OK, I now have about thirty tabs open in Firefox for possible blog entries...
Here's the thing: I really feel torn about this blogging thing—is it an enemy of promise? Or a better way to fill the interstices of the day than MLB08-The Show (which is about all the baseball enjoyment I stand to gain this year, as the Twins look fit to lose 100 games)? I can't go on. I'll go on.
So, tortured as it is, I clear the tabs....
1) Two cents on the "bookshelves" debate: I'm an admitted junkie, but I think McLemee is more-or-less right: book junkies don't really care who sees a book on their shelves, so long as the book is there and is not silently conspiring against its owner. But they do conspire, guerillas against our ignorance, our sloth, and worse: our desire to know more than we experience. Now, a note to the world: will you please conspire to find a way to afford Scott McLemee, say, two fully-funded years to write a book? There are few people from whom I'd rather see a big, fat book.
2) "Where are all the Iraq War novels?" asks Greg Cowles at the New York Times. I answer (one among a number of good ones) in the comments section, but you might also check out the talk I had last fall with Matthew Eck.
3) I'm a fair-weather fan of Dave Eggers (or, more accurately, "Dave Eggers"), but the 826 Valencia project is great. If you're up for a very highly caffeinated talk by Dave on that project, his TED speech is really motivational. If anyone starts a project like this in Minneapolis & happens upon this note, definitely drop me a line.
4) The Valve discovers Alan Shapiro. I met him at Bread Loaf way back in 1996—in addition to being a wonderful poet, he tells really great jokes (though it must be said, not nearly as many or with as much gusto as Richard Bausch). The VQR essay referenced by Amardeep is a must-read: a great essay. Plus: the "form is ideology" thing is not only wrong, but tired (see, too: "Plot as Teleology"): there are just too many things "at work" in a poem (or narrative) for this kind of essentialism to be more than a kind of cheap crib.
5) Litblog Co-op is no more. Sad to hear—but I think it's safe to say that the blogosphere thrives anyway. I do wish that more bloggers would coalesce around group blogs (me, too, frankly, if I could find one that suited me—and vice-versa: we need more blogs as hootenanies, group jams, basement tapes).
6) The Internet: a big group hug. A nice talk by Clay Shirky, but one that should be footnoted with... "Uh, Clay: AT&T is now—and again—the largest phone company in the United States."
7) V.S. Naipaul: because every long list of links should have at least one really CRANKY one. This one in two parts!
8) I have a long list of adds to the NBCC Crit Pix, but John Freeman noticed that Randall Jarrell's Poetry and the Age was noted with surprising frequency. Honestly? It's a great book! I can take or leave his defense of Robert Frost, but his essays on Lowell and W.C. Williams—plus the set-pieces "The Obscurity of the Poet" and "The Age of Criticism"--are worth the price of admission. Here's Jarrell on Williams' poetics:
"So far as organization and metre and rhyme are concerned, he is a sort of homeopath or chiropractor impatient of anything but his own fragment of the truth. Yet it is such a wonderful and individual fragment, an eighth- or quarter-truth so magnificently suited to a special case, that we cannot help feeling that his illusion about form is one of those 'necessary heuristic fictions' of the scientist. If you have gone to the moon in a Fourth of July rocket you built yourself, you can be forgiven for looking askance at Pegasus."
PS: Another collection that I'm surprised hasn't been mentioned yet is Richard Howard's Alone with America.
9) Lynndie England interviewed in Die Stern: just when you had forgotten that for too many of our fine military personnel the "Enlightenment Project" was that weekend the SeeBees strung wire and hooked up a generator for the Conex boxes. From my early reading of excerpts/interviews from Errol Morris's forthcoming effort on Abu Ghraib, it seems like England was played the fool (too bad she couldn't have been Bottom in this—but then: Bottom didn't play in a tragedy).
10) You know how people are always recommending books to you as a classic? Twice in as many weeks, I've actually followed up on this & been pleased to find the books in question really were classics. First, a pal got me to take James Salter's A Sport and a Pastime off the shelves and read it: a masterpiece. Second, Jim Lewis plugged Juan Rulfo's Pedro Paramo in Slate. I'd never heard of this little gem—but Lewis is right: a brilliant disaster of a book, a wreck that will leave you haunted.
OK, go read now... I must go write. But will post again soon.