Poetry: The Icelandic Language

The Hammock Papers shares an evocative poem from Bill Holm, The Icelandic Language:

In this language, no industrial revolution;
no pasteurized milk; no oxygen, no telephone;
only sheep, fish, horses, water falling.
The middle class can hardly speak it.

In this language, no flush toilet; you stumble
through dark and rain with a handful of rags.
The door groans; the old smell comes
up from under the earth to meet you.

Read the rest, here.

More on Holm, here and here.

This poem, apparently, comes from a collection, The Dead Get By With Everything.

 

Photo by Ghost Presenter on Unsplash

Comic book cafe – love the illusion. And some Paddington

The Mindcircle has a piece on the amazing  Café Yeonnam-dong 239-20 in Korea. The cafe also has an Instagram account, here.

I love the decor. I wonder what it’s like to be there.

The above picture in particular reminds me of the BBC’s Paddington Bear cartoon (before the Ben Whishaw film)…

And here he is, in the 1975 original. Five minutes of charming innocence:

The coddling of the American mind – Economist

The Economist has a review of a new book: The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas are Setting Up a Generation for Failure. By Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt.

It looks fascinating though, sadly, my Must Read shelf is currently creaking at its limit.

Yet, in a week when Manchester University Student Union bans clapping and cheering (to reduce anxiety), the book offers a crumb of comfort:

In reality, only a minority of students take part in the more egregious sorts of disorder that “The Coddling” documents. In the spectrum of threats to Western democracy, cock-eyed campus politics may not entirely deserve the attention it attracts.

Maybe, I can still find a little space …

 

 

Tom Wolfe on the art of fiction

Kurt at Cultural Offering points us to this 1991 Paris Review interview with Tom Wolfe. fascinating. Worth a read.

 I realized instinctively that if I were going to write vignettes of contemporary life, which is what I was doing constantly for New York, I wanted all the sounds, the looks, the feel of whatever place I was writing about to be in this vignette. Brand names, tastes in clothes and furniture, manners, the way people treat children, servants, or their superiors, are important clues to an individual’s expectations.

Image: National Endowment for the Humanities

Downtime: A Man In Full by Tom Wolfe

A Man In Full was my first Tom Wolfe novel. It had been on my Must Read list for a few years and, when Tom Wolfe died, I finally ordered a copy.

It’s a beautifully observed, beautifully written book that shows you its worlds through the eyes of each character, immersing you in their perceptions and prejudices.

It is often referenced because of its use of Stoic philosophy and that seems to come on two levels.

There’s the slap-in-the-face-obvious storyline of a man in his hour of darkest need, who comes across a Magic Book. The constant references thereafter to Zeus  play to this surface reading, so I guess that may have been Wolfe’s intent.

However, at a more interesting and subtle level, all of the main characters go through something of a Stoic revelation. In each arc, we see and experience their  own version of  “being a man”, from former football hero and real-estate mogul Charlie Croker’s trophy-wifed, quail-hunting, plantation-owning,  machismo, through Roger White’s educated, elegant, professional career, to young Conrad’s desperation to provide for his family. As the story progresses,  each evolves a different – and perhaps more Stoic – view of what it means to be a “man in full”.

I enjoyed it enormously, yet I came away feeling slightly let down by the final 100 pages or so (of 740). They felt rushed and, I suppose, I wanted a slightly different ending.

That said, it’s well worth a read over the summer.

 

Downtime: Marcus Aurelius – Warrior, Philosopher, Emperor by Frank McLynn

We talk a lot about Marcus Aurelius, but often know nothing beyond the 100-odd pages of Meditations, the published collection of his private notebooks.

Frank McLynn corrects this with a comprehensive biography of the famed philosopher-king. It’s a weighty read, but fascinating. I came away a much richer understanding of Roman history, economy, geography and military as well as some insight into the man and his beliefs.

I think it’s fair to say that McLynn is no Stoic himself, but it is interesting to understand the history of Stoicism and how it was understood in Marcus’ own time.

If I’m not too late, this would make a fantastic holiday read.