Avid Readers, Occasional Bloggers

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Literature as equipment for living

What if we were to think of literature and the other arts as a kind of repository of habitus, a motley collection of practices and strategies? “Motley” because we can never adopt them simply and straightforwardly – we have to accept the inevitability of bricolage. But still: experiences not just to admire or appreciate but to use. Edward Mendelson’s idea of “literature as a special form of intimacy” seems relevant here – literature, and the other arts, as equipment for living, equipment shared by fallen mortals, thinking reeds, puzzled people in the process of being formed. An improvised sociology for wayfarers.

equipment, Snakes and Ladders

The Real Mary Poppins, How Foucault Won the Right & the Children’s Table of Literature

As I attempt to get back on the blogging horse so to speak, what better than that classic of blogging days past, the link collection post? Below, some articles I find interesting…

Sarah Schutte discusses the real Mary Poppins at National Review:

Mary Poppins first alighted at No. 17 Cherry Tree Lane in 1934, changing the lives not only of the Banks children but of countless readers around the world. Those exposed only to Julie Andrews’s charming portrayal of Mary Poppins (for indeed, you must always refer to Mary Poppins by her full name) in the 1964 Disney film may find the character in Travers’s book rather jarring — even downright unpleasant. Vain, haughty, snobby, abrupt, Travers’s nanny causes our Disneyfied senses to revolt in favor of the sweeter film character. But this is to give the “real” Mary Poppins short shrift, and naysayers will miss out on some of the most whimsical stories ever penned.

The Real Mary Poppins Reminds Us to Wonder

ICYMI, Ross Douthat had an interesting column on how How Michel Foucault Lost the Left and Won the Right:

Taken together, the essays tell a story that’s surprising at first but reasonable once you accept its premises: If Foucault’s thought offers a radical critique of all forms of power and administrative control, then as the cultural left becomes more powerful and the cultural right more marginal, the left will have less use for his theories, and the right may find them more insightful.

How Michel Foucault Lost the Left and Won the Right

Over at The Dispatch Guy Denton talks with Christopher Buckley about humor sitting at the “children’s table” of literature:

Buckley recognizes today what Wolfe and Heller understood before him: that there is no richer source of literary material than real life, and that real life is a comedy. Readers crave stories of equal scale and strangeness to their everyday experiences in what Wolfe described as this “wild, bizarre, unpredictable, Hog-stomping Baroque country of ours.” The quotidian in America is often ridiculous, and the ridiculous demands to be parodied.

The View from the Children’s Table

A Visit to Vanity Fair by Alan Jacobs

It is hard to top the publisher’s description of A Visit to Vanity Fair:

These perceptive moral essays crackle with wit, intelligence, and a wide range of knowledge. A cultural hawk eye delivers relevant, down-to-earth meditations on the way we live now. “A Visit to Vanity Fair” blends personal reflection with cultural criticism to address such topics as reading with children, sitting with a dying friend, and watching TV documentaries.

I mean it really does “crackle with wit, intelligence, and a wide range of knowledge. and Jacobs is a “cultural hawk eye” who “delivers relevant, down-to-earth meditations” and “blends personal reflection with cultural criticism.

The sad thing is that I have had this book on my shelf for quite some time.  I have long been enamored with Jacobs and his writing.  I have read a number of his books and have followed his writing online for many, many years.  But like so many of the authors and topics I collect and mean to dive into, I get distracted and end up just dipping into a book here or there.  For the last year or so I have thought about trying to read as much of Jacobs catalog as I could but have mostly failed.  So I recently girded my loins, so to speak, and grabbed this book of the shelf and forced myself to concentrate and spend time reading until I finished.

And it was worth it. It truly is a wonderful collection of thought provoking and well crafted essays. Published nearly 20 years ago, it nevertheless feels as engaging and relevant as ever. Whether dealing with Bob Dylan or Harry Potter, Jacobs gets at issues that remain not frothy debates of the minute. Instead, philosophy, literature, faith and writing are explored with verve and wit.

Stop Being Content with J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis

Gerald Russello: It’s Time for Conservatives to Stop Being Content with J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis

The elemental beauty and depth that can be found only in great works of literature.

I’m still not above watching vapid reality shows about meth-addicted Tiger tamers. Nor am I dismissive of the compelling fare we find on streaming media — we are living in a golden age of middlebrow culture. Certainly the world doesn’t need another writer praising the virtues of Moby-Dick. And that’s not my point. Sitting here in isolation, I come to praise the elemental beauty and depth that can be found only in great works of literature. Moby-Dick demanded my attention, imagination, and time. — David Harsanyi on reading Moby Dick

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