H. L. Mencken and Götterdämmerung

September 11, 2018 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | LIFE, METAPHYSICS, Non-Fiction |

Wotan's ravens (by Arthur Rackham)

H.L.Mencken, 12 September, 1880 Mencken buried lots of idols, icons, and foolish ideas.  He also buried a swathe of gods: “Huitzilopochtli…was born of an apparently innocent flirtation that [his mother, a virtuous widow] carried on with the sun…But to-day Huitzilopochtli is as Marie Corelli. Once the peer of Allah, Buddha and Wotan, he is now the peer of Father Rasputin, J.B. Planché, Sadi Carnot, General Boulanger, Lottie Collins, and Little Tich.”* Mencken goes on to list some 114 gods and comments: “They were gods of the highest standing and dignity – gods of civilized peoples – worshipped and believed in by…

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D. H. Lawrence

September 11, 2018 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | Fiction, WRITING & LITERATURE |

Born 11 September 1885 ‘There was very little about Lawrence that wasn’t irritating to someone.  Edmund Wilson…thought him “ill-bred and hysterical…One saw that he belonged to an inferior caste – some bred-down unripening race of the collieries. Against this inferiority – fundamental and physical-he must have had to fight all his life: his passionate spirit made up for it by exaggerated self-assertion.“‘* Lawrence’s books evoked similar reactions.  One critic lumped him in with novelists “who appear to have passed their prime long before reaching it.”*  (Note that your correspondent once wrote a high school essay asserting that there was no…

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The Sentimental Bloke

September 7, 2018 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | AUSTRALIANIA, Poetry, WRITING & LITERATURE |

C.J. Dennis, born 7 September 1876 He lived in an age when you could get away with writing in dialect (like Robbie Burns or Walter Scott before him) and his most famous work, The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke makes one cringe nowadays. Although we love one of his titles; The Glugs of Gosh. The ‘Laureate of the Larrikin’ was born in Auburn in the Clare Valley of South Australia, and spent most of his life in Melbourne.  He’s buried in the cemetery at Box Hill. Here’s “At the Play” from Sentimental Bloke, where Doreen and Bill (the Bloke) take…

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Leonardo da Vinci

(by Walter Isaacson) (2017) We picked up this heavy tome in Washington DC and carried it all the way home. It’s well put-together, beautifully illustrated, and fairly well organised. Whilst Leonardo the Man remains opaque, this book manages to avoid drowning in the sea of speculation, as a disastrous recent work on Beethoven does not. Leonardo da Vinci lived and died 500 years ago, and left behind a tantalising body of mostly incomplete work, in particular, some startlingly radical and luminous paintings, fanatically detailed drawings, and thousands of pages from inspired commonplace books.  Although his siege engines and tanks and…

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Dhalgren by Samuel R Delany

A man who has forgotten his name crosses a bridge at night and enters Bellona, a city where something undefined has happened, houses burn down spontaneously and at times there are two moons, one named after George Harrison – not the adorable moptop, but a large black man with a penchant for rape, who features in pornographic posters all over town. The man who has forgotten his name is known variously as the kid, The Kid, Kid and Kidd. With little effort he acquires a reputation as a poet, gang leader and saviour.  We are never sure if Bellona is a mental hospital, the…

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