Archive for February, 2009

This slim volume was wrenched from the agitated mind of Mr. Greene.  Or so it seems upon finishing it that Greene was deeply moved by the conditions in Mexico during the Revolution.  Greene’s depression, which is tantamount to implied and actual pain and agony, compounded by his deep channel of faith, spirituality and sense of religious duty combine to give us a haunted view of the last vestiges of religion in a mutating world. 

The whisky priest is  “…the only priest the children could remember: it was from him they would take their ideas of the faith.  But it was from him too they took God-in their mouths.  When he was gone it would be as if God in all this space between the sea and the mountains ceased to exist.  Wasn’t it his duty to stay, even if they despised him, even if they were murdered for his sake? even if they were corrupted by his example? He was shaken with the enormity of the problem.  He lay with his hands over his eyes: nowhere, in all the wide flat marshy land, was there a single person he could consult. He raised the brandy to his mouth.”  The priest is so conflicted by his duty and his self-preservation instinct that throughout the novel we are privy to his skewed thought patterns. But as one can see, in reading the novel, it is from his environment and being hunted that he forced to alter his trains of thought.  The Judas of the story “…had an immense self-importance; he was unablt to picture a world of which he was only a typical part – a world of treachery, violence, and lust in which his shame was altogether insignificant.  How often the priest had heard the same confession – Man was so limited he hadn’t even the ingenuity to invent a new vice: the animals knew as much.  It was for this world that Christ had died; the more evil you saw and heard about you, the greater glory lay around the death.  It was too easy to die for what was good or beautiful, for home or children or a civilization – it needed a God to die for the half-hearted and the corrupt. He said, ‘Why do you tell me all this?'”  From this passage we can see Greene’s deep well of faith rising like the tide to justify the existence of both men.  Damned and Saviour, the priest and the half-caste with the two yellow fangs populate a damnable world in Greene’s estimation.  Greene’s faith would seem to be the horse and his depression the cart puliing him along a world he so deeply hates. 

The idealistic, zealous, but in the end almost pathetic, lieutenant’s reflection on the little children in the plaze speaks volumes about Greene’s condition.   “…and the lieutenant became aware in his own heart of a sad and unsatisfiable love.” Which would bring up the question of authorship, meaning that can we see Greene experiencing these hardships in life? Does he empathize in order to convey the reality of pain and faith?  Or is he that good of an author that he is able to survey a situation and sketch a story just from his obervations? I will have to consult the 3-volume work by Norman Sherry to get a fuller understanding of Greene’s demeanor and psyche at the time of writing the novel.

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Jeroboam-size/type of wine bottle.

I came across this word when reading George Saintsbury’s excellent Notes on a Cellar-Book. 

WikiPedia lists at this page here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wine_bottle


If you are further interested in wine please check out this list of wine personalities: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_wine_personalities

Everyone from a Rothschild to Saintsbury is listed.

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This small piece contains a nice little twist ending and delights the reader in its’ comedy. Here is what the eminent George Saintsbury had to say in the Introduction:

Pierre Grassou is much slighter and smaller; it is not even on a level with Honorine or Le Colonel Chabert. But it is good in itself; it is very characteristic of its time, and it is specially happy as giving the volume a touch of comedy, which is grateful, and which makes it as a whole rather superior to most of Balzac’s volumes,— volumes apt to be ‘ fagoted’ rather than composed. The figure of the artist-bourgeois, neither Bohemian nor buveur d’eau, is excellently hit off, and the thing leaves us with all the sense of a pleasant afterpiece.

The fact that Grassou is used and ends up winning in the end is a thing that should be considered by contemporary psychologists.  For you see Grassou is portrayed, to reiterate Saintsbury, as the bourgeois artist ordinaire.  Grassou can’t paint and is told to quit but he quietly goes about his business and ends up an old master. Ha! One should read the thing to get the general effect of the twist ending.  Here is the link to it on Google Books:


The Paris of Delacroix and Ingres comes to life in the course of this short story and if I am not mistaken I believe the Louvre was still used to house artists during this period.  With the omnipresent Salon culture permeating the art world of the Bourbon Restoration, there was little room for untalented men such as Pierre Grassou.  Balzac has no couth for such men as Grassou but he plays a forgiving god and lets Monsieur Grassou make dividends on his hard work and miniscule luck.

Please read and enjoy.

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In his merciless review of Toni Morrison’s historical novel A Mercy B.R. Myers does not hold back.  His review articulates my feelings on Morrison, that is why I am so enamoured with it.  From her purposely incorrect grammar to her inability to do the thing and go a little deeper.  Myers even compares her work with Zola and Steinbeck, which kind of makes me throw up in my mouth a little bit that she could even be considered with those two.  Yeah sure she has won the Nobel Prize you say.  But who cares when her writing is so insipid.

I am so gung-ho over his review that I would like to pull up another from the NY Times.  Though I have not read A Reader’s Manifesto by Myers I can almost gauge its’ effectiveness by Judith Shulevitz’s review of the thing from September 9, 2001. Shulevitz concedes that Paul Auster and Cormac McCarthy are terrible authors. No I’m just kidding but she does admit their faults and that their sentences sometimes lack a little spiked punch, which I blame the publishers for wholeheartedly.  B ut then she makes the corny statement that because they have their faults, which makes them truly human I might add, we get to love them more when we actually come across a good sentence.  Oh and then she mentions Don DeLillo’s high comedy White Noise but I was so bored after reading all of the two pages of the review that I was half way into a coma.

Here’s hoping B.R. Myers comes out with some more Literary reviews in the future.

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It’s a jazz affair, drum crashes and cornet razzes.
The trombone pony neighs and the tuba jackass snorts.
The banjo tickles and titters too awful.
The chippies talk about the funnies in the papers.
     The cartoonists weep in their beer.
     Ship riveters talk with their feet
     To the feet of floozies under the tables.
A quartet of white hopes mourn with interspersed snickers:
        “I got the blues.
        I got the blues.
        I got the blues.”
And . . . as we said earlier:
     The cartoonists weep in their beer


Carl Sandburg (1878-1967)

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This is a new favorite of mine, while I prefer the Hobart Smith version the Mac Wiseman edition is tres sweet.


Here are the lyrics:

Come all kind people, my story to hear,
What happen’d to me in June of last year.
It’s of poor Ellen Smith and how she was found,
A ball in her heart, lyin’ cold on the ground.

It’s true I’m in jail, a prisoner now,
But God is here with me and hears every vow.
Before Him I promise the truth to relate
And tell all I know of poor Ellen’s sad fate.

The world of my story’s no longer a part,
But knows I was Ellen’s own lovin’ sweetheart.
They knew my intention to make her my wife,
I loved her too dearly to take her sweet life.

I saw her on Monday, before that sad day
They found her poor body and took her away;
That she had been killed never entered my mind
Till a ball through her heart they happened to find.

Oh who was so cruel, so heartless, so base
As to murder poor Ellen in such a lonesome place?
I saw her that morning so still and so cold
And heerd the wild stories the witnesses told.

I choked back my tears, for the people all said
That Peter Degraph had shot Ellen Smith dead!
My love is in her grave with her hand on her breast
The bloodhound and sheriff won’t give me no rest.

They got their Winchesters and hunted me down,
But I was away in ole Mount Airy town.
I stayed off a year and I prayed all the time
That the man might be found whut committed the crime.

So I could come back in my character safe (and my character
Ere the flowers had faded on poor Ellen’s grave.
So I come back to Winston my trial to stand
To live or to die as the law might command.

Ellen sleeps calm in the lonely church yard
While I look trough the bars — God knows it is hard!
I know they will hang me — at least, if they can,
But I know I will die as an innocent man.

My soul will be free when I stand at the bar
Where God tries his cross, then, there, like a star,
That shines in the night, will an innocent shine
Oh, I do appeal to the Justice of Time!

If this version doesn’t seem right to you remember there are always variants of songs.

This excerpt comes from Ethel Park Richardson’s book American Mountain Songs:  “Peter Degraph really did shoot and kill Ellen Smith
(according to the verdict) near Mt. Airy, NC. He was executed for
the crime, and while he waited for them to take him to the chair
he called for a guitar, and this song was composed and sung by
him. So great was the feeling, for and against Degraph, that it
had to be declared a misdemeanour for the song to be sung in a
gathering of any size for the reason that it always fomented a

Here is the search at Youtube for Poor Ellen Smith:



Hope you enjoy

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Gaiman does Batman

Neil Gaiman is doing a Batman 2-part issue for D.C. Comics. Here is the link to the page on D.C.’s hompage:



Check it out. While I can’t say for certain that I have finshed anything of Gaiman’s I will definitely be checking this one out.

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