02 Apr 2012 at 2:17 pm #645
I read Housekeeping on Saturday and really liked it. The first couple of paragraphs really suck you in. For my taste it is better than Gilead. I’m glad that I read Gilead first, because it is a really good novel, but it would have been mildly disappointing had the reading order been reversed. Thanks for the recommendations guys.
03 Apr 2012 at 11:48 am #658
I love the new site. Nice April Fool’s joke on the main page. My own tribute to April Fool’s is here.
After reading much of the Summer, 1992, Southern Quarterly, I decided to send for Garry Wallace’s novel, Biography of a Bird Dog, A Labrador Retriever in Wyoming. Wallace is a professor there.
I highly recommend The Wandering Gene and the Indian Princess: Race, Religion, and DNA by Jeff Wheelwright, an excellent piece of history and journalism. It involves the genetic tracing of a Hispano community that descends from mixed Spanish and Pueblo/Apache American Indians.
They had valued light skin, generally, and “had wallpapered over” their Native American ancestry. Genetic testing revealed that they descended from Sephardic Jews persecuted by the Spanish Inquisition, though some of them rejected the DNA science and the recommended breast cancer scans. It is a cautionary tale about the value of DNA testing.
I also recommend GOD’S JURY: THE INQUISITION AND THE MAKING OF THE MODERN WORLD by Cullen Murphy. Available at Amazon.
Richard L.Quote04 Apr 2012 at 3:48 am #669
Nice site – very posh! I’ll have to watch me Ps and Qs, that’s for sure.
I’m currently reading William Styron’s ‘The Confessions of Nat Turner’. As I got in to the story, I couldn’t help but be reminded of McCarthy’s ‘shadowed agony in the garden’. It’s very powerfully written and full of righteous indignation; indeed it was brave, some would say foolhardy, of Styron, a white man, to, as it were, get inside the mind of an African-American slave. My copy also has an afterword by Styron that describes the incredible rage that its publication and success incited among the, largely academic, black community. I would be interested to read people’s comments about this – e.g., whether you think the rage was legitimate or not. A lot of the anger seems to speak of a moment of polarisation within the late sixties civil rights’ movement; but, as I’m still in the early stages of the read, I’m just plain not sure. Interestingly, the book that it reminds most of is Richard Wright’s ‘Native Son’.
cantonaQuote04 Apr 2012 at 8:39 am #670
Currently reading a book of Flannery O’Connor short stories, Everything That Rises Must Converge but the new first novel from Irish writer Kevin Barry, The City of Bohane is definitely next up for me. I’d been introduced to him several years ago when asked to review his first collection of short stories called There are Little Kingdoms for a friend’s Scottish lit site. I was knocked out by his writing and knew he had been working on a first novel but did not expect it to make the cover of the NY Times Book Review section last Sunday. Quite excited about it.
If interested, here’s my review of his short story collection…
There are Little KIngdoms
04 Apr 2012 at 11:07 am #672
Great review, enjoyed the tone.
Fantastic interview with E.O. Wilson ( a GOD!!!!) on charlie Rose last night. I am going to pick up his new book today. Called “The Social Conquest of Earth”.
Where did we come from? What are we? Where are we going? In a generational work of clarity and passion, one of our greatest living scientists directly addresses these three fundamental questions of religion, philosophy, and science while “overturning the famous theory that evolution naturally encourages creatures to put family first” (Discover magazine). Refashioning the story of human evolution in a work that is certain to generate headlines, Wilson draws on his remarkable knowledge of biology and social behavior to show that group selection, not kin selection, is the primary driving force of human evolution. He proves that history makes no sense without prehistory, and prehistory makes no sense without biology. Demonstrating that the sources of morality, religion, and the creative arts are fundamentally biological in nature, Wilson presents us with the clearest explanation ever produced as to the origin of the human condition and why it resulted in our domination of the Earth’s biosphere.
Sounds like it would make a great paired reading with the Cullen Murphy, right?
How many minimum wage hours does it have to take to live a decent life?
06 Apr 2012 at 1:14 pm #694
I had ordered two Marilynne Robinson essays and picked them up yesterday from the book shop. I started one called “When I was a Child I Read Books” and it is immediately beautifully written. I am feeling a world away from her specific conclusions…but my goodness despite our different perspectives on things (and many common ideals too) she is a terrific engaging writer. I feel as if i am actually ina conversation with her.
So far the themes and concerns remind me, as do her novels, of Wendell Berry. They both have such similar concerns about life and how people learn and live…but with their own style and compelling skills.
I must thank the folks here who pointed out they were reading her essays…it wouldn’t have occurred to me to check them out…and my little taste with them last night was quite rewarding.
06 Apr 2012 at 1:21 pm #69506 Apr 2012 at 2:52 pm #699
Everything that Rises Must Converge and her letters are easily my favorite writings by O’Connor. From that book of shorts, “The Lame Shall Enter First” is the one O’Connor story that I found myself laughing out loud during my first reading(I stopped, reread to make sure I read what I thought I read, and then laughed). Me and a few buddies still joke about Rufus Johnson. But, then again Manley Pointer, the dumb-ass, ignorant redneck bible salesman from “Good Country People”, which is O’Connor’s unapologetic bashing of contemporary academia, also gives us a laugh.
Which O’Connor shorts are capturing your attention right now?
Mike aka “mff—-”
MikeQuote07 Apr 2012 at 11:52 am #723
Thanks to Marc for recommending CITY OF BOHANE. It is terrific so far.
Garry Wallace’s BIOGRAPHY OF A BIRD DOG turned out not to be a novel, as I mistakenly said in my last post before I had seen it, but a marvelous work of creative non-fiction. After I read the book, I interviewed him about his work, his meeting with Cormac McCarthy, Betty Carey, and other things. My review of his book and the questions and answers will appear shortly on my blog. His essay, “Meeting Cormac McCarthy,” along with several of his other award winning essays will be published soon. Good stuff.
Richard L.Quote07 Apr 2012 at 12:00 pm #724
I’m envious, I haven’t gotten my hands on Kevin’s book yet! Looking forward to your interview with Wallace & whatever else you post.
07 Apr 2012 at 12:13 pm #725
I’m about halfway through the O’Connor, just starting ‘The Lame…’ so will let you know how it hits me when I’m done but from everything else so far in it that I’ve read, it can’t miss. She’s even more wickedly funny in this whole collection, the dripping irony of the first & title story and her look at southern & class idiosyncrasies in ‘Greenleaf’. Her various ‘mother’ figures are dead on & I have to admit (based on my own personal experiences) to both squirming uncomfortably and laughing at the same time, especially during the title story. Sort of felt like she’d been looking over my shoulder while I was growing up and I like it when someone nails me like that although not always a good feeling.
07 Apr 2012 at 8:26 pm #732
The Transition: Lyndon Johnson and the events in Dallas by Robert Caro. Excellent article in The New Yorker from the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian. Riveting stuff. Here’s an abstract of the piece:
09 Apr 2012 at 10:07 pm #777
B O O K R E P O R T
Just finished Big Questions or Asomatognosia: whose hand is it anyways? by Anders Nilsen–a 584 page comic (genre?) about birds. It says in the back of the book it took fifteen years to finish. Takes maybe an hour and a half to read if you savor the artwork. In the beginning the drawings are very simple. Indeed, the illustrations of birds are very simple throughout; at the same time, the framing and composition become increasingly complex to accommodate an idyllic world intruded upon by a bomb (which is mistaken for a special kind of egg), a downed fighter plane, and a hostile fighter pilot. One naturally assumes Nilsen’s craftsmanship improved over the years he worked on this, perhaps with some digital help. It follows that the landscape becomes richer and more intricate while the bird drawings remain charming and simple. Most of the story is a series of vignettes involving finches–at least that is how the blackbirds refer to them, you see they have their own taxonomy (doughnuts are called vegetables). Among the cast of characters are some squirrels who absolutely do not want you fucking with their nuts. There is a wandering imbecile who the birds begin to see as competition for food. Also, there are some finches who walk around in skeleton form–is the afterlife in this world different from our own? And further, there are “big questions”: “Is the world being drawn inexorably along a path of degradation and destruction? Is there hope for the future or are we doomed?” Some of the birds wax philosophical, however you McCarthy/Melville/Faulkner fans will not find this book the least bit engaging in that respect, nor will you be a smarter person at the end. I think the main themes of this work are altruism and standing up for the things in which you believe: standing guard over a mysterious egg, defending your friends from the blackbirds, protecting the imbecile that both killed you and brought you back to life, collecting worms for the giant “bird” that hatched from the down plane. These are the actions which may answer big questions like is the world doomed. Perhaps there are some superfluous scenes that go overboard with mystery and surrealism. This is the one downside to this work, but any comic artist who can spend a page showing an earthworm hypnotically crawling along in the grass and still be riveting is worth your time and money. And even though this is the Cormac McCarthy Forum, where I suspect more than one person may have lost their sense of humor (I think I read that once), I’d still recommend it.
12 Apr 2012 at 1:40 am #802
I just finished “The Man In The High Castle”. Really enjoyed the alternate history novel about the world in 1962 after the Axis powers won WWII, within which is a banned book that presents an alternate history about the world in which the Allied powers had won WWII. Set simply in San Francisco among antiquities dealers, jewelers, and their customers.
I also just finished “The Guns Of August”, the Pulitizer Prize winning book by Barbara Tuchman about the events leading up to the start of WWI. It sets the stage of a world where most of the European monarchs are still blood relatives, and individual egos and ambitions drive the world to war. Great book!
12 Apr 2012 at 12:24 pm #804
HIGH CASTLE and GUNS OF AUGUST are great books.
Re: THE TRANSITION
I wish Robert Caro–who is an excellent historian and a runner too–would devote himself to another time period. After all of the books I read on the Kennedy assassination last year, I have to pass on this one right now.
Interesting news about Angelina playing Malkina, the cool attractive lady with long black hair. The lady with the cheetahs. I think she fits the part.
Thanks, Ken, for dropping by my blog to comment on the Garry Wallace interview.
After reading and posting about Betty Carey and her poker adventures, I’ve decided to read Positively Fifth Street: Murderers, Cheetahs, and Binion’s World Series of Poker by James McManus. I think I’ve read part of it before, but for some reason put it back on the shelf. I’ll give it another go.
12 Apr 2012 at 2:43 pm #805
I’ve been waiting about a decade for the new Caro book, and I’m frankly thrilled to see it arrive. It’s high on my reading list, and I expect (were my reading list a literal stack of books) it will be massive enough to crush all the books beneath it.
I’d bet that the assassination is only a small part of that book; Caro has a real knack for digging up the unexpected.
Caro now admits to five volumes. Do you think he’ll make it six before he’s done with LBJ?
WebmasterQuote13 Apr 2012 at 2:42 am #807
Well I have to demur from the general praise for Caro. I also read the New Yorker excerpt, and, like Peter/Glass, found much of it riveting. I felt Caro was spot-on in his exploration of LBJ’s possible cognitive dissonance in the aftermath of the assassination – the description of the phone call to Robert Kennedy is brilliant. Why? Well, we will never know fully why LBJ made that call. However, Caro ruins it all, in my opinion, with his uncritical description of how observers, Lady Bird, in particular, began to witness a transformation in LBJ’s mien the closer he came to investiture. Suddenly,we are led to believe, the gravity and solemnity of the occasion started to fill LBJ up with that most tiresome of cliches: presidential gravitas. Inference? The dissonance has dissapeared. You know, it’s also possible that what they were seeing was a recurrence of LBJ’s well-known indigestion problems. Since Tricky-Dicky we should be wary of such hypostatisations of character.
A much more psychologically nuanced treatment of that terrible day can be found in Madmen,Season Three.
cantonaQuote14 Apr 2012 at 12:50 am #822
Good reviews here. I am on a reading rampage. I just picked up E.O. Wilsons new book…and I’ve almost finished Marilynne robinsons essays in “When I was A Child I Read Boooks.
Holy Buddha…what a contrasting pair of books. She has a substantial chapter on the book trend about dismissing the Bible and I assume she means Dennet, Hitchens, Dawkins…and E.O. Wilson is writing that introspection and religion will never answer the big questions about the human condition (oops paraphrasing sorry…but its damn close to what hes saying.) His book is called “The Social Conquest of Earth”.
I am very moved to read Robinsons feelings and ideas about how it feels with the Christian faith being contested…many times she conveys how much loss she feels. I feel a lot of compassion for her views…
These are both big ideas books and exciting to read. Its almost as if the publishers conspired to print them on purpose at the same time as they are both new releases. They would be incredible group reads for discussion.
14 Apr 2012 at 10:26 am #834
- This reply was modified 2 years ago by Candy Minx.
Reading Positively Fifth Street: Murderers, Cheetahs, and Binion’s World Series of Poker by James McManus. I don’t know if McCarthy read this one, but it certainly could be source material for his new movie.
Jimmy Chagra is in here too, along with some of the other people who populated Sally Denton’s Bluegrass Conspiracy. It was Jimmy Chagra who, having been fleeced a couple of times in poker games by Amarillo Slim, backed Betty Carey in an effort to get even and to take Slim down a notch. Amarillo Slim says he figured out her tell and called her bluff in the crucial game.
Chigurh makes a good symbol for the collective drug cartels. It’s good that Javier Bardem is in the upcoming movie, but they should make him into a similar character, sort of a continuing sequel. McCarthy’s spect script would seem fluid enough.
Cheetahs was the actual name of a famous brothel and some women who formerly worked there figure into this story. How appropo for Malkina to have a trinity of cheetahs. The cat woman, with cat having the meaning for McCarthy and Joseph Conrad and Walter Van Tilburg Clark et, al, of that animal part of our nature.
The epigraphs for the first chapter are:
“Sex is a Nazi. The students all knew
this at your school. To it, everyone’s subhuman
for parts of their lives. Some are all their lives.
You’ll be one of those if these things worry you.
–Les Murray “Rock Music”
Come, you spirits,
That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here…
Shakespeare, Lady MacBeth
The title for the first chapter is “The End,” after Jim Morrison’s “The End,” featured in Apocalypse Now and played to open the funeral of Ted Binion, who hosted the World Series of Poker at his Horseshow Casino, before he was murdered by one of the former Cheetah girls and her lover, with heroin.
The name, Chigurh, has been parodied in other movies, including an episode of South Park according to Wikipedia. I recall many stalking off, swearing off Cormac McCarthy because they thought he had sold out, saying that NCFOM was over the top pulp and earmarked for cheap Hollywood.
Addiction is addiction, whether to alcohol, drugs, gambling, power, or sex. Somehow the real drug kingpin stories make the action in NCFOM seem understated, and more valuable for the parable that it is.
14 Apr 2012 at 11:31 pm #873
Jim: Very interesting take/critique of the Caro.
Candy: Saw tha interview with Wilson on Charlie Rose. Always interesting.
Reading what’s available online about Fremont Landing, Calif., a place the kid visited in BM. Some parallels between this place and various points in BM. In one history, which I will link to, the author offers an account of the Indians who left no memory of their presence, and he even contrasts this with the Indians of the Southwest who left monuments behind. Definitely reminiscent of Holden’s talk of the “old ones” in BM and the contrast he made between them and those who vanish without a trace. Not so dead.
Also interesting in the two-year history of the town was the murder of a soldier by a gambler, the gambler, following the crime, saying, “This is a very solemn occasion, boys; let’s take a drink.” The author added to this, writing “That ended the matter. In fact, taking a drink seemed to be the cheerful manner of ending disagreeable matters in those philosophical days of ’49.”
Put me in mind of the judge in the bar after taking down the Rev. Greene, and also Glanton after the murder of Owens.
Here’s a link to one history. Scroll to Ch. III for the account of the Indians disappearing with no legacy — “California Red People That Passed and Left No Memory.”
16 Apr 2012 at 11:01 am #885
I enjoyed THitHC a few weeks ago; during the past couple of months, I’ve been on something of a Philip K. Dick binge and have read at least a half-dozen of his novels; presently on the second volume in the VALIS trilogy (The Divine Invasion).
16 Apr 2012 at 11:09 am #886
I just started “Freedom”, Suarez’s sequel to “Daemon”. The first major scene has Sobol’s virtual ghost lecturing at an Anasazi ruin. Don’t tell me Suarez isn’t a big fan of McCarthy.
17 Apr 2012 at 4:52 am #892
Lon, I just finshed VALIS a few months ago. Really wasn’t expecting things to go where they did in that book. Haven’t really read too much Dick though. Seems like there were some interesting Gnostic ideas in VALIS. How does The Divine Invasion compare?
18 Apr 2012 at 6:10 pm #909
I just finished TDI yesterday, enjoyed it greatly — not as “autobiographical” as VALIS, as far as I can tell; PKD seems to know his history of religion — discursions on Judaism, Christianity, Zoroastrianism, gnosticism abound, woven neatly into the narrative. The 11th novel of his I’ve read in the past few months, and now well into the third of the trilogy: The Transmigration of Timothy Archer. Looking forward to more…
18 Apr 2012 at 7:49 pm #912
Lon, keep up the good work, you are just a few more Dick novels away from being eligible for electroconvulsive therapy and a monthly Social Security Disability check. Seriously though, I think I would be pushing the sanity envelope if I read that many Dick novels in such proximity–kudos to yous. BTW — not meant as a put down to you, just think I might be boarding a train I would have some difficulty getting to slow down. I agree about how well Dick connects all those dots from different traditions; we were just talking about the problem of tradition in one of the “middle novels” threads. To some extent, I took away from VALIS a presentation of some psychotic vision of syncretism . . . all these literary traditions traced back to sacred texts–what if we actually met one of the founders of these traditions?–who in most cases were not the authors of the books that serve as their Tupac-like holograms. How many Mother Gooses are there out there “twisting it” (as John Lennon so famously said when comparing the Beetles to Jesus)? For those of you who haven’t read the novel, there is a character who may be a prophet. The prophet in question is an infant who is watched over by some nutcases in Califunya, one of which is named Mother Goose. Now that I think about it, I’m really curious to see where the next two books go.
19 Apr 2012 at 10:46 am #918
- This reply was modified 2 years ago by Bunny McVane.
With a big thank you to Candy, I ordered and just picked up William S. Bourroughs’ “Cities of the Red Night”. I read the first chapter on the subway back home, and it reminded me greatly of the ending of The Road, where a colony of like-minded freedom-lovers tries to keep a civil society going amid untold horrors and chaos around them. I’m really looking forward to this read and have put Suarez’s “Freedom” aside for now. There are different qualities fo Freedom.
19 Apr 2012 at 3:53 pm #920
The Law of Primitive Man by EA Hoebel just arrived (as did the world’s-greatest quiche courtesy of Rick W.).
Update: The quiche is amazing. Too early to tell on the book.
PS: Interesting show on PBS late the other night on the racist past of the author of the Outlaw Josey Wales book.
20 Apr 2012 at 11:00 am #934
Oh…I might have to dig up a copy of COTRN to follow along Greg.
Quiche in the mail. Will wonders never cease.
I am about half way through the E.O. Wilson book…and it’s fantastic.
Saw three people interviewed on charlie Rose, one about creativity, one on free will…and I shouldn’t watch when he has writers on his show…I just want to read their books.
The fellow, Michael Gazzaniga, wrote a book just now called “Whose In Charge? Free Will And The Science Of The Brain.”
Basically he says (much like the book I read last summer “The User Illusion” that free will does not exist. A part of the brain nicknamed “the interpreter” makes us feel as if we have a choice in say, moving our arm, but it’s an illusion.
20 Apr 2012 at 9:06 pm #937
Re: “The fellow, Michael Gazzaniga, wrote a book just now called “Whose In Charge? Free Will And The Science Of The Brain.” Basically he says (much like the book I read last summer “The User Illusion” that free will does not exist.”
Whoa! I read Gazzaniga’s book, and that’s not what he says. He says that free will is not inherited but may develop in the circuitry of the prefrontal cortex in our interaction with others.
I must have read twenty other books on consciousness in the past two years and nearly all of the neuroscientists are in agreement on this point. It is clearer in David Eagleman’s INCOGNITO: THE SECRET LIVES OF THE BRAIN. Eagleman too says that free will can develop in the post-adolescent years but that our free will is not what young people think it to be–it is not the Ayn Rand ideal of free will, for instance.
Our free will is really a free won’t. An enlightenment that allows us to go against our instinctual animal programing (desire/fear, blood lust, the will to power, etc.). Which is what the humanities have been trying to teach all along.
21 Apr 2012 at 1:55 am #943
Heh heh…hey Well, t’s nice to see you’re out there reading Richard.
Look I can murder any word…and I’m not great at paraphrasing, sure….so maybe this comes down to a matter of how you interpret what Gazzangiga says and what I interpret what Gazzanga says.
I’m not going to try to convince you he said free will doesn’t exist. I think I take a less liberal response to what Gazzanga is talking about. I took him very seriously at placing free will and the brain in a very specific mode.
Why don’t I quote what he said on the show? I took him very literally…I believe I did…or did I? Because I don’t have any free will. heh heh!
Okay and here is what Gazzanga said on Charlie Rose
“Free will is an illusion. Free will is just a miscast problem in my opinion and that is what I try to do in the book is not just assert that but to tell the story about how the brain is built what we know comes from the factory and the brain how its organized in terms of all these modules to ultimately paint a picture that our brain works in an automatic way just like a wristwatch. And we have this belief that we’re acting as if we’re in charge and I say that it is an illusion.
The mechanism is a special module that we discovered in the left brain your left brain my left brain it’s called “‘the interpreter’ and what it does is it looks at our own behaviour, our own thinking, our own feelings, and it builds a theory, a narrative about Why am I feeling? Why did I just do that? Why am I having this hypothesis? And it’s a storytelling mechanism of all our actions of all our feelings and it begins to become your idea of yourself, what you believe you to be and so this big strong thing we have, ‘the interpreter’ no wonder we think ‘well that must be me moving my arm’ ‘I must be in charge’. So we build up this convenient theory to explain a vastly complex but automatic machine that is the human brain.”
21 Apr 2012 at 3:04 am #949
Well, yes and no. He says that free will is an illusion, and for the general run of humanity, it certainly must be. But take a look at the book, or even the Amazon excerpt from the publisher’s synopsis. Go down the page and look at the excerpts of reviews, such as Salon’s review which says he argues in favor of free will–and several reviewers saw it just that way too. The evolved mind can act to constrain the animal brain. With no constraint, no conscience, humans are snarled in the coils of animal compulsions and everything is material and predictably determined.
21 Apr 2012 at 3:27 am #950
Oh my god, Candy. What have you gotten me into? I was expecting something along the lines of Naked Lunch (a masterpiece). Er, let’s just say that I’m no longer having trouble getting the image of Angelina Jolie on a car windshield out of my mind. No, I’ve got other problems now, har. I hope the kid in The Road did not end up in a colony similar to the one described in the first book of COTRN. Is this supposed to be Burroughs’ Utopia? I will reserve final judgment until I have read the book in full. Interesting that the book was published in 1981, the year AIDS was first characterized or “discovered” by CDC. Quite prescient. I imagine he already had seen things going on in his milieu long before the CDC diagnosis came out.
21 Apr 2012 at 3:40 am #951
I think the edit function times out, Marty. Maybe you can adjust it.
Dissent Magazine has an intersting article about and interview with Wendell Berry. I’ve still yet to read more than a snippet of his work and look forward to exploring. Richard, have you crossed paths with Berry in Kentucky or visited his Lanes Landing farm?
21 Apr 2012 at 7:56 am #954
Greg: If you lose the edit capability on this page, you can go to the top of the page and click on “New”; then click on “Topic”; on the left side of that page there are 4 icons I believe and click on the third one down and then all of your posts should appear and each one should have a clickable “edit” thingy; make sure to enter “Update” at the right after you finish editing rather than “OK” up above. That’s worked for me when I lose the edit ability right at the post I want to change.
I think you are right about the edit function timing out. You probably already knew how to get around that so maybe my tips above might help someone else.
21 Apr 2012 at 8:04 am #95921 Apr 2012 at 9:40 am #979
Funny how the discussion of whether or not we have free will never goes away, isn’t it?. It’s what the Adam and Eve story is about for Christ’s sake, or the banishment of Lucifer, and here it is still, circling around like it’s fresh. It seems to be not a discussion of whether or not there’s free will, but whether or not a particular so called thinker makes a good argument or not, or, God forbid, whether God smiles upon it or not. Ha. Noah coulda said no I ain’t building no fucking boat and that woulda been free will, no? Or Tim Tebow coulda run left instead of right and won the prize, or lost the prize.
I think it’s more a matter of being in tune with the universe, and when you are, the need to choose never really comes up. It’s like slipping on the ice and with arms and legs snaking out in unprescribed ways, regaining balance automatically… or of course, not. Is panicking a choice or a mistake, and is it true when you do, that you really couldn’t help it, or that yes you could?
I asked a so-called enlightened person once, if there comes a time when the second guessing about free will ever stops, and he said, yes, it’s kinda like the road disappears under the car you’re driving. When I looked at him quizzically, he said thinking doesn’t really help. And then he laughed and said, ha ha, think about it.
Could it be true that Osama bin Laden had free will and Mohammed Atta did not? Or that Dick Cheney has free will or God’s grace while Ralph Nader somehow missed the boat? Did we get the rule of the corporatocracy by choice and when we bust loose from it will it have been by choice, again?
Oh my! I see why this argument goes round and round.
I can hear Noah now, “I don’t want to build no boat but I guess I have to. And yes OK, it is my own goddam fucking free will that compels me to do so so there.”
leedriverQuote21 Apr 2012 at 10:52 am #981
Re: Wendell Berry
Thanks for the link, a very good interview with the man, who has changed a bit in recent years, now supporting a couple of “causes.”
I’m familiar with Wendell Berry’s county, but the only times we’ve crossed paths was at two Kentucky Book Fairs back in the 1990s when he was selling his then current books and I was selling my own modest works on genealogy and frontier Native American lore.
He seemed uncomfortable signing books, especially when fans would go on about them. In 1995, I left my own table to stand in a long slow-moving line and listen to him politely reply to the effusive comments and stories of those in front of me. When my time came, I kept it simple. I said, just your autograph please, no inscription. He smiled and shrugged, signed a couple of books, and then as I gathered up the books to exit, he surprised me by reaching out. I juggled the books to the other arm and we shook hands. I said my name and a quick “Thank you for doing what you do.”
Later he came by the table with Dr. Clark and we chatted briefly, a few polite exchanges, but I can’t remember exactly what was said. He got there early and left early.
22 Apr 2012 at 9:05 am #989
An interview with the Billy Parham of philosophers, Mark Rowlands.
“I think there are certain thoughts that can emerge only in the space between a wolf and a man.” (Rowlands)
Here is a story about the decade Rowlands spent with his wolf:
22 Apr 2012 at 12:03 pm #994
A Vision by Yeats. Wondering how it is that its evaded my radar for so long. Props to Mike Brown Fonash – I think – for mentioning it here last year maybe.
22 Apr 2012 at 1:11 pm #997
Oh god I love Wendell Berry. LOVE HIM! (don’t always agree with him especially about farming!) but love him.
I think it was Fonash Seth. Um, Yeats huh? wow you’re in for a hell of a ride. It’s sick! I just think its up there with Alan Watts, Crowley, Frances Yates, Giordano Bruno, Dee. And you know…I kind of have a character Im writing who is into this stuff…I hope I can pull it off. Easy to go too far. Or not far enough.
Richard and Lee…sorry to be away from your comments. this is my hell days. I work crazy double shifts on Fridays and Saturdays. Bar Friday night, retail all day Saturday back to bar Saturday night. I popped in on iPad to read posts..but no time to write. My dogs are barking!
Oh gosh…isn’t it funny how the idea of free will always rears its head? Just like “the death of reading” . Literature is dead. Painting is dead. Movies are dead. God is dead. And then along comes a David foster Wallace or Tarantino and flushes the business.
What this fellow said on Charlie Rose was really quite brave to me. Its why it captured my attention. to say free will is an illusion is really taking a stand, in my opinion. Richard, I think he’s much more hard core about it than he may have written. I suspect he was being diplomatic in his book. Less so on a tv interview.
In meditatin and Buddhism free will is kind of a non-issue. So is god. It’s not worth the headache. Not to dismiss god, or the notion fo free will…but that the only thing is…if…IF there is either a god or free will…its not your business little monk. You still gots to live. In a way the only thing I could see about “proving” free will is via enlightenment. It seems that free will is a little like the notion of enlightenment.
Lee, I thought the story about Adam and Eve was the story and lesson of how we messed up living as hunter-gatherers and now we have to work to get food and needs filled. Before we jut lived as animals getting food and we had everything we needed…then we “fell” and so now desperate we have to grow food rather than live off the existing garden.
Ah…isn’t life grand how we all have our own responses to stories and culture?
You know Michael Gazzaniga also described (lets ee if i can buther this paraphrase ha ha) that the brain acts and effects the mind. ANd the mind effects the brain.
I found this relationship acknowledgement by a brain scientist much more interesting and valuable than whether or not we could prove anything about free will.
this is close to what ‘experts” on meditationa nd enlightment might relate to as well or explain. That through self awareness the brain can be harnessed or altered. Enlightment is a kind of self-awareness. You can change thinkign patterns via self analysis and hard work.
For me…more interesting than free will is the opposite thing. the thing in a person that WON”T be free. The rigid part of our thinking that isn’t open-minded to a different perspective or paradigm shift. I feel as if people who seek paradigm shifts and test their patterns of thinking….rigourously have the potential to exert the mind to effect the brain.
If there is free will and it is like a “force’ such as magnetism…it is a very weak force. the force of closed mindedness and rigid thinkign is so much more powerful…and if anything…the way working the brain would be interesting is loossening up the rigidness. The closed-ness.
22 Apr 2012 at 1:24 pm #999
- This reply was modified 1 year, 12 months ago by Candy Minx.
Oh…and this mornign I have been recording Oprah. I don’t expect any of you all to have the Oprah network…oh god I am laughing at that idea. I of course do. Anyways…I haven’t watched it yet but she has an interview and program with Baba Ram Dass. I’m both curious and excited to see what its going to be like.
I swear…my best friend Jennie and I when we 13 thought Baba Ram Dass was the shit. We had Be here Now…and a card set from the book. We thought…oh my….we have to take LSD to see god. All the other kids in school took LSD and went to the midway and we wanted to get a “trip babysitter” to watch us while we took it and meditated on the beach. we were terrified of having a bad trip or going crazy…but we felt somehow this would awaken our souls. So cute, so naive!
I hadn’t looked at a copy of Be Here Now in ages…but I found one a couple years ago….Stagg had never heard of it and that was wildly hilarious to me. It’s actually one of the few things that survived our apartment fire and it’s here in the basement now.
I can’t wait to see Baba Ram Dass on tv…
22 Apr 2012 at 2:22 pm #1001
Hey Greg, post # 950…well you’ve opened up Pandude’s Box. For sure. You know…I really believe the trilogy is something so valuable and mystical and beautiful. My mum used to read to us from The Egyptian book of the Dead. And Burroughs love of such mysticism is woven throughout. Is death the freedom we crave and desire. is death death? is life life?
it takes a world epidemic virus and gun addicted cowpoking pirates to find out.
I can’t beg you to read all three…i realize for many readers Burroughs is too much. the thing is Cities is much more narratively edited and controlled…a masterwork of narrative than Junkie and Naked Lunch where Burroughs was experimenting with narrative.
The delivery of “The Western lands” is so beautiful after you time travel through the previous two books.
You have dropped peyote when you open the Cities book. You have injected heroin and burroughs has created a mystical journey that is so hard to convince people to read. You already know that I believe he mastered what McCarthy has attempted with his trilogy. (and obviously with Blood Meridian) Blood Meridian is like a nursery tale compared to Cities of The Red Night. But of course I love both writers…but Burroughs is god. If McCarthy published ten more books he still wouldn’t have finished locking horns with Burroughs. I wonder if Burroughs is a craw in McCarthy’s side? I wonder if its pure lila that two of the greatest living (at that time) American writers took on the same topics and content at the same time…oh right Burrroughs did it first! Is it serrendipity that they both locked horns with homosexual literature, sexual obsessions, and demented contemporary culture via cowboys and guns and violence?
I had a beloved copy of John Vanderheides BRILLIANT essay about Burroughs…and I lost it and can’t find it in email archives. I wanted to publish it…it was like a mystical hjurney in itself and Vanderheide is our greatest undiscovered philosopher.
The triligy by Burroughs still hasn’t gotten it’s acknowledgemrnt…its always Naked Lunch, which I love, but in the trilogy a master writer is in full form. He is Da vinci and Picasso and Fellini.
I hope you can make it to “The Western Lands”….he is a spiritual master and his heart and deep emotional commitment to life and life-affirming beliefs manifests more clearly and dearly in this trilogy than his earlier work. He tapped into the nature of reality and life and the human condition in a way that does not suffer fools and with love. He never backed down from the fight.
23 Apr 2012 at 1:15 am #1003
Thanks for your thoughts, Candy. As to Naked Lunch, it has been several decades since I read it, but I sensed an incredible structure to the novel based around shadows and absences that served as a sturdy frame for the relatively free-wheeling prose and plot. Maybe I was younger and wilder back then and more able to go with the flow. I’m struggling with all the plot jumps, re-incarnations, and things named Green in COTRN and pretty much have lost the trail by the third book. I’m going to finish the book and then give it a second read later, maybe after having read up on it a bit. This reminds me of the film Synedoche New York, which also lost me with its layers of characters playing other characters. The only thing to do is go back and start over again.
I like the comparison between McCarthy and Burroughs, both writers who choose to look where most people look away. And, JV, if you are lurking out there somewhere, I’d like to have that essay Candy mentions.
23 Apr 2012 at 12:10 pm #1007
Oooh…I really had a hard time with Sunecdoche New York. I actually had blocked it out of my mind to forget I saw it ha ha. I love Charlie Kaufmans writing and ideas…but feel maybe he needed help with directing that one.
Here is some bizarre flotsam online….Werner Herzogs note to a housekeeper…
23 Apr 2012 at 1:39 pm #101124 Apr 2012 at 4:27 pm #1020
I have been lurking but too busy and sick to drop by and yell at people. (Slick new site, by the way. Great job, Marty and crew.) I probably have that essay somewhere, which was published in a German journal Arcadia a few years back. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I can send you the pdf.
Yeahp, Cities of the Red Night would probably be on the top of the list of books to be burned by a future Republican theocracy. Place of Dead Roads would likely offend too, on account of the excessive use of the phrase “rectal mucus.” However, there’s little to no sex in The Western Lands. Anyway, all three are masterpieces, and indeed there is an “incredible structure” to them. So I’d also recommend sticking it out, working through the homosexual panic and the risk of “it” moving. Burroughs is a great great writer, and I agree with everything Candy says. (Although I’d have to say the pool of “undiscovered philosophers” must be pretty small if I’m a great one.)
As for me, I recently dusted off a great book of poetry by Michael McClure called Rebel Lions, looking for images and phrases to rip off for some of my new songs. Great stuff, and he’s a great performer too. (See Ron Mann’s documentary Poetry in Motion for a taste, a doc that also includes Burroughs, Bukowski and a young Tom Waits). I’m currently wallowing in a line from a poem called White Boot:
The hail intermingling in silvery stripes
with the downrush of rain
is the same structure as thought.
25 Apr 2012 at 12:03 am #103525 Apr 2012 at 11:58 am #1036
Thanks John for sending me a new copy. As soon as I started to read your essay, I started to well up.
You are pure of heart and unlike many critics or philosophers you seem to be able to write without your ego. The trancendent in your understanding of Burroughs is remarkable and glorious.
I am also strangely freakily inspired by how much the idea of a revolution in these Burroughs novels might be an influence on the Occupy Wall Street scene. Surely there is a trickle-down of Burroughs into all such self-aware meta-cultures we see around us.
John Vanderheide for Pirate King of the Trancendent Space Station Of Egoless Community!!!! ! Rah rah rah!
25 Apr 2012 at 3:39 pm #103825 Apr 2012 at 6:33 pm #1045
Strictly speaking, Candy, there will be no kings in the coming anarchosyndicalist commune. Probably we’ll take turns acting as sorts of executive officers for the week. Of course, all the decisions of said officers will have to be ratified at a special bi-weekly meeting by a simple majority in the case of internal affairs but by 2/3rds majority in the more major cases.
However, all of that doesn’t mean one can’t dress as a pirate king. Granted, I didn’t pack for that. But maybe I’ll find something in my sister’s suitcase…
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