Book Review—Storm of the i

Storm of the i, by Tina Collen

My first impression upon seeing this book was it’s beauty and its weight. It could be called a coffee table book, but it’s not like one of those expensive gargantuan picture books—it’s only 8.25 inches by 9 inches and costs a mere $29.95. Goodness, I’ve grudgingly paid thirty bucks for a lot less. It’s heavy because of the quality of the paper. It also has fold-outs, inserts, and plenty of art and pictures perfectly arranged. How did Art Review Press accomplish this?

The book is subtitled, An Artobigography, which gives one a hint of the content. Because Storm of the i is really a memoir. Ms. Collen’s story is the most important part of the book. The presentation of the art seduces you and helps hold things together, but it’s her well-written and compelling story that really seizes you. She calls it a “visual right of passage.” It’s a story of her relationship with a father—a conflicted man who was nasty to her and tried to alienate her from the rest of the family…for a lifetime. The burning question is why?

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My Mother and the Ku Klux Klan

I’ve never seen a member of the Ku Klux Klan in their dunce-like getup; and I do not knowingly know anyone who has been, or is, a member. For me, the KKK is an anachronism. It doesn’t belong; but then fringe groups of all stripes don’t disappear just because we think they should.

In 1926, my mother was living in a small farm community in Northeastern Ohio, the same community where I spent the first ten years of my life. She was 12 year’s old at the time. One day, the Ku Klux Klan came to town. Fifty years later, she vividly recalled the frightening event as though “people from outer space had arrived,” and wrote it down.

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20 Questions to Ask of Novels

Found at quaerentia via First Thoughts—Thirty Tree Things.

In explaining the list, the author prefers, “why should you read this book…?” to explaining “what this book made me feel.” Agreed. “The question is quite a revealing one, though, and says a lot about our cultural climate. It seems to me that our whole approach to life, from primary school up, is based on emotional response. Probably because we’ve given up on the possibility of truth…

“As a result in western culture, we learn to feel, we don’t learn to think. And narratives are one of the means to engaging our emotions… and thus we get hooked. Why else do advertisers spend so much time on creating ‘product narratives’? More worryingly, why else do campaigners put so much effort in creating a ‘political narrative’ for their electioneering candidates?” Indeed.

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Book Review—The Memory Chalet

The Memory Chalet, by Tony Judt

Tony Judt, a British Jew educated at Cambridge and the Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris, was a renowned scholar, historian, teacher, and intellectual. And he wrote this lucid memoir while dying of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), better known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. He had to dictate much of the book, and the early descriptions of being a prisoner in his own body were straightforward and chilling:

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The New York Times Can’t Handle the Truth

From Games with Words comes this illuminating piece:

Earlier today I wrote about the research behind an opinion article at the New York Times. When I looked at the sources cited, I was unable to find any information supporting the claims made in the article. In fact, what I found directly contradicted those claims. I finished by saying that while I was willing to believe these claims, I’d like to know what data support them. In passing, I mentioned that I had submitted an abbreviated version of this analysis as a comment on the Times website.

That comment was not published. I figured maybe there had been a computer error, so I submitted another one later in the day. That one was also not published. Finally, at 6:13pm, I submitted an innocuous and useless comment under an assumed name:

I agree with Pat N. It’s nice to hear from someone who has some optimism (@ Dr. Q).

This comment was published almost immediately.

The Times states that “comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.”Since the moderators didn’t publish the comment, we can conclude one of two things:

1) Discussion of the empirical claims made in a New York Times article is not “on topic.”
2) Pointing out a mistake made in a New York Times article is a kind of abuse.

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Two Book Reviews—J. D. Salinger: A Life

Michael H. Miller and Maureen Corrigan have separately reviewed  J. D. Salinger: A Life by Kenneth Slawenski.

Salinger is an author that I’ve not spent much time thinking about since I read Catcher in the Rye, over fifty years ago. But revisiting old influences, even minor ones, has its psychic rewards.

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59 Things You Didn’t Know About Virginia Woolf

A list of 59 Things you didn’t know about Virginia Woolf. Well, I certainly didn’t know them.

Here is a review of the collected work of Virginia Woolf: “Life is beautiful and tragic. Let’s put flowers in a vase.”

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7 Virtues Every Writer Needs to Succeed

I had no idea that I had to be so perfect. I am not. I’ll write anyway. From the

What makes a good writer? Is it a talent for seamlessly styling prose? A working knowledge of proper grammatical techniques? The simple ability to write productively?

Technical skills are important, it’s true, but much more important in defining a good writer is virtue. It cannot be denied that there are a certain number of personal traits that come in handy when the going gets tough, and let’s not deny it — the going is tough most of the time.

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Review—Slouching Toward Nirvana: New Poems

Slouching Toward Nirvana is my first foray into the strange nihilistic and unpretentious world of author Charles Bukowski. In his poem called, “the curse,” he writes of the unfortunate consequences of fame—the ultimate fragility of Tolstoy, Henry Miller, Hemingway, Celine, Ezra Pound, Hamsun, Ambrose Pierce and van Gogh. He ends with: “we are hardly ever / as strong / as that which we / create.” In a long poem called “The Tide,” he writes: “most of what we learn / in this crazy life is /what to avoid…like, say, / a fancy ending / to this poem.” A sense of humor here.

What is most interesting is the man himself—his anti-lit reputation, his popularity, his easy narrative style, and his rage. A number of his books have been published since his death in 1994. And after tasting this one, I am spurred to read more. The following review of Slouching Toward Nirvana by Matthew Firth , written in 2005, is illuminating. It gives a good account of the man; and I like his headstone:

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The Asymmetries of Nature

I’m not a scientist, but I find it a curious thing when real scientists overreach beyond science into metaphysics. The scientist referenced below seems to recognize this problem.

The book,  A Tear at the Edge of Creation, by scientist Marcelo Gleiser, explores an alternative to the “Grand Unified Theory” (not quite the Theory of Everything yet) recognizing the possibility “that the search for further symmetry and unification has been mistaken.” It’s a book that “tells the story of his change of mind about what real science is.” And it’s a plea for humility in the face of “the spirit of scientific arrogance.” A book review by Lee Smolin follows:

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