Saturday, June 2, 2018

Reading Poetry

As a teenager and college student, fear of cultural inadequacy was a powerful motivator for me, and I suspect it was a major factor in my initial adoption of certain intellectual habits that have since become constant features of my life. One of these is reading poetry, which I first began to do self-consciously, and maniacally, some time in late high school.

As with many of the obsessions we decide upon at that age, I at first -- and for a long time -- derived no intrinsic joy from it. A vast portion of the poetry I consumed meant nothing at all to me. Nor could I figure out why exactly it seemed to mean something to other people -- I just knew that it did, and that it would be a shameful sign of inferiority if I confessed that I did not have the same reactions. The advice of the critics, who claimed to find mysterious resonances in sounds and meters, rather than what was actually being said, was of no use. I never could hear whatever it was they were talking about -- and for the most part I still can't.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Three Poems

Second fig

I was burning pretty brightly there
Like a year would last a night
What I fear, before it guttered,
Is that no one saw the light

Saturday, May 26, 2018


As previously mentioned, my sister is a fanatical devotee of the K-pop group "BTS." (Apparently the rest of the world is too, unbeknownst to me, since I learned today that there is a store in the middle of Times Square -- the most coveted retail space on planet Earth -- that is devoted solely to selling -- wait for it -- not even BTS merchandise, but merchandise about a group of fictional stuffed critters who are indirectly associated with BTS.)

As a result, these seven Korean men have become a part of all of our lives, at least in my family. Not an album is "dropped" that I will not eventually become acquainted with its contents.

Saturday, April 21, 2018


After spending four years of college at an institution that teasingly encouraged me in my belief that life is a purely theoretical matter, I have been confronted at every turn since by the alternative dogma -- the cult of personal experience.

As soon as I came to divinity school, I was told that I actually would be learning nothing important in the classroom (a shame, since this was the only part I was looking forward to) -- and that the only real lessons would come from the aspects of ministerial training I most dreaded -- the ones that were "hands on." When I first started writing sermons, likewise, the first feedback I received was that they would be more interesting "if they came less from things you read and more from your life experience."

Sunday, April 8, 2018


I will not be the first to point out the eery similarities between the militarization of the U.S. southern border and that of Israel's various boundaries -- notably Trump himself made a similar point, though he of course intended something very different by it. However, in a week that began with Israeli troops firing live rounds on demonstrators in Gaza and killing fourteen people (who were either wholly defenseless or armed at the very most with rocks and implements that posed no serious threat to the heavily equipped IDF) --and which concluded with Trump ordering the National Guard to patrol the nation's boundary with Mexico-- the parallels are particularly hard to miss.

Saturday, March 31, 2018


After Robert Motherwell's Elegies for the Spanish Republic
So... I should explain -- how the above work of aesthetic genius, that is, came to be on my living room floor.

Due to a recent change of residence, as you know, I have had to spend an unusual percentage of my time the last few months on tasks that I find intrinsically boring. Like cleaning. Like moving. And like decorating.

In order to feel that my life still had meaning and volition, I decided that -- to the extent I could not absolutely avoid any of these activities -- I would at least insist upon doing them in a way that fed my core underlying obsessions.

When it came to unpacking or swiffering the floor, this was relatively easy to do -- one only had to put on a podcast or audiobook to feel that one was at least not squandering the youthful plasticity of one's brain by failing to spend a few waking hours dribbling new pieces of information into it.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Norman Mailer's "Harlot's Ghost" (1991): A Review

Imagine if you will a novel that's 1,300 pages long, with a killer set-up over the first hundred pages that makes you desperately long to hear the conclusion -- so much so that you are willing to brave all 1,200 pages that remain in order to reach it. Imagine next that this novel -- after all that time -- ends with the words "To be continued..." And imagine, finally, that you discover -- having gotten this far-- that in fact it never was continued. That the promised sequel was never written, and the author is now dead, so it never will be.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you: Harlot's Ghost, by reputedly great American novelist Norman Mailer. The novel does in fact weigh in at 1,300 pages, and ends in just this way. Brother. There is no excuse for this book, or for my having spent so many stretches of the last year and a half, off and on, gradually making my way through it.