The Most Audacious Parts Are Its Digressions

by John Hertz: (luckily reprinted from Vanamonde 1313)

When Newton saw an apple fall, he found
In that slight startle from his contemplation –
’Tis said (for I’ll not answer above ground
For any sage’s creed or calculation) –
A mode of proving that the Earth turned round
In a most natural whirl, called gravitation;
And this is the sole mortal who could grapple,
Since Adam, with a fall or with an apple.

Man fell with apples, and with apples rose,
If this be true; for we must deem the mode
In which Sir Isaac Newton could disclose
Through the then unpaved stars the turnpike road,
A thing to counterbalance human woes.
For ever since immortal man hath glowed
With all kinds of mechanics, and full soon
Steam engines will conduct him to the Moon.

Byron, Don Juan Canto X, stanzas 1-2 (1823)
Steffan & Pratt eds. 1982, Wolfson & Manning rev. 2004, p. 375

I’m a philosopher; confound them all!
Bills, beasts, and men, and – no! not womankind!
With one good hearty curse I vent my gall,
And then my stoicism leaves nought behind
Which it can either pain or evil call,
And I can give my whole soul up to mind;
Though what is soul or mind, their birth or growth,
Is more than I know – the deuce take them both.

Canto VI, st. 22; p. 269

Byron (1788-1824) died with Canto XVII incomplete; he had said he meant to write fifty, or a hundred; the 14-stanza fragment of Canto XVII, all we have, was found and published in 1903 (W&M p. viii).

Shelley (1792-1822) praising what he’d seen said “Nothing like it has been written in English” (W&M p. ix); Keats (1795-1821) hated the swing between satire and sentiment (p. xx); Scott (1771-1832) said DJ “sounded every string of the divine harp, from its slightest to its most powerful and heart-astounding tones” (Edinburgh Weekly Journal 19 May 1824, quot. E. Coleridge [grandson of S. Coleridge 1772-1834] ed., Wks. of Byron v. 6 p. xix, 1903).

Swinburne (1837-1909), “neither a disciple nor encomiast of Byron [said] ‘Life undulates and Death palpitates in the splendid verse….  This gift of life and variety is the supreme quality of Byron’s chief poem’” (E. Coleridge id.).

Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) applauded “the springy random haphazard galloping nature of its method….  like all free and easy things, only the skilled and mature really bring them off successfully,” (A Writer’s Diary pp. 3-4 (L. Woolf ed. 1954, quot. W&M p. xxiv).

“Like most major satire, Don Juan had its origin in indignation….   danger of the modern reader’s … failing to notice the passages which struck most contemporary readers as politically shocking….

“The most audacious parts of the poem are its digressions….  a poem unfinished and unfinishable….

“The skill of the rhyming contributes…. to jerk together the most incongruous concepts … cosmogony and mahogany…. oddest he / modesty….  violent enjambments….  No word … is too familiar or commonplace to be used….

“Several of his friends assure us that the style of Don Juan is an echo of Byron’s conversation….  Don Juan is almost as full of human beings as the Canterbury Tales [Chaucer, 1387],” I. Jack, English Literature 1815-1832 pp. 67-69 (1963).

Juan is Anglicized: J like jewel, two syllables rhyming with “new one”, “true one” (Canto I, st. 1; p. 46).  This is (natch) an independent version of the man in legend; here, though some adventures are affaires de coeur, he unlike e.g. Mozart’s Don Giovanni (1787) does not go “conquering” women, angels and ministers of grace defend us.

Speaking of Chesterton

By John Hertz:  Walking round the Pasadena Chalk Festival (the 26th annual, goshwow) last month, I happened to see, besides lots of swell visual art, this line from Chesterton:

If seeds in the black earth can turn into such beautiful roses, what might not the heart of man become in its long journey towards the stars?

I couldn’t place it, so I asked the American Chesterton Society, from whom I have just learned it appears in Maisie Ward’s Return to Chesterton at p. 161.

You probably know two novels of his we may say are in our field, The Napoleon of Notting Hill and The Man Who Was Thursday. He wrote 80 books, 200 short stories, 4000 essays, several hundred poems, and plays.  He illustrated the first published collection of poetry by Edmund Bentley, who invented the clerihew – indeed Clerihew was Bentley’s middle name.

Chesterton was a man of colossal genius in more ways than one, standing 6 feet (2 m) tall and weighing 20 stone (280 lb, 130 kg).  During World War I, when a lady in London asked why he was not out at the Front, he replied, “If you go round to the side, Madam, you will see that I am.”

I mustn’t omit to recommend his Charles Dickens and Saint Thomas Aquinas – I don’t apologize, the author already has.

Return to Chesterton is a supplement to Maisie Ward’s biography of him. I recommend her too.

Montaigne again

By John Hertz:  The other day I brought you something by Montaigne. Here’s another one (Essays, Bk. III ch. 13 “On experience”; Screech tr. 2003).

Truth itself is not privileged to be used all the time and in all circumstances: noble though its employment is….  you [could] release truth … not merely unprofitably but detrimentally….  No one will ever convince me that an upright rebuke may not be offered offensively nor that considerations of matter should not often give way to those of manner [p. 1223].

But wait, there’s more.

A king is not to be believed if he boasts of his steadfastness [against] the enemy if, for his profit and improvement, he cannot tolerate the freedom of [one] who loves him to use words which have no other power than to make his ears smart, any remaining effects of them being in his own hands.

Now there is no category of [persons] who has greater need of such true and frank counsels than kings do.  They sustain a life lived in public and have to remain acceptable to the opinions of a great many on-lookers: yet, since it is customary not to tell them anything which makes them change their ways, they discover that they have, quite unawares, begun to be hated and loathed by their subjects for reasons which they could often have avoided … if only they had been warned in time and corrected [p. 1224].

Various comments come to mind, but I omit them.  Even I do that sometimes.

For the Love of (Another) Mike

By John Hertz:  I’m reading M.A. Screech’s second edition (2003) of Montaigne’s Essays.  Dr. Screech collates the different versions, translates the many quotations, and annotates.  That’s the literary present tense; he died June 1st (1926-2018).

Montaigne once said congenially “the most fruitful and natural play of the mind is conversation,” and yes, his name Michel Eyquem de Montaigne points to the land from which, after his life, has come one of the greatest wines in the world, Château d’Yquem (and don’t miss it in Nabokov’s novel Pnin).

He was a skeptic (or, in Commonwealth language, a sceptic), but not in the unhappy sense so often brandished now; as Dr. Screech warns, “Today the very word scepticism implies for many a mocking or beady-eyed disbelief” (p. xxxvi).  He famously asked “What do I know?” and tried to answer.

Of course I expected to keep agreeing and disagreeing with this man, and I haven’t been disappointed.  I thought this passage (Bk. I ch. 56; M.A.S. ed’n 2003 at p. 360; paraphrasing Nicetas; in fact the chapter is “On prayer”) well put.

the factions of princes are armed with anger not with zeal … zeal itself does partake of the divine Reason and Justice when it behaves … moderately but … it changes into hatred and envy whenever it serves human passions, producing then not wheat and the fruit of the vine but tares and nettles.

Wishing you the same.

Ctein Plunges Ahead

By John Hertz:  He has just the one name, pronounced “k’TINE”.  Not even “Mr. Ctein”. The United States grant no titles of nobility, nor knighthoods, so we need not speculate as to whether he might ever become Sir Ctein or Lord Ctein. Rules get exceptions, and I myself humbly acknowledge having now and then the favor of acquaintance with a baron, or even a duke, but in his case the possibility seems doubtful.

You may well know him.  He has long been part of our community, and has appeared here.

His widest renowned accomplishment may have been his mastering the subtle and difficult dye transfer photographic process.  It is unequalled in photochemistry.  He may have been the leader in the world.  Fortunately he as a photographer is also a superb technician.  He has exhibited at the World Science Fiction Convention.  Unfortunately the maker of essential dye-transfer ingredients ceased production.  Fortunately he was able to stockpile a supply.

In 2015 he and John Sandford published a science fiction novel, Saturn Run.  It was his first fiction and his co-author’s first science fiction.  This adventure too was extraordinary.  You can see my interview with Ctein here (PDF file, starts at p. 17).  I thought Saturn Run Hugo-worthy.  Ctein said “Naah.”  Anyway in 2017 its paperback followed.

Thereafter he began a collaboration with David Gerrold, who told us in February some of it would appear soon.  It has; “Bubble and Squeak” in the May-June Asimov’s.

It is not a comedy, despite the title and many puns – one, seeded at the start, comes to fruit so much later it may deserve comparing with Walt Kelly’s architecture of “Yes, Santa Claus, there is a Virginia”; another is so exquisite I may be forced to excuse reliance on a sadly unscholarly mispronunciation; another unfortunately prevents me from telling you it’s Sloane, solid Sloane.

The thrust of the story is a near-desperate adventure.  It’s hard.  It conforms (if I may use the word in connection with these authors) with Theodore Sturgeon’s “Science fiction is knowledge fiction” – another great pun, consider the Latin.  It has compassion and even a case of conscience.

It will gratify some readers and trouble others.  I spent half an hour with a friend discussing the ending. But these are deep waters, Watson.

It isn’t news for David Gerrold to publish science fiction.  It’s still news for Ctein.

To Us As Much As Anyone

By John Hertz:  In the United States, where I live, today is Juneteenth.

I saw this Langston Hughes poem on a bus placard.  It’s addressed to us as much as anyone.  You can find it in A. Rampersand ed., Collected Poems of Langston Hughes p. 546 (1994).

To You

To sit and dream, to sit and read,
To sit and learn about the world
Outside our world of here and now –
our problem world –
To dream of vast horizons of the soul
Through dreams made whole,
Unfettered, free – help me!
All you, who are dreamers too,
Help me to make our world anew.
I reach out my hands to you.

Me too.

And Chinese New Year Too

By John Hertz: (reprinted from Vanamonde 1288)

So, jacarandas,
Empurpling above, below,
Your season begins.

It’s LASFS (L.A. S-F Society) custom to raise a little money by auctioning the privilege of naming the previous meeting’s minutes.  For the minutes noting the loss of Ursula Le Guin, I won the auction, and named them “Ged” (A Wizard of Earthsea ch. 1, 1968).

The northeast corner of 4th & Hill Sts. down town is vacant. A subway station below put a concrete wall a few rods (1 rod is about 5 m) east.  One afternoon I found a dozen drummers drumming, seated by the wall with hand-drums, of many a shape and size; one flautist in the back whom if I tried hard I could hear.  I should have counted them, so I could tell you more exactly twelve, or maybe eleven, as you may have sung early last month.  I’d call the rhythms Latin; I’m a little acquainted with Nigerian drum, which I didn’t hear, nor the beats-of-unequal-length rhythms of Southeast Europe I do know.  I saw no hat to drop money in (for which purpose the “hat” could be a basket, or a pillbox, or a suitcase, or a bathtub, or a schooner), nor any higher or lower motive.  I pushed and shoved a quarter-hour from my day to stand and listen.

César Ritz (1850-1918) died a hundred years ago this October 24th.  Born the youngest of thirteen children to a poor Swiss family, and told The hotel business takes a special knack, a special flair, and you haven’t got it, he nevertheless rose to establish the Ritz hotels in Paris (1898) and London (1906) – both associated with Auguste Escoffier (1846-1935); M. Ritz, the king of hoteliers and the hotelier to kings – as Escoffier was roi des cuisiniers et cuisinier des rois and before him Marie-Antonin Carême (1784-1833) – is said to have first formulated The customer is always right, and to have invented the king-size bed.  He is the eponym of the song ”Puttin’ on the Ritz” (I. Berlin, 1929) and its movie (E. Sloman dir. 1930); also the Ritz-Carlton hotels; possibly Ritz Crackers, invented 1934 and today advertised with “You’ve got the stuff to make life rich”.

In Paris, George of the Ritz was Georges Scheuer, who tended bar and thus much else there forty years; in London, it was George Criticos, forty years the hall porter and even more the factotum – Criticos! could he have been – yes; he was a Cretan, Georgios Fafoutakis, who left a memoir, George of the Ritz, as told to Richard Viner (1959), which I’ve just read, and commend to you.  Why?  Because Cross-cultural contact is homework for science fiction.

Worth what some folks say –
“Each to their own” for themselves,
“I can’t stand your taste”
Resounding in their deeds –
Daring what seems good to us.

                                            

Chinese New Year was February 16th; the season runs through March 2nd.
Pillbox, suitcase, “The Whale” made popular by Burl Ives

Speaking of Hopkins

By John Hertz:  In a note celebrating the 40th anniversary of File 770 (January 6th) and 10th of File770.com (January 15th), I mentioned Gerard Manley Hopkins and even quoted him, but I didn’t bring him to you (or should that be the other way around?)

Since then he’s been on my mind. Did I do him a disservice?  Or you?

My mother introduced me to a New York cousin, Selma Jeanne Cohen (1920-2005; we were thus also related to SJC’s uncle Benjamin V. Cohen), whom I met while living there, and knew as the editor of Dance Perspectives; at length she found a publisher for her International Encyclopedia of Dance (Oxford Univ. Press, 6 vols. 1998), I even helping with a few articles.  I never knew, I stupidly never learned, she too had been enkindled by Hopkins.  He was the subject of her doctoral dissertation.

Hopkins, a superb poet and one of the most original, was a Jesuit priest, in whose devotion poetry and religion were mutually illuminating, I think I may say inseparable; which SJC, no more a Christian than I am, indeed just as little, found no more daunting than I (nor maybe you, I dare hope, if you happen not to share Hopkins’ faith; if you do share it, may such conjoined inspiration never fail you).

As SJC says beginning “Hopkins’ ’As Kingfishers Catch Fire’” (1877; superb poem, and superbly Christian), a 1950 Modern Language Quarterly piece (v. 11 p. 197), “to consider Hopkins’ lyrics only as restatements of doctrine is to neglect a part of the art [surely an intended chime; see her article] of poetry as he conceived it,” going on to alliteration, internal rhyme, and his coruscations of sound and sense, not neglecting to quote Duns Scotus (MLQ v. 11 at p. 201 n. 17).

Earlier, in the lead article of the January 1947 Philological Quarterly (v. 26 p. 1), “The Poetic Theory of Gerard Manley Hopkins”, she quotes his “Poetry is speech framed for the contemplation of the mind by way of hearing or speech framed to be heard for its own sake and interest even above meaning” (PQ v. 26 at pp. 18-19), going on to sprung rhythm (as he called it).

In case you don’t know Hopkins here’s the start of another fine poem, “The Windhover” (also 1877).  Marking each metrical foot and accent would illustrate what he meant by sprung rhythm, and its extra unstressed syllables he called outriders; even without, by the second line you’ll see.  These eight lines are the octet of a sonnet: but what a sonnet!

I caught this morning morning’s minion, king-

dom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding

Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding

High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing

In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing,

As a skate’s heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding

Rebuffed the big wind.  My heart in hiding

Stirred for a bird, – the achieve of; the mastery of the thing!

I once told a friend The greater the reality, the better the fantasy.  Or should that be the other way around?

                                            

Much of this material appeared in Vanamonde 1284.

How to Comment on Jay Kay Klein Photo Identifications

JJ Jacobson, the Jay Kay and Doris Klein Science Fiction Librarian at the Eaton Collection of Science Fiction and Fantasy, tells how to use their recently-added Disqus capability to comment on photo identifications.


JJ Jacobson: When we created the Klein Photo info-form, we did so to give fans who aren’t on social media (or at least not on Facebook) a way to tell us about the photos, and to make our metadata-improvement process scalable, knowing that there are another 58,000 photos to come.

However, a few folks continued to post information on the Eaton’s FB page, and we noticed that there were lively conversations taking place in the comment threads. Folks seemed to be having such a good time reminiscing together that we started looking for a way to make more of those conversations about the photos possible. So we decided to experiment with a  threaded-commenting function right in Calisphere.

We’re using a 3rd-party app called Disqus, which a few other digital and Special Collections libraries have been pleased with – much faster for our experiment than building one out in Calisphere. It’s now live. The short description and explanation are now here, along with a commenting policy.  Here’s a longer community fact sheet, for those who want it: https://tinyurl.com/KleinCFS4fen

Brief directions on the Klein Photos in Calisphere:  Use the new commenting feature now available on Calisphere for this collection (to access commenting select an image and click “Join the Discussion”).

It Could Happen to You

By John Hertz: One-third through Henry Hardy’s monumental four-volume Letters of the monumental Isaiah Berlin (IB 1909-1997; Flourishing 1928-1946, Enlightening 1946-1960, Building 1960-1975, Affirming 1975-1997, some 3.000 pages, completed 2015), I came across this innocently-presented footnote (Enlightening p. 197 n. 3).

The Siena Musical Week was founded in 1939 to introduce to wider audiences undervalued composers of the past, starting with the then little-known Vivaldi.

_____________________________________________________

One cannot accept Dr. Hardy’s modesty about these notes, they’re wonderful.

About the subject, on the next page is a 1950 letter to Bernard Berenson, in which IB says, helplessly (if you will allow me to say so) self-referential, “my head in a great whirl with all the ideas, images, glimpses of persons & relationships, forms of life which, if you will allow me to say so, you scatter with so prodigal & unreckoning a hand.”