1. Who of the following were awarded the Nobel prize for literature?
Jorge Luis Borges
F. Scott Fitzgerald
Ursula K. Le Guin
Robert Allen Zimmerman (a.k.a. “Elston Gunn”)
2. What does the Nobel prize for literature signify?
Here a few pictures from one of the ballets performed at last night’s rehearsal at Friends University. The dancers put their telephones aside for the other pieces. I took about 100 gigabytes of photos altogether (including raws), which will take some time to go through. Click to embiggen.
Agatha Christie apparently liked Muriel Spark a lot, and one similarity I noticed–which goes along with the novel’s arch, judicious tone–is that both novelists paint human nature in shades of folly and wickedness. Those old-fashioned words (a Christie character in The Pale Horse explicitly points out how nobody calls things “wicked” anymore) have found no adequate modern replacement. Folly, in particular, is a category we have a hard time naming. Christie generally portrays even her characters who do great and lasting harm–the instigator/victim in The Mirror Crack’d, for example–as extremes of a trajectory the best among us follow now and then. Folly can destroy a life; folly is an inevitable tint in every human action. Folly is ridiculous and deadly, and normal.
… often an artist’s storytelling capabilities exceed their own philosophical limitations and wind up being more universal than their idiosyncrasies. A good story tends to to be more universal than its philosophical scaffolding, which is why I don’t need to, say, find the political and social views of Asimov or Le Guin particularly toothsome to nevertheless find their works deeply meaningful for me.
… one of the beauties of our system of government, of how the rights we have are protected: we are free to disagree with the government. That robust and strong systems are able to tolerate dissent. And by extension, I suppose, the weak and insecure ones are those that work to quash it.
I thought of this ancient E.B. White story the other day and found it online:
Along about 1920 it became apparent that more things were being written than people had time to read. That is to say, even if a man spent his entire time reading stories, articles, and news, as they appeared in books, magazines, and pamphlets, he fell behind. This was no fault of the reading public; on the contrary, readers made a real effort to keep pace with writers, and utilized every spare moment during their walking hours. They read while shaving in the morning and while waiting for trains and while riding on trains. They came to be a kind of tacit agreement among numbers of the reading public that when one person laid down the baton, someone else must pick it up; and so when a customer entered a barbershop, the barber would lay aside the Boston Evening Globe and the customer would pick up Judge; or when a customer appeared in a shoe-shining parlor, the bootblack would put away the racing form and the customer would open his briefcase and pull out The Sheik. So there was always somebody reading something. Motormen of trolley cars read while they waited on the switch. Errand boys read while walking from the corner of Thirty-ninth and Madison to the corner of Twenty-fifth and Broadway. Subway riders read constantly, even when they were in a crushed, upright position in which nobody could read his own paper but everyone could look over the next man’s shoulder. People passing newsstands would pause for a second to read headlines. Men in the back seats of limousines, northbound on Lafayette Street in the evening, switched on tiny dome lights and read the Wall Street Journal. Women in semi-detached houses joined circulating libraries and read Vachel Lindsay while the baby was taking his nap.
… and now for something less depressing. Here are some lines and fragments from various poems that occasionally pop into my mind. See if you can identify the poets and poems. I’ll post the answers tomorrow.
1. Fat! Fat! Fat! Fat!
2. No. Not this pig.
3. … yuck-a, yuck-a, yuck-a, yuck-a …
4. I have awakened at Missoula, Montana, utterly happy.
5. … boxcars boxcars boxcars …
6. May God damn for ever all who cry “Peace!”
8. What I tell you three times is true.
N.B.: The spoiler system for this website apparently doesn’t work for comments. Don’t read the comments until you’ve made your own guesses.
In reverse, we could play with the idea of what would have happened in WW II if it had followed the lines of LotR…
The plot would focus on the destruction of the Atom Bomb (and implicitly all knowledge required to make it) by a small team of English patriots led by George Orwell, who infiltrate Germany and destroy the evil research establishment which is making the A-bomb.
The climactic end would be the death of Hitler (as the ready-for-use prototype explodes?) and the end of the Nazi regime in Germany with the return of the Holy Roman Emperor.
Silo Syndrome is one of the natural consequences of the sense that things are sliding down the slippery slope to Shitville, and there’s nothing one can do about it. The sense might be illusory, of course, but the consequences of it are nevertheless compelling.
The countermeasure is laughter, however administered or evoked. Jokes. Puns. Harmless pranks. General horseplay. Frivolity. Cat videos. The zany impulse indulged in an unguarded moment. Laughter might not be able to cure cancer, but it can make the chemotherapy a bit easier to endure.
The English are feeling the pinch in relation to recent events in Syria and have therefore raised their security level from “Miffed” to “Peeved.” Soon, though, security levels may be raised yet again to “Irritated” or even “A Bit Cross.”
The English have not been “A Bit Cross” since the blitz in 1940 when tea supplies nearly ran out. Terrorists have been re-categorized from “Tiresome” to “A Bloody Nuisance.” The last time the British issued a “Bloody Nuisance” warning level was in 1588, when threatened by the Spanish Armada.
Years ago I attended a performance of a John Cage piece. The musicians sat on the stage in black turtlenecks while making gurgling noises with conch shells and water to the accompaniment of a recording of pine cones burning. After 20 minutes, one of the performers stood up and blew on his conch for five minutes, at the end of which his face was purple. I’ve also sampled recordings of Cage’s prepared piano music; the sonorities are novel, but the music itself is hard to pay attention to for more than a minute or two. Cage himself was probably aware that his music would not be universally appreciated, which is perhaps why he insisted that auditoriums where his music was performed have easily accessible exits.
Cage—most famous for his 1952 composition 4’33”, in which musicians sit in perfect silence for four minutes and 33 seconds—was a gut anarchist. Asked about the word ecology, the composer replied that whenever he heard that seductive word he knew he’d soon hear the word planning, and “when I hear that word, I run in the other direction.” He boasted that he never voted.
While going through my archives, I came across an egregious example of cultural appropriation, recorded several years ago at a performance by a local ballet troupe. Be sure you’re sitting down before you view the horror, lest the shock stagger you.
Eye protection advised
Unsurprisingly, a search online for “peter pan cultural appropriation” turns up many exposés and testimonies, from The Smithsonian on down.
It’s not just Native Americans who are victimized in Peter Pan. Pirate culture is treated without utterly without respect. An otherkin is labeled a “fairy” and reduced to an object of moe. This toxic tale in its various forms has warped the sensibilities of innumerable impressionable children for generations.