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Archive for October 14th, 2009

I’m sorry to keep quoting Camille Paglia, but I can’t help it sometimes (in fact, let me take it back, I’m not sorry at all, this stuff is too good to ignore). In her recent column, Camille responds to a number of letters from readers. There’s a lot of good stuff here but the response below was to a letter expressing outrage over the attacks on Sarah Palin and how insulting the media has been toward her because she attended five colleges before graduating from the University of Idaho. Here’s CP’s response:

Thank you very much for your personal testimony. I too have been repulsed by the elitist insults flung at Sarah Palin in the massive, coordinated media effort to destroy her. Hence I have been thoroughly enjoying the way that Palin, despite all the dirt thrown at her by liberal journalists and bloggers, keeps bouncing back as if unscathed. No sooner did the gloating harpies of the Northeastern media think they had torn her to shreds than she exploded into number one on Amazon.com with a memoir that hadn’t even been printed yet! With each one of these amusing triumphs, Palin is solidifying her status as a bona fide American cultural heroine.

Yes, the snobbery about Palin’s five colleges is especially distasteful, given the Democratic party’s supposed allegiance to populism. Judging by the increasingly limited cultural and factual knowledge of graduates of elite schools whom one encounters working in the media, blue-chip sheepskins aren’t worth the parchment they’re printed on these days. Young people forced through the ruthlessly competitive college admissions rat race have the independence and creativity pinched right out of them. Proof? Where are the major young American artists, writers, critics or movie-makers of the past 20 years? The most adventurous and enterprising minds have gone into high tech. We’re in a horrendous cultural vacuum because our status-besotted education industry is geared toward producing not original thinkers but docile creatures of the system.

Oh, and one more, this regarding the nefarious Roman Polanski and his arrest for drugging and seducing a 13 year-old girl:

When I first heard that Roman Polanski had been arrested in Switzerland, I thought it was absurd because of his advanced age as well as the gravity of other issues facing this war-torn world. It seemed like a publicity stunt by Los Angeles authorities with too much time on their hands. However, on reflection, I soon concluded that Polanski, whatever his artistic achievements, has no right to claim exemption from the law’s demands. He is not a political refugee but a proud sybarite who has flaunted his tastes and conquests. If you live like the Marquis de Sade (one of the principal influences on my first book, Sexual Personae), then you should be willing to be imprisoned like Sade.

yes indeed. Nail blasted by hammer on head.

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Happy birthday estlin

Today is the birthday of writer-poet e. e. cummings (Edward Estlin Cummings). Cummings, like so many who have had wide influence, had a lifetime of experiences before he turned 30. After graduating from Harvard (majoring in classics), he worked for a mail-order bookseller, quit after a few weeks and volunteered to serve in the ambulance corps in France during World War I. In 1917, he and his co-worker (William Slater Brown) wrote anti-war letters professing sympathy for the Germans. Some say they did this as much to irritate the censors as to express their views. The French censors intercepted the letters and were not impressed. They imprisoned Cummings and Brown and they were held on suspicion of espionage for more than three months (this became the basis for Cummings’ novel, The Enormous Room published in 1922).

Most know only of Cummings’ poetry, but he was accomplished in a number of fields. In the 1920s He published four collections of poetry, got a job as a traveling correspondent for Vanity Fair magazine and became a successful artist (in fact, he displayed his paintings in New York showrooms up to the 1950s). Since his evenings were free, he spent them writing. His body of work consists of approximately 2,900 poems, two autobiographical novels, four plays and several essays, as well as numerous drawings and paintings.

His father, Edward, was his great role model. In 1900 Edward left a professorial post at Harvard to become pastor of the South Congregational Church of Boston. In 1926, Edward was killed when his car was struck by a locomotive. Cummings wrote in homage of his father:

my father moved through dooms of love
through sames of am through haves of give,
singing each morning out of each night
my father moved through depths of height

He described his father as “the handsomest man I ever saw. Big was my father and strong with lightblue skies for eyes.”

As far as writing his name in lower case, there is no indication that he preferred it that way — it may have been intended simply as a gesture of humility rather than a preference since he wrote his name both with and without capitals.

Cummings was (apparently) no Christian, though he often expressed Christian and biblical perspectives. Like so many others, he was “Christ-haunted” if not “Christ-owned.” Here are a few quotes which give some insight into the man:

“At least the Pilgrim Fathers used to shoot Indians: the Pilgrim Children merely punch time clocks.”

“Knowledge is a polite word for dead but not buried imagination.”

“The earth laughs in flowers.”

“The world is mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful.”

“Unbeing dead isn’t being alive.”

Amen. Happy birthday, e e.

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