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Archives for March 2012

Felix Culpa

The latest Kierkegaard Newsletter is out, and includes some timely meditations for Lent. Here is the opening paragraph from a review of a new book by Jason Mahn.

“O happy fault, which merited such and so great a Redeemer!” is the joyous fifth-century Easter-Eve exclamation which resounds throughout Jason Mahn’s perceptive and theologically sensitive exploration of the felix culpa in the writings of Søren Kierkegaard. There are, as Mahn astutely elucidates in this admirable work (and as I also emphatically concur), few thinkers who possess Kierkegaard’s talent for transmuting the darkest night which is ostensibly furthest from redemption into an occasion for the dawning of faith. Kierkegaard’s works, as Mahn perceptively reads them, provide us with ‘an existential via negativa through which he labors to revive the possibility of faith.’ However, this ‘existential’ dimension does not, Mahn argues, lead so much to the Angst of modern existentialism as it does to the sacred praise of early Christianity. In this I am again in sympathy with the theological anthropology Mahn proposes: while Kierkegaard is clearly a progenitor of existentialist philosophy, his own source of ‘existential’ pathos can be discovered within the archives of devotional Christianity.

Read the whole thing here.

How I Broke My Arm

When the landlord of the building gave me the basement apartment, he said, “Be sure to check out the bar right above you—my brother-in-law is the owner and they serve a great steak. Tell him I sent you. And you should visit the barbershop on the other side of the building; my nephew owns it, and I’ll tell him you’ll be stopping by. But you don’t need to go up to any of the floors above, and in fact it’d be great if you would just stay out of the lobby altogether—it’s really for the people in the building.”

So I got the haircut, and it wasn’t bad, and I had the steak, which was pretty good, which in fact you might even say had me—coming back for more, that is. It was the during the third or fourth charbroiled that I met the fourth member of the family reigning at 111 Furth. Now, when it comes to socializing, let me say that I’m all for it. I no longer wish to leave early, slamming the door behind me as I go, and in fact I plan to stay here drinking until they turn off the lights. Getting back to the event under consideration here, I saw no reason to get a nice girl mixed up in the whole lousy business. But she, all curls, pearls and swirls, simply would not let up. Well, she didn’t much like the basement, what with all the oil and the machine parts lying around, on account of it was my job to fix ’em. And she lived in the building, too—had somehow talked the old man into giving her one of the studios with a view of Elliot Bay. So you can see the problem in all this, I’m sure.

Hell, I’m going to stop right there; the story tells itself, really. That’s how I broke my arm.

“Do Pre-Persons Dream of Algebra?”

Well, look at that, Alphonse (and other attempts at getting at the infinite mystery and fragile pricelessness of personhood through fiction) isn’t kid’s stuff, after all… At least, not if we’re to believe what the esteemed and delightfully grumpy Thomas Fleming has to say about Philip K. Dick…

image credit


Note to Marketing Dept.: Cross Lawrence Block off Blurb List

Once I’d established a firm no-blurbs policy, life became simpler. I had a ready response to requests, and over time editors and publicists got the message. The volume of ARCs decreased sharply, and what got through was easily handled and dismissed. The downside, of course, was that periodically a good friend would write a book I really liked, and I had to deny him some heartfelt public praise.

I broke my own rule a couple of times. Two friends each self-published a book of poems; while I couldn’t imagine how my endorsement could boost their sales, I saw no reason to withhold it. (And I did in fact like the poems.)

WAIT. There may still be hope. Potter? O’Brien? Have our people been in communication with this guy’s people?

This is actually a fascinating story of the role that a particular writer played in Block’s own writing career, and I encourage you to read more: No, I won’t give you a blurb. Here’s why.

The Tax Code was only a practice swing…

If it weren’t so purdy, it’d be enough to make you…um, sick.

P.S. Note the presence of the IRS – like a radioactive isotope emanating it’s own brand of death deep in the heart of the beautiful monster’s heart…


Korrektiv Kinescope: John Kennedy Toole: The Omega Point

“From the beginning, John Kennedy Toole was a stand out — an exceptional child, student, teacher, soldier and, in the end, novelist. Although his initial attempts to publish the now famous novel were met with rejection, in 1981, twelve years after the author’s suicide, A Confederacy of Dunces was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction, thanks in part to the extraordinary efforts of Walker Percy who received the manuscript from Mr. Toole’s mother, Thelma Toole, a character as rich and complex as any in the novel.

“Thelma guides us through the author’s early years as he skips grades, graduates from Tulane University with honors at age 20 and flies through a Masters program at Columbia in one year. She is there for his beginning and for his end, and in that journey is revealed a unique relationship that ends in Thelma taking center-stage, a part for which she had yearned and prepared all her life.

“And what stresses and cracks in his heart led Ken to a dead-end road on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, just a few miles from home, a few minutes from his family?

“Why here? Why now?”

H/T: Mark Maier

Video Version

A Special Report

Date: 2/30/12
From: J.D. Powers and Associates
To: Korrektiv/Gerasene Field Operations
Re: Food Product Storage-Yield for Market Resampling: Extract
CC: National Automobile Dealers Association (McLean, Va.)
For Abstract: Access University of Michigan Microfilm Case Batch #44c-11-42.7

[extract begin:] J.D. Powers and Associates estimates that density and frequency of peanut-shard and related edible detritus present in a given American automobile is determined by the number of cylinders of the vehicle in which the peanuts have been placed according to the “hot/cold cushion-storage format” (a technical term indicating the manner and position of the food substance in and around the driver’s and passenger’s seats respectively). According to J.D. Powers, at least 8.2 units (per 8 oz. package) of peanut-shards are present at any given time in this format per every two cylinders to a car’s engine.

On the other hand, the global marketing firm also notes that the presence of other food substances in this format* tend to skew downward in both frequency and density depending on whether the vehicle in question is equipped with manual or automatic transmission. For instance, whereas a sing hand and unencumbered inscisors are the only industry-rated requirements for the interfacing necessary to initiate consumption of peanuts delivered through the tube-sleeved payload packaging unit,  two hands are the minimal industry-rated requirement for releasing the fried tuberous product known as the “French Fry” from its payload platform, thereby accessing and applying its gamut of nutritional benefits. But this product, J.D. Powers notes, has an average baseline which demonstrates only a mild, though noticeable, differential between the consumer habits of those who drive vehicles equipped with automatic transmission and those who drive vehicles equipped with manual transmission. The differential is, of course, wider when others, especially adolescents, are present in the vehicle.. Not surprisingly the rate at which this differential widens corresponds exponentially to the number of so-called “children” in the vehicle in question. 

On the other hand, the report continues, the remnant particles of artificial confectionary known as the “Suzie-Q” were found to trend highest in consumption rates among drivers of vehicles with automatic transmissions and lowest among those who drive manual transmissions. Most secondary studies suggest that the prerequisite dexterity necessary to interface with the product’s packaging AND the generally entropic design of the product itself serve as inherent disincentives to apply the nutritional benefits [sic] of the product at any level, thus removing the possibility of remnant particles playing a larger part in yielding significant behavioral analysis.

At the other end of the spectrum, in an almost mirror image of the Suzie-Q’s trending patterns, remnant particles of the porcine by-product known as “La Tonita Chiley-Limon Chicharrones de Harina” were as greatly favored by the drivers of vehicles equipped with manual transmissions as they were disliked by those who drove vehicles with automatic transmission, with dramatic aberrations found only among those vehicles of either design with tires requiring an inflation of 75 PSI or higher. [end]

*Other formats for food particle/remnant storage, not considered in this research, include the wet/dry vessel containment (i.e. cup-holder) storage format, the vital-document insulated manual/digital garment-storage compartment-storage format**, and the more recently innovated solar-heated sun-visor wedge-storage format-cum-heat convection process.

**J.F. Powers and Associates is preparing a separate but related study on the thermal resistance (R-Value) of various fiber-based material in protecting consumable food products stored in the glove-compartment. The study will include but not be limited to analyses of the following: insurance ID cards, registration documentation, prophylactic packaging material, plastic-coated playing cards, feminine products, and/or official state documents recording the historical incidence of legal infractions and violations in circumstances involving both excessive acceleration and prolonged stationery tendencies.

Holy Mother, Thank You So Much.

Special Cross-Platform Promotional Supplement Feature

Speaking of vaultless ambition and bottomless sloth: baby has a blog.