cropped-Thomas-Mertons-desk-facing-east-from-the-living-room-of-his-hermitage-frank-geiser.jpg

“There is a pervasive form of contemporary violence to which the idealist most easily succumbs: activism and overwork. The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of its innate violence. To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything, is to succumb to violence. The frenzy of our activism neutralizes our work for peace. It destroys our own inner capacity for peace. It destroys the fruitfulness of our own work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.”

— Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander

Sat down and read Cormac McCarthy‘s play (or “novel in dramatic form”) The Sunset Limited. An African American man saves a white college professor from suicide, and they share a compelling dialogue about life, suffering, religion, and humanism. Sometimes McCarthy’s stage directions lack racial sensitivity and tact (e.g. “the black” vs. “the professor”), but the characters have an intelligent and entertaining critical dialogue. Dianne C. Luce offers an interesting reading of the text’s conclusion over at the official Cormac McCarthy website (contains spoilers):

“The novel’s denouement rests on the intellectual triumph of White, which ironically leads to his suicide, and the temporary rhetorical defeat of Black, who courageously recommits to his belief in the possibility of goodness. Thus the dialogue remains elegantly balanced, poised between forceful articulations of opposing views of life and human nature, giving ascendancy to neither. McCarthy seems to have no ideological agenda here, but rather he aims at capturing the internal debate of the thoughtful individual seeking to navigate the subway of earthly existence, who hears within him- or herself the competing voices of, on the one hand, empirical reasoning and world-wearying experience and, on the other, hope and the transcendent spirit.”

Overall, a genuinely engaging work struck through with darkly comic elements. Recommended.

Finished reading Stephen King‘s Under the Dome. It’s one of the author’s longest works, and has been compared by publishers and critics to his earlier post apocalyptic novel, The Stand. While the story of an hermetically sealed American community has the feel of a modern parable, Under the Dome is ultimately a straightforward (if fantastical) crime thriller about small town political corruption.

Analog. I grew up during a transitional phase when heavy analog technologies were being replaced by lighter, digital devices. A tactile nostalgia has since grown up around those cumbersome objects of the 1980s and 1990s. They have the charm of relics from a bygone age.

Sad to hear that there’s been more cultural fallout from the UK’s decision to leave the European Union. You can read more at the visual culture website, It’s Nice That (an unfortunate name for this particular occasion).

Why omitting ‘vulgar’ and ‘offensive’ words defeats the purpose

480a2-6a00d8341c4ec253ef00e54f05ad878833-800wiOxford Dictionaries recently embarked on a project to discover the world’s least favourite words, but publicly abandoned the project following “severe misuse” of its online survey. The decision to discontinue its #OneWordMap is understandable, due to the high volume of highly incendiary contributions intended to incite racial and religious hatred (eg. ‘Islam’, ‘Israel’).

But it seems that the survey was abandoned before it even began. The project had already banned the use of a select number of words from contributors. Dan Stewart, the head of international marketing at Oxford Dictionaries, states in The Guardian: “[we] filtered out words marked as vulgar and offensive in our dictionaries, but this wasn’t enough to prevent the misuse”. Does filtering out words not defeat the purpose of the exercise? (more…)

john-le-carre.jpg
John le Carré

I am always fascinating to hear about the daily rituals of writers and creative people. Readers of this site might be familiar with previous posts on walking and improvisation, thinking, or Kierkegaard’s fondness for daily walks. And so, whenever I hear about writers who are also keen walkers, I’m always curious to know more.

This morning I read that the British spy novelist John le Carré, author of The Night Manager (1993) and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (1974) is one such writer. He talks of the pleasure he takes in perambulations around London, of finding inspiration in trains and cafés, and his preference for ‘drawing the words’ over using typewriters and word processors: (more…)

A call for papers for a panel at the upcoming ACLA conference in Utrecht, July 2017
samuelbeckett-passport
Samuel Beckett’s passport photographs.

Neil Doshi and James McNaughton are putting together a panel entitled ‘International Beckett’ for next year’s ACLA conference at Universiteit Utrecht, Netherlands. The seminar will comprise 8-12 participants, meeting for 2 hours on each of the conference’s 3 days. You will present a 20 minute paper, and then have an opportunity to discuss your work with likeminded scholars and enthusiasts. (more…)