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The seven senses

 

As is so often the case, the Greeks got there first. Perhaps not always exactly or correctly, but at least in spirit. The seven liberal arts, as set out in ancient thought as the keys to education, are grammar, logic, and rhetoric, enhanced by arithmetic, geometry, music, astronomy. Building a home, for instance, might require several of those elements. In ancient Greece, every free person was expected to take part in civic life through the conducting one’s own affairs, which would necessarily require debate, the ability to defend oneself in court (there were no lawyers), serve on juries, and participate in military service.

A missing element in those requirements that I find interesting is the skill of agriculture. My guess is that animal husbandry and the growing of food stuffs was a given—an assumed chore for every person. But this omission troubles me in the same way that most philosophies do: a grand order is envisioned without recognizing the nature of the human beings who must abide by it. We must eat. We must drink. Some philosophies will address one aspect or another of our human traits, but few will propound their tenets based on what is—more usually envisioning what should be. read more…

The Miserables

In our time, as we watch the headless corpse of France flop in the shadow of a spiritual guillotine, it is difficult to imagine an age where Hector Berlioz and Saint-Saens, Bizet, Debussy and Offenbach filled the concert halls; Rostand, Feydeau, Brieux, Claudel, Labiche, de Vigny, and Daudet played upon the stage; the poetry of Musset and Mallarme, Coppee, Baudelaire, Verlaine and Rimbaud, was whispered in the chambers; the stories of De Maupassant, Proust, Sand, Balzac, Dumas, Flaubert, Zola, Verne, and dozens more filled the bookstalls; and in just a single year, the galleries were hung with new work by Cezanne, Monet, Renoir, Manet, Degas, and Gauguin. But it was in the midst of that age of giants that one man stood above and apart, as a poet, a dramatist, and preeminently as a novelist. And it is more difficult now to imagine a life so filled, so wholly well spent that he found hours at the corners to do so much else, and very well indeed—to design furniture, to paint, to become involved in the tumult of politics, to critique the work of others, to edit and to publish, to design theatre sets and homes, and to engage in a private life that alone would consume an average man. Such a character as Victor Hugo easily strikes awe in mere mortals. And, evidently, there is a recent hagiography by David Bellos that concentrates on just one of those protean accomplishments, the creation of Les Miserables. read more…

The Miller’s tale

The two original Mad Max films had a certain intelligence behind them, extrapolating an apocalyptic future from the present. And at minimal cost. They were, like the original Star Wars films, game changers. Post-nuclear holocaust could never be the same. The third in the series Beyond Thunderdome, was a mixed bag of misspent money and confused scripting that was little more than an apocalyptic exploitation film and parody of itself. Perhaps that should have been warning enough. But the fourth film in this franchise, Fury Road, the beautifully staged and very expensive reimagining taken from those earlier films by the same writer-director, George Miller, alters the field once again, by taking itself seriously and yet, ironically, suffers all the ills of our present world—technologically sophisticated filmmaking that is morally incoherent. And therein lies a tale that reflects the deepest weakness of modern society, our dependence on technology without moral purpose. read more…

Joe Bailey, and the reason for the dog

[Yet another portion of A Republic of Books, more of which can be found elsewhere on this ethereal site.]

 

    Honest cops are a lot like honest reporters. There aren’t many of them around, and they both work for naturally corrupt organizations with political agendas that otherwise fill necessary ends in a society that wants more than its willing to give in return. The question comes up, why do they do it? Comes up a lot. Like every morning when I’m drinking my coffee.

    But this morning was a little different. This morning I got a call from Peter Ignatz and he tells me that they have killed George Jones.

    George was one of the good ones. He was in for over twenty years, had stalled out as Lieutenant because he wouldn’t take the bribes, and should have been good for another ten, at least. Before that he had been a Marine. He could take care of himself. So they shot him in the back.

    My paper is not going to assign me to the story. My editor knows George was a friend of mine. So it’s on me to do what I will. Peter understands that I understand all that.

    The wisdom that can be found in a cup of coffee can be measured by the ounce. I use a pretty large mug, myself. Still, I couldn’t handle all the thoughts. read more…

Yes and No

There are two kinds of people, those who think there are two kinds of people and those who do not, but of course, the latter group are wrong. The very taxonomy of human being, that state of existence so bullied, bloodied, disparaged, idolized, hated, loved, condoned, copied, studied, spied, watched, ignored, rejected, classified, identified, distinguished, too often extinguished, and so totally misunderstood, is incomprehensible unless you use this simple tool. There are two of you and no more.

Some may disparage this realization as the petty enlightenment of a sophist. But sophistic or not, it is true and truth bears a great weight of its own. Many people, too many people it appears, are unable to make a simple choice between good and bad. They choose to make no choice at all which is a choice in itself. read more…

What’s all this, then?

A preamble to A Republic of Books, portions of which may be found elsewhere on this ethereal site.

There is a wonderful quote from a fabulous movie of long ago, often repeated but seldom fully appreciated: “Oh, no, it wasn’t the airplanes. It was beauty killed the beast.”

Perhaps it’s strange to you that I apply a quote from a movie to the death of the book, which is the greater subject here. Then perhaps you should look more closely at that movie. It was not technology that killed the book—nor the internet, or digital reproduction, or any of those contrivances that you’ve heard complaints about. They were only means. Mere tools. ’Twas beauty. The perfect nature of the book itself, that physical vade mecum of bound pages, whether pulp or rag or vellum, sewn or stapled or glued, covered in leather, or cloth or not at covered at all, that was the reason and cause for its destruction. Such a beast could not be allowed to survive in a fungible world. No matter the subject—novel, or history, or tract—the book was an existential threat. With writers having sacrificed verity in favor of favor and acceptance, such a corporal art and the evidence it revealed of their deceit, could not be allowed to co-exist. With the very climate itself having been made political, the ‘author’ had become just another tool as well and the need for the book, that hairy sublime that we had known, was made doubtful. With the advent of the internet and the ascendency of nescience and the commutable labyrinth of the web, the virtual became ‘real’ and the book was at last defunct. The Great Bezos had spoken. read more…

Latest Blog Posts

The seven senses

  As is so often the case, the Greeks got there first. Perhaps not always exactly or correctly, but at least in spirit. The seven liberal arts, as set out in ancient thought as the keys to education, are grammar, logic, and rhetoric, enhanced by arithmetic, geometry,...

The Miserables

In our time, as we watch the headless corpse of France flop in the shadow of a spiritual guillotine, it is difficult to imagine an age where Hector Berlioz and Saint-Saens, Bizet, Debussy and Offenbach filled the concert halls; Rostand, Feydeau, Brieux, Claudel,...

The Miller’s tale

The two original Mad Max films had a certain intelligence behind them, extrapolating an apocalyptic future from the present. And at minimal cost. They were, like the original Star Wars films, game changers. Post-nuclear holocaust could never be the same. The third in...

Joe Bailey, and the reason for the dog

[Yet another portion of A Republic of Books, more of which can be found elsewhere on this ethereal site.]       Honest cops are a lot like honest reporters. There aren’t many of them around, and they both work for naturally corrupt organizations with political agendas...

Yes and No

There are two kinds of people, those who think there are two kinds of people and those who do not, but of course, the latter group are wrong. The very taxonomy of human being, that state of existence so bullied, bloodied, disparaged, idolized, hated, loved, condoned,...

What’s all this, then?

A preamble to A Republic of Books, portions of which may be found elsewhere on this ethereal site. There is a wonderful quote from a fabulous movie of long ago, often repeated but seldom fully appreciated: “Oh, no, it wasn’t the airplanes. It was beauty killed the...

The problem is . . .

The problem is that the two major political forces of our age, socialism and capitalism, are rotten to the core. Ostensibly, socialism is the ‘public’ ownership of property and capitalism is the private ownership of property. In practice, neither is true. Capitalism,...

Otto Biedermeier is dead.

My guess is that most of you did not even know he was sick. Sadly, the great filmmaker, Otto Biedermeier has died, and it is perhaps parody that killed him. And it is for that reason alone that his death is the subject of the sudden novel I have just completed. You...

An open letter to those who might be wondering.

The move from Abington, Massachusetts to Lee, New Hampshire has been better than feared, but perhaps ultimately worse for the simple demonstration of fact that I haven’t the energy, muscle mass, or psychological stamina I once had. There has been an attrition,...

Trifles taken from the alms-basket of words

[a bagatelle from A Republic of Books, a 'novel in progress' to be found elsewhere on this site] By the bye, the category I have chosen for my work is ‘honorificabilitudinitatibus,’ as it is found in Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost, if for no other reason than it...

Consider Cleisthenes

(Oh yes, oh yes. Another potable portion from a chapter of A Republic of Books, the novel in progress to be found elsewhere on this site.) And while we are at it, consider Cleisthenes, the father of Athenian democracy and thus a father to us all, dead and white though...

All slaves are equal but some get to live in the big house.

(Oh yes, another new and potable portion from a chapter, this one  posted with A Republic of Books, the novel in progress to be found elsewhere on this site.) A novel is a flimsy currach indeed in which to set out on a journey such as this. The urgency to remain...

Novels & Novellas Available for Purchase

I Am William McGuire

I Am William McGuire

It’s a bloody Cro-Magnon world.
What’s a Neanderthal to do?

 

A Slepyng Hound to Wake

A Slepyng Hound to Wake

Leaving well enough alone is not good enough at all—not if the reason for a death is to be found in the life that was lost.
Hound

Hound

Henry Sullivan has made a simpler life for himself, finding and selling books. There is little room in it for either love or murder.

 

About

I have been informed by trusted authority that the short quip which I have placed here for the last year or so, by way of biography, lacks gravitas. “Over-paid by others for hyphenated jobs such as lawn-work, snow-shoveling, house-painting, office-boy, dish-washer, warehouse-grunt, table-waiter and hotel night-clerk–I’ve since chosen to be a writer, editor, publisher, and for most of my life, a bookseller, and even managed to occasionally pay myself. Hound is my first published novel.” And so it does. It is hard to be serious about so unserious a subject as oneself. But herewith, and keeping the ‘nasty bits’ (Brit expressions are so brilliant) to myself, I offer then, this ongoing post begun as posts at Small Beer Press. If anyone is interested, from time to time I will add something at the end to bring the epic closer to the present moment.

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