nought but shows

I returned to my rereading of Brothers Karamazov yesterday. I am enjoying the Pevear/Volokhonsky translation and getting more out of it than I ever did from other translations.

I mention it because of the terrible news about Syrian government troops using children as shields and torturing them.

I was reminded of the point in the novel where the brothers Ivan and Alyosha are having a heart to heart about God and faith. This is the chapter just before the famous “Grand Inquisitor” chapter.

Ivan makes an argument that due to the death of innocents (and many other complex evil incidents which according to the notes Dostoevsky pulled from contemporary events), he either cannot believe in God or must somehow disavow God. “It’s not that I don’t accept God, Alyosha, I just most respectfully return him the ticket.”

It struck me that the atrocities we read about every day all over the world are not new, but nonetheless are shatteringly horrifying.

“The society whose modernization has reached the stage of integrated spectacle is characterized by the combined effect of five principal factors: incessant technological renewal, integration of state and economy, generalized secrecy, unanswerable lies, and eternal present.

The spectator is simply supposed to know nothing and deserves nothing. Those who are watching to see what happens next will never act such must be the spectator’s condition.
Guy Debord, quoted in Adrienne Rich’s book of essays What is found there.

This quote relates to the helplessness one feels when confronted with evil.

I am reminded of the character, Charles Wallace Murry, in Madeline L’Engle’s series Time Quartet.

He a little boy whose bravery in the smallest of things becomes a critical hinge in the cosmic battle against evil. It always makes me think of how important the choices we make in our lives can be even when they seem so trivial or we feel so helpless.

An irrational belief in the importance of how we choose to live takes issue with Shakespeare’s cynical phrase, “That this huge stage presenteth nought but shows” from Sonnet 15. Even though Shakespeare may be right in the sense that ultimately life/reality has no meaning other than itself, it seems to me that living a life of integrity and simple kindness might be the only response to nihilism. I know I struggle between Ivan Karamazov and Charles Wallace Murray.

I shouldn’t be feeling so melancholy today. I had lots of time off yesterday.


John Irving – By the Book –

Reading Irving’s new novel.

This is kind of a lame interview however. Not sure the interviewer had read the new book. Oh well. He missed some real opportunities to query Irving about the relationship of the formative reading patterns of the main character in the book to himself.


‘It began when Wallace wrote Franzen a fan letter in the summer of 1988’ | berfrois

Short little article describing a friendship between two writers.


Another Bank Bailout –

All over the world, banks get bailed out while populations get screwed.


‘College,’ by Andrew Delbanco –

‘Power and Constraint,’ by Jack Goldsmith –

Two new interesting books now waiting for me in my Amazon cart. I put them there so I won’t forget them. I don’t necessarily then buy them there. Haven’t even checked the library yet.

Two solid reviews.


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