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Nearly impossible adventures in literature, cinema, & robust conservative thought!

I read too much, watch too many movies, and think far too much about politics... All of which means that in my daily life I'm bouncing between odd points of interest from moment to moment in a sort of cosmic pinball machine. So save yourself a little time--I'll cull these experiences for the best bits and present them here for your edification and amusement. Adam - July 2004

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Say goodbye to ignorance... get informed on DHMO!

Check out this site and its information on Dihydrogen Monoxide and the government's whitewashing of the current situation... plus implications regarding the environment, cancer, and the dairy industry!

Friday, March 31, 2006

the graphic novels of Doug TenNapel

Sometime in the past 4 or 5 years my 20-year love of graphic novels and the comic book medium just withered and died, going pretty much unnoticed and unmourned. I still have some 2000 comic books bagged and boxed in my closet, but I rarely even think about them anymore. This sudden loss of interest must have had something to do with subtle changes in the comic book market. I had continued buying comics past adolescence largely because the medium seemed to “grow up” with me. Suddenly there were outlets for edgy (but thankfully not also smutty - since that often seems to go hand-in-hand with avant-garde comics) in places like DC’s Vertigo line and the Image Comics label. But in the late 90s there were some changes that hit me hard. Neil Gaiman left the medium to write novels. Alan Moore began doing stuff that was more glossy & less edgy. Things like that. And eventually I was left with a few small enthusiasms… like Mike Mignola’s Hellboy stories, which were always few and slow to come.

Well, last week I learned about Doug TenNapel: musician, animator, filmmaker, and creator of Earthworm Jim. TenNapel is also a conservative guy with a wonderful, active blog. And he’s a fellow admirer of historian and military pundit Victor Davis Hanson - hurrah!

In the past few days I’ve read TenNapel’s three most recent graphic novels: Creature Tech (2002), Tommysaurus Rex (2004), and Earthboy Jacobus (2005) – each published by either Image Comics or Top Shelf. All three are very interesting books. Both the story and the art are very distinctive, and all the books have a healthy dose of fantasy, humor and grounded, conservative ethics. While it’s as common as dirt to find comic book creators who have a bone to pick with religion, it feels almost shocking (and refreshingly so) to find TenNapel boldly picking a bone or two with liberal secularism. It’s also exciting to see that TenNapel’s work has drawn enthusiastic raves from people like Mike Mignola (creator of Hellboy), film director Guillemro del Toro (Cronos, Hellboy, Pan's Labyrinth), and Jeff Smith (creator of Bone). Okay, okay - true, TenNapel is no Jack Chick, but who among us is?

My favorite of the graphic novels was Creature Tech, and it seemed completely natural when I learned that the story had been picked up as a film project by 20th Century Fox and Regency Enterprises. It’s a very film-able, film-worthy book. The story goes something like this. 150 years ago a madman in the California wilderness tried combining science and the occult to summon a creature from the depths of space. While the attempt failed, the plan gets a second chance in modern-day California when Dr. Michael Ong - a young, hotshot scientist - takes over management of a place the locals call Creature Tech, an institute housing the government’s 700+ crates of paranormal phenomena. The story also includes the Shroud of Turin, a really cool lifesaving parasite, the odd slugbeast, a man-sized mantis named “Blue,” a church picnic, and lots of demon cats! And you’ve got to love the dialogue here. Stuff like:

“Now that I have spent my fortune on a laboratory in the wilderness, swapped hands with a demon, and called a giant space eel to Earth, perhaps they won’t think I’m crazy after all!!!”



VDH, still holding the line (brilliantly) as Iraq War apologist

First he shows you the lies, then he goes into detail on these lazy-brain smear-job points. As I've said before... wherever Hanson goes, he's the biggest brain in the room.

When Cynicism Meets Fanaticism:
Critiquing the critique of the war in Iraq.

Opponents of the war in Iraq, both original critics and the mea culpa recent converts, have made eight assumptions. The first six are wrong, the last two still unsettled.

1. Saddam was never connected to al Qaeda, the perpetrators of 9/11.
2. There was no real threat of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.
3. The United Nations and our allies were justifiably opposed on principle to the invasion.
4. A small cabal of neoconservative (and mostly Jewish) intellectuals bullied the administration into a war that served Israel’s interest more than our own.
5. Saddam could not be easily deposed, or at least he could not be successfully replaced with a democratic government.
6. The architects of this war and the subsequent occupation are mostly inept (“dangerously incompetent”) — and are exposed daily as clueless by a professional cadre of disinterested journalists.
7. In realist terms, the benefits to be gained from the war will never justify the costs incurred.
8. We cannot win.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Dune & freedom

Here's a great quote from the appendices of Frank Herbert's novel Dune. The quote comes from the character Pardot Kynes, the planetary ecologist of Arrakis and father of Liet Kynes (for those of you who have only seen the film, Liet is the Max von Sydow character). I think there are some really interesting implications here about the tension between security and the modern West's ideal of unbounded individual freedom--and, by extension, things like airport checks, government surveillance, the Patriot Act, etc...

"Beyond a critical point within a finite space, freedom diminishes as numbers increase. This is as true of humans in the finite space of a planetary ecosystem as it is of gas molecules in a sealed flask. The human question is not how many can possibly survive within the system, but what kind of existence is possible for those who do survive."

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Dugpa is your resource for Lynch/Twin Peaks info!

Once again the Europeans are getting Lynch stuff before the fans in his own country. Dugpa has the scoop:

"The awesome website, has an interesting article about a Twin Peaks promotional image that is up on the Paramount Press site. While it's no secret that Paramount plans on releasing Season 2 on DVD, the big questions are "When?" and "How will the quality compare to the Artisan Season 1 Boxed Set?" Well, previously we were told that Lynch would not be able to begin doing the transfers until he is finished with mixing Inland Empire, which won't be for another month or two I would guess. Interesting enough, I received an email today letting me know that according to the German "DVD-Magazin" (Issue 03/06 April, page 77) the Season 2 DVD Set of Twin Peaks RC2 will be released in Germany on June 1st. 2006, with reports that they are going to release all 22 Episodes of Season 2 in one set and not split in as it had been stated earlier."

the Disney animated features

Here's a nice, chronological list of the Disney animated feature films. Sure, it hasn't been updated in a couple years, but that's okay by me. I'm realizing that most of the Disney films I'd like to own someday (just for my daughter, right?) ends after The Fox and the Hound (1981), with only a couple of exceptions. There was just a special magic about the earlier Disney films, and this annotated list is such a great resource!

Click here for The List!

Monday, March 27, 2006

Part 2 : fright, disgust, etc.

“The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” Matthew 6:22-23

“All things are lawful for me, but not all things are beneficial. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be dominated by anything.” 1 Corinthians 6:12

What follows are some further thoughts on this issue of fright, disgust, and the modern tale of terror.

Nothing is more common today in popular films and novels than finding a storyteller using sexuality to titillate or using violence to tease our primitive instinct for aggression. And interestingly enough, the lowbrow perversity of contemporary entertainment has its roots in the elitist art movements of late 19th century Europe - the Decadence, fin de siècle, and Aesthetic movements - in which art was set against (and above) nature and morality. The Decadence movement was the bridge between Romanticism (to which it was partly a reaction against) and Modernism. Writers who typified the Decadence scene were Charles Baudelaire, Joris-Karl Huysman, and Oscar Wilde.

Decadence is the extreme result of an over-prosperous society in which an aristocracy and an elite art class are so isolated from the basic necessities of life and the sort of communal interdependence shared by the lower classes, that they are actually able to celebrate “art for art’s sake” as well as immorality, pain and misery. One literary outgrowth of Decadence was the conte cruel, the “cruel tale,” a precursor to one facet of the modern horror genre. The conte cruel is a story in which fate plays a cat-and-mouse game with the protagonist, finally killing him off only when he believes he might be spared.

The influence of Decadence and literary phenomena like the conte cruel can be readily seen in today’s entertainment world. However, now this taste for immorality, cruelty, and violence has been democratized. The entertainment industry has enshrined it as a right (perhaps even a duty), and it is something the consumer demands. This is a worrying trend, as John Gardner notes in his book On Moral Fiction:

“We would not put up with a debauched king, but in a democracy all of us are kings, and we praise debauchery as pluralism. This book is of course no condemnation of pluralism; but it is true that art is in one sense fascistic: it claims, on good authority, that some things are healthy for individuals and society and some things are not.”

However, as previously noted, Flannery O’Connor has also made the case for using disturbing matter for a moral purpose in stories. And we allow artists their use of extreme matter on certain conditions because, of course, there is an actual (if unspoken) contract between artist and audience, when the artist is a serious one. We - if we, likewise, are a serious audience - expect such an artist never simply to titillate or feed our lower instincts. We expect this artist never to apply cruelty, either to character or audience, as an end in itself. Such an artist will always allow his suffering character - and audience - a portion of dignity. Moreover, we expect the artist never to place himself above the suffering he describes; we must believe he feels a fellowship with the sufferer.

True, artists that work this way are rare today. However, they can be found in the classics, the Great Books. The stories of Flannery O’Connor show her to be such an artist. Dostoyevsky’s novels show him to be another. We even find these artists occasionally in modern genre fiction; Stephen R. Donaldson’s The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever is a series of fantasy novels that is one of my favorite examples of this. It may be even more difficult to find contemporary film directors that deal honorably - and in a consistent way - with extreme subject matter, since they are tied to an economy of non-artistic pressures and are also exposed to the incessant, numbing chatter of our popular culture. Still, certain directors do follow reliable, inner, aesthetic guidelines and, as a result, often (but not always) get things right.

On a personal note, I confess that though I am very interested in the horror genre, I can read very little of what is written today, and most of the horror films in existence leave me cold. Much of this has to do with decadent influences and the purposeless use of violence, perversion and cruelty.

As a final point, I must say that the films and stories that have most frightened me are also ones that I can’t recommend to many people. How can I be sure that a person, without knowing him or her extremely well, would be able to endure and benefit from such a thing? To me, it seems almost pure chance that I’ve stumbled onto the literary resources that have increased my “digestive capability” for such stories - Gardner’s On Moral Fiction, Robert Bly's A Little Book on the Human Shadow, Flannery O’Connor’s essays, interviews and lectures, etc. And I’m not even certain that I am truly able to take only the good away from these things. Also, recommending disturbing and frightening films is something to be undertaken with extreme caution, but how can one even willy-nilly recommend, say, Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, Flannery O’Connor’s “A View of the Woods,” or Charles Williams’ Descent into Hell ?

Still, if there’s one thing I know of that is worth considering in relation to this topic, it is the following passage from John Milton’s Areopagitica, written while his fellow Parliamentarians were instituting a major censorship order during the English Civil War:

"He that can apprehend and consider vice with all her baits and seeming pleasures, and yet abstain and yet distinguish, and yet prefer that which is truly better, he is the true wayfaring Christian. I cannot praise a fugitive and cloister'd virtue, unexcersied and unbreathed, that never sallies out and sees her adversary, but slinks out of the race, where that immortal garland is to be run for, not without dust and heat. Assuredly we bring not innocence into the world, we bring impurity much rather; that which purifies us is trial, and trial is by what is contrary. That virtue therefore which is but a youngling in the contemplation of evil, and knows not the utmost that vice promises to her followers, and rejects it, is but a blank virtue, not a pure; her whiteness is but an excremental whiteness"

Ray Harryhausen coming to Seattle next week

Check it out at the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

BBC radio broadcasts horror story from Zimbabwe author

Talking corpses bemoan the poor treatment in a third world morgue...

"Life In A Morgue" by Stanley Makuwe. Read by Lucian Msamati.

"'If things go on like this, we will march on the streets,' says the young and thunderous voice. 'We can mobilize all the other bodies in the all other morgues. We have to speak with one voice. Our ancestors said, "One finger cannot kill lice." Just imagine: all the dead bodies marching on the streets demanding fair treatment in morgues.' Huge applause. 'If we start our own opposition party, we can easily win elections. Just like that. In this part of the world, there are more dead people than there are living ones. If all the dead bodies vote, we can win. Our leaders intimidate, mutilate, and kill the hapless and the poor. And when they can’t handle it anymore, they blame the West.' More huge applause."

Friday, March 24, 2006

The Fallen Idol @ The Varsity this week!

Seattle-area folks, check this out. The Varsity Theatre is playing one of my favorites this week, The Fallen Idol (1948), a Carol Reed adaptation of a Graham Greene story. Greene considered this the best film adaptation of any of his work, and I have to agree that the quality of this film exceeds even Greene's two other fine collaborations with Reed in The Third Man and Our Man in Havana.

disgust, fright & Flannery O'Connor

Nate Bell, in a recent discussion thread on his blog, mentions the difference between films that scare you and films that disturb you in some deep way. As someone interested in dark fantasy – both in film and in literature – I’ve run into this idea a number of times, and just now I’m starting to form some larger ideas around the issue. . . mostly with the aid of Flannery O’Connor.

First, I think a story that delivers a “scare” has gone beyond the point of disturbance. Yet disturbance holds within it the essence of horror. A scare results in visceral alarm, while a disturbance, taken no farther, leads simply to “upset.” To disturb is to cause ripples on a previously calm surface, but to scare is to shock an individual and cause him to grasp about frantically with the aim of finding some firm footing and recovering a sense of balance.

All members of an audience will draw their personal lines as to how much “disturbance” they will accept in their entertainment or their art, and will draw similar lines concerning what subjects they will allow a storyteller to fool about with, jostling taboos as they go. However, I’m convinced that when we walk out on a film, or put down a book never to pick it up again, it will be with a different attitude depending on whether what we feel is disturbance or fright. Disturbance, taken to its extreme, leads to disgust, and we flee the story in question with an attitude of moral indignation and repulsion. When frightened, though, we flee the story sensing a need for self-preservation - we flee for our sanity’s sake, somehow believing we simply cannot endure more. This preoccupation with our own security is so total that it allows little room for anything else, and, as a result, a minor emotion like disgust suddenly appears a luxury.

Beginning, then, with this idea that disturbance is a thing that can evolve, over the course of a story, into fright (or a “scare”), I end up with some reasonable questions. How does the really successful story turn the corner from disturbance to fright at the right point, the point that convinces us to stick with the story and follow our dark curiosity further into this pit that the storyteller has dug for us? Also, why would a storyteller drag his audience through such a progression in the first place? And why would an audience stand for it?

I’m not sure I can answer these questions. But I am fascinated by Flannery O’Connor’s position on the violence and horror in her stories, especially since she was a devout Catholic. Here are some of her words, recorded in the book Mystery and Manners:

“We hear many complaints about the prevalence of violence in modern fiction, and it is always assumed that this violence is a bad thing and meant to be an end in itself. With the serious writer, violence is never an end in itself. It is the extreme situation that best reveals what we are essentially, and I believe these are times when writers are more interested in what we are essentially than in the tenor of our daily lives. . . . the man in the violent situation reveals those qualities least dispensable in his personality, those qualities which are all he will have to take into eternity with him. . . .”

It seems to me there are a certain number of filmmakers and writers today who are able, in just this way, to take violence – and various other instances of disturbing matter – and turn it to a useful kind of terror, producing cautionary tales and truth-telling grotesques. Apropos to this topic, John Gardner wrote in the introduction to his Frankenstein libretto: “[this] opera does not claim that life is hopeless and absurd. It celebrates values in the tragedian’s way, by showing the horror of their loss.”

Flannery O’Connor often hints that today the human soul is in such a degenerate state that it must literally have the Hell scared out of it. At the end of her story “A Good Man Is Hard to Find,” the Misfit says of the grandmother character: “She would of been a good woman if it [sic] had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life.” Extending a reasonable progression of this sentiment, Harold Bloom in his book How to Read and Why proposes the idea that Flannery believed her readers might be pretty decent people, if only there were someone around to threaten them every minute of their lives.

And I think there’s something to that. Only in the moment of utter fright – once we’ve been deftly tricked past our disgust – are we able to see the horror of our true natures as they appear in the light of eternity.

Flannery O’Connor once again:

“This idea, that reality is something to which we must be returned at considerable cost, is one which is seldom understood by the casual reader, but it is one which is implicit in the Christian view of the world.”

Thursday, March 23, 2006

The Cell director returns with The Fall

A number of people complained about the thin storyline in Tarsem Singh's The Cell--similar in many ways to the old Dennis Quaid film Dreamscape (1984) and the lesser-known Paperhouse (1988). But for me it was one of those movies I had to watch through the space between my fingers as my hands covered my face. Well, Singh finally has a second film coming, another dark fantasy film, and it's due out this summer...

The Fall

"A young girl suffers from an accident and while she's in the hospital she meets a paraplegic man, who starts telling her a fantastical dark story, which reflects his depressed state of mind, and as time goes by, fiction and reality start to intertwine in this epic fantasy tale."

Partial cast:
Lee Pace (The White Countess)
Justine Waddell (Mansfield Park & the forthcoming Thr3e, based on the Christian novel by Ted Dekker)
Leo Bill (Gosford Park & 28 Days Later)
Julian Bleach (Topsy-Turvy & The Brothers Grimm)
Daniel Caltagirone (The Pianist)

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

more Bubble bursting

A reader over at the Looking Closer blog has taken exception to my Bubble review, giving me an opportunity to further elaborate on the trouble with this film.

Also, watch Jeff's blog for future goodies, like a Wim Wenders (!) interview and maybe a V for Vendetta review--Jeff has already convinced me I don't need to see Vendetta, however much I may like Alan Moore.

Lt. Gen. Tom McInerney on Hussein's Iraq

An interview with McInerney...

[Front Page] Saddam’s Tapes, WMDs and the Osama Connection

Some choice excerpts:

McInerney: "I just reviewed this additional release of documents. This release continues to confirm that Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda were in contact with Iraq intelligence for sanctuary, training, and plans for acts of terrorism against the US and in the US.

"This just supports the 12 hours of tapes we heard of Saddam Hussein’s that discussed using proxies (Al Qaeda) to attack the US with WMD i.e. nuclear or biological. The latest release has pictures of Zarqawi while he was in Iraq prior to our liberation. It is obvious that he was living there as a sanctuary after he left Afghanistan."

McInerney: "It was a fascinating experience to see the transcripts of Saddam’s conversations. He discussed hiding WMDs from the UN inspectors and knowing where the inspectors were going to go in advance. He discussed their efforts to develop Plasma Enrichment for nuclear weapons totally unknown to the UN inspectors.

"But the most telling to me was the conversation between Tariq Aziz his foreign minister and Saddam in which they discussed having proxies implant nuclear and biological weapons in US cities. They concluded that Iraq would be blamed for an explosion but not biological as they could use deception and blame US facility ( Ft Dietrick) which makes me conclude that Iraq was responsible for the anthrax attack in US less than 30 days after 9/11.

"The FBI has not determined who did it although they tried to charge unsuccessfully a former Ft Dietrick employee. It is obvious that we should aggressively be translating the remaining 3,000 hours of tapes!"

Front Page: "So the evidence appears to suggest the Russians moved the WMD’s out of Iraq, correct?"

McInerney: "Yes -- to three locations in Syria and one in Lebanon (Beka Valley) in the Sept – Dec 2002 time frame. This information was provided by Jack Shaw, the former Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for international technology security. He charged that Saddam’s stockpiles of WMDs were moved by a Russian Spetznatz team headed by Yevgeny Primakov, the former Russian Intelligence Chief, who came to Iraq in December 2002 to supervise the final cleanup."

Hussein, on how to dupe the U.N. and play friendly with O.B.L.

Well, well. Isn't this interesting:

[ABC News] New Documents from Saddam Hussein's Archives Discuss Bin Laden, WMDs

Amazon bows to the pro-abortion movement

This is the first of a couple great news alerts I'll be posting today, relaying them from my buddy Brian Gross...

[N.Y. Times] Amazon Says Technology, Not Ideology, Skewed Results

" last week modified its search engine after an abortion rights organization complained that search results appeared skewed toward anti-abortion books.

"Until a few days ago, a search of Amazon's catalog of books using the word 'abortion' turned up pages with the question, 'Did you mean adoption?' at the top, followed by a list of books related to abortion.

"Amazon removed that question from the search results page after it received a complaint from a member of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, a national organization based in Washington.

"'I thought it was offensive,' said the Rev. James Lewis, a retired Episcopalian minister in Charleston, W.Va. 'It represented an editorial position on their part.'"

Monday, March 20, 2006

the original Crunchy Cons article

Read the article that led to the book... here.

Crunchy Cons - a political movement I can really get behind, finally!

Here it is, the flagship book for the Granola Conservative Movement. Rob Dreher's tone in this book is occasionally a tad more casual than what I usually look for in my non-fiction reading, but otherwise I'm finding the book to be a treasure trove. Not only do I find the book reflecting my own political thoughts, but it reinforces and broadens them... and, darn it, challenges me to a more radical traditionalism! Dreher describes a social movement whose time has come (or, as the book says, "come again")--a return to traditional conservatism and a recovery of values jettisoned by the Right since the Industrial Revolution. Throughout his book, Dreher invokes heroes of real conservatism: Edmund Burke, Russell Kirk and Richard Weaver. As far as I'm concern, this book heralds a social development as significant as the explosion of popular conservatism in the early 1990s with the advent of mainstream conservative radio. And in case you're worried--Dreher isn't a Lefty in disguise... He doesn't hate George Bush, the military, or the free market system.

Dreher has also started what is becoming my new favorite blog--an in-house conversation among National Review staffers, including some people I already admire, like Frederica Mathewes-Green:

Here is Dreher's Crunchy Con Manifesto:

1. We are conservatives who stand outside the conservative mainstream; therefore, we can see things that matter more clearly.

2. Modern conservatism has become too focused on money, power, and the accumulation of stuff, and insufficiently concerned with the content of our individual and social character.

3. Big business deserves as much skepticism as big government.

4. Culture is more important than politics and economics.

5. A conservatism that does not practice restraint, humility, and good stewardship—especially of the natural world—is not fundamentally conservative.

6. Small, Local, Old, and Particular are almost always better than Big, Global, New, and Abstract.

7. Beauty is more important than efficiency.

8. The relentlessness of media-driven pop culture deadens our senses to authentic truth, beauty, and wisdom.

9. We share Russell Kirk’s conviction that “the institution most essential to conserve is the family.”

10. Politics and economics won’t save us; if our culture is to be saved at all, it will be by faithfully living by the Permanent Things, conserving these ancient moral truths in the choices we make in our everyday lives.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Walker Percy on being a Catholic novelist

Here are some fascinating words from Walker Percy (1916-1990) on being a religious writer. They originated in the book Conversations with Walker Percy but were quoted again in Leland Ryken's The Christian Imagination. I'm impressed with how the second paragraph from the end ("I've always been a polemicist....") almost sounds like it could have been spoken by John Gardner.

“Of course the deeper themes of my novels are religious. When you speak of religion, it’s almost impossible for a novelist because you have to use the standard words like ‘God’ and ‘salvation’ and ‘baptism,’ ‘faith,’ and the words are pretty well used up. They’re old words. They’re still good words, but the trick of the novelist, as the Psalmist said, is to sing a new song, use new words…. The so-called Catholic or Christian novelist nowadays… has to do what Joyce did: he has to practice his art in cunning and in secrecy and achieve his objective by indirect methods…

“What is a Catholic novelist? Is he a novelist who happens to be Catholic, or is he a novelist who is first a Catholic before he’s a novelist? All I can say is, as a writer, you have a certain view of man, a certain view of the way it is, and even if you don’t recognize it or even if you disavow such a view, you can’t escape that view or lack of view. I think your writing is going to reflect this. I think my writings reflect a certain basic orientation toward, although they’re not really controlled by, Catholic dogma.

“As I say, it’s a view of man, that man is neither an organism controlled by his environment, not a creature controlled by the forces of history as the Marxists would say, nor is he a detached, wholly objective, angelic being who views the world in a God-like way and makes pronouncements only to himself or to an elite group of people. No, he’s somewhere between the angels and the beasts. He’s a strange creature whom both Thomas Aquinas and Marcel called homo viator, man the wayfarer, man the wanderer. So, to me, the Catholic view of man as pilgrim, in transit, in journey, is very compatible with the vocation of a novelist because a novelist is writing about man in transit, man as pilgrim…

“And by the same token, nothing is worse than a bad Catholic novel. Nothing is worse than a novel which seeks to edify the reader….

“I didn’t really begin to write until after I became a Catholic. I would agree with Flannery O’Connor that my Catholicism is not only a hindrance but a help in my work. It’s a way of seeing the world. I don’t think my writings are meant to preach Catholicism, but the novel can’t help but be informed by a certain point of view – and this happens to be a Catholic point of view….

“I’ve always been a polemicist and a moralist. I mean moralist in a large sense, or saying this is the way the world ought to be and not the way it is. As I got interested in philosophy and language and linguistics I began writing articles and was able to get them published. But, number one, I didn’t make any money, and, number two, nobody read them. So I thought… wouldn’t it be nice to write a novel saying the same things, maybe even saying it better…. I saw how it was possible to translate my ideas into concrete situations. But nothing would be worse than a so-called philosophical or religious novel which simply used a story and a plot and characters in order to get over a certain idea. On the other hand, a novel in which the characters are real, the situation is real, the action is real, and which also expressed a certain point of view is what I was getting at….

“Life is a mystery, love is a delight. Therefore I take it as axiomatic that one should settle for nothing less than the infinite mystery and the infinite delight, i.e., God.”

Also, here is a wonderful anecdote presented at Wikipedia:

"An interesting story about Walker Percy involves him, his friend Shelby Foote and their mutual admiration of William Faulkner. As young men, Percy and Foote decided to pay their respects to Faulkner by visiting him in Oxford, Mississippi. However, when they finally drove up to Faulkner's home, Percy was so in awe of the literary giant that he could not bring himself to talk to Faulkner. Later on, he recounted how he could only sit in the car and watch while Shelby Foote and William Faulkner had a lively conversation on the porch that afternoon."

Friday, March 17, 2006


Here are two priceless passages from a couple things I'm reading at the moment.

From Zoran Zivkovic's story "Home Library":

"And it is a well-known fact that books devour space. You can't reverse this law. However much space you give them, it's never enough. First, they occupy the walls. Then they continue to spread wherever they can gain a foothold. Only ceilings are spared the invasion. New books keep arriving, and you can't bear to get rid of a single old one. And so, slowly and imperceptibly, the volumes crowd out everything before them. Like glaciers."

From Italo Calvino's If on a winter's night a traveler:

"'Reading,' he says, 'is always this: there is a thing that is there, a thing made of writing, a solid, material object, which cannot be changed, and through this thing we measure ourselves against something else that is not present, something else that belongs to the immaterial, invisible world, because it can only be thought, imagined, or because it once was and is no longer, past, lost, unattainable, in the land of the dead. . . .'"