Oct 3 2018

To Read or Not to Read, that is the Question

To Read or Not to Read, that is the Question

From the always cheerful Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) on what one should read (and otherwise):

The art of not reading is a very important one. It consists in not taking an interest in whatever may be engaging the attention of the general public at any particular time. When some political or ecclesiastical pamphlet, or novel, or poem is making a great commotion, you should remember that he who writes for food always finds a large public. — A precondition for reading good books is not reading bad ones: for life is short.

“On Books and Writing – no. 16” in Schopenhauer: Essays and Aphorisms, trans. R. J. Hollingdale, (New York: Penguin, 1970), p. 210.



And this is not something that was just practiced in the old days. There are people, good people like Gary here, who continue to practice today what Schopenhauer preached long ago (at least concerning this particular topic):


Sep 24 2018

Early Autumn Mushrooms

typewriter
Early Autumn Mushrooms

From Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882):

…. So also full of flowers, buds, leaves, & even tough grass & moss & mushrooms grown in a night all which I in my sauntering through unimportant country coldly botanizing for my pastime collected….

–Journals and Miscellaneous Notebooks Vol. VI (1824-1836), p. 304.

And from Arnold Zweig (1887-1968)’s novel The Case of Sergeant Grischa (1927):

Adepts tell us that poisonous herbs should be gathered when the moon is up and on the increase: both gong and coming the gatherer must refrain from worldly speech, and if he meets with anyone on the road, he must devoutly murmur a Paternoster or an Ave Maria. He must also start upon his journey with the right foot, and return with his left foot foremost, being very careful not to change his step. And if he does all this, no evil spirits can meddle with his step.

–The Case of Sergeant Grischa (1927), trans. Eric Sutton, (New York: Viking, 1928) IV, v, p. 233.


Sep 19 2018

Population Stampede in Austin, Texas

typewriter

Population Stampede in Austin, Texas

Two pieces out this week on the increasing urban redevelopment of Capital City.

Report says gentrification threatens to displace Austin’s low-income residents, communities of color,” by Brandon Formby of the Texas Tribune, September 18, 2018:

“They’re young, they’re professional, they’re clearly here to work in tech,” [Fred McGhee, a historical archaeologist and community activist] said. “They’re here to make a real estate investment. They’re not interested in playing a role in the community.”

And “CodeNEXT or None, Austin has an Identity Crisis,” by Aubrey Byron of Strong Towns.org, September 17, 2018:

CodeNEXT opponent [Fred Lewis of Community Not Commodity], says he isn’t opposed to walkability, but he is skeptical that it’s what people actually want. “The idea that people are going to walk to the store is ludicrous. It’s 100 degrees here in the summer.”


Sep 11 2018

Good Writers Need Tough Readers

London - Georgian Apartments

Good Writers Need Tough Readers

Susan Sontag once observed:

Sometimes a writer will be so uneasy before the naked power of his art that he will install within the work itself—albeit with a little shyness, a touch of the good taste of irony—the clearer and explicit interpretation of it. Thomas Mann is an example of such an overcooperative author. In the case of more stubborn authors, the critic is only too happy to perform the job.

“Against Interpretation,” (1964) in Against Interpretationand Other Essays, (New York: Delta Books, 1966). p. 8.

And, more recently, from writer James Wade has confessed:

I once received a rejection that said one of my sentences was too long. This was new to me because never have I ever (drink) been criticised for long sentences– at least not since grammar class in high school. Other decent writers who employ long sentences as a literary device include Faulkner, Dickens, Hemingway, McCarthy, O’Connor, Lewis Carroll, Salinger, Tim O’Brien, Bukowski, Audrey Niffenegger, and we could go on forever. The point is, I would be a fool to let this rejection letter influence my writing style. But that doesn’t mean all criticism is without merit.

The lesson here is that good writers strive to never be too cooperative nor confrontational with their readers.


Sep 6 2018

Christian Sexual Ethics Did Not Emerge Ex Nihilo

porticos in Bologna, Italia

Christian Sexual Ethics Did Not Emerge Ex Nihilo

Delving into material (i.e., ancient ethics) that I usually don’t, I have to object to Benjamin Wilker (and subsequently Rod Dreher) when they characterize: that, in the words of the first writer:

“Christianity [and Christianity alone!] made pedophilia a moral issue.”

But I believe European history is a little more complicated than the Church-centric readings of Dreher and Wiker.

Pagan emperor Marcus Aurelius (121–180 AD), a persecutor of Christians, felt it was right to suppress pederasty as much as he possibly could ( Meditations I, xvi).

His contemporary, Apuleius of Madura (124–170), a pagan rhetorician, philosopher, and novelist, mocks the Calamites who prey on young boys as well as Christians for their monotheism in his novel The Golden Ass Chapters VIII-IX).


Sep 4 2018

Four New Pieces that Think Seriously About Reading

Four New Pieces that Think Seriously About Reading


Aug 17 2018

10 Interesting Online Items I’ve Read Since October 2017

bookshelf
10 Interesting Online Items I’ve Read Since October 2017

Here are some links to some interesting things I’ve lately read.  I’ve been saving them for myself to eventually reread and probably get some writing ideas from. All sorts of topics and subjects:


Aug 8 2018

The Purpose of this Book Blog

bookshelf
The Purpose of This Book Blog

I’ve pointed out before that George Steiner has pointed out:

What we need (I have argued this elsewhere) are not ‘programs in the humanities,’ ‘schools of creative writing,’ ‘programs in creative criticism’ (mirabile dictu [a wonderful tale], these exist). What we need are places, i.e., a table with some chairs around it, in which we can learn again how to read, how to read together… We need ‘houses of and for reading….’ Servants to the text. (“ ‘Critic’/ ‘Reader’.” New Literary History. 10 (Spring 1979): 423–52 at 452 also in George Steiner: a Reader. (1987).)

The purpose of Bookbread has always followed this model. Now Alan Jacobs gets at what this same purpose is, and has been, when he talks about this thing called humanism:


Aug 2 2018

The Missionaries of Texas Politics

Western book stack

The Missionaries of Texas Politics

Might Beto or Cruz employ this old tried-and-true method? Via Robert Caro’s Means of Assent: Vol. II of the Life and Times of Lyndon Baines Johnson, (New York: Knopf, 1990) :

And it wasn’t only the shouts, but the whispers. One of the little-publicized factors of rural Texas politics was the men known variously as “missionaries” or “travelers’ or “walking delegates” or “active campaigners.” These were men influential with a particular ethnic group—for example, “You’d hire some popular Czech to go talk to the Czechs,” one veteran of Texas politics says—or simply an individual well known in some remote rural district. Such men were for hire in every campaign. “You’d send a guy out to see the lay of the land,” D. B. Hardeman explains. “He would walk around the streets, try to find out who was for who, go to the Courthouse. And they would talk around,” spreading the rumors that their employer wanted spread. The missionaries were an effective political weapon, particularly in rural areas where voters were unsophisticated, uneducated and accustomed to relying on word of mouth for information. The missionaries knew what to say. “From previous campaigns they knew what people wanted to hear, and who to talk to.” (pp. 276–77)

(A page from my monthly book log)


Jul 31 2018

To Learn a Language, You Must Live in that Language

Palazzo Re Enzo, Bologna, Italia

To Learn a Language, You Must Live in that Language

At least according to Gregory Bateson (1904-1980):

Perhaps a curriculum is like a hand in that every piece and component of what they would call a curriculum is really related ideally to the other components as fingers are related to each other and to the whole hand. In other words, it is nonsense except as sort of a Faustian shortcut to learn large quantities of listed material unless the learning of those lists can be developed into some sort of organic whole. I am not against the learning of lists. I am against the failure to assimilate the components of lists together into a total vision, a total hearing, a total kinesics, perhaps, of the wholes with which we deal. We are all familiar with the difficulties that Anglo-Saxons face when they learn languages. Englishmen and Americans are notoriously stupid and awkward when they come to a foreign country and try to talk the native language. This is a sharp and clear example of exactly the point that I am trying to make, that we Anglo-Saxons do not learn to live in a language because we believe that it is made of separate parts. We calls these “words” and we make them into dictionaries. But that is not how the natives of the place learn to speak as children nor how they speak today. It is not even how we speak our own English—a language notorious for the number of poets it has produced. We have lost by the time we are twelve the idea of language as a living organized pattern. (“Last Lecture” (1979), A Sacred Unity: Further Steps in an Ecology of Mind, ed. Rodney E. Donaldson, (New York: Harper Collins, 1991) 311–12.)

wood