The Literary Salon

A free salon wherein patrons and passers-by may view or contribute ideas on literary and generally intellectual matters. The blog will strive to maintain its commitment to wit, humour and perspicuous analysis.

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Location: Toronto, now Ottawa, Ont, Canada

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

I'm still here...

It's now day nine without smoking. It's actually not as bad as I thought it would be.
One of my few friends who still smokes gave me one last night, and boy it tasted different! just like it did back in grade 9 (I had a rush of images, such as me with sideburns and a jean jacket back in 1995. Damn that was ten years ago!).

Finally got my hands on a copy of C.S. Lewis' Preface to Paradise Lost. I didn't read all of it, but it's worth reading for sure. A funny part came right at the end in his conclusion when he, somewhat tangentially, remarks on audiences and Ulysses (he's referring to what we now call "stream of consciousness," though he never refers to it as that). The book was published in 1942, and the last couple of pages are his argument against not the aesthetic validity of stream of consciousness (Ulysses being the English exemplar, but by no means the originator), but the epistemic. Funny stuff (not haha funny but funny nonetheless). I'm in the process of thinking up a paper, so maybe when that's done I'll have better comments.

I recently read an English translation of Moliere's The Misanthrope. I just picked up his Tartuffe and Racine's Andromaque in French. I started reading the latter, and although I haven't spoken or used French in about 7-8 years, I still remember most of it, except maybe odd tenses or words. I can usually read regular prose all right, but sometimes even modern prose does things with tenses English doesn't. For example, in my edition of Racine, his biographical blurb changes tenses constantly. Instead of "il est nee" we have "Racine nait," followed by "sa mere meurt" and "il aura", etc etc.
Anyway, I'm past the first speech by Orestes and Pylade, in other words, page one, and I think I know what's going on :)

Friday, September 23, 2005

Non sum quod eram, and party mix

After three years of it sitting on my face, I officially removed my beard. It will take some habituation. Most people, men and women, were telling me for ages to get rid of it. Too bad I don't have a pic to post.
So now instead of the grizzled crazy hermit I now resemble that retarded kid down the street with whom kids play hockey :)

Another change I have introduced: I have not smoked in four days. So far so good. I was hoping to quit sometime this fall anyway.

Also, I am looking for an online copy of C.S. Lewis' Preface to Paradise Lost. Is it not public domain yet?

Friday, September 16, 2005

Boredom Unbound

As I am writing the subject GRE in English in November, I am in the process of reading those authors or periods I have hitherto neglected. By far my biggest area of weakness is 20th century American lit, although I am not entirely ignorant of it.
Among my weaknesses are some canonical poets, especially Shelley, perhaps the most stereotypically "romantic" poet. In five years as an English student (4 undergrad, 1 MA), I was never required to read him (although I think he is more or less defunct now).
I attempted to read Prometheus Unbound last night, and I must say that after Act I I gave up. I've read some works that would no doubt be classified as "boring" by others (remember the OED), but I haven't had this feeling in a long time; it could very well be that I was not in the right frame of mind. It could also be that Shelley, at least in this work, is loquaciously flowery, to the point where I cannot even understand him at times.
Any thoughts, educated readers? By the way, apart from this, I think I should really read Ozymandias and Adonais (his lyrics are far more readable). Are there other works of his that I should really read, something(s) that would be on a standardized test?

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Aujourd'hui c'est mon fete de naissance

Haig the Patriarch of the Armenians

Pardonnez mon francais, mais c'est le fete de mon naissance ce weekend (to be exact, it is the 12th of September, on which I turn the big 24). I feel old, but I'm sure Dr. j will be shaking his head and wishing he could beat me over the head. One quote that comes to mind: non sum quod eram: I'm not what I was.
At least I'm drunk now for a few hours :) Not overly so; Aristotle would be proud :)

BTW, the picture is not of a male Artemis: it is of Haig, the Armenian patriarch, from whom I must claim descent (anyone that can wield a bow and arrow like that is fine by me). According to legend, he slew Baal (or Bel). I wanted to be mythical but culturally accurate at the same time. Armenians call themselves "Hai", and their ancestral country "Hayastan", which means roughly "land of Haigs".

Friday, September 09, 2005

British ignorance/bigotry?

Persian relief
Though I am not of Iranian descent, I was appalled by this review of the ancient Persian exhibition at the British museum. The author's tone is one of ambivalence (almost like some of Harold Bloom's recent assessments), but he clearly gives no credit to the Persians, instead privileging the ancient Greek stuff (I don't want to sound post-colonial or anything like that, but he does sound very "eurocentric"). For the record, the ancient Persians were among the greatest of empires. Did you know, dear Briton, that the Persians were responsible for math, science, technology and, yes, human rights? I believe it was Darius I who wrote the very first charter of rights and freedoms in the world, which stated that women were equals with men, long before the sagacious Greeks even considered it.
Also, most art and discoveries that are now termed "Islamic" or "Arabic" are actually Persian: Algebra, the Arabesque arches and even battery cells are Persian inventions.
Yes, of course the Persians were influence by the Babylonians, but who wasn't? Your precious Greeks, however, would have been nothing were it not for the Egyptians and Phoenicians, from the latter of whom they borrowed their alphabet!
Your ignorance sickens me


Let us not forget Xenophon's famous (or once famous) manual on what a good king should be. What was it called? Cyropedia, named for Cyrus the Great. Looks like Cyrus wasn't so bad after all.

Rare find alert!

Omeros on the left, and Pope the master on the right
Recently, when visiting Dr. J's lair (actual, not virtual), I was struck with envy when I noticed he has a now out of print copy of Alexander Pope's translation of the Iliad. For whatever reason, this translation is impossible to find. But, during a recent trip to Eliot's bookshop in Toronto (a very good place for used books), I found an old hardcover edition of Pope's translation! Not only is it hardcover, but it must be about a century old, and at 15 bucks CDN, a bargain.
There is no publication information inside the book, except that it was published by Thomas Y. Crowell Company, New York. The original owner's signature in the book, written in beautiful cursive, is dated 1925. Also, in the bottom right corner of the inside flap, there is a sticker which reads "McAinsh and Co. Limited, 4 College St., Toronto".
As far as rare finds go, this must be at the top of my list, along with a hardcover, "Cicero Completely Parsed" dating back to 1902.
I recently read Fagles' recent translation of the Iliad, which is very readable and idiomatic and, so far as I can tell, accurate. When I get the chance I will compare it with Pope's. One thing Pope does that is so remarkable is translate according to a rigid and demanding scheme: heroic couplets. This is one reason why I admire him so much. It reminds me of Goethe's maxim, "In der Beschrankung zeigt sich erst der Meister", "it is within limits that the master reveals himself." I must credit Oscar Wilde for this quote, for it was in his "Decay of Lying" that I read it.

Speaking of hard to find poets, I've been in the market for quite some time for a copy of William Cowper's works. For whatever reason he is all but forgotten (most 18th century profs have probably never read him), but he is to me one of the great English poets. He combines, to my mind, the very best of the Augustans and the early Romantics. Eliot's had a copy of his works, a century old leatherbound edition, but the price tag was 55 CDN. Do I have any donors? :)

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Blogger Problems...Now I understand

To all 4 of you, I may be missing some things on the blog including links and pictures. For some reason, the template got screwed up and I had to start from scratch. Don't worry, I'll put the links back up. I still like ya!

Friday, September 02, 2005

"Boy I need this..."

Dr. J has some irresistible quizzes linked to his blog, the latest being "The Leading Man Test," to determine which classic lead man you resemble. Apparently Dr. J resembles Clark Gable. I on the other hand (and these tests are never wrong) resemble the loveable Jimmy Stewart. Here is my synopsis on the website:

You scored 16% Tough, 4% Roguish, 52% Friendly, and 28% Charming!
You are the fun and friendly boy next door, the classic nice guy who still manages to get the girl most of the time. You're every nice girl's dreamboat, open and kind, nutty and charming, even a little mischievous at times, but always a real stand up guy. You're dependable and forthright, and women are drawn to your reliability, even as they're dazzled by your sense of adventure and fun. You try to be tough when you need to be, and will gladly stand up for any damsel in distress, but you'd rather catch a girl with a little bit of flair. Your leading ladies include Jean Arthur and Donna Reed, those sweet girl-next-door types.

What do you think? Is this accurate? Go test yourselves The Classic Leading Man Test
Bonus points for those who can identify the title of this post (the only movie of Jimmy's I've actually seen).