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Month: February 2009

Under the Weather

Under the Weather

 

Storm in the Rockies, by Albert Bierstadt. 1866
Storm in the Rockies, by Albert Bierstadt. 1866

We have some new fiction on tap, by Nels Hanson: In Pace Requiescat. Persectivalism, elective affinities and religious sensibilities. What is a hero? Why do some of us view the same people in such radically different ways? Your comments about the story are welcome.

 

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I’ve been a part of the flu crew for more than a week now. Still can’t kick it. It’s a strange time, and brings on feelings of pure selfishness and self-pity unlike few other states. Being sick also seems to create infinite loops and obsessions while caught between sleep and wakefulness. I’ve spent more than a few recent nights thinking I had discovered deathless prose and wonderful scenes for my new novel, only to wake up to the light of reason and disappointment. It’s almost like being drunk, but without half the fun. Chicken soup does help the transition . . .

Nels Hanson: The Case of the Anti-hero

Nels Hanson: The Case of the Anti-hero

In Pace Requiescat


And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches toward Bethlehem to be born?

—W.B. Yeats

 

To Poe’s so acute, so prophetic meditation of 150 years ago—that the truly extraordinary mind or spirit would necessarily find itself isolated, hated, and misunderstood by the society in which it appeared, and, especially, that news of the eminently great should not be sought in biographies but in “the slight records of wretches who died in prison, in Bedlam, or upon the gallows”—the life of Joseph Clifton Case bears haunting testimony.

In all of recorded history, who but Case so intimately sensed the dread duality of all things, and so personally suffered this jarring collision of opposites, with less rancor or self-pity, less sorrow or hope?

Because he understood those emotions were barred to him, by himself from himself, for our better good . . . .

The Gethsemane of knowing in one’s deepest heart that each … Click to continue . . .

Rilke’s Revolutionary Notebooks

Rilke’s Revolutionary Notebooks

The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge, by Rainer Maria Rilke. 1910
The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge, by Rainer Maria Rilke. 1910

Rilke’s one and only novel is a mysterious, beautifully written, baffling modernist stew. Reading it for the third time, I was struck again by its yearning and incompleteness, its meditative and incantatory qualities, and the sense it gives us of loneliness and despair, without removing hope and the potential for redemption.

The protagonist is a struggling young poet, living in Paris, poverty stricken, seemingly quite alone. He is neither successful at his craft, nor completely defeated. Rilke presents Malte in the present, lets him take us back in time into his childhood, and also much further back, into the Middle Ages. This is done in a seemingly random fashion, but works. Fits. Amplifies what comes before and after. The voice of Malte is erudite, extremely knowledgeable about obscure historical figures and, like Rilke, interested in the vagaries of love. Both Malte and his author see women as loving better, … Click to continue . . .

The Mystery of the Rose

The Mystery of the Rose

Mysteries, by Knut Hamsun. 1892
Mysteries, by Knut Hamsun. 1892

Okay. So, yes. The title of my blog post is a bit misleading, if not melodramatic. It’s a bald attempt to merge two new additions to Spinozablue — by Alexis Wingate and George Spencer, respectively. Here and here. Alexis brings us a provocative essay on Knut Hamsun’s novel, Mysteries, and George gives us his unique improvisation from a line of Barbara Guest’s poetry.

But there is a precedent for that merger. Women and roses have been connected for millennia, in obvious and covert ways. Mysterious ways. Wild, secret, deep under the surface ways. Secret societies used The Rose as a multi-faceted symbol for woman, growth, love, birth, beauty, the unfolding of life, surprise, shock and awe. Perhaps Dagny is Hamsun’s rose. Barbara Guest used the symbol in a variety of forms as well. Its range runs the gamut from the subconscious to the easily seen and back again.

The ancient Greeks linked the … Click to continue . . .

Hamsun’s Mysteries

Hamsun’s Mysteries

Alexis Wingate — The Mystery of Mysteries


To dissect Knut Hamsun’s Mysteries as one would an ordinary novel is impossible. This is a book in which nothing is quite as it seems to be, and the more closely the reader examines it or tries to make sense of it, the more inexplicable it becomes. At the core of the story is Johan Nagel, easily one of the most enigmatic characters in literary history. His arrival in a small Norwegian town in 1891, with no visible aim or purpose, is the first piece in a puzzle that doesn’t ever quite fit together. Moreover, we are left wondering, at the end, if it was actually meant to.

Hamsun’s initial description of Nagel paints a portrait of a rather ordinary individual:

“He was below average in height; his face was dark-complexioned, with deep brown eyes which had a strange expression, and a soft, rather feminine mouth. On one finger he wore a plain

Click to continue . . .
George Spencer’s The Guesting Rose

George Spencer’s The Guesting Rose

A Line from Barbara Guest’s Roses


That air in life is important but may be less so in the arts interests me. But we are 60% water and worth $28.49 in bone, fat and chemicals so should we focus more on water and $’s and less on air. But you may respond the atmosphere that encases us is all air but this is not completely true since there is pollution and those little filaments we see when light shafts float into a room and illuminate the air. Then we see what we think is truly there. Of course this ignores the question of the further reaches of space where air may be solid and water may be a gas. Then we would have to understand plants differently since plants would have to adjust and worms and beetles too.  Maybe there is some type of traveling incognito and mysterious communication that happens in the air, a space that, for all we … Click to continue . . .

Charles the Liberator

Charles the Liberator

Charles Darwin. 1880
Charles Darwin. 1880

Much has been made recently of the fact that Lincoln and Darwin share a birthday. Two hundred years ago, this past Thursday. A new book talks about another thing they share. Their hatred of slavery. It sounds like a great read. Here’s a short excerpt from the introduction:

 

 

Darwin’s Sacred Cause
How a Hatred of Slavery Shaped Darwin’s Views on Human Evolution
By Adrian Desmond & James Moore
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. 448 pp. $30
Feb. 15, 2008
Introduction

How did a modest member of Victorian England’s minor gentry become a twenty-first-century icon? Celebrities today are famous for being famous, but Darwin’s defenders have a different explanation.

To them Darwin changed the world because he was a tough-minded scientist doing good empirical science. As a young man, he exploited a great research opportunity aboard HMS Beagle. He was shrewd beyond his years, driven by a love of truth. Sailing around the world, he collected exotic

Click to continue . . .
Happy Birthday, Darwin!

Happy Birthday, Darwin!

Charles Darwin. 1868. Photo by Julia Margaret Cameron.

Just a tad late on this one. Charles Darwin was born 200 years ago, on February 12th. His revolutionary work lives on, despite opposition by the sadly misinformed, to put it gently.

A great link to the study of evolution is here. I think it is incumbent upon anyone who criticizes the theory to actually understand it first, and not to create endless strawmen to knock down. We only hurt ourselves and our own future when we refuse to confront its implications. Building from the foundation of this theory, we have the potential to advance many divergent tributaries of science, and perhaps unlock essential keys in the battle to fight a multitude of diseases. Dismissing the theory, running from it, hiding behind religious belief, we are far more likely to stay in a new Dark Age. Darwin lit the light for us. We need to carry the torch onward.

 

Richard Dawkins … Click to continue . . .