This just in–Astronauts take day off as space mission winds down. And yesterday what was it, a space walk to replace some foam somewhere? Sounds like the equivalent to getting a flat tire on a camping trip. “And in news from the family camping trip, Dad is checking the car to see if any damage occurred when they hit that big whatever-it-was in the road.”
Because this is the stuff of science-fiction and national imagination, I want to ask, does the Space Shuttle excite you? Do you think NASA is pursuing the right goals, or do you wish they would get the funding or inspiration to do something better?
Terry Teachout recommends several film adaptations of Shakespearean plays. This is the kind of thing my sweet little family doesn’t want to watch with me.
Let me pass on this challenge which I saw last week on wordsmith.org.
What is the common thread in these words: scintillescent, vetitive, rapparee, bilabial, and froufrou?
I can copy the definition for each word, if you like.
I learned through Rebecca of Rebecca Writes about ClicheSite.com and the handy Cliche of the Day. At first, I thought this a cool little resource. Now, I think I’ll avoid it. If I fill my head with cliches, I’ll become a twisted and disturbed old man. Maybe I just need the cup of tea I just steeped for a better mood. Maybe I should go out for some live steel combat.
You know, that reminds me of the warning the thespians gave before the start of Julius Caesar at Atlanta’s Shakespeare Tavern. They told us to go the bathroom before or during the intermission, because afterward angry men with real swords could be running through the hallway at any time–which they did. It was great.
Critical Mass asks: “It seems like people constantly mistake your fictional voice from your real life identity. Has this chased you since The New York Trilogy?” Auster says, “I was fascinated with the idea that you have a book, and you have the name on the cover: it’s the author’s name. Now, who is it talking to you? Is it the person or is it an authorial voice?” Read on
“I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve (or save) the world and a desire to enjoy (or savor) the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.”
— American Author E.B. White (Elwyn Brooks) who was born on this day in 1899. I think I understand his idea quoted above.
Mark Bertrand quotes Melville’s Moby Dick on what great book should tackle: ” . . . Such, and so magnifying, is the virtue of a large and liberal theme! We expand to its bulk. To produce a mighty book, you must choose a mighty theme. No great and enduring volume can ever be written on the flea, though many there be who have tried it.” Read the rest of this short post and tell him what you think.
With the Scopes Trial Reenactment coming this weekend in Dayton, TN, I am reposted a bit I wrote back on October 24, 2004.
H.L. Mencken biographer and terrific New York drama/music/etc. critic Terry Teachout recently learned of a piece Mencken wrote for Vanity Fair in 1923 in response to a question about boring writers. The famous critical thinker (1880-1956) listed ten authors with a few additional thoughts: “Dostoevski, for some reason that I don’t know, simply stumps me; I have never been able to get through any of his novels. George Eliot I started to read too young, and got thereby a taste against her that is unsound but incurable. Against Cooper and Browning I was prejudiced by school-masters who admired them. As for Lawrence and Miss Stein, what makes them hard reading for me is simply the ineradicable conviction that beneath all their pompous manner there is nothing but tosh.”
Speaking of Terry’s biography, I saw it in an interesting rare book and memorabilia collection at my alma mater, Bryan College. Bryan is named for William Jennings Bryan (1860-1925), an orator for progressive politics and Biblical principles as well as a former candidate for presidency and the secretary of state under Woodrow Wilson. Bryan’s name is known to many as the man who argued against Clarence Darrow in the trial of John Scopes. The Scopes Trial drew a lot of media attention by design; the men behind the lawsuit, the ones who recruited Scopes to take blame for teaching evolution in public school, hoped to make a name for themselves and business for the area. Publicity encouraged Bryan threw his hat into the ring for the prosecution’s side which spurred Mencken to urge Darrow to join the defense. Mencken said, “Nobody gives a damn about that yap schoolteacher. The thing to do is to make a fool out of Bryan.”
The trial did not accomplish the planners objectives. It became a media event beyond their control. Darrow did put Bryan to an interrogation on the stand in an effort to make a fool out of him, and he cheated him out of a final address, in which Bryan planned to make his rebuttal. If you want to know what really happened there, forget about Inherit the Wind. Start here.
Bryan College wants to collect Bryan’s personal books and those about him, so they have worked toward that goal. A couple years ago they were offered even more–a large Mencken collection through a friendly association with a member of the H.L. Mencken Society. Representatives of the society came south to view an annual reenactment of the Scopes Trial in Dayton, TN. One of the members struck up a friendship with one of my English professors which eventually resulted in the generous donations of Mencken-related books and many copies of American Mercury, a journal he published. Today, Bryan’s library houses a unique and ironic collection of Bryan and Mencken material, side by side. With Terry’s book on the right side toward the back of the room.
[first posted October 22, 2004] In an earlier post, I referred to this collection of useful usage articles by James Thurber. On the question of using “bad” or “badly” within a sentence like “I feel bad(ly),” Thurber advises not to use either word.
There is, of course, a special problem presented by the type of person who looks well even when he doesn’t feel well, and who is not likely to be believed if he says he doesn’t feel well. In such cases, the sufferer should say, “I look well, but I don’t feel well.” While this usage has the merit of avoiding the troublesome words “bad” and “badly,” it also has the disadvantage of being a negative statement. If a person is actually ill, the important thing is to find out not how he doesn’t feel, but how he does feel. He should state his symptoms more specifically—“I have a gnawing pain here, that comes and goes,” or something of the sort. There is always the danger, of course, that one’s listeners will cut in with a long description of how they feel; this can usually be avoided by screaming.
I plead with you not to tell me stories which improve on the world. Instead tell me stories about the world as it is, strange and real and full of grace.
This spring I finally got around to reading Moby Dick. (I told you I was a bad reader.) Its opening sentence is one of the most famous in English fiction. “Call me Ishmael”—this is something strange. This is something beyond myself. And yet I’m then plunged into a story that is lavishly involved with the real world of whaling and the anatomy of whales, of ships and the anatomy of ships, of the ocean, and not least of the human heart.
And this is the most basic test for quality in fiction, it seems to me: is it absolutely faithful to the real, and absolutely faithful to what is strange and extraordinary within the real? For the Christian this is another way of saying, is it about grace? Because grace is the interruption of the unexpected in the real. Cheap stories barely touch reality—they present a simplified simulacrum of reality, a version that is easier for the storyteller and for the reader alike. And cheap stories are never really surprising. No one was ever surprised by a game of solitaire.
From Andy Crouch’s address at the 2005 Christy Awards.
The Christy Awards winners were announced last Saturday. Editor Terry Whalin says the event was fun and gives a list of the winners, which aren’t on The Christy Awards site or in the news sources I’ve searched. FaithfulReader.com has the list and some reviews. Editor David Long has kicked up some discussion.
According the website, “the Christy Award is designed to:
- Nurture and encourage creativity and quality in the writing and publishing of fiction written from a Christian worldview.
- Bring a new awareness of the breadth and depth of fiction choices available, helping to broaden the readership.
- Provide opportunity to recognize novelists whose work may not have reached bestseller status.
Sherry’s daughter Rachael is blogging for her next week. Her first post this afternoon is an interesting book meme which I refuse to answer at this time but will pass on to you.
- A book that made you cry
- A book that scared you
- A book that made you laugh
- A book that disgusted you
- A book you loved in elementary school
- A book you loved in middle school
- A book you loved in high school
- A book you loved in college
- A book that challenged your identity or your faith
- A series that you love
- Your favorite horror book
- Your favorite science-fiction book
- Your favorite fantasy book
- Your favorite mystery book
- Your favorite biography
- Your favorite coming-of-age book
- Your favorite book not on this list
I found this in the Brandywine Books archives. Erin O’Connor passes on a list of reasons why God couldn’t get tenure, and reader Kris at Berkley offers up an opposite list for why He could. From the first list:
- He’s authored only one paper
- That paper was in Hebrew
- His work appeared in an obscure, unimportant publication
- He never references other authors
- Workers in the field can’t replicate His results.
From the second list:
- The one publication was a Citation Classic.
- The Hebrew original was widely translated courtesy of the author.
- Being written before journals existed, references were hard to come by.
[first posted May 29, 2004] According to Ask Oxford, from the Oxford U.P., “Most of the words which are given as ‘the longest word’ are merely inventions, and when they occur it is almost always as examples of long words, rather than as genuine examples of use” i.e. ‘pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis,’ which is supposed to be a lung disease. Of course, there are real words of extreme length. A couple good examples of these superduperlong words are ‘antidisestablishmentarianism’ and ‘pseudopseudohypoparathyroidism.’ They just roll off the tongue, what?
For the trivia nerd or engineer in your family, Ask Oxford explains, “The formal names of chemical compounds are almost unlimited in length (for example, ‘aminoheptafluorocyclotetraphosphonitrile,’ 40 letters), but longer ones tend to be sprinkled with numerals, Roman and Greek letters, and other arcane symbols. Dictionary writers tend to regard such names as `verbal formulae’, rather than as English words.”
I love these lines from an Aline Kilmer poem:
When people inquire I always just state:
“I have four nice children and hope to have eight.
Though the first four are pretty and certain to please,
Who knows but the rest may be nicer than these?”
Even if they aren’t nicer, they will be my children, and I will love them better, I hope, than I have in the past.