothers are an acceptable deviation from the common household. And if a civil leader believes they are not different, but immoral? Employ the word "intolerance." It also helps to use "ignorance" and "guise of [quote-unquote] education."

Of course, tolerance is needed from everyone here. We live in a country in which citizens are relatively free to ruin their own lives, and today we argue over public morals. We must tolerate what we perceive to be one another's ignorance. But there's a point at which we must part ways in an impasse, because our words don't mean the same things. Tolerance doesn't mean agreement. Preference is not identity. And do not say a civil leader cannot impose his morality on the rest of us when you are arguing to impose yours.
Thursday, January 27, 2005

Upcoming Hot Political Seller: Rice on D.C. Living

Having heard the news of Dr. Condoleezza Rice’s senate confirmation and her introductory speech before the State Department today, I think she should write or work with an author to write about her experiences on Capitol Hill. The theme would be “How I Took on the Establishment.” I hope an apt paraphrase will be “How I Spanked Liberal Diplomats and Inspired Some of Them with the Truth.” It will be a hit in 2009-2010.

Sixty Years After We Were At Our Darkest

Today is the sixieth anniversary of the discovery of the Nazi-horror in Auschwitz. England’s The Independent has a review of two history books on that time when men were acting from their most basic nature. “Auschwitz: a history, by Sybille Steinbacher (translated by Shaun Whiteside; £7.99, Penguin) [USA link] comes from a German historian based in Bochum. Over 170 laconic but fact-crammed pages, it tells its desolating story with a punctilious caution that might be called, in the best sense, ‘Germanic.’” The paper calls the book “outstanding.”

“The respectful flatness of Steinbacher’s tone as she explains how, when and where the 1.1-1.5m. victims of Auschwitz (90 per cent of them Jewish) died makes her brief flares of attitude all the more memorable. Thus one senses a tiny flicker of satisfaction when she records that, since the Deborah Lipstadt libel trial, ‘it has been permissible to speak in public of Auschwitz-denier [David] Irving as a falsifier of history, an anti-Semite and a racist.’”

Another book deals with a larger portion of Nazi history and asks what happened to those who profited from the killings. Auschwitz: the Nazis and the "final solution" by Laurence Rees says, “A few copped short prison terms. Many others, their skills in demand, rebuilt German industries after the war,” according to the newspaper.
Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Discussing Moral Fiction

Kevin of Collected Miscellany quotes from a review in Books & Culture which brings up John Gardner's book, On Moral Fiction. That book has been referenced by Crossway Books as a guideline for would-be fiction authors.

Read Uncle Tom's Cabin

I intend to get around to this book someday. I think I will this year. I'm thinking of it because "The View from the Foothills" is organized in a way that allows you to click from the latest entry yesterday to the first entry in 2002. So by following my nose, I found Deb English's review of Uncle Tom's Cabin. She writes, "This is one of those books that everyone knows about and has heard of but no one actually reads anymore. It was so wildly popular in its day that the reputation and ripoffs of the book have become the accepted story line and the text itself is hardly known. . . . Which is unfortunate, because it's a good story with exciting passages, interesting characters and plot twists that you just can't believe are happening."

Let Them Eat TV Commercials

This Sunday’s Parade Magazine asks Contributing Editor Norman Mailer, “If you could do one thing to change America for the better, what would it be?” His answer, which will be available next Monday, is to eliminate TV commercials. “Let us pay firstly for what we enjoy on television rather than pass the spiritual cost on to our children and their children,” he argues, having made the case that commercials ruin our attention spans.

Mailer says TV shows used to stick to lengthy narrative, so they didn’t disrupt our minds; but now every 7-12 minutes is interrupted by at least 3 minutes of commercials. Children are big targets, because if advertisers can make them unhappy with their current toys, clothes, etc, encouraging them to ask for more and more stuff, then we will stimulate our economy and the terrorists will lose! Right? (Sorry, I’m losing focus.)

What do you think about Mailer’s recommendation? I think it misses the mark. If I remember correctly, a Kaiser Family Fnd. Report said that TV as a visual medium decreased a child’s attention span regardless of what was on the screen. I don’t know if that extends to computer educational programs where interaction is required, but it does mean that commercial-free PBS is no different than commercial-ridden network programming. Both harm young children’s attentions, according to the report.

If Mailer wants to talk about “spiritual cost,” I would answer that secularism and naturalism, which I believe Mailer supports, are exacting a high price from Americans and citizens the world over. To paraphrase John MacArthur in a book on worldview which I am wading through in order to intelligently review for you, no good philosophy has come from Darwin’s theories. If Mailer wants to spare the next generation a high spiritual bill, he should discourage the christophobia rampant in some parts of the States.

Now, if I could do one thing to change America for the better, what would it be? It would have to be to love God and neighbor.


What’s in the bag?

Drat! The stormtroopers are running through my apartment building, turning my good neighbors out on their ears. I’ve got to grab a bag of artworks to hold me while I live for an undeterminable period of time on a desert island! What should I stuff in my bag? For more explanation, click this magic spot.

Book: When the Sky is Blue, by Susan Meissner
Music: Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos
DVD: The Fellowship of the Ring
Painting: “Me and My Village,” by Marc Chagall
Instrument: Irish Tin Whistle

I hadn't done one of these in a long time. Maybe it's one of those things adults have to put behind them. Feel free to meme this around the world.
Monday, January 24, 2005

New Books: Monster and Mystery

I learned a couple things the other day which I meant to tell you, but selfish fairies held me back and sheathed my computer. The dog has taken care of them now.

The first thing (really the second, but I’ll call it the first) is that Frank Peretti has a new adult novel coming in April called Monster. It appears to be a story about a couple out in the woods with something ugly chasing them. I know, that could be a hundred stories, but I’m still looking forward to it. The writing could be good.

The second thing (which is really--never mind) is a website by Tim Frankovich called Christian Fiction Review. I’ve added a link to it in the resource section to the right. I need to categorize that section soon for better link usage. Do you think I should add a long list of lit blogs over there? The Complete Review already has a good page, and I’m inclined to let them handle it.

To return to the Christian Fiction Review, one of Tim’s reviews is a new Broadman and Holman book by Rick Dewhurst called Bye, Bye, Bertie. He claims it’s hilarious, a very silly mystery about an unmarried detective who would like to become married and get a clue, if not actually solve a mystery. Tim says the detective skewers Christian subculture, high and low, with “sometimes-biting” satire. On the other hand, Publishers Weekly doesn’t get it—calls it peculiar and maybe some readers will laugh at some of the jokes. Perhaps Bye, Bye, Bertie is a true insider’s comedy which will not ring true to non-Christians or Christians who don’t understand why anyone would be concerned about Family Christian Stores opening on Sundays.

Further: I can't suggest that great minds think alike, because I know they don't. However, I'm reading Will Duquette's review of Bye, Bye Bertie right now before going to bed late. He enjoys it and notes that it's target audience might leave some scratching their heads. He says, "Just remember that it's a comedy, that it's over-the-top and exaggerated, and that it's not a life-portrait of those Red State voters you've been hearing about."


Because He Loved His Mother

If you have asked yourself sometime during the past several hours, "Where is that guy who writes Brandywine Books," I have your answer. Not here. In the past, I've tried to post something over lunch so that daily content will arrive a little earlier in the day. I may not be able to do that much in the future, and today, I have been un-free until now.

I can share one thing that held my attention this evening before I broke free from the ugly emotions which held me. The site, Sound America, has WAVs of Tom Lehrer, a musical comedian with whom I am not familiar. Of marginal literary value is Tom's song on Oedipus Rex. I'm sure this is a copyright problem, but until someone shuts down Sound America, you can listen to it and a few other live recordings. I found the words to the song here.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Great Historical Books from American Heritage

[by way of Mr. Standfast] The 50th anniversary issue of American Heritage magazine asks 21 qualified individuals to name the best books in a certain category. Magazine editors say that Forbes vice president Scott Masterson "is approached nearly every morning by one neighbor or another with a question that invariably begins: 'You work at American Heritage. What's the best book on . . . ?'" Now they have the answers. Buy the magazine, if you want to know the reasons given for the choices; but the choices themselves are online by topic and alphabetized. Picks include All the World’s a Fair: Visions of Empire at America’s International Expositions by Robert W. Rydell, A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway, Before the Mayflower by Lerone Bennett, and
Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather.

For My First Wish, I Want ...

Bill of Wallo World has reposted his bout with
Dear Sir:
I am write you as I am in desperate need. I am Genie of long-standing service who must grant one million (1,000,000) people three (3) wishes due to nasty curse of evil Grand Vizer Wizard who will otherwise exert pain of eternal death upon me and my family of blue-skinned gaseous spirit people and forever control our not inconsiderable wish-granting powers.
It's funny, so read on.

Buying Books According to Your Values

Last month, I saw that some in the literary blogosphere are upset that donates more to Republicans than Democrats.

Dennis Loy Johnson of says in an article on the subject, "For book lovers out there who are still stubbornly insisting that the rise of Christian fundamentalism homophobic right wing government is not necessarily a good thing, I bring glad tidings: You can do something about it," namely stop buying from "It will be interesting to see what happens if their clientele is reduced to the folks they've been donating money to--you know, the ones who only read that one book."

The subject comes to the surface through the help of, a website which encourages liberals to vote their values with their wallets. The site says, "You may have voted blue, but every day you unknowingly help dump millions of dollars into the conservative war chest."

I wonder if these Bluebuyers are worried about the publishing houses owned by Rupert Murdoch, CEO of News Corp. and the dreaded founder of Fox News. News Corp. owns HarperCollins and dozens of imprints. Doesn't the corporate connection stain the books? The LA Times says, "Rupert Murdoch has been described as a power-mad mogul, debasing the public discourse with the cheapest forms of entertainment and using right-wing propaganda masquerading as journalism to advance his nefarious ends." BuyBlue doesn't list HarperCollins or News Corp., but the ideological link is clear enough. Why should value-buying liberals patronize their books?

I hope I don't sound sarcastic about value-buying in this post. I think people should buy this way. The reason I avoided WaldenBooks and Barnes & Noble years ago was due to charges of distributing child pornography. I think they have been cleared of those charges, at least I think WaldenBooks stopped doing it, but I still tend to shop at other stores. No reason Bluebuyers shouldn't do the same for their own reasons.

Another Book Game: Booktastic!

Book Collector Laine Keneller, who owns 600 first editions, created a board game to share her bibliophilia, reports USAToday. Playing "Booktastic" may proceed at three levels: casual, avid and collector. The casual level is meant to prompt conversation. "I don't like games that make you feel silly or that you don't know as much as you should," Keneller says. One casual card says, "Name a time when reading played an important role in your life." Ron Charles, writing for the CS Monitor, describes the levels as being "from the purely subjective to the downright arcane." A collector level question is "Which author is said to have mentored Nathaniel Hawthorne and Edgar Allan Poe?"

The point of the game is to buy and sell books, gaining the most wealth and bragging rights.
Thursday, January 20, 2005

Literary Contest? No, This is a "Bloodthirsty Competition!"

Maud Newton, Jessa Crispin, and other lit bloggers/critics are judging "The First Annual TMN Tournament of Books Champion," conceived by The Morning News, sponsored by TMN editors chose 16 books for judging. They say, "We limited the selections to novels, and also to the ?you-know-it-when-you-see-it? genre known as literary fiction. The top seeds went to books that were much hyped before or after publication. Second and third seeds were given mainly to books that were common to many of the end-of-the-year best lists we surveyed, ones we had also enjoyed, or been told we'd enjoy. The remaining selections (nearly half) were awarded to novels that our writers and editors were passionate about." The winner will be awarded a rooster. No, I don't know what the rooster will be made of, if anything. I doubt it's a live bird, but what a prize that would be! Here's a PDF list of the titles (176k).
Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Reading for the Underclass

This article by Johnathan Rose has been linked and discussed on other lit blogs, so perhaps you've seen it. This quote sums it up and inspires to boot.
Edith Hall was an overworked housemaid who discovered Hardy in a WEA class in the 1920s. Back then, she recalled,

Punch and other publications of that kind showed cartoons depicting the servant class as stupid and "thick" and therefore fit subjects for their jokes. The skivvy [low-level female domestic servant] particularly was revealed as a brainless menial. Many of the working-class were considered thus and Thomas Hardy wrote in Tess of the d'Urbervilles that "Labouring farm folk were personified in the newspaper-press by the pitiable dummy known as Hodge. . . . " and it was in this book that Hardy told the story of Tess, a poor working girl with an interesting character, thoughts and personality. This was the first serious novel I had read up to this time in which the heroine had not been of "gentle birth" and the labouring classes as brainless automatons. This book made me feel human and even when my employers talked at me as though I wasn't there, I felt that I could take it; I knew that I could be a person in my own right.

Today, in America's inner cities, there may be more Edith Halls than you dare to hope.

Pastor Poll: Greatest Influence on the Church

Bunnie, who runs a good blog which has been plagued by trolls and undesirables (note her blog title), calls attention to a Barna poll of several hundred pastors, asking them to name "up to three individuals whom they believe have the greatest influence on churches." Over 300 people were named, but only 10 were named by at least 4%. Of course, most of those names were authors. In order, the top names are Billy Graham, Rick Warren, President George Bush, James Dobson, Bill Hybels, Bishop T.D. Jakes, John Maxwell, George Barna, Pope John Paul II, and Max Lucado.

After reading moans that the church isn't deeper than the names indicate, commenter Club Soda asks what names others would choose. Feel free to join in. Here's what I said.
I would be tempted to name people from this list because the question isn't who I want to influence the church, but who I think truly is influencing it. Not just my congregation either, but since mine is the one I know best, I have to answer personally. R Warren's influence is undeniable, isn't it? PDLife is everywhere. Why isn't Bruce Wilkinson on this list? Is he passe already?

If I had to answer with contemporary leaders, I would say John Piper, Carl F H Henry, and maybe Warren. I wouldn't think of Graham, though the Lord has used him greatly, hasn't he. I want to list RC Sproul, but I don't know how influential he truly is.

If I don't have to answer with contemporaries, how about John Calvin, Martin Luther, and Charles Finney? Perhaps Francis Schaeffer. Perhaps Jonathan Edwards. If we are talking long-lasting influence, these are the men, though Finney needs to be buried in history with other heretics.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Czeslaw Milosz's "A Poem for the End of the Century"

When everything was fine
And the notion of sin had vanished
And the earth was ready
In universal peace
To consume and rejoice
Without creeds and utopias,

I, for unknown reasons,
Surrounded by the books
Of prophets and theologians,
Of philosophers, poets,
Searched for an answer,
Scowling, grimacing,
Waking up at night, muttering at dawn.

What oppressed me so much
Was a bit shameful. . . . (read on)

I offer the start of this Milosz poem as an introduction to a strong contemporary poet. Enjoy.

The Book Lover’s Edition

I suppose I could see this coming. Trivial Pursuit has a book lover’s version now. “This game combines the fun of the Trivial Pursuit® game with the exciting world of books, authors and literary characters.” That’s a stock sentence from advertising school, isn’t it? I think I read it somewhere. Our new product combines the great stuff from our old product with never-before-conceived stuff, cutting out the junk you’ve been complaining about over the years. Gotta have it. But wait, this edition is nine months old. Why didn’t I receive this for Christmas? Perhaps it was unavailable.

Here's more from the Christian Science Monitor. "Everything about this game looks colorful and fun, from the day-glo board to the metal play pieces. Get your No. 2 pencil ready because this is not a game for the casual reader. No subjective responses are allowed, and many of the questions struck our group - which contained two English teachers, two librarians from Harvard, and a Ph.D. in comparative literature - as very, very tough."
Quote: "When Paul Gigot, the editorial-page editor of The Wall Street Journal, asked me to become the paper's drama critic, I warned him that some of the things I wrote would be likely to bring heat. 'That's what we had in mind,' he replied. From that day to this, I've never been asked to water down a review prior to publication, nor has the paper's management ever criticized me retrospectively for any opinion I've seen fit to express on the drama page." -- Terry Teachout on writing 'courageous' reviews.

He explains, "
'Courage' is when you stare down a crazy man with a gun in a dark alley. It doesn't take 'courage' to disagree with the conventional critical wisdom, especially when you don’t hang out with theater people, which I mostly don't."

Discussing the Midlist

Max Perkins, who blogs at BookAngst101, has four posts on the word 'midlist.' He opens by asking what the term means and whether a book which falls into a 'midlist' profile is preferable to a bestseller. Which would rather have, he asks, a steady fire or a flash in the pan?

That question stirs up a bit a comment from publishers and agents. The executive editor-in-chief of the Random House says, "Publishing seems to me at a point where it wants to be increasingly 'hit-driven.' The trouble is that as with movies, there is no way to guarantee that the key to the ignition of the hit you?re trying to drive will actually turn and the engine will start."

Others chime in to say the term is outdated, and that non-bestseller books are "the back bone of publishing." The executive editor from HarperCollins compares these books to mustard, and an anonymous thinks the term should be unceremoniously buried. Posts like these are what make BookAngst101 a strong literary blog.
Monday, January 17, 2005

Technological Literacy, or How We Should Use Computers in the Home and Classroom

[By way of Mars Hill Audio] The Alliance for Childhood issued a report last year called, “Tech Tonic: Towards a New Literacy of Technology.” Their thesis is that a high-tech classroom doesn’t improve learning. They argue, “The lack of evidence or an expert consensus that computers will improve student achievement—despite years of efforts by high-tech companies and government agencies to demonstrate otherwise—is itself compelling evidence of the need for change.”

The heart of report is this list of recommendations:

  1. Slow down: honor the developmental needs of children.
  2. With adolescents, teach technology as social ethics in action, with technical skills in a supporting role.
  3. Relationships with the real world come first.
  4. Technology is not destiny; its design and use flow from human choices.
  5. Choice implies limits—and the option to say “no.”
  6. Those affected by technological choices deserve a voice in making them.
  7. Use tools and technologies with mindfulness.
  8. To teach technology literacy, become technologically literate.
  9. Honor the precautionary principle: When uncertain, err on the side of caution.
    • - Ask tough questions about long-term consequences.
      - Make time, space, and silence for reflection.
      - Responsibility grows from humility.
      - Be resourceful with the tools you already have.
  10. Respect the sacredness of life in all its diversity.

No Man Is an Island

Maybe you haven’t ever thought about it, but you can’t leave home in the morning without being dependent on most of the world. You get up in the morning, and you go to the bathroom and you reach over for a sponge, and that’s even given to you by a Pacific Islander. You reach over for a towel, and that’s given to you by a turk. You reach down to pick up your soap, and that’s given to you by a Frenchman. Then after dressing, you rush to the kitchen and you decide this morning that you want to drink a little coffee; that’s poured in your cup by a South American. Or maybe this morning you prefer tea; that’s poured in your cup by a Chinese. Or maybe you want cocoa this morning; that’s poured in your cup by a West African. Then you reach over to get your toast, and that’s given to you at the hands of an English-speaking farmer, not to mention the baker. Before you finish eating breakfast in the morning you are dependent on more than half of the world.

And oh my friends, I don’t want you to forget it. No matter where you are today, somebody helped you to get there.

By Martin Luther King, (1929-1968)

[Excerpted from “Why Jesus Called a Man a Fool;” found at the MLK Papers Project, taken from A Knock at Midnight]

Further: La Shawn Barber has a perspective today.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Dave M.A. Barry, (1948-2005)

I feel so out of the loop sometimes. I learned yesterday that Pulitzer prize-winning humorist David Montgomery Alfonzo Barry passed away just after New Year’s. About his passing, D.M.A. Barry says, “There comes a time in the life of every writer when he asks himself -- as Shakespeare, Tolstoy and Hemingway all surely asked themselves -- if he has any booger jokes left in him.”

What? Yes, he said that about his passing, by which I mean his decision to stop writing his column. Did you think I meant he had died? Of course not. Do you think I make this stuff up?

In an appreciation column on, an editor/humor writer/expert au naturale explains why Barry is funny. Harmonica safety and exploding livestock.

Al Franken has announced that since he has always been at least as funny as and occasionally funnier than Barry, he will apply for Barry’s job at the Miami Herald. On Thursday, he mailed his resume to the Herald in a public ceremony. Franken also claimed he was a better musician, but declined to demonstrate for his audience in New York’s standing-room-only 23rd Street Concert Hall and Telephone Booth.

The most interesting quote I remember from Barry was on his influences. Asked about one of our favorite humor writers, P.G. Wodehouse, Barry said, “Yeah, he was all funny and stuff for his time, I guess, but I really don’t think he had, like, a strong grasp on words.”

So to recap, Dave Barry has closed his humor column for the time being. He doesn’t plan to write the column for several months, but has not declared his intention to avoid writing it in the future. In fact, he hasn’t declared his intention to avoid a great many things, which has prompted an investigation.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Public Recognition

Jessa Crispin has been writing a well-known literary website for about three years now and a blog for coming-up-on two years, according to a feature article in the Chicago Tribune. She “reaches those people that we were always trying to find,” says a VP and director of publicity of two Random House imprints, a crowd that doesn’t read the major newspapers, if newspapers at all. The online marketing manager for HarperCollins lists Crispin’s site as a top literary Web sites along with,, and

Elsewhere, the Denver Post’s Book Beat praises litblogs for their passion. “What differentiates blogs from print book sections,” writes David Milofsky, “are the personal voices of the bloggers, the contemporaneous nature of the sites, and a trademark irreverence. One blogger recently commented, for example, in a disgusted reaction to The New York Times Book Review's annual list of outstanding books, ‘The reason the Times never had a comics section is that it already has its book review.’” The article refers to several book blogs without links, “Bookslut, Booklust, Old Hag, Book-dwarf, Golden Rule Jones, Bookninja and, Laid-off Dad.”
Many bloggers are nascent novelists or poets who turn to blogging as a kind of way station on their literary journey. Carrie Frye, whose is one of the liveliest of the newer sites, says, "I lack the contacts to break into national publications, yet I'm reading and thinking about books all the time. Litblogs are way to gate crash, to make yourself a part of a conversation you'd never get to be part of otherwise."

Simple, Graphical Look

I added a few simple images to the blog today. I hope they assist your enjoyment of Brandywine Books. The graphic above is a fun one, but I plan to design a logo appropriate to the blog's name. I have some sketches, but haven't taken the time to work up something professional.

To redeem this post a bit, here's something from Mark Twain. "A big leather-bound volume makes an ideal razorstrap. A thin book is useful to stick under a table with a broken caster to steady it. A large, flat atlas can be used to cover a window with a broken pane. And a thick, old-fashioned heavy book with a clasp is the finest thing in the world to throw at a noisy cat."

As a Man Thinks, So He Is

I saw this in a post by Our Girl in Chicago. The Outer Life blogger writes, "If we choose well, these external stimuli nourish our minds, sharpening our critical thinking, triggering our creativity, stoking our curiousity. If we choose poorly, these external stimuli deaden our minds, replacing original thoughts with pre-packaged dullness leavened with a laugh track.

"It took me more than 30 years to appreciate this. For most of that time, I paid little heed to what I poured into my mind: constructive and destructive inputs mixed into a heady brew both toxic and potent."

Once he realized the above, he shut off his T.V. and other things and began to live more deliberately.

"Where are these bloggers, these lazy knaves?"

My site statistics since the first of the year have encouraged me. Of course, they are pretty low relative to name brand blogs, perhaps lower than every blog listed in Hugh Hewitt's new book, Blog. (By the way, Hewitt has an interesting promotion going. Buy two copies of Blog and receive one of three CD interviews on history and literature; buy five copies and receive all three CDs. The offer ends today.) But relative to this blog, the stats are encouraging.

Have they prompted me to keep up with events, making sure you have a suitable number of daily posts? Not a bit, though if it weren't so time-consuming for me, I would post every day. This morning, I wanted to post a few things so that everyone who was disappointed by no posts yesterday would be disappointed by trivial posts today. But now it's 1:30, and I'm writing my first post. Where's your commitment, you ask? How could you do this thing? Oh, I don't know. I'm sure I still have my oath to mediocrity, framed, nearby somewhere.

Instead of blogging, I have been teaching my five-year-old to read, vacuuming, lunching, and chopping on a stump with a new axe in the winter air. Maybe, I should have been lazy instead. According to a book new in Britain, The Joy of Laziness, we have a limited amount of energy with which to live. Consider wild animals, they say. "Arctic polar bears may last only 20 years in the wild, but 40 in captivity," reports the Guardian, because stress in the wild shortens life. Give it up. I agree that stress is generally unhealthy, but the life-energy idea is one big load of crock. Living can renew itself. It isn't a closed system.

Laziness does have it's merits though. Blogging can tiring, and I've spent too much time on this entry already, including interruptions. I think I'll go teach one of my daughters a math lesson, and after that, some reading.

"O blog! show me but thy worth: What is thy soul of adoration? Art thou aught else but place, degree, and form, creating notice and linkage in other men?" [from The Life of King Henry the Fifth]

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Award-winning Author Gets the Sack

I've written recently about bloggers who have gained book deals or published their own fiction, and I look forward to announcing the release of others. But this week, Nextbook has a feature article on an award-winning Yiddish author who turned his publisher against him by touching on the taboo. The author, Sholem Asch, a Polish Jew born in 1880, published a novel on Jesus in 1939.

Writer Ellen Umansky says Asch won his "widest acclaim" with Three Cities. "Taking inspiration from the sprawling social novels of Dickens and Dostoevsky," she writes, "Asch's tome moves from the well-off assimilated Jews of St. Petersburg to the tight quarters of Warsaw's anti-tsarists and back east to Moscow and the Bolshevik rise to power. 'One of the most absorbing, one of the most vital, one of the most richly creative works of fiction that have appeared in our day,' declared Louis Kronenberger in The New York Times."

But in 1938, while Nazi Germany called itself 'christian' despite a demonstrable hatred for Biblical ideas, Asch offered the first of The Nazarene, a historial novel on Jesus, to his long-time publisher. The publisher hated it and told him to burn it. When he didn't and offered the full work for publication the next year, his publisher rejected it and campaigned against him in public. Asch's Yiddish-speaking audience felt betrayed. No one would have him after that; only a Communist publisher would take his work (Asch insisted on a political disclaimer).

But the English press continued to enjoy his work. In fact, The Nazarene was a bestseller. So was it's follow-up novel on the Apostle Paul.
Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Read It, But Can't Review It

Laila of Moorish Girl points out a new column by Laurie Muchnick of Newsday, in which she makes a surprising statement. "We get hundreds of books sent to Newsday every week, and we only have room to review a fraction of them. I skim through many more, reading the first chapter of this and 50 pages of that, trying to decide what to assign. Sometimes I get so engrossed that I read an entire book but still don't have enough room to devote a review to it." Goodness. She read it, enjoyed it, and passed on it. I guess that's the trouble with all print media. You have only the space you have. And even though Wolfe, in the interview I mentioned below, thinks bloggers and web design hobbyists are just knitting away their time, bloggers and web writers will enthuse about the next good-to-great books as much as they want with time their only hurtle.

More Blogger-Turned-Author News

I don't get around the blogosphere as much as I'd like. Oh, the list of complaints I could string out, but not here, let's be positive or close to it. I just learned through Col. Misc., which has an interesting link to a Tom Wolfe interview, that Laila, the award-winning fiction writer who blogs at, has received a two book deal from Algonquin Books. The first book will be released in a year, currently titled "The Things That Death Will Buy." In this post, she talks about the story and how she discovered her characters.

A Wodehouse Blitz

I want to publicly thank my sweet wife, my parents, and my loving sister for their contribution to the books I received for Christmas and birthday. I appreciate these acts of affection, and I hope to read more this year as a result. The new additions are:

By P. G. Wodehouse

The Code of the Woosters

Much Obliged, Jeeves

Lord Emsworth and Others

Leave It to Psmith (which is pronounced ‘smith;’ the ‘p’ is silent as in psychotic)

The Most of P. G. Wodehouse (which Scribner calls “the most lavish P .G. Wodehouse collection ever published”)

Uncle Fred in the Springtime

Not by Wodehouse

The Chess Players, by Frances Parkinson Keyes

The Good Earth, by Pearl S. Buck

Wolf Time, by Lars Walker

Isaac Asimov’s Robot City, by Michael P. Kube-McDowell and Mike McQuay

The Clan of the Cave Bear, by Jean M. Auel

Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy

Deception Point, by Dan Brown

And while I’m listing good books or at least those I hope to enjoy, let me mention that Roxanne Henke has a new one at the end of this month, called Always Jan. She calls it a story on aging and the surprising gifts which can come with it. I posted reviews of two of her books last year, After Anne and Becoming Olivia.

In posts like this, I think again about becoming an affiliate with or or another suitable book dealer; but I don’t want to pull a tiny share of income away from worthy affiliates like is a great web resource which I want to remain free to the world for as long as the Internet remains in its present incarnation. While I hope to generate book sales for the titles I mention on Brandywine Books, I hope you remember your neighborhood’s websites, the ones affiliated with a book dealer, and buy books through their links. It’s paltry recognition, but I’m sure it will encourage them, if it doesn’t enlarge their coffers. Two mites may be gift enough.


New Release: Here, Eyeball This!

David Heddle, who blogs at He Lives has released a humorous novel called, Here, Eyeball This! Joshua Claybourn of In the Agora praises it highly, calling it "a stunning novel that brilliantly evokes modern Christian challenges." As Heddle describes the book, "Aaron begins grad school, fearful that he can't compete. He's about to form powerful friendships and learn how physics and spirituality intersect." I should say that Heddle writes well on his blog, so I expect this novel to be good.
Monday, January 10, 2005

Amazon's Jeff Bexos in Wired

[by way of Rare Book News] In a January interview with's founder and fearless leader, WIRED asks basic questions about his online superstore.

WIRED: Does Amazon actually create demand for hard-to-find products?
BEZOS: Absolutely. We not only help readers find books, we also help books find readers, with personalized recommendations based on the patterns we see. I remember one of the first times this struck me. The main book on the page was on Zen. There were other suggestions for Zen books, and in the middle of those was a book on how to have a clutter-free desk. That's not something that a human editor would have ever picked. But statistically, the people who were interested in the Zen books also wanted clutter-free desks. The computer is blind to the fact that these things are dissimilar in some way that's important to humans. It looks right through that and says yes, try this. And it works.

A New Fantasy Author

[by way of Rare Book News] British writer Stuart Hill has hit on the solution to publishing a good book: practice and enjoying your writing. While working for years in a Leicester bookstore, feeling the encouragement and burden from the works around him, Hill tried to write something someone would publish.

"After 30 years of writing, I had decided this would be the last one. That helped me to relax and write the story I really wanted to. I threw everything into it -- vampires, werewolves and ghosts -- and had a great time writing it. I wrote quite a bit of it on the shop computer while sitting there in quiet moments between customers," he told Reuters.

His coworkers liked it. A publisher liked it. They call it The Cry of the Icemark, and now some are calling him the next J.K. Rowling. I predict he will not make it until he changes his author name to S. T. Hill or whatever initials he wants to use. The two initials are, in a word, key.

P.D. James’ Original Sin

Ian Bell begins a review of a BBC dramatization of P.D. James’ The Murder Room with this: “PD James has an advantage over most authors of crime fiction: she can write. She understands that if you are dealing with matters of life and death, even for the sake of entertainment, a bit of psychological complexity doesn't go amiss. Her Commander Adam Dalgliesh may be the closest thing English literature has to compare with Simenon's Maigret. That's praise, by the way.”

This is the way I get hooked by an author. Someone praises his ability to write or his worldview or maybe positive elements of his material. With Baroness P. D. James, I heard her discussed in an issue of the Mars Hill Audio Journal and purchased volume 2 of the journal in order to hear her in an interview. Once inspired, I found some used paperbacks at McKay’s Used Books and selected Original Sin to read first, since the story involved publishers. If you have not read James, this is probably not the book with which to start because while it is an Adam Dalgliesh mystery, he doesn’t enter the story much. In fact, toward the end, I felt I was reading the equivalent of “While you were away with those other characters, our intrepid detective has figured everything out.”

The story begins with the tense employees of Peverell Press, shocked by an apparent suicide. I love James’ opening sentence: “For a temporary shorthand-typist to be present at the discovery of a corpse on the first day of a new assignment, if not unique, is sufficiently rare to prevent its being regarded as an occupational hazard.” Why the senior editor died, the related problems, and an introduction of all the characters makes up part one. Of course, the intricate relationships of the company partners are complicated when one of them is murdered. (I hate when that happens. Just when you think you know someone, he’s dead. Totally ruins a relationship.)

Detective Dalgliesh makes some interesting appearances, but most of the details are discussed by his assistants, Kate Miskin and Daniel Aaron, as well as between the suspects. And though the back cover asks how many people will have to die before the mystery can be solved, James tells a story with love of character and interest in detail. It’s a mystery, not a thriller. I was two-thirds through wondering when another character would take a drop.
Saturday, January 08, 2005

Only Have One Rule: Don’t Let It Cool

Today, Starbucks has unleashed “Chantico,” a dark chocolate drink without coffee. Named after the Aztec goddess of home and hearth fires, this “drinkable dessert” has made a deep impression on Houston Chronicle critic Ken Hoffman. Hoffman, who sounds like a bit of a chocolate fiend, calls Chantico a drink to “sip elegantly.”

“A cup of Chantico is as chocolate as you can get without falling over unconscious. Fortunately at Starbucks, the way people hang around reading and seemingly doing nothing, nobody will notice. Here's the blueprint: cocoa butter, cocoa powder, sugar and steamed whole milk, whipped to a frenzy, served hot,” he says.

Hot chocolate or drinking chocolate appears to be a growing trend. An article in The Morning Call reports, “Hot chocolate drinks are becoming more nuanced and exotic, often paired with spicy flavors such as chile pepper, cinnamon or ginger, harkening back to the way chocolate was originally prepared by the Olmecs, Toltecs, Aztecs and Mayans in ancient Mexico more than 2,000 years ago. ‘Chocolatl’ was a bitter, hot beverage mixed with chilies.”

Ugh. I’ll pass on Chocolatl, but we may see some interesting recipes for drinkable chocolate this year. Also, Starbucks plans to introduces four new drinks to their shops this summer.

Review: Moby Dick, audiobook

I’ve learned from Mars Hill Audio interviews and the blogs The Native Tourist and City Comforts that cities and neighborhoods can be designed for living people, pets, and walkers, not just crammed with houses and roads. Many neighborhoods are designed to favor cars, and many cities only tolerate foot traffic, according to those who think about these things. That’s irrational when you think that a city government should work to promote healthy living in all of its decisions. Walking promotes personal and community health. Wouldn’t you rather have an idiot walking instead of driving? (Something outside my window just now prompted that question. You know, we should probably encourage Wal-Mart Supercenters and like-sized stores because that’s the only place some people get to walk around.)

I have the impression that audiobook marketers prefer cars as well. They recommend, “Listen to something entertaining or enriching or both while you commute to work.” A great idea, except when you’re blessed with a short commute or a car without a tape deck. Only recently, I switched to a commuter car with a tape deck, but that hasn’t lengthened my commute. In fact, I’ve have a short commute my entire working life. I lived three miles from my previous job and thought about biking or walking the distance but 40% or more was on a very busy stretch. Maybe I should have hitched onto one of the gravel trucks. No, I wasn’t that hard up.

My short commute is one reason it took me months to listen to Burt Reynolds read Moby-Dick, a gift chosen by my precious wife at a used book store—forgive me, a previously owned treasures store, no, a pre-read book store with un-new movies and music. I had suggested an audio edition of some lengthy classic would make a nice gift because I could digest more quickly than by reading it. But I found that listening to a work no one else wanted to hear while puttering with something simple is no way to digest an audiobook of Moby-Dick.

I am not sure Burt Reynolds’ performance is a good way to digest it either. I have an unabridged version (here’s a link to what looks like an abridgement of the same reading). In it, Reynolds delivers Melville’s long-winded narrative in what is supposed to be a thick seaman’s accent. Almost all of the characters have thicker seaman’s accents. It trampled my wife’s nerves immediately, but I held out until the near end when I began to be frustrated by it. I felt the tension in the drama, but couldn’t understand half of his words. Several difficult sentence would go out, and I would be left trashing about in the sea. Did the whale smash the boat? What happened? How did we get back to the Pequod?

But I did enjoy it enough to want to pick a paperback for reading. It’s a classic for good reason, despite the length. I haven’t researched this to the point of confidence, but I think the gist of the book is an angry man, Ahab, seeks to avenge himself on God, the elusive and powerful whale, and breaks himself, learning that nothing tame him. Ahab is always in debt to the whale’s mercy. I remember—I hope clearly—that Melville didn’t like the book because it painted an angry or violent picture of God. That would fit what I heard.

Of course, I could solve my audiobook problems by purchasing a personal player of some kind. I could start listening before I left the house and keep it up while I climbed six flights to my office. With a speaker in only one ear, I should be able to drive properly, and a personal audio environment like this may encourage me to walk around the neighborhood.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Apostrophe Anguish

Kenneth Wilson writes in the Columbia Guide to Standard American English, pub. 1993, "Apostrophes appearing where they ought not to be or missing from where they ought to be are devastating shibboleths in the view of many Standard users, who will penalize the perpetrators mercilessly for them regardless of whether haste, inadvertence, or ignorance caused the outrage against convention. Be warned." I haven't thought of it that way before. I hope I have not caused you outrage when you have been gracious enough to read or scan my humble, unremarkable blog. Though it sounds defensive, I must say that Blogger is not friendly to certain apostrophes. I've copied posts from Word, published them, and discovered only when scanning the blog afterwards that my apostrophes turned to question marks. Don't roll your eyes at me. It's true.
Thursday, January 06, 2005

Good News from Ukraine

John the Discoshaman and Dan McMinn are writing a readable history of the recent tumult in Ukraine. Both of them worked and blogged through the Orange Revolution, which helped elect Yushchenko President after an ugly personal and political battle.

John writes, "The world is paying attention to Ukraine for virtually the first time since Independence, and there are few popular works on the country. None put the events of the past month in perspective -- the Revolution took place in a country with a political culture too weird for most spy novels."

The current title is "Tangerine Dreams: Front Seat at the Orange Revolution." I'm betting it's a winner.

The Buck Stops Here

Quote: There is no such thing on earth as an uninteresting subject; the only thing that can exist is an uninterested person. -- G.K. Chesterton [prominently displayed on The Buck Stops Here]

Stuart Buck's blog title inspired me to look up this quote from President Gerald Ford, spoken September 8, 1974, when he announced the pardon of his predecessor, Richard Nixon. "I do believe that the buck stops here, that I cannot rely upon public opinion polls to tell me what is right. I do believe that right makes might and that if I am wrong, 10 angels swearing I was right would make no difference. I do believe, with all my heart and mind and spirit, that I, not as President but as a humble servant of God, will receive justice without mercy if I fail to show mercy."
Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Duly Noted in Brief

Before I begin this varied post of links with short descriptions, I want to say I like the word ‘brief.’ I think its natural for meaning a short thing and with an application to underwear gives me a feeling not entirely unlike the snickers. But you don’t care about that.

Tonight on many PBS stations, Robert MacNeil is addressing the English language in America. “Why is the English spoken by Maine lobstermen so different from that spoken by cowboys in Texas?” he asks and addresses many issues, quoting from many scholars. On the website, the “Do you speak American?” section has dialect quizzes, language myths, complaints about slang, a flutist, and more.

Elsewhere, in writing about everyone’s favorite bestseller, The Da Vinci Code, Bob from Between a Rock and a Hard Place discovers that will reject product reviews. An editor told him, “Your review ... was removed because your comments in large part focused on your personal opinions of the subject matter, rather than reviewing the title itself.” Do they do this on all of their products? I’ve seen some pointless, non-review reviews under some books, and I hope they were removed after I saw them. Bob believes it's an “affront to my creativity.”

John Steinbeck’s hometown of Salinas, California, pop. 150,000, has cut their city budget repeatedly in the face of diminishing revenue. Now they plan to close their libraries, dropping about $3.2 million per year.

Mark of Pseudo-Polymath reviews Hugh Hewitt’s new book, Blog: Understanding the Information Reformation That's Changing Your World. He offers a run-down and alternative reasons for blogging. The book lists URLs for many blogs, possibly evangelizing readers who do not scan, read, or rant about the blogs you and I know.

Someone believes the time is “appropriate” to translate Peter Rabbit into Egyptian hieroglyphs, according to the BBC. I’m not kidding. This comes to me through, in case you’re keeping tabs.

Also, consider voting in the Best of Blog (BOB) Awards, though Brandywine Books is not a finalist in the literary voting. The excellent blog Mental Multivitamin placed along with

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Wilde Was Full of Himself, but What Else Is New

John Derbyshire writes of his enjoyable experience at a New Criterion party over New Year's.
That silly Oscar Wilde quip about how "third-rate people talk about things, second-rate people talk about people, first-rate people talk about ideas" is complete horse manure, like most of what Wilde said. I spent a happy evening with a room full of first-raters, and they talk about everything.
Speaking of the partygoers, he says, "If your conception of the cultural Right is a bunch of old dotards in celluloid collars brushing the snuff from their lapels while grumbling about modern art, well, let me tell you, this crowd seems to get younger every year. There was in fact a Woosterish element at the other end of the table getting quite rowdy."


So much news is simply For Your Information (FYI). It asks, "Did you know that? Hey, this is interesting. What do you think about this?" More often, the
news seems to ask, "Can you believe they did that? You think they're a bunch of perverts, don't you? Well, who are you to judge?" Without something significant behind the words, news is a data dump, and with interactivity, it's an infoshare.

So in case you're asked for Trivial Pursuit, that is, FYI: 5 Exabytes = all of the words ever spoken by mankind. Add a grain of salt to that, and you'll have something.

An exabyte is one billion gigabytes. Here's the nomenclature. 1000 megabytes = 1 gigabyte; 1000 gigabytes = 1 terabyte; 1000 terabytes = 1 petabyte; 1000 petabytes = 1 exabyte. Should you be contemplating how much space it would take to store a digitized solar system, the big boys after exabyte are zettabyte, zottabyte, and brontobyte. According to this article by R. Stock, the printed collection of the Library of Congress would take up 10 terabytes. And no, you may not have a new Sony Vaio Type X system with a terabyte hard-drive for next Christmas. Your father still has to put himself through college.

Massachusetts Constitution

Article II. "It is the right as well as the duty of all men in society, publicly, and at stated seasons to worship the Supreme Being, the great Creator and Preserver of the universe. And no subject shall be hurt, molested, or restrained, in his person, liberty, or estate, for worshipping God in the manner and season most agreeable to the dictates of his own conscience; or for his religious profession or sentiments; provided he doth not disturb the public peace, or obstruct others in their religious worship."

It's funny how language like this makes up our fundamental laws.
Monday, January 03, 2005

The Lord and the One Ring

"Providence requires that we accept the burdens given us and accept that we do not know why they have been given to us." -- David Mills, "The Writer of Our Story: Divine Providence in The Lord of the Rings" in Touchstone Magazine, Jan/Feb 2002

From The Return of the King:
Already the Ring tempted him, gnawing at his will and reason. Wild fantasies arose in his mind; and he saw Samwise the Strong, Hero of the Age, striding with a flaming sword across the darkened land, and armies flocking to his call . . . In that hour of trial, it was the love of his master that helped most to hold him firm; but also deep down in him lived still unconquered his plain hobbit-sense: he knew in the core of his heart that he was not large enough to bear such a burden, even if such visions were not a mere cheat to betray him. The one small garden of a free gardener was all his need and due, not a garden swollen to a realm; his own hands to use, not the hands of others to command.


New Release: Kingdomality

The clever minds behind and Career Management International have written a book on their personality and business management ideas. Sheldon Bowles and Richard and Susan Silvano have just release Kingdomality: An Ingenious New Way to Triumph in Management through Hyperion Press. has been around for years, allowing visitors to find their medieval type match. If I remember correctly, I was labeled a Dreamer-Minstrel when I first took the profile. Other possibilities include White and Black Knights, Prime Minister, Merchant, and maybe Aimless Waif, though I could have made that up. Each match has character descriptions and how you may work within a team. Here's a quick run down.

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (1892-1973)

I could pretend that I planned this post for days because I am a competent blogger, organized, thoughtful, and worth your time. Clearly, I am not, because I didn't realize it was J.R.R. Tolkien's birthday today until I read it on Sherry's Semicolon, which is a better blog than mine, let the record show. No, no--it's true. I should just hang it up.

This is also the 50th publication year for the complete Lord of the Rings (note this beautiful anniversary edition). Fellowship and Two Towers were published in 1954, Return of the King in 1955. The Tolkien Society is planning a convention in Birmingham, England this August to celebrate the books, and to honor the author, they are encouraging us to join the world in a toast with the drink of your choice at 9 p.m. local time today.

On a personal, non-complaining, note, my precious wife gave me a beautifully illustrated volume of The Silmarillion for Christmas this year. I have not read it all yet, but this edition is inspiring me to revisit what I've read and finish what I haven't.

Serious Reading

Speaking of serious reading, Adrian Warnock heartily recommends Nancy Pearcey's Total Truth, which has been praised by many since its release. "Too many Christians simply don't reason enough today," Adrian writes. "Thinking through our underlying assumptions and value systems is just not something we are often encouraged to do in the world or in the church. Viewed by many as the Francis Schaeffer of her generation, I suspect Nancy Pearcey's book TOTAL TRUTH-Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity will become essential reading for all serious-thinking Christians." Adrian quotes liberally from an online chapter which is linked above.

At Philosophical Poetry, Andrew says he is enjoying Don Quixote, which many around the world may be read this year in response to its 400th anniversary.

I have thought about posting a list of books I want to read this year, much like Sherry did days ago, but I don't want to commit the titles to you. I have declared lists like this to myself before and failed miserably.

Our Habit of Serious Reading

“Isn’t it an odd outcome of diffused education and of cheap publications, the decline in the habit of continuous serious reading?”

That’s the question of a Harper’s Magazine essay, first published in 1886, entitled, "Let Them Eat Prose." The editors argued against the “the five, ten, and twenty cent editions” printed in their day, because they believed the books’ affordability did not serve to educate low income readers as the books’ proponents claimed it would. Harper’s said the cheap books helped those who would have read more expensive volumes anyway to cheapen their own literary reading.

They ask “whether, by reason of cheap and chopped-up literary food, we are coming round practically to the Middle Ages relative to reading, that is, to reading anything except what is called news, or ingenious sorts of inventions and puzzles which can be talked about as odd incidents in daily life are talked about. Reading to any intellectual purpose requires patience and abstraction and continuity of thought.”

I believe they same argue could be made today, if one agreed the editors. We have a declining number of serious readers in the States. But what serious books are going unread and what understanding are we lacking because of it? Our current national conversation has a sideline argument about whether certain ideological participants understand any issue deeply enough to participate in the conversation. One side says the world is so nuanced, few real decisions can be made and their opponents are moralistic dunderheads who see the world in extremes. If most of the ‘serious’ authors are from this side of field, then I can understand why many don’t read them. That’s why A Call to Character is a disjointed Book-of-Virtues wannabe. In a world of nuance, virtues and character are hard to define.

But let’s say serious, valuable books are going unread. What lack of understanding is building as a result? I doubt we could answer that neatly. With other media outlets, many non-readers can gain a healthy understanding of complex issues without reading books. Some magazines publish deeply serious essays which cannot be improved upon by lengthening them for a book. For these people, serious books are unneeded. For others, serious books may be what’s needed to deepen their shallow understanding. I’ve read media critics suggest the bias in television is less left or right and more toward simplification. Complex stories are presented in simplistic ways, not allowing the viewer to weigh difficult material. This type of bias is nurturing casual thinking which the Harper’s editors want to correct through serious reading.

I don’t think this problem will go away. We will continue to walk the easy road instead of the hard one, because that’s our nature. I believe some opinion-makers will complain about casual thinking because it’s easy to complain. The solution begins when each of us avoids thinking too highly of himself and thinks circumspectly when we form opinions.
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