Thursday, December 15, 2011

Miscellaneous Prose

“I’ve got his,” she said to the girl at the register, and placed the drinks on the counter. “He’s a regular. It’s three bucks, and he never takes his change. Sixteen ounce chai and an ice water, not too much ice?”

“Well obviously, but is the chai hot or cold—that’s the real question” the two-dollar tipper replied, with a cocked eyebrow and a crooked grin that revealed a couple of even more crooked teeth.

Sara faked deep thought and responded, “Well, it’s Thursday, which would indicate cold, but it’s misting outside, so I’d say hot, although it is the ninth, isn’t it? And you seem to have some absurd fascination with the number nine, and you got a cold one yesterday, so…”

“So which did you give me today?”

“Look at the cup. Definitely hot, with a bit of extra foam, but not so much that there’s only a shot of chai underneath a cup full of bubbles. Don’t you hate it when they do that?”

“Hot? You gave me a hot chai? And I was so hoping for cold. I’ve been looking forward to a cold chai all morning, and you made it hot?” He sighed with mock despair, and continued, “I’m afraid I’m going to have to reclaim my two-dollar tip from the very lovely—although rather confused—girl who’s still trying to figure out which button to push. New, are you, Gorgeous? About a week?”

Sara interrupted the half-formulated answer, “Oh, ignore him Hannah, he flirts with everyone. But I don’t think he’s ever really forgiven me for going and getting married to someone else, have you?”

“Forgiven you? When you give me a hot chai even though I wanted it cold? When you find fault with my brown mare and won’t buy my high flier?”

“And what’s that from?”

With a deeply injured air he responded, “Sense and Sensibility, the Emma Thompson one. Although that would make you Colonel Brandon. You might look good in a giant, floppy hat. Do you by any chance play piano?”

“Wait—isn’t Willoughby the one that says that?”

“You do know it—I’m impressed." He grinned. "You know I’ll never forgive you now, don't you? Isn’t your husband tall? So terrible: already a shortage of short girls for me to choose from, and then you go and marry some six foot two behemoth. It’s not natural; you obviously were intended to marry someone who was right around five six or seven. God will judge you for your rebellion. Unless Hannah there is wearing three inch heels.” Peering over the counter, “No chance of that is there, Freckles?”

The white skin of her face blending into her rusted hair, Hannah assured him that her shoes had no heels at all.

He sadly sighed. “And a red-head, too. Tragic.”

“Oh, go sit down and read your book. I’ll take my break in twenty minutes.”

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Done With This Semester

Epistle to Professor Victoria Arthur

A grade! My Teacher, leave all C’s and D’s
To trochees failed, or iambs that don’t please.
But first, since school demanded that I pay
Attention, you now have to read; I’ll pray.
Must I explain the words that soon you’ll see?
Why not. The final that was given me
Should demonstrate quite simply that I’ve learned:
Within the past four fortnights, have I earned
An A? A B? Or have my words, so frail,
So weak, so wrong, condemned me now to fail?
For learned I’m not, but have, for this next line
Does not have ten dull words, but only nine
(Although the one before it had one more).
The question, I suppose, is do they bore?
It’s hard for me to say; I’ll let you choose
For whether I say yea or nay I lose,
For if of God above and man below
Naught can be reasoned but from that we know,
I fear that I know naught. My reas’ning then
Had better far be bowed to other men,
Or even women, as the case may be.
But bore or no, my final is but three
Small poems. To justify myself unto The Man:
It took forever to make sure they’d scan.

It’s really not complex: I imitate
An author from each “age” that I would rate
As best in style, skill or simply fun:
An Irish monk, A. Pope and Satan won
(And if the Cath’lic monk can’t seem to cope
I’m sure he’ll damn the devil to the Pope).

And, now that that’s been said, I think I’m done;
Though with the wiser dead, I’ve just begun.

Blessings, and sincerest thanks. Class was great.

Jesse A. Broussard

Monday, December 12, 2011

Beowulf, Finalish Form

Herein To the Mead-Wench Words are Writ

My lady list, from my word-hoard hear
Of the spear-armed Dane, Scyld Scefing’s son,
Of Scandian shores the savior strong,
Swinger of swords whose shield shall not shatter,
The breast of my boat beats the whale-road white,
The tale of my triumphs the storm riders sing:
How the Wyrd Wielder Wise has clothed me with strength,
The Slinger of Seas that enfold the fair fields
Has hallowed my heart and my sword stained with gore.
A Wielder of Wonders, a Welkin-warrior,
A ring-giver great, weregild winner:
My enemies mighty my arm has hewn down,
My flag home a haven, my borders unbattled,
My mead freely flows and well-roasted the meat
In the hall of my fathers. There grow faithful sons;
Liegemen are loyal, the bane of my foes,
But bane of the sea wyrm, bane of the land wyrm,
The sky wyrm’s bane is the blessed Bear.
Bone cage of demons my sword split assunder
And heart of Hrothgar by my battle-boast hoisted:
That Heorothealed would be of the kin of Cain,
That house wild wight haunted, high on the hill.

Night walker was wary, dread death-dealer doughty,
Wan under welkin was the whelp of Cain.
Lief was he my liege to kill, my thane he lifted his maw unto,
Rent his bone-cage, blood ran rivers,
Swallowed him whole, even head and hands.
But my hand grasped him grim, my fingers fast held him—
No battle brand bore I, no war weapon wielded,
Yet still his soul stole I, his blood did I spill,
But deeds of might were far from finished.
Grendel’s arm I hoisted high, his hand on Heorot
A welcome sign was made. But he was naught to what was next;
The viler, viscious dam, the water wight, the elfin evil.
Beneath the abyss she dwelt, deep under the depths,
But swam I swift to her home, the hell-born hoard,
And fought her with a sword that there I found,
A mighty blade that hacked her hide, her life blood freed,
And with her perished, the greatest of its deeds done at death.

So now I stand here, and what ask you of me,
A slayer of demons, of dragons death-dealer?
Mightiest of men, king over coasts?
Full twenty men’s might in each of my hands,
And this is the task you are asking of me?
“Tell you what I’ve learned in class this semester?”

Where be the brood of Cain?
Where the enemies that plague thee?
Where the house that’s haunted? Where the demon spawn?
Is there no dragon in this domain? No hell-born beast?
No task worthy of my prowess? No death walking in darkness?
Ask not of my aid in this trifling task,
This womanish work, this infant’s assignment.

My lady noble: my flagon fill, my mead let flow—
A dearth of beasts must be in this land
For my platter’s bottom I now perceive—
Mayhap another cow to his maker and our meat-board
Might be sent. And I? My sword I shall sharpen
And of the sea-born serpents that slew I Nine—Nine!
Of the tally of ten my tale lacks but one—
Of the sea-born serpents that slew I nine
In the years bygone shall I speak to thee.

And a Lewis-Flavored Milton, Wrecked by Me

The Dyscorses of Satan and Other Fallen Beings, Recorded Upon Hys (Satan’s) Dyscouery of God Hauing Asyned Unto Mere, Mortal, Fallen Man Thys Fynal Asynment. Wryten in Unrhymed Iambic Pentameter as a Fool’s Attempt to Imitate John Milton, The Endyng Being Signyfide by the Introduction of a Septametrycal Fynal Lyne.

(Spelling has been modernized for the 2011 ed.)

Satan to the Fallen Host:
My Rebel Angels, down-cast, desolate,
Imprisoned deep within this frozen hell,
Removed from life and light by rage of Him
‘Gainst whom no power in heaven, earth or sea
Has yet His iron throne from Highest Heights
Thrown down, or rent the scepter from His hand;
‘Gainst whom nine nights, nine days we strove and failed
To win; and from Whose wrath we now so fain
Would flee, were there a realm in heaven, earth or sea
Wherein we from his Adamantine rage
Would loosed be. In vain. For I alone
Am second to Him to Whom no second else
Be known; am fire enfolding fire, Tenth
Hierarch, am Ahriman, The Morning’s Son,
And even I this end couldst not foresee.
But wiser I have grown, and if from bliss
We banned forever be, then let us
Now remove from Him who us removed
From where we fain would be. If unto earth
He us has cast, then we shall make it ours.
But now, this moment gather farther from
That scarlet city where the God that knows
Not ruth still mocks the broken beings that
Pray round his iron throne. Now come: for from
This day eternal war we shall begin
With that Almighty Foe and all His works.
Immortal our revenge: our yearning hate
Of Him and all He loves shall no end slake.

Now first for men—those vicious fools whose throats
Can bark for slaughter, cannot sing—that He
More foolish still is rumored more than life
To love (long since we cast them down to deep
Rebellion; hate. Indeed: to love the hate
Of Love Himself we taught him. Her? Deceived;
Both far have fallen. Now the fires of hell
Their feet shall singe, and soon their souls shall flame).

But now, today, what can we do? What war?
What plague? What cup hold we? What wine of wanton
Lust to wet their lips? What envy, strife,
Or drunken deep debauch shall fit our need?
What height of pride, or fool’s abyss, to what
Vile end shall man be flung? The battle’s filth
And strain? The bomb, the falling death? The moon,
A pallid green to break his worthless mind?
I fear that war will fail: Cuchulain’s bride is death;
No more shall Roland’s sword hew helm and bone,
And Arthur sleeps far hence in Avalon
While Helen’s eyes and Iseult’s lips are dust,
And dust the shoulders and the breasts of snow.
No, no war can kill all men: some win.
The plague is past, their God gave them a cure.
But, license, lust and lech’ry well we use,
And envy Cr'esus killed and killeth still
While strife lays low the hero’s home: no man
His bride well understands; far less his seed.
Still pride and folly walk as lovers lie:
Soft, intricate, entwined their limbs and lips.

But more we need—a deeper depth to delve,
A height that’s higher yet from which to fall
And then mankind will fully finished be—
And so we turn at last to lethargy:
The student’s bane—the final’s due today,
And last night Phil and Cait took John “Bones” Jones
And then his lethal elbow did to foolish,
Lazy Jesse introduce (till morning
Was at five, the hill with frost lay slain;
No slug was on the thorn, and God His wrath
Revealed). And now what hope has man? To death!
Destruction! Madness! All for naught! His endless
Labour lost! A final he shall fail
From lack of sleep (and for we wicked? Rest.)
Upon his bed he now does fling his form,
And in a heap his clothes about his fallen frame shall lie.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Students With Funny Haircuts Making Ugly Art

White OleanderWhite Oleander by Janet Fitch

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book I've found difficult to review. First off, I would not recommend it: there is rather pervasive language and several sexual scenes, but far more disturbing is the overall theme, which is the reason that I absolutely love it, and usually revisit it once every couple years. Also, Janet Fitch can really write, with a prose style reminiscent of a less dense Dostoevsky packed with unusual metaphors that are enough to catch a reader off guard without distracting him. A rare "gift" indeed, and one that is usually far from free.

The story centers around the twelve-year-old Astrid Magnussen, and takes place over the course of about seven years, chronicling her fall from a sweet, open, (relatively) innocent child into a dark, bitter, amoral young woman, and the beginning of her rising again. This story goes from grey to black to black with a glimmer of grey, as N. D. Wilson would say. Yet, it is a very realistic, very chilling account of the utter devastation that a parent can wreak upon the life of a child, as well as a fairly accurate, if brutal and somewhat selective, account of the California Social Services

View all my reviews

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Beowulf Draft 1

My final assignment in English class was to simply demonstrate that I learned something this semester. It had no form required: it could be lesson plans for teaching, a paper on anything; I was given loose reins, free reign, a bit betwixt my teeth and a whole mountain to fall down.

I decided that I didn't want to do a final project. So I didn't. But, not daring to simply refuse, I instead assigned it to three other characters, and am turning in their responses to the teacher. The first is Beowulf, to be followed by John Milton's Satan, and Alexander Pope shall scathingly bring up the rear.

Here is the first draft of part 1; input is desired.

Beowulf is Assigned this Final Project

My lady list, from my word-hoard hear
Of the spear-armed Dane, ScyldScefing’s son,
Of Scandian shores the savior strong,
Swinger of swords whose shield shall not shatter,
The breast of my boat beats the whale-road white,
The tale of my triumphs the storm riders sing:
How the Wyrd Wielder Wise has clothed me with strength,
The Slinger of Seas that enfold the fair fields
Has hallowed my heart and my sword stained with gore.
A Wielder of Wonders, a Welkin-warrior,
A ring-giver great, weregild winner:
My enemies mighty my arm has hewn down,
My flag home a haven, my borders unbattled,
My mead freely flows and well-roasted the meat
In the hall of my fathers. There grow faithful sons;
Liegemen are loyal, the bane of my foes,
But bane of the sea wyrm, bane of the land wyrm,
The sky wyrm’s bane is the blessed Bear.
Bone cage of demons my sword split assunder
And heart of Hrothgar by my battle-boast hoisted:
That Heorothealed would be of the kin of Cain,
That house wild wight haunted, high on the hill.

Night walker was wary, dread death-dealer doughty,
Wan under welkin walked the whelp of Cain.
Lief was he my liege to kill, my thane he lifted his maw unto,
Rent his bone-cage, blood ran rivers,
Swallowed him whole, even head and hands.
But my hand grasped him grim, my fingers fast held him—
No battle brand bore I, no war weapon wielded,
Yet still his soul stole I, his blood did I spill,
And when his dam to avenge him came,
Her home her tomb was made by my right hand.

So now I stand here, and what ask you of me,
A slayer of demons, of dragons death-dealer?
Mightiest of men, king over coasts?
Full twenty men’s might in each of my hands,
And this be the task you are asking of me?
To “Tell you what I’ve learned in class this semester?”

Where be the brood of Cain?
Where the enemies that plague thee?
Where the house that's hight haunted? Where the demon spawn?
Is there no dragon in this domain? No hell-born beast?
No task worthy of my prowess? No death walking in darkness?
Ask not of my aid in this trifling task,
This woman’s work, this infant’s assignment.
My lady noble: my flagon fill, my mead let flow—
A dearth of beasts must be in this land
For my platter’s bottom I now perceive—
Mayhap another cow to his maker and our meat-board
Might be sent. And I? My sword I shall sharpen
And of the sea-born serpents that slew I Nine—Nine!
Of the tally of ten my tale lacks but one—
Of the sea-born serpents that slew I nine
In the years bygone shall I speak to thee.

Monday, December 5, 2011


How is it that time continues to cycle a full five years after the world has ended?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Literary analysis

Here is the poetry reviewed:

In vain, in vain—the all-composing hour
Resistless falls; the Muse obeys the power.
She comes! she comes! the sable throne behold
Of Night primeval, and of Chaos old! 630
Before her Fancy’s gilded clouds decay,
And all its varying rainbows die away.
Wit shoots in vain its momentary fires,
The meteor drops, and in a flash expires.
As one by one, at dread Medea’s strain, 635
The sick’ning stars fade off th’ ethereal plain;
As Argus’ eyes, by Hermes’ wand opprest,
Closed one by one to everlasting rest;
Thus at her felt approach, and secret might,
Art after Art goes out, and all is night. 640
See skulking Truth to her old cavern fled,
Mountains of casuistry heap’d o’er her head!
Philosophy, that lean’d on Heaven before,
Shrinks to her second cause, and is no more.
Physic of Metaphysic begs defence, 645
And Metaphysic calls for aid on Sense!
See Mystery to Mathematics fly!
In vain! they gaze, turn giddy, rave, and die.
Religion, blushing, veils her sacred fires,
And unawares Morality expires. 650
Nor public flame, nor private, dares to shine;
Nor human spark is left, nor glimpse divine!
Lo! thy dread empire, Chaos! is restor’d;
Light dies before thy uncreating word:
Thy hand, great Anarch! lets the curtain fall; 655
And universal Darkness buries all.

And here is the review:

Jesse Broussard
English 341, literary analysis:
The Dunciad

Alexander Pope
Prophet Without Honour

Alexander Pope was indubitably an heir of the great metaphysical poets, such as Donne, Herbert, Marvel and others, but his mind and writings leant far, far back to the great and ancient epic works of Homer, Horace, Vergil, Juvenal and their like. Erudite as Eliot, prescient as a Puritan and disdainful as a Duke, Pope was famed for his impatience even more than for his genius, and one of the surest—if least pleasant ways—of achieving immortality was to prick his vanity with a pin. As a result of this, and of being born in a time when character was at least as interesting as creation, his person often overshadowed his poetry, and this is something that our generation of readers and critics, with all our hindsight, hasn’t managed to shake. So we often tend to see The Dunciad as a diatribe, rather than a prophecy or social critique, and Pope merely as a savage little monster, rather than a seer or social philosopher. Which is all fine and dandy, save that it truncates our view like inverted blinders on a horse: we see the sides, but not the front; we see the scenery, but not where we’re going; we see the mockery, but not the point. We miss out on so, so much of his purpose when we view The Dunciad as a personal poem instead of what I will maintain that it truly is.

The Dunciad was not aimed at his critics and personal enemies, not even at Lewis Theobald, King of the Dunces (who entitled his Shakespeare Restored with the somewhat insensitive full title of Shakespeare restored, or, A specimen of the many errors, as well committed, as unamended, by Mr. Pope: in his late edition of this poet. Designed not only to correct the said edition, but to restore the true reading of Shakespeare in all the editions ever yet published), whose edition of Shakespeare was actually better than Pope’s. No, The Dunciad was written primarily as a eulogy for what we call the age of Renaissance literature in England, and a foretelling and critique of the movement that was growing up to replace it (although the medium was entirely suited to Pope’s endless quest to have the last word in any argument). I’ll only be dealing with the latter portion: the prophecy and critique.

But to see the general, broad sweep of his argument, we first have to dissociate it from the pointed personal aim in his argument. Otherwise we have the two aspects of Pope’s poem blended: first, to humiliate his enemies (personal), and second, to state where the new movement, the (at the time) “modern” movement would lead.

So, here’s for the personal first. Pope completed his first version of The Dunciad in 1729 when he was 41, but it was a full fourteen years before he was finished tinkering with it, and he died the year after his final publication. However, he continually changed the King of the Dunces, so the poem transcended at least this character: the character came and went, but the poem remained. Yet he was bitterly disappointed by this time of his life. Long since dead was his (alleged) affection for Lady Montagu. His love for Martha Blount is doubtlessly somewhat embellished by overzealous authors—biography, like nature, abhors a vacuum, and there is no exiguity of events that cannot be filled by sufficient suppositions of fancy—but we know that he did say she had “wit, good humour and a poet;” he did bequeath her 1,000 pounds, sixty books and more; we know that he almost certainly did love her. But even the wildest speculation has never construed her feelings as anything beyond benevolent indifference. So he was disappointed in his hopes for marriage at least twice, and was left with but two lasting impressions to leave: poetry and a grave. So he was surely looking to leave something meaningful behind, and this is another aspect of the man’s genius: in all of his terse vitriolic tirades, he never lost his view of the transcendent.

By his final publication of The Dunciad, he had lost all of his literary allies (who were also dear friends): he had buried Parnell in another life, back in 1718, John Gay in 1732, Dr. Arbuthnot in 1735, and he had watched both Atterbury and Swift go into exile (Swift’s was self-imposed). The already savagely embittered Pope found himself alone among enemies, and among the last of the rearguard still resisting the artistic innovations being birthed all around him. The Renaissance was waning, the rebirth of the epics of Homer and Vergil, Horace and Juvenal and their ilk; ink of Voltaire and Hume, Walpole and Johnson, Rousseau and Kant was either still wet on the page or the quill. The world was rapidly changing, and the great satirists were dying out (Swift would follow Pope in less than a year). It was not yet the era of the Romantic poets, who would so fully repudiate the indisputable genius of Pope as to debate whether he could even be considered a poet, but that age was dawning as Pope’s was “dying with a dying fall,” and one perceptive as Pope could not help but notice.

So what did he write in this, his final work? He bestows uncomfortable immortality upon his enemies—we generally wouldn’t even know of them outside of his tribute to their idiocy (take heed to the caliber of your competitor: here a man’s entire life consists of a Norton Anthology footnote explaining that he was an ass)—so he has truly succeeded: he got the last word. There is no denying that the machine-gun rhythm of names dotting, even peppering the page is a great part of the work, and a great reason for its composition. But this is Pope simply enjoying himself. The overarching theme is the effect of what Pope views as the “movement of the new,” and that, to Pope’s mind, is the death of not only literature, but all art, and not only art, but an entire culture: art, truth, philosophy, science, mystery, religion and morality.

For a demonstration of this, look at his conclusion on page 2565 in our Norton Anthology, lines 629, 630, 639, 640: “the sable throne behold / Of night primeval, and of Chaos old! ... Thus at her felt approach, and secret might, / Art after Art goes out, and all is Night.” He then goes on to describe the individual effects of this “modern” movement as opposed to his classical approach in lines 641-656 (which I’ll here review, but not quote, in their entirety): stark Truth is buried beneath convoluted sophistry—Plato’s Gorgias was a lesson he didn’t think this new age had learned; Boethius’ lovely, sing-song Consolations of Philosophy is obviated: instead of the assumption of God as a foundation, and the derivation of “how should we then live” from that solid platform, he sees that the ponderous weight of philosophy has dispensed with the platform and is attempting to levitate: Philosophy, which has to stand somewhere in order to get anywhere, is no longer accepting God as the “Uncaused Cause,” but is attempting to decipher the world from our senses alone (“And Metaphysic calls for aid on Sense!”). Hume’s decimation of the inductive principle is the result of this. Or is it? (Bad joke.)

He then turns to the attempt to explain “Mystery,” the unexplained, by a reliance on math. Looking back at an age that produced Wittgenstein, Whitehead, Godel and innumerable others, as well as the greatest geometrical breakthrough in two and a half millennia—demonstrating that Euclid’s postulate—for any line “A” and a point “B” not on that line, one and only one line parallel to “A” may be drawn through point “B”—that this postulate was actually false, leading to Lobachevskian Geometry and Reimannian Geometry—I would say that this was as close to a prophet as you can get without falling into his beard.

The final vestige of the old world that he sees falling is religion, and with it morality: both in public and in private the religious are ashamed or simply afraid. In this his genius is expressed to a breathtaking extreme: not only did he say what the result would be, but he also got the order right, and here we are, living in two couplets of his poem, of his prophecy. Religion has not so much fallen as it has begun to saunter vaguely downwards—although we do have a new generation of what must simply be called militant atheists: Hitchens, Dawkins, Harris, et al, and they are all from religious families. But the Christian / Catholic religion that Pope spoke of still stands, and with it Christian / Catholic morality, though again, they are in a rapid decline.

Of this there cannot be doubt: Pope is vindicated. 250 years ago this brilliant, mordant and vicious little beast, this little monster, told us in explicit detail what would happen, and it is now happening. The Judeo-Christian order that Pope spoke of—the one that ruled the world, that founded Christendom and overshadowed all of Europe, as well as huge chunks of Asia and Africa, for two millenia—that order has never been in such disfavour or in such decline in England, Europe and America as it is now.

The question should then arise: what happens next?

Lo! thy dread Empire, CHAOS! is restored;
Light dies before thy uncreating word:
Thy hand, great Anarch! lets the curtain fall;
And Universal Darkness buries All.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

From Bobbi Jo

A good friend of mine, former classmate and sister to a former roommate wrote this, and I thought it was more than worth sharing. I'd force people to read it if I could, but instead, I'm hiding it safely away where none shall ever find it (unless they happen to be looking for a particularly unusual book, or researching ants).

In any case, it is something that delights me, makes me somewhat envious, and makes me smile at the same time. Especially these things: Robert looking meaningfully at his (formerly rambunctious, now suddenly attentive) twins, then at his bedroom door, then rather inquiringly back to the (now excessively well-behaved) boys who have found that playing with their cars on the floor in very hushed tones is exactly what they'd been wanting to do for some time; or the delightful pictures that Naomi gave her big brother when he was off at school (that lived on our fridge longer than we lived in the house), or the frozen dinners that seemed to breed in our fridge whenever the Dahlin sisters stopped by (they assumed that being men, we couldn't cook. They were right), or abruptly encountering an almost five foot two Maria while expecting a five foot five Maria when flat shoes were required at a dance, or suddenly finding out that Laura could read music for guitar, that John was one of the most incisively intelligent and funny guys I'd ever met, and that Bobbi's poetry had the capacity to simply level anyone with half a soul. Though, my best memory of all was looking down a table that wouldn't have been out of place in Heorot, and seeing every place (and then a few) filled, every face expectantly looking towards their father, and knowing in that moment that the loss of this is the most desolate, shattering blow that our life-hating generation could ever have suffered, for this indeed is one of the greatest of God's billowing blessings in this overflowing world.

As a pastor has said:

"Wombs are a deathbed, nurseries are barren, Men lie with others as though they were women. Fruitlessness calls on the gods to preserve it, Gods in their anger bestow pale madness. O Jesu, defend us, Lord Jesus have mercy."

How many siblings do you have?? by Bobbi Jo

Sometimes people ask how many siblings I have, and then act like they wish they hadn’t asked. No matter how matter-of-factly I answer, in how soft of a voice, or how I ease the blow by casually saying seven brothers and leaving a thoughtful pause for them to adjust before mentioning the nine sisters.

The eyebrows jump straight up a few inches off their usual resting place, like a cat that has been batting nonchalantly at a still mouse it assumes is dead, when the mouse suddenly gives the reaction it has been prodded for.

The mouth unhinges for a moment, offering a nice view of the teeth, tongue, uvula and pharynx, and sometimes a case of muteness attacks for a few seconds after this anatomical display is closed.

The eyes – well, you have seen the cartoons where the eyeballs nearly leave the face because their saucer-like size makes it hard to fit between the other features. Like that.

Then the comments. People are amazingly quick at putting us into a box, a category – no matter how obviously empty their category for Extremely Large Family has been up until this point. They assume my parents must be uneducated, or Mormon, or hate the environment, or hate their children who obviously are harmed by having to share a bedroom with brothers or sisters.

But sometimes people are cool enough to ask the right kinds of questions, ones that reveal that yes, they may think it is all a little crazy, but they are interested in how this kind of crazy works for a real life family. One of the best questions I’ve heard was from a kid, about a week ago. “But how do you all use the bathroom and take showers in the morning? Do you have to get up in the middle of the night to do it before everyone else?”

I laughed. But the more I thought about that one, the more ironically true it was. My sisters have some kind of system worked out among themselves so that they all end up with shiny clean hair every day, and when I go back to visit I have to either wait until an hour after breakfast when everyone else is done and off doing chores and the water has had time to heat up again, or grab my shower before bed each night – but then I have to fight my brothers for a chance at the hot water and towels.

There are too many things about life in a big family, too many even about this family in particular, for me to answer what it’s like to be part of it in just a few sentences of conversation. It has been a life, not merely an experience. But I still try to explain what it has been like.

There are not enough bathrooms. There never have been, but at least there are 2 now. Standing in line at the bathroom door warps all sense of time, proportion, common kindness, and etiquette. People have been known to accuse others of taking hours in the shower when it has been far closer to a quarter of an hour in reality. People have been known to knock, go to the other bathroom and knock there, then go back and knock on the first one again in case that might help. Some of our number have tried to cut in line and been forcibly removed or seriously chastened for their cheating. Brushing teeth is quite a community affair, since you are extremely selfish if you clean your pearly whites with the door shut all alone when 6 or 8 people can pass the toothpaste and coordinate movements around a sink and be so much more efficient.

There are so many dishes. You would not believe the heaps. A mother would never get them done if she didn’t have so many people to help clean them up. So maybe it evens out. Just don’t keep thinking or you might realize that if she didn’t have that many people to clean up after, she wouldn’t need that much help with the cleaning up. But then we would miss the crazy after-dinner mess that is Mom making coffee and a couple sisters clearing the table and someone rinsing the dirty dishes on the counter where Naomi is trying to mix up cookies; and Lydia is emptying the dishwasher of lunch dishes and reaching in front of whoever is at the wash sink to put the glasses away while Elsi is trying to sweep the floor for the night, and the damp towels, and the splashed water, and the bumps and dodges as you step back to make room for someone to pass and right into someone else working behind you, and the conversation that never stops and the collaborative love and labor that warms us all.

Sometimes we want to play Monopoly but there are too many people. But that just means we play Monopoly and Rummy and Battleship and War all at once, and what a din around the crowded dining table.

You are never in the house alone, which means you can usually find someone to do an activity with you or answer a question for you. This is why, sometimes, a little brother will come up with an extremely pitiable look on his face, stand there so quietly and then ask in the sweetest, pleading voice, “Will YOU play chess with me?” This also means you can never BE alone in the house, which can be another problem altogether (unless you go in the bathroom, lock the door, and ignore whatever knocks, shouts or desperate pleas you hear from the other side).

I didn’t grow up doing sleepovers with friends (though I seem to remember one of them). I don’t think I missed it, though, because I shared a room with enough friends already, and we could never go to sleep without sharing our lives (Bible readings and frustrations, uproarious laughter and books like A Damsel in Distress, thoughts on movies we’d just watched, and the talent and attractiveness [or lack of it] in the actors, and all kinds of stories).

We didn’t have to invite a bunch of friends over to play volleyball.

We didn’t always fit into our vehicles. Actually, that isn’t right; I mean we didn’t always have the correct number of seatbelts for the number of passengers. We used the CJ5 jeep until we fit a Chevy Blazer and had to upgrade to that, used the Blazer until we fit a 12-passenger van, and used *that* until we were just the right size for the 15-passenger van, which we stubbornly used even when (for a while) we could have used a couple more seats. But seatbelts can be shared, and policemen thankfully can’t always count heads as the cars pass on the street, and no one was ever injured or ticketed for the way we traveled around.

Eating meals out was a rarity with that many mouths to buy plates for. Such a rarity that was almost nonexistent. This meant that we thought stopping to get hamburgers on the way home from Spokane was quite the treat, and when we did, we made it a party that I’m sure the employees were quite astounded at.

We don’t draw names for Christmas shopping, which means there is quite a pile of gifts under our tree – or perhaps I should say around our tree, for they certainly don’t fit beneath the branches no matter how fat a tree we can find, and they have been known to pile up to a ridiculous height. Sometimes it is the better part of wisdom for 2 or 3 of us to partner up and buy gifts for the other 14 or 15 of us, and sometimes one ends up buying one gift for the older girls to share, one for the boys, and one for the little girls, but there is none of that nonsense of Which sibling am I actually going to give something to. Every one is a face and two hands at Christmas, and there is almost nothing better than watching the eyes of a little brother as you approach him with a wrapped box, and place it into hands that can’t wait to pull the paper away and drop the card and pull out what you chose for him because you know him.

It means a lot of gifts. It means a lot of birthday cakes around the year, including 5 in January alone. It means heaps of laundry and two baskets full of unmated socks. It means sharing chores, and laps, and time with parents, and so many good times. It means a lot of coordination, and budgeting, and loving one another in the day to day. Just like any family.

Seventeen is a big number. But we are not numbers from the inside of the family. That is why I don’t realize how shocking it is for people to meet us. And that is why I think of a family of 7 children, and a family of 9 children, and sometimes even families of 5 children, as ‘big families’ without a thought to the difference in headcount from my family. We number 17, and it is unusual, and it is amazing that our parents have done this with their lives; but we are actually just siblings and friends, like you and your brothers and sisters probably are. And the craziness is good, and the goodness is crazy. This is my family.

Friday, November 4, 2011

More N. D. Wilson

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


I grant that "train" may not be the best translation for the crucial verb in Prov. 22:6. May I suggest (dynamic equivalence) "baptize"?

The verb is hanak. It is the verb from which we get the derivative Hanukkah, which means dedication or consecration. It refers to inauguration or dedication, usually in a cultic setting. The dedication of Solomon's altar took seven days (2 Chron. 7:9). The temple of Ezra's day was consecrated in a similar way (Ezra 6:17). It can even be used of the dedication of private houses (Dt. 20:5). The rededication of the Temple in the Maccabean period gave that holiday the name used for it today.

So, admittedly, train is not the best translation, but a better translation hardly weakens the point I am seeking to make.

Test #2: 16th and 17th Centuries

I'm still lazy, and typing in the question is entirely too time consuming.

Jesse Broussard
English 341
Exam #2

1, 5). (Found in the Faith in Conflict section.) The Roman Catholic Church had actually redefined charity into the realm of works, largely based off of the passage in James (pure religion consists of helping the sick and needy, therefore, acts of charity equate to religion, etc). So charity had the connotation of being something that needed to be done, as opposed to the “purer” state of mind or heart, and when the Protestants were translating the Bible, they decided to jettison the connotation, and the denotation necessarily went with it.

As far as why the Authorized Version (King James) went with the translation “charity,” the consensus view is that it was due to the moderation of the English Protestantism—they weren’t trying to completely ditch anything that remotely connected to Catholicism, but did want a full break from it. There were tons of Catholics living in England, and the general view of King James was undoubtedly live and let live (especially considering his own rather loose interpretation of the mandates against homosexuality, etc), and, rather than have yet more persecution, the Protestant translators were apparently willing to allow some “compromise.”

Personally, I’m not entirely sure that it wasn’t (in part, at least) due to the somewhat odd (though incredibly brilliant and wholly foundational to our speaking of the English language through to the present day) adherence of Tyndale to the Hebrew, Greek and Vulgate texts. The Greek has αγαπη, στοργη, ερος, and φιλια (agape, storge, eros, philia). However, the Latin translation (from Jerome) of αγαπη is “caritas,” and Tyndale typically translated caritas as charity, probably due to the etymology of the word. Charity=charitas, so “charity” would almost certainly have been derived from the “caritas” of Jerome’s Biblia Sacra Vulgata.

2, 10). Christopher Marlowe, Faustus. This is the section when Faustus is deciding that he has mastered most everything that the natural world has to offer (logic/philosophy, medicine, law, and finally, divinity) and he is making the decision that the supernatural world is where his interest lies. This “weighing of the options” leads to him selling his soul and, due to his lack of repentance, being damned for all eternity. This is just after he has decided that divinity leads to a simple “Che sara, sara,” and to bid “Divinity, adieu!” So this power, like a carrot in front of a donkey (or at least an ass), is what convinces Faustus to abandon all that is good, and, in Marlowe’s brilliant turn of phrase, “Here Faustus, try thy brains to gain a deity.” This avarice and pride—that he wants power so desperately, and that he thinks divinity not out of reach—is what completes the foundation of his destruction.

3, 12). John Milton, Paradise Lost. This, one of my favorite passages in all of Milton, is his interpretation, even his imputation, of the actions and emotions of Satan. Here is brilliant, stubborn, impotent and arrogant rage revealed. This is the type of mind that would be a suicide bomber, or that would rig his home with explosives so that when he was killed he wouldn’t go alone. This is the defining mentality behind petty, vindictive evil, and when Milton attributes this to Satan, he determines the entirety of the events in the rest of his Paradise Lost. If Satan has adopted this type of mentality, this type, as Tolkien would say, of reckless hate, this desire to simply destroy and damage everything that he possibly could, then all of the evil in the world is easily explained. Yet, the complex genius of Milton does not simply write it all off on Satan, he goes further (Biblically) and attributes sin and death to mankind’s free will (see #6), though generously helped along by this implacable hatred of Satan, this desire to simply watch the world burn.

What fascinates me is that this would so often be a virtue, if applied in the right direction. Were it a navy seal being tortured, it would be noble, honourable and wholly praiseworthy. Were it shipwreck survivors, it would be necessary (minus the hate, perhaps). It is solely due to the object against which the struggle is aimed that the deplorable state of the struggle is due, and I think this is one of Milton’s points: water can never rise u than its source, and neither can actions rise higher than the motives that give them birth, and good virtues defending evil motives become themselves corrupted by the evil of their aim. And, carried further, the simple fact would be that, if you are mistaken, pray that you’re a total screw-up. After all, sighting in on the wrong person isn’t quite so bad if you can’t shoot worth an Oompa-Loompa's chances of riding the Zipper.

4, 7). Technically, it was probably Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, but all right, I’ll say Willem Shakespere’s King Lear. This is the great destructive decision of Lear, the decision that births all of the other evil that he experiences and that leads to his prompt and his daughter’s untimely death (heh—not a comedy). He decides that he wants all of the benefits of being a king with none of the responsibilities. He decides to take a vacation, an early retirement, and to lazily enjoy his wealth and privilege while leaving the running of his kingdom to his children. But, as Cordelia could not “heave her heart into her throat,” he leaves the running of his kingdom to the two daughters (though technically to their husbands) that are power-hungry and grasping little hags, the two daughters that turn him from their homes (or set such stipulations for accepting him in that they know he could not accept) and end up killing each other/themselves.

Had he not attempted to retain “the name and all the additions to a king,” it is wholly possible that it would not have ended so badly. Had he been willing to lose all: both the kingship and the status of being a king, his grasping daughters probably would have just killed themselves off, and not cost him his life. Had he not surrendered anything, he would have died old and (relatively) happy, and WS would be a lot more boring.

5, 6). Another of Milton’s from Paradise Lost. Here, we are presented with an unusual view of God, in which God is sovereign and omniscient, but also somewhat of an angsty God. I have to say that it’s a greatly refreshing change from our typical castrated hippie-on-pot effeminate “can’t we all just get along?” god, but it’s still quite interesting on the momentary tangent that I’m taking, chasing the rabbit down the hole. As your sign outside your office says, and I think it’s from Lewis’ introduction to Athanasius’ On the Incarnation, reading old books is quite beneficial, not because dead authors weren’t ever wrong, but because they were wrong in different ways than we would tend to be wrong, and having the sharp wind of the ages blasting through our own minds is an excellent way to clear out the dust that our own age wouldn’t ever notice. Here we are presented with a very different view of God than we typically assume. Our modern age Christians seem to view God as primarily nice, and niceness is of course the chief end of all things (therefore we can tolerate everything but intolerance, which is just downright—dare we say it?—not nice), which irritates me to no end, while Milton has no problem offering God a spine and a touch of a temper toward us ingrates.

But leaving that alone and returning to the actual question, this is the section where God foretells what man will do. Man will listen to Satan; disobey God and fall from grace, even though God gave him everything he needs to stand. This is the central fact of the poem: man was able to stand: he had all that he needed in order to remain righteous, but he was also able to fall, and did, and had to be restored by God. Here is how Paradise could be lost or secured, and from the outset, God knew that it would be lost, yet He allows it to happen, and this is the chief tension of the poem, and of life in general. God entrusted the world to man knowing that we would break it and ourselves, so that He could heal it and us, hence the title of the second half of the poem.

6, 9). This section of John Donne’s 19th Elegy (To His Mistress Going to Bed) is a quite delightful section of one of his most explicitly bad (as in misbehaving, not poorly written) poems. He refers to her as his America, his newly discovered land, his unexplored, untamed land. He also refers to her as his kingdom, and says she’s best when by one man manned (a fancy way of saying he preferred that she not spread it around), his mine of precious stones, and his empire. His overall theme in this is that she is first, foremost and solely his: “How blest am I in this discovering thee!” If she’s America, it’s because he’s discovered her, and she is virgin territory. She is land that belongs to him, she is a mine of wealth that he owns, she is a kingdom that he alone rules, she is wholly his, and it is in this, in this belonging to him that she is all of these things. Were she not his, or even not solely his, she would be none of these things to him. Her value to him is derived from the exclusivity of their relationship. She isn’t England, that everyone lives in, but America, and he has just discovered her. She is a mine that he alone delves, an empire etc.

I would just like to point out that this poem has probably the most inappropriate line in all of Donne’s poetry: “Those set our hairs, but these our flesh upright.”

7, 3). These words were spoken by Charles the First, shortly before his execution, are recorded in The Moderate, Number 28, and they really do strike at the heart of the issue of putting a king (especially your own) on trial. It comes down entirely to authority: does the king rule autonomously, or by the permission of an assembly of his subjects? I still think that the execution of King Charles the First was nothing short of a judicial murder, and I think that because his question could not be satisfactorily answered. He was the highest court of appeal in England, until a jury of his subjects had him killed. Worse still, they didn’t have him killed because of some great crime that he committed, but because of the necessary symbolism of the act: if the king could be tried, found guilty and executed, then he was ruler not by divine right, but by permission of the people. If the people could kill him, then he obviously ruled to serve the people, and if he performed his duty unsatisfactorily, he could be held to account. If his subjects had the authority to bring him to trial—an authority that, in this instance, they seized without lawful precedent—then the king’s question could have been answered. But they did not have that authority, unless we are simply going by a “might makes right” system of ethics, in which case nothing that ever happened was wrong.

Rather ironically, it is solely due to the fact that the king was being executed that I even have the texts with which to judge the executors as mistaken, as the king would most likely have suppressed or edited the story, had it had a different outcome. As it is, it placed the people of this time and the following times in a position of authority even over the king, until the royal family is now no more than a figurehead, a symbol of a decayed, outmoded and wholly obsolete monarchy, an obviated reliquary of an almost forgotten time. And the unlawful execution of Charles the First was, if not the beginning of this trend—that could be traced back to the Magna Carta—at least the great cresting of the first wave of this incoming tide of egalitarianism.

8, 13). This delightful text, that all twelve year old boys delight in reading to their parents over the dinner table (“but mom, it’s literature…”) was written by the exquisite Edmund Spenser in Book the First of his Faerie Queene, his attempt to copy Dante by writing an epic in the Lingua Franca of his people.

The difficulty with this text, other than the obvious problems that the more squeamish might have with the image so skillfully conjured, is interpreting exactly what Spencer meant. After all, we could easily interpret every single monster in The Faerie Queene as the Roman Catholic Church, but is that his meaning? He names this, the first monster, Errour (in my opinion, out of sympathy for struggling college students), so if we take his interpretation, we can’t narrowly interpret this as the Roman Catholic Church, but it is responsible exegesis, not extravagant isogesis, to read it thus: the Roman Church is full of error, and it is with this that it will assault you. Hence, the books and papers in her vomit (which Norton reminds us may be Catholic propaganda against the Faerie Queene herself, Queen Elizabeth). This would also be supported by the description of the monster: half holds the semblance of a woman, as the bride of Christ (the Church), but half is a serpent, as the enemy of Christ in particular and mankind as a whole (“you shall bruise his heel, but he shall bruise your head…”). Finally, if we do accept this as the Protestant Spencer’s description of the Roman Church, we find that he is accusing them (most likely) of witchcraft (Macbeth’s double, double, toil and trouble / fire burn and cauldron bubble makes much of frogs and toads, and his contemporary Spencer would have used the same imagery for the same purpose), as well as “great lumpes of flesh and gobbets raw,” which (as we mentioned in class) could be alluding to the Catholic Eucharist, or, as I would tend to lean, to the Protestant martyrs, those the Roman Church had “consumed.”

In fact, when we consider them, other explanations simply don’t cover the facts. Personal error doesn’t account for the shape of the monster; nothing but error accounts for the name of the monster, and only the Roman Church accounts for both name and shape. The significance of this is that it is the first monster that Redcrosse Knight encounters and defeats: therefore, in Spencer’s mind, when one is courting Truth (Una), the first step is to destroy the error of the Roman Church (and get thee Protestant). The rest of the poem follows suit, and in just as detailed a fashion.

Test #1, Middle Ages

I'm afraid I don't feel like typing in the questions, but here are the answers to the things you didn't know that you didn't know (unless you knew the latter, in which case the former doesn't apply, whereas if you knew the former, the latter remains valid).

Enjoy (or suffer, just as you please).

J. A. Broussard
English 341, Exam #1: Middle Ages
V. Arthur

1). Four: Latin, French (technically often called Anglo-Norman), Celtic languages (Cymraeg, Gaeilge, etc), and English.

Short Answer

12). This one first, as I’m afraid that there’s a typo: line three should read “great mead-hall,” not “great mean-hall” (my spell-checker hates it too). It is of course Beowulf, and is the old section of Beowulf. I subscribe to the belief that there are two separate authors of Beowulf: the old oral tradition complete with Beowulf killing Grendelet mater familias, and the more recent section of Beowulf ruling his kingdom and killing a dragon, which was most likely composed as an elegy upon the death of a king. This sample is speaking of Hrothgar as he is deciding to build Heorot, which is later besieged by Grendel, who likes his Dane snacks raw.
Heorot itself is significant in part due to the high demands of hospitality of the time. Due to the fact that Napoleon Buonaparte moved his army in roughly the same manner and speed that Αλεχανδρος Μαγνος of Macedon did 2,000 years earlier, anyone traveling between the two would need to stop frequently, and a “castle” of the type of Heorot, complete with gallons of mead, all the fresh meat you could want and a king with a reputation as a generous “ring-giver” would be viewed by ancient travelers the way my father-in-law views any Best Western with an Olive Garden across the street: life’s too short for bad motels and cheap food. This in turn would cause his own fame to spread even farther and wider than it already was, which would be a huge boon to him, for what king doesn’t like to be revered? And what great king doesn’t hope to go down in history?

8). To follow suit, I shall continue with the much maligned Bear (Beo=bee and Wulf=hunter, therefore the delightful kenning “Beowulf” is a way of saying “Bear,” which seems peculiarly apt for a man with the strength of twenty men in each hand). This passage is describing the demon-spawn Grendel, who not only kills the Danes, which is bad enough, but can’t be got at to pay for them, which is simply intolerable. It reminds me of the Far Side where the indignant parents are saying to the witch “Let me get this straight: we hired you to babysit our children for the night, and you cooked and ate both of them?”
One of the big issues with Grendel is that he refused to pay the blood-price for the people that he ate (though we don’t really have the impression that he was asked; those that could speak to him typically had other things on their mind. Like his teeth.). In this culture, unexpected death was more prevalent and long life more uncertain than today, so if a man was killed by accident or intent, the killer could be held liable for the “blood-price” of the victim, money to be paid to the family, typically collected by those responsible for them. In this case, the responsible person would often be Hrothgar, so his inability to collect the blood-price from Grendel was a great dishonor to him.

5). This is a quote from Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, in which Gawain is put into a rather awkward position. He is commanded to stay at home by his host, and then the host goes hunting while his wife attempts to seduce Gawain. Gawain gets to try not to offend her while also attempting not to end up sleeping with her, the latter of obviously greater import than the former. His courtesy is a mark of his great worth as a knight, and his ability to avoid either being rude to or sleeping with the naked chick that keeps climbing into bed with him is quite impressive.

10). Another from the unknown genius behind Gawain, this time describing the five-pointed star on the shield of Gawain. It is described both as a Celtic knot and as a memorial of the golden age of Israel under Solomon, both a Christ figure and the wisest king ever to have lived. This link between ancient Judaism and “modern” Christianity is quite interesting: the Christian theologians from Paul through the present maintain that Christianity is the fulfillment of the Old Testament’s faithful Judaism, while the Jews maintain (from AD 70 and particularly AD 94) that the Christian goyim (גימ) are wholly separate from them and especially accursed due to their inactivity during the Roman destruction of Jerusalem and the Herodian temple (often considered to be one of the seven wonders of the ancient world).
The five points represent a number of things, including two lists straight out of the Roman Catholic Church. This further demonstrates the thorough Christianity/Catholicism of the Medieval British world.

2). This selection and selection 15 are both from Malory’s MorteDarthur, which was a compilation of various stories of (usually) unknown authorship. This is one of our only sections in prose, due to the earlier works having to have been memorized. This also contributes greatly to the more minute focus in particular of the metaphysical poets over and against the great epic scope of the previous poets: when precision is possible, spending two hours debating which word to use is justifiable, but when the next Philistine to get his grubby hands on your work is just going to forget or change it, the exact sound isn’t quite so essential.
This is rather a tragic statement of Arthur’s. He is fully correct in realizing that, while his Guinevere was “expendable” to his court and way of life, Lancelot (and the many knights that went with him) was not. He is not saying that his wife is useless in comparison or anything like that; he is recognizing the death of a golden era, and the future proves him horrifically correct.

6). When dealing with this translation of Geoffrey Chaucer, I think it best to start by interpreting. So here’s a new translation (rough and neither versified or metered):

Nevertheless, while I have time and space,
Before I go any further with my story,
I think it would be good to talk,
And tell you all the circumstances
Of each of the people (or at least how they appeared):
Which ones, what rank
And what kind of order,
And with a knight will I begin.

I’m also not entirely sure how to explain the significance of this to the rest of the text. Chaucer is simply explaining what he’s going to do before he does it. So, it does inform us that there’s an omniscient narrator, but that’s no surprise. Further yet, I’m not entirely certain why Chaucer started with the knight, though, as all of this is speculation anyway, I would guess that it’s due to his massive genius when it came to human psychology. He was writing when the knight was already a type that was becoming obsolete: the cities and the merchant classes that arose in them were undermining the feudal order. The increased population increased the possibility of travel and trade, and for the first time, people had a real chance to actually improve their own lot in life, to grab their bootstraps and pull hard. So as the knights were fading, the idealism about them was arising, and thus Chaucer begins with them, as Cooper began with the frontier and good old Louis began with the Wild West: the reality had just passed, and therefore it must have been better than what we have now.

13). Everyman, the earliest extant copy of which dates to 1530, has delightful lines and is about as subtle and covert as a Mormon missionary (it’s the nametags and backpacks that give them away). It’s about you (hence the title). It’s about the future. It’s like a (far superior) precursor to Heaven’s Gates, Hell’s Flames, and the fact that it’s actually effective is enough to drive even a Christian hedonist such as myself to nihilism.
In it, each thing in life is stripped of all possible worth and revealed to be hollow and worthless in the light of eternity. Which is a valuable lesson, yes, and is something that our filthy rich American drama queen generation could stand to learn a bit more thoroughly than we have as of yet, yes. I know. But life is good, meat is tasty, and mud between the toes is a perfect refutation of any Gnostic asceticism that I’ve yet found.
Anyway, this is worldly goods announcing that they tend to destroy men’s souls; that men belong to them and not the other way around. Men are transitory, but the wealth goes on unchanged; wealth is the redwood tree in the forest, and the men that “possess” it are nothing more than a slight flavor on the air. If goods save one man, they destroy a thousand, and we can’t take them with us.

7). This, the first line of The Wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale, is presented by our Norton Anthology as a pro-feminist line, immediately after it presents Chaucer, the author of the line, as a product of his misogynistic culture. Which I, at least, find entertaining. But I don’t typically look too deeply for meanings in things like this: when Mark Twain says he doesn’t want any of that nonsense about the Mississippi representing life, I tend to take it at face value, regardless of what modern interpreters have done to “correct” his meaning. Today’s critics and translators seem to be afflicted with some type of chronological snobbery and spend half their time “improving” works that they can’t even understand. And I won’t even start on filmmakers.
I think this is quite as simple as it sounds: even if there were no authority in this world, this woman’s experience gives her the right to speak of marriage. The passage that follows is highly ironic, quite cynical, and contains a wry wisdom that Chaucer gives to this foolish woman, allowing her to both confirm and satirize her judges. Personally, I think he kinda liked her. In any case, he was probably closer to Donne in his fondness for the ladies than we tend to think of him, and Donne seems to have inherited some of his wry cynicism that is delivered with either entirely too much asperity or (at times) overt joviality to be easily mistaken for a mordant bitterness.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Left-Handed Sons of the Right Hand

Benjamin (בִּנְיָמִון) was originally named Ben-Oni (בֶּן־אוֹנִי). Rachel died giving birth, and named him "Son of My Sorrow," but his father preferred "Son of the Right Hand." This signifies a position of favour and authority, which we find to be the case when his father refuses to let him go to Egypt with his brothers, and we all know the story. What is interesting to me is that the only times I can think of in all of Scripture that a man is mentioned as being right or left handed (Ehud in Judges 3:15 and the slingers of Judges 20 and 1 Chronicles 12:2), he is a left handed "son of the right hand."

In the book of Judges, Israel's rise to power in the Middle East is being traced. They begin faithfully and obediently, and serve God all the time of Joshua's life (110 years, one ten less than Moses' 120, which is the perfect government of ten twelves). They rebel, and are delivered into the hand of "Chushan-rishathayim," literally "Kuwshan of double-wickedness" for eight years, and from whom they are saved by Othni-el the "force of God," son of "the hunter," nephew of Caleb. Now we hit verse twelve of chapter three, and it gets interesting. God strengthens the Calf (Eglon), king of "her father" (Mo-ab) against Israel, who collects Lot and Esau and takes the "erect" city, the city of the palm trees; then the Israelites return to Egypt in all but geography, becoming slaves to their gods. But upon their repentance, God raises up Unity (Ehud), the left handed son of the right hand to kill Eglon and deliver Israel after three sets of six years: three weeks of years with no Sabbaths (Jordan stretched you a little, but I shall stretch you much...).

So, here is my theory.

The right hand is a place of honour. But Israel throughout the book of Judges is dishonourable: they rebel time after time, and the book is a chiasm with the theme of left-handedness being one of the first bookends (chapter three, immediately after the introduction, and chapter 20, immediately before the conclusion; in each case, Judah goes up first, in each case Israel is unified: Ehud means unity, and many more similarities). Now this is in itself significant, but it's made far more so by the fact that Hebrew has no word for left-handed. The Hebrew actually reads that Ehud was a man whose "right hand was bound" (הַיְמִינִ֔י אִ֥ישׁ אִטֵּ֖ר יַד־ יְמִינֹ֑ו) and the seven hundred slingers were "men of bound right hands." So in Judges, Israel's honour is bound: they are rebellious and dishonourable. But then they unify against this dishonour and destroy it in submission to God.

But right after this (chronologically), they again rebel: they have been dishonoured among the surrounding nations because of rebellion, and only freed by God's mercy through judges. But now they want to be just like the surrounding nations, not a lesser nation to be conquered and re-conquered. So they are given a king of the left hand, whose dishonour shapes the noblest king of Israel, whose dynasty takes Israel from her dishonour into her greatest glory.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

All Right, I'll Tell You

The Dragon's Tooth (Ashtown Burials, #1)The Dragon's Tooth by N.D. Wilson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

All I've got to say is that I've got quite decent taste.

I was actually kind of nervous going into this one. I'd really liked Leepike, loved 100 Cupboards more with every book and every reading, and was afraid that this one would be a letdown. After all, I love Hylfing. Mordecai and Caleb are awe-inspiring, and Henry and Zeke are the kind of laid back friends that are extremely hard to find in books. And I, unfortunately, have a great fear that Richard had some of his roots in me. But hey, second base isn't all bad.

So, I started this one slowly. And then I finished it fast. It feels weightier, more ponderous, and more ambitious than the Cupboards series with its references to everything from Gilgamesh through Earhart, and the way that it links them is probably going to inspire exultant cries of "I knew it!" from thirty-five year old conspiracy theorists that will be loud enough to wake their sleeping mothers, and will make several Harrell's excessively happy. The number of characters surprised me, but it is a five book series, and I expect to meet them all again in the entirely too distant future. An easy five-star book, and with the number of worlds that this one opened to me, I've got to say that N. D. Wilson's Chestertonian imagination has left the bay and is probably happily frolicking somewhere in the North Atlantic, miles from the nearest land. And that makes the Jesse happy.

"One of them was a people. He smelled like a people, looked like a people, and moved like a people." When does book two come out?

View all my reviews

Thursday, August 25, 2011

That There Stairway Gets Y'all to Heaven

Just a delightful foray into bluegrass. I especially love the comment "If you play this backwards, the Devil challenges you to a fiddle contest."

Jesse Broussard

And I'm Halfway Done...

Aug 23, 2011 (2 days ago)
With Seussian Pom Poms on their Heads
from Blog and Mablog by (Douglas Wilson)
2 people liked this - you, and 1 more
The Dragon's Tooth releases today, so hotfoot it on down there. You don't want the line forming ahead of you.

There are two things I want to write about here. The first is the world that this new Ashtown series is set in, and the second is the world that we are in.

Cyrus and Antigone Smith live in a rundown roadside motel just west of Lake Michigan with their older brother Daniel. Their mother is nearby in a coma, and they visit her regularly. Their father has been dead for a few years. Now if you define spoilers as bits of information that you would not find out until chapter two or three, this might be a good time to stop reading. But if not, then carry on. It turns out their parents had a tenuous relationship with a really odd secret society, the Order of Brendan.

But this ancient order appears to be dedicated more to exploration and the collection of oddments than anything else. Think of a National Geographic society with paranormal powers, and a list of organization officers going back to the exploro-monk, Brendan. At the same time, their presence has contributed greatly to the twists and turns of our civilization, in ways you will discover soon enough. It turns out that a lot of disconnected and episodic battles in our history were actually parts of one, long running battle. But you can read about all that later. This book is releasing today, and Nate is virtually done with the manuscript of the second book, a manuscript which has the older cousins all agog, not to mention their parents and grandparents.

In the Cupboards trilogy, Nate successfully created scores of worlds, all connected by the motherboard of a wall full of cupboards. The protagonists were in and out of these worlds, not to mention being in and out of our own. In the new world of this new Ashtown series, the fantastic world is in effect an overlay of our own, with constant and ongoing interaction.

And this brings me to the second point, what I would describe as the central theme of all Nate's writing. His is an essentially Chestertonian vision. In a recent interview, he says that his point is to show that the world is "exactly as it seems." Lest we then nod and go back to sleep, the point is that we live in an actual world that is beyond bizzaro. To follow BBC cameramen in search of insects is to descend into the world of Dr. Seuss. If you don't think there really are creatures with Seussian pom-poms on their heads, then you obviously need to get out more. If you have the right kind of eyes, you can see it all, right here on Mulberry Street.

Chesterton put it this way. Our Father is younger than we; we have sinned and grown old. We constantly need to be brought up short. We need to be recalibrated. We need to look at the world with refreshed eyes. So the point of the right kind of fantasy -- which is what these books most certainly are -- is not to tell lies about the world. The point is confront the ever present Doldrum Lie.

The Cupboards series was a triology. This Ashtown series is planned to cover five volumes, and the journey starts today.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

"One, Two, Five!" "Three, M'Lord." "Three!"

Five Cities that Ruled the World: How  Jerusalem, Athens, Rome, London, and New York Shaped Global HistoryFive Cities that Ruled the World: How Jerusalem, Athens, Rome, London, and New York Shaped Global History by Douglas Wilson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was just jolly fun (fun comes from the Anglo-Saxon, enjoyable probably from Latin, which I know thanks to this book). It takes Jerusalem, Athens, Rome, London and New York and traces the impact that they've had (and are having) upon the world. I was actually quite surprised to find that London and New York (but especially London) were my favorite chapters. I'm typically an ancient history kind of guy, with the cynical and un-Chestertonian theory that anything not here now must have been more interesting than all the stuff that is here now (but I'm getting better). However, the glance through the Puritans, the founding of baseball, the constant fires, et al, was just delightful.

A few of the more priceless snippets:

(On the subject of the ten-year or fewer exile imposed by Athens on various citizens) "When we think of such a brutal custom, and we look at the range of prominent persons in our day who could perhaps benefit from this process, it fills us with a strange combination of civilized disapproval and pagan wistfulness."

"A leading figure in this philhellene movement was George Noel Gordon--the poet Lord Byron. When he came of age, he began leading a seriously dissipated life. This lifestyle had a number of results, but one of them was to create a deep desire to do something worthwhile."

"Abraham Lincoln's great phrase 'of the people, by the people, and for the people' is actually from Wycliffe."

"Those who believe that God predetermines everything are the most likely to think that the king or Congress doesn't predestine anything."

"This is not to say that the war (of American independence) was over purely religious issues. It is to say that religion in that day was understood in such a way as to permeate all issues much more completely."

"One of the comforting things is that in the long run, stupidity doesn't work."

And these are just his. Wilson has so prodigious a knowledge of random sayings and quotations from everyone, Ambrose Bierce to Robert E. Lee, Winston Churchill to Hannibal Barca, that you can count on getting dozens of great little sayings with which you may first impress your enemies, then bore your friends until they also are enemies that you may impress. Unless your friends are like me, in which case they'll listen with rapt attention, copying down the quotes that they might steal them at a later date.

So this book was solidly between a four and a five star read, what with the origins of baseball, the delights of long quotes of Milton, several of Churchill's juicier tidbits, and so, so, ever so much more. Reading this book solely for information would be like attending church for the central heating. It is a delight, and I highly recommend it.

Jesse Broussard

View all my reviews

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Not the Cannibal

History of Hannibal (Makers of History Series)History of Hannibal by Jacob Abbott

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Well, this was actually quite disappointing. I probably went into this book with the wrong expectations, but I think I was justified in those expectations, and they were not even approached.

Hannibal Barca, son of Hamilcar Barca, was a Carthaginian general of such brilliance that he is comparable to Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, Pyrrhus of Epirus and Scipio Africanus (who became great studying Hannibal, and finally defeated him). Virtually every family in Rome lost a family member due to Hannibal in the fifteen years he spent occupying Italy like the Black Death, and had the Carthaginians supplied him with siege weapons (as he repeatedly requested), it is entirely possible (dare I say probable?) that he would have taken Rome itself. After all, he never lost a battle to the Romans in fifteen years of fighting them, and he was outnumbered in (almost?) every one of their conflicts.

I was hoping for rundowns of his battles, his military strategy, his greatest victories and how they were achieved, armor and battle array, especially of Cannae: where Barca was outnumbered something like two to one, and yet it was the greatest defeat ever suffered by the Romans, who lost over 25% of their governing body in a matter of hours, and Cannae to this day is one of the bloodiest battles in human history. And I wanted to know exactly how the great Hannibal Barca, with all his elephants and heavy cavalry, was finally brought to bay by Scipio Africanus, and I didn't get a bit of it. Well, a bit. But it was preachy. "War is bad." Yeah, I know, but this guy was really good at it. That's what I was interested in.

To give a quick example: the fifteen years that he spent in Italy ravaging the countryside and decimating every single military force that the Romans could raise against him? It's mentioned in a phrase: it doesn't even earn a full sentence, just a phrase. We get a bit of depth in a couple of battles, but no detail of strategy: we are told that people hacked each other to pieces for hours, and then this side won. We are told that Hannibal was cunning, and we're given a couple of political strategies that he employed to great effect. Political strategies? The man successfully won battles (rather incessantly) for fifteen years, and to demonstrate his cunning, Abbott resorts to his politics? We're told that he was ruthless, and we're given no examples. Not a one. We are given multiple (often accidental) examples of his generosity, and we are assured that it must have served a political purpose; see the aforementioned (still undemonstrated) ruthlessness. Superstitions of the time are mocked, and a modern materialistic view of the world is superimposed upon the ancients, and even some of the more probable events of the time are questioned as being highly suspect.

Basically, I felt like Abbott had some deep-seated personal grudge against Hannibal, and wrote this biography as a chance to lambast him. "Every great man nowadays has his disciples, and it is always Judas who writes the biography." Well, Hannibal Barca was not recent, but this seems to apply quite aptly. So, I've got to say that this was an extremely poor biography of Hannibal if you're looking for any military strategy at all. But it was fully accurate (from a modern's point of view) on all it touched.

One conversation that was related, which was for me the high point of the book (and by the time it was related I would have put money down that it wouldn't have been) was between Hannibal and Scipio, long after their battle against each other (where Hannibal was destroyed by the great Scipio Africanus). In the conversation, military strategy naturally came up, and Scipio asked Hannibal who he considered to be the greatest military genius (clearly angling for a compliment, possibly for a well-deserved compliment). Hannibal responded that Alexander the Great was. Not pleased, but probably not surprised, Scipio asked who the second was. Hannibal responded with Pyrrhus of Epirus, due to his ability to make his soldiers and the inhabitants of conquered lands love him. Scipio then asked who was third, and Hannibal said something along the lines of, "well, that would be me." Deeply offended, Scipio sarcastically asked how Hannibal would have ranked himself if he had managed to defeat the lowly Scipio Africanus. Hannibal then responded, rather surprised, with one of my favorite answers of all time: that had he beat Scipio, he would have had no choice, but would have been by honesty compelled to place himself above even Alexander the Great of Macedon as the greatest military genius of all time.

View all my reviews

Friday, August 5, 2011

Ashtown Burials

This is a trailer for N. D. Wilson's next book, starring the Super 8 star Joel Courtney.


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

And I the Lord Have Not Done it?

Death in the CityDeath in the City by Francis A. Schaeffer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My favorite section in this book was a single throwaway paragraph in which he commented on Cantica Canticorum, the Song of Songs. Overall I was surprised with how readable he is: I was expecting more of an erudite, even an elitist tone, but he would have been perfectly intelligible to anyone. He speaks from a tremendous compassion, and there is in him a humility so vast that you almost don't recognize the depth of genius behind it. Almost. Yet for all of this, he has a simple, stark, prophetic view of our culture and its relation to God that is on the knife edge of desolation.

He would have been an astonishing man to know: to see so great a genius bent in such humility, in such tenderness lowered down to the most shattered of the lives God made. This was not a man who wrote from his ivory tower, but from the filthy, smoldering ruin; his arms bloody to the shoulders. "The hippies also speak of love, but they have made Haight-Ashbury a desert," and "Orthodoxy without compassion stinks to God."

As this is the first Schaeffer that I've read, I can't say with certainty, but I would guess this to be a decent introduction. It's comprised of lectures, and while it isn't Augustin's Confessions, it isn't like wading through deep mud either. I did very much like it, and am greatly looking forward to the next time I lift him off my shelf.

"How can we speak of judgment and yet not stand like the weeping prophet with tears?"

View all my reviews

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Why Do the Heathen Nations Rage?

The Rage Against God: How Atheism Led Me to FaithThe Rage Against God: How Atheism Led Me to Faith by Peter Hitchens

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Peter Hitchens can write. His prose in this autobiographical journey from atheism to faith is at times elegant, precise, poignant, poetic, mystical and melancholy, and is almost universally exquisite. This book was like candy. Yes, "Anything worth doing is worth doing badly," but it's so refreshing to encounter someone that does it well. Here are a few samples of what I mean.

"It is my belief that passions as strong as his are more likely to be countered by the unexpected force of poetry, which can ambush the human heart at any time."

"It was illustrated with soppy pictures of Christ looking--in C. S. Lewis's potent sneer at stained-glass sentimentality--"like a consumptive girl."

"Unlike Christians, atheists have a high opinion of their own virtue."

"There were other things too. During a short spell at a cathedral choir school (not as a choirboy, since I sing like a donkey) I had experienced the intense beauty of the ancient Anglican chants, spiraling up into chilly stone vaults at Evensong... The prehistoric, mysterious poetry of the Magnificat and the Nunc Dimittis, perhaps a melancholy evening hymn, and the cold, ancient laments and curses of the Psalms, as the unique slow dusk of England gathers outside and inside the echoing, haunted, impossibly old building are extraordinarily potent. If you welcome them, they have an astonishing power to reassure and comfort. If you suspect or mistrust them, they will alarm and repel you like a strong and unwanted magic, something to flee from before it takes hold."

"My own confirmation, by contrast, was a miserable modern-language affair with all the poetic force of a driving test..."

"Utopia can only ever be reached across a sea of blood."

"The delusion of revolutionary progress, and the ruthlessness it justifies, survives any amount of experience."

So yeah, I was fond of this book. But more than just his voice when writing, his organization and progression through his experience and his understanding of the surrounding events is clear and extremely insightful. It is, in a word, a delightful book: it is not often that a book on this type of topic this feels more like a reward than a duty, but this is that rare one, and I highly recommend it.

View all my reviews

Smart Cat Says Dumb

Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory SchoolingDumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling by John Taylor Gatto

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is definitely a 3.4 star book. A very quick read: I finished it in a good bit less than an hour of actual reading, and it's easily worth ten times that. It is tremendously subversive, and in a very wholesome way.

The author, John Taylor Gatto, is a fairly big deal in the NY state school system--Teacher of the Year and all that jazz--and his thesis is that our school system actually hinders learning. One of the analogies that he uses is the difference between a painter and a sculptor: a painter puts something on a canvas, and we view education this way. A sculptor takes away the obstacles, as Michaelangelo reputedly said, a sculptor "liberates" what is within the stone, and this is how we should view education. A teacher's job is not to fill the student's head with facts, but rather to facilitate their desire and ability to learn.

Which, to a great extent is true. And he goes back further than this; he goes back to the seven things that all teachers teach children and what the ramifications of these things are, and he carries it out further than this; he carries it out to what needs to happen to actually change the school system as it is. And this is why it is closer to three stars than to four in my mind: while it is extremely insightful and absolutely essential for anyone interested in education to, at the very least, encounter, it is operating within the framework of the public school system.

And he understands this system: he goes back to Horace Mann and he truly and profoundly knows what he's dealing with, but he thinks it can be saved, while I think it's invention was a catastrophic event the likes of which the American world will never see again. It is the single damning weakness of our nation: it has created a generational gap, ripping (indeed, aborting, as it were) the children from the wombs of their parents long before they were ready to be on their own, thus depriving them of all of the wisdom and truth that their parents possessed. And to fill the void that is created? What is it that replaces the discipline and culture of a family? A lowest common denominator cookie-cutter classroom run by teachers that typically look at our children as the one thing standing between them and a couple stiff martinis (you know the ones I mean, straight out of a Pink Floyd song). So we foster this mental infanticide, and the most influential thing that many a mother will ever say to her son is "I'll see you after school, honey," and all of this simply because we live within the failed experiment and view it as the natural state of affairs.

But in any case, Gatto sees the failure of the system in a way that very few people do. This book is a necessary read to understand how the government schools fail our children.

View all my reviews

Thanks to the Valkyrie

Jane AustenJane Austen by Peter J. Leithart

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was fascinating, and in some ways kind of an exposé. I'm actually quite delighted by the fact that the far-inferior Bronte's really didn't like Austen at all. Especially as I know several people that always mix up who wrote what, which is simply inconceivable to me. It's like asking who wrote King Lear: Edward de Vere as Shakespeare or Stephanie Meyer.

What I chiefly had not known was the depth of her religious conviction. If you read the books, you get glimpses of it. Very little of that survives the screenwriters (if any), and it's typically forgotten. But this is a woman whose last words were "God grant me patience. Pray for me, oh pray for me."

She was delightful, flippant, lively, witty and at times downright savage in her prose. Consider a few examples. When a woman gave birth, or 'was brought to bed' untimely due to a fright, Austen speculated "I suppose she happened unawares to look at her husband." Or in a letter to her sister, she commented "Expect a most agreeable Letter for not being overburdened with subject--(having nothing at all to say)--I shall have no check to my Genius from beginning to end." In what ended up being one of my favorite sections of Leithart's book, he quotes her as having said that she (and I quote): "attended the theater to see Don Juan, 'whom we left in Hell at 1/2 past 11.' One home was full of 'modern Elegancies,' but lacked an air of seriousness: 'if it had not been for some naked Cupids over the Mantlepiece, which must be a fine study for Girls, one should never have Smelt Instruction.' "

Not exactly the Austen that most people describe: far more vivacious, far less Victorian prudishness, let alone Edwardian weirdness that has been attributed to her as of late. She was a good deal more like Eliza Bennett than we typically seem to think, delighted and amused by the folly of others, and not the first person you'd want to cross swords with in the dinner-time chatter.

So this was a great book, an especially fine read after just going through her novels. Also, I was called in to arbitrate as to which was better: Persuasion or Northanger Abbey. In an attempt to avoid being slain by a very diminutive, Chesterton loving girl, I shall gladly (and nervously) say that Persuasion is Austen's finest serious novel, but of all her books (which is to say, of all her heroines), the one I'll return to most often out of a simple, childlike affection will be the lovely Catherine Morland in Northanger Abbey.

View all my reviews

Friday, July 29, 2011

My New Diet

I'm now adopting a strict diet--a very strict diet in fact. I'm limiting myself to food. Here's how.


From Wilson (the older than two generations below him and younger than one above): "And as for a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution? Ah, t'would be glory. To borrow a line from somebody (I forget who), once the debate started, we would have the special treat of watching all the big spenders of Congress standing in front of microphones, cameras rolling, and all of them sweating like Mike Tyson at a spelling bee. After that, the Lord could take me home anytime. I will have lived a full life."

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Bunter the Beloved

Whose Body? by Dorothy L. SayersWhose Body? by Dorothy L. Sayers by Dorothy L. Sayers

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Well this was a jolly little romp. A great deal of Bunter, which always makes me happy, and Wimsey got a nice Folio Dante, which makes me jealous. All in all a rather typical (and therefore pleasant) little mystery by Sayers. Great fun.

View all my reviews

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The George Shall Smile

Wicked BugsWicked Bugs by Amy Stewart

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I feel like the wine taster at the wedding in Cana: the best was saved for last. The best, in this case, being zombie bugs, bugs that take over an unwilling host (such as a cockroach, grasshopper, snail, etc) and use it for their own nefarious purposes, such as turning its antennae iridescent colours and waving them around to attract the nearby Nazgul, or perhaps causing grasshoppers, drunk with vino del mar, to fall violently in love with a particular passing fish. Alas, leaping to the water like Jean Valjean does not preserve them from perishing in it like Agamemmnon: they can't swim, and die in a bliss of ardent, wet-gilled fervour, doubtlessly delivering poignant love poems with their last breaths. Of particular warm and fuzzy feelings for me, who have peeled back ceilings and watched them scurry away, opened ovens to the sight of cockroaches two inches deep, and found the scientific way (trial and error) that a roach's head is entirely unnecessary to the survival of the rest of the roach (for a few days, anyway: plenty of time to reproduce) is the delightful insect that stings a roach, then inserts its stinger into the temporarily immobilized roach's brain, and then, steering via the antennae, walks the now docile behemoth back to its own home like it was leading an elephant, where it lays its larvae on the roach's abdomen. They proceed to eat the roach from the inside out, turning it into a disposable incubator, and I applaud them.

Other, more well-adjusted humans will probably loathe this book. But those of us that delight in the misery of others, or at least those who can find admiration for their creative methods of dying--seriously, how many autopsies come back with "caterpillar" filled in under "cause of death?" That's impressive--those humans like me, in other words, will greatly enjoy this book. In fact, we'll probably convince our roommates to bathe in raid and never leave the home (safe save for bedbugs, the lice that killed half of Napoleon's army, the black-widow's kiss of death, and numerous other delights).

As it is a dictionary of types, it's not the smoothest read. But who cares? It's not a novel, it's a catalogue of ants whose bites resemble gunshot wounds, of black flies that kill animals by the tens of thousands, of parasites that through itching inspire suicide, of bugs that shoot acid at the rate of a heavy machine-gun, even of a super-society of Argentine ants stretching from San Diego to Eureka, Ca. And as such it is awesome. Enough to raise up a new generation of entomologists, who can then write more books like this one, inspiring the Jesse to heights of ecstasy as yet uninspired by aught but bugs.

View all my reviews

Wodehousian Fun