"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Friday, January 26, 2007

Lit'ry matters

* U.S. southern novelist Walker Percy was a medical doctor.

* Longfellow is the most put to music of English-language poets.

(Items from Times [of London] Literary Supplement, hereafter TLS)

* The idiosyncrasy of Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poetry may be explained by the “constraint” of Jesuit life.  Toeing the line in all else, he broke out in his verse.  (You could say he sprang out with his rhythm.)  Indeed, the tension he experienced — conflict between vocation and creativity — may have been productive.  (Simon Humphries, “A Eunuch for God,” TLS 12/22&29/06)

* In Honor: a History (Encounter), James Bowman (no relation) displays “a propensity to be judgemental and didactic.”  (Ditto Harvey C. Mansfield in Manliness [Yale].)  Thus reviewer George Feaver, retired poly sci prof at U. of British Columbia and this year at UT-Austin, who was left with “nagging suspicions” about Bowman’s judgment of U.S. military decisions, having read to the end of his “dense, discursive account of the alleged ‘decline and fall’ of Western honour.”

In this and other matters, Bowman offers a “gloomy reading” of history, “overly selective” in Feaver’s view, as in its ignoring the civil rights revolution of the ‘60s and “real-life heroes” such as Martin Luther King and the New York firefighters on 9/11.  Feaver closes with commendation of both books, “despite their shortcomings [for reminding us] of the importance of remembering the past, and standing up for beliefs central to the achievement of our civilization.” (“Limp Responses,” TLS 12/22&29/06)

* Reviewing Patrick Wyse Jackson’s The Chronologer’s Quest: The Search for the Age of the Earth (Cambridge), John North says J. has “useful things to say,” albeit with “a weakness for discursive irrelevance.” 

Whether J. displayed this weakness or not, I do not know, nor do I know if other reviewers’ comments are well-aimed, but I do find that phrase helpful.  May writing teachers and editors everywhere hold discursive irrelevance to be a weakness not a strength. (TLS 1/12/07)

1 comment:

Michael Simpson said...

Ahh, yes, creativity must always be exercised *against* the constraints of orthodoxy. Good thing that folks don't worship a "Creator" or anyting....