Beauty will save the world. --Solzhenitsyn

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Friday, February 15, 2019

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Be mine, Valentine--

Happy St. Valentine's Day

Here's a lovely toy theatre with candy and hearts from Clive Hicks-Jenkins, produced by the famous Benjamin Pollock's Toyshop. (Just watch out for the witch!) 

Rollipoke subscribers will get a special Valentine from me with secret Clive art today. Subscribers, enjoy! If you want to be a Rollipoker, go here:

And go here to get your own Clivean theatre:…/hansel-gretel-to…/

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Sundry on Wednesday

Cooperstown arts news:
Ashley Norwood Cooper's solo show is still up.
New York City friends, please go...

The Likes of Us
at First Street Gallery
through 23 February 2019
526 West 26th Street, Suite 209
New York, NY 10001
Tel: 646-336-8053

What a rugged two weeks it has been! The weather was a little too focused on snow and ice. The sweet, tiny Puffcat died. The long author questionnaire was sent in. The novel manuscript was turned in at three in the morning. Many other things were accomplished that chewed up time. And now I must deal with my neglected house, for I have been giving most of my home attention to words and cat.

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Tomorrow, out pops the Valentine edition of The Rollipoke, which you (naturally) won't want to miss. Advance peek at the next book, available only to Rollipokers... Click on the link to Be Mine: that is, to be a Rollipoker. 

Nobody loves you? Nobody sends you a Valentine? Weep not! Have a Rollipoke Valentine!

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If you're at all interested in a sharp-edged critique of the state of the humanities (particularly English studies) on our campuses, I think this article by Gilbert T. Sewall is a must read--hat tip to the Prufrock newsletter. Thank God that I dropped out of academia after getting tenure because that preserved the freedom of my mind for my books. I might have been weak-willed. Who knows? Leaving the academic world protected me from rampant ideologies, which are the ruination of art.

After reading it, I was thinking about teaching Huckleberry Finn, talking with my students about that crucial, deep-down beautiful scene where Huck says, "All right, then, I'll go to hell." With no understanding of our Christian heritage and how it has been the underpinning of Western history, how can a reader even understand the huge thing that Huck is willing to give up out of love for his friend, a slave? Can a reader even feel the depths of sacrifice in that love? How can a reader see and understand that Huck is turning away from a false morality and a false vision of God and toward a true one, even though he does not know it? How can a reader have the slightest understanding of how huge the scene is, a turning point in our literary history, walking us into an American literature where the growth of the individual soul and the rule of the individual mind is central? 

Also, I was remembering what sheer fun it was to teach Chaucer in a survey course, and how much laughter and joy there was in the classroom as students had a brief lesson in pronunciation and then read aloud. To feel the words in the mouth, to have a sense of another time, another world--yet so strangely close to our own!--how precious that was. And now an English major might not encounter Chaucer at all.

There are a million things to say in response to that article, but one that has bothered me for a long time is the way that we are depriving our young writers of the best that has been thought and written. As makers, we want to stand on giants, not on little hobbits. We want enduring stone, not fragile papier-mâché novelty. We want vellum, not foolscap. To discard, to encourage young writers to assume that Chaucer and Milton and Shakespeare and the King James Bible (all those writers and translators, so dead! so white! so long ago!) are of no literary account and have nothing to say to us today is to harm young writers in the West. It is to plant their feet on sand. Yes, we want to know the writing of our own times. Sure, we want to read new voices of all sorts. We want to praise and support worthy voices of our era. But we also want to pay the obeisance owed to the glories of the past. To move forward, we dive through the past. It saddens me that such things need to be said.

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Snow is falling (I know, I know--it's the Cooperstown usual for February.) But these are lovely whirls of snowflakes as big as feathers, crisscrossing on wayward currents. And the bird feeders are busy with juncos and chickadees and pine siskins. Best of all, I finally have a squirrel-defeating feeder, so I am watching a morbidly obese squirrel (no doubt fattened on our seeds) climb up and then slide down. I've always disliked the word chuckle except when it describes something other than a laugh, but maybe this is the right place for one. Keep cosy...

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Happy St. Valentine's Day, y'all!

Rock doves by photographer Juha Soininen of Finland at