“...a poise between subjectivity and objectivity.”

Nuala O'Faolain, writing in Are You Somebody?: The Accidental Memoir of a Dublin Woman, about teaching at University College Dublin in the early 1960s:

I was a contented product of the old system. And I was too young to respect students so young. They were right to complain that they had no more input into the way things were done than they'd had at secondary school. But they weren't very different, themselves, to my eyes, from secondary school pupils. I had a messianic belief in the capacity of the academic study of English literature to change a person utterly. But all but a few of the students thought "doing English" was grinding out essays on the three stages of Wordsworth's relationship with nature or the role of the Fool in King Lear. I knew myself that "doing English" was easy on one level. But I wanted my students to do something hard, to learn to hold on to the self while going out of the self to enter into the literature that someone else had made - to find a poise between subjectivity and objectivity.

September 24, 2018 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0)

Hüsker Dü

Robert Christgau, on Hüsker Dü's Zen Arcade:

But though I hate to sound priggish, I do think it could have used a producer. I mean, it was certainly groovy (not to mention manly) to record first takes and then mix down for forty hours straight, but sometimes the imperfections this economical method so proudly incorporates could actually be improved upon. It wouldn't be too much of a compromise to make sure everyone sings into the mike, for instance, and it's downright depressing to hear Bob Mould's axe gather dust on its way from vinyl to speakers.

I'm listening to New Day Rising right now at work, and lord, do I ever concur. One of my never-to-be-realized dreams is for the band's entire catalog to be remixed and reissued. The music is brilliant, but often hard to appreciate through the murk. Although, admittedly, the band would have been even greater had they been less prolific - six full-length albums (including two double LPs) and an EP, all in just six years, means they released almost every song they created. Their 1987 implosion probably had as much to do with running out of new material as Mould, Hart and Norton having gotten sick and tired of being around each other.

September 14, 2018 in Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

“God forgive me!”

This is certainly a strange entry in Samuel Pepys' diary for September 12, 1665, which happens to have been exactly three hundred years prior to my date of birth. Though I'm glad to see that Pepys mentions Sir John Minnes, whose circumstances I pondered ("What happened to Sir Minnes?") and further explored ("The Decline and Likely Fall of Sir Minnes") a blog-lifetime ago. Apparently I gave up the quest on October 14, 2009, never quite having learned of his fate.

September 13, 2018 in Books, History | Permalink | Comments (0)

Quote

"I mean, I'm not interested in any violent reaction, obviously. But I think that there's something worse than riots, and that's when we end up with a whole generation that has absolutely no confidence in the criminal justice system. If Van Dyke is acquitted, we'll lose a generation. I think that's a worse outcome than a riot."- Reverend Marshall Hatch

September 13, 2018 in Chicago Observations, Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sigh

It looks like we can add John Steinbeck to the “Great Writer/Horrible Human Being” list. 

September 11, 2018 in Books | Permalink | Comments (2)

Quote

“She put her head above the parapet I suspect in a thousand conversations when it was perilous to do so. She was one of those writers who wanted to take Ireland by the scruff of the neck and demand maturity of it, a maturity we are even now still just inching towards. I think of that generation as sometimes harsh and even half-ruined by existentialism and a sort of national despair. It must have been a horror to find yourself an intellectual in that Ireland. Yet she was an exception to that. She was the least despairing person.” - Sebastian Barry, on Val Mulkerns

September 11, 2018 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0)

“...everything seemed strangely to stand up vertically...”

"The scenery of Norway, amongst which she had made her first experience of the passion, contributed to the overpowering impression of it. The country was at its loveliest, the sky was blue, the bird-cherry flowered everywhere and filled the air with sweet and bitter fragrance, and the nights were so light that you could see to read at midnight. Jensine, in a crinoline and with an alpenstock, climbed many steep paths on her husband's arm - or alone, for she was strong and light-footed - she stood upon the summits, her clothes blown about her, and wondered and wondered. She had lived in Denmark, and a year in a pension in Lübeck, and her idea of the earth was that it must spread out horizontally, flat or undulating, before her feet. But in these mountains, everything seemed strangely to stand up vertically, like some great animal that rises on its hind legs - and you know not whether it is to play, or to crush you. She was higher than she had ever been, and the air went to her head like wine. Also wherever she looked there was running water, rushing from the sky-high mountains into the lakes, in silver rivulets or in roaring falls, rainbow-adorned - it was as if Nature itself was weeping, or laughing, aloud." - Isak Dinesen, from "The Pearls"

I first read this collection (Winter's Tales) during college in a Scandinavian literature class, but it didn't make much of an impression then, and I sold off the book sometime afterward. But after reading about the unabashed reverence of William Maxwell and Eudora Welty for Dinesen (especially Maxwell), I decided to give the book another try. I'm realizing now that it probably wasn't the sort of fiction I was into during my twenties, but this time around I'm enjoying it quite a bit. And that's only partly due to the change of scenery - to my Scandinavian homeland - after spending my summer in Welty's Mississippi.

As an aside, the protagonist has such a lovely name: Jensine, which is presumably the feminine form of Jens. I don’t remember ever seeing that name before.

September 4, 2018 in Books | Permalink | Comments (1)

Comments...

...are back on. Opine! Pontificate! 

September 3, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Comments...

...are down again. My apologies. Don’t blame me, blame TypePad. Hoping to get it fixed soon. 

August 31, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Ben Kingsley

At NPR, Rachel Martin interviews the great Ben Kingsley about portraying Adolf Eichmann in the new film Operation Finale.

Martin: You are remarkably able to...humanize him feels so trite and it's not the right word, but portray him in a multi-dimensional way. He is so very ordinary at this point in his life. He's living outside Buenos Aires with his wife, he takes the bus to work every day. How did you strike that balance between the man who was and the man who is, when we meet him?

Kingsley: Well, Rachel, you used the word humanize, and it's interesting that in fact I did not humanize him. The tragedy is that these men and women were part of a national movement that mobilized their military, their ideology, their culture, their language, their engineering, to annihilate as many of Europe's Jews as they could. But these people — however difficult it might be for us to swallow — were human beings, and to play them as a two-dimensional comic strip villain or a run-of-the-mill-"baddie" would be to do a terrible disservice to history and the memory of those that they murdered. For the years of extermination between 1933 and 1945, it was men and women who did this. It was not my duty to humanize anything because tragically, it's already human.

The greatest, most tragic error we could now make is to dismiss Nazis as two-dimensional villains, or to consign the Holocaust to an increasingly distant corner of history. Because the Nazis were human, just as human as we are today — quick to blame others for our own shortcomings, especially those who lack the power to defend themselves against the majority. Until we take full responsibility for our own lives, and fully respect the lives of others, the Holocaust will probably happen again. In fact, on a lesser scale it already has - in Bosnia, Rwanda, Myanmar and too many other places.

August 29, 2018 in Film, History | Permalink | Comments (0)