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Posts Tagged ‘T.S. Eliot

“Museums are custodians of epiphanies”*…

 

Located on the campus of Georgia Southern University, the U.S. National Tick Collection is the world’s largest curated tick collection

Just one of the extraordinarily-specific museums– from umbrella covers to pencil sharpeners– one will find at “The Ultimate List of Wonderfully Specific Museums.”

* George Lois

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As we defer to the docent, we might recall that it was on this date in 1964, on the eve of a get-together, that T.S. Eliot wrote his pen pal Groucho Marx: “the picture of you in the newspapers saying that… you have come to London to see me has greatly enhanced my credit in the neighbourhood, and particularly with the greengrocer across the street. Obviously I am now someone of importance.”

More on their unlikely friendship here and here.

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Written by LW

June 3, 2017 at 1:01 am

“If God dropped acid, would He see people?”*…

 

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We had long periods of silence and of listening to music. I was accustomed to playing rock ‘n’ roll while tripping, but the record collection here was all classical and Broadway show albums. After we heard the Bach “Cantata No. 7” Groucho said, “I may be Jewish, but I was seeing the most beautiful visions of Gothic cathedrals. Do you think Bach knew he was doing that?”

Later, we were listening to the score of a musical comedy Fanny. There was one song called “Welcome Home,” where the lyrics go something like, “Welcome home, says the clock,” and the chair says, “Welcome home,” and so do various other pieces of furniture. Groucho started acting out each line as if he were actually being greeted by the duck, the chair and so forth. He was like a child, charmed by his own ability to respond to the music that way…

Paul Krassner, publisher of  The Realist and all-round avatar of counter-culture, guided T. S. Eliot’s buddy Groucho Marx through his first acid trip (using the a dose from the same batch that fueled Richard Alpert’s last trip before he became Ram Dass).  He wrote about it both in High Times and in The Realist.  More of the backstory at Dangerous Minds.

[TotH to buddy Chistopher Enzi]

* Steven Wright

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As we hum “Eight Miles High,” we might send well-reasoned birthday greetings to Enlightenment giant John Locke; the physician and philosopher died on this date in 1704.  An intellectual descendant of Francis Bacon, Locke was among the first empiricists. He spent over 20 years developing the ideas he published in his most significant work, Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690), an analysis of the nature of human reason which promoted experimentation as the basis of knowledge.  Locke established “primary qualities” (e.g., solidity, extension, number) as distinct from “secondary qualities” (sensuous attributes like color or sound). He recognized that science is made possible when the primary qualities, as apprehended, create ideas that faithfully represent reality.

Locke is, of course, also well-remembered as a key developer (with Hobbes, and later Rousseau) of the concept of the Social Contract.  Locke’s theory of “natural rights” influenced Voltaire and Rosseau– and formed the intellectual basis of the U.S. Declaration of Independence.

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Written by LW

August 29, 2016 at 1:01 am

“The proper definition of a man is an animal that writes letters”*…

 

From our old friend Shaun Usher, the force behind Letters of Note (c.f. here, here, and here), Letterheady

…a blog which celebrates and showcases the personalised letterheads of some of the best-known and loved figures in pop culture. Using both found examples and pieces from the collections of others, Usher collects those from the likes of Anaïs Nin, Andy Warhol’s Interview Magazine, Michael Jackson and the Grateful Dead. There are fictional examples, too – members of the official Twin Peaks Fan Club were sent notes written on stationery from Dwayne Milford, the Mayor of Twin Peaks, while the author of Psycho, of which the film was later directed by Alfred Hitchcock, wrote for years under a letterhead bearing the name ‘Bates Motel: For that wistful country feeling,’ in a witty but sinister nod to the murderous venue in his famous horror story…

More of the backstory on AnOther; visit Letterheady here.

* Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgson)

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As we search for a stamp, we might recall that it was on this date in 1964, on the eve of a get-together, that T.S. Eliot wrote his pen pal Groucho Marx: “the picture of you in the newspapers saying that … you have come to London to see me has greatly enhanced my credit in the neighbourhood, and particularly with the greengrocer across the street. Obviously I am now someone of importance.”

More on their unlikely friendship here and here.  And for the remarkable (and heart-warming) story of the revival of a “lost” Marx Brothers musical, click here.

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Written by LW

June 3, 2016 at 1:01 am

“Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?”*…

 

From Julian Peters, the 24-page comic version of “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” (with larger, zoomable images).

Because.

* T.S. Eliot, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”

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As we hear mermaids singing, we might send elegant birthday greetings to Marianne Moore; she was born on this date in 1887.   An American Modernist poet, critic, translator, and editor, she is known for formal innovation, precise diction, irony, and wit in her literary work… and for being probably the only highly-regarded poet ever to to be involved in automotive marketing.

She argues, in her best known poem, “Poetry,” that it is not formal attributes like meter that define poetry, but delight in language and precise, heartfelt expression…

… nor is it valid
to discriminate against ‘business documents and
school-books’; all these phenomena are important. One must
make a distinction
however: when dragged into prominence by half poets, the
result is not poetry,
nor till the poets among us can be
‘literalists of
the imagination’–above
insolence and triviality and can present
for inspection, ‘imaginary gardens with real toads in them’, shall
we have
it. In the meantime, if you demand on the one hand,
the raw material of poetry in
all its rawness and
that which is on the other hand
genuine, you are interested in poetry.

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“Wear these bright jewels, belovèd Beowulf; Enjoy them”*…

 

The first page of the Beowulf manuscript

Beowulf, the oldest surviving epic in British literature, exists in only one manuscript– a copy that survived both the wholesale destruction of religious artifacts during the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII and a disastrous fire which destroyed the library of Sir Robert Bruce Cotton (1571-1631). The 3182-line poem, now housed in the British Library, still bears the scars of the fire, visible at the upper left corner of the photograph above. 

Beowulf was written in Old English (or Anglo-Saxon) between 650 and 1000 in what we now know as England.  It recalls a golden age of valor and martial prowess via the adventures of a great Swedish warrior of the sixth century- Beowulf– who comes to the aid of the beleaguered Danes, saving them from the ravages of the monster Grendel and his mother.  In old age, and after many years of rule in his own country, Beowulf dies in the processof heroically slaying a dragon.

A great many translations are available, in both poetry and prose.  In his A Critical Companion to Beowulf, Andy Orchard lists 33 “representative” translations in his bibliography; it has been translated into at least 23 other languages.  Probably the best-known (and best-loved) current version is Seamus Heaney’s verse translation.  But surely the most-anticipated version is the translation completed in 1926– but never published– by J.R.R. Tolkein.

Tolkien’s academic work on the epic was second to none in its day; his 1936 paper “Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics” is still well worth reading, not only as an introduction to the poem, but also because it decisively changed the direction and emphasis of Beowulf scholarship.

Up to that point it had been used as a quarry of linguistic, historical and archaeological detail, as it is thought to preserve the oral traditions passed down through generations by the Anglo-Saxon bards who sang in halls such as the one at Rendlesham in Suffolk, now argued to be the home of the king buried at Sutton Hoo.Beowulf gives a rich picture of life as lived by the warrior and royal classes in the Anglo-Saxon era in England and, because it is set in Sweden and Denmark, also in the period before the Angles, Saxons and Jutes arrived on these shores. And, on top of the story of Beowulf and his battles, it carries fragments of even older stories, now lost. But in order to study all these details, academics dismissed as childish nonsense the fantastical elements such as Grendel the monster of the fens, his even more monstrous mother and the dragon that fatally wounds him at the end.

Likening the poem to a tower that watched the sea, and comparing its previous critics to demolition workers interested only in the raw stone, Tolkien pushed the monsters to the forefront. He argued that they represent the impermanence of human life, the mortal enemy that can strike at the heart of everything we hold dear, the force against which we need to muster all our strength – even if ultimately we may lose the fight. Without the monsters, the peculiarly northern courage of Beowulf and his men is meaningless. Tolkien, veteran of the Somme, knew that it was not. “Even today (despite the critics) you may find men not ignorant of tragic legend and history, who have heard of heroes and indeed seen them,” he wrote in his lecture in the middle of the disenchanted 1930s…

Read more of John Garth’s appreciation– and explore the influence of Beowulf on Middle Earth– in “JRR Tolkien’s translation of Beowulf: bring on the monsters.”

And pre-order the translation (with a bonus story by Tolkein), available late next month, here.

* Beowulf

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As we grapple with our Grendels, we might recall that it was on this date in 1958 that Ezra Pound should no longer be held at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital for the criminally insane in Washington, D.C.  Pound has been imprisoned for 13 years, following his arrest in Italy during World War II on charges of treason.

Pound, a poet who was a major figure of the early modernist movement, was the developer of the “Imagist” school, and the “godfather” of a number of now-well-known contemporaries– among them,  T. S. Eliot, James Joyce, Robert Frost and Ernest Hemingway.  He was responsible for the 1915 publication of Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” and the serialization from 1918 of Joyce’s Ulysses.

Deeply troubled by the carnage of World War I, Pound moved to Paris, then to Italy, and embraced the fascism of Benito Mussolini, whose policies he vocally supported; he was arrested by American forces in Italy in 1945.  While in custody in Italy, he had begun work on sections of The Cantos that became known as The Pisan Cantos (1948), for which he was awarded the Bollingen Prize in 1949 by the Library of Congress… setting off an enormous controversy.

His release in 1958 was the result of a campaign by writers including Archibald MacLeish, William Carlos Williams, and Hemingway.  Pound, who was believed to be suffering dementia, returned to Italy.

The best of Pound’s writing – and it is in the Cantos – will last as long as there is any literature.

-Ernest Hemingway

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Written by LW

April 18, 2014 at 1:01 am

Reasons to worry…

F. Scott Fitzgerald with his wife, Zelda and their daughter, "Scottie"

Having headed East with a post featuring Lists of Note, it seems only right to return with one revisiting our old friend, Letters of Note, which features this missve from F. Scott Fitzgerald to his daughter:

La Paix, Rodgers’ Forge
Towson, Maryland

August 8, 1933

Dear Pie:

I feel very strongly about you doing duty. Would you give me a little more documentation about your reading in French? I am glad you are happy — but I never believe much in happiness. I never believe in misery either. Those are things you see on the stage or the screen or the printed pages, they never really happen to you in life.

All I believe in in life is the rewards for virtue (according to your talents) and the punishments for not fulfilling your duties, which are doubly costly. If there is such a volume in the camp library, will you ask Mrs. Tyson to let you look up a sonnet of Shakespeare’s in which the line occurs “Lillies that fester smell far worse than weeds.”

Have had no thoughts today, life seems composed of getting up aSaturday Evening Post story. I think of you, and always pleasantly; but if you call me “Pappy” again I am going to take the White Cat out and beat his bottom hard, six times for every time you are impertinent. Do you react to that?

I will arrange the camp bill.

Halfwit, I will conclude.

Things to worry about:

Worry about courage
Worry about Cleanliness
Worry about efficiency
Worry about horsemanship
Worry about. . .

Things not to worry about:

Don’t worry about popular opinion
Don’t worry about dolls
Don’t worry about the past
Don’t worry about the future
Don’t worry about growing up
Don’t worry about anybody getting ahead of you
Don’t worry about triumph
Don’t worry about failure unless it comes through your own fault
Don’t worry about mosquitoes
Don’t worry about flies
Don’t worry about insects in general
Don’t worry about parents
Don’t worry about boys
Don’t worry about disappointments
Don’t worry about pleasures
Don’t worry about satisfactions

Things to think about:

What am I really aiming at?
How good am I really in comparison to my contemporaries in regard to:

(a) Scholarship
(b) Do I really understand about people and am I able to get along with them?
(c) Am I trying to make my body a useful instrument or am I neglecting it?

With dearest love,

Daddy

P.S. My come-back to your calling me Pappy is christening you by the word Egg, which implies that you belong to a very rudimentary state of life and that I could break you up and crack you open at my will and I think it would be a word that would hang on if I ever told it to your contemporaries. “Egg Fitzgerald.” How would you like that to go through life with — “Eggie Fitzgerald” or “Bad Egg Fitzgerald” or any form that might occur to fertile minds? Try it once more and I swear to God I will hang it on you and it will be up to you to shake it off. Why borrow trouble?

Love anyhow.

 

As we wonder if Fitzgerald actually used the lanyard that Scottie wove, we might recall that it was on this date in 1917 that Virginia and Leonard Woolf founded the Hogarth Press, named for their house on Richmond, where they launched the endeavor.  Originally an outlet for their hobby of hand-printing books, Hogarth Press ultimately became the publisher of many fellow members of the Bloomsbury Group, and became a leading outlet for books on (then-emerging field of) psychoanalysis and for translations of foreign (especially Russian) works.  It published the first U.K. edition of Eliot’s The Waste Land and  Laurens van der Post’s earliest work.

 “Hogarth House,” 34 Paradise Road, Richmond, London

Inheriting the Wind*…

From DetentionSlip.com (“your daily cheat sheet for education news”), a sobering infographic on the state of education in the U.S., “Creationism vs. Darwinism in the U.S.”; an excerpt:

Click here to see the infographic in full (and then again on the image there, to enlarge).

* Inherit the Wind, the play (then movies) that fictionalized the Scopes trial, took it’s title from Proverbs 11:29, which (in the King James version) reads:

He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind:
and the fool shall be servant to the wise of heart.

As we own up to ontology, we might might recall that it was on this date in 1950 that T.S. Eliot, then 62, observed that “the years between 50 and 70 are the hardest. You are always being asked to do things, and yet are not decrepit enough to turn them down.”  Among those nagging tasks: picking up his Nobel Prize for literature two years earlier.

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Signs are taken for wonders. “We would see a sign!”
The word within a word, unable to speak a word,
Swaddled with darkness.
– “Gerontion”

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