Tag: Literature

Renovating the Library

 

Where does this book go? This is a problem that rears its head a few times every year. It’s always an issue in January, but also in September, and usually in May … or even June. Heck, we have a book problem most months. A friend ours once called us “homeschool preppers.” It’s true. When the grid collapses and the power goes out, and everyone is wondering about edible foliage and water purification, come on over — I’ve got a book on that.

My passion for buying books began in September 1995, the month The Lost World by Michael Crichton was released. Until that day, the only book I owned was an unopened Bible. The books I read in high school were from the library and rarely worth the time to read, much less buy. I’m looking at you, Steinbeck.

But I remember walking past a Waldenbooks in the Santa Monica Mall and seeing a display for the literary sequel to the dinosaur blockbuster. I loved the movie of Jurassic Park, and I figured it would be a while before the new book was adapted for the screen, and people always say the book is better than the movie so I plopped down the $22 — sticker shock for a nineteen-year-old — and began my library.

Chloé Valdary, (The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Atlantic) freelance writer and deep thinker, talks with Bridget about dealing with Imposter Syndrome, the death of art, why revolution is easier than governance and the three things she learned from Bret Stephens. Chloé and Bridget discuss their shared desire to see all humans flourish while they analyze the joy that being snarky can bring. Don’t miss their fascinating takes on intersectionality, astrology and why dudes want to fight – always. Be sure to read Chloé’s fabulous piece on intersectionality – Whiteness is Blackness and Blackness is Whiteness.

On Household Relations and the Natural Order of Things

 

There have been a number of posts on Ricochet lately, and many more over time, about relations and dynamics between the sexes, the state of Western Civilization and the role of men and women in it, and how soon the handcart we’re all bouncing around in will reach the gates of Hell (not long) because we’re going about everything so completely wrong nowadays.

I’m not going to try to solve all those problems in this little story. I’m simply going to give you a glimpse of what two people did in their own lives to try to manage the order of household relations, and why, and how it’s worked out for us.

As many of you know, I’m fond of history, of historical novels, of the English “locked room murder mystery story (encyclopedic knowledge of several authors) and also of the occasional tasteful bodice-ripper. But my first love, when it comes to actual literature and real history is the medieval period, especially that of late 14th-century England, and especially as it is reflected in the poetry of its preeminent poet, Geoffrey Chaucer. I love the richness of his verse, the ways he finds ways to weave history, Christian faith, and elements of mythology into his stories, and I love the earthy and homespun wisdom of the lessons that he teaches in the best of his poetry, and his characterizations of the people who teach them. He exemplifies the reason I like real literature and think it’s worth studying — because the best of it is true and universal. (The worst of it, a great deal of which has been written in the last century, is pretentious, long-winded, self-serving, and self-important claptrap.)

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L’art pour l’art est un vain mot. L’art pour le vrai, l’art pour le beau et le bon, voilà la religion que je cherche…—Amantine-Lucile-Aurore Dupin (Pen name: George Sand) in a letter to Alexandre Saint-Jean, (19 April 1872) Art for the sake of art itself is an idle sentence. Art for the sake of truth, […]

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The 2017 winner of the Literary Review’s Bad Sex in Fiction Award has been announced. From a tightly-packed field burgeoning with upthrusting contenders, Christopher Bollen finally plunged into the lead with a memorable billiard-rack scene from his novel The Destroyers. It’s magnificently ghastly. In other literary news, the good folks at Botnik have used a predictive […]

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I had a peripatetic childhood, and by the time I finished high school I’d attended well over a dozen schools on three different continents, with time off for good behavior during a glorious year (in about third grade) where there wasn’t a school anywhere in sight. My mother, who was largely disinterested in her parenting […]

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“Call Me Ishmael”

 

I love to read. Always have. I’ve probably read hundreds of books. Starting with our family’s World Book encyclopedias and aging Tom Swift melodramas through a forest of sci-fi and non-fiction. Plus, whenever I drive, I love to listen to books. I’ve used Audible to listen to the latest offerings and LibriVox for older in-the-public-domain works.

Recently turning 58, I started to think it was high time I tackled some of the classics that I’ve shunned my entire life. Why have I shunned these tomes? I’m ashamed to say they looked too heavy, in literary depth as well as weight. But, chastising myself for being such a lazy lout, I’ve started to take on these “serious” titles. For instance, I’m a few pages into the infamous War and Peace after having read a scholarly volume about the Napoleonic wars from a Russian viewpoint.

But, getting back to the title of my post, I’ve just completed listening to Melville’s Moby Dick, or the Whale as read by a wonderful reciter by the name of Stewart Wills. If it had not been for the precise and melodious elocution of Mr. Wills, I don’t think I could have gotten through those 135 chapters and epilogue.

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What is it? Why do many people like to be scared? Why do many people like gruesome tales or stories that revel in darkness and/or filth? These days, serial killer stories are a dime a dozen. Then there are monster stories, ghost stories, psychological thrillers, and gothic tales, among other subgenres. Some horror stories are […]

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A sensitive, scholarly Spaniard brooding under a vow of chastity. A fiery redhead, feral and untamed, raised by Africans, confounding the local villagers with her hot, exotic ways. He was trained for sainthood. She is rumored to be possessed by demons. Both are haunted by the same dream. What happens when their dream becomes reality? […]

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Beautiful Dark Things – Desire from Nature

 

Earlier, @iwe wrote on desire and creativity as a holy act, on how humans are called, not to pagan imitation of nature, but to make things entirely new. And yet, for many of us, learning to imitate nature seems a necessary part of artistic discipline. Most conservatives are unlikely to be impressed, to put it mildly, by painters and sketchers without good observational-drawing skills. Music and literature, too, benefit from observant imitation of the natural world. Neither the sound of the sea nor the sight of the Milky Way could be imitated exactly in a song or poem, of course, but an artist may find that the only reason a work of his exists is because he attempted to record these natural features faithfully.

Matsuo Basho wrote a haiku sandwiching an island between the turbulent sea and the River of Heaven – the Milky Way. Music for that haiku might spring from hearing, over and over, the relentless beat of waves in your head, from the desire to imitate that sound, the desire to imitate, sonically, the frosty light of so many stars, to imitate nature’s creation of a beautiful dark thing:

The Legend of Thunder and Lightning

 

This is part 3 of my Cambodian Literature Series. The previous two parts are Cambodian Romeo and Juliet and Folktale for the Shrimp. Below is my translation of this particular tale.


Since time immemorial, deep in the jungle in a land known as Cambodia, lived a hermit of immense power. The hermit had three disciples, a human prince named Vorak Chhun, a celestial nymph called Moni Mekhela and a giant prince named Ream Eyso. All three disciples were very determined and hardworking students. They were also very competitive, always trying to one-up one another.

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The following is part 2 of my Cambodian Literature Series.  Tum Teav is a Khmer tragic love story about a doomed affair between Tum, a handsome novice monk and Teav, a beautiful adolescent girl who, to quote VP Biden, was “literally” on the cusp of womanhood. Tum Teav is believed to be a real story. […]

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Over in Saint Augustine’s Star Wars vs. Star Trek thread, the subject of genres and their relations came up. My contention is that the world of writing genres is a soap opera where everyone is hooking up with everyone else and that they are having all of these children, either legitimate or not, making genres […]

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Roll on, Bob

 

bob-dylanBob Dylan is among the most lauded people ever to walk the earth. From the moment he entered the American popular imagination as a 21-year-old waif in 1962, he was called genius, prophet, seer, shapeshifter, myth, legend—though as he once cheekily remarked at a press conference, he considers himself more of a song-and-dance man. Song-and-dance men don’t get Nobel Prizes, do they?

Words are what Dylan is best known for, and literature is made of words, so the committee that awarded him the Nobel Prize for Literature Thursday probably thought that it could get away with a little fudging. But anyone who appreciates Dylan knows that he is more than the words. He is the sound, the look, the attitude, and, above all, the enigma. Whether dressed as a boxcar hobo and singing songs for Woody Guthrie, or in his mid-sixties persona as the Midwestern Rimbaud, or in his current guise as a riverboat gambler, Dylan has always been more than just words. Fingerpicking his guitar alone on a stool, strumming a Stratocaster while fronting the Band, or crooning his crooked voice into an old-timey microphone, Dylan himself has always been the hook on the end of the fishing line. The words are just the worm.

So what explains this madness? The Nobel Committee may be looking forward to a Dylan acceptance speech. His last public-speaking engagement was an unqualified hoot. Accepting the MusicCares Person of the Year 2015 Award, Dylan described his songs as “mystery plays, the kind Shakespeare saw when he was growing up.” He also took time to settle scores with songwriters Leiber and Stoller, Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun, and country legend Merle Haggard. He reserved his most pointed words for the critics.

My Belated Book Report on The Brothers Karamazov

 

The Brothers Karamazov is Fyodor Dostoevsky’s final masterpiece. It offers superb characterization, psychological depth and insight; intrigue, murder, and suspense; great daubs of humor, both madcap broadsides and satirical with a capital slice; that never-ending, cyclonical struggle between faith and reason; a sublimely Slavic melange of love, lust, deception, betrayal, violence, flight, revenge, apostasy, and redemption—capped off by a court trial scene that overrules Perry Mason and, in the renowned chapter The Grand Inquisitor, a full-court press by an impassioned Hierarch against Jesus’ abandonment of mankind to a terrifying freedom and overwhelming spiritual responsibility it neither wanted nor could manage that alone is worth the price of the book.

All right, I didn’t write the paragraph above (stole it from here), but it’s similar to what I would have cribbed from my CliffsNotes had I spent high school reading classics instead of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and the D&D Monster Manual. A few years back I decided to make up for my literature deficit by reading at least one classic a year. Liked Moby Dick, loved The Kalevala, and 2016 was the year I’d finally read the book that smart people have told me to read for decades, The Brothers Karamazov. So what did I think of this, the greatest Russian novel ever written?

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I thought this one might be of interest to the Ricochetti. Some of you, especially James Bond fans, probably know the story, but, here, I examine one of the most infamous and protracted intellectual-property battles in entertainment history. The war over the rights to Bond—specifically, the story and script for Thunderball—took over half a century to […]

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Accidentally Conservative

 

Serenity was written by a flaming hippie. Yet the ultimate conflict is pitch perfect for tyrannical governments trying to remake human nature. Sure, the film is blemished by a preacher who doesn’t care about God, but there’s a nugget of good sense even in that scene.

“You don’t know what it’s like to work in the private sector. They expect results.” This was from a star of Saturday Night Live, for crying out loud! If you don’t recognize the quote, I will forgive you … eventually.

The Privilege Is Nothing; It’s the Entitlement That Counts

 

heathermacIf you haven’t already, take a few minutes to listen to Jay Nordlinger’s Q & A interview with Heather Mac Donald regarding the sad state of affairs at Yale University and on the importance of humanities, when taught properly. Mac Donald also made a potent — and much-overlooked — point that having the opportunity and the means to study for four years at a residential college under the tutelage of dedicated scholars and teachers is the height of privilege. To make academic demands on such professors regarding matters of which you are (almost by definition) ignorant of is arrogance of the worst kind.

The irony of the matter is that it’s hard to imagine a group of people more obsessed with hunting-down privilege and more blind to their sense of entitlement than modern college students. Privilege has no moral content: It’s neither good nor bad, but simply something people have to varying degrees, and in varying ways. If one realizes that one is privileged, the proper response is to be grateful and humble and (ideally) see it as an obligation toward others. In contrast, entitlement — the belief that one is owed something (perhaps, a privilege) — is almost always toxic and the only valid response is to drop it immediately.

That the world is filled with injustice, suffering, and despair is nothing new (a fact that great literature can reinforce). That so many of us are so relatively free of such things should be seen as a privilege that — depending on your teleology — we’re either blessed or fortunate enough to have. None of us are entitled to it and we should act accordingly.