30 June 2008
2. How many of them have served in the military?
3. Does McCain have a son in Iraq?
I didn't know the answers to any of these questions until I read this article in the Jerusalem Post (via First Things). There is so much to admire about John McCain, even if one disagrees with him on policy.
29 June 2008
Real posts resume tomorrow.
28 June 2008
26 June 2008
-Orestes Brownson, “Catholicity Necessary to Sustain Popular Liberty” (1845). Essays and Reviews Chiefly on Theology, Politics, and Socialism. New York: D. & J. Sadlier & Co., 1852. (368-9)
Did you make it through all that? Good. The essay goes on to argue that although Protestantism might set a free government in place, only Catholicism can sustain it. The people manage the government, but only a truly authoritative religion can manage the people. Brownson, in this essay, never imagines the storm that will break two decades later, nor does he consider the possibility of a strong civil religion. Lincoln must have taken him by surprise.
It's interesting to see the famous names of Polk, Van Buren, Harrison, and Tyler disparaged in favor of Webster and Calhoun. Of course, the Speaker of the House was the most important figure in the government throughout much of the 19th century, especially under Henry Clay. But which of our buffoonish politicians will history choose to lift to the status of a featureless name in a list? In two hundred years, will the name “George W. Bush” be infamous, vindicated, or merely recited by bored schoolchildren? Brownson doesn't explain why Polk &co. are demagogues, but I certainly don't have the information at hand. (It is time, I suppose, that I read more U.S. History...)
By the way, did you see the date on that book? As best I could tell, it was part of the 1852 printing. I'm so happy that books predating the Civil War are in circulation in the UNC libraries. It's part of the magic of libraries.
25 June 2008
Hope that you may understand!
What can books of men that wive
In a dragon-guarded land,
Paintings of the dolphin-drawn
Sea-nymphs in their pearly waggons
Do, but awake a hope to live
That had gone
With the dragons?
At any rate, I did manage to thumb through a 1855 anthology of his Brownson's work, and stumbled upon his essay on Kant's Critique of Pure Reason. Evidently Brownson took Kant very seriously, and worried a great deal about the implications of Kantian reasoning. Here's an excerpt (and this is where today's post ties back to yesterday's):
Kant himself believed, many have since believed, that his Critic [sic] is a refutation of Hume; we regard it as the most masterful defense of Hume that man may be expected to produce. . . . The Critic of Pure Reason [sic], we all know, is confessedly atheistic; it leaves no space for faith in God, and Kant was obliged to write his Critic of the Practical Reason in order to restore the faith it had overthrown.
-Orestes Brownson. “Kant's Critique of Pure Reason.” The Brownson Reader, ed. Alvan Ryan. New York: P.J. Kennedy, 1955.
I don't have much more to say about Kant, but my question is this: do you detect a hint of that Chestertonian art of witty reversal in this passage? Is that just something that happens to people who spend time trying to explain scholastic philosophy to ordinary people? Unfortunately, I don't recall whether this particular passage was written before or after Brownson swam the Tiber...
24 June 2008
“In a sense, Kant's ‘Copernican revolution’ might better be called ‘Ptolemaic’: if Copernicus overthrew the commonsense geocentrism of ancient cosmology by advancing the heliocentric thesis, displacing the center from ‘here’ to ‘there,’ Kant (as an inheritor of the epistemological caesura such a revolution seems to introduce, more forcibly than Platonism, between sensibility and verifiable truth) enacted at the transcendental level an entirely contrary motion, reestablishing the order of knowledge by moving the axis of truth from the ‘sun of the good’ to the solid, imperturbable fundamentum inconcussum of the subjectum (substrate, substance, ground) transcendentale. Now the phenomena would revolve around the unyielding earth of apperception; again we would stand at the center. . . . And what was lost when the soul was forsaken for the self (however one interprets the move) is the world that the soul could at once dwell in and reflect within itself: the immediate impress of beauty, splendor, otherness both familiar and inviolably other, the desire this provokes, the overwhelming and strangely articulate address of its radiance, its inviting transcendence.”
-David Bentley Hart, The Beauty of the Infinite. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans) 2003. 137-8
If Hart is correct, then the Kantian revolution thrust us back into Plato's cave, back into our chains, where we contemplate what we can of our predicament. One of the arguments that underlies the whole first section of The Beauty of the Infinite is that Kant's system of thought very nearly discards beauty, and certainly considers the experience of the sublime to be much more important. Hart (apparently following Hans Urs von Balthasar) wants theologians to reverse this ordering, move us back to a contemplation of a good outside ourselves, and to take beauty rightly understood as our guide.
Now, I haven't yet read Kant, but I want to get to it someday. Frankly, I am intimidated by the German philosophers, but I know that I'll have to engage them before I can evaluate with any certainty what Hart says about them. But there's just so much to read...
They've admitted it for football. Time to admit it for everything else.
(See what happens when I move back to Chapel Hill? Rampant partisanship, unreasonable bias.)
-Jacques Maritain, "The End of Machiavellainsim." The Review of Politics IV (1942)
The Party of Reticence must make use of this one. In human affairs, an attempt to "unmask" is often practically the same as defacing.
23 June 2008
-Yuval Levin, “Science and the Left” in the Winter 2008 issue of The New Atlantis
Hmm. Hadn't thought of it that way before.
22 June 2008
In the business world, where concerns about time-management are perennial, warnings about workplace distractions spawned by a multitasking culture are on the rise. In 2005, the BBC reported on a research study, funded by Hewlett-Packard and conducted by the Institute of Psychiatry at the University of London, that found, “Workers distracted by e-mail and phone calls suffer a fall in IQ more than twice that found in marijuana smokers.” The psychologist who led the study called this new “infomania” a serious threat to workplace productivity. One of the Harvard Business Review’s “Breakthrough Ideas” for 2007 was Linda Stone’s notion of “continuous partial attention,” which might be understood as a subspecies of multitasking: using mobile computing power and the Internet, we are “constantly scanning for opportunities and staying on top of contacts, events, and activities in an effort to miss nothing.”
Ahh, continuous partial attention. So that's what it's called: the hour spent clicking about on Facebook, periodically checking Gmail, Blogspot, and university e-mail, just in case. On a purely anecdotal level, I feel a much greater sense of accomplishment after several hours at one task (or even an uninterrupted series of tasks) than I do if I've been flitting from site to site in the process.
(Walter Kirn covered similar territory at the Atlantic almost a year ago. Nicholas Carr provided further musings on technology and the brain in a more recent issue.)
21 June 2008
There is one very real sense in which the Dark Ages were the brightest of times, and it is this: that they were times of defined and definite duties and freedoms. The king might rule badly, but everyone agreed as to what good rule was. Not only every earl and baron but every carl and churl knew what an ideal king would say and do. The peasant might behave badly; but the peasant did not expect praise for it, even his own praise. These assertions can be quibbled over endlessly, of course; there are always exceptional persons and exceptional circumstances. Nevertheless they represent a broad truth about Christianized barbarian society as a whole, and arguments that focus on exceptions provide a picture that is fundamentally false, even when the instances on which they are based are real and honestly presented. At a time when few others knew this, and very few others understood its implications, J. R. R. Tolkien both knew and understood, and was able to express that understanding in art, and in time in great art.
That, I believe, was what drew me to him so strongly when I first encountered The Lord of the Rings. As a child I had been taught a code of conduct: I was to be courteous and considerate, and most courteous and most considerate of those less strong than I -- of girls and women, and of old people especially. Less educated men might hold inferior positions, but that did not mean that they themselves were inferior; they might be (and often would be) wiser, braver, and more honest than I was. They were entitled to respect, and were to be thanked when they befriended me, even in minor matters. Legitimate authority was to be obeyed without shirking and without question. Mere strength (the corrupt coercion Washington calls power and Chicago clout) was to be defied. It might be better to be a slave than to die, but it was better to die than to be a slave who acquiesced in his own slavery. Above all, I was to be honest with everyone. Debts were to be paid, and my word was to be as good as I could make it.
Philology led [Tolkein] to the study of the largely illiterate societies of Northern Europe between the fall of Rome and the beginning of the true Middle Ages (roughly AD 400 to 1000). There he found a quality -- let us call it Folk Law -- that has almost disappeared from his world and ours. It is the neighbour-love and settled customary goodness of the Shire. Frodo is "rich" in comparison to Sam, though no dragon would call Frodo rich; Sam is poor in comparison to Frodo, though Sam is far richer than Gollum, who has been devoured by the tyranny and corruption of the One Ring. Frodo does not despise Sam for his poverty, he employs him; and Sam does not detest Frodo for his wealth, but is grateful for the job. Most central of all, the difference in their positions does not prevent their friendship. And in the end, poor Sam rises in the estimation of the Shire because of his association with Frodo, and rich Frodo sacrifices himself for the good of all the Sams.
Read the rest of the essay here. It's convinced me that I need to re-read Tolkien's trilogy before school starts in the fall.
20 June 2008
Discussion: It could certainly be that Joan Didion and Philip K. Dick are not representative of California novelists in general. But, supposing that they do represent the Spirit of California, we might reasonably conclude that California exists somewhere between image and reality, but always in the present moment. The various protagonists struggle to find a place for themselves in a fluid reality: people are always moving, changing, planning, making promises. And, of course, what everyone wants is freedom, but, because there is such a stark divide between Individual and Society, freedom is far out of reach. On the other hand, Southern writers, such as Walker Percy and Thomas Wolfe, write of encumbered selves: people who do not try to shed or forget their compromised roles, but rather to redeem their dark inheritances, to find a way to accept their given identities in good conscience.
Caveat: This could be way, way off the mark.
Further Questions: What about Northerners? Midwesterners? Canadians?
But we'll probably just end up calling each other names until November.
I would love to know what the folks who drop by here think of Poulos's essay. Leave a comment or two.
18 June 2008
At any rate, Anthony Esolen has come up with a way to distinguish between the sort of conservatives I like and the ones I can't stand. Here's the whole paragraph, because I just love it when Dr. Esolen goes off on our culture:
“…I've been on a few radio shows to talk about The Politically Incorrect Guide to Western Civilization. Naturally, most of the shows are what is called conservative, meaning that the hosts believe that there is something they ought to conserve: traditional morality, American sovereignty, some shreds and patches of civic liberty in our nation. I have enjoyed these interviews, yet I have wanted to cry out, ‘Don't be fooled! Detach yourselves from the flies of the day! Read Kirk, read Eliot, read something written by men of letters before last week, something written by people whose long view of history included Thucydides and Tacitus.’ That might not make me too popular a guest -- though I do try to pepper the interview with what my students would recognize as typical lines, as for instance that a man has more freedom of speech in the bar across the street from the college than in the college itself. Still, I'm beset by that disjunction between keeping one's eyes on those Permanent Things, the truths of human nature that do not change, and following, wide-eyed and gaga and breathless (hey, we are all blondes now) the latest chatter of the latest political nonentity. Back in the day, when a William McKinley blathered, though he was a regular Edward Gibbon compared with our ‘orators’ now, he at least blathered in the style of a responsible man of the world, who had read a lot, fought in a terrible war (the Civil War, wherein he attained the rank of Major), ran a business or was the child or neighbor or friend of dozens of people who owned farms or ran businesses, and was old enough to know what people were like, and religious enough to know what to think of it. Now we blather like spoiled and ignorant children; our political discourse is below the juvenile. And ‘conservatives’ take part in it, too.”
In other words, there are those who have some impulse to conserve the past, and there are those who have taken the time to find out what parts of the past are truly worth conserving. I could do without the first group.
Edgar Allen Poe
From childhood's hour I have not been
As others were—I have not seen
As others saw—I could not bring
My passions from a common spring—
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow—I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone—
And all I loved—I loved alone.
Then—in my childhood—in the dawn
Of a most stormy life—was drawn
From ev'ry depth of good and ill
The mystery which binds me still—
From the torrnet, or the fountain—
From the red cliff of the mountain—
From the sun that round me rolled
In its autumn tint of gold—
From the lightening in the sky
As it passed me flying by—
From the thunder, and the storm—
And the cloud that took the form
(When the rest of heaven was blue)
Of a demon in my view.
17 June 2008
As someone with zero ability to deal with the Monday-Night-Football strategy-analysis approach of the cable channels that has bled into all the other media outlets, I'm tempted to sequester myself with my math books and MacIntyre until November rolls around and I can cast my single-issue, pro-life vote, then try to forget about the whole thing again. But that's not responsible, is it?
So I'm glad Matt Taibbi's around. Who is he? Well, he became infamous as an editor of the sociopathic Moscow alternative weekly The Exile (which is, unfortunately, getting shut down by the Russian government), but came back to the US and ended up working as Rolling Stone's political writer in the 2004 election. A quick glance through his writing will prove that he is absolutely tasteless. After all, he's the guy who compiled the list of the funny things about John Paul II's death and got fired from the New York Press because of it. Frequently scatological and obscene, he's semi-renowned for his vicious descriptions of politicians' personal appearances. It seems clear to me that he would like Obama to be the next president, and he's pretty soft on the guy, even while he writes withering invective about McCain and Clinton. So what's to like?
I suppose that, in a perverse way, I trust the guy. His goal is to achieve this perverse sort of trustworthiness. He explained it to Salon:
…I try to have a narrative voice where people see exactly who I am and what kind of person I am. That makes it easier for them to digest the information that they're getting. If they decide that they trust me, they're going to trust the information that they read, and even if they disagree with me, they at least know where I'm coming from, and that's always a positive. The negative of that is that sometimes you do have language that turns people off.
Beneath the incendiary offensiveness, he's got a simple question: why can't we just talk about things like normal people? The Great Derangement is the title of Taibbi's latest book, which I have not read, as well as his term for the current political climate in the United States. People are turning to the crazy extremes (religion on the right, 9/11 Truth on the left), and politicians take advantage of the people's intense desire for something different by feeding them rhetoric that only makes the situation worse. And, although I'm sure he's well-compensated for his efforts, Taibbi has to listen to this stultifying rhetoric day after day on the campaign trail, then filter it out for us.
If there's a weakness in his writing, it's that he's still reporting on the reporters, on the strategies, and on the procedures of the election. He won't be the fastest to take into account any big changes in economics or geopolitics. Would I trust him on policy issues? Never. But for a ground view of the absurdities of our electoral system, I can't find anyone better.
16 June 2008
“In America, you can't claim to be a member of the elite—even the ‘good,’ public-spirited elite—without instantly losing all credibility, even though it is as plain as day that there is a tiny elite class that calls the shots within the very broad constraints imposed by the system of popular elections. (A zillion years ago this problem was debated by John Dewey and Walter Lippman.) Everyone wants to belong to that class, but no one wants to admit it, for it is a class that one can join only by denying that one belongs to it. It is this strange little fiction that keeps our democracy from falling apart. Rule by the people really means a kind of civility on the part of the elites.”
It's the conclusion of his response to Rick Hills' denunciation of the “intelligentsia,” of which he he is clearly a part. A little digging, and we find that Hills is really writing against obscurity in language. But it's probably a little bit much to turn bad writing on the part of intellectuals into a moral offense: it's an aesthetic problem, and that's bad enough.
12 June 2008
Also, Allegra Goodman's contribution, “Counting Pages,” gets the idea of growing up in a faith exactly right:
“And yet, inexorably, some of my own religion rubbed off on me. Might that be the way belief works for some people? Not a sudden epiphany but a long, slow accumulation of Sabbaths. No road-to-Damascus conversion but a kind of coin rubbing, in which ritual and repetition begin to reveal the credo underneath.”
11 June 2008
Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister
Gr-r-r — there go, my heart’s abhorrence!
Water your damned flower-pots, do!
If hate killed men, Brother Lawrence,
God’s blood, would not mine kill you!
What? your myrtle-bush wants trimming?
Oh, that rose has prior claims —
Needs its leaden vase filled brimming?
Hell dry you up with its flames!
At the meal we sit together;
Salve tibi! I must hear
Wise talk of the kind of weather,
Sort of season, time of year:
Not a plenteous cork-crop: scarcely
Dare we hope oak-galls, I doubt;
What's the Latin name for “parsley”?
What's the Greek name for “swine's snout”?
Whew! We’ll have our platter burnished,
Laid with care on our own shelf!
With a fire-new spoon we’re furnished,
And a goblet for ourself,
Rinsed like something sacrificial
Ere ’tis fit to touch our chaps —
Marked with L. for our initial!
(He-he! There his lily snaps!)
Saint, forsooth! While brown Dolores
Squats outside the Convent bank
With Sanchicha, telling stories,
Steeping tresses in the tank,
Blue-black, lustrous, thick like horsehairs,
— Can’t I see his dead eye glow,
Bright as ’twere a Barbary corsair's?
(That is, if he'd let it show!)
When he finishes refection,
Knife and fork he never lays
Cross-wise, to my recollection,
As do I, in Jesu’s praise.
I the Trinity illustrate,
Drinking watered orange-pulp —
In three sips the Arian frustrate;
While he drains his at one gulp.
Oh, those melons? If he’s able
We're to have a feast! so nice!
One goes to the Abbot’s table,
All of us get each a slice.
How go on your flowers? None double?
Not one fruit-sort can you spy?
Strange! — And I, too, at such trouble,
Keep them close-nipped on the sly!
There's a great text in Galatians,
Once you trip on it, entails
Twenty-nine distinct damnations,
One sure, if another fails:
If I trip him just a-dying,
Sure of heaven as sure as can be,
Spin him round and send him flying
Off to hell, a Manichee?
Or, my scrofulous French novel
On grey paper with blunt type!
Simply glance at it, you grovel
Hand and foot in Belial’s gripe:
If I double down its pages
At the woeful sixteenth print,
When he gathers his greengages,
Ope a sieve and slip it in’t?
Or, there's Satan! — one might venture
Pledge one's soul to him, yet leave
Such a flaw in the indenture
As he’d miss till, past retrieve,
Blasted lay that rose-acacia
We're so proud of! Hy, Zy, Hine ...
’St, there's Vespers! Plena gratiâ
Ave, Virgo! Gr-r-r — you swine!
-Joan Didion, in the essay “Where the Kissing Never Stops” (1966) from Slouching Toward Bethlehem
It's the “whether one wants them to or not” that struck me. Because sometimes you remember those intense and vivid moments that mark the phases of teenage identity: the way you reacted to bad times, epiphanies, poems that tear their way out of your heart, dreams, certain conversations. And you wonder where they have gone, but you are not sad that things are different now, nor entirely happy.
10 June 2008
“Southern transcenders are the worst of all—for they hate the old bloody immanence of the South. Southerners outdo their teachers, just as the Chinese Marxists outdo the Soviets. Did you ever talk to a female Freudian Georgia social worker? Freud would be horrified.”
-From Sutter Vaught's casebook, in Walker Percy's The Last Gentleman
So I was sitting in UNC's undergraduate library, reading down the home stretch of The Last Gentleman, when I started to wonder if this library has any collections of essays on or reviews of Walker Percy. In the process of the computer search, it comes to my attention that UNC's Rare Book Collection has Mr. Percy's entire personal library. I would have thought that his books would have ended up in Alabama or someplace—although he did go to school here.
I don't know if I'll be able to use anything from this collection, but to feel a sudden physical connection to the (dead) author of a good book—his own well-used books, here in this building!—is something special.
(By the way, Percy and the great North Carolina novelist Thomas Wolfe both worked along the Chapel Hill-New York City axis. Do other Southern schools have similar artists, similar paths?)
09 June 2008
07 June 2008
The South he came home to was different from the South he had left. It was happy, victorious, Christian, rich, patriotic and Republican.
The happiness and serenity of the South disconcerted him. He had felt good in the North because everyone else felt so bad. True, there was a happiness in the North. That is to say, nearly everyone would have denied that he was unhappy. And certainly the North was victorious. It had never lost a war. But Northerners had turned morose in their victory. They were solitary and shut-off to themselves and he, the engineer, had got used to living among them. Their cities, rich and busy as they were, looked bombed out. And his own happiness had come from being onto the unhappiness beneath their happiness. It was possible for him to be at home in the North because the North was homeless. There are many things worse than being homeless in a homeless place—in fact, this is one condition of being at home, if you are yourself homeless. For example, it is much worse to be homeless and then to go home where everyone is at home and then still be homeless. The South was at home. Therefore his homelessness was much worse in the South because he had expected to find himself at home there.
The happiness of the South was formidable. It was an almost invincible happiness. It defied you to call it anything else. Everyone was in fact happy. The women were beautiful and charming. The men were healthy and successful and funny; they knew how to tell stories. They had everything the North had and more. They had a history, they had a place redolent with memories, they had good conversation, they believed in God and defended the Constitution, and they were getting rich in the bargain. They had the best of victory and defeat. Their happiness was aggressive and irresistible. . .
. . . He had got used to good steady wistful post-Protestant Yankees (they were his meat, ex-Protestants, post-Protestants, para-Protestants, the wistful ones who wanted they knew not what; he was just the one to dance for them) and here all at once he found himself among as light-footed and as hawk-eyed and God-fearing a crew as one could imagine. Everyone went to church and was funny and clever and sensitive in the bargain. Oh, they were formidable, born winners (how did they lose?). . .
I'll summarize what I find so interesting about this section. First, it describes a frozen moment: the closest the South ever got to rising again, just as air conditioning and strip malls released a wave of suburbanism that slowly and steadily worked against Southern distinctiveness. Second, the happiness of the South is rooted in history, local distinction, and money. Third, cities can be wonderful places for the rootless.
Of course, it is a blind sort of happiness. There were always those who wanted to ignore the evils of slavery's legacy: if you think of the guilt in your blood, it's hard to rest in your riches. Some Southern roots are poisoned, and the plants that grow from them will always drop poisonous seeds.
North Carolina, I think, must have been one of the happiest places in the South. Unlike Virginia, South Carolina, or Louisiana, we had no major port city, which left us poorer and less important. I could be wrong, but I don't think our wealthy class could compare to those of other Southern states before the twentieth century. Perhaps the defeat was not so bad here, especially in cities with very little history, such as my hometown Charlotte. We don't remember the sting of defeat like they do in Richmond, with its Civil War statues and Jefferson Davis memorials. (And will South Carolina ever do the right thing and take down that Confederate flag?)
Things are, of course, different now. Percy's books and a great deal of other Southern literatures are interesting because they wrestle with the fading of the Old South. Maybe we can say that Lincoln's victory continues to this day. It is a bitter thing, but it is the right thing.
05 June 2008
(Especially you, Dave Zahl, if you read this.)
“Atheism is bourgeois oppression. Atheism is the opium of the people—it claims to discover an ontology which precludes all hope. This is what someone like Žižek now openly says. We need now to celebrate instead the faithful legacy of peasants, learned, honourable and paternalist aristocrats, Christian warrior kings like Alfred the Great, yeomen farmers and scholars. Péguy is the man for the hour. William Cobbett also. Chesterton and Belloc likewise.”
This sort of critique of atheism is much more interesting to me than the old, useless back-and-forth of apologetics. I mean, the old stuff bolsters the spirits of the true believers—on both sides—but Milbank is about something more robust.
Now I'm just waiting for that anarcho-syndicalist candidate to emerge, and I'll be set.
(The news reports make it look unlikely that Kelleher will win; the party's going to spend most of its money on the governor's race. Also, it looks like Kelleher sort of hijacked the nomination anyway.)
04 June 2008
The sea is calm tonight.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits;—on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.
Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the Aegean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.
The Sea of Faith
Was one, too, at the full, and round earth's shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.
Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.
03 June 2008
Stephen does not, as the careless reader may suppose, become an artist by rejecting church and country. Stephen does not become an artist at all. Country, church, and mission are an inextricable unity, and in rejecting the two that seem to hamper him, he rejects also the one on which he has set his heart.
-Hugh Kenner, “The Portrait in Perspective” (1956)
In other words, some part of Joyce knows that the rootlessness of the romantic artist is not a good thing in itself; it is a privation: the misfortune of being born into a small-minded nation (“race” in the sense of nationality). One might wish to be rooted in stronger soil, but one is what one is.
Kenner argues that Portrait was composed with its sequel in mind, so I won't say more until I've read it.
01 June 2008
This is Jesse Ainslie, who goes by the stage name of Barghest. I saw him play again yesterday when I celebrated my return to the Chapel Hill by attending TRKfest, an all-afternoon-and-evening music festival put on by the fine fellows at Trekky Records. It was wonderful fun: performers included Wil Donegan, Hammer No More The Fingers, Bowerbirds (whose dog continually distracted from their set by begging onlookers to play fetch), and the indomitable Megafaun.
And the pants-off dance-off was a classic, especially when the winner had trouble getting his pants back from the girl who caught them.