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Archive for December, 2009

I HAVE but left my pleasant home
    And native vales, to die!–
Ah wherefore did the wish to roam,
So wildly o’er my spirit come,
    And urge so temptingly !

My Mother !–thou wilt hope in vain,
    Thy wandering one’s return:–
‘Twould calm the bitterness of pain,
If once on thy dear face again
    My parting glance might turn.

But sever’d thus by land, and wave,
    From tenderness, and thee,
And all whose love, might sooth, or save,
I perish here-and ev’n my grave
    In stranger-earth must be !

Eliza Acton

May 1826

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No I have not read Infinite Jest or any thing else from David Foster Wallace except his Tennis Article that is so lauded. I barely even finished it though, more like breezed through it, if you will allow such disgrace. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nnpCIOb-2Wc  So upon receiving the The New Yorker this week I promptly digested it from the view of the table of contents and came across the piece of Fiction by David Foster Wallace. Wow is all I can say. I am not impressed one bit. This man was a writing machine though. Have you held up his novels to the light? You can barely see through them. I mean, I should say, I can see through them.

This man embarked upon a short career and chalked up a lot of words. From the beginnings of this fiction piece his writing falls apart. Describing some gift he received, the narrator deigns to imbue the reader with the meaning behind certain things. Whoopdeedo. The sense I get from teh writing is that the author, had I that fleeting chance to sit and chat, is a much, much more intelligent being than I could ever be. The author has taken this opportunity (the writing piece) to show me how intelligent he can possibly be. It is just that the writing is flat, insipid, and boring. Well that’s Post-modernism for you, one could say. You don’t get it would be the sonorous approval from the Academy. Well that’s just a crappy, over-hyped fad I could say, like for instance bell-bottoms or the flappers. Ever keenly remembered for how outlandish and stupid they were and for promulgating themselves to the unwitting.

I also harbor suspicions that Wallace was like this all the time, in his writing I am certain. I have yet to see any substantive video of the Man or Writing Machine? You decide.

Waah.

Michael E. K. McCullough

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This is a funny, yet at times deadly serious book. The contempt Brenda develops for John Last verges on heartbreaking and the love she maintains for John Beaver is pathetic. Why can’t one just accept their situation and get on with it, so to speak. But that would not seem to be what Waugh was getting at in this novel. Yeah one could harp (A different one than that of the prior sentence, ostensibly) about the class strictures and the cloying of Mr. and the Mrs. Beaver about climbing the rungs but that would be less than astute. What we should focus on is the pain that is created by Waugh. It is almost painful to read all about the failure of a marriage, yet in that quasi-painful state these characters begin to form. Tony reacts like the good fellow he is and retreats to another hemisphere to get away from his wife. John Beaver, well there isn’t much to say about this half-wit, except that he is an imbecile and slightly proud of it. The kissing scene in the novel is borderline hysterical and one knows just how experienced this guy is after about one sentence. The feigned, or is it, pain of Jock Grant-Menzies after the little boy John is killed could drive one to tears if one was so inclined. The rushing around of the Beaver and Brenda and the little fiasco by the sea are all painful to read. But this isn’t a story to include the reader, no it is more like a distant tale told by the fire to a disinterested audience. For that is what one becomes after so long. One can’t emotionally invest  in these characters because they can’t invest in themselves.

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"He travels the fastest who travels alone"

 

This quote sums up the book Martin Eden, for the most part anyways. Martin is ill, with love that is and his class-consciousness isn’t really helping his malady. Martin is an ambitious sailor who has a penchant/knack for writing. It is only at the end of the book that he can finally see that he has achieved what he intended to do but by then he has lost Ms. Morse and is not getting her back. So what does our hero do? He kills himself by jumping from the porthole of a ship he has taken passage on.

This book had a tremendous effect on me. As a fellow writer and as a human. I was filled with doubt in college about certain things, far from home and wondering what this person in the mirror was all about. I read this book and the loathing and self-doubt, I can honestly say, only increased. Am I angry at this book?  Heck no! I am glad that it showed me the depths of despair that one can attain. Martin Eden also helped me through the lack of self-confidence in my writing that I had built up over the years. If that sailor could do it, than this guy can do it. You kin’ do it.

The overt struggle between the self and the society it belongs to, that runs through the novel, gets a little drab by the end. But there is always McTeague if you are interested in that sort of thing.

Michael E. K. McCullough

http://www.gutenberg.org/files/1056/1056-h/1056-h.htm

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In Literature we have all grown accustomed to the Dystopian and Utopian genres.  That we can perfect a heaven or a hell on earth are thoughts that merit a closer look.  Science and religion, now quite distinct from each other, are the lenses upon which we may view the worlds of Dystopia and Utopia. Now the prevailing thought in the world today is that by the action of Man we can perfect the world through Learning which we shall hereafter call Science. While through religion we can clearly be told that we are coming from a golden age of sorts, not as some would believe, going into one. The Renaissance was a rebirth of the thought of Golden Age Greece, but what I mean here is more like a time of perfection; no crime, no Evil. Some would call this sin. I would call it humanity.

Moving on then, what do we make of the fact that all the populace thinks the world is going to end? One half thinks it will be because of an act of God, while the other thinks because of the works of Man we will be extinct from our own fumes. And if there is no man then there is no world as we know it.  Concurrently these two halves of the metaphysical sphere believe in the inverse of the others thoughts. One knows that the world was created to be perfect and Man merely mussed it up by doing his own thing, the other knows that we came from the primordial stew and we are quite literally going to stew in our own juices if we don’t get green. Now I don’t want to get patriotic or anything but that is the genius of the American Democracy, that we can hold these two conflicting viewpints in the national consciousness and still exist, even if the one wants to kill the other and vice versa.

Now what does this have to do with Literature? Everything. What is the crux of almost every story but a matter of evil or sin that needs to be dealt with. Dostoevsky built a literary reputation second to none in Posterity that deals exclusively with the character flaws (real and imagined) of Men. War and Peace, ’nuff said. Mans inhumanity to man is what makes Literature great. But that is not the only thing that makes Literature great. We have a whole branch of writing which seeks to show us the future. Science fiction and Dystopian novels probably are the way to go. When composing a novel at least. For if you have anything to say or some sort of vision in your mind, here is the genre for you to portray it in. But then again, when man seeks to perfect his world, what is the problem there? The problem is that he acknowledges that he is not perfect in his current state.  That he must meddle with the muddle of life in order to form and shape it to his own needs. Which is exactly what someone would be doing if they attempted to perfect the body, live forever, or see dead people (or some other shallow premise airing weekly on CBS or daily on Lifetime).

Religion, Science, Dystopia, Utopia and Literature are my topics of conversation here and if I’ve lost you at all please re-read the spouting. Religion is to Dystopia as Science is to Utopia, there you have it and Literature describes them all. I would like to thank my 7th grade English teacher for ingraining analogies into me at such a tender age.

Michael E. K. McCullough

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Cliff Lee has been traded to the Mariners in a 3-way deal that gives the Phillies Roy Halladay. I, for one, am upset at the lack of loyalty the upper management of the organization is displaying regarding last year’s ace.  What is a fan to do but cry foul over the trade?  On a personal level I am a huge fan of Cliff Lee. I admire his work ethic on the field and his sparse commenting off of the field. How can Ruben Amaro Jr. allow, nay, pursue such a thing? I guess the bottom line is Halladay will sign a multi-year deal while Cliff Lee’s agent will only allow him to sign a one-year deal thus allowing him to go after more money after a probable stellar year with the Phillies.

The only solace in such a deal is that the Yankees, Angels, Devil Rays, Mets, Red Sox or Dodgers did not land Lee. I feel for the guy though. He is left to rot in Seattle all year for a losing franchise. Maybe, just maybe, he will have a mediocre year and the Phillies can sign him in 2011. Stranger things have happened.

Michaek EK McCullough

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The day is cold, and dark, and dreary;

It rains, and the wind is never weary;

The vine still clings to the mouldering wall,

But at every bust the dead leaves fall,

And the day is dark and dreary.

My life is cold, and dark, and dreary;

It rains, and the wind is never weary;

My thoughts still cling to the mouldering Past,

But the hopes of youth fall thick in the blast,

And the days are dark and dreary.

Be still, sad heart! and cease repining;

Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;

Thy fate is the common fate of all,

Into each life some rain must fall,

Some days must be dark and dreary.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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