Ian Bogost (creator of a Zen game) has not weighed in yet, but he did have several wonderful posts this week, including one on convincing spambots commenting in his blog:

There's no doubt that they are spam, but its now clear that the spambots are carefully reading my blog (and other, related blogs)—perhaps more carefully than many human readers.

Even better, his article in The Atlantic about the New Aesthetics. (I hate it when they call it that.) This is part of the explosion of OOO that I'm into right now:

BTW - The Ecological Thought is a near perfect crystalization of the BPs recent thought, an excellent overview for newcomers to the field, and quite persuasive. I'm going back to read Ecology Without Nature, but first Bogost's own Alien Phenomenology.

In other news: I've been on a news brownout for about 2 weeks, but a short commentary on recent trials re: Guantanamo unearthed this detail 'they refuse to wear their headphones to hear Arabic translations of the trial' that pushed some weird button (probably the HDT one from Civil Disobedience about the only place for a just man) and news about Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng is thrilling me due to the way everyone is finally having to talk about the elephant in the room: our relationship with China and China's human rights policy.

These things all seem related to me. And HDT seems to be knocking daily. It might be time to get started on my next project.

P.S. Speaking of OOO, today a bought two dish towels, a riff on Magritte's 'This is not a pipe' painting. One has a mixer, the other a blender, both bear the inscriptions, 'this is not a ______" (whatever the image of the object is depicting.) For some reason I found these incredibly amusing. They are also swift mnemonic devices to illustrate the difference between the thing and the image of the thing, which is a unique entity unto itself.
"We cannot pronounce upon a man’s intellectual and moral state until we foresee what metamorphosis it is preparing him for." - Henry David Thoreau, Oct 14, 1851
While I'm on the topic of 19C women writers, I thought I'd briefly touch upon Kelly O'Connor McNees The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott. It is set during the summer of 1855 when the Alcott family was living in Walpole, NH. As many of Louisa's diaries and letters were destroyed, little is known about this summer, making it ripe for speculation. McNees has given us a love story in which Louisa finds and loses her first love: a clerk at a dry goods store. Joseph is drawn to Louisa's mind and spirit, while she is eager to get on with the living of her life. Louisa dreams of, "...freedom and money of her own, lots of it, so that she could control her fate and take care of her parents, to come and go as she pleased, to have an apartment of her own, with bright window an a desk so wide she could curl up to sleep on top of it when the words wouldn't come..." (p157) She worries that the needs of her family will prevent her from having these things---that she is already stuck in a trap not of her own devising. Initially, in an all too familiar trope, the two take a disliking to each other... or at least she to him, but they discover a growing affection amidst their sparring, and she finds herself falling for him, only to discover that his family has made arrangements for him to marry someone else: a rich heiress that will prop up the family fortunes and allow his younger sister to make a good match and live a life of ease.

Read more... )
Yesterday was Margaret Fuller's 200th. Christina Nehring was interviewed on Tapestry for A Vindication of Love and I'd planned to post a link, but apparently they are having problems with their audio files. It's just as well. The interview was not as interesting as the book, but for those of you who are interested, but unwilling to commit to a read, it could give you some insight to Nehring's work. I felt the interview focused too much on the 'spiritual' aspects of romantic love ["Really? You've never thought of this before?" I wanted to ask the interviewer. "What cave have you been living in for the past 3000 years?] at the expense of what I felt was Nehring's more vital exploration: that love is a feminist issue, and women---particularly female intellectuals---are asked to eschew passion to avoid compromising their reputation. Margaret Fuller is one of the figures Nehring addresses in this light.

I also found this review of Nehring's book by Martha Nussbaum, which appeared in The New Republic late last year. Nussbaum is one of the female philosophers we published at Cambridge. This review, while critical, is fair, taking Nehring's observations and holding them to a much higher standard than Nehring did with her own book. The bit I liked best appears at the end of the review when she takes on Nehring's mis-assessment of 'inequality,':

Nussbaum on intimacy, reciprocity, and erotic risk. Also, the f-word... )

In lieu of broadcast, here are some links to my own posts in which Fuller figures.

* American Bloomsbury by Susan Cheever

* A Vindication of Love by Christina Nehring

I first became interested in Fuller after reading Elizabeth Hardwick's wonderful book of essays Sight Readings: American Fictions. If you are interested in Fuller, I recommend this as a good place to begin.
Little Vampire Women.

Discovered at the blog of Read Roger courtesy of [personal profile] sdn.

My favorite comment thus far, "Does that mean Beth lives?"

And, no, for the record, the teen vampire phase is not the first time books have been marketed directly to kids for the consumption by kids. Penguin's paperbacks in the 1960s are largely credited as starting the 'books for kids, bought by kids' trend.
Everywhere snow, gathered into sloping drifts about the walls and fences, and, beneath the snow, the frozen ground, and men are compelled to deposit the summer’s provision in burrows in the earth like the ground squirrel. Many creatures, daunted by the prospect, migrated in the fall, but man remains and walks over the frozen snow-crust and over the stiffened rivers and ponds, and draws now upon his summer store. Life is reduced to its lowest terms. There is no home for you now, in this freezing wind, but in that shelter which you prepared in the summer. You steer straight across the fields to that in season. I can with difficulty tell when I am over the river. There is a similar crust over my heart. Where I rambled in the summer and gathered flowers and rested on the grass by the brook-side in the shade, now no grass nor flowers, no brook nor shade, but cold, unvaried snow, stretching mile after mile, and no place to sit.
There is little or nothing to be remembered written on the subject of getting an honest living. Neither the New Testament nor Poor Richard speaks to our condition. I cannot think of a single page which entertains, much less answers, the questions which I put to myself on this subject. How to make the getting our living poetic! for if it is not poetic, it is not life but death that we get. Is it that men are too disgusted with their experience to speak of it? or that commonly they do not question the common modes? The most practically important of all questions, it seems to me, is how shall I get my living, and yet I find little or nothing said to the purpose in any book. Those who are living on the interest of money inherited, or dishonestly, i. e. by false methods, acquired, are of course incompetent to answer it. I consider that society with all its arts, has done nothing for us in this respect. One would think, from looking at literature, that this question had never disturbed a solitary individual’s musings. Cold and hunger seem more friendly to my nature than those methods which men have adopted and advise to ward them off. If it were not that I desire to do something here, - accomplish some work, - I should certainly prefer to suffer and die rather than be at the pains to get a living by the modes men propose.
Here I am thirty-four years old, and yet my life is almost wholly unexpanded. How much is in the germ! There is such an interval between my ideal and the actual in many instances that I may say I am unborn. There is the instinct for society, but no society. Life is not long enough for one success. Within another thirty-four years that miracle can hardly take place. Methinks my seasons revolve more slowly than those of nature; I am differently timed. I am contented. This rapid revolution of nature, even of nature in me, why should it hurry me? Let a man step to the music which he hears, however measured. Is it important that I should mature as soon as an apple tree? aye, as soon as an oak? May not my life in nature, in proportion as it is supernatural, be only the spring and infantile portion of my spirit’s life? Shall I turn my spring to summer? May I not sacrifice a hasty and petty completeness here to entireness there? If my curve is large, why bend it to a smaller circle? My spirit’s unfolding observes not the pace of nature. The society which I was made for is not here. Shall I, then, substitute for the anticipation of that this poor reality? I would [rather] have the unmixed expectation of that than this reality. If life is a waiting, so be it. I will not be shipwrecked on a vain reality. What were any reality which I can substitute? Shall I with pains erect a heaven of blue glass over myself, though when it is done I shall be sure to gaze still on the true ethereal heaven far above, as if the former were not, - that still distant sky o’er-arching that blue expressive eye of heaven? I am enamored of the blue-eyed arch of heaven.
The NEH will be showing a documentary about Louisa's life on December 28th on PBS American Masters. The warm-up cycle began quite some time ago. I'm a little behind on Alcott as I have not read American Bloomsbury (the title pisses me off How DARE you call the Concord Circle 'American Bloomsbury'?) or Eden's Outcasts, about Louisa's relationship with her father, because that also pisses me off. One of these days I will have enough reservoir of temper to be able to attempt them both.

In the meantime, a shorter article by the author of Eden's Outcasts who also seems to be a major force in the documentary:

Yes, it is mostly about Bronson. Yes, it pisses me off, but is a mostly fair assessment of her role in his life.
A double X essay on LMA. Not particularly noteworthy except that it pushed that button that likes to rant about LMA:

Regarding the lack of anger in her work: her journals were both required and read by her father who was constantly correcting his daughters' expression and inner-lives. Anger would not have been an allowed emotion. The constant contrition and sense of her own fallenness, her willfulness, her failure to behave as expected was the legacy she received from her father who often considered her (and her mother) demonic influences on the family.

Read more... )
The obstacles which the heart meets with are like granite blocks which one alone cannot move. She who was as the morning light to me is now neither the morning star nor the evening star. We meet but to find each other further asunder, and the oftener we meet the more rapid our divergence. So a star of the first magnitude pales in the heavens, not from any fault in the observer’s eye nor from any fault in itself, perchance, but because its progress in its own system has put a greater distance between. The night is oracular. What have been the intimations of the night? I ask. How have you passed the night?

I wonder if he is talking about Margaret Fuller?
Thinking this afternoon of the prospect of my writing lectures and going abroad to read them the next winter, I realized how incomparably great the advantages of obscurity and poverty which I have enjoyed so long (and may still perhaps enjoy). I thought with what more than princely, with what poetical, leisure I had spent my years hitherto, without care or engagement, fancy-free. I have given myself up to nature; I have lived so many springs and summers and autumns and winters as if I had nothing else to do but live them, and imbibe whatever nutriment they had for me; I have spent a couple of years, for instance, with the flowers chiefly, having none other so binding engagement as to observe when they opened; I could have afforded to spend a whole fall observing the changing tints of the foliage. Ah, how I have thriven on solitude and poverty! I cannot overstate this advantage. I do not see how I could have enjoyed it, if the public had been expecting as much of me as there is danger now that they will. If I go abroad lecturing, how shall I ever recover the lost winter?
My review for 20 Boy Summer is up at Teenreads:
Anna and Frankie have been best friends their entire lives. When the two girls go to California for summer vacation, Frankie decides they should find Anna her first boyfriend by meeting one boy every day. What Frankie doesn’t know is that Anna has already had the perfect summer romance. It happened with Frankie’s brother Matt, who died in an accident the year before. Anna’s romance dies with him, but her secret lives on. This was a hard one for me to write, though I definitely recommend the book.

Also, the interview with author Sarah Ockler:

Next for Teenreads, Shelf Discovery the collected Fine Line's columns from Jezebel's Lizzie Skurnick. Here is a link to Fine Lines, which is featuring Little Women this week!
Transplanting currant bushes to-day, I find that, though the leaf-buds have not begun to open, white shoots have shot up from the bottom of the stocks two to four inches, far below the surface as yet, and I think that they have felt the influence of the season, not merely through the thawed ground, but through that portion of the plant above ground. There is this growth at the root in early spring, preceding any visible growth above ground. --- HDT, April 14, 1859
I've been very interested in groups of thinkers. We all know about my affection for the Concord Circle, which expands every time I turn my head. I am not a Bloomsbury fan, their lives always seem to overshadow the questionable value of their art... though I recently keep crashing into them unexpectedly, in part because their devotees are so numerous and diverse. One of my teachers has turned out to be a Bloomsbury person. (I always swear you can spot them in a crowd. Had I been looking at her for what books she liked, it would've been apparent immediately.) And as you might guess I'm susceptible to the literary side of things. A bunch of philosophers in a room don't interest me unless they've got some poetry or a few novels between them. (Or some kind of civil disobedience, as you will soon see.)

Louis Menand's Metaphysical Club )

NYT Book Review: Snapshots )

We had two literary deaths this week. Tony Hillerman, who is one of the first authors to introduce readers to contemporary Navajo issues through his mysteries. I remember reading them in junior high at my grandmother's house in Cortez. I was disappointed to learn in his obituary that Hillerman is not Navajo himself (I always thought he was.) But I don't know that it diminishes his books.

I've recently been reading the Arapaho mysteries by Margaret Coel. They are clearly influenced by Hillerman's books featuring an Irish Catholic priest and Arapaho lady lawyer as a team solving mysteries at the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming. Occasionally, I wonder if Hillerman started an Contemporary American Indian Mystery genre. It has certainly functioned as a way of exploring contemporary Western issues: the nexus of power, tradition, and limited resources across what seems to be a limitless landscape littered with groups of people with incredibly different---and often incompatible---traditions and points of view.

We also lost Studs Terkel this week, the loss of whom feels enormous to me. His interviews of ordinary people, his boundless humor and curiosity, and a sense of contribution to a sort of egalitarian American culture. I really don't have words. I'm just sorry their won't be more. My favorite book of his is Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do. One of my favorite things in life is meeting people who are passionate about their work. He was one of those people. Should I be so lucky.
I am posting the entire Harold Bloom editorial on R.W. Emerson re: the election/financial crisis here, mostly because the Times missed italicizing the long quoted passages from Emerson. You all know about my affection for the Transcendentalists, something that I can't escape, even as I acknowledge them as pompous windbags. I have always seen them as an essential link from sacred to secular in the spectrum of our country's cultural heritage. Reading these passages I couldn't help but notice the cadences of King James... and I think this is one of the reasons for my deep affection for them. (Indeed, much of 19C literature.) It resonates with my sense of the Word, formed at a very early age.

I do not always agree with Bloom, but many of his essays remind me that we serve the same Word. It is probably the same reason I love one of his best known students: Camille Palia, though her recent (and, perhaps, correct) editorializing on the feminist aspects of Palin have been galling.


Pompous windbags, ahoy! )
I picked up this book since the subject of children's literature has been near and dear to my heart for so many years and I was interested if it had anything new to offer. Most of the book is a sort of philological approach to children's literature and wasn't of supreme interest to me. However, there was a chapter on literature for girls called 'Theaters of Girlhood: Domesticity, Desire, and Performance in Female Fiction,' which I think is a must read for anyone interested in children's literature and/or gender theory.

Some meditations on the difference between theatricality and absorption, particularly in terms of female narratives. )
I finished In Cold Blood in the bunker this week. I certainly have things to say about it, but everything has fled in the knowledge that I READ THE WRONG BOOK. I called my friend to let her know I was finished and we could now discuss the book (I read this for a friend who lamented having no one to discuss it with) and she said, "But I wanted you to read Executioner's Song."

Needless to say, I do not regret In Cold Blood, and it will probably make a good study of contrast to Executioner's Song, but I am not in the mood to read another true crime just now. So I picked Muriel Spark's biography of Mary Shelley as my next "bunker book." (Bunker books need to be easily put down when work shows up, but engaging enough to pass the time. Usually they are a little dry, the sort of thing I would not avoid chores to do, but honestly want to read.)

Mary Shelley: The Biography )

Creative frustration in the lives of 19C women. )

The problem of education and similarities in the lives of Mary Shelley and Louisa May Alcott )

Mary Shelley: A Divided Life )
today's Zits:

For all you fans of the Great American Loser, or the Concord Circle more generally:

This article caught my attention while checking mail today. It links to the website if you want to skip the article:

They've reconstructed several of Thoreau's journeys to the Maine woods and put up memorial markers. I can't decide if this is really cool, or kind of sad. I think I'm going to go with cool. (Question: When does this mean I'll be taking another trip to the Maine woods? Good question. Right now I'd much prefer a trip to the Maine beach.)

BTW - for those of you with betting pools going on the model, make, color, and actuality of my new vehicle, today presented an all too predictable snafu. The long and short of it is there is no way of knowing until it actually is beneath my lock and key whether this new car thing will happen.

P.S. It's probably too late for this joke, but after the smackdown Friday I went to the liquor store and asked the woman at the counter if it was too late to reserve my copy of Harry Potter. She looked at my bottle of bourbon and busted up laughing.



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