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25 September 2012


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We had to read Silas also and it was torture. Constitutional Law was more pleasurable and relaxing to read.

One of my college teachers had us read Jack London's "To Build a Fire," calling it the perfect short story. I've liked London since I was a kid and think he did more than any other writer to break away from the florid Victorian prose of the time. His wolf stories will always remain popular but his writings about social conditions at the end of the Guilded Age have dropped out of favor because his belief in the superiority of the white race and because of its relevance to today's social stratification.


I've read it. Better than his other stuff but I like Poe better.


Col. sir,

I wonder if the likes of H.L. Mencken & George Orwell [as well as other notables in Western Literature] were to be here at present, how they'd shake their heads in despair & utter disbelief.

Yes, a salve your writing is [as well as the contributions of Mr. Sale, et al.] against the PURE & UTTER boredom in this hair-brained [i.e. the other denizens], backwater, neck-o'-the-woods region I presently inhabit.

"Save yourselves," [to us 'foreign devils' you say?] with great trepidation I fear it's already too late....

The Great Asinine-Inaneness hast already arrived at the pathetic shores near my whereabouts!


Aye sir, youth is INDEED wasted on the young....

No time to read [THOROUGHLY], just enough to catch latest [asinine/inane] blockbuster on the silver screen [do they still have any idea why it was called that?] & to talk 'bout it [endlessly] on Facebook™.

Pure reflex [only essential in life-& death situations, maybe carnal pleasures....]; nada reflection.

No wonder 'Percy Jackson & the Lightning Thief' was quite a hit in the box-office.

The perfect means to interpret our present-day youth to us older folks.

Tragedy of our Times....

"Moby Dick? Wha? A dude with a movin' pen_ _?"

(& to this Day I regret not havin' had the damn patience to read thru 'The Hobbit' when I was but a youngling of 12. Such beautiful syntax from a forgotten æra....)



Ah, an educated gent even in the Classics.

How I regret reading [primarily] only Books on Warre & Machpolitik at an earlier age....


Godawful? I'll agree it's a bad choice for school children, but that's it.

Silas Marner was likely chosen for its seemingly simpleminded and melodramatic plot (perhaps by a spinster, but I wouldn't be so specific as to say in the 22 days of the Victorian era that belong to 1901).

But its bland story happens to be overlaid a serious critique of the ethics, religion, rights of gentry, etc. in Eliot's times. The fact that you knew nothing of the issues and context, and neither did your teacher, is why you probably saw it as godawful. Silas Marner is not a book for children, but comparing it unfavorably to great sportswriting misses the point. They're different things entirely.


Of course they are. Google has made a huge number of classic (and for that matter all) works instantly available for free. With an e-reader today, you can access more titles than are available at any university library in the world. What's more, they have undertaken to photograph richly many old handwritten manuscripts to increase access to rarer works that used to have to be visited in person.

I don't think this will make any difference.



RE: "only candles or kerosine lamps."

For my side-of-the-hemisphere, that accounted for my parents' Generation: the Baby Boomers.

Though I seriously doubt that was why that name was [first] coined in the Occident....



IMHO, sir.

Primeval: good acting; crazy script.

Terra Nova: good acting; crazy script.

Methinks what I really needs is some good-old fashioned acting the likes of Rowan Atkinson in the Black Adder....


Most agreed, monsieur.

The present-day koan & so-called poems in the Chinese tongue are just....I'm lost for words....


Mr. Cumming, sir,

I've always loved this [somehow of relation to this here post of the Col.'s:

祇園精舎の鐘の聲、諸行無常の響き有り。 沙羅雙樹の花の色、盛者必衰の理を顯す。 驕れる者も久しからず、唯春の夜の夢の如し。 猛き者も遂には滅びぬ、偏に風の前の塵に同じ。

"The sound of the Gion Shōja bells echoes the impermanence of all things; the color of the sāla flowers reveals the truth that the prosperous must decline. The proud do not endure, they are like a dream on a spring night; the mighty fall at last, they are as dust before the wind."

平家物語 Heike Monogatari

J Y Byrd

Zot 23:
I hesitate to delve too deeply into these areas since I do not have statistics and references handy. I recently read a number of parenting books from the library, several of which were by a man named Dr. Leonard Sax, and thus don’t have the information to back myself or confirm my claims.
I am not an expert on ADD or ADHD and am not denying that such conditions exist, but the sheer numbers of boys, and even girls, being diagnosed is cause for alarm. That much money is to be made and the long term effects of these drugs only beginning to be understood is also concerning (increase of likelihood of future drug use, tendencies toward violent behavior, etc.). This is somewhat of a rabbit trail, but I do believe that it relates to what is being discussed. Medication and environmental factors that many are thinking might cause these disorders are affecting boys and this generation is far less engaged and much more sedentary than previous generations (for multiple other reasons). I realize that all issues are complicated and I know I’m oversimplifying things, but according to what I’ve been reading, these are major contributors to the number of boys who just hate school. I realize that since the dawn of schooling, many boys have hated it, but the performance of boys has been dropping radically out of sync with that of girls. Again, I don’t have the stats on hand to support this claim. The other contributors are feminized classrooms and starting children too early on letters and numbers, too little opportunity for exhausting boundless energy during a long school day. Our nation seems to think if what we aren’t doing isn’t working, we need to do more of it earlier, rather than change our approach.
The self-mutilation to which I referred is on the rise in girls. I don’t remember the stats, but it’s dramatic. One popular form is cutting oneself with razors to inflict pain. There are others. The old fairytale life of living happily-ever-after with a prince has been replaced by celebrity. The new fantasy is to be a rock star. It’s pushed at our daughters at a very young age. Now with digital cameras and video available on phones and constant access to media, every girl lives in a world of mini-celebrity. Their world is obsessed with packaging themselves through their social media. The focus is not on character or thought life, but on how one is perceived. You can see it in blogs as well. Everything is filtered. Little is genuine. One obsesses over the numbers of friends on their social pages that goes into the thousands. Relationships are shallow and multi-tasking is pervasive. Often students are “studying” while watching a show on the computer, chatting online, and using their social sites. How can one take assignments seriously if they’re only giving a smidgeon of attention to it? How do the great writers have a chance of being understood or savored in such an environment? If parents aren’t policing the consumption, it pervades every waking hour and they are losing much precious sleep. The access to this social life is 24/7, so even less time for reflection. Trying to grow up under the limelight has had disastrous consequences for almost every starlet we’ve seen. Now we have a generation of little girls growing up in a mini-version of Brittany Spear’s world. The soul and mind haven’t been tended. Their sexual lives have been permeated with pornography which is confusing b/c they posture an exciting sex life and act sexy rather than actually understanding their own desires, building relationships, and discovering their sensuality (which in my opinion ought to be awakened at a much later age and in marriage). The cultural obsession with commercial ideals of beauty cut her off from her inner self more than ever. These changes have led to a dramatic rise in not only self-mutilation, but other destructive behaviors such as a rise in drugs and alcohol abuse.
This generation is navigating much of the virtual world on their own b/c previous generations are unaware of their lives on line. I agree that each generation will eke things out, but grieve b/c we want so much more for our children. The irony that the world is literally at their fingertips, but their worlds are so small is painful. I’m trying to lay a foundation for love of the humanities and arts, but I hope I don’t handicap them by abstaining from the technical world in their early years.


RE: "Jewish-American immigrant culture that I am a part of."

You, sir are Blessed [with Wisdom].



"I started to learn English by trying to read Playboy."

Lars, you Da Man!

FB Ali

Not being an American I was reluctant to intervene in this discussion. However, now that it’s winding down, perhaps I could make a couple of comments.
Irrespective of their relative merit, Hemingway struck a chord with non-Americans that Faulkner did not. Perhaps it was due to the more universal themes and foreign settings that Hemingway used. I may be prejudiced, but coming upon “For Whom the Bell Tolls” as a teenager, I was totally blown away. (Someone said Hemingway was ‘wordy’! Really?)
No one has mentioned another great American writer, James Gould Cozzens. I would rank his “By Love Possessed” as one of the best books I’ve read. It gave one a remarkable feel for the South in mid-20th century. And, he has written the best short story I’ve come across (Every Day’s a Holiday); in just a few pages he makes you visualise the entire life stories of the main characters.


FB Ali

I don't think "papa" was wordy at all. Some of his popularity overseas is due to his deliberately simple language and style. Your english is superb but i am sure it was not always so. what about Canada? pl

FB Ali

Col Lang,

Thank you! My first school was a boarding school run by nuns (the Convent of Jesus & Mary); it was 4 years of total immersion in the English language. That initial grounding made it easy to later indulge my voracious appetite for reading! (Incidentally, that period was also an opportunity to 'experience' the Catholic religion and its practices. I can still feel the impact of the pathos that the Passion of Christ evoked in my impressionable young self).

Canada has produced several writers of world status. Margaret Attwood and Michael Ondaatje, to name a couple. (John Ralston Saul, whom someone quoted above, is also Canadian - he is married to a former Governor General of Canada).


fb ali

Bless the nuns. They sacrificed all. Does the school still exist? There were so many such schools, now mostly gone, denounced, denounced. I remember that John Masters wrote in "Bugles and a Tiger" of his visit to Virginia in the early 30s. He said that after that he could see himself in the dust brown ranks. He attrributed that to Henderson, "Stonewall Jackson and the American Civil War." My copy was printed in Calcutta in 1911 and bound in calf, lovely. I know, that is apropos of nothing, but TTG has made me think of our "comrades" bivouacked in the woods. You would have fit in the circle of sacred ragamuffins. pl


The aforementioned TV series "The Wire" is loved by a very diverse set of people. I am not sure if it is epic but I agree that it proves that English fiction is not dead.

I am done working in China and can bring up 2 relevant things about your "Foreigners: Save yourselves" : the ordinary workers I knew there are excellent people and seem to respect America a great deal, such that we will have punched above our cultural weight for the rest of human history, regardless of what happens; and I don't know a better one-sentence description of the prototypical expat than "an emissary of pity and science and progress, and devil knows what else."

Regarding US cultural influence in Asia, the Korean video "Gangnam style" seems worth thinking about. I think it is a self-aware parody of the mentality behind things like Shenzhen's "Evening Show," which happens to feature Russians as some sort of Western idols/sex toys, and is quite real and bizarre.


My favorite novel is "love in the time of cholera" by Marquez.

Incidentally academics don't even call it "literature" any more. They study "text" thanks to the French deconstructionists.

FB Ali

Col Lang,

I take that last remark as a great compliment!

I do not know if that particular school still exists. It was up in the hills in a place called Mussoorie; now in India. There are still a few convent schools in Pakistan, much in demand as their educational standards are considered very high.

Speaking of books on the WBS, Bruce Catton wrote a fine set. I have seldom read anything so moving as the final passage of his 'Stillness at Appomattox'.


To what extent do we have to "thank" the Frankfurt School for Ethnic/Gender Studies majors and the injection of "critical theory" with its needless sophistry for dumbing down our culture?


RE: "strip malls and reality shows about unreality"

Col. sir,

Dumbest creations of the late 20th.-early 21st. CE.

Gawd****, if George F. Kennan were still around, he'd hiss.


Mr. Oline,

Have you considered moving your operations to the Japanese Isles.

Them Japs may be the only folks who even take reading seriously.

[Only problem's the rental though.]

Thanks [very much] for preserving an Isle of Civilized Intellect amidst an Ocean of Barbarity.


Dr. Brenner,

I've never read this but seems to be [even more] appropriate for these trying times.


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