:::this is the way the world ends:::

Category: Books (Page 1 of 5)

This Hit Me of Late


In the Attic by Seamus Heaney


Like Jim Hawkins aloft in the crosstrees

Of Hispaniola, nothing underneath him

But still green water and clean bottom sand,

The ship aground, the canted mast far out

Above a seafloor where striped fish pass in shoals—

And when they’ve passed, the face of Israel Hands

That rose in the shrouds before Jim shot him dead

Appears to rise again . . . “But he was dead enough,”

The story says, “being both shot and drowned.”


A birch tree planted twenty years ago

Comes between the Irish Sea and me

At the attic skylight, a man marooned

In his own loft, a boy

Shipshaped in the crow’s nest of a life,

Airbrushed to and fro, wind-drunk, braced

By all that’s thrumming up from keel to masthead,

Rubbing his eyes to believe them and this most

Buoyant, billowy, topgallant birch.


Ghost-footing what was then the terra firma

Of hallway linoleum, Grandfather now appears

Above me just back from the matinée,

His voice awaver like the draft-prone screen

They’d set up in the Club Rooms earlier.

“And Isaac Hands,” he asks, “was Isaac in it?”

His memory of the name awaver, too,

His mistake perpetual, once and for all,

Like the single splash when Israel’s body fell.


As I age and blank on names,

As my uncertainty on stairs

Is more and more the light-headedness

Of a cabin boy’s first time on the rigging,

As the memorable bottoms out

Into the irretrievable,

It’s not that I can’t imagine still

That slight untoward rupture and world-tilt

As a wind freshened and the anchor weighed.

Just Because I Love It

I have desired to go
Where springs not fail,
To fields where flies no sharp and sided hail
And a few lilies blow.
And I have asked to be
Where no storms come,
Where the green swell is in the havens dumb,
And out of the swing of the sea.


Perhaps a Last Go Around with Potter

I managed to see the final installment of the Harry Potter films last night, and figured that nothing has lit up the blog in the past quite like debating Potter, the books, the films, the cultural relevance of the series. So, why not employ the Resurrection Stone and bring this conversation back.

I’ll let this general subject stand, and comment below with hope to hear some of you chime in, if you’ve seen the new move or not.

Recurring Themes

Last night I came home late. Sara informed me the kids were asleep. When I went to kiss them goodnight, Eliot was missing from his bed. I found him in our bed with the reading lamp on and this in his hands.



Decade’s Books

Book Handwritten

This should be a lively discussion…the quantity of books published in the last decade, and amount of time invested in reading them means there will be far less “shared” time with the same books as our fellow Hollow Men.

Amazon Kindle

Not Jeff's Kindle I got one. Anyone else? Care to muse and discuss? In this early stage with it, I’m finding the Kindle surprisingly readable and fun. In its way, it’s making reading "new." At the same time, I find myself gravitating toward nonfiction with it, rather than the more traditionally "literary" genres of fiction and (certainly) poetry. Maybe I’m used to seeking out information on a screen, and so nonfiction feels more comfortable in that format. In any case, it’s been an interesting Christmas gift…


Thanks, JE, for hosting Amanda and me last weekend. We had a wonderful time and were thoroughly inundated with artistic inspirations at every turn. I left with more motivation to return to my artistic nature than I have felt in a super long time, it was good for my soul. I would like to incorporate one of my current creative thoughts/challenges with the group. My proposal is that we craft a worthy children’s story with animation, a good message/lesson (perhaps like a fable) that would be timeless in nature and be something that our children would incorporate into their lives and share with their children. I recognize the huge undertaking here, but I think we definately have the talent between the lot of us to put something together. I have seen middle school projects where their work has been made into quality hardback form. Perhaps we could find something like this and have nicely bound copies that could be in each of our homes. I would think the logical place to start would be with the story’s arc and outline. I would like to extend this challenge to each of you. I would really like to be able to share the collective wisdom of our friendships with my child/children. So, who’s with me? Any thoughts about characters and stories?

On a second note- I am going to do some work on a graphic novel (semi-inspired by Maus) based on a character I will call Promi the Squirell, who steals a flaming marshmallow from a suburban fire pit. My initial sketches ceertainly aren’t of the caliber of Ned’s but, whacha gonna do?

Speaking of new narrative forms

Intergalactic Nemesis

Peters may remember a friend of mine by the name of Jason Neulander, then Artistic Director of Salvage Vanguard Theater.  For the last decade or so he has been working on-again-off-again on The Intergalactic Nemesis.   It started as a radio show, then live performance, then comic book, and now live performance/comic book/online serial?

The Intergalactic Nemesis is obviously pulpy but I think you all will find it interesting.  And I think that more meaningful work could be (and probably has been) done in this cross media format.  Anyway I’m looking forward to the live performance.

Check it out if you have time.

Keeping Up With

Eliot came home a couple of weeks ago and all of the sudden read me a book. It was quite a moment for me as you can imagine. We’re reading the Tale of Despereaux, which is better than the movie.

I just finished reading a book of essays by Wendell Berry, entitled, The Way of Ignorance (I got it for Christmas, unfortuantely, I didn’t get Life is a Miracle). One of the most interesting articles is by Courtney White on the revitalization of the western wild (his essay was included with Berry’s). I like Berry when he talks about farming, politics, and ecology. When he talks about writing and gets more philosophical, not so much. I also am enjoying Shaun Tan’s new series of illustrated stories, entitled, Tales from Outer Suburbia.

I enjoyed seeing Amanda and Peters over the break and speaking briefly with Toby. J.E., your package arrived and the ornament is quite striking. The kids were very excited. Shotts, I hope to get to the cities once the snow melts and see that little guy. It’s freezing up here. Hope you all had good holidays.

A Few Good Hours

Over the last few weeks, I viewed the films Persepolis and Sweetland. I would highly recommend them both. They are very different films but both excellently conceived and executed lower budget projects. Both films are also slightly and refreshingly understated by today’s standards. I also just finished Rebecca Solnit’s “River of Shadows: Eadward Mubridge and the Technological Wild West” which is a tremendous whirlwind of a cultural/political/art history narrative. I’m also still hoping that J.E. will post some of those sketches he was doing.

Atonement (The Book) and Other Books and Movies, and Ideas, etc.

1) I have read Atonement now. The book is different than the movie, the latter part being significantly different. I feel that it is more baffling than the movie too. I’m not sure what to make of it.

I feel that McEwan is making a statement about how certain behaviors can not be made right in life. To that I agree, one can not go back and change the decisions one has made, for better or worse we are bound by time; and I think in the most catholic sense, we can not atone for such choices. But in a larger sense, I feel that we can change. We learn from our mistakes, and we are changed by regret. I think there is something in this, maybe not equal to atonement, but very valuable nonetheless.

The ending of the book (radically more complex than the movie) confused me. SPOIILER ALERT: Briony’s character does not seem to be aware that her exposing of the rape and shaming others will not, in fact, bring about any kind of resolution or “atonement” for her own earlier actions. This is sad if nothing else.

But then, with the references to an author being like God and that there can be no atonement for God or authors because they can bend reality however they want to, I sort of lost him and what he was trying to say about life or fiction or atonement. The book certainly leaves your thoughts running in circles as to what fiction is and what a story is.

2) I also recently finished John Berger’s new book of essays. The essays are more political than many of his past and there is less about art. I think I prefer his book Shape of a Pocket. But I am glad to have read these new essays, especially a couple of them.

3) I am now in the middle of two books, Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny by Robert Wright, and The Book of the Dun Cow by Walter Wangerin Jr. (winner of the 1978 National Book Award), which is a fantasy influneced by Chaucer, Milton, and other cultural fables and myths.

As far as the Wright book goes I still think, as I did with the Moral Animal, that he takes too long developing his arguments, but I am enjoying it. It is interesting that he brings up some ideas of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, the somewhat nonconventional Catholic monk/paleontologist/anthropologist who I happened to be reading when I was reading the Moral Animal. He focuses especially on de Chardin’s idea of society as a brain or organism and the more we unite and connect, the more we resemble the evolution of a complex organism. Maybe this simply prooves deChardin’s famous concept that “everything that rises, must converge.” Of course, he dismisses de Chardin’s mystical aspects. I appreciate the breadth of Wright’s writing, all of the sources he brings in.

I should have time to read this week (as Sara is leaving for a weekend with her sisters) but not much, since I need to be painting my ass off.

4) Next on my list is River of Shadows by Rebecca Solnit, just in case anybody actually reads this far into my post.

5) I also read an interesting article about Dark Energy and Dark Matter in the New York Times on Tuesday.

6) And it looks like it is shaping up to be Obama. Hope he picks a good running partner.

7) I saw the Golden Compass. The actress they chose for Lyra was great, but the movie actually felt lighter, less dark and less urgent than the book. It will be interesting to see if they make the next two.

8) I also managed to see Prince Caspian, which I thoroughly enjoyed. There is a scene where they attack Prince Miraz’s castle that is really visually rich and seems to spell out a subtle lesson of pre-emptive warfare that is relevant to our times. The movie is perhaps almost embarrassingly satisfying, but maybe I didn’t mind that so much in this instance. I was happy just having fun.

9) Of course, I felt a little guilty. Eliot and I are reading the Narnia series together, and he has been swinging a sword and shield I made for him for a costume party, pretending to be Peter the knight. So when he discovered I had seen the movie, he was full of questions about Peter… and about when he gets to see it…

10) Just thought this post was long enough to constitute ten items.

Atonement (The movie)

Sara and I managed to get out for a brief evening for my birthday (my Jesus year is over). We had a nice dinner and went to see Atonement.

Things I liked about the film:
1) It is really quite subtle and actually relies entirely at certain points on the actors ability to communicate simply through expressions and body language.
2) The visuals are strong, both beautiful and repelling.
3) The chronology and storytelling are engaging (though even I haven’t read the book it is obvious there was some chopping of details).
4) Its ending makes you think and reflect about its themes quite effectively, forgiveness, judgment, the imagination, class, etc.

Things I wonder about:
1) I am familiar with only one other story by McEwan, Black Dogs. I like Atonement better. Both stories rely on a rape as a central part of the plot. Even though this may even have metaphorical implications beyond traditional plot devices, it struck me as a bit strange.

Maybe those of you who have read more McEwan can comment. I wondered about this because Atonement seems to be about reality versus fiction and the power of fiction to redeem real life mistakes. Any thoughts on this?

I will say that we both thought the movie was a powerful and dramatic story. Just that one thing came up in our discussion.

Steven Pinker

Pinker has a quite good article in the NY Times.

There isn’t too much new there, but it offers a good overview of some of the ideas of Moral Psychology and relates them to issues of the environment at the end.

I’m glad that he brings up Peter Singer’s idea of the expanding circle of reciprocal trust and action. He once again dismisses religion by saying that Plato did away with it 2,400 years ago, which again, seems a bit odd, but the article has a lot of good info.

It does seem funny that these guys keep insisting that “love thy neighbor as thy self” is the ultimate moral concept, but keep dismissing religion. Oh well.

Here’s the link if you guys get a chance. It’s about eight pages; so probably takes about fifteen minutes to read.

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