Great poem, which I first read at university and of which I was reminded when watching “The Queen’s Gambit.” Beautiful series; beautiful poem.
Yeah, I had big hopes for Georgia here. Thanks a lot, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. You have messed things up, bigly.
It’s January 6th, which is the birthday of my late brother, Alan. Miss him terribly, and would sure love to talk U.S. politics with him right about now. I have no other relatives capable of the kind of rational discourse Alan could manage or who are anywhere near as intellectually curious. Would also love to talk poetry with him and as it is Epiphany thought I would try to find some poems other than Eliot’s wonderful Journey of the Magi. I succeeded! This link gives us Eliot’s poem, as well as two others, both of which were new to me: one from Auden and one from Joseph Brodsky, which is just startling. What touched me about the Auden poem was that he had rejected faith as a teenager, but then came back to it. (I have been on a similar trajectory.)
The grandson of Church of England clergymen, Auden renounced his High Anglican faith as a teenager. However, in November 1939 he went to a German cinema in New York City, and as Edward Mendelsohn put it in a review of the book Auden and Christianity, the theatre
was showing an official German newsreel celebrating the Nazi victory over Poland. (Until the United States and Germany declared war, German films could be shown freely in American theaters.) Auden was startled by the shouts of “Kill the Poles!” that rose from the audience of ordinary German immigrants who were under no coercion to support the Nazis. He told an interviewer many years later: “I wondered, then, why I reacted as I did against this denial of every humanistic value. The answer brought me back to the church.”
He eventually found his way to the American version of the Church of England in the United States, the Episcopal Church, and became a parishioner at St. Mark’s-in-the Bowery.
(Emphasis mine.) I have had some similar motivations regarding faith. Follow the above links for the poems and more.
I know many will be happy to say goodbye to 2020. For me, the restrictions weren’t that bad. I am introverted – extremely so – and fairly misanthropic, so enjoyed having an easy out when it came to not dealing with humans. There were certainly people I missed, and activities – travel would be number one on that list – but in general, I did not find it rough going, as did others. I am lucky: I am not alone; I get along with Significant Other; I have shelter and food.
The low point was the death of my brother from Covid. We were not close, but he was my brother and the loss was painful for my sister-in-law. This doesn’t mean I am not worried about the effects of the pandemic and the decisions various governments have made about lockdowns and such. I take the pandemic seriously, but I am enough of a libertarian that I think we need/needed a better debate about how much personal freedom can be denied to people, as well as about risk-avoidance.
I tried to use the time I had productively: I finished one big writing project and made some headway with another – though I had hoped to finish that one, as well. One lives in hope.
On a superficial note, I gained weight this year — I am officially a “pandemic fattie” — something about which I am not happy. So Bridget Jones’ first resolution here is the only one we have in common. Obviously, will lose 20 pounds. Twenty years ago, when the film first came out, Bridget and I had all of the same resolutions. I gather I have made some progress in this life.
Both from the New Yorker – both meaningful for me this odd, odd year. I know my relationship with blankets and with interesting adult beverage combinations has expanded since March.
W.S. Merwin’s The Solstice:
They say the sun will come back
my one love
but we know how the minutes
fly out into
the dark trees
like the great ʻōhiʻas and honey creepers
and we know how the weeks
walk into the
shadows at midday
at the thought of the months I reach for your hand
it is not something
one is supposed
we watch the bright birds in the morning
we hope for the quiet
the year turns into air
but we are together in the whole night
with the sun still going away
and the year
A couple of years ago, I wrote an oped for the Wall Street Journal about doctors, “doctors” and such, and I got a fair bit of reaction to it. This past Saturday, the brilliant Joseph Epstein wrote a column along the same lines but putting focus on Jill Biden, soon-to-be First Lady of the United States. It’s worth your time, but here are a couple of paragraphs:
Madame First Lady—Mrs. Biden—Jill—kiddo: a bit of advice on what may seem like a small but I think is a not unimportant matter. Any chance you might drop the “Dr.” before your name? “Dr. Jill Biden” sounds and feels fraudulent, not to say a touch comic. Your degree is, I believe, an Ed.D., a doctor of education, earned at the University of Delaware through a dissertation with the unpromising title “Student Retention at the Community College Level: Meeting Students’ Needs.” A wise man once said that no one should call himself “Dr.” unless he has delivered a child. Think about it, Dr. Jill, and forthwith drop the doc.
The Ph.D. may once have held prestige, but that has been diminished by the erosion of seriousness and the relaxation of standards in university education generally, at any rate outside the sciences. Getting a doctorate was then an arduous proceeding: One had to pass examinations in two foreign languages, one of them Greek or Latin, defend one’s thesis, and take an oral examination on general knowledge in one’s field. At Columbia University of an earlier day, a secretary sat outside the room where these examinations were administered, a pitcher of water and a glass on her desk. The water and glass were there for the candidates who fainted. A far cry, this, from the few doctoral examinations I sat in on during my teaching days, where candidates and teachers addressed one another by first names and the general atmosphere more resembled a kaffeeklatsch. Dr. Jill, I note you acquired your Ed.D. as recently as 15 years ago at age 55, or long after the terror had departed.
I think it’s terrific, but even those who disagree should recognize that the reaction to this column is sheer silliness. Northwestern has apparently removed any mention of Epstein from their site – sheesh. Revisionism, anyone? How about some defence of free speech, oh respected university? I guess that is asking too much. Of course, the Twitter mobs went bonky and Biden herself stupidly reacted to it, opening herself up to dissection of her actual dissertation. Unfounded accusations of sexism met the oped – as though criticism of a woman is necessarily based on gender – as well as pearl-clutching about Epstein’s use of the word “kiddo.” I guess those who were upset about that word don’t know any older people. This is a common term of familiarity – and even affection – used by pre-boomers. Heck, Joe Biden uses it A LOT.
In my own family, there are several PhDs, and I have noticed that those who are the most huffy about insisting people use it, and insisting people respect their “accomplishment,” are a) the most insecure and b) the most left-leaning. There’s an elitism and a love of credentialism and an obsession with class and status among the left that you won’t see matched on the right (though yes, it exists there).
The most surprising thing – at least for me – about the reaction to the column was that so few people seem to know who Joseph Epstein is. I had to explain to several people I know that he is a brilliant literary critic, essayist and fiction writer. He is also a gentleman: I sent him a note saying how much I liked his column and I also included a link to mine. He responded almost immediately with a very positive, kind message.
(The title of this post is indeed a reference to Sylvia Plath because a) I am a woman and there is always room for a Plath reference and, b) I just finished this book, so she is on my mind.)
Sinatra’s birthday – would be his 105th. Here’s a column that I wrote for his 100th.