Thursday, October 31, 2013

Puny David the Giant-Killer?

If Malcolm Gladwell is right, then, "Clumsy and heavy, Goliath never stood a chance" against little David, or so reports William Leith in his review of Gladwell's recent book, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants (The Spectator, 12 October 2013):
When we think of David and Goliath, we think of a young man, not very big, who has a fight with a terrifying opponent, and wins. We think of David as puny and Goliath as towering and strong -- not to mention heavily armed. We see David's victory as something that happened against all odds. The story of David and Goliath is, as Malcolm Gladwell puts it, 'a metaphor for improbable victory'. Well, that's how we think about it, anyway. But the thing is, apparently, we've got it all wrong . . . . We know David came out on top. That's because, in single combat, a guy with a deadly projectile weapon is likely to beat a guy who is weighed down with armour. Goliath wasn't very mobile. He wore a heavy helmet and shin pads made of bronze. David, on the other hand, was a 'slinger'. Gladwell tells us about slingers in antiquity. They used a contraption made from leather strings and a leather pouch, which they whizzed around their heads, and then let go. Pow! They could fire stones through the air at something approaching 100 mph. Slingers could knock birds out of the sky and 'hit a coin from as far away as they could see it'.
All these fifty years since I first read the story at about six, I've misread that duel between the adult giant Goliath and the undersized teen David as a tale of the underdog, David, overcoming great odds through faith in God, but Gladwell shows that the odds were stacked against the giant and that David's confidence stemmed from his knowledge of those odds in his own favor. And no matter how much Goliath may have practiced his swordsmanship -- even as much as 10,000 hours -- he couldn't have used a sword to defeat a slinger.

The moral of the tale? Little David was small, but, oh my, did he ever put the odds in his favor. Put the odds in your favor as well, but a sling takes a lot of practice to master, so carry a pistol!

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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Lou Reed . . . RIP

Lou Reed
(March 2, 1942 – October 27, 2013)

"I don't know just where I'm going . . ."

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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Channeling John Milton . . .

Satan, Sin and Death, c.1792-1808
James Barry (1741‑1806)
The Tate

Over on the Milton List, the scholar Gregory Machacek (Marist College) is attempting to make sense of Milton's allegory of Sin and Death in Book 2 of Paradise Lost by excising it as a late addition (a Miltonic interpolation mixing allegorical and 'historical' figures), so as to see how the poem appeared prior to the allegory's insertion. Greg's editing requires him to cut other lines elsewhere in the poem, but Book 2 is at the center of the issue, as I note:
Here's the crux of Greg's cutting:
From Book 2, omit the material from the second half of line 648 through the first half of line 884. Line 648 should now end "Surprised but with delight" and the new line 649 begin "Satan observed."
Assuming that Greg is right, that the allegorical figures' interaction with Satan was a later addition, the question is "Why?" Why did Milton add it? Actually, there are two questions: 1) why did he need an interpolation, and 2) why did he choose this allegorical interpolation?

(I believe some answers have been broached, so I may be repeating what others have said.)

Milton needed to get the gates of hell opened, but who would be culpable? Not the unfallen angels since they would not disobey. Only someone disobedient could be responsible. But not the locked-in fallen angels, not directly, else there would be no point to locking them in. That would be the adamantine-chains problem writ large. One can see how Milton could have thought:
"I need someone culpable, but it can't be the fallen or the unfallen. Culpable . . . hmmm . . . why not 'sin' itself? It's the 'key' to getting into hell. So, sin can open the gates. Or better, Sin herself with a key. Culpability write large! But she has to be allegorical, though I'll still need to 'explain' her presence. Satan was the first to sin, so Sin is his conception, as I've already implied in the line 'Deep malice thence conceiving.' Ah, I can take 'conceiving' in two senses and have 'Sin' spring from Satan's head! That'll also be a slap at the Zeus myth on Athena's birth -- goddess of wisdom, hah! The owl of Minerva flies only at dusk because she prefers the gathering darkness! Anyway, Sin will open Hell's gates with her key. But I'll be criticized for having an allegorical figure interact with a 'historical' one. Hmmm . . . ah, no problem -- Sin is just Satan's conception, so she's only in his head, anyway! He's insane and hallucinates the encounter. But I've got to make the episode intriguing. Hmmm . . . ah, I've got it! James 1:15. Satan's lust for power brings forth Sin and Sin brings forth Death! I'll write up a gripping little allegory on this and 'fit audience find, though few' who'll understand that it's all in Satan's mind. I haven't really resolved my dilemma of fallen or unfallen, of course, since the fallen Satan would, implicitly, be the one who opens the gates, but I'll at least have told a good tale to cover the gap."
Or something like that . . .
Such is my take on things -- and explanation for Milton's addition . . . through channeling Milton . . .

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Monday, October 28, 2013

Who says Islam is intolerant?

Hajj Abd Al-Nabi

I think this report on Hajj Abd Al-Nabi from Memri puts the lie to the line that Islam is intolerant:
"I am the executioner of the Arab Republic of Egypt. I hold the rank of chief warrant officer in the police and the prison authority. I am Egypt's executioner, responsible for carrying out the death penalty . . . . When I was young -- about 13 or 14 years old -- the dry Ismailiya Canal in Shubra Al-Kheima still had water in it. My hobby was to catch a cat, to place a rope around its neck, to strangle it, and throw it into the water. I would get hold of any animal -- even dogs. I would strangle these animals and throw them into the water -- even dogs . . . . when I was 13 or 14 years old. Strangulation was my hobby . . . . The truth is that my heart is dead, because executing comes from the heart . . . . Only if you have a heart of stone can you be content in this line of work . . . . It's a gift . . . . A great gift. I love my job very much, and I can't give it up. Even when I retire, I will report for duty in emergencies. I will leave this job only when I am dead." ("Egypt's Executioner: Strangling Has Been My Hobby Since Childhood, I Just Love My Job," Memri, Special Dispatch No. 5496, October 25, 2013)
In an intolerant Western country, this man would be labeled a sociopath and locked up as a menace to society -- either in prison or a mental institution! An Islamic country, by contrast, offers him a respectable line of work as Allah's willing executioner.

Now, tell me which civilization is not truly tolerant . . .

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Sunday, October 27, 2013

At last, the bait gets a bite . . .

Reuters - Jacquelyn Martin

R. Elgin, one of the bloggers over at the Marmot's Hole, posted the above photo on October 8, 2013, and I found it cute, so I posted a little news report to go with it and to bait some random reader:
"Little Boy with Stick, Writes in Dirt" (AP)

The photographer has withheld his own name, but he captured the moment that a trapped little boy scratched out a message in the dirt:
"Help! Cannibals have captured us! Please rescue us while their backs are turned!"
Only later -- too late -- did the photographer make out the lines in the sand while studying the photo:
"I returned," he reports, "but the jars were empty. I just hate to think about what must have happened . . ."
The police are investigating.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *
Eighteen days passed, but the bait ultimately got a bite that swallowed "sinker, line, and hook":
Why do you sign your name like a pretentious twat after EVERY comment, even the retarded ones with lame mini-stories that no one finds funny (like this one?)

-Fake photographer; Groove magazine blogger; Wannabe artist (aka Kindergarten teacher)
-Haebangcheon resident

I think Mr. J. Kimchi may have meant the classist "twit" rather than the sexist "twat" (and surely meant no derogation of the mentally underdeveloped). Anyway, I responded to his question:
"Why do you sign your name like a pretentious twat after EVERY comment . . ."

So people won't call me "Horace."

Jeffery Hodges

* * *
I haven't yet told Mr. J. Kimchi that this regular signature of mine is an Irony Trap, but a man of his caliber should be figuring that out any day now . . .


Saturday, October 26, 2013

Opening lines to Jang Jung-il's story When Adam Opens His Eyes

I've mentioned that my wife and I translated Jang Jung-il's story When Adam Opens His Eyes, and since I have nothing to blog about this morning, I'll simply post the opening lines:
I was nineteen years old, and the things that I most wanted to have were a typewriter, prints of Munch's paintings and a turntable for playing records. Those things alone were all that I wanted from this world when I was nineteen. But so humble were my desires that, compared to them, my mother's wish for me to enter Seoul National University or my younger cousin's dream of joining the Samsung Lions baseball team when he grew up, seemed even more out of reach.

If my desires hadn't been for such trivial things, but for something larger like becoming the president, I could easily have fulfilled that desire by driving a tank or randomly firing an M16. Or I could have fulfilled it deep in the night by ejaculating in a wet dream. Or by giving up completely. I mean, I could have fulfilled my dream simply by throwing it away. In the sense of being freed from the desire, completely giving up might be nothing but my desire's fulfillment. So whoever discovers how to empty himself of all desire will become a free person, one who controls himself so perfectly that he becomes his own master.

That year, I failed to gain admittance to the university my mother wished for me in the major that I wanted to study, and I began cramming for the next year's entrance exam. Sending a child to university was hard for a poor family, and supporting him for an extra year of cramming was even harder. Not only was the cost of repeated tutoring hard to bear, but even worse was the gossip of close relatives who sometimes dropped in or neighbors who lived in the same one-story building paying monthly rent for cramped quarters. At that time, my mother was working downtown as a cleaning lady in an underground shopping area.

After I failed by only seven or eight points to gain admission to the English department at the university, I briefly considered going to any of the provincial universities in my hometown that would offer a scholarship, but I decided to accept my older brother's advice. The reason that I found his advice persuasive was that an extra year cramming for the entrance exam had gotten him admitted to business school in the university that I had applied to. Besides, I was hardheaded enough to insist on meeting my own stubborn goal. Even if that aim was first expected of me by my mother, why shouldn't we do a favor for our parents, who gave us life? (Jang Jung-il, When Adam Opens His Eyes, translated by Sun-Ae Hwang and Horace Jeffery Hodges, Dalkey Archive Press, 2013, 5-6)
In re-reading this now, a few years after translating it, I can see many things I'd change to make the lines flow better, but if this opening passage should happen to strike your fancy, you can get the book through Amazon, but recall from a previous post my forewarning that Jang Jung-il is not for the faint of heart . . .


Friday, October 25, 2013

No Such Thing as Chinese Medicine?

Chinese Medicine Diagram
Photo by Tom Mooring/Flickr via Creative Commons

Alan Levinovitz, assistant professor of Chinese philosophy and religion at James Madison University, has written an intriguing article on 'Chinese medicine' for Slate: "Chairman Mao Invented Traditional Chinese Medicine" (Slate, October 22 2013 [H/T Seouldout]). According to Levinovitz:
[T]here was no such thing as "Chinese medicine." For thousands of years, healing practices in China had been highly idiosyncratic. Attempts at institutionalizing medical education were largely unsuccessful, and most practitioners drew at will on a mixture of demonology, astrology, yin-yang five phases theory, classic texts, folk wisdom, and personal experience.
Levinovitz is obviously perpetuating Orientalist stereotypes of the sort exposed by Edward Said, right? Wrong! He's merely doing what skeptical Chinese have themselves done -- engage in logical, empirical critique:
After all, that's what Wang Qingren did during the Qing Dynasty when he wrote Correcting the Errors of Medical Literature. Wang's work on the book began in 1797, when an epidemic broke out in his town and killed hundreds of children. The children were buried in shallow graves in a public cemetery, allowing stray dogs to dig them up and devour them, a custom thought to protect the next child in the family from premature death. On daily walks past the graveyard, Wang systematically studied the anatomy of the children’s corpses, discovering significant differences between what he saw and the content of Chinese classics.

And nearly 2,000 years ago, the philosopher Wang Chong mounted a devastating (and hilarious) critique of yin-yang five phases theory: "The horse is connected with wu (fire), the rat with zi (water). If water really conquers fire, [it would be much more convincing if] rats normally attacked horses and drove them away. Then the cock is connected with ya (metal) and the hare with mao (wood). If metal really conquers wood, why do cocks not devour hares?" (The translation of Wang Chong and the account of Wang Qingren come from Paul Unschuld's Medicine in China: A History of Ideas.)
More recently, there's Lu Xun's skepticism:
In 1923, Lu Xun, China's most famous man of letters, reflected critically on his father's visits to a Chinese doctor, visits that bankrupted the family and failed to produce results. "I still remember the doctor's discussion and prescription," Lu wrote, "and if I compare them with my knowledge now, I slowly realize that Chinese doctors are no more than a type of swindler, either intentional or unintentional, and I sympathize with deceived sick people and their families."
Those were skeptical Chinese, but I can offer a critique of traditional Chinese medicine published in 1932 by the Korean novelist Yi Kwang-su in his book The Soil, selecting from a passage where a certain Mr. Yun turns to traditional doctors to cure his son, In-seon, but begins to disbelieve in the traditional medicine:
Mr. Yun then invited a famous traditional doctor who was said to have studied twenty years at Jiri Mountain. This doctor prescribed deer antlers and certain roots, such as mulberry, that had to be decocted and imbibed. In-seon took the medicine, but became red and hot over his entire body. He grew delirious, spoke senselessly, and laughed spasmodically . . . . In the reception room were still some . . . doctors of traditional medicine with official governmental titles like jinsa, or sagwa. They were debating the five natural elements in the Chinese art of divination and the sixty combinations of Heavenly Stems and Earthly Branches to decide on how to change the direction of the sick person's head every day, from which direction the water for the concoction had to be drawn, or at what time the concoction had to be performed and so on.

These men took care of their concoction personally, sitting beside the fire and ordering a housemaid standing nearby to assist. She was forever being ordered to light the pipe tobacco and bring it over . . . . Mr. Yun . . . . turned . . . to the traditional doctors . . . and reprimanded them, saying, "Of what use is that medicine?"

The doctors again started to debate the cause of the disease, but without knowing what they were talking about and just mouthing traditional medical terminology.

From outside, the boiling of the medicine pot grew audible, and the vapor with its peculiar odor came seeping through the pot's paper cover . . . . The ginseng and deer antlers having provided no beneficial effect, In-seon died . . . . After watching his eldest son die, Mr. Yun charged into the reception room and drove out the doctors . . . , the daoist masters. "Fools, what do you know? You killed my son!" (Yi Kwang-su, The Soil, translated by Sun-Ae Hwang and Horace Jeffery Hodges, Dalkey Archive Press, 2013, 13-15)
Yi Kwang-su would appear to agree with his character Mr. Yun, as much of the rest of the novel makes clear. As for Levinovitz, he's exaggerating in his claim that Mao invented traditional Chinese medicine, but if you read Levinovitz's article -- and read it generously -- you'll see his point, for Mao supported systematization of traditional medicine even though he didn't believe in it and himself used Western medicine.

Read the article to find out why.

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Thursday, October 24, 2013

No One is Automatically Irreplaceable?

Erik Brynjolfsson
MIT Sloan Management

Bad news for technophiles who automatically expect robotization to solve the world's burgeoning demographic problem by increasing productivity as birth rates plunge (e.g., the Japanese). David Rotman reports on "How Technology Is Destroying Jobs" (MIT Technology Review, June 12, 2013), a close look at the pessimistic insights of Erik Brynjolfsson:
Erik Brynjolfsson . . . , a professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and his collaborator and coauthor Andrew McAfee have been arguing for the last year and a half that impressive advances in computer technology . . . . [have] been destroying jobs faster than . . . creating them, contributing to the stagnation of median income and the growth of inequality in the United States [and] . . . . other technologically advanced countries . . . . In economics, productivity -- the amount of economic value created for a given unit of input, such as an hour of labor -- is a crucial indicator of growth and wealth creation . . . . [P]roductivity and total employment in the United States . . . . after World War II . . . closely tracked each other, with increases in jobs corresponding to increases in productivity . . . . Then, beginning in 2000, . . . productivity continues to rise robustly, but employment suddenly wilts. By 2011, a significant gap appears . . . , showing economic growth with no parallel increase in job creation. Brynjolfsson and McAfee call it the "great decoupling." And Brynjolfsson says he is confident that technology is behind both the healthy growth in productivity and the weak growth in jobs . . . . [This is] a startling assertion because it threatens the faith that many economists place in technological progress. Brynjolfsson and McAfee still believe that technology boosts productivity and makes societies wealthier, but they think that it can also have a dark side: technological progress is eliminating the need for many types of jobs and leaving the typical worker worse off than before. ­Brynjolfsson can point to . . . . [the fact] that median income is failing to rise even as the gross domestic product soars. "It's the great paradox of our era," he says. "Productivity is at record levels, innovation has never been faster, and yet at the same time, we have a falling median income and we have fewer jobs. People are falling behind because technology is advancing so fast and our skills and organizations aren't keeping up."
Not everybody agrees with Brynjolfsson, as Rotman goes on to show, but the possibility that robot automation 'steals' jobs from workers is intuitively plausible, even wholly persuasive. The big question is whether or not it will eventually give rise to more jobs, as technology has done in the past.

Read the article to form your own opinion . . .

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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Pertinent Impertinence of Camille Paglia

Camille Paglia in 2008

I found the link to this above photo of Camille Paglia through Google Images, and though it has nothing specifically to do with today's substantive issue, there are connections, for her manner of lesbian feminism precludes neither concern for aesthetic feminine beauty that men can also appreciate, as the photograph shows, nor concern for men's need of a masculine gender role that channels male aggressiveness in a proper direction. But let's see where all this vaguely leads by considering the pertinent impertinence in a couple of her remarks.

In the Janus Forum Debates sponsored by the American University Political Theory Institute on October 8, 2013, Camille Paglia faced off against Jane Flax on the question of "Gender Roles: Nature or Nurture"? Though I haven't read the entire debate, I found Paglia's Opening Statement interesting, especially her final remarks in that statement:
Like late Rome, America too is an empire distracted by games and leisure pursuits. Now as then, there are forces aligning outside the borders, scattered fanatical hordes where the cult of heroic masculinity still has tremendous force. I close with this question: is a nation whose elite education is increasingly predicated on the neutralization of gender prepared to defend itself against that growing challenge?
Paglia's pertinent question here, which some may consider impertinent, reminds me of her remarks in Tracy Clark-Flory's Salon interview of her, for as I noted in a recent blog entry, she had this to say about global threats faced now and in the future:
The escalating instability not just in Egypt but throughout the Mideast is very ominous. There is a clash of cultures brewing in the world that may take a century or more to resolve -- and there is no guarantee that the secular West will win . . . . The true mission of feminism today is not to carp about the woes of affluent Western career women but to turn the spotlight on life-and-death issues affecting women in the Third World, particularly in rural areas where they have little protection against exploitation and injustice.
I remarked on this passage's two statements in a response:
These two statements come in response to different questions, but they deserve to be tied together, for Islamism -- though Paglia wasn't focusing solely on specifically this -- poses the greatest threat to the successful secularism of the West and to the rights of women around the world.
This growing threat of Islamism also lies behind Paglia's reference to the "fanatical hordes where the cult of heroic masculinity still has tremendous force," and we see her concern that "a nation whose elite education is increasingly predicated on the neutralization of gender [might very well prove not] prepared to defend itself against that growing challenge" from Islamists.

I reckon we'll eventually find out whether Paglia's question is pertinent or impertinent . . .

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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Our relationship always was going places . . .

Eighteen years ago yesterday, or today in the Western hemisphere, Sun-Ae and I got married in the Ozarks. As many readers know by now, we met on a train in 1992, and our relationship has been going places ever since. Why only yesterday, we had another transportational experience.

We were dining in a restaurant on Ewha's lovely campus but failed to notice the busy street directly behind us until the red bus you see through the window came barreling directly at our backs, whereupon we overheard its massive roar and leaped to our feet in a foolish attempt to outrun that rapidly approaching vehicle!

Naturally, we couldn't muster up sufficient power to outrun a bus, not even with our adrenaline-fueled resources, so it quickly gained on us:

And gained more and more and more and more and MORE:

Until we were run over and nothing left behind but a couple of greasy spots on the restaurant table, a sight too horrible to see, so no picture was taken of our sad demise.

But we nevertheless enjoyed the afternoon out on our wedding anniversary . . .

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Monday, October 21, 2013

Some words on writing . . .

A friend asked for advice on writing nonfiction prose, so I replied with a few flexible rules of thumb I've picked up or formulated over the years:
- remember your reader

- keep your point in mind

- simplify the point

- be concise

- use active voice if possible

- use "it" sparingly

- use "of" sparingly

- use forms of "be" sparingly

- avoid jargon

- avoid clichés

- choose concrete words over abstract

- put words, phrases, and clauses close to their referents

- restructure sentences to avoid commas

- restructure sentences to avoid esoteric punctuation (i.e., semicolons, colons, dashes, parentheses)
I have other little rules like this, all of them relevant to style and none of them applied rigidly, and I keep them in mind as I write. Perhaps readers could add their own rules?

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Sunday, October 20, 2013

Opening Lines to Yi Kwang-su's The Soil

Yesterday, I noted that a couple of translations done by my wife and me are being published by Dalkey Archive Books, so for readers with interest, here is our translation of the opening lines to Yi Kwang-su's novel The Soil:
After returning from the night school where he taught, Heo Sung lay down, resting his neck upon his schoolbag and lacing his fingers behind his head to form a pillow. Lying still, he could hear mosquitoes buzzing to and fro as they tried to get around the mosquito-repellent smoke. Now that the seventh month of the lunar calendar was half past, the wind felt a bit cool after nightfall.

For a couple of years, Heo Sung had lived in Seoul with little possibility of hearing the mosquitoes' buzz. In his hometown, even listening to them again pleased him.

"How tall and beautiful Yu Sun has become," Heo Sung murmured to himself. Her image appeared before him, healthy and strong with gently rounded features. Though her face was tanned dark from the mountain region's strong sunlight, her eyes, nose, and mouth stood out sharply without losing the softness of a young woman's features. Reflecting moonlight, her face had been beautiful, almost like moonlight itself. Only her roughened hands did not fit. Used for weeding fields and working in water, they were not the porcelain hands of a city woman. She wore a stiff skirt and a traditional summer jacket of hemp cloth, along with black rubber shoes. She went without socks, which left the tops of her feet darkly tanned. Equally dark were her hands, wrists, and neck, as well as her calves below the short bloomers and shorter skirt, as if the summer sunlight had wished to kiss her body whenever offered a chance, desiring her beautiful and healthy skin . . .
The novel opens in a slow, somewhat understated manner and gradually builds in intensity towards tragedy that wants to resolve itself in a happy ending of Dickensian proportions . . .

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Saturday, October 19, 2013

Yi Kwang-su's The Soil and Jang Jung-il's When Adam Opens His Eyes

My wife mentioned to me that the Hankyoreh, Korea's left-leaning newspaper, had announced the upcoming publication of Yi Kwang-su's novel The Soil in English translation, the very one that we translated, as well as our translation of Jang Jung-il's When Adam Opens His Eyes. That Hankyoreh article, however, appeared in Korean, so I waited another day for an announcement in English, and sure enough, the Korea Herald came through with one, an article by Claire Lee titled "English translations of Korean literature published in the U.S." (October 18, 2013). The article does not go into much detail and does not mention us by name, but does have a few words about the books that we translated:
The 10 volumes to be published next month include Yi Kwang-su's 1932 fiction "The Soil," which tells the story of a lawyer and an idealist who dedicates his life to helping the residents of a rural community during Korea's Japanese colonial period . . . . [Among o]ther inclusions in the 10 volumes . . . [is] Jang Jung-il's "When Adam Opens His Eyes."
According to the article, "The first 10 volumes of Dalkey Archive Press and the Literature Translation Institute of Korea's Korean literature series will be hitting U.S. bookstores on Nov. 16." That's about a month away, but by a happy coincidence, our complimentary copies arrived the same day as the Korea Herald article. Here are two clearer images:

I borrowed both images -- Yi Kwang-su's The Soil and Jang Jung-il's When Adam Opens His Eyes-- from Amazon. If you click to enlarge and clarify, you can see my wife's name first (as is proper), then my own.

Support Korean literature by purchasing and reading the books, but be forewarned on Jang Jung-il, whose writings are not for the faint of heart!

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Friday, October 18, 2013

Baylor Alumni News and Updates

"Baylor Alumni News and Updates"
Baylor Magazine

In Baylor Magazine's "Baylor Alumni News and Updates" (Fall 2013, p. 62) under '79 (i.e., Class of 1979), appears the following note:
Dr. Horace Jeffery Hodges, BA '79, has published his first novella, The Bottomless Bottle of Beer, a postmodern Faustian morality tale of a young naif who trades his soul to the devil for a bottle of endless beer, but has a change of heart. At about 150 pages, the book includes many illustrations by noted artist Terrance Lindall. Hodges holds two graduate degrees in history from UC Berkeley and lives in Seoul, South Korea with his wife, Sun-Ae Hwang, and their two children, Sa-Rah and En-Uk. He is a professor at Ewha Womans University, a Christian school founded by missionaries in the 19th century, where he teaches composition and research.
I wonder how many classmates from that year even remember me, for I wasn't very sociable, being busy either studying or working when I wasn't in class . . .

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Thursday, October 17, 2013

Michael Franklin: A Conversation with David Lynn Jones

David Lynn Jones
Photo by Illa Jones

I've blogged about the great country musician and songwriter David Lynn Jones over the years, so I couldn't pass up the chance to post an entry concerning Michael Franklin's interview with the man, "A Conversation with David Lynn Jones," on his website Pointless Endeavor (September 13, 2013).

"Who's this guy Franklin," you ask. I don't know, but he seems to know who he is:
Michael Franklin is the Media and Reserves Specialist at Western Kentucky University's Visual and Performing Arts Library (VPAL). Michael is also a professional musician and sound engineer. He is currently recording his 6th CD with his best friends Screenlast 6.0 and Audacity Sourceforge. He thinks Iggy Pop is the greatest singer in the history of music. If you disagree, you're wrong. You better ask somebody.
Iggy Pop? Well . . . he thinks Jones is great, so he must be right about Iggy. Here's what he says about Jones:
If there were any justice in the universe, David Lynn Jones would be a household name. He would sell records like Neopolitan ice cream and be considered the natural heir to Bruce Springsteen, Arkansas-division. Because he's that good.
That's right! The interview can't prove this, of course; only the music can to that. But the interview is good, too, and demonstrates how sharp Jones is.

The conversation is a long one, touching upon Jones's life and music, and since I grew up in his neck of the woods, I'll just concentrate on some local anecdotes Jones tells and leave the music to be discovered on its own. Here's Jones describing a local scene:
There's a little café in Arkansas that says 'At The Crossroads'. It's the only crossroads, a paved road for miles in any direction. And that was where I went to school. And Bexar, where my studio was and where I was born and raised -- and where all of our family lives -- down one of those crossroads, there's a little cabin there and there always has been a café there. You know, a Dairy Queen. Not the trade Dairy Queen, but a little place to get ice cream cones and that kind of thing from when I was a kid. And over the years, it has become the gathering place for the morning café coffee drinkers club, you know? It was the place where everybody, all the old men whittling and spitting, was all in there all drinking coffee all the time. All the time. Some of them were in there three or four times a day. And when I came back from Texas . . . I’d been gone for a long time, so I'm a new guy. I'm basically a city guy at that point. I'm as country as anybody in the world, but I'd been on the road and living in Houston, Texas and living in other places for years and years. So when I came back, I had a publishing deal -- finally -- where I could just live anywhere I wanted to and write. So I came home, you know? I bought my grandmother's farm and moved into a house where I'd been as a kid. So anyway, I had this blank page in front of me, you know? It was a great creative time in my life and I'd go to the café of the morning and sit around and listen to all these guys. I knew most of them. I had known 'em from when I was in school there. Nobody really knew what I had going on. I had a big publishing deal happening and all kinds of stuff going on and was running with Charlie Daniels and…just had a lot of stuff going on. I moved back home and nobody knew, so I could just sit over there in the corner and watch all this stuff happening. It was like a little soap opera that played out there, a different version tomorrow than you hear today. And so it's about characters that go in there.

There was a lady who was the waitress -- she's the 'world's greatest food waitress' -- and her name was Vernelle. And so I changed her name to Willie in the song, because that's what some people called her. She was the greatest waitress. She was like the gal that used to be at the truck stop, whatever her name was [Flo, from Alice]. She was like that. She knew everybody, everybody loved her, she never wrote anything down, she never made a mistake. If you ordered one over easy and one sunny side up the morning before, she remembered it the next day. Even if she'd never seen you. And she was beautiful, too. She was a middle-aged movie star looking lady. And she was just a wonderful, wonderful person. And she spent all of her money feeding stray cats. She fed -- it says in the song -- a hundred stray cats. She actually fed more like 150 in a big lot behind her house. And she spent all the money she made as a waitress. I mean, you can imagine feeding that many cats cat food . . . she fed 'em scraps from the café, of course. Some of those cats ate better than people. But she spent all of her money feeding those cats and everybody was always joking about her cats, and how many cats she had now. And it just kind of developed out of that.

And the waitress 'hot-headed Brenda', she'd been through a divorce. She was married to a friend of mine. I was sitting in there one morning with who became my father-in-law, and he'd ordered toast with his breakfast. This actually took place at a restaurant across the street, this particular incident. But later, she worked in the Crossroads In I'm talking about. Anyway, my father-in-law ordered his toast [and] she didn't bring it to him. She went back in the kitchen and came out with two pieces of burned toast and just slid 'em across the table to him. And it was wheat toast. He hated wheat toast. Anyway, that's where that piece of the story came from. It was an actual event. Because of her divorce, she was mad at everybody. Hot-headed Brenda, she had a really bad temper and she was mad all the time.

And Rockin' Johnny was my cousin. He was the consummate lazy hillbilly, asleep on the front of the store with a hat down over his eyes. That's the way he lived. He never learned to drive. He wouldn't turn on a light switch because he was afraid of electricity. And he fox hunted. He carried a fox horn around, strung over his shoulder until he was past 80. And he'd come in the café and sit on the floor and talk and talk and talk and nobody would listen to him. But he was saying some fairly worthwhile stuff sometimes. But nobody ever paid any attention to Johnny. His name was Johnny Dillinger. My family on my mother's side were Dillingers, as in . . . John Dillinger. Same people. And Johnny was more than likely named after John Dillinger. Anyway, that's the story of that song . . . . Of course, he had no idea that he was even in my song. He was so out-of-touch with stuff like [that], it wouldn't have meant anything to him. He didn't listen to music -- he didn't care anything about music. He just liked fox hounds and Prince Albert smoking tobacco. And he walked everywhere he went. You could give him a ride, but he never owned a car, couldn't drive . . . . Smoked continually. He rolled his own cigarettes and could roll 'em with one hand. He'd talk to you, making motions with one hand and roll a cigarette with the other.
I knew these people, not nearly so well as Jones did, but I was aware of them. As I told Mr. Franklin in a comment:
Great interview! I grew up in David's neighborhood of the Ozarks, though he was seven years older. One of his uncles was Archie Dillinger, and Archie -- probably Johnny's cousin -- was my step-grandpa, so I grew up knowing of David, and I knew he was smart, but I didn't know he was that smart. Reading your interview gave me insight into how articulate he is. I'm a writer, and I wish I could talk about writing the way David can talk about music! I'll be blogging on this interview!
And here I am, blogging about it, but I've quoted enough and said enough. I'll leave the rest of the interview to all of you to read . . .

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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Cambridge Companion to Paradise Lost -- Cover Illustration by Terrance Lindall

Cover Illustration by Terrance Lindall
Scroll Down for Better Image of Artwork

My friend Terrance Lindall -- the well-known 'surrealist' artist who has illustrated many scenes of Milton's Paradise Lost -- recently emailed me and others to let us know that Cambridge University Press has The Cambridge Companion to Paradise Lost displayed on its website, so we can now see how his cover illustrations have been arranged, and the image above shows one of his illustrations using the principle of superimposition, an intriguing arrangement enticing to the eye and implying that Lindall has multiple artworks on Milton's epic poem, which he does.

Here's what Cambridge University Press says about the book's editor and contents:
Editor: Louis Schwartz, University of Richmond

Louis Schwartz is Professor of English at the University of Richmond, Virginia. His essays and book reviews on Milton and early modern English literature and culture have been published in journals such as Milton Quarterly, Milton Studies, Reformation, The Comparatist, and The Lancet. His book, Milton and Maternal Morality (Cambridge University Press, 2009), is the winner of the Milton Society of America's James Holly Hanford Award for 2010.

This Companion presents fifteen short, accessible essays exploring the most important topics and themes in John Milton's masterpiece, Paradise Lost. The essays invite readers to begin their own independent exploration of the poem by equipping them with useful background knowledge, introducing them to key passages, and acquainting them with the current state of critical debates. Chapters are arranged to mirror the way the poem itself unfolds, offering exactly what readers need as they approach each movement of its grand design. Essays in Part I introduce the characters who frame the poem's story and set its plot and theological dynamics in motion. Part II deals with contextual issues raised by the early books, while Part III examines the epic's central and final episodes. The volume concludes with a meditation on the history of the poem's reception and a detailed guide to further reading, offering students and teachers of Milton fresh critical insights and resources for continuing scholarship.

-Presents short, accessible essays on the topics most important to understanding Paradise Lost

-Essays are written by fifteen recognized Milton specialists

-Includes a detailed guide to further reading, offering students and teachers of Milton fresh critical insights and resources

Table of Contents

Part I:
1. Milton as narrator in Paradise Lost Stephen M. Fallon
2. Satan Neil Forsyth
3. Things of darkness: sin, death, chaos John Rumrich
4. The problem of God Victoria Silver
Part II:
5. Classical models Maggie Kilgour
6. Milton's Bible Jeffrey Shoulson
7. The line in Paradise Lost John Creaser
8. The pre-secular politics of Paradise Lost Paul Stevens
9. Cosmology Karen L. Edwards
Part III:
10. Imagining Eden William Shullenberger
11. Milton's angels Joad Raymond
12. Gender Shannon Miller
13. Temptation W. Gardner Campbell
14. Regeneration in Books 11 and 12 Mary C. Fenton
Part IV:
15. Reception William Kolbrener.
I know most of these scholars' names -- and know some of them personally from the Milton List -- so I can see that this companion is of high scholarly value and can be trusted as a guide to Paradise Lost.

Readers interested in seeing more of Lindall's art illustrating Paradise Lost can go here to see further images like this one:

Those interested in related illustrations by Lindall in my novella, The Bottomless Bottle of Beer, can see a preview here of others like this:

If you look carefully, you can see Milton. Look, therefore, further . . .

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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Undead Jughead: Sign of the Times?

Undead Jughead
Artwork by Francesco Francavilla
"It's death, Captain, but not as we know it."
Afterlife with Archie

What can I say? Archie is dead . . . or, rather, undead. You know it's a sign of the times when evil comes to Riverdale:
Be the first to witness the beginning of the end of the world with this early look at AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE. Acclaimed Harvey Award-winning writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa's (Stephen King's Carrie) jaw-dropping script comes to undead life with the help of Eisner award-winning artist Francesco Francavilla (Guardians of the Galaxy) who deftly injects horror and fear into the once idyllic, safe town of Riverdale.
There's even a trailer. What's next -- Casper the Scary Ghost?

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Monday, October 14, 2013

Peter Ackroyd: A Boozer and an Eccentric

Peter Ackroyd
Photo by Tung Walsh
New York Times T Magazine

Maybe I ought to try reading Peter Ackroyd's books. Jody Rosen writes of "Peter Ackroyd's London Calling" (New York Times T Magazine, September 12, 2013) in a way that makes him appealing to me:
In person, Ackroyd can seem a bit like a statue . . . . He sits for an interview, barely stirring, answering questions in a deadpan tone, wearing a jowly frown that conceals occasional flashes of humor. He is a large, round, walrusine man; he has a bad leg and he moves uncomfortably, heaving himself up from chairs with great groans. He has always been a heavy drinker. "I used to drink spirits, but my liver said no," Ackroyd says. These days, he only drinks wine, but lots of it: a bottle with dinner at a restaurant (he always dines out), and another bottle when he gets home at night.

He is, in other words, a boozer and an eccentric -- an old-fashioned, classically English type. He certainly stands apart from his contemporaries . . . . Ackroyd is a provincial and proud of it, with a hermetic lifestyle that supports his writing regimen. He hates to leave London, professing a strong dislike for the countryside ("It's too noisy, too dangerous, I don't trust their food") and no interest in traveling to other cities ("I don't understand their histories"). He avoids nearly all the rituals of literary celebrity, restricting his promotional efforts to the occasional interview and a single appearance per year at a literary festival. He lives alone, and reserves just two Sundays each month for socializing, taking day trips with a friend to visit historic English towns.
Rather odd of Rosen to describe a man who dislikes the countryside and prefers London as a "provincial," but Ackroyd, anyway, seems my sort of eccentric, namely, a literate, literary boozer. He also reminds me, surprisingly, of a man I blogged on recently, Russell Shorto. Why? They each love their special city. Here's Shorto on Amsterdam:
Having spent the past several years living in Amsterdam and researching a book about its history, I now find that virtually anywhere I walk in this city, whose center has been so tenderly and smartly maintained, I am jostled by ghosts. (Russell Shorto, "The Ghosts of Amsterdam," NYT, September 27, 2013)
Shorto goes on to describe those jostling ghosts -- Churchill, Marx, van Os, van Gogh, and more -- and hhow he experiences history as nearly palpable memory. Similarly, Ackroyd, touching on an almost palpable past in the first chapter of London: The Biography, which Rosen quotes:
"If you were to touch the plinth upon which the equestrian statue of King Charles I is placed, at Charing Cross, your fingers might rest upon the projecting fossils of sea lilies, starfish or sea urchins. There is a photograph of that statue taken in 1839; with its images of hackney cabs and small boys in stove-pipe hats the scene already seems remote, and yet how unimaginably distant lies the life of those tiny marine creatures. In the beginning was the sea. There was once a music-hall song entitled 'Why Can't We Have the Sea in London?,' but the question is redundant; the site of the capital, 50 million years before, was covered by great waters."
Well, perhaps Akroyd jostles up against a more distant past, but he and Shorto share with me a passion for what is not entirely gone . . .

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Sunday, October 13, 2013

Old Ozark Friend Wins Nobel Peace Prize!

Deva Hupaylo

My old Ozark friend Deva Hupaylo has won this year's Nobel Peace Prize! -- as I belatedly learned Saturday afternoon (after finally setting aside weekend grading for reading the news).

All right, I'm exaggerating . . . but only a bit. The institution for which she works as Head of the Industry Verification Branch, namely, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), has won the Nobel Peace Prize.

Here's a link to the OPCW Director-General Ahmet Üzümcü's statement to the media on the OPCW being awarded the 2013 Nobel Prize for Peace.

I fired off my own statement to Deva:
I just saw the news that you've won the Nobel Peace Prize! Congratulations! Where will you keep the medal?

Okay, more seriously now -- what's your part in this? Will you go to Oslo? If not, can you at least put this on your résumé?
I'm actually rather sure that she won't be going to Oslo. The OPCW may be a small organization, but there are still a lot of directors above her who can't all go to Oslo either. Probably, the OPCW Director-General Ahmet Üzümcü is the only one to go, for he said:
I look forward to accepting this award in humility and in recognition of the professionalism of our staff, both past and present, and the strong support we have received from our States Parties.
But what does Deva have to say? I don't yet know, probably because the OPCW is very busy with the serious work of ensuring that all of Syria's chemical weapons are safely destroyed, so Deva must surely have a lot to do these days . . .

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Saturday, October 12, 2013

My Wife and I . . .

The photo of Sun-Ae that I posted for her birthday doesn't do her justice (though it's also a good photograph), so I'm posting a couple below, the first one showing her seated:

This shows what Sun-Ae really looks like. Hard to believe that she's one-hundred and thirty-six years old! Okay, she isn't, so your skepticism was well warranted. But she looks good for her age. "What age?" you ask. "Any age!" I say.

Here she is again, in the same place, a café she visited with a friend she calls "The Energizer" because the woman is filled with contagious energy (and happens to be the photographer):

Proof that Sun-Ae can stand up to barriers in life! Which is necessary, for here's her life's greatest barrier . . .

. . . a faded-out old man who never smiles for photos . . .

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Friday, October 11, 2013

Facebook: The Bottomless Bottle of Beer

As most readers likely know, I've set up a Facebook site for my novella, The Bottomless Bottle of Beer, adorning it with photos of individuals who have influenced me or my story. My favorite photograph is this eerie one:

The international man of mystery is, of course, Terrance Lindall, the renowned artist who offered to illustrate my story. On the Facebook site, I say this about him:
Terrance Lindall

The illustrious illustrator of The Bottomless Bottle of Beer -- Terrance Lindall -- is a well-known artist and curator whose surrealist-inspired art (which has at times recalled the works of Hieronymous Bosch) has received attention from the public at large as well as from the smaller world of Milton scholars, e.g., one of his illustrations adorns an important Milton anthology!

For more on Lindall, see here.

I am fortunate to have Lindall as an illustrator -- and even more as a friend!
Several of his illustrations are previewable at the Amazon site for my novella. As for my Facebook project, I've merely gotten started on this new endeavor, so check up on it from time to time.

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Thursday, October 10, 2013

Martin Kramer: "October 1973: Panorama and Myopia" and North Korean Art

Hafez Asad and Kim Il-Sung
Sandbox: Martin Kramer on the Middle East

Professor Martin Kramer commemorates the 40th anniversary of the October 1973 War with Israel by visiting panoramas in Cairo and Damascus depicting the victories of Arab armies, though Israel won the war, of course, and Kramer could visit only online. Of interest to me is that the panoramas are painted by North Korean artists:
The construction of panoramas has become a North Korean specialty, and the Egyptian and Syrian panoramas are of North Korean design and execution.
Kramer comments insightfully, even humorously, on each image, including the one above:
What are friends for? Hafez Asad and Kim Il-Sung hang together at the Panorama. They met in real life in September 1974, when Asad paid a state visit to North Korea. Both leaders have since been succeeded by their sons, who went on to collaborate on bigger projects. And if you, too, are one of a dwindling number of dictators, you might consider contracting Mandusae of Pyongyang to build a monument to you. Here is a sort of prospectus:
"Need a massive monument built for cheap and on short notice? In this age of post-Soviet malaise, no one has maintained the time-honored art of building massively unnecessary bronze and concrete monuments. No one, that is, except the fine revolutionaries of the Mansudae Art Studios, one of the largest contributors to the DPRK's economy. Not content with keeping all of the giant monuments and statues to themselves, the 4000 artists of the studio work in glorious revolutionary harmony to provide the world with great monuments to great men. Mansudae's work can be found in Syria at the October War Remembrance Panorama, in Senegal at the African Renaissance Monument, and at state houses all over Africa."
Order yours now—before it's too late.
Quite an amusing little satire -- even Hafez Asad and Kim Il-Sung are smiling! But there's a serious side to this work of art above. Concentrate on the position of the hands and ask yourself who is 'presenting' whom. If the photo here isn't large enough, go to Kramer's site and enlarge the image. I think viewers will agree that Kim's right arm is shown in the stronger position, with his wrist apparently straight and his fingers above Asad's left hand. Asad's hand, by contrast, is depicted palm up, with left arm and wrist subtly twisted into an unnatural, weak position. This symbolism is not overt, for we are gazing from below, but it is apparent if one looks for it -- which I was doing, for I'm familiar enough with North Korean propaganda to know that no North Korean painter could depict Kim in a work of art without implying that this 'Great Leader' is the greater man.

A Juche Leader depends on no lesser being . . .

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Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Steffen Huck - "The Economics of Breaking Bad"

Walter White
Breaking Bad
The Spectator

Concerning Breaking Bad, I've read another excellent review of this brilliant television series I've never seen: "Can you trade love for wealth? The economics of Breaking Bad" (The Spectator, October 2013). The review is by Steffen Huck, professor of economics at University College London and director of Economics of Change at the Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung, and here in part is what Professor Huck has to say:
When Breaking Bad hit our screens, . . . [t]he social experiment that the series set out to explore was strikingly simple: take an ordinary, law-abiding citizen and have him dabble in crime. Walter White Sr, a failed chemical scientist-cum-high school teacher, who works after hours at a car-wash plant to make ends meet, is diagnosed with advanced lung cancer. Facing death and foreclosure on his family home, he goes into partnership with his former pupil-cum-minor drug dealer Jesse Pinkman. As a gifted chemist, Walt will cook crystal meth of unprecedented quality and Jesse will sell it. Just enough to make sure that Walt's family, his newly pregnant wife and his teenage son, who suffers from cerebral palsy, will be able to survive once he is in his grave.

It sounds reasonable enough, doesn't it? Well, it does to a modern-day economist. Changes in circumstance (the prospect of premature death) give rise to changes in lifetime income (no salary for the deceased) as well as relative prices for different goods and services (no punishment for the condemned). A small change in consumption and occupational choice are exactly what is called for. After all, life is all about trade-offs[,] and when variables change[,] some fine-tuning is needed. Simple graphs drawn on blackboards in every introductory class to microeconomics demonstrate the innocuousness and indeed rationality of Walter White's choice.

But then it all goes wrong. Walter's cancer goes into remission in season two, and whereas his old self (the one that made thoughtful lists about the pros and cons of killing an adversary before proceeding) would have changed course at this point, his new incarnation punches his mirror image in the face when the happy news arrives.

In the process of trading off morality against self-interest a peculiar thing has happened to Walter. Something has been destroyed. Roger Scruton, the British philosopher, writes in his enlightening treatise on Richard Wagner's Tristan und Isolde: 'We are tempted to live by rational self-interest, judging everything -- the sexual act included -- in terms of cost and benefit. Homo economicus, who exchanges duty for pleasure and value for price, seems to us to have freed himself from guilt. But if he has done so, we recognise, it is because he has freed himself also from love.'

And so has Walter White. While his initial choice was justified by love for his family, he now embarks on a course that will destroy the very essence of this love. For those who harboured hope for Walt and his wife Skyler, it all comes crashing down in episode 14 of the final season. The two of them roll on the floor; between them, shockingly erect, is a knife.

It is a Wagnerian plot that the show's creator Vince Gilligan confronts us with. Love and morality cannot be straightforwardly traded for power and wealth.
And why can this trade-off not straightforwardly occur? Why not? Because that trade-off changes us essentially, transforming us into a thing immoral and unlovable. Or that, I gather, is the message of Breaking Bad.

For more on Huck and Gilligan, follow this link to "Vince Gilligan in Conversation," where you'll find another link to this video of the two-hour conversation among Gilligan, Huck, and others.

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Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Sun-Ae's Birthday!

Sun-Ae Hwang

* * *

October 8, 2013

* * *

Your Birthday

* * *

To My Sun-Ae

* * *

Wife - Partner - Guide

* * *

The Woman Who Has Given Me
Twenty-One Years Of Happiness

* * *

I Offer These
Birthday Greetings

* * *

Your Husband

* * *



Monday, October 07, 2013

Professor Dr. Martin Kuester - Milton's Prudent Ambiguities

Gift Book from Professor Kuester

A fellow Milton scholar -- Professor Dr. Martin Kuester, of the Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik, at Philipps-Universität Marburg, in Marburg, Germany -- sent me a copy of his book Milton's Prudent Ambiguities: Words and Signs in His Poetry and Prose, which I have now read and responded to:
Dear Martin,

Your book -- Milton's Prudent Ambiguities: Words and Signs in His Poetry and Prose -- arrived last week, on Wednesday (I think), and because I had a lull in my grading and editing, I used this time to read it, and have in fact just finished it only minutes ago, though the acuity of my reading may have been impaired by some pain medication I've been taking since Wednesday for major dental work.

I am especially interested in your view on what the seventeenth-century reformers of language meant by a direct correspondence between word and thing. (I note in passing that the Hebrew term davar means both "word" and "thing.") By "thing," did they mean something like a material object? Or rather anything at all? Whatever was meant, would the word for a thing be a name, i.e., a noun? I find this puzzling. While nouns might constitute the largest category among the parts of speech, they are a minority in most sentences. The previous sentence, for example, has only six nouns out of nineteen words -- and none of them, for that matter, naming material objects. Furthermore, words in a sentence have logical and grammatical relations to each other, a feature ignored by the reformers' emphasis upon the word-thing correspondence.

I appreciated your point that Milton does not consider ambiguous language solely postlapsarian, but notes its prelapsarian, Edenic uses. The difference, I agree, depends upon the intention of the speaker. My own formulation of Milton's distinction in Paradise Lost has for some time been that of a prelapsarian ambiguity that enriches language usage and a postlapsarian ambiguity that impoverishes language usage, e.g., between teaching and deceiving.

My own story, The Bottomless Bottle of Beer, is similarly concerned with linguistic ambiguity -- as you will have of course noticed if you've had a chance to read it -- but we can leave that discussion to another time.

Finally, thank you very much for the gift of your book. It focuses directly upon a central interest of mine and has enriched my linguistic understanding.

Best Regards,

Jeffery Hodges
In rereading my own email, I see an ambiguity (how ironic!) in my reference to "a postlapsarian ambiguity that impoverishes language usage." I didn't intend to imply that Milton saw no postlapsarian continuation of "a prelapsarian ambiguity that enriches language usage"! That unintended but possible reading of my distinction between two ambiguities might account for Professor Kuester's expressed agreement with only the prelapsarian part of my formulation in his reply to my email:
Dear Jeffery,

I somehow doubt that seventeenth-century language theories are the ideal cure for toothache. ;-)

I think I would go along with your formulation about prelapsarian ambiguity. Of course, prelapsarian ambiguity in teaching would be part of the godgame the Father plays with Adam and Eve.

I haven't thought about the relationship between words and things (Augustinian to 17th century) for quite some time (and unfortunately my Hebrew is non-existent). The word/thing distinction, as you state, does not take into account quite an important part of spoken and written language and seems to look at nouns only. But as I understand it, some of the 17th-century "linguists" would still believe in a "monolithic" universe (at least before the Fall). That is what I guess Swift is satirizing in his desciption of those scholars who want to simplify life by getting rid of words in Gulliver's Travels.

As for the Bottomless Bottle, I enjoyed it very much with the literary allusions of which I certainly did not catch all. And there are certainly godgames played at various levels. A pleasure to read.

Best wishes,

I responded to this email by asking permission to post Professor Kuester's remarks, to which he graciously agreed:
You can use my reply (to your Milton question or to the Bottomless Beer Bottle?). No problem either way, although my formulations may have been somewhat ad hoc. Some of the "linguists" in the 17th century would probably have believed in re-instating a prelapsarian state through "science" and linguistic reform, others through faith.
The scholarly world can be a very generous one to inhabit, as I've learned by experience, having received several free books from scholars all over the world. Such generosity should be reciprocated, especially if the book is good, so I heartily recommend Professor Kuester's book to Milton scholars and others interested in seventeenth-century ideas on the reform of language.

And thank-you, Professor Kuester, for your further words of explanation on seventeenth-century linguistic reform and for your permission to post your emails here on my blog -- and also, of course, for your kind words on my novella!

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