Archives for August 2013

Good Thing They Got Rid of Hitler…

Just think what these parents would have gotten away with then!

“The police shoved me into a chair and wouldn’t let me even make a phone call at first. It was chaotic as they told me they had an order to take the children. At my slightest movement the agents would grab me, as if I were a terrorist. You would never expect anything like this to happen in our calm, peaceful village. It was like a scene out of a science fiction movie. Our neighbors and children have been traumatized by this invasion.”

Lantern Light: In Memory of Seamus Heaney

…Each one seeded full with the light
Of the sky, the gleam of the lines…

It’s probable my western people came
To traverse the diagonal of Clare to Toome
And visit your decaying troubles north,

Though nothing came across as fact but blood –
Our shared veins, yours being born into it all
The same year my father was, oceans apart,

Born into immigrant declinations,
And I, the same year as your second volume,
Would touch my head, my heart and shoulder blades

To Protestant peace for Roman Catholic ease.
My student years leaned fast away from light;
But when the light came on and shone for good

I came upon your hoard – hard as Beowulf
At finding the fire-lick of dragon’s teeth –
All bound between two papered covers, gift

And warning, given at Christmas from a friend
Whose family sat through most of Pinochet’s
Disappearing act: “Write like him; words endure.”

Between the words I read, the worm would squeeze
Its golden castings. Glimmering smoke in peat
Would shed a dim munificence of words

That figured more than I could count, and tugged
At rugged terrain like hooks that tangle hanks
Of line and grab the stoutest trout by the gill.

Herein, smoked and hung to dry, I soon learned
The government of the tongue, the parliament
Of eye and ear that rise like mist or fog

Above the fields, working grammar’s mercy
With poetic justice. Piss kerplunks
The rust-frailed bottom of a tin bucket

And bog water ripens the haw. Lantern
And electric light can have us seeing things,
Some different by nature, some by want of art –

And so, to be safe, in chthonic rhythms
You dug a bit deeper, giving ink-black soil
A natural death, and dark doors a way out

From winter’s complacency. Turning on
The radio, I scanned through static’s district
And circled around again to other

Stations – channeled like a late-night lorry
Being checkpointed into a “quare” station.
I landed on stony sorrow’s own island.

Though early morning, I was now hard awake.
Your death was being read in short facts.
Before the sign-off, their words allowed yours,

And your thick-pelted voice began to sing
Once more through the wireless, the distance
Being slane-cut one final lasting time:

When we climbed the slopes of the cutting
We were eye-level with the white cups
Of the telegraph poles and the sizzling wires.

Amid the usual dire news of war,
Politics’ darkening spirit, leveling fires
Across the country from Yosemite’s

Most recent, reticular conflagrations
To somber sanctuary lamps that hush
With scent of paraffin and crimson cast,

Your voice remembered, retained, redressed with truth
What seemed a link between the latest hour
And matters which reach to a place more human,

Chaining us to your words as to things to come.

The Greatest Living Catholicish Writer of Verse Is No Longer…


“The main thing is to write for the joy of it. Cultivate a work-lust that imagines its haven like your hands at night, dreaming the sun in the sunspot of a breast. You are fasted now, light-headed, dangerous. Take off from here. And don’t be so earnest.”


for Seamus

When you close your new eyes on old ceilings,
You would perhaps dream, my son, pilgrim dreams
And lights behind your lids will shoot like tracers.

Through star fields and Spanish architecture
You would perhaps dream your body’s floating
And squibs of light sear your lids like comet trails.

But as you close your new eyes on these old days,
A light beyond sleep hints at what is to come,
Wants you to go. Will you wait for us to catch up?

*I wrote this for my son (yes, named after the poet) when he was born – but seems appropriate here too.


Today in Porn: Wayward Wayfarers Edition

Sasha Grey wrote a novel. HuffPo talked to her about it.

There’s a great line early on in The Juliette Society that says 120 Days of Sodom is the only book that outdoes the Bible for sexual perversion and violence.

[Laughs] It’s funny because I’ve spoken with you a few times, and I wondered if you were going to ask about that. Yes, it is a viewpoint I share. I guess some of that comes from the fact that I’m a reformed Catholic—as in I’m no longer a Catholic, but was raised one.

Well of course you are.

The character of Catherine is brought up Catholic and taught sex was “something you weren’t supposed to seek or experience pleasure in,” which mirrors your own upbringing.

While my mom was very Catholic, my dad wasn’t whatsoever, so I felt torn because I had this idea from my mom of what sex represented, which was that sex was meant for marriage, but also received the blunt truth from my dad which was, “Don’t ever believe what a boy tells you, because they’re just trying to get into your pants.” One time, I remember asking my mom if she ever had anal sex and she was hysterical. Oh, my God! Why would you ask me this?! Women and young girls aren’t taught to be proud or confident in their sexuality because they’re easily labeled as “sluts” or “whores,” which is both good and bad, because 14-year-old girls shouldn’t be running around like, “Let me get that dick!” but shouldn’t be demonized, either. I knew, for myself, that the first time I ever had sex I didn’t want it to be with someone I was in love with, because I’d watched all my friends fall for some guy and have sex with them, and two months later they’re heartbroken. I knew I didn’t want to have some boy manipulate me. Once I started to have sex and become sexually active, all that guilt and shame vanished into thin air, and it was this physical experience that told my mind that it was OK.

Good advice, Dad! But what if a boy tells you, “I’m just trying to get into your pants?” What then?

From the YouTube Music Video Archives: Lakes of Pontchartrain by Bob Dylan

Jeez, How current can ya get? And it’s not even from Another Self Portrait, available yesterday.

T’was on one bright March morning I bid New Orleans adieu
And I took the rode to Jackson town, me fortune to renew
I cursed all foreign money, no credit could I gain
Which filled me heart with longin’ for the Lakes of Pontchartain

Sure, Soldiers Grove has organic tomatoes and such…

But San Diego has organic Shakespeare!

But, alack,
That monster envy, oft the wrack
Of earned praise…

The Secret Korrektiv

Screen Shot 2013-08-27 at 3.08.51 PM

First Wendell Berry, and now…



UPDATE: …and the echo chamber hums to life.

UPDATE II: Mr. Bottum responds.

Classic Fiction, New Fiction, Wiseblood Fiction

Elsewhere in the rough-and-tumble cyberspace of new publishing, Wiseblood Books has been moving some books. By my count they’re getting close to two dozen classic titles, with an original novel on the way.

Wiseblood Books is a newly-launched publishing line particularly favorable toward works of fiction, poetry, and philosophy that render truths with what Flannery O’Connor called an unyielding “realism of distances.” Such works find redemption in uncanny places and people; wrestle us from the tyranny of boredom; mock the pretensions of respectability; engage the hidden mysteries of the human heart, be they sources of either violence or courage; articulate faith and doubt in their incarnate complexity; dare an unflinching gaze at human beings as “political animals”; and suffer through this world’s trials without forfeiting hope. We seek contemporary fiction in the vein of such popular classics as Dickens’ Pickwick Papers, Graham Greene’s “entertainments,” Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, Cather’s O Pioneers!, and P.D. James’ The Children of Men or as demanding as Dostoevsky’s Demons, Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom!, Melville’s Moby-Dick, Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago, or David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest. Although we’ve already produced a small library of classics, which includes Notes From Underground, The Sickness Unto Death, and Three Detective Stories by Edgar Allan Poe, Wiseblood Books will release its first work of contemporary fiction, The Unfinished Life of N., on October 1st, 2013. You can learn more, follow the blog, buy books, submit manuscripts, or donate here:

The Unfinished Life of N. by Micah Cawber (Coming October 1st, 2013): In the tradition of Flannery O’Connor, The Unfinished Life of N. scrutinizes the quiet ambitions of normal people, their everyday fictions concerning others’ and their own humanity and goodness, as it follows Nafula, the innocent but not naïve protagonist, from the backwoods of Wisconsin to AIDS-stricken regions of Africa, and, after a rehabilitation program at a Mental Health home, through an encounter that, paradoxically, catalyzes hope and an openness to the terrible speed of mercy.

Vanity of vanities

Fun story.


Saw this lone tree growing out of the rock on the shore of this lake up in the Sierras. Thought to myself, “I’m gonna jump out of this boat and swim over to that rock and have The Wife take my picture standing by that tree. That’ll be a cool photo.” So I talked to The Wife about it while I worked up the courage to jump into the chilly water. But there was a stiff breeze on the lake that day, and my boat’s anchor didn’t quite reach bottom. So while I was talking, we were drifting – away from the rock. Faster than I really realized.

So in I jump and off I go.

Here’s the thing about lakes in the Sierras. They’re up high – this one was somewhere around 7,000 feet. The air up there is a bit thin. You see where this is going. I’m in lousy shape to begin with, and now I’m swimming farther than I planned in a cold lake at high elevation. About halfway along, I start to think, “I’m not going to make it.” I look back at the boat. It has continued to drift away from the rock – and so also, away from me. It’s a long way off. My breathing is rapid and heavy – I can’t seem to get enough air into my lungs. Not even enough to call for help.

My thought: “Well, this is a stupid way to die. Trying to get a cool photograph of myself. Stupid.”

Eventually, I managed to alter my course and head for the marshy (and closer) shore to the right of the rock. I made it, sort of, and sat there in the muck, gasping for air, for what felt like a long time. Then I hauled myself up onto the rock and got my picture taken. (By this point, The Wife had fired up the boat’s motor and moved in closer.)

The Following Is


I take back everything bad I said about Facebook.

Well, that’s a lie, of course. But still, chalk one on the “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” side of the slate for Facebook. Superfriend of Korrektiv Susan Windley-Daoust alerts us via The Social Network to the possibility of serving as The Director of Andalusia Farm. (Go ahead, read that again.) I have neither the skills nor the capability they’re asking for, otherwise I wouldn’t even be telling you about this. But wow. Just imagine. Stocking the gift shop alone would be an existential adventure.


If there is a God

a) there is no sense in getting angry at him.
b) we ought to know better than to get angry at him.
c) there is no harm in getting angry at him
d) there is no choice but to get angry at him.

Because nothing is more interesting than someone else’s dreams

I dreamed I was a priest receiving the news of Matthew Lickona’s earlyish death.

From the Music Video Archives: Vampire Weekend, “Ya Hey”

The most abstract idea conceivable is the sensuous in its elemental originality. But through which medium can it be presented? Only through music. Kierkegaard, Either/Or

Matthew mentioned the new album from Vampire Weekend below, and I am over the moon about it as well. So this latest excursion into Kierkegaard’s Musical-Erotic is a response to that.

Yes, the chorus for this song is, at first, somewhat annoying. At first. As one commentator wrote, it sounds as if it’s being sung by mice. I post it because, well, I like it anyway. You will grow to love it, too. If for no other reason, the lyrics are a good deal more interesting than most:

Through the fire and through the flames
You won’t even say your name
Through the fire and through the flames
You won’t even say your name
Only “I am that I am”
But who could ever live that way?
Ut Deo, Ya Hey
Ut Deo, Deo

Vampire Weekend here refers, of course, to Exodus 3:14, “And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.”

Contrast these lyrics with Jean-Luc Marion riffing on Heidegger and Exodus, from God Without Being:

The principal denomination of GⓍd as and by Being cannot—let us point out the evidence straightaway—be justified by pure and simple recourse to the verse from Exodus 3:14. Indeed, only one’s conceptual weakness permits the attribution to the “metaphysic of Exodus” of the dignity and the merit of a radical innovation. Otherwise, Saint Thomas would have stated only the common, directly biblical thesis—which, as much from the point of view of Gilson as from any other, could not be defended. May a few remarks therefore suffice here to mark the disparity between the biblical text and the “metaphysic of Exodus.” (a) The formula from the Hebrew, ehyeh asher ehyeh, can be understood as a positive statement, of the type, “I am the one who is,” but doubtless first as a refusal to specify further of what ”Being” it is a question, in the way of a statement of the type, “I am who I am”, thus did Gilson himself recognize that, understood literally, Exodus 3:14 offers “the only formula that says absolutely nothing and that says absolutely everything.”

And Here’s Ezra (lead singer):

Outside the tents, on the festival grounds
As the air began to cool, and the sun went down
My soul swooned, as I faintly heard the sound
Of you spinning “Israelites”
Into “19th Nervous Breakdown”

Be sure to check out the cork … was that planned? Was it luck? Grace?

Judge for yourselves!

An End

Seth Godin on the failure and the hope of books:

Seth Godin

None of these changes, by themselves, are enough to kill a venerable information delivery and cultural touchstone like the book. But all of them together? I’m writing this on a train filled with educated, upper income suburban commuters of all genders and ethnicities (book buyers, until recently). I can see 40 people at a glance, and 34 are using electronic devices, two are asleep and exactly one person is reading a traditional book.

Yes, we’re entering a new golden age for books, one with more books and ebooks being written and read today than ever before. No, books won’t be completely eliminated, just as vinyl records are still around (a new vinyl store is opening in my little town). But please don’t hold your breath for any element of the treasured ecosystem to return in force.

Is it traitorous to my tribe to write these words? I’m not arguing that we should push the ecosystem out the door, but I am encouraging us to not spend too much time trying to save it. First, it’s a losing battle, but more important, we have bigger opportunities right in front of us.

Diversify, Korrektiv, diversify!

Food for Thought

From the YouTube Video Archives: The Police, “Secret Journey”

Gah, remember when pop music felt like it meant something? Then we got old or something. (Actually, Vampire Weekend’s latest album has me over the moon, what with all the wrestling with the Old Testament God therein. But that’s just me.)

I like to think of a younger Cubeland Mystic humming this to himself as he swept his cave.