Archives for May 2011

“He’s as Irish as Riverdance, Guinness and Joyce. In 2012, there’s only one choice!”

This would make a great premise for another Irish village movie in the style of Waking Ned Devine. When the president appears in the village, though, instead of his usual eloquence, he should open his mouth to talk, and produce convoluted sentences like the senator JOB parodied a couple of posts down.

This roadside hamlet of two pubs, three shops and barely 350 residents has repainted every house, festooned every lamppost and seemingly rebranded every product in preparation for Monday’s visit by Obama. Locals have stood in line for hours to receive one of 3,000 tickets that will let them meet Moneygall’s most famous son.

“We’ve all been caught up in this dream. Nothing in the village seems real,” said Henry Healy, a 26-year-old accountant for a plumbing firm who discovered four years ago he was one of Obama’s closest Irish relatives. “I’ve been rehearsing what I’m going to say to the president for months in my head. I can’t really believe it’s going to happen.”

image source

Holy crap!

Oh, ho, ho!  Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times wants to help us understand that “that the Bible’s teachings about sexuality are murky and inconsistent and prone to being hijacked by ideologues.” (Yes, he attributes that claim to a Bible scholar, but I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t be running a Biblical sex quiz in the NYT if he wasn’t on board.)  Thanks, Mr. Kristof!  Who knew that the Bible never mentioned abortion as such?  Please pardon me while I go reassess.  While you’re waiting, you can watch this, but only if your ick threshold is high.

From the Korrektiv’s Anonymous Senate Sources (K-ASS)Files

“See, the beard is a moving target because he dyes it all the time,” Inhofe said. “And the pictures we had older pictures had a black beard. His beard this time was a little bit shorter and it was more salt-and-pepper. You could tell it’s probably the actual color of the beard. Now, what he was dressed in, some of these were just headshots so you only had the head shot. Only two of them showed that he was partially, I would say you would call underwear on, that was about it.” – Senator James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma) after seeing death photos of Bin Laden.


In today’s episode of “As the Table Turns…”

“One begins to distrust very clever persons when they become embarrassed.” – Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil (#88)

H is for Hurdle. H is for Hendricks. H is for Happy.

H is for Havadrink.

“I mean, it’s a very lonely culture.”

Writer Mary Karr discusses her conversion to Catholicism with the local NPR station!

“The reviewers have said, you know, I don’t believe in God, but now I understand in a way how somebody could. And I think that was my goal, to sort of explain to people. And in some way, I think I’m better suited than most people because I had no religious beliefs my entire life. I wasn’t baptized, I wasn’t brought up in any faith. And so in some ways, my life long lack of belief, I think, makes me a good describer of how faith comes to those — to the disbelieving.

“So when I was baptized, my friend Richard Ford – you know, the great novelist – sent me a postcard that said, not you on the pope’s team. Say it ain’t so. But then Ford wound up sending me a fan letter. He said, ‘I was really gunning for you, Karr, on this one. But you pulled it out.’ So hopefully I’ve written about faith in a way that should speak to nonbelievers.

“I really want to — I’m not trying to convert anybody, but I would like us all to be able to sit in the same room with one another. On my website, which is, you know, Mary Karr Lit Up on Facebook, I love seeing people who are often fundamentalist Christians or very strict Catholics or Jewish or with new age people, with people who are complete pagans, all sort of come together and talk about — share their hopes and fears. You upon, that’s to me what faith is about, is being able to stand together as human beings and not want to blow each other up with machine guns, which is what I want to do most days on the subway.”

It takes place at the end of the world and has a sand trap scene…

Does that qualify it for Percyesque Status?

Exile Over

from Exiled In The Dobruja

The poet is screwed in a place like this –
No one comes to talk, no one ever thinks to.
–Ovid, Tristia

This country house is troubled with evening.
In hills beyond, waving frantically high,
The dying grass is thatching ground to sky.
I came here knowing I’d not be leaving,
Where stars and darkness always trade off roles.
Disturbances no greater than a breeze
Are enough to astonish one’s kept muse
Like lace fenestrations frayed at the sills.
Nothing here can be observed except through
Remotest of accidents. Here, a song
Is played like a millhouse door on its hinge
Every time the winds show a will to blow.
But things will happen – capricious as Zeus,
Whenever exile’s goddess haunts a place.

Here’s found a colder muse’s eloquence —
I starve on her lips’ crisp sound when they part
Or in a kind of religious observance
Invite her silken legs to pinch my heart.
She crosses them now, drawing cigarette
With deft fingerings from a golden case.
She looks away from me. The tapered light
Reset great Juno’s eyes in Circe’s face.

The tart talk starts to magnify the ache
That fills the air. She waxes topical:
”Don’t worry, dummy. Caesars’ poets take
The march of many feet to count their rule
A monuments to lost souls. Dead bodies
Like yours winter out, you’ll see. You won’t freeze.”

Remembering Walker Percy as a Benedictine Oblate

“There is a vague hunch at the back of my mind that St. B may have as much to tell this sorry century as he did the 6th.”

Jess Walter Wrote Some Very Very Very Short Reviews

… including this:

House of Words, Jonathan Potter — Heartfelt lyrical charm

This Just In: Books/Reading/Publishing Not Dead

From the latest fabulous edition of McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern:

© 2011 McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern and the contributors, San Francisco, California. This has been a strange few years for the book industry. There have been many changes and realignments, and these changes have led countless commentators to predict that (a) reading is dead; (b) books are dead; (c) publishing is dead; (d) all printed matter is dead. Or that all of the above, if not already dead, will be dead very soon. ¶These are upsetting predictions, given they’re based on assumptions and attitudes, and not data. Instead they point to the one reliable aspect of the literary world: that every decade, no matter the climate or the realities of the business, excitable people, many of them inside the industry themselves, will claim that reading is dead, that book are obsolete. It’s a common but ill-informed line of thinking, and it leads to some bad decisions and bad outcomes. ¶Back in May of 2010, amidst some of the most dour prognostications about the state of the industry, we asked fifteen or so young researchers to look into the health of the book. Their findings provide proof that not only are books very much alive, but that reading is in exceptionally good shape—and that the book-publishing industry, while undergoing some significant changes, is, on the whole, in very good health. ¶Let’s start with some bedrock data that disproves any statements that the industry is in freefall. According to Nielsen’s BookScan—a sales-monitoring service widely regarded as representing 70 of 75 percent of trade sales—Americans bought 751,729,000 books in 2010. Excepting 2008 and 2009, when sales reached 757 million and 777 million, respectively, that’s man millions more books sold than in any other year BookScan has recorded. (Five years earlier, in 2005, the total was just 650 million.) The decline from the all-time high of 2009 can’t be overlooked, but it’s worth remembering—in 2010, in the middle of a crippling recession, with unemployment in the double digits, people still bought more than 750 million books. (In all likelihood, quite a few more, considering BookScan’s tendency to underestimate.) And that figure doesn’t include e-book sales, which are no thought to make up as much as 9 percent of the overall book market—and which are growing by the year, representing at least a partial antidote to declining hard-copy sales. So: despite the prognostications, and the poor economic circumstances, total U.S. book sales in 2010 remained well above a billion books. ¶Other statistics—literacy, library circulation, overall book production—paint a similarly reassuring picture. Here are some examples, with each statistic using the latest available figures.

  • In 2008, there were more original book titles published in print that ever before: 289,729 different titles in the U.S. alone.
  • In 2007, there were more U.S. publishers than ever before: 74,240 (that’s compared with 397 in 1925). This figure has been rising every year since the data began being collected.
  • In 2005, there were more published authors living in the U.S. than ever before: 185,275 (compared, for example, with eighty-two in 1850).
  • Adult literacy in the U.S. is also at an all-time high: 240,220,540 adults (98 percent of the adult population) were considered literate in 2010.
  • Library membership in the U.S. is at an all-time high: 208,904,000 Americans held library cards in 2009. (That’s 68 percent of the population, the greatest number since the American Library Association began keeping track in 1990.)
  • Library circulation is at an all-time high: 2.28 billion library materials were circulated in 2008 (that’s 7.7 circulations per capita) compared to 1.69 billion in 1999 (6.5 circulations per capita).
  • ¶That’s all good news. So much good news that we hope you’ll feel armed with the numbers to combat the next lazy assumption that book, reading, novels, or literacy in general is dead. It isn’t, by any available measure. ¶Still, though, there persists the idea that Reading Is Dead, and this assumption requires a corollary assumption, which is that there was some other, Golden Age of Reading and Writing Somewhere in the Past. For those who lament the death of reading, there is never a clear sense of just when this Golden Age was, but the idea is always there—that we are a fallen society, and that some earlier era was when books were read in greater volume and with greater depth and enthusiasm. ¶So let’s consider this the Golden Age of Reading and Writing that every successive generation and age is measured against. When would such an era be? ¶Let’s start with Dante. Sure 1321, when The Divine Comedy was published, was a time wherein the majority of citizens were walking around piazzas, reciting Ovid and Sophocles and talking about Dante’s latest works? Not exactly. At that time, barely 10 percent of the Italian population could read. And given that Dante toiled at a time before the arrival of Gutenberg’s press, books were incredibly scarce, and prohibitively expensive. The average Italian citizen—even if literate—had virtually no access to books. In the Italy of the fourteenth century, and indeed across Europe, reading for pleasure was an activity enjoyed by precious few. ¶So maybe it wasn’t Dante’s era that was the presumed Golden Age. How about Shakespeare’s? People were coming to the Globe Theater to see his plays performed mere weeks after he’d written them! Surely this was the era that marked the pinnacle of literate society, from when our decline began. ¶But no. The statistics from his lifetime, 1564 to 1616, aren’t much better than those from Italy during the time of Dante. In Shakespeare’s era, the vast majority of the books and pamphlets that were printed, bought, and read were practical hexes and quasi-religious tracts. Shakespeare himself was not read widely, in part because by 1600, only 40 percent of the English population was literate (about 1,680,000 people). Books read and bought for pleasure were rare, and still expensive. As it had been for hundreds of years, the reading life was one for the very well-educated (and wealthy) few. For example, the first printing of John Milton’s Paradise Lost, in 1667, was a mere 1,300 copies, and it took two years for them all to sell. So while those years were a time of some monumental writing, it was not our Golden Age of Reading. ¶Let’s jump forward a century of so. Certainly the time of Jonathan Swift and William Blake was one of great and widespread literary awareness? Not exactly. In 1792, the most widely circulated newspaper in England, the Times, made it into the hands of a mere three thousand customers a day, about .04 percent of the population. By 1800, literacy in England had reached just 62 percent for a population of roughly 8 million (having risen only about 20 percent in the previous two hundred years). The most popular books were still religious texts, and most households were lucky to own a handful of books—and those were not likely literary in nature. ¶Back in the nascent United States, things were worse. At the time of the signing of the Constitution, in 1787, only about 60 percent of about 3 million American adults could read. And though Jefferson might have had a vast personal library, most citizens did not. Owning large numbers of books was still prohibitively expensive for most. ¶So let’s set aside the lifetimes of Dante, Shakespeare, Milton, Swift and Jefferson. Their eras, remember, were without systems of public education, and thus literacy was not equally accessible to all. Given the tiny percentages of people who could not only read, but had the time and money to read literature, their times cannot provide our Golden Age. ¶Would the nineteenth and twentieth centuries qualify? These were the years when literacy rates in America exploded. In 1870, about 80 percent of 38.5 million Americans were literate. BY 1940, almost 95 percent of 131 million citizens could read. ¶But today, as we noted, more than 240 million American adults (aged fourteen years and older), of about 245 million altogether, are literate. ¶In 1950, 5,285,000 Americans aged twenty-five and over had attained a bachelor’s degree—about 6 percent of the twenty-five-and-older population. ¶In 2009, about 60 million Americans in that age group had one, making for a 29 percent share of the same population. So those more recent decades don’t eclipse our own time, either. ¶To state the obvious, there are more people in this country and on the planet than ever before, and that means that there are more potential readers. More widespread and democratic access to education here and around the world means that there are more literate people—over 3 billion, by the last calculation. And with book production at an all-time high, it follows that more people are reading than at any time in human history. So that’s good news.


    Poetry Not Dead

    This just in: Poetry is not dead.
    It’s like skateboarding: the kids do it for the sheer fucking fun of it.
    The just-under and just-over twenty-one set
    recite their shit
    in bars that bar the minors after nine o’clock.
    And they are witnesses
    to the truth bomb
    that poetry is not dead, yo.
    No, it’s quite the living bread,
    the flesh made word,
    breathe it in the air,
    share it from the oven y’all,
    dish it with the hip-hop mannerisms and the flip-flop absurdities,
    but see it and hear it and know that
    it lives.
    I am the resurrection
    sayeth the Lord
    and the life and I AM
    and I live.
    I am the way and da truth, yo, and I
    am I and I
    am poetry and I live in you and you in me, so hand me that beer, brother,
    and step up to the mic.
    Quite the contrary it is not dead, only it was sleeping,
    taking a little nap, nursing a hangover,
    and who can fault that?
    But hare of the dog, it liveth!
    So flip that switch, sister,
    and put your mouth to the microphone,
    dial it in,
    because poetry is no sin
    and poetry is not
    no is not

    I wrote some (very short) reviews!

    Fast Five and Thor.

    Asskicking and Edification

    Happy birthday, Magister Kierkegaard, 198 years young.

    Le Cinéphile

    Walker Percy’s first novel, The Moviegoer, concentrates round a narrator whose attraction to the screen results from a sense of an ever elusive American reality. The representation of an idealized reality on screen offers a comforting—albeit somewhat clownish—refuge against the existential anguish voiced by the narrator, to the point that it becomes the narrator’s privileged mode of perceiving and conceiving reality, engaging the novel in a hyperbolic inflation of representation, imaginary as much as verbal. This paper considers how in the novel the reality of America and self becomes identified with the mediation of their representation, precipitating the reader into a fiction paying sarcastic homage to the fictitious, somewhere between the pain of depletion and the pleasure of sheer entertainment. Lire Plus

    The Endless Wayfaing in Limbo

    His slipperiness results from a wayfaring inclination to keep on the move.

    The Ironic Catholic and a bunch of other lovely people got invited to the Vatican

    … and we failed to mention it. Bad Korrektiv! Go read what IC said about it.

    Dauterive returns to Opelousas

    Opelousas has not returned to the postseason in the 13 years since Dauterive’s departure. Much like his first tenure began, he will take over a squad that was 0-10 last season, making this the fifth time Dauterive will inherit a winless team.

    “The good thing is, there’s nowhere to go but up,” he said. “It’s a challenge I’m excited to take on.” Read More