I heartily recommend you take CormacMcCarthy’s ‘The Crossing’ on journey

It’s a deeply moving story, following a young man through the border country of the southwest. You see that wildness is something that you often don’t fully appreciate until you try to trap it, and then when you’re close to it you want more than anything for that good thing to run free again but it seems that ‘civilized’ society won’t allow you to do that. I think it’s one of the saddest, wisest stories. 

I read ‘Recuerdo’ for the first time

A wise man introduced me to Edna St Vincent Millay’s wonderful poem. . The opening line and refrain is the best comma splice I’ve read: we were very tired, we were very merry. With the pressure and mystery of poetry I can’t say for sure if it’s tired and merry or tired but merry or something else- I can say, though, the fusion of tiredness and merriment is very moving for me. That’s a worthy goal- to be tired and merry and, like the narrator does in the final lines of the poem, keep only what I need to get back home and give away everything else. I’ll keep working on that goal

I’ve been slowly making my way into The Waking Comes Late poetry collection by Steven Heighton

The title poem for the collection is wonderful- it must be read- but it got me thinking about roots. Steven writes about roots ‘where all mothers, /unfinished/ unfolding,/ remain.’ It’s lovely how each successive line diminishes while carrying more weight. So, I think like an echo (another very moving motif that Christina Rossetti makes the most of) roots grow smaller and farther away- but still part of the source and because of that still alive. That consoles me. 

I can’t understand why people look to 1984 and the Handmaid’s Tale instead of Brave New World to go looking for where we’ve gone wrong

It seems 1984 would be more useful in Russia as the Handmaid’s Tale would be more useful in Saudi Arabia- Canadians should be looking to Brave New World (a book I regret not looking at more closely when it was assigned in high school). What Huxley shows us in Brave New World isn’t a police state or a brutal theocracy, but a society where political nudging, social status signalling, shallow relationships, and the ideas that advanced technology and pharmacology can solve moral problems and quench spiritual longings are paramount. The dystopian world in Brave New World should help us hone back in on first principles; The wild man yearning for higher beauty and willing to hurt for it should inspire us

P.S. I think I’ll give The Handmaid’s Tale a closer look because it seems like the cause of infertility that impelled the dystopian world might be shallow relationships, status grubbing, and pollution, so tracing it back Atwood might share some of Huxley’s warnings 

I’m halfway through the second season of Broadchurch

You’d think with the bucolic setting on the bluffs of the English Channel that Broadchurch was going to provide the classic British detective story that stamps out superstition with excellent reason and ultimately proves the innocence of everyone by deducing the identity of the criminal, delivering the satisfaction of order restored. What I’ve found so far is something different- a very sober meditation on the toxic effects of suspicion. So far, suspicion in Broadchurch has cast out the innocent with the guilty and then turned a mirror on the human failings of all the characters in town. I’m not sure how it’ll end, though- more like the worldly physical order expounded by Sherlock, or the majestic reason of divine justice and moral order in Father Brown, or something else? 

P.S. The show also has shades of The Moonstone as it shows us that subjectivity and objectivity both have merits, but it’s impossible to hold both views at once 

The purpose of art in Frazier’s Cold Mountain

There is a chapter in Frazier’s Novel Cold Mountain where a ne’er-do-well drifter recounts how he found himself playing fiddle music for a suffering and dying young woman and feeling dreadfully insufficient for the task, but he was surprised with notes that comforted and consoled. He admitted that he was a bum and shoddy player before his original tune came to him, and I think that humble and compassionate state of mind brought on because he is playing for someone about to die provides the condition for his artistic fuel to ignite. Well, this is inspiring- to make art for therapy with the hope- for this is the only truly hopeful frame of mind- you can receive the grace to help someone feel better, peaceful, joyful. 

That after he plays his fiddle tune the spring peepers in the creek sounded exceptionally sad and hopeful in the face of the coming winter is one of the most moving and evocative details found in a novel, because the peeper is too weak to dig down deep in the soil to avoid the cold and so it freezes solid in the winter but pumps enough sugar into its organs to preserve them so that it can thaw and move again in the spring. 

He is excecuted next to his friend- and that embrace is the promise of spring

I’d like to say a few words about Leonard Cohen

I believe his merit- lasting value- is his contribution to the great pathos and intensely challenging picture of the beautiful loser- a way of life that finds beauty and grace in surprising and strange places. 

As for his music, I just want to say a lot of people cover Hallelujah like a painter who looks at a Van Gogh and thinks he can improve it by painting the same subject in the style of Vermeer.