Sunday, February 15, 2009

Readings: Second-hand Prose

Sometimes it is good to read an author not in quest any major theme or system of thought, but only because he writes well and says interesting things. Thus it was that, having been directed by Paula Fredriksen’s footnote to Frank Kermode’s The Genesis of Secrecy, of which I which I posted below, I went back to the stacks for more Kermode.

I came away with a book of articles, the majority of which had been previously published in The London Review of Books, entitled, Pleasing Myself – from Beowulf to Phillip Roth. The two excerpts below are from “Empson the Poet”:

The radical contradiction is between the hope human happiness, for which, at least at certain moments, we feel our selves so wonderfully suited, and the power of the world as it inescapably is to frustrate or even ridicule that feeling. Hence Empson’s endorsement of the Buddhist position that ‘no sort of temporal life whatever can satisfy the human spirit’. Yet Buddhism also takes account of the fact that ‘birth has a human being is an opportunity of inestimable value. He who is so born has at least a chance of hearing the truth and acquiring merit.’


A much quoted remark occurs in Empson’s notes to the poem ‘Bacchus’: ‘life involves maintaining oneself between contradictions that can’t be solved by analysis’.

Although I’ve never read much, if any, of William Empson’s poetry, he has provided me with food for thought via the medium of Kermode’s journalism.


Mad said...

I got this in email. Sorry, this isn't related to your thread, but I thought you might find it interesting considering the author and subject:

"A new issue of The American Conservative is on its way to your mailbox and is now on-line in PDF form. Our Feb. 23 issue includes a hard look by John Derbyshire at what radio talkers like Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh have done to the Right."


Rodak said...

Thank. I do. Please pass it on when you get it.

Mad said...

Cross-posting this little tidbit on your site, as I'm afraid I'm about to get "Barkered" on the other one:

Considering that your newspaper's current cartoon controversy, which not only intimates harm to the President, but makes light of a woman who was mauled by a wild animal (higher primate though that animal may be), do you really think that Eric Holder needs to apologize for ANYTHING?!?

You know, Rodak was so right a long time ago. I'm coming more and more around to his and Obama's (and thus, Holder's) way of thinking. I even agree with Obama's stimulus legislation, and think that nationalization is a good idea for all the major corporations.

(Yep, that's right, put a fork in it, Rodak ol'pal. I'm through with the bullshit capitalism of the past eight Republican years)

Holder has nothing to apologize for. Your newspaper, unfortunately does ...

Rodak said...

I don't think you'll get "Barkered"--but I do wish that RAG would post on the cartoon.