Measured Extravagance

30 January 2003 - 9:51 a.m.

"I must confess that the current state of affairs on Iraq fills me with equivocation and no small bit of uncertainty." - Joshua Micah Marshall. To that, and to his earlier essay, I say Amen.

I could go on and on about this, but suffice it to say that it's why I've not yet responded to nor forwarded the"Poets Against War" email I received earlier this week, concerning a petition and compilation of anti-war poetry and statements of conscience to be presented to the White House on February 12 (spearheaded by Sam Hamill, who had been invited to the "Poetry and the American Voice" symposium being hosted by Laura Bush that afternoon).

If, however, anyone would like to participate in the project, please email me and I will forward the information to you. I think it's important to voice reservations and opposition to the war - even though I cannot firmly say I am against military action, I do have serious issues with how and when Bush proposes to proceed, especially with his apparent belief that he shouldn't have to share "evidence" to receive support to sacrifice bystanders' lives. (If I do contribute a poem, it will probably be something along those lines. Or on civil liberties. Or on "there but for the grace of God go YOU.")

[Update, 3:56 p.m.: The symposium has been postponed:

``While Mrs. Bush respects the right of all Americans to express their opinions, she, too, has opinions and believes it would be inappropriate to turn a literary event into a political forum.'' Noelia Rodriguez, spokeswoman for first lady Laura Bush, said Wednesday.

Well, to be fair, I can understand Mrs. Bush's desire not to have her event hijacked by alternative agendas. On the other hand, I wonder how one intended to manage a discussion of merit concerning Whitman or Hughes without bringing in politics. Hmmm.

Thanks to Beth for the update.]

Went to The Temple last night to hear Samuel G. Freedman talk about The Struggle for the Soul of American Jewry. He started out with an anecdote about a panel at the 92nd Street Y, where an audience member asked an Orthodox rabbi if he'd had to make the choice, whether he would prefer that a congregant watch The Sopranos or study Talmud with Rabbi Hersh (the Reform rabbi with whom he co-authored a book). He apparently attempted to demur but when pressed, he said, "The Sopranos."

Then Freedman went on to balance this anecdote with one about a secular Jew in New Rochelle likening Orthodox believers to al-Quaeda, and from there, an analysis of Jewish immigration to the US before and after WWII, and what happens to community identity in a culture of acceptance instead of persecution. I particularly found the immigration outline intriguing - Freedman argued that the immigrants before WWII were more a self-selecting group (with an inclination towards modified or non-observance) than those that fled the Nazis and the Bolsheviks.

Stuff to think and perhaps write about. Later.

The First Lines of One's Ten Favorite Novels Meme, with my usual disclaimers ("favorite NOT best," "favorite" = "of this moment and not ten minutes before or after," etc. - oh, the heck with it, I should just retitle it "The First Lines of Ten Novels That Happen to Be Not Buried Under Half-Painted Envelopes and Other Local Debris"):

"Harriet Vane sat at her writing-table and stared out into Mecklenburg Square." -Dorothy L. Sayers, Gaudy Night

"Brother Cadfael was working in the small kitchen garden by the abbot's fishponds when the boy was first brought to him." - Ellis Peters, One Corpse Too Many

"'Too many!' James shouted, and slammed the door behind him." - Susan Cooper, The Dark Is Rising

"Mr Sherlock Holmes, who was usually very late in the mornings, save upon those not infrequent occasions where he stayed up all night, was seated at the breakfast table." - Arthur Conan Doyle, The Hound of the Baskervilles

"I am afraid." - Lois McMaster Bujold, Barrayar

"The asteroid hurtled in from Capricorn, nosed around a G-type sun, swerved off the fifth planet." - Christopher Stasheff, The Warlock In Spite of Himself (I told you, these are favorites, not necessarily recommendations!)

"It was a quiet morning, the town covered over with darkness and at ease in bed." - Ray Bradbury, Dandelion Wine

"He was drunk." - Stephanie Laurens, On A Wicked Dawn

"The wind had got into the clocks and blown the hours awry." - Fred Chappell, Farewell, I'm Bound to Leave You

"I exist!" - Kate Atkinson, Behind the Scenes At the Museum

One year ago: ""I'd say anytime but how about never?"

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