William Gass. There was absolutely no one like him.

1924 – 2017

If someone asks me, “Why do you write?” I can reply by pointing out that it is a very dumb question. Nevertheless, there is an answer. I write because I hate. A lot. Hard. And if someone asks me the inevitable next dumb question, “Why do you write the way you do?” I must answer that I wish to make my hatred acceptable because my hatred is much of me, if not the best part. Writing is a way of making the writer acceptable to the world — every cheap, dumb, nasty thought, every despicable desire, every noble sentiment, every expensive taste. There isn’t very much satisfaction in getting the world to accept and praise you for things that the world is prepared to praise. The world is prepared to praise only shit. One wants to make sure that the complete self, with all its qualities, is not just accepted but approved . . . not just approved — whoopeed.

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I know of nothing more difficult than knowing who you are, and then having the courage to share the reasons for the catastrophe of your character with the world.

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But really I loved him because he understood the greatness of my even greater love, Malcolm Lowry:

When one thinks of the general sort of snacky under-earnest writers whose works like wind-chimes rattle in our heads now, it is easier to forgive Lowry his pretentious seriousness, his old-fashioned ambitions, his Proustian plans, [his efforts] to replace the reader’s consciousness wholly with a black magician’s.

*******************

Now I am quietly waiting for
the catastrophe of my personality
to seem beautiful again,
and interesting, and modern.

The Founder of the School Mr UD Attended in Boston…

… Commonwealth School, has died at 97.

Charles Merrill was the son (as was his half-brother, James Merrill) of the co-founder of Merrill Lynch.

Mr UD likes to tell the story of how Merrill (also school headmaster for decades) gathered some students one day and told them he had a brother who was a poet, and they were all going to go on a field trip to hear him read.

“Eyes rolled,” Mr UD recounts. “Oh yeah, he happens to have a brother who’s a poet… Who knew he meant James Merrill??”

Color UD Excited About…

… the wonderful new statue of George Orwell at the BBC.

In lieu of a pilgrimage to it, she will read for the hundredth time, laughing again all the way through, “Down and Out in Paris and London.”

***************

It seems to be an open question whether that very weight — the strain and tedium and approximation of everyday existence — was a hindrance to Orwell or an assistance. He himself seems to have thought that the exigencies of poverty, ill health, and overwork were degrading him from being the serious writer he might have been and had reduced him to the status of a drudge and pamphleteer. Reading through these meticulous and occasionally laborious jottings, however, one cannot help but be struck by the degree to which he became, in Henry James’s words, one of those upon whom nothing was lost. By declining to lie, even as far as possible to himself, and by his determination to seek elusive but verifiable truth, he showed how much can be accomplished by an individual who unites the qualities of intellectual honesty and moral courage. And, permanently tempted though he was by cynicism and despair, Orwell also believed in the latent possession of these faculties by those we sometimes have the nerve to call “ordinary people.” Here, then, is some of the unpromising bedrock — hardscrabble soil in Scotland, gritty coal mines in Yorkshire, desert landscapes in Africa, soul-less slums and bureaucratic offices — combined with the richer soil and loam of ever renewing nature, and that tiny, irreducible core of the human personality that somehow manages to put up a resistance to deceit and coercion. Out of the endless attrition between them can come such hope as we may reasonably claim to possess.

Christopher Hitchens, Introduction to Orwell’s diairies.

With Martin Shkreli Out of …

commission, General “Buck” Mnuchin couldn’t have come at a better time.

Geoffrey Stone, a law prof at the University of Chicago, has long been a …

hero of mine. Especially today, with Stone’s release of an email exchange he had with the notorious Richard Spencer.

In an April 18 op-ed in the New York Times, Stone defended Spencer’s First Amendment right to speak at Auburn University.

According to Stone, he received an e-mail from Spencer thanking him for his piece saying, “[he thinks] it will be looked back upon as significant in changing the contemporary free-speech debate.”

In the e-mail, Spencer also expressed his desire to return to his alma mater for a speaking event.

… Stone wrote back, saying that he thought Spencer’s views were not worth discussing, and that he would not extend him an invitation.

“My strong support for the right of students and faculty to invite speakers to campus to address whatever views they think worth discussing does not mean that I personally think that all views are worth discussing. From what I have seen of your views, they do not seem to me [to] add anything of value to serious and reasoned discourse, which is of course the central goal of a university. Thus, although I would defend the right of others to invite you to speak, I don’t see any reason for me to encourage or to endorse such an event.”

More here.

Crowned with laurels.

Reed College graduate Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche ’16.

Click on his graduation photograph to see his laurels.

*************************************

May he live like some green laurel
Rooted in one dear perpetual place.

Beach Blanket …

Burqa.

***********

UD thanks Barney.

“Hernandez’s achievements still appear in the school media guide.”

The University of Florida’s finest.

******************

He has been linked by prosecutors and a civil lawsuit to a series of assaults, shootings, and, ultimately, three killings.

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If some poor sap spilled a drink on him or challenged him in any way, that person was likely to stop at a red light, have an SUV pull alongside and see flashes from the barrel of a .38-caliber handgun.

If you want to feel sorry for anyone, feel it for Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado. Hernandez was acquitted last week of murdering them, but that was more a case of crafty lawyering than justice being served.

Feel sorry for Odin Loyd. Hernandez didn’t just shoot him. He executed him in a deserted industrial park.

Missing Christopher Hitchens.

What would he have to say about the Trump Presidency, and the resurgence of European fascism? The dwindling twilight of the post-war European project? We can be sure that he would have served us up with something at once scathing and illuminating. Alas, just as the world began to need reminding of totalitarianism’s perils, its most eloquent resister since Orwell was taken from us.

This moving story is, for UD, about two things:

1. The importance of going to college.

[Derek Black] decided he wanted to study medieval European history, so he applied to New College of Florida, a top-ranked liberal arts school with a strong history program.

2. The importance of simple, unafraid compassion.

Matthew decided his best chance to affect Derek’s thinking was not to ignore him or confront him, but simply to include him.

UD and her friend/colleague/cowriter Jenny just exchanged the news about Bob Dylan in the English department hallway…

… and both admitted that they cried on the metro when they read he’d gotten the prize. Not sure why Jenny cried, but mine were classic Old Hippie tears, as much about my youth as about the greatness of Dylan.

First song to start whirling in my mind? For some reason, Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands.

And Don DeLillo? Well, DeLillo’s novel Great Jones Street might have been titled Great Bob Dylan.

*************

Scottish novelist Irvine Welsh, author of “Trainspotting,” decried it as “an ill-conceived nostalgia award” made for “senile, gibbering hippies.”

YES!!

**************

The full quote’s great but has a little less to do with me:

… an ill conceived nostalgia award wrenched from the rancid prostates of senile, gibbering hippies.

Might have been fairer if Welsh had said:

… an ill conceived nostalgia award dragged from the wrinkled dugs and wrenched from the rancid prostates of senile, gibbering hippies.

Edward Albee, who wrote “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”…

… has died.

***********

UD has spent decades quoting lines from “Who’s Afraid.”

Martha: You’re going to regret this.

George: Probably. I regret everything.

*************

George: I didn’t make her throw up.

Martha: What, you think it was sexy back there? You think he made his own wife sick?

George: Well, you make me sick.

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Ah hell. Just go here. They’ve got some great ones.

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[It is] not valid for a critic to criticize a play for its matter rather than its manner — [doing that represents] a type of censorship. To give an extreme example, … if a man writes a brilliant enough play in praise of something that is universally loathed, … the play, if it is good and well enough written, should not be knocked down because of its approach to its subject. If the work of art is good enough, it must not be criticized for its theme… In the thirties a whole school of criticism bogged down intellectually in those agitprop, social-realistic days. A play had to be progressive. A number of plays by playwrights who were thought very highly of then — they were very bad playwrights — were highly praised because their themes were intellectually and politically proper. This intellectual morass is very dangerous, it seems to me. A form of censorship. You may dislike the intention enormously but your judgment of the artistic merit of the work must not be based on your view of what it’s about. The work of art must be judged by how well it succeeds in its intention.

Our Next President: An Abiding Concern for…

… the poor.

The Religious Wars of Waco…

… have all featured the camp followers and comfort women that typically accompany men in battle. The commanders of Waco’s Branch Davidians, in their protracted campaign against the government, prostituted the daughters of sect adherents. At the outset of pagan hostilities at Waco’s Twin Peaks, breastaurant women ran for their lives. Coeds at Baylor University knew to run just as fast when any of the men running the ball for the greater good of Baptism approached.

Davidian, Pagan, Baptist – whatever the divine cause, Waconan soldiers will make sexual use of women. It’s the Waco way.

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Eh. It’s the world’s way. When the bellicose righteous fight their righteous cause…

[Dominique] Strauss-Kahn … told the court that group-sex sessions were rare “recreation” in his hectic schedule as IMF chief, taking place only four times a year because he had been very busy “saving the world from catastrophe” at the time of the US sub-prime crisis.

“I think this will become the ultimate human right of the 21st century, the right to die with dignity.”

Frank Kavanaugh, who used to teach at UD‘s university (he seems to have been the executive producer on The Saving of the President, which won four Emmys), was a right-to-die advocate who shot his wife and himself in her Florida nursing home room yesterday.

He should not have had to end it this way, but only a few states allow a dignified exit.

UD‘s home state, Maryland, might be moving in the right to die direction, but not for awhile.

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