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10 September 2014


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I am overwhelmed, I guess I have not even grazed world literature.

mistah charley, ph.d.

To Richard Sale

Another of your very interesting and insightful essays. Someone has written a book on the spiritual uses of adversity, and more people than we realize may be examples of it.

I am grateful for your pointing out Bruyere's book. I use the Firefox browser with the EPUBReader add-on, which makes accessing and reading Project Gutenberg and other free classic books very convenient.


Thank you once again, Mr Sale, for this piece. I read your piece on Chit-Chat with great interest, and this is even more provocative since it has provoked me to try to discover Bruyere. I knew the name, but I have never read anything by him I believe. Several years ago, a friend gave me a book, _Conversation: A History of a Declining Art_ by Stephen Miller. It is interesting since it ranges over the subject for about 2400 years and traces it into the present with iPods and cell phones. It needs an update for iPhones, iPads, and the proliferation of social media as well as their attraction for just about everyone.

I have lost count of all the dolts I have met in social gatherings over the years. I think it is a dated concept, but Col. Lang's Committee of Correspondence offers a venue.


I had just finished War and Peace for the second time. I'm captivated by the Russian authors -- can't get enough. But a well-rounded autodidact needs Proust, so I started "Remembrance of Things Past." I did not get very far at all. Tolstoy's eye surveyed a very broad landscape, and perceived and delighted in personalities of every different quirk and quality. Proust's eye looked only inward, or at best, in Narcissis's pond. It seemed cramped and self-absorbed.

Sorry about your growing-up years with a mother with a damaged personality.

As a parent, my biggest regret is not having been a better one, and when I am feeling especially sorry for myself about failures as a parent, I doubly regret not having known -- not having learned-- how to be a better parent. College degrees do not transmit this essential skill. Ours (the American) culture is one that does not pass on from generation to generation instruction on how to be a good parent. It may be our greatest failing as a nation.

William R. Cumminh

Recommend Francois Dion'd Poetry!

richard sale

I think your comment is extremely insightful and dead on.

When I labored over my novel, Virtue's Fool, I was always reading War and Peace.
Tolstoy's eye surveyed a very broad landscape, and perceived and delighted in personalities of every different quirk and quality.

I wanted to do a really good book about the Chicago Convention of 1968 which would include a large variety of scenes, characters, clashes, sub plots with War and Peace always before my eyes as I wrote.

I have finished the book, but it took me ten years because I was working all the time.

Thanks again for your insight.



There is something to be said for "Terroir" in literature. If you were born and raised in rainy, dreary, depressed England, rather than France, you might be bitter too.

richard sale

I am not bitter. I wish it happened, but I stopped hating her when I reversed roles - what if I were a parent and she were my offspring?

I would do better than she did. Apparently she couldn't. She died covered in cancer, but long after I was told that, I prayed for her.


I apologize for being unclear. I meant the reference to Jonathan Swift as bitter.


If one were born in dreary, rainy, depressed England rather than gay Paris, they might be bitter, too.

c webb

Swift was born in rainy, depressing, Dublin, Ireland.


Babak Makkinejad

Richard Sale:

In the novel "The Loved One", Evelyn Waugh observed that Americans talk for themselves, one (an Englishman) should never consider their utterances to require serious engagement.


I'm traveling now, driving, and read this piece yesterday morning before I started out on a stretch of road that rose and fell in various swaths of dull valley and head-turning beauty.

But I found myself thinking about it. Oddly, I grew up with Jean de la Bruyère's namesake and great-great-great-great-great-whatever. [http://tinyurl.com/delabr1 and http://tinyurl.com/delabr2] But it was the section on your mother that knocked my hair back.

As I rode the crest of a sunny nondescript section of road with no one around me, I realized you made me privy to the scars under the samurai's robe. A powerful description.


Thank you, Richard Sales, for your reflection on Bruyer.

In a trip to Iran I got in trouble with my group leader because I was determined to spend more than 2 minutes in a shrine in Mashad, so I left my group & leader & stayed in shrine (having spent 26 hours in travel etc etc). I wanted to know what all those mirrors were about -- a really weird interior design decision? a way to create light without windows that would admit the very hot sun?

Neither. The mirrors in a shrine give access to the universe, to all of its refractions and perspectives. To sit -- or kneel in a shrine is to position oneself to touch the universe/universal god.

Bruyer is one more perspective in a multifaceted mirror.

richard sale

Thank you for your very generous remarks. They meant a lot.

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