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Home by Marilynne Robinson

The Brothers' Karamazov

The Knitting Circle by Ann Hood

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Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business (1985) by Neil Postman

Pgs. 99-100:

Chapter 7 - "Now ... This"

The American humorist H. Allen Smith once suggested that of all the worrisome words in the English language, the scariest is "uh oh," as when a physician looks at your X-rays, and with knitted brow says, "Uh oh." I should like to suggest that the words which are the title of this chapter are as ominous as any, all the more so because they are spoken with knitted brow - indeed, with a kind of idiot's delight. The phrase, if that's what it may be called, adds to our grammar a new part of speech, a conjunction that does not connect anything to anything but does the opposite: separates everything from everything. As such, it serves as a compact metaphor for the discontinuities in so much that passes for public discourse in present-day America.

"Now ... this" is commonly used on radio and television newscasts to indicate that what one has just heard or seen has no relevance to what one is about to hear or see, or possibly to anything one is ever likely to hear or see. The phrase is a means of acknowledging the fact that the world as mapped by the speeded-up electronic media has no order or meaning and is not to be taken seriously. There is no murder so brutal, no earthquake so devastating, no political blunder so costly - for that matter, no ball score so tantalizing or weather report so threatening - that it cannot be erased from our minds by a newscaster saying, "Now ... this." The newscaster means that you have thought long enough on the previous matter (approximately forty-five seconds), that you must not be morbidly preoccupied with it (let us say, for ninety seconds), and that you must now give your attention to another fragment of news or a commercial ...

I can only imagine what Postman would say to the fact that now, in online "discussions", people now have a habit of replying to previous comments with the single word "This" as if to signify some sort of meaning. And yes, I do realize the irony of posting a quote like this on an online thread like this.

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i recently started the Library of America Pauline Kael collection The Age of Movies. I'm over 100 pages into it, and have wanted to post quotes from several entries. I'd like to post them here. I'd like to post them on my blog. But for now, I'd just like to keep reading.

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And people there complaining about 'writer's block':

In prisons the composition and polishing of verses had to be done in my head. Then I started breaking matches into little pieces and arranging them on my cigarette case in two rows (of ten each, one representing units and the other tens). As I recited the verses to myself, I displaced one bit of broken match from the units row for every line. When I had shifted ten units I displaced one of the "tens." (Even this work had to be done circumspectly: such innocent match games, accompanied by whispering movements of the lips or an unusual facial expression, would have aroused the suspicion of stool pigeons. I tried to look as if I was switching the matches around quite absent-mindedly.) Every fiftieth and every hundredth line I memorized with special care, to help me keep count. Once a month I recited all that I had written. If the wrong line came out in place of one of the hundreds or fifties, I went over it all again and again until I caught the slippery fugitives.

In the Kuibyshev Transit Prison I saw Catholics (Lithuanians) busy making themselves rosaries for prison use. They made them by soaking bread, kneading beads from it, coloring them (black ones with burnt rubber, white ones with tooth powder, red ones with red germicide), stringing them while still moist on several strands of thread twisted together and thoroughly soaped, and letting them dry on the window ledge. I joined them and said that I, too, wanted to say my prayers with a rosary but that in my particular religion I needed one hundred beads in a ring (later, when I realized that twenty would suffice, and indeed be more convenient, I made them my self from cork), that every tenth bead must be cubic, not spherical, and that the fiftieth and the hundredth beads must be distinguishable at a touch. The Lithuanians were amazed by my religious zeal (the most devout among them had no more than forty beads), but with true brotherly love helped me to put together a rosary such as I had described, making the hundredth bead in the form of a dark red heart. I never afterward parted with this marvelous present of theirs; I fingered and counted my beads inside my wide mittens—at work line-up, on the march to and from work, at all waiting times; I could do it standing up, and freezing cold was no hindrance. I carried it safely through the search points, in the padding of my mittens, where it could not be felt. The warders found it on various occasions, but supposed that it was for praying and let me keep it. Until the end of my sentence (by which time I had accumulated 12,000 lines) and after that in my place of banishment, this necklace helped me to write and remember.

From the third volume of 'Gulag Archipelago'.

Edited by Pierrot

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I finally started reading Chandler's "The Big Sleep." It's just amazing. So many wonderful turns of phrase in it. A particular favorite of mine so far: "It was a nice neighborhood to have bad habits in."

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Having geeked out over Lawless at the cinema this year, I was pleased to stumble today on the audio of Matt Bondurant's The Wettest County in the World at the library. Good listening, I hope, for the remainder of the year.

I'd been looking for an alternative to Anne and Sam Lamott's Some Assembly Required, which feels pieced together and which I've found, frankly, increasingly irritating, with correspondence between Sam and Anne that feels way to careful, too preciously worded. I wasn't buying it.

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i recently started the Library of America Pauline Kael collection The Age of Movies. I'm over 100 pages into it, and have wanted to post quotes from several entries. I'd like to post them here. I'd like to post them on my blog. But for now, I'd just like to keep reading.

Post a couple when you get the chance. I could see this thread becoming ten times as interesting if we started posting excerpts from what we were reading. I know it would motivate me to increase my reading list.

From the third volume of 'Gulag Archipelago'.

That's quite wonderful really. There is something almost sacramental about reading Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. He makes me realize how petty my own problems and my own writing often really is.

I finally started reading Chandler's "The Big Sleep." It's just amazing. So many wonderful turns of phrase in it. A particular favorite of mine so far: "It was a nice neighborhood to have bad habits in."

Glad you've finally started it. While there's a significant amount of pulp among hard-boiled noir, no one can really understand the genre's appeal if they have never read Chandler's prose.

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What astonishes me about the Gulag Archipelago is how sometimes the Soviet regime is so over-cruel and senseless that looks like a satire:

One Greek woman, more than eighty years old, was banished from Simferopol to the Urals toward the end of the war. When the war ended her son returned to Simferopol and she naturally went to live secretly with him. In 1949, now eighty-seven (I) years old, she was arrested, sentenced to twenty years' hard labor (87 + 20 = ?), and transported to Ozerlag.
Edited by Pierrot

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i recently started the Library of America Pauline Kael collection The Age of Movies. I'm over 100 pages into it.

How's your romance with Pauline going? Have you grown tired of her antics yet, or has the relationship blossomed?

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The relationship is in "blossom" phase. But remember: The collection I'm reading is selective, and even so, it has its share of head-scratchers.

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The relationship is in "blossom" phase. But remember: The collection I'm reading is selective, and even so, it has its share of head-scratchers.

I admire your dedication. Have you read her famous essay, "Trash, Art and the Movies" yet?

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Not yet.

I'm surprised you find her hard to read. I love what I've read so far, although her tendency to label each film in the anthology "possible the best ever of its kind," or words to that effect, has already grown old.

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Kael is a terrific writer, but her tendentiousness can be wearying. This becomes especially evident if you read a lot of her at once, which you seem to be doing. I have all of her major collections, but have been turning to them less and less frequently.

"Trash, Art and the Movies" is probably the single most influential essay on film ever written. If you read it, I'd love to hear your take.

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IT by Stephen King.

I wanted something suspenseful to keep me engaged. I had forgotten how vivid King's writing can be. I had not forgotten his weak sense of narrative or his tendency to write disappointing endings, but I hoped IT would succeed, since it is one of King's better-regarded novels. Alas, the final act of IT is a crushing disappointment.

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THE WIND-UP BIRD CHRONICLE by Murakami.

Re-read THE HOBBIT and THE GREAT DIVORCE before Christmas.

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I'm currently reading Camille Paglia's Sex, Art, and American Culture: Essays, which has paragraphs like this (on page 217) -

The Sixties were also a great age of cinema. My generation transferring to college campuses the cult atmosphere of urban art-film houses, sat in rapt, reverent silence (now totally lost) before hundreds of Hollywood classics and subtitled foreign films in a dozen languages. Through film we gained an international and transhistorical understanding, a mobility of mind that freed us from the parochial domestic Fifties. France was present, but as only one item in our cultural overview. Resnais and Robbe-Grillet's operatic Last Year at Marienbad dramatized the burden of history and, like Kurosawa's Rashomon, the relativity of time, memory, and narrative. Ingmar Bergman's bleak northern trilogy dealt with the death of God and meaning, and, in The Silence, the death of language - significantly transcended by music. Persona, a masterpiece, showed the tyranny of medical authority, the breakdown of the social mask, the cruelty and amorality of the unconscious, the intermingling of fantasy and reality. Antonioni's L'Avventura followed, at trancelike length, the questing individual lost in the rocky landscape of modern desolation. Blow-Up, through its dissolving crime photographs, addressed the subjectivity of perception and, in its closing mimed tennis game, the fictiveness of community and social behavior. Fellini's films showed consciousness riddled and vexed by sexual fantasy and guilt, a daily war with spectral internalized censors. Lawrence of Arabia was a real-life parable of imperialism, racism, and power politics, of idealism collapsing into cynicism. Finally, the Marx Brothers, their popularity restored, performed elaborate surreal deconstructions of language, manners, public decorum - verbal, social, and sexual formulas of every kind.

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This summer, I'm finally going to read Carey McWilliams' Southern California: An Island on the Land.

Awesome. My big summer reading projects: finally get around to DFW's Infinite Jest, finish Tolkien's The Two Towers and Return of the King, and finish all of Lovecraft's collected stories.

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I've been reading quite a bit this summer. I finished these four over the last week.

 

Alister McGrath - Christianity's Dangerous Idea: The Protestant Revolution: A History from the 16th Century to the 21st

Paul F.M. Zahl - The Protestant Face of Anglicanism

Gordon T. Smith - A Holy Meal: The Lord's Supper in the Life of the Church

Gordon T. Smith (ed) - The Lord's Supper: Five Views

 

I'm currently reading N.T. Wright's The Last Word: Beyond the Bible Wars to a New Understanding of the Authority of Scripture.

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Posted (edited)

I just finished reading the second volume (on the events of Holy Week) of Pope Benedict XVI's Jesus of Nazareth. I really value these books. They're quite readable and accessible, but ultimately they're basically academic in character, not devotional - which isn't quite what you'd expect from the author's description of them as "my personal search for the face of the Lord,"  but it's exactly why they work so well for me at bringing out the reality of Jesus. (Especially since lately, I've found the Church and even God, in the philosopher's sense, difficult to believe in. It's still easy to believe in Christ.)

For example:

Quote

But could it be really true? Can we—as men of the modern world—put our faith in such testimony? "Enlightened" thinking would say no. For Gerd Lüdemann, for example, it seems clear that in consequence of the "revolution in the scientific image of the world . . . the traditional concepts of Jesus' Resurrection are to be considered outdated" (quoted in Wilckens, Theologie des Neun Testaments I/2, pp. 119-20). But what exactly is this "scientific image of the world"? How far can it be considered normative? Hartmut Gese in his important article "Die Frage des Weltbildes", to which I should like to draw attention, has painstakingly described the limits of this normativity.

Naturally there can be contradiction of clear scientific data. The Resurrection accounts certainly speak of something outside our world of experience. They speak of something new, something unprecedented—a new dimension of reality that is revealed. What already exists is not called into question. Rather we are told that there is a further dimension, beyond what was previously known. Does that contradict science? Can there really only ever be what there has always been? Can there not be something unexpected, something unimaginable, something new? If there really is a God, is he not able to create a new dimension of human existence, a new dimension of reality altogether? Is not creation actually waiting for this last and highest "evolutionary leap", for the union of the finite with the infinite, for the union of man and God, for the conquest of death?

Throughout the history of the living, the origins of anything new have always been small, practically invisible, and easily overlooked. The Lord himself has told us that "heaven" in this world is like a mustard seed, the smallest of all seeds (Mt. 13:31-32), yet contained within it are the infinite potentialities of God. In terms of world history, Jesus' Resurrection is improbable; it is the smallest mustard seed of history.

This reversal of proportion is one of God's mysteries. The great—the mighty—is ultimately the small. And the tiny mustard seed is something truly great. So it is that the Resurrection has entered the world only through certain mysterious appearances to the chosen few. And yet it was truly the new beginning for which the world was silently waiting. And for the few witnesses—precisely because they themselves could not fathom it—it was such an overwhelmingly real happening, confronting them so powerfully, that every doubt was dispelled, and they stepped forth before the world with an utterly new fearlessness in order to bear witness: Christ is truly risen.

Happy Easter to all.

Edited by Rushmore

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On 4/16/2017 at 9:59 AM, Rushmore said:

I just finished reading the second volume (on the events of Holy Week) of Pope Benedict XVI's Jesus of Nazareth. I really value these books. They're quite readable and accessible, but ultimately they're basically academic in character, not devotional - which isn't quite what you'd expect from the author's description of them as "my personal search for the face of the Lord,"  but it's exactly why they work so well for me at bringing out the reality of Jesus. (Especially since lately, I've found the Church and even God, in the philosopher's sense, difficult to believe in. It's still easy to believe in Christ.)

For example:

Happy Easter to all.

Thanks for sharing this quote! How appropriate for Easter!

I've seen those volumes by Benedict, and thought that they'd be good to read once I have some more free time. Have you or anyone read both them and N.T. Wright's tomes on Jesus and the Resurrection? Thoughts about how they compare, such as in academic tone (Wright is a great writer, but his other academic work has been a hair on the dry side for me since I would be reading these works devotionally)?

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1 hour ago, Rob Z said:

Have you or anyone read both them and N.T. Wright's tomes on Jesus and the Resurrection? Thoughts about how they compare, such as in academic tone (Wright is a great writer, but his other academic work has been a hair on the dry side for me since I would be reading these works devotionally)?

I'm looking forward to reading N.T. Wright soon. I think a few members here, including SDG and Peter Chattaway, have found his books helpful.

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16 hours ago, Rushmore said:

I'm looking forward to reading N.T. Wright soon. I think a few members here, including SDG and Peter Chattaway, have found his books helpful.

 

17 hours ago, Rob Z said:

Thanks for sharing this quote! How appropriate for Easter!

I've seen those volumes by Benedict, and thought that they'd be good to read once I have some more free time. Have you or anyone read both them and N.T. Wright's tomes on Jesus and the Resurrection? Thoughts about how they compare, such as in academic tone (Wright is a great writer, but his other academic work has been a hair on the dry side for me since I would be reading these works devotionally)?

Wright has significantly influenced my theology, and while he does have the tendency to ramble a bit in his writings and reiterate what he's already stated in lengthy run-on sentences (somewhat like this one!), his academic writing is much more accessible than other New Testament scholars I've read and also appreciated (e.g. JDG Dunn). I begin PhD studies at the University of St Andrews this fall, which is where Wright currently teaches, so I hope to have at least a few conversations with him in the years to come.

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14 hours ago, Joel Mayward said:

Wright has significantly influenced my theology

Mine, too, for sure. Though it's been his popular works, and those in conjunction with other theologians/philosophers. They've really redeemed a lot of my semi-evangelical Reformed upbringing by emphasizing all the good things that were present even when I found them frustrating.

14 hours ago, Joel Mayward said:

and while he does have the tendency to ramble a bit in his writings and reiterate what he's already stated in lengthy run-on sentences (somewhat like this one!), his academic writing is much more accessible than other New Testament scholars I've read and also appreciated (e.g. JDG Dunn).

Good to know. 

14 hours ago, Joel Mayward said:

I begin PhD studies at the University of St Andrews this fall, which is where Wright currently teaches, so I hope to have at least a few conversations with him in the years to come.

Very cool! Congratulations...not sure if that's the right word at this point. Sounds like you have a rich journey ahead of you.

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