Thursday, August 27, 2009


Dread = Uncontrollability + Unfamiliarity + Imaginability + Suffering + Scale of Destruction + Unfairness

source: The Unthinkable: who survives when disaster strikes and why by Amanda Ripley

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

“the height of the shelves”

Alberto Manguel remembers his “father’s largely unused library in Buenos Aires.” The boy Alberto was “always alone in the library, since [his] father used it only on the rare occasions when he had to meet someone at home rather than at his office.” The father “had instructed his secretary to furnish the library, and she had bought books by the yard and sent them to be bound to the height of the shelves, so that the titles at the page-tops were in many cases trimmed, and sometimes even the first lines were missing.”

In his History of Reading Manguel later quotes Seneca on this sort of thing. Seneca scorned the man “’who gets his pleasure from the bindings and labels’ and in whose illiterate household ‘you can see the complete works of orators and historians on shelves up to the ceiling, because, like bathrooms, a library has become an essential ornament of a rich house.’”

I confess I try to read the titles of the books on the shelves in a stage play. I look over the books propped in bookcases in uninhabited houses (the house being up for sale, handsome furnishing having briefly been imported to suggest a lifestyle).

source: A History of Reading by Alberto Manguel

Monday, August 17, 2009

Sexton and Madonna, part II

Last spring I was reading a biography of Madonna and blogged about Madonna's affinity for Anne Sexton.

Today I read that Madonna cribbed from Sexton when composing a love poem for her bodyguard.

A fax dated December 24, 1993 reads: "I was the girl of the love letter/the girl full of talk of dreams and destination... the one with her eyes half under the covers/with her large gun-metal blue eyes/with the thick vein in the crook of her neck."

In comparison, Sexton wrote: "I was the girl of the chain letter/the girl full of talk of coffins and keyholes... the one with her eyes half under her coat/with her large gun-metal blue eyes/with the thin vein at the bend of her neck."

hat tip to CDY

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Plutarch's God

“To [Plutarch] a superstition was not a mistaken belief, a kind of religious stupidity; it was an unmitigated evil, far worse than absolute disbelief. Atheism, he says, denies God, but superstition wrongs Him. It makes God evil or silly. It uses the very worst of all weapons, terror. It fills the world after death with ‘flaming fires and awful shapes and inexorable judges and horrible torments’; in this world it teaches people to practice absurd penances and self-torturing. Better far not to see God at all than see Him like that. ‘I had rather have it said that there was not and never had been such a fellow as Plutarch, than that he was fickle and vindictive and would pay you out for not calling upon him.’”

source: The Echo of Greece by Edith Hamilton