The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind

bob-dylan-nobel-prize-cartoon


For those who endorse awarding Bob Dylan the Nobel Prize in Literature, the question might be: Why did the Swedish Academy wait so long? For those who oppose: A songwriter?

But there is never an expiration date on the acknowledgment of excellence, and Mr. Dylan is much more than a songwriter. One may quarrel that the award delays what appears to be the inevitable recognition by the academy of novelists Haruki Murakami and Philip Roth, among others, or that a composer for musical theater like Stephen Sondheim is the place to begin if songs are considered literature. But no one who knows Mr. Dylan’s work and its impact on his and subsequent generations of authors and composers can dispute its high quality.

To the point of whether the words to songs comprise literature: It is the rare lyric that can stand on its own without the rhythm the music provides. The irony of assessing Mr. Dylan’s words absent the accompaniment is that he changed popular music by discovering and then exploring, repeatedly and often magnificently, new ways to set distinctive narratives to melody and rhythm as in “Mr. Tambourine Man” or “Like a Rolling Stone.” There is no comparable body of work, regardless of standard of measurement, by any other artist of the rock era.

~ Jim Fusilli, excerpt from Yes, Bob Dylan Deserves the Nobel Prize


Notes:

Where am I heading?

photography,portrait,

It’s incredible how one runs about frantically at times like a rat in a maze, not really knowing right from wrong (and often really not caring), victim of one’s own passions and instincts rather than master of one’s own soul. I suppose the proper thing to do is just to stop every now and then and say, Where am I heading? Actually, though I’m still much like the psychologist’s rat, I find myself asking myself that question almost too often. I suppose the very fact that I realize my indulgence in too much introspection is another sign (I hope) of maturity. Too much brooding is unhealthy and, although I still have my slumps, I’ve begun to realize that one of the great secrets is striking a balance between thought and action… Living, acting, thinking; not just vegetating neurotically, on one hand, or blundering about, on the other hand, like so many people do, like trapped flies. It’s a hard balance to strike, but I think it can be done, and that in this exciting-sorrowful age of ours it can make great literature.

~ William Styron, 1967 Pulitzer Prize winner, in a letter to his Father in 1949


Quote Source: Brainpickings. Photo: ei-ka-dan

Smell it. Ohio Soil. Humus.

old-book-smell_5

Spent the day in Cambridge Library.

The Library a wilderness of books. The volumes of the Fifteenth, Sixteenth, and Seventeenth Centuries, which lie so near on the shelf, are rarely opened, are effectually forgotten and not implied by our literature and newspapers. When I looked into Purchas’s Pilgrims, it affected me like looking into an impassable swamp, ten feet deep with sphagnum, where the monarchs of the forest, covered with mosses and stretched along the ground, were making haste to become peat. Those old books suggested a certain fertility, an Ohio soil, as if they were making a humus for new literatures to spring in. I heard the bellowing of bullfrogs and the hum of mosquitoes reverberating through the thick embossed covers when I had closed the book. Decayed literature makes the richest of all soils.

~ Henry David Thoreau, Journal of Henry David Thoreau, 1837-1861


Source: Brainpickings

Your writings have fundamentally changed me. For the better, Marilynne. I believe that.

Marilynne_Robinson

She’s at the top of my list of favorite authors. Marilynne Robinson, the Pulitzer Prize Winning novelist (Housekeeping; Gilead; Home), was interviewed by Wyatt Mason in an article titled The Revelations of Marilynne Robinson. Her new book Lila is coming out this week. Here’s a few excerpts from a yet another enlightening experience with the author:

[…] For Robinson, writing is not a craft; it is “testimony,” a bearing witness: an act that demands much of its maker, not least of which is the courage to reveal what one loves.

[…] A photo of her granddaughter sits on the living-room mantle, adjoining a pop-up Christmas card from the Obama White House, where last year she received a National Humanities Medal. (In his remarks that day to the honorees, the president said: “Your writings have fundamentally changed me, . . . I think for the better. Marilynne, . . . I believe that.”)

[…] The novel (Lila) confirms many things, not least of which is how Robinson’s work is unified by her belief in a sacred world whose wonders we have difficulty opening ourselves to, both privately and publicly.

[…] “Being and human beings,” Robinson told me, “are invested with a degree of value that we can’t honor appropriately. An overabundance that is magical.”

Don’t miss the full interview here by Wyatt Mason: The Revelations of Marilynne Robinson.


Book reviews on Lila: A Novel:

  • The Independent: Lila: A Moving Journey From Poverty to Happiness. “…the human story dominates, resulting in a book that leaves the reader feeling what can only be called exaltation.”
  • The New York Times: “Lila: Moral of the Story.” “…is not so much a novel as a meditation on morality and psychology, compelling in its frankness about its truly shocking subject: the damage to the human personality done by poverty, neglect and abandonment.”

Robinson’s new book is scheduled for release on October 7th on Amazon: Lila: A Novel by Marilynne Robinson


Credits: Marilynne Robinson Portrait: The Independent

Why Books Matter

books,read,reading,distraction,

I finished this book last night. I don’t recall another book packing such a punch at the finish.

“I felt myself enter Fitzgerald’s language, felt its lilt, its music, carry me away.”

Right book.
Right place.
Right time.

I’ve included the closing five paragraphs below. If you want to avoid a spoiler, stop here and go pick up David Ulin’s book:

David L. Ulin. The Lost Art of Reading: Why Books Matter in a Distracted Time. (Sasquatch Books. 2010)

[Read more…]

Hmmmmmm

read-book

Why, it might be asked, does literature have to have a business at all? Is it not sufficient that it give pleasure, convey information, widen experience, provide flashes of insight? One reads the world’s finest novels, plays, poems, and in time one becomes a more cultivated person, which means somehow more refined, subtler, deeper, possibly even—though this might be pushing it—better. You are what you read; and culture, like heredity and cheap paint, rubs off.

~ Joseph Epstein, A Literary Education and Other Essays. Axios Press.

 


Notes: Image Source – Distant Passion


 

 

 

Lit Boy

John-VandeZande

I’ve reached the half-way mark of Updike, a biography on John Updike written by Adam Begley.  I pause to reflect on how I arrived here.  “Here” being how did I come to be reading John Updike’s biography.  Yes, it was Amazon’s Best Book of the Month for April, 2014. That helped, but that wasn’t it.  It was that man in the photograph that is responsible.  John VandeZande.

It was an undergraduate elective class titled “Good Books.” It was highly recommended by my senior jock buddies: “Just show up, read a few books and you’re done.”  I signed up for the class. I sat in the back of the room.  And hoped never to get called on.

He would assign Hemingway, Faulkner, Joyce, Steinbeck and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Updike, in his biography, would describe them as “textual titans.” At the time, I would describe them as literary unknowns – – DK, a lover of Hardy Boys who then graduated to the genres of Jeffrey Archer (Kane & Abel), James Clavell (Shogun & Tai Pan) and Stephen King – – was being heaved up into the major leagues.  I slumped further down in my chair at the back of the room.

He would break the awkwardness of the early classes by reading long passages from the assigned readings. He would sit on the edge of his desk.  The book in his right hand.  And then immerse himself in the passage. There were no pencils tapping. There was no shifting in chairs.  We were gently transported with him on the journey.

He struck the match. And stoked the fire. And I went on a tear.  First Hemingway with The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms, For Whom The Bell Tolls, The Old Man and the Sea. Then Faulkner with The Sound and the Fury, As I Lay Dying, Light in August and Absalom, Absalom!. Followed by John Steinbeck with The Grapes of Wrath, Of Mice and Men, Cannery Row and East of Eden.  And then John Updike with Rabbit, Run, Rabbit Redux and Rabbit Is Rich.  And to this day, my serial runs on “Textual Titans” continues. (In Begley’s biography of Updike, Updike explained that: “A real reader,” he explained, “reading to escape his own life thoroughly, tends to have runs on authors.” That had my head spinning.)

[Read more…]

Where can I put it down?

anne-carson

You remember too much,
my mother said to me recently.
Why hold onto all that?
And I said,
Where can I put it down?

Anne Carson, excerpt from “The Glass Essay


Anne Carson, 63, is a Canadian poet, essayist, translator and professor of Classics. She was born in Toronto.  She is known for her supreme erudition—Merkin called her “one of the great pasticheurs”—Carson’s poetry can also be heart-breaking and she regularly writes on love, desire, sexual longing and despair.  She taught at McGill University, the University of Michigan, and at Princeton University. She was a Guggenheim Fellow and was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship. A high-school encounter with a Latin instructor, who agreed to teach her ancient Greek over the lunch hour, led to her passionate embrace of classical and Ancient Greek classical literature, influences which mark her work still. She teaches ancient Greek and she frequently references, modernizes, and translates Ancient Greek literature. She has published eighteen books as of 2013, all of which blend the forms of poetry, essay, prose, criticism, translation, dramatic dialogue, fiction, and non-fiction. (Sources: Wiki & The Poetry Foundation)

Another favorite Anne Carson quote: “What is a Quote?


Sources: Quote: Larmoyante. Portrait: Book Review. Find this poem: Glass, Irony & God

I kept calling to you, and you did not come

sky-clouds-ocean-aerial

I imagine that God speaks to me, saying simply,
‘I kept calling to you, and you did not come.’
And I answer quite naturally,
‘I couldn’t come until I knew
there was nowhere else to go.’

~ Florida Scott Maxwell, The Measure of My Days


Florida Pier Scott-Maxwell (1883 – 1979) was a playwright, author and psychologist. Florida Pier was born in Orange Park, Florida, and educated at home until the age of ten. She grew up in Pittsburgh, then moved to New York at age 15 to become an actress. In 1910 she married John Scott Maxwell and moved to her husband’s native Scotland, where she worked for women’s suffrage and as a playwright. The couple divorced in 1929 and she moved to London. In 1933 she studied Jungian psychology under Carl Jung and practised as an analytical psychologist in both England and Scotland. Her most famous book is The Measure of My Days (1968).


Sources: Poem – Thank you Make Believe Boutique. Photograph: Sundog In the Sky by Lechef Photography.


Light and sound poured in

Vonnegut
To the as-yet unborn,
to all innocent wisps of undifferentiated nothingness:
Watch out for life.
I have caught life.
I have come down with life.
I was a wisp of undifferentiated nothingness,
and then a little peephole opened quite suddenly.
Light and sound poured in.
Voices began to describe me and my surroundings.
Nothing they said could be appealed.
They never shut up.

– Kurt Vonnegut


Image Source: ike. Poem: Thank you WhiskeyRiver

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