A bill introduced by a Massachusetts legislator would make Moby-Dick the official book of Massachusetts. Another bill would make squash the state vegetable.
The LA Times takes a look at the sad demise of the local bookstore: "A good bookstore...is unlike any other retail space. Where else can you linger, sample the merchandise and then casually reject it if not quite right? Your local pizzeria would frown on such behavior. In a culture that worships money, bookstores are one of the few commercial institutions where cost doesn't trump all other considerations. Massive bestsellers share shelf space with the most obscure tomes."
Folks in Scotland, including Ian Rankin, are up in arms over the government's refusal to help save the house in which Arthur Conan Doyle created Sherlock Holmes because he "does not occupy a significant enough position in the nation's consciousness."
You have to check out this story about yet another outraged, hyperzealous parent who is seething mad about a book (I Saw Esau, The Schoolchild's Pocket Book) being available in her daughter's school library, but don't worry about reading the article; check out the photos in the sidebar. Okay, you at least need to get the mom's brilliant quote: "I understand that it is a book of poetry, but there is a fine line between poetry art and porn and this book's illustrations are absolutely offensive in every way."
A friend of Syntax of Things sends word of an interview with Jack Butler which will appear in the next issue of the Mississippi Quarterly. I don't know what I can do short of changing the name of this blog to "Read Jujitsu for Christ for Christ's Sake" to convince everyone who stops by here to read this man's work. You won't be sorry. Anyway, there's no direct link to the interview but my friend did send me a copy and I'm giving you an excerpt, one of the many quotable portions of the text (beneath the cut):
MQ: Given your interest in the holy, then, what do you see the ideal role of the writer, or perhaps simply your role as a writer, as being? Do you intend for your work to spark an encounter or understanding of a deeper religious truth?
JB: Not exactly. One must talk around such things or not talk, but for me, if you say truth, you do not need the words “deeper” and “religious.” I feel ecstatic at times, and will happily say so, but I would not presume to speak for something larger than myself or presume that I have sufficient spiritual authority to point readers in the right direction.
I often feel that the gift of speech is godlike, by which I mean both that it makes us like god, and that it makes us have ideas of what god may be like. By which I also mean that it is the informing spirit, or at least can be. Speech, is, itself, pentecost.
I was taught to denigrate the importance of the word, in keeping with the stammering modesty that has for some reason seized contemporary bards. In a world of practical considerations, so goes the modernistic rag, fascination with words is a luxury, one the tribe can ill afford. I would say to that voice in my head: No, not the words, interlocutor, but words. Without words we would not be a tribe.
So yes, I feel that getting it right—I call it right naming—is holy work. At the same time, you’d be a fool to surrender the sheer intoxication and sly physicality that words afford, or to measure the practice in terms of the supposed moral good it can be shown to reinforce.
In order to do words well, one must not care about words, and yet care everything about them. It sounds paradoxical and I have learned to assume there is mystery wherever my mind is forced into paradox. Mere facility will not do. The move has to be an honest move. Seek a state where opposites coincide. If you’re not winging it on the sheer exhilaration of words, with no preconception of the holy, it aint real. If it aint real, it aint holy.