Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Links and civilization

Patry Francis has a book deal. Excellent news. Go read all about it.

In Bloom, great writers commune and contend with each other, as, in his view, they do in the canon. Don't be surprised, therefore, to find in Jesus and Yahweh: The Names Divine (Riverhead), Bloom's new book, that Saint Mark reminds him of Edgar Allan Poe, or that Freud crops up in connection to the Book of Daniel. And because Bloom has long since pronounced Shakespeare our greatest writer, for him there's nothing peculiar about bringing Hamlet and Lear into discussions of Jesus and Yahweh, as the god of the Hebrew Bible is sometimes known.

An interview with Harold Bloom, conducted by Harvey Blume, in the Boston Globe.

A fundamental truth about people is that they are shaped by the world around them. In the here and now, get-the-job-done environment of modern America, the knowledge for knowledge's sake ethos that is the foundation of a liberal arts education -- and of a rich and satisfying life -- has been shoved to the margins. Curiously, in a world where everything is worth knowing, nothing is.

J. Peder Zane relates a story Lawrence Naumoff tells at a dinner party, of how his creative writing students not only don't know who Jack Kerouac is, they don't even know his name, before indicating that "our culture gives us a pass, downplaying the importance of knowledge, culture, history and tradition." (Shouldn't Zane have at least parenthetically mentioned that the Kerouac scrolls are on exhibit at UNC, or has this already received adequate coverage in the Triangle area?)

Zane's piece reminded me of how Edward Abbey said cultures can exist with little trace of civilization within, and that civilization "while dependent upon culture for its sustenance, as the mind depends upon the body, is a semi-independent entity, precious and fragile, drawn through history by the finest threads of art and idea, a process or series of events without formal structure of clear location in time and space. It is the conscious forefront of evolution, the brotherhood of great souls and the comradeship of intellect, a corpus mysticum. The Invisible Republic open to all who wish to participate, a democratic atistocracy based not on power or institutions but on isolated men."

MFS calls participants in this Invisible Republic "monks," and that's certainly what one feel as if one were once the realization sets in that our culture doesn't care about knowledge.

Also, favorite former president Jimmy Carter has a new book, Our Endangered Values: America's Moral Crisis, coming out this month. There are two interviews with Carter at NPR; he provides a commentary on our current situation in the LA Times.

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