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Archive for the ‘Favorite Authors and Books’ Category

Margaret Atwood

Monday, November 20th, 2017

 

One of my favorite writers. Her books and poems are gems. Splendid literary style, marvelous character development and intriguing plots.

 

Margaret Atwood

November 18th was the birthday of Canadian poet and novelist Margaret Atwood (1939) , best known for her searing explorations of feminism, sexuality, and politics in books like The Handmaid’s Tale (1986), a dystopian novel that takes place in a United States, which has become a fundamentalist theocracy where women are forced to have children. She started writing the book on a battered, rented typewriter while on a fellowship in West Berlin. The book became an international best-seller. Atwood’s daughter was nine when it was published; by the time she was in high school, The Handmaid’s Tale was required reading. Atwood once said, “Men often ask me, ‘Why are your female characters so paranoid?’ It’s not paranoia. It’s recognition of their situation.”

 

Atwood was born in Ottawa, Ontario. Her father was an entomologist and the family lived for a long time in insect-research stations in the wilderness. She was 11 before she attended a full year of school. About growing up in near isolation, Atwood said: “There were no films or theatres in the North, and the radio didn’t work very well. But there were always books. I learned to read early, was an avid reader and read everything I could get my hands on — no one ever told me I couldn’t read a book. My mother liked quietness in children, and a child who is reading is very quiet.”

 

One day she was walking across a football field on her way home and began writing a poem in her head and decided to write it down. She says: “After that, writing was the only thing I wanted to do. I didn’t know that this poem of mine wasn’t at all good, and if I had known, I probably wouldn’t have cared.”

 

Her first novel was The Edible Woman (1969), about a woman who cannot eat and feels that she is being eaten. Atwood likes to write in longhand, preferably with a Rollerball pen, and is even the co-inventor of the LongPen, a remote signing device that allows a person to write in ink anywhere in the world using a tablet and the internet. Her books include Alias Grace (1996), The Blind Assassin ( 20000, Oryx and Crake (2003), The Stone Mattress (2014), The Heart Goes Last (2015), and many others .

 

About the writing life, Margaret Atwood says: “You most likely need a thesaurus, a rudimentary grammar book, and a grip on reality. This latter means: there’s no free lunch. Writing is work. It’s also gambling. You don’t get a pension plan. Other people can help you a bit, but ­essentially you’re on your own. ­Nobody is making you do this: you chose it, so don’t whine.”

 

John Keats/Ode to a Nightingale

Tuesday, November 14th, 2017

November 1st is the birth date of English poet John Keats, born in London in 1795. He’s best known for poetic odes like Ode to a Nightingale and Ode on a Grecian Urn, about the famous Elgin marbles on display in the British Museum, which ends with some of the most famous lines in poetic history: “beauty is truth, truth beauty,’ — that is all / Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”

By the time he died at the age of 25, John Keats had only published three small volumes of poetry, 54 poems in all. He’s now considered one of the finest poets in the English language. He once told a friend, “I carry all matters to an extreme.”

 

Ode to a Nightingale

My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,
Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains
One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk:
‘Tis not through envy of thy happy lot,
But being too happy in thine happiness,—
That thou, light-winged Dryad of the trees
In some melodious plot
Of beechen green, and shadows numberless,
Singest of summer in full-throated ease.

O, for a draught of vintage! that hath been
Cool’d a long age in the deep-delved earth,
Tasting of Flora and the country green,
Dance, and Provençal song, and sunburnt mirth!
O for a beaker full of the warm South,
Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene,
With beaded bubbles winking at the brim,
And purple-stained mouth;
That I might drink, and leave the world unseen,
And with thee fade away into the forest dim:

Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget
What thou among the leaves hast never known,
The weariness, the fever, and the fret
Here, where men sit and hear each other groan;
Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last gray hairs,
Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies;
Where but to think is to be full of sorrow
And leaden-eyed despairs,
Where Beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes,
Or new Love pine at them beyond to-morrow.

Away! away! for I will fly to thee,
Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards,
But on the viewless wings of Poesy,
Though the dull brain perplexes and retards:
Already with thee! tender is the night,
And haply the Queen-Moon is on her throne,
Cluster’d around by all her starry Fays;
But here there is no light,
Save what from heaven is with the breezes blown
Through verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways.

I cannot see what flowers are at my feet,
Nor what soft incense hangs upon the boughs,
But, in embalmed darkness, guess each sweet
Wherewith the seasonable month endows
The grass, the thicket, and the fruit-tree wild;
White hawthorn, and the pastoral eglantine;
Fast fading violets cover’d up in leaves;
And mid-May’s eldest child,
The coming musk-rose, full of dewy wine,
The murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves.

Darkling I listen; and, for many a time
I have been half in love with easeful Death,
Call’d him soft names in many a mused rhyme,
To take into the air my quiet breath;
Now more than ever seems it rich to die,
To cease upon the midnight with no pain,
While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad
In such an ecstasy!
Still wouldst thou sing, and I have ears in vain—
To thy high requiem become a sod.

Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird!
No hungry generations tread thee down;
The voice I hear this passing night was heard
In ancient days by emperor and clown:
Perhaps the self-same song that found a path
Through the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home,
She stood in tears amid the alien corn;
The same that oft-times hath
Charm’d magic casements, opening on the foam
Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.

Forlorn! the very word is like a bell
To toll me back from thee to my sole self!
Adieu! the fancy cannot cheat so well
As she is fam’d to do, deceiving elf.
Adieu! adieu! thy plaintive anthem fades
Past the near meadows, over the still stream,
Up the hill-side; and now ’tis buried deep
In the next valley-glades:
Was it a vision, or a waking dream?
Fled is that music:—Do I wake or sleep?

Happy Birthday, Boswell

Monday, October 30th, 2017

James Boswell

Yesterday, October, 29, was the birthday of the biographer, James Boswell , born in 1740 in Edinburgh, Scotland. His family was descended from minor royalty, and they had occupied the same land more than two hundred years. Boswell’s father was a judge who insisted that his son study law. So James Boswell passed his bar exams in Scotland, but he didn’t really like law and he didn’t really like Scotland. Boswell loved gossip, drinking, and traveling, and he wanted to be in London, to be in the company of the rich and famous. He also wanted to be known as a great lover, so he bragged constantly about his love life.

James Boswell was a good writer with an incredible memory, and he started keeping a journal as a teenager, and he kept it for the rest of his life, filled with reflections and anecdotes about the famous people he befriended—Voltaire, Rousseau, Oliver Goldsmith, John Wilkes. Most of all he wrote about his friend Samuel Johnson. When Boswell was just 22 years old, he met Johnson, who was his idol, in the back of a bookshop. Johnson was 53, and he gave the young Boswell a hard time when he met him, but Boswell went back to visit him anyway and they soon became good friends. Over the next 20 years, Boswell followed Johnson around, and he always had paper and took notes constantly. Johnson was often frustrated with Boswell, and Boswell could be critical of Johnson, but they still liked to spend time together, and they traveled together through Scotland and the Hebrides.

After Johnson’s death, Boswell spent years writing a biography of his friend. He used letters, interviews, as well as his own diary, of which he said, “A page of my Journal is like a cake of portable soup. A little may be diffused into a considerable portion.” Finally, in 1791, The Life of Samuel Johnson was published, and people loved it. There had never been a biography like it before. Instead of a dry recitation of facts, Boswell filled his book with personal anecdotes and vivid descriptions, and overall it was fun to read, and he made Johnson sound like a real person who wasn’t totally perfect. It’s still considered one of the greatest biographies ever written, and it’s a big part of the reason why Samuel Johnson is still so famous today.

Maxwell Perkins, A Great 20th Century Literary Editor

Wednesday, September 27th, 2017

My friend, Dan Garshman told me that September 20th was the birthday of Maxwell Perkins, the most famous American editor. He discovered F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and Thomas Wolfe. His fellow editors at Scribner wanted to sign more experienced writers thinking they were a sure thing, but Perkins looked for new talent, and he struck gold.

Perkins became the model for a new kind of editor. He did much more than clean up a book for publication; he looked for a writer he believed in who still had a lot of work to do, and then nurtured the book until it reached its final form. He suggested changes to the plot, he came up with book titles, and was a friend to the writers he published.

Perkins was not good at spelling and punctuation, and he was a very slow reader. His gift lay in spotting talent, particularly in writers who didn’t have reputations yet. He was also talented at getting those writers to respond to criticism of their work. He said that Fitzgerald was very sensitive to criticism, that “he could accept it, but as his editor you had to be sure of everything you suggested.” Hemingway was a perfectionist, and claimed to have written parts of A Farewell to Arms over 50 times. Perkins said, “Before an author destroys the natural qualities of his writing — that’s when an editor has to step in. But not a moment sooner.”

But his biggest challenge by far was Thomas Wolfe, who was a chronic over-writer who struggled to delete a page. Wolfe would write his novel Of Time and the River (1935) standing up, using the top of a refrigerator as a desk (he was 6’6’’), and then he would throw each page into a box without editing or looking at it. Perkins had to go through the mess of papers and put the pages in order, based on his best guess. Over time, they became estranged. In 2016, the movie Genius came out dramatizing their relationship, with Colin Firth as Perkins and Jude Law as Thomas Wolfe.

Later in his career, he also published Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ The Yearling and Alan Paton’s Cry, the Beloved Country. Despite his huge success, he was a modest, idiosyncratic character who liked to stay out of the limelight. The way he thought about editing contrasts with how people thought of him. He was famous for having discovered so many important writers, but he thought editors shouldn’t draw attention to themselves for the work they did on other people’s books. He said: “An editor does not add to a book. At best he serves as a handmaiden to an author. […] An editor at most releases energy. He creates nothing.”

Bigotry and Hate on the Left

Sunday, August 27th, 2017

This is a terrific essay on the depths of bigotry and hate as practiced by the far left. The piece was sent to me by my good friend, Dr. Stephen Dubel, no friend of the far left.

THE AMERICAN THINKER
August 24, 2017

If There Aren’t Two Sides, Why Is There Division?
By Jeffrey T. Brown

George Clooney and his wife just donated a large sum of money to the Southern Poverty Law Center, a liberal hate group active in smearing non-adherents to Marxist theology. He said, “There are no two sides to bigotry and hate.” Paul Ryan has been equally generous with his wisdom on how there is somehow only one side to issues of bigotry and hatred, though there are clearly two or more cultural factions expressing diametrically opposed views on myriad social and cultural issues.

If there are not two sides to a phenomenon, then there is only one side. If there’s only one side, then everyone must be on the same side, since there isn’t another option. Working on such deep philosophical levels, we can then discern that those who rallied in Boston to protest against “free speech,” for example, actually speak for all of us when they demand that those who express resistance to anarchy and repression and hatred on the left, and who are then attacked violently for defending cherished American freedoms, should stop speaking at all or assume the risk of injury and death through anarchistic mob violence. Remember that no one speaking in favor of “free speech” in Boston was a Nazi, or a KKK member, or a member of any other traditional Democrat-associated group. They were “counter-protested” for defending the fundamental American right to speak freely without injury from other citizens.

One must be a champion simpleton to believe that the only people who hate are those the simpleton vehemently hates. Or perhaps it is merely an herculean act of dishonesty that motivates a seemingly cogent person to say something so monumentally dishonest and stupid.

Politically speaking, if we boil this down to a uniquely American perspective, we observe that there are two clearly recognizable sides. On the one hand, there are those Americans who recognize the necessity of the Constitution and Bill of Rights as a shield against the tyranny and oppression of a mob of frenzied zealots bent on power and destruction. Those Americans – we’ll call them “grown-ups” – understand what the Founders knew. Sooner or later, the capacity for human vice, and the ease with which it is manipulated, will exceed the capacity for reason and wisdom in a significant percentage of the population, and there will be demands for revenge and retribution by those whose weakness has been rubbed raw.

On the other hand, there are those Americans – we’ll call them “angry toddlers” – who are emotional puppets, whose alarming mental weakness predisposes them to manipulation and misdirection dressed up as virtue. They decline mental exercises that require objectivity, reason, and actual morality, because these do not bring the desired result, which is their presumed moral primacy over those their handlers seek to dominate and control, not to mention the wealth and property of those targets. These people are not the most dangerous among us, but they run a close second because of their utter inability to process basic information and come up with a correct answer. The most dangerous are those who manipulate such people to steal what they want while pretending to be making things better.

At the heart of our social conflict, we are engaged in a total war for the soul of America, and despite the malice of people like Clooney and Ryan, there certainly are two sides. As Americans, we on one side of the struggle see the anarchists and Marxists for who they really are. They, on the other hand, see the liberals and progressives for who they are and recruit them for their gullibility and stupidity to fight us. No political philosophy has brought more hatred, death, and destruction to the world than communism, and no political movement has ever been misrepresented so fully to its “useful idiots.” It is an ideology motivated by every human vice, yet the “anarcho-communists” who constitute the Antifa movement have somehow led Democrats to believe that Antifa’s cause is their cause, and it must be fought by frenzied mental patients throwing bottles of urine, clubbing bystanders, tearing down statues, killing police, and attacking elderly women holding American flags.

So liberal Democrats happily and proudly rally against “free speech” for the sake of their righteousness. They are committed to eradicating the Bill of Rights for its protection of those they hate, those against whom they are deeply bigoted, those whose declared right to refuse to be owned by tyrants is the single biggest obstacle to their victory. They have decided for themselves that violence, but only their violence, is acceptable, because their motives are so “moral.” Their “morality” encourages violence to achieve peace, which is akin to encouraging rape to achieve virginity. Such is the intellectual depth of the tools being manipulated by a communist movement to destroy capitalism and, with it, their own individual freedom.

To win this fight, those on the Left, regardless of party affiliation, recognize the need to falsely moralize about exercising resistance to totalitarianism, embodied by not only believing in, but practicing protected inalienable rights. That is the objective when saying something so patently absurd as “There are no two sides to hate and bigotry.” It is to discourage and dishearten those who have not surrendered to liberal/progressive/Marxist/communist theology, those who have not offered themselves up to the wisdom of the state to come, which will be controlled by those wearing black clothing, hoods, and masks. It calls self-preservation against our own overthrow “hatred” and “bigotry” and treats these as morally unacceptable principles. To those on the left, those who would unseat our president and hasten our plunge from a constitutional republic to a mobocracy, there is only one side in this struggle that is valid: theirs.

Remember what the left means when it says there are not two sides to hate and bigotry. Leftists are actually saying it is hate and bigotry to resist them. It is hate and bigotry to wish freedom for yourself and your children, to demand to keep what you earn, to live your life peacefully, and to reject totalitarianism. It is hate and bigotry to live in white skin and not believe that it should determine one’s future any more than dark skin should, to refuse to be owned by those whose every word and deed is itself motivated by hatred and bigotry against us. To them, refusal to accept the place in society they have reserved for us is the epitome of hate and bigotry.

We must accept and understand that we cannot win this argument and escape the impending punishment of the left’s overwhelming hatred and bigotry by surrendering. If the leftists prevail, they will exact their revenge upon us for our refusal to buckle and submit. We must do all we can now to remain free, while they lie the hardest to conquer us.


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