Thursday, April 30, 2009

Back on the market! Motivated seller!

Cardinal Stritch University has decided against purchasing the Cousins Center, former headquarters of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.
It's too early to tell what effect the sale's collapse might have on the Milwaukee Catholic Archdiocese's 2009-'10 budget, which begins July 1, said archdiocese spokeswoman Julie Wolf.

The archdiocese wants to sell the property to pay off a $4.65 million loan it incurred to help cover its $8.25 million portion of a nearly $17 million settlement of 10 sexual abuse lawsuits in California in 2006. The delay in the sale has no effect on the terms of the loan, Wolf said.

Too early to tell? Won't the effect on the budget be having to continue to pay on that loan?

[Cardinal Stritch drops Cousins Center purchase, by Tom Daykin, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, posted April 29, 2009]


Carolus Linnaeus

One of the Swede's brilliantly simple ideas was to classify plants by counting their sexual parts, the pistils and stamens. --Mark Cocker, The sex life of plants, The Guardian, Saturday May 10, 2008, review of The Brother Gardeners, by Andrea Wulf (via Arts & Letters Daily)

Recommended reading:
by Carolus Linnaeus at Reading Rat

Criticism (articles, essays, reviews):

Master Taxonomist, by Guy Davenport, The New Criterion, January 2003, review of Linnaeus: The Compleat Naturalist, by Wilfrid Blunt

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

I "gave" at the office

You might recall Catholic Charities brushed off my inquiry about its funding for Wisconsin Public Radio, see Respect, Revision, Renew. Since then, at least, I haven't been giving to Catholic Charities.

Or so I thought until its 2008 annual report came in the mail. It listed the State Bar of Wisconsin as a donor. Since to practice law in Wisconsin one must belong to the State Bar, and pay its annual dues, this piqued my curiosity. Sure enough, the Bar's website had reported the donation, Pro bono programs receive grants.

Herbert Spencer

Social Darwinists grafted Darwin's basic ideas about biological evolution to human society and economy. To them, progress could only be made by eliminating imperfections from humanity, and this was best done by competition. That competition, neatly summarized by Herbert Spencer's term "survival of the fittest," was taken to mean the competition between individuals. --Charles Sullivan and Cameron Mcpherson Smith, Getting the Monkey off Darwin's Back: Four Common Myths About Evolution, Skeptical Inquirer magazine, May 2005

Recommended reading:
by Herbert Spencer at Reading Rat

Criticism (articles, essays, reviews):

...Hofstadter [Richard Hofstadter in Social Darwinism in American Thought (1944)], repeatedly points to Spencer's famous phrase, "survival of the fittest," a line that Charles Darwin added to the fifth edition of Origin of Species. But by fit, Spencer meant something very different from brute force. --Damon W. Root, The Unfortunate Case of Herbert Spencer: How a libertarian individualist was recast as a social Darwinist, Reason, July 29, 2008

Man with a Plan: Herbert Spencer’s theory of everything, by Steven Shapin, The New Yorker, August 13, 2007

The Gospel of Relaxation, by Carl Rollyson, New York Sun, July 25, 2007, review of Herbert Spencer and the Invention of Modern Life, by Mark Francis

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Private school enrollment in Wisconsin drops 11% in decade

On casualty of the drop in private school enrollment is the school at St. Luke parish in Brookfield. Its Parish Mission Statement includes,
...Moved by the Holy Spirit, we willingly share our time, talents and treasure to perpetuate the work of our Lord and to facilitate the teachings of the Catholic church to God's children of all ages.
Through our school...

With the Holy Spirit on one side of the scales, we have on the other the pastor, Father Kenneth "Augustine, noting that the subsidy for St. Luke students was above the 45% share recommended by the archdiocese."
St. Luke parent Maureen Bopp blamed the school's enrollment declines on recent changes in school and church leadership.

Might be a story there, but there was nothing further in Amy Hetzner's article in Sunday's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. It linked to an earlier report by Isral Debruin in BrookfieldNow, St. Luke Parish School to close at end of school year.
Fewer than 70 students were enrolled for the 2009-10 school year, down from 239 seven years ago. Currently, 114 students attend the 4-year-old kindergarten through eighth-grade school. St. Luke School employs 16 staff and faculty.

That kind of decline does look like the result of something driving people away.

Laetare Recipient Wanted (Notre Dame, IN)

South Bend Craigslist

(via Dale Price at Southern Appeal)


The mechanics of the conspiracy, in its waning days, were as follows: agents of Catiline's were to murder the consul, Cicero, who had discovered and publicly revealed Catiline's initial plot. Other agents were to set fire to several parts of Rome. Armies in Italy, Spain and Mauritania, recruited earlier by Catiline and his agents, would then "strike."

What was supposed to follow is clear only through Catiline's speeches and Sallust's hints; Catiline might have assumed the powers of consul or dictator, offices through which he could order legislation to cancel debts and issue proscriptions. Sallust and, of course, Cicero agree that Catiline meant to destroy the Republic. --Howard Sauertieg, Sallust's Republic: The Conspiracy of Catiline, A glance at the late Roman Republic (1997)

Recommended reading:
by Sallust at Reading Rat

Monday, April 27, 2009

Pontiac R.I.P.

Pontiac was like the polite, quiet middle child who ran away to California in the early sixties, became a huge star, crashed in 1970, and played the county fair nostalgia circuit ever since. In between repeated bouts in rehab. --Paul Niedermeyer, General Motors Death Watch 246, at The Truth About Cars

Snark launch, photo from 45th Range Squadron, 45th Space Wing, Patrick Air Force Base


The 50 greatest British writers since 1945

A reader reminds of this list from The Times of London, January 5, 2008, "a ranking of whom they consider the best postwar British writers". Erica Wagner's Introduction said
But still and all, we have made a list, if only because it is a good jumping-off point for a discussion — one that we very much hope you will join. Indeed, we might say that's the whole point: what do you think?

My reader's comment to me is it's "A peculiar list, for its omissions as much as for its inclusions and its order."

William Wordsworth

F.R. Leavis on Wordsworth, by G. Singh, Modern Age, Summer 2001

For “Tintern Abbey” is like a manifesto of the worship of Nature. Now to worship Nature is not to keep the First Commandment, which requires of us to worship God. But Nature-worship does at least mean worshipping a creature of God, outside of man, which is much better than for man to be worshipping himself, which is what we see all around us today.. --Bishop Richard Williamson, Poetry Project IV: "Tintern Abbey", by William Wordsworth, posted by Stephen Heiner, True Restoration, June 26, 2009, 3:15 PM

Wordsworth’s Prudent Conservatism: Social Reform in the Lyrical Ballads, Kevin M. Saylor, Modern Age, Spring 2001

Wordsworth's poems, again, rarely strike us as genuine effusions of spontaneity. They seem, in a majority of cases, to be mere creations of reflection. They appear to have been first meditated and moulded in prose, and then done by laborious effort into verse. --Orestes Brownson, Wordsworth's Poems, The Boston Quarterly Review, April, 1839, review of The Poetical Works of William Wordsworth

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Archbishop gone, VOTF announcements back

With Archbishop Dolan gone less than two weeks, today's St. Al's bulletin runs an announcement for the upcoming meeting of the local chapter of Voice Of The Faithful. I don't recall seeing one of these since he called the group 'Voice Of The Doubters'.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Ernst Haeckel

Haeckel published a book with an illustration juxtaposing three embryos (dog, chicken, and turtle) and pointing out, as evidence in support of Darwin’s theory, that the three images were indistinguishable. A sharp-eyed reviewer noted that they were indeed indistinguishable. The same woodcut had been printed three times. Haeckel’s reputation never recovered. --Richard John Neuhaus, While We’re At It, First Things, February 2009, review of The Tragic Sense of Life, by Robert Richards

Recommended reading:
by Ernst Haeckel at Reading Rat

Criticism (articles, essays, reviews):

His great achievement was to create an evolutionary synthesis that drew on new fields and data to provide powerful demonstrations and empirical evidence for the descent and modification of species... --P. D. Smith,, Times Literary Supplement, July 25, 2008, review of The Tragic Sense of Life: Ernst Haeckel and the Struggle over Evolutionary Thought, by Robert J. Richards (via Arts & Letters Daily)

Friday, April 24, 2009

William Godwin

Since “The Characters of Men Originate in Their External Circumstances” (as Godwin denominates one of his early sections), all we need to do is reform the “external circumstances” of society and, presto (or possibly allegro non troppo), men’s characters will also improve. Here is the crux: Abolish private property, and mankind, finally awakened to its true interests, will cease to plot and hoard and accumulate. --Roger Kimball, Friends of humanity? The New Criterion, November 2003

Recommended reading:
by William Godwin at Reading Rat

Thursday, April 23, 2009


Variation on the board game.
The goal of the game is not to accumulate wealth, but to build as many churches and cathedrals as possible in order to spread the Word of the Lord.

Instead of "Community Chest" and "Chance" cards, there are "Community Service" (Building Campaign: contribute 5% of your cash on hand?) and "Faith" (Get out of Building Campaign video free?) cards.

(via ledygrey at Southern Appeal)

Henry Adams

The Education of Henry Adams ... An autobiographical meditation on the costs of modernity, providing along the way a richly allusive slice of American history and life as viewed by the great-grandson of our second president. It is occasionally annoying and self-indulgent, but well worth the aggravation. --Wilfred M. McClay, What to Give a 'First Things' Reader, First Things, December 2008

Writers on the Left dismiss Adams as a white male elitist of the Brahmin starch collar class, and they can hardly acknowledge that the American historian who died 90 years ago had sharper insights about power than do today's Marxists and poststructuralists. Scholars on the Right may find Adams too alienated from the timeless truths that they feel America needs in our culture of relativism. --John Patrick Diggins, The Education of Henry Adams, Claremont Review of Books, Spring 2008, review of The Education of Henry Adams: A Centennial Version, by Henry Adams, edited by Edward Chalfant and Conrad Edick Wright, History of the United States During the Administrations of Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809), by Henry Adams, edited by Earl N. Harbert, and History of the United States During the Administrations of James Madison (1809-1817), by Henry Adams, edited by Earl N. Harbert

Pessimism and nostalgia at the bright dawn of the twentieth century must have seemed bizarre to contemporaries.
--The Intercollegiate Review, on The Education of Henry Adams

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Joel Osteen and Timothy Dolan both like to talk

Gary Stern of The Journal News interviewed Joel Osteen who will appear at Yankee Stadium April 25th. The topic of New York's new archbishop, Timothy Dolan, came up.
Osteen simply mentioned that about a third of the 40,000 people who attend his Lakewood Church on Sundays are "Catholics or former Catholics."

Dolan is at least curious about evangelical megachurches, as he called them at a press conference on Wednesday. These churches appear to be growing, he said, because they preach the Bible and the teachings of Jesus with "vigor and clarity." He wondered whether Catholic churches are doing the same.

They aren't, at least according to what a former co-worker who is a member of Elmbrook Church said to me about the most common reason Catholics gave for attending there. If that's the case, it would indicate a need to evaluate parish religious education and homiletics. On the other hand, if one assumes that Catholics really just go to megachurches to be entertained, expect parishes to instead emphasize liturgical production values.

(via Video meliora, proboque; Deteriora sequor)

George Santayana

It is important to stress that Santayana is accessible not merely stylistically—in the singing clarity of his prose—but also in terms of content. His philosophy dealt not with difficult abstractions but with matters of patent human exigency. --Roger Kimball, George Santayana , The New Criterion, February 2002, review of The Letters of George Santayana: Book One, [1868]–1909, edited by William G. Holzberger

Recommended reading:
by George Santayana at Reading Rat

Criticism (articles, essays, reviews):

The passivity in Santayana´s makeup, his willingness to dwell in the mind at the expense of the world, strikes Americans as a strange combination of dreaminess and asceticism that is alien to their temperament. Alien, too, is Santayana´s disdain for the idea of progress, which he derided as a destructive superstition... --Wilfred M. McClay, Remembering Santayana, The Wilson Quarterly, Summer 2001

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Auxiliary Bishop William Callahan elected diocesan administrator of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee

Results from yesterday's election by the College of Consultors.
...Callahan will oversee the day-to-day activities of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee until Pope Benedict XVI appoints a successor to Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan...

John Locke

Locke would not have wished to be read as though he were infallible, since he believed in reason, not authority. But his doctrine of general toleration is the more persuasive because he recognises that some things are not tolerable. --William Rees-Mogg, Tolerating the intolerable: Even Locke, our greatest prophet of liberty, would never have defended those offensive cartoons, London Times, February 6, 2008 (via Roger Kimball at ArmaVirumque)

Recommended reading:
by John Locke at Reading Rat

Criticism (articles, essays, reviews):

The question regarding the Hobbianism of the young Locke may be said to be of sonic importance with a view to the fundamental question regarding the political philosophy of the mature or old Locke, to the question which would have to be stated as follows: is the natural law teaching of the mature Locke fundamentally traditional (say, Hookerian) or is it a modified version of Hobbes’s natural law teaching? --Leo Strauss, John Locke as 'Authoritarian', Independent Review, November-December 1967, review of John Locke: Two Tracts on Government, edited by Philip Abrams (1967), First Principles, August 1, 2008

Mr. Locke, after having destroyed innate ideas; after having fully renounced the vanity of believing that we think always; after having laid down, from the most solid principles, that ideas enter the mind through the senses; having examined our simple and complex ideas; having traced the human mind through its several operations; having shown that all the languages in the world are imperfect, and the great abuse that is made of words every moment, he at last comes to consider the extent or rather the narrow limits of human knowledge. --Voltaire, On Mr. Locke, Letters on the English (Lettres Philosophiques), Harvard Classics (1909–14), Vol. 34, Part 2, Bartleby

Locke in modern English, by Jeremy Pierce, Crooked Timber, March 6th, 2005 at 1:48 pm

2nd Treatise Rap, Crooked Timber, March 4th, 2005 at 10:27 pm

Wolterstorff's Philosophical Archaeology: Locke and Reid as our epistemological forebears, by John G. Stackhouse, Jr., Books & Culture, July/August 2004

In the Beginning Was the Word, by Joshua Mitchell, First Things, January 2003, review of Launching Liberalism: On Lockean Political Philosophy, by Michael Zuckert

Monday, April 20, 2009

Arthur Miller

Still, there is something naive and faintly bizarre about Miller’s much-admired response to the McCarthy period, The Crucible, comparing the communist hunt to the 17th-century witch hunt. As [Elia] Kazan’s wife pointed out, the difference was that there really were communists. It was disgraceful to pursue people for their political views, but it was absurd to suggest that the political views were dreamt up in bouts of mass hysteria, like the accusation of witchcraft. --Philip Hensher, The Good American, The Telegraph, review of Arthur Miller: The Definitive Biography (2008) by Christopher Bigsby (via Arts & Letters Daily)

Recommended reading:
by Arthur Miller at Reading Rat

Criticism (articles, essays, reviews):

The Footlight Dinner Theater's weekend production of Death Of A Salesman featured partially rewritten dialogue apparently intended to highlight the restaurant's $11.99 chicken dinner special, sources reported Wednesday. --The Onion, Dinner Theater Play Reworked To Push Chicken Special, August 7, 2008

Arthur Miller's Missing Act, by Suzanna Andrews, Vanity Fair, September 2007

Goodbye (Again), Norma Jean, by Deborah Solomon, New York Times, September 19, 2004

Back to Reality, London Review of Books, March 18, 2004, review by David Edgar of Arthur Miller: A Life by Martin Gottfried

Saturday, April 18, 2009

George Bernard Shaw

His glorious evolutionary theory in Back to Methuselah of sleep as an infantile habit, still remains a dream. --Eimar O'Duffy, A philosopher's ideas about Sleep, an interview with Bernard Shaw (1929) (via The Truth About Cars)

The essential thing is that Bernard Shaw passionately hates all that is complacent, malevolent, callous, inequitable, oppressive, unsocial, stupid, irreligious, enervating, narrow, misinformed, unimaginative, lazy, envious, unclean, disloyal, mercenary, and extravagant. Hating all this with the positive, energetic, and proselytizing hatred of an incorrigible moralist, he has naturally seized on the biggest and most adequate stick in reach with which to beat the nineteenth-century sinner. This stick happened to be the socialist stick. ... Bernard Shaw's socialism stick is simply his weapon -- the most convenient weapon to hand -- with which to convict a society founded upon capitalism of the greatest possible amount of sin with the least possible opportunity of an overwhelming retort from the sinner. --John Palmer, George Bernard Shaw: Harlequin or Patriot? The Century, November 1914-April 1915

Other works online:

Do We Agree? A Debate between G. K. Chesterton and Bernard Shaw, transcribed by Cecil Palmer, 1928 (via Celia Wren at dotCommonweal)

Friday, April 17, 2009


...Condorcet was an “externalist”: he thought that the source of mankind’s imperfections lay not in human nature but in the outward circumstances of society. Tidy up society and you can say goodbye to irritating things like selfishness. --Roger Kimball, Friends of humanity? The New Criterion, November 2003

Recommended reading:
by Condorcet at Reading Rat

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Sylvia Plath

“When gossip grows old,” the Polish writer Stanislaw Lec said, “it becomes myth.” In the case of Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath, the myth made by gossip has long obscured the art made by a couple of poets. --David Orr, Love, Your Ted, The New York Times, November 14, 2008, review of Letters of Ted Hughes, edited by Christopher Reid

Recommended reading:
by Sylvia Plath at Reading Rat

Criticism (articles, essays, reviews):

Ariel Redux: The latest chapter in the Sylvia Plath controversy, by Meghan O'Rourke, Slate, December 7, 2004, at 10:46 AM PT

The 'Ariel' Poems: A Return to Form, interview of Frieda Hughes on Morning Edition, National Public Radio, December 2, 2004

Lady Lazarus: At long last, rectifying a premature Ariel, review by Jane Yeh of Ariel: The Restored Edition, by Sylvia Plath, Village Voice, November 24-30, 2004

Ariel takes flight: Sylvia Plath's remarkable late poems were published posthumously in a collection edited by her husband, Ted Hughes. As a new facsimile edition of the original manuscript is published, their daughter Frieda Hughes defends Hughes against criticism that he interfered with Plath's legacy, The Guardian, November 13, 2004

The death, and rebirth, of Sylvia Plath, by Alex Beam, Boston Globe, September 4, 2003

A friend's memoir of days leading up to Plath's suicide, review by Carlin Romano of Giving Up: The Last Days of Sylvia Plath, A Memoir, by Jillian Becker, Philadelphia Inquirer, September 7, 2003

'This is not a biography': Jacqueline Rose writes about her conflict with the Estate of Sylvia Plath, London Review of Books, August 22, 2002

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Oxford English Dictionary

It’s monstrously deep and serious and maddeningly detailed, each entry a miniature etymological seminar. --Nicholson Baker, From A to Zyxt, The New York Times, August 3, 2008, review of Reading the OED: One Man, One Year, 21,730 Pages, by Ammon Shea

Recommended reading:
Oxford English Dictionary at Reading Rat

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Joseph Brodsky

While trying at age eighty to survive my own recent heart attacks, I'm writing these rhythm-variations of dying for Joseph Brodsky (for, not about, not to), who died of a heart attack January 28, 1996. --Peter Viereck, Gate Talk for Brodsky, Humanitas, Volume X, No. 2, 1997

Monday, April 13, 2009

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Emerson was a religious seer who rejected historical Christianity in particular and incarnations in general but who never relinquished the prophetic, missionary persona that animated his writings. Although he is indeed a co-father of existentialism with Kierkegaard, for some reason he has not generally been acknowledged as such. --Harold Fromm, Overcoming the Oversoul: Emerson’s Evolutionary Existentialism, Hudson Review, Spring 2004

Recommended reading:
by Ralph Waldo Emerson at Reading Rat

Criticism (articles, essays, reviews):

The sage of Concord, by Harold Bloom, The Guardian, May 24, 2003

Emerson, Thoreau, Fuller, and Transcendentalism, by David M. Robinson, American Literary Scholarship, 1998

Mr. Emerson's Tombstone, by Wilfred M. McClay, First Things, May 1998

The drop too much: Emerson’s eccentric circle, by James W. Tuttleton, The New Criterion, May 1996, review of Emerson Among the Eccentrics: A Group Portrait, by Carlos Baker

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1891), by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Project Gutenberg

R. W. Emerson's Poems, by Orestes A. Brownson, Brownson’s Quarterly Review, April 1847

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Wilhelm Wundt

One of the things that would make Wundt's work so foreign to American psychologists was what he referred to as the principle of actuality: He said that consciousness is, in fact, a reality, and that it is the subject matter of psychology. This is, of course, true -- although we managed to overlook it for a good 80 years or so when behaviorism ruled the academic world in the the US, Britain, and Russia. --Dr. C. George Boeree, Wilhelm Wundt and William James, 2000

Friday, April 10, 2009

Thomas Malthus

...Malthus contrasts the rate at which population increases with the rate at which food increases; but his theory ignores the fact that food consists of organic populations, i.e., stuff that according to his principle is supposed to increase “arithmetically.” In later editions of his book, Malthus so modified what he said about the principle of population that he abandoned it in fact if not in words. --Roger Kimball, Friends of humanity? The New Criterion, November 2003

Recommended reading:
by Thomas Malthus at Reading Rat

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Muhammed Iqbal

His philosophy of the Self, or Khudi, combines both the Nietzchean concept of the Superman with Jalaluddin Rumi’s concept of the Perfect Man. Contrary to most Sufi and Bhakti poets, Iqbal believed that spiritual emancipation did not involve dissolution of the Self in the Absolute, but, rather, an increasing defining of the limits of the Self in relation to the Absolute. --Rahil Khan, Sir Muhammed Iqbal, MANAS: India and Its Neighbors

Recommended reading:
by Muhammed Iqbal at Reading Rat

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


Building an empire does not much appeal to this postcolonial period, so those who would like to save Vergil from himself argue that he was subtly criticizing the empire -- the thesis of the so-called "Harvard School" (exemplified by scholars like Adam Perry, Wendell Clausen, Michael Putnam, and others). This is like saying that we now consider hell an inhuman concept, so Dante must really have been undermining that concept while describing it in Inferno. After all, Dante was intelligent and humane, so how could he differ from us on such a fundamental matter? This complimenting of other cultures by saying they were really like us prevents people from meeting the challenge of real differences. --Garry Wills, Closer Than Ever to Vergil, The New York Review of Books, March 23rd, 2009, review of The Aeneid, by Vergil, translated by Sarah Ruden

Loss Upon Loss, by Anthony Esolen, Claremont Review of Books, Winter 2007, review of The Aeneid, by Virgil, translated by Robert Fagles, and Virgil’s Gaze: Nation and Poetry in The Aeneid, by J.D. Reed, by Anthony Esolen

Sacra Roma, by Robert Royal, First Things, February 2007, review of The Aeneid, by Virgil, translated by Robert Fagles

The Emperor's New Poem, by David Barber, Boston Globe, November 12, 2006, review of The Aeneid, translated by Robert Fagles

Politics And Piety, by John E. Alvis, Claremont Review of Books, Fall 2004, review of Vergil's Empire: Political Thought in the Aeneid, by Eve Adler

Virgil Lives! His epic, his empire--and ours, by Robert Royal, The Weekly Standard, September 29, 2003, review of Vergil's Empire: Political Thought in the Aeneid, by Eve Adler

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Giordano Bruno

he seems to have been an unclassifiable mixture of foul-mouthed Neapolitan mountebank, loquacious poet, religious reformer, scholastic philosopher and slightly wacky astronomer. --Anthony Gottlieb, Particle Man, The New York Times, December 19, 2008, review of Giordano Bruno: Philosopher, Heretic, by Ingrid D. Rowland

Recommended reading:
by Giordano Bruno at Reading Rat

Criticism (articles, essays, reviews):

Like many of you, for many years I have known vaguely of Bruno (1548-1600), the 16th century Dominican priest and philosopher--his brilliance, sharp wit and prodigious memory, his relentlessly inquisitive intellect, his astonishing, odd, visionary theories in the realms of religion and science, his ups and downs in his relationship with the Church and various Protestant communities in (what is now) Italy and around Europe--and his final, years-long run in with the Inquisition that culminated in his being burned alive in the Campo de’ Fiori in Rome in 1600. --Francis X. Clooney, S.J., Giordano Bruno, In All Things, review of Giordano Bruno: Philosopher/Heretic, by Ingrid D. Rowland

He reached his conclusions -- about the universe's infinite size and age -- largely through abstract contemplation. Unlike Galileo, Bruno had no gift for calculation or meticulous empirical observation; geometry and poetry were more in his line... -- Laura Miller, The heretic, Salon, August 25, 2008, review of Giordano Bruno: Philosopher/Heretic, by Ingrid Rowland

His personal philosophy, which he called Nolan after the town where he was born, appeared to be a high-minded and exuberant distillation of Greek atomists (who saw the universe as infinite), St. Thomas of Aquinas (a fellow Dominican whose "natural theology" sought to prove the existence of God through philosophy), and Copernicus (who moved Earth out of its formerly central position in the universe), along with a view of God as within (as opposed to transcending) nature and man and a fondness for ancient Egypt. --Marc Kaufman, Cosmic Crusader, Washington Post, August 10, 2008, review of Giordano Bruno: Philosopher/Heretic, by Ingrid D. Rowland (via Arts & Letters Daily)

Monday, April 6, 2009

Simon Schama

His specialty is finding interesting midlevel characters from the buried mounds of history and telling their stories. --David Brooks, Mirror on America, The New York Times, May 22, 2009, review of The American Future: A History, by Simon Schama

Recommended reading:
by Simon Schama at Reading Rat

Criticism (articles, essays, reviews):

Schama ascribes this perfectionism to a powerful sense of his own inadequacy, which I guessed at when reading his account of John Stuart Mill in the latest volume of A History of Britain. Like Schama, Mill had a father who pushed his gifted son "mercilessly" and Schama describes him as "cowed by the burden of his assigned mission to Know Everything that Mattered". --Cassandra Jardine, History man, The Telegraph, October 18, 2002

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Mahmoud Darwish

[Ali] Qleibo described Darwish's poetry as "the easy impossible," for Darwish's ability to condense the Palestinian narrative into simple, evocative language — breaking away from the more traditional heavy, emotive and rhythmic verse of other Arab poets. --Diaa Hadid, Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish dead at 67, Associated Press, August 9, 2008, 4:37 PM ET

He sometimes berated his huge audiences when they clamoured for nationalist odes rather than the subtler, metaphysical verse of his later years. --The Economist, Mahmoud Darwish, the voice of Palestine, died on August 9th, aged 67, August 21, 2008

Friday, April 3, 2009

A hero for the information age

Tyndale was ultimately more influential, and also in many ways a nobler figure than the more famous religious martyrs of the Tudor era, the Catholic Thomas More and the Protestant Thomas Cranmer. Both More and Cranmer served their time as enforcers of religious intolerance before falling victim to it themselves. No such stain sullies the record of Tyndale. --The Economist, A hero for the information age: Subversion, espionage and a man who gave his life to disseminate the Word, December 18, 2008

Recommended reading: Reading Rat

E. M. Forster

Forster, an Edwardian, lived through two cataclysmic wars, watched England's transformation from elegant playground of the fortunate few to the mass factory of everybody. --Zadie Smith, E.M. Forster, Middle Manager, The New York Review of Books, August 14, 2008, review of The BBC Talks of E.M. Forster, 1929–1960, edited by Mary Lago, Linda K. Hughes, and Elizabeth MacLeod Walls

Recommended reading:
by E. M. Forster at Reading Rat

Criticism (articles, essays, reviews):

Love, actually: EM Forster's novels have been criticised for their chaotic structure but, argues Zadie Smith, his deliberate rejection of a controlled style reflects the messy complexities of the human heart, Guardian, November 1, 2003

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Lin Yutang

...he may also have been expressing his own amused antipathy to the tyranny of the American fetish for advanced degrees which he elsewhere openly ridiculed. Soon after his Harvard days, he categorized American Ph.D.’s as “men who need a rank to earn their own bread and other people’s respect.” --A. Owen Aldridge, Irving Babbit and Lin Yutang, Modern Age Fall 1999

Recommended reading:
by Lin Yutang at Reading Rat

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Et in acedia ego!

Comment by chimeraobscura on Larissa's post In Defense of Sloth at Writhing in Apathy

Paul Valery

All of which throws light on the myth of a Valery cast in the image of his programmatic hero of the pure mind, Monsieur Teste: a myth conceived by the youthful idealist who launched the “System”, later re-essentialized and popularized by Breton, to whom the icon of a reserved and self-enfolding intellectual potency was singularly fascinating. We learn here, too, that Teste’s creator himself often “mythifies” the recurrent crises that punctuated his career, in proportion as they are dynamic or foundational (the famous “secular conversion” of the “Nuit de Genes” is a case in point). Such glimpses of the mythic dimension of the poet’s rationality will further undermine the cliché of Valery’s “intellectualism”. --Paul Gifford, The ultimate French intellectual? The Times Literary Supplement, March 11, 2009, review of Paul Valery, by Michel Jarrety (via Arts & Letters Daily)

Recommended reading:
by Paul Valery at Reading Rat

The intimate abstraction of Paul Valery, by Joseph Epstein, The New Criterion, March 2003