Thursday, October 02, 2014

Islam's Ethical Ambiguity?


In "The Ambiguity of Islam" (Homiletic and Pastoral Review, November 1, 2009), James V. Schall comments on Islam's ambiguity (and grounds it in theological voluntarism):
Basically, if it could, Islam would convert the world, one way or another, by peace or by war, as precisely the "will" of Allah . . . . [Islam] really has little place for anything else, except when Islam cannot prevent . . . [the] presence [of non-Islamic things] . . . . [Unfortunately, w]e really have no idea what we are up against [with Islam] unless we take a careful look at what is held theologically and what has happened historically in the Muslim world and its understanding of the world outside itself, which it calls the sphere of war. The [theological] voluntarism of Islamic thought enables it, apparently, to justify means of advancement that are by any reasonable or democratic standard immoral. Indeed, as Benedict noted in his "Regensburg Lecture," this voluntarism and its invalidity stands at the intellectual root of Islam's self-understanding.
What does Schall mean by the "ambiguity of Islam? He lets Father Samir Khalil Samir, "an Egyptian Jesuit, an advisor in the Holy See, with roots in Cairo, Beirut and Rome," tell us succinctly:
When some [Muslim] fanatics kill children, women, and men in the name of pure and authentic Islam, or in the name of the Qur'an or of the Muslim tradition, nobody can tell them: 'You are not true and authentic Muslims.' All they can say is: 'Your reading of Islam is not ours.' And this is the ambiguity of Islam, from its beginning to our present day: violence is a part of it, although it is also possible to choose tolerance; tolerance is a part of it, but it is also possible to choose violence. (Samir Khalil Samir, 111 Questions on Islam: Samir Khalil Samir on Islam and the West, page 71)
From the perspective of Schall and Samir, Islam thus appears ethically dualistic, able to justify both violence and nonviolence. Are they right?

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Wednesday, October 01, 2014

David Motadel on Instability of Jihadi States


David Motadel, in "The Ancestors of ISIS" (NYT, September 23, 2014), explains that we can worry less if we keep the weaknesses of the Islamic State in mind:
Today's jihadist states . . . emerged at a time of crisis, and ruthlessly confront internal and external enemies. They oppress women. Despite the groups' ferocity, they have all succeeded in using Islam to build broad coalitions with local tribes and communities. They provide social services and run strict Shariah courts; they use advanced propaganda methods . . . . [T]hey are . . . radical and sophisticated. The Islamic State is perhaps the most elaborate and militant jihad polity in modern history. It uses modern state structures, including a hierarchically organized bureaucracy, a judicial system, madrasas, a vast propaganda apparatus and a financial network that allows it to sell oil on the black market. It uses violence - mass executions, kidnapping and looting, following a rationale of suppression and wealth accumulation - to an extent unknown in previous Islamic polities. And . . . its leaders have global aspirations, fantasizing about overrunning St. Peter's in Rome . . . . [But] Islamic rebel states are overall strikingly similar. They should be seen as one phenomenon; and this phenomenon has a history . . . . [Because they were c]reated under wartime conditions, and operating in a constant atmosphere of internal and external pressure, these states have been unstable and never fully functional. Forming a state makes Islamists vulnerable: While jihadist networks or guerrilla groups are difficult to fight, a state, which can be invaded, is far easier to confront. And once there is a theocratic state, . . . its rulers are [clearly] incapable of providing sufficient social and political solutions, gradually alienating its subjects . . . . [Therefore,] the international community should continue to check the expansion of groups like the Islamic State, and intervene to prevent widespread human rights abuses. But given that the United States and its allies are unlikely to commit the massive military resources necessary to defeat the Islamic State - let alone other jihadist states - the best policy might be one of containment, support of local opponents and then management of the groups' possible collapse.
Hmmm . . . and those are its weaknesses? A theocratic state will collapse because it can't offer social and political solutions? Saudi Arabia has been around for while. So has Iran. Even if the Islamic State lasts only 35 years - as long as Iran has thus far - that's plenty of time to foment mischief in the world. Plus, the Islamic State has purged its territorial conquests of non-Muslims, so even if it eventually collapses, it will have altered, possibly irreversibly, that territory's demographics.

Perhaps we are currently observing the historical process by which the non-Muslim majorities conquered by Islam's expansion became minorities in their own lands and eventually disappeared . . .

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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Allah 'Unlimited' by Reason?

Ibn Hazm
Cordoba, Spain

I offer today another explanation by James V. Schall of theological voluntarism, which he expressed in an article titled "Regensburg Revisited: The Roots of Islamic Violence" (The Catholic Thing, October 1, 2013):
In its Muslim form, [theological voluntarism] . . . seems to be rooted in al-Ghazali and in Ibn Hazm, to whom Benedict referred. In Islam, the notion that God is limited by anything, even His own decrees or reason, is seen to be an insult to Allah. Allah can do the opposite of what he commands. He can call good evil and evil good. He is under no obligation to reveal truth to man. And if he does, he can change his mind and will the opposite later on. These positions are spelled out carefully in the Regensburg Lecture.

Thus, the philosophic root of violence means that such violence used to convert people is perfectly legitimate if Allah commands it, which he appears to do. To deny this possibility as "irrational" would be itself to blaspheme. We would claim that reason could limit the freedom of Allah to which we are to submit ourselves as the only reality to which we need to pay attention.
A question arises: Do al-Ghazali and in Ibn Hazm speak for Islam itself in their understanding of Allah's nature as arbitrary will?

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Monday, September 29, 2014

Islamism: The Real Islam?

James V. Schall, S.J.
Google Images

In an article titled, "It's time to take the Islamic State seriously: It believes that terror is a legitimate way to achieve world peace" (MercatorNet, September 17, 2014), the Jesuit scholar James V. Schall argues that Islamism is the real Islam:
The Islamic State and the broader jihadist movements throughout the world that agree with it are, I think, correct in their basic understanding of Islam. Plenty of evidence is found, both in the long history of early Muslim military expansion and in its theoretical interpretation of the Qur'an itself, to conclude that the Islamic State and its sympathizers have it basically right. The purpose of Islam, with the often violent means it can and does use to accomplish . . . [its aim], is to extend its rule, in the name of Allah, to all the world. The world cannot be at "peace" until it is all Muslim. The "terror" we see does not primarily arise from modern totalitarian theories, nationalism, or from anywhere else but what is considered, on objective evidence, to be a faithful reading of a mission assigned by Allah to the Islamic world, which has been itself largely procrastinating about fulfilling its assigned mission.
The various non-Islamist forms of Islam are thus heretical, implies Schall. The real Islam is made of the sterner stuff offered by the Islamic State. Why is the real Islam like this? Why? Because:
The roots of Islam are . . . bad theology, but still [a theology] coherent within its own orbit and presuppositions . . . . [If one understands the real Islam's] premises and the philosophy of voluntarism used to explain and defend it, [the fact] . . . becomes much clearer that we are . . . dealing with a religion that claims to be true in insisting that it is carrying out the will of Allah, not its own [will] . . . . [W]e have to [deal with this real Islam] . . . on those terms, on the validity of such a claim. The trouble with this approach, of course, is that truth, logos, is not recognized in a voluntarist setting. If Allah transcends the distinction of good and evil, if he can will today its opposite tomorrow, as the omnipotence of Allah is understood to mean in Islam, then there can be no real discussion that is not simply a temporary pragmatic stand-off, a balance of interest and power.
Schall's point here concerns the implications of a voluntarist god. Allah is conceived in Islamic theology as a deity whose divine nature is solely omnipotent will. He has no rational essence and could arbitrarily enjoin tomorrow everything that is forbidden today. This arbitrary foundation of the real Islam entails that "might makes right" - Allah is right because he is the most powerful being - and hence that the real Islam is impervious to reason (i.e., logos). Truth is thus established by force as facts on the ground.

Is Schall therefore correct about the real Islam?

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Saturday, September 27, 2014

More from Byeng-ju Lee Hadong International Literary Festival 2014: Pen Mightier than the Sword

Below are various photos that my wife took this past weekend at the Byeng-ju Lee Hadong International Literary Festival 2014 - to which I was invited to give a talk (as you already know from yesterday's blog entry):


This image inspired today's blog heading: The Pen is Mightier than the Sword - this pen anyway! Here's the man himself - Lee Byeng-ju (aka Yi Byeong-ju, etc.):


Or a close facsimile - life size, but bigger than life! And next a book of his translated by my friend Suh Ji-moon:


Meeting Lu Xinhua, Chinese author of "The Wounded" (aka "The Scar"):


Finally, meeting Yi Munyol (aka Lee Mun-yeol), author of Our Twisted Hero, among other novels:


I also met many more Koreans with creative credits, but I don't have photos at the moment . . .

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Friday, September 26, 2014

Byeng-ju Lee Hadong International Literary Festival 2014

Lee Byeng-ju
Google Images

I'm currently at a conference on "Literature and National Community" being held in conjunction with the Byeng-ju Lee Hadong International Literary Festival 2014, and I presented a paper yesterday:
Literature and National Community: The United States and the Case of Stephen Vincent Benét

Horace Jeffery Hodges

Ewha Womans University

Introduction

I am informed that my presentation on "Literature and National Community . . . . will be representing the English speaking countries." That's a lot of countries, and I can probably only manage to represent myself, but since I'm American, I'll pretend to represent the United States. Still . . . what am I to say? I suppose I can start with Benedict Anderson's famous view of a nation: "In an anthropological spirit, . . . I propose the following definition of the nation: it is an imagined political community – and imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign." Limited, because there are other nations. Sovereign, because not under the rule of another nation. Community, because of a "deep, horizontal comradeship." And imagined, because members do not know most of their fellow-members, yet have a mental image of their communion (Anderson, 6-7). Where does this mental image come from? Partly, at least sometimes, from literature. Which brings me to my subject: Stephen Vincent Benét.

A Forgotten Man?

Stephen Vincent Benét was born in 1898, began writing professionally when only thirteen, in 1911, and from the publication of his bestselling epic poem John Brown's Body in 1928 to his death at the height of his fame in 1943, he was perhaps the best-known American poet living. His poems were read even more than those of the ever popular Robert Frost, and his books of poetry sold in the tens of thousands, receiving good reviews. He wrote not only poems, but also short stories, novels, dramas, radio scripts, screenplays, book reviews, lectures, and speeches, and he edited dozens of book-length manuscripts per year in the mid-1930s. He was one of the eminent American men of letters throughout the thirties and very early forties (Griffith). In the 2002 book Stephen Vincent Benét: Essays on His Life and Work, the editors David Garrett Izzo and Lincoln Konkle thus note the irony that Benét's "work is not widely known today" even though when he "died in 1943 at the age of 44, the loss was felt by an entire country to whom Benét was a national hero" (1). Twelve years later than Izzo and Konkle wrote, nowadays, in 2014, Benét is still little remembered.

Ironically, he has been neglected due to one of the reasons for his prior popularity, his nationalism. In the 2009 Companion to Literature, edited by Abby H. P. Werlock, the entry on Stephen Vincent Benét says the following:
His work is characterized by his interest in . . . American themes . . . . [but t]he patriotic . . . themes of Benét’s work . . . became less fashionable after his death and led some critics to label him an old-fashioned, quaint, and chauvinistic writer who wrote "formula stories" designed to appeal to mainstream readers. ("Stephen Vincent Benét" 80b-81a)
If his works became "less fashionable after his death," one can imagine how unfashionable they were in the rebellious decades of the 1960s and 1970s. The Left objected to his nationalism and didn't much read him, so as Leftists came to dominate academic discourse in the 1980s and beyond, Benét's writings were less and less taught (Izzo and Konkle "Stephen," 4). No doubt his nationalist writings have also not fared well in our time of political multiculturalism and literary fragmentation, both of which celebrate ethnic and cultural diversity to the detriment of Benét's own imagined community of national unity, as in his epic poem, John Brown's Body: "So, from a hundred visions, I make one, / And out of darkness build my mocking sun" (Benét John, 6). The term "mocking" is likely intended here as imitation for non-frivolous purposes, e.g., "mock exam" ("Mock"), or as with "mockingbird," i.e., "[f]rom its skill in mimicking other birdsongs" ("Mockingbird"), though I wouldn't exclude a bit of self-deprecation on Benét's part. But even in his own time, Benét's work was sometimes criticized for its nationalism. An April 5, 1943 editorial in Life magazine on Benét's recent death (March 13, 1943) acknowledges that "[b]ecause of his strong American utterance, Steve Benét has sometimes been accused of chauvinism or narrow nationalism" ("Stephen Benet" p. 22, col. 3).

In His Own Time

In his own time, Benét offered Americans a vision of themselves that could serve as their imagined community. In Jackson J. Benson's book Wallace Stegner: His Life and Work, we find this remark about Benét:
Benet . . . was interested in native materials and the importance of bringing forth (as Emerson had advocated a century earlier) a uniquely national literature divorced from the influences of Europe. (Benson 64-65)
The so-called "influences of Europe" alludes to a long-held American belief that Europe was corrupt and corrupting. Benét therefore offered a national literature of moral uplift, as we find in Joan Shelley Rubin's 2009 book, Songs of Ourselves:
"I have no way of telling you the place in my life your [book] has found," a Texas man declared in a letter to Benét. "Let me say this – it is the book I pick up when I am frayed out, disgusted, exhausted – and it always brings back my balance." (Rubin 231)
Reviewers compared Benét to Walt Whitman due to their common scope and subject, but readers responded with an enthusiasm not seen since the public adulation for Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (Rubin 231).

What He Offered

As we saw earlier, Benét was sometimes accused of "narrow nationalism" ("Stephen Benet" p. 22, col. 3). A "narrow" nationalism would be exclusive, so we should ask if he excluded some groups from belonging to the "nation." Perhaps a longstanding distinction is useful here: ethnic nationalism versus civic nationalism. The former limits membership to a community characterized by an 'imagined' shared ethnicity, the original meaning of "nation." The latter extends membership to any individual – regardless of ethnicity – who is willing to embrace the shared values of the imagined community (Miscevic). Which of these two nationalisms did Benét extol? Rubin tells us:
One passage [in Benét's poem "Nightmare at Noon"] succinctly reiterates the principle of civic nationalism: "You can be a Finn or a Dane and an American. / You can be German or French and an American, / Jew, Bohunk, Nigger, Mick – all the dirty names / We call each other – and yet American." (Rubin 233)
We Americans may not always speak politely to one another, admits Benét, but we're still Americans, he insists, every one of us. Indeed, he was very generous in extending membership within his imagined community of Americans. Rubin tells us that he "acknowledged the suffering of both North and South" (Rubin 234), even going so far in his 1937 story "The Devil and Daniel Webster" as to insist that in the making of America, "everybody had played a part in it, even the traitors" (Benét 177)! Hard to be more inclusive than that. But, of course, membership in this imagined national community was limited to Americans, as Anderson's definition of community entails (Anderson 1), and hence "divorced from the [corrupting] influences of Europe" (Benson 65).

His Anti-Fascism

With his hugely inclusive conception of America as a nation imbued with civic nationalism, Benét can likely be expected to have taken a dim view of ethnic nationalism, especially the aggressive ethnic nationalisms of Europe's fascist states in the 1930s and 1940s, evidence of a corrupt and corrupting Europe that must be resisted. The scholars Izzo and Konkle confirm his opposition to fascism:
During the late 1930s Benét, just as many other Americans, was alarmed at the tragedy of fascism in Asia and Europe. He took seriously his role as national spokesperson and began to write poems and stories as warnings to the American people. Among these were "The Blood of the Martyrs," "Into Egypt," "The Last of the Legions," "Nightmare at Noon," and "By the Waters of Babylon" . . . . Benét wished to reach more Americans and realized radio was the way . . . . What followed would be the most astonishing output of original works for radio by a literary author ever produced, and more importantly, ever listened to over a four-year period. Benét was a natural writer for radio . . . . His mastery of poetry and the short story suited the need for compactness with a singular effect; his reputation as a man of conscience and a patriot who loved his country was exactly right for an America facing the threat of fascism that was already producing killing fields abroad. (Izzo and Konkle, “Benét” 225)
Benét's 1937 short story "The Blood of the Martyrs" is an especially powerful piece of anti-fascist literature, and all the more significant for its relatively early date, two years before WWII began and four years before America's forced entry into the war. Benét tells the story of an apolitical scientist who is imprisoned and tortured by an unnamed European fascist state, tortured partly because being apolitical is itself a position of suspicion under fascism. The scientist is offered a Faustian bargain. He can have his university job back if he will just agree to publically support the state by giving nationalist speeches and even use his scientific work to undergird the state's belief that its people are racially superior to all other peoples. I won't provide any further details of the plot since some of you might want to read the story, and I don't want to give away any plot spoilers. Just trust me that the story is powerful. It is also short and can be read in half an hour if your English is good.

His Generous Civic Nationalism

Another story published in 1937 was the famous tale of the devil already mentioned in this talk, "The Devil and Daniel Webster." The story is a Faustian one partly inspired by Washington Irving's own Faustian story, "The Devil and Tom Walker." Irving’s story lacks a champion, but Benét's story of Jabez Stone has the famous senator, orator, and lawyer Daniel Webster defend the New Hampshire farmer named Stone who had sold his soul to the devil in exchange for better luck. In the course of a legal argument between Webster and the devil, the latter insists that he himself is American, at which point Webster persuades the devil to let his client have a trial by jury:
"I stand on the Constitution! I demand a trial for my client!"

"The case is hardly one for an ordinary court," said the stranger, his eyes flickering. "And, indeed, the lateness of the hour–"

"Let it be any court you choose, so it is an American judge and an American jury!" said Dan'l Webster in his pride. "Let it be the quick or the dead; I'll abide the issue!" (Benét 173)
The devil agrees to the conditions, but fills the American jury with traitors, criminals, and other unsavory men nursing a grudge against America. Webster, however, rises to the challenge:
He started off in a low voice, though you could hear every word. They say he could call on the harps of the blessed when he chose. And this was just as simple and easy as a man could talk. But he didn't start out by condemning or reviling. He was talking about the things that make a country a country, and a man a man.

And he began with the simple things that everybody's known and felt – the freshness of a fine morning when you're young, and the taste of food when you're hungry, and the new day that's every day when you’re a child. He took them up and he turned them in his hands. They were good things for any man. But without freedom, they sickened. And when he talked of those enslaved, and the sorrows of slavery, his voice got like a big bell. He talked of the early days of America and the men who had made those days. It wasn't a spread-eagle speech, but he made you see it. He admitted all the wrong that had ever been done. But he showed how, out of the wrong and the right, the suffering and the starvations, something new had come. And everybody had played a part in it, even the traitors. (Benét 177)
And by his eloquence and gentle manner, Webster reminded those twelve damned men of their innocent childhoods in what came to be America, and of the mistakes that men make, and he even succeeded in getting Stone released from the conditions of his contract with the devil – all by reminding men of what being free Americans felt like, even if the twelve had gone on to err in their adulthoods. Benét's vision of a civic nationalism was thus a very generous one.

Civilizational Literature?

In fact, Benét's civic-national 'Americanism' – despite his aim of composing a uniquely American literature – moved toward broader horizons. This is evident from his attack on fascism in the 1930s, wherein he extended American civic nationalism to Europe no longer simply as judgment but more as solution and assistance. Broader horizons are also notable in his choice of the Faustian theme, for the story of a man making a deal with the devil, exchanging his soul for knowledge and power, entails a basic mythos of Western Civilization, the original sin of mankind having been precisely this sort of bargain, namely, one's soul for knowledge and power. Unlike the original mythos, however, but like in Goethe's Faustian reinterpretation, Benét gives the story a twist, such that the devil is defeated. Civic nationalism in America can even overcome 'sin'! It can also therefore – as in "The Blood of the Martyrs" – help purge the extreme corruption of European fascism! Such optimism!

Conclusion

Well, I seem to have gone beyond "Literature and National Community," beyond the nationalism defined by Benedict Anderson, and even beyond English-speaking countries generally, all the way to Western Civilization as a whole! I hope you don't mind. I’m new to this theme. But I wonder if a uniquely national literature is actually possible. Even ethnic nationalism borrows stories from other nationalities, perhaps mostly from stories of other nationalities within its own civilization, though not solely. Stephen Vincent Benét had an American vision for a national literature, but his feeling for Europe, his opposition to fascism abroad, and his re-telling of Western Civilization's fundamental mythos offer a broader perspective on his work, a perspective that ought to orient literary scholars toward a reinterpretation of his oeuvre as greater than American "chauvinism or narrow nationalism."

Works Cited

Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. Verso: 2006.

Benét, Stephen Vincent. John Brown's Body. Doubleday, Doran, 1928.

Benét, Stephen Vincent. "The Blood of the Martyrs." Thirteen O’Clock: Stories of Several Worlds. New York and Toronto: Farrar and Rinehart, 1937.

Benét, Stephen Vincent. "The Devil and Daniel Webster." Thirteen O’Clock: Stories of Several Worlds. New York and Toronto: Farrar and Rinehart, 1937.

Benét, Stephen Vincent. Thirteen O’Clock: Stories of Several Worlds. New York and Toronto: Farrar and Rinehart, 1937.

Benson, Jackson J. Wallace Stegner: His Life and Work. University of Nebraska Press, 2009.

Griffith, John. "Stephen Vincent Benét, 1898-1943." Poetry Foundation.

Irving, Washington. "The Devil and Tom Walker." Tales of a Traveller. Carey and Lea, 1824.

Izzo, David Garrett and Lincoln Konkle. "Benét as Dramatist for Stage, Screen, and Radio." Stephen Vincent Benét: Essays on His Life and Work. McFarland: 2002. 215-232.

Izzo, David Garrett and Lincoln Konkle. Stephen Vincent Benét: Essays on His Life and Work. McFarland: 2002.

Miscevic, Nenad. "Nationalism." The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2010 Edition). Edited by Edward N. Zalta.

"Mock." The Free Dictionary Online.

"Mockingbird." The Free Dictionary Online. Cf. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2009.

Rubin, Joan Shelley. Songs of Ourselves. Harvard University Press, 2009.

"Stephen Benet: The Ultimate Objectives of Free Men are to be Discovered in their Arts and Letters." Life. April 5, 1943. 22.

"Stephen Vincent Benét." Companion to Literature: Facts on File Companion to the American Short Story. Abby H. P. Werlock, ed. Infobase Publishing, 2009.
That's the entirety of my presentation - well, I didn't read out the references aloud, but they were in the individual copies possessed by everyone present.

I now have to get ready for today's discussions . . .

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Thursday, September 25, 2014

Baron Snow of the City of Leicester

C. P. Snow

I happened to read two passages today about C. P. Snow - the British novelist made famous by his essay on the "Two Cultures" of science and humanities. I met the man himself a year or two before he died. Baylor University's Honors Students were given the opportunity to hear him give a lecture on . . . the "Two Cultures," of course, which we read beforehand in anticipation, and following the lecture, we gathered around the man, just as he was passing through a doorway, to thank him for his lecture and let him know how we appreciated the opportunity to meet him. He looked us for a moment . . . but first, some details about the man:
C. P. (Charles Percy) Snow (1905–1980), Baron Snow of the City of Leicester (he liked to be introduced by his title) . . . wrote a substantial novel sequence, the eleven volumes of Strangers and Brothers (1940-1970) . . . . There is no dance or music to speak of in Strangers and Brothers. Inexorable time is historical; each book sets out to tell a truth about the age . . . . What is remarkable is the way in which he portrays class and class difference[, but] . . . . Marghanita Laski . . . . judges his [literary] efforts "unsuccessful for pervasive egotism." (Michael Schmidt, The Novel: A Biography, 2014, pp. 525-526)
And some more details:
Snow warned his wife against associating with unsuccessful old friends ('this kind of literary subworld is the worst possible for people of our present standing and future hopes'), accepting a knighthood himself because, as he said, 'people who compare me to Trollope ought to realise that I've gone much further in the Public Service than he ever did'. In due course he became a life peer and scientific adviser to Harold Wilson's socialist government. Both of them worried about what his wife's biographer calls 'the concerted campaign to deny him a Nobel prize'. (Hilary Spurling, "A review of 'Pamela Hansford Johnson: Her Life, Works and Times', by Wendy Pollard," The Spectator, September 20, 2014)
Anyway, Snow, I mean Lord Snow - I mean Baron Snow of the City of Leicester - looked at us for a moment . . . and grunted in disgruntlement. Truly. I kid you not. 'Twas a genuine gutteral sound. He uttered, but not a word. Talk about a barren snow.

We looked at him for a moment. We knew he could talk - he'd just given a lecture - but he wouldn't talk to us. We withdrew, disconcerted, and left him to his trifles.

I swore never to read another word of his, and - except for that quote above from Spurling's review - I haven't.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Terrance Lindall's "Dinner with the Devil" a Success!

Book Display

My art friend Terrance Lindall sent some photos yesterday from last Friday evening's Dinner with the Devil - at the Williamsburg Art and Historical Center (WAH Center) - in honor of The Satanic Verses of Bones Banez, as recounted to Lindall.

First, speaking here is Yuko Nii - well-known artist and founder of the WAH Center - while Lindall sits nearby, manning the sound system and perhaps being introduced prior to reading from The Satanic Verses:


Here's Lindall, reading aloud from the text:


Finally, here's Bien playing the piano with Peter Dizozza:


I wish I could have been there . . . and in some way, I was, for if you look closely at the first photo above, you'll see the yellowish-looking hard copy of my novella - The Bottomless Bottle of Beer - just below the third painting from the right. That was the first edition, and it had a lot of mistakes due to my poor editing - even a missing paragraph from the beginning - so anyone interested in reading the complete and perfected text will have to go for the ebook version, at Amazon.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Kate Marie Reads The Bottomless Bottle of Beer!


Long-time reader of Gypsy Scholar, Kate Nanney (aka Kate Marie) recently read my novella, The Bottomless Bottle of Beer, and even actually really liked it:
I wanted to tell you that I read your novella and enjoyed it immensely. Toward the beginning of the story, I came upon this sentence and chuckled: "I thought some woman might, some eve or other, find him seductive." It struck me as I read it, though, that I know many young people for whom that sentence would convey nothing other than a dim sense that the gentleman in question was attractive. It was very satisfying -- and delightful -- to find that that kind of religious and cultural amnesia was a theme of your novella (one among many, of course). It was great fun to see how The Master and Margarita, which I have read recently, inspired you. You've inspired me, in your turn, to reread Paradise Lost -- which I have not read in its entirety since college.

Thank you for a very enjoyable and thought-provoking read!
Naturally, I thanked her:
Thanks for the kind words about my novella.

I suspect that many young people would react to "eve" as a misspelling of "evening." One editor in the anthology version caught the allusion, however, and capitalized "eve" as "Eve," not realizing what I was up to - he later promised never to alter anything without checking with me first!

I'm gratified you liked the story - please tell everyone you know to purchase a copy! And to tell others! Nothing less than the survival of Western Civilization is at stake . . .
I then asked if I could post her remarks on my blog, and she responded in the affirmative:
Of course, you may post my response on your blog. It needn't be anonymous. I liked the novella so much I'm willing to sign my name to the review. :)

I will indeed tell all my friends, including "Facebook friends." Never let it be said that I didn't have Western Civilization's best interests at heart.
Yes, and since the majority of my readers also have the West's best interests at heart, I urge all of you to read my story and defend the West!

Oh, and if any enemies of Western Civilization are reading this, read my book, too, and discover how to undermine the West . . .

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Monday, September 22, 2014

Foreign Policy's Little Ironies . . .

Andrew C. McCarthy
National Review

My literary friend Carter Kaplan sent me a link to an article by Andrew C. McCarthy, "The Islamic State . . . of Saudi Arabia" (National Review, September 20, 2014), which begins by reminding us of the atrocities we've recently witnessed in the name of Islam:
The beheadings over the last several weeks were intended to terrorize, to intimidate, to coerce obedience, and to enforce a construction of sharia law that, being scripturally rooted, is draconian and repressive.

And let's not kid ourselves: We know there will be more beheadings in the coming weeks, and on into the future. Apostates from Islam, homosexuals, and perceived blasphemers will face brutal persecution and death. Women will be treated as chattel and face institutionalized abuse. Islamic-supremacist ideology, with its incitements to jihad and conquest, with its virulent hostility toward the West, will spew from the mosques onto the streets. We will continue to be confronted by a country-sized breeding ground for anti-American terrorists.

The Islamic State? Sorry, no. I was talking about . . . our "moderate Islamist" ally, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Who is Mr. McCarthy? Some readers may recall that he led the prosecution against Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman and eleven followers in 1995 for their role in the 1993 World Trade Center terrorist bombing, an earlier attack on the WTC now overshadowed by the more successful 9/11 terrorist atrocity, about which everyone is now an expert. Doubtless, McCarthy has learned a lot about 'Islamism' since 1993, for as leader of the prosecution, he would have had to immerse himself in the world of Islamism and Islam, and the fact that the Islamic State is not especially different from Saudi Arabia hasn't escaped his notice.

As McCarthy implies, the ironies of US foreign policy abound . . .

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