Saturday, December 22, 2012

More...Treasure Island!!! by Sara Levine

When the unnamed narrator of Sara Levine’s novel Treasure Island!!! reads Stevenson’s book, she is struck primarily by how cramped her own life is compared with ‘the book’s open air’. ‘When had I ever done a foolish, over-bold act? … How can I become the hero of my own life?’ she asks, before deciding that Treasure Island is the accident that was waiting to happen to her, a book that was ‘cosmically intended for me’. And so, armed with what she sees as Stevenson’s four Core Values – Boldness, Resolution, Independence and Horn-Blowing – she begins her journey towards a more adventurous selfhood: ‘You know what Jim Hawkins would say? He’d say what good is a life if it can’t be dashingly used, cheerfully hazarded?’ Part of the novel’s comedy comes from Levine’s knowing that Jim wouldn’t quite say this, or perhaps even think it, but might still act as if he did. So several questions are given room to breathe in the novel’s open air: is our 25-year-old heroine using Treasure Island to enrich or to avoid her life? Is the very thoroughness of her need to turn Stevenson’s tale into a self-help book part of the problem, not the solution?

More from LRB's Treasure Island

The narrator is the bird that does and does not want to fly the nest. She loves the moment in Treasure Island when Jim absents himself from the family circle, commenting that ‘you have to get away from your cove and open yourself up to strangers,’ but she’s soon moving back in with her parents, and – like Stevenson – she’s haunted by a view of domestic space that seems to open up an avenue towards its opposite: ‘I don’t cherish the ranch house as an architectural form, but my parents’ house ran to so many rooms that, in daylight, I could fall into a stride and imagine myself aboard the Hispaniola.’ Is this a way of retreating from adventure, or a way of looking for it? On occasions like this, Levine’s book becomes at once a quizzical inquiry into the domestic interior and an arch defence of the need to make and take voyages where you can. The playful shifts of scale are akin to those in A Child’s Garden of Verses, where cabin fever is wondrously translated into a feeling for the miracles that can be worked on enclosed spaces: ‘We built a ship upon the stairs,/All made of the back-bedroom chairs.’ Another ambitious voyager exclaims:
O it’s I that am the captain of a tidy little ship,
Of a ship that goes a-sailing on the pond;
And my ship it keeps a-turning all around and all about;
But when I’m a little older, I shall find the secret out
How to send my vessel sailing on beyond.
‘What wonderful fancies I have heard evolved out of the pattern upon tea-cups!’ Stevenson remarked in his essay on ‘Child’s Play’. In the poem, we are privy to a fantasy of growing up – or a fantasy of growing more once you’ve grown up – conducted in the security and safety that allows for these flights of fancy. Like much of Stevenson’s art, it understands that the ability to leave home (and the ability to return to it) may be most productively nurtured in a home that furnishes you with the time to dream up such rehearsals and reversals of fortune. As the rhyme intimates, you need a ‘pond’ on which to practise your visions of ‘beyond’. Most of the best lines in Levine’s novel come from somebody who plays things down rather than up. It turns out that the narrator’s mother had an affair many years earlier while her father taught a summer school; she left home for six days, and then returned. The daughter is furious: ‘I can’t believe you are minimising this. You had sex and because you liked it, you left us?’ ‘It wasn’t the end of the world,’ the mother replies. ‘It was just an adventure.’
The print edition of the London Review of Books in which this book review appears anda downloadable PDF version of this book review are also available for purchase from the London Review BookshopContact us for rights and issues enquiries.

Friday, December 21, 2012

More on Miriam Rothschild...

Parasite Lover

Miriam Rothschild lived the 96 years of her life by the minute, and in the minutiae. "Fleas are nearly always in a hurry," she wrote, and she was, too, in their pursuit.
Rothschild was the world's expert on fleas. She loved them, lived for them - a passion acquired from her father, Charles Rothschild, a banker who collected and discovered some 30,000 species of flea in his lifetime, including the chief carrier of bubonic plague. The Rothschild fleas (some million-plus specimens, now housed in the British Natural History Museum) represent more than 90 percent of all known fleas.
But a collection means nothing if nobody studies and interprets it. The daughter spent more than 30 years painstakingly examining the fleas under magnification, eventually producing a multivolume illustrated catalog of the collection, a sort of Who's Who for flea-ologists.
She herself also eagerly collected fleas: bartered for them in New Guinea, smuggled them out of Australia on flea-ridden mice. She peered at them through a microscope she'd set up in the bedroom of her baronial estate in Northamptonshire; she kept them in plastic bags so that her children - two adopted, four from her 14-year marriage to an English-Hungarian spy - wouldn't disturb them. If we were fleas, our hips would contain a rubber-like fluid enabling us to leap a height equivalent to the Empire State Building - a fact Rothschild discovered by photographing fleas at high speeds, then dissecting their motion moment by moment.
All parasites fascinated her: bird lice, feather mites, ticks, flukes. She liked that history could be shaped by unseen agents. "It was possible to see Hitler and Goebbels," she wrote, "but it is impossible to perceive the plague bacillus spreading poison or the malaria Plasmodium bursting open red blood corpuscles." She liked that every organism is a kind of weedy lot, open ground for secondary growth. Owls are infested with rodent fleas; fleas carry worms that infect dogs and would infect us too, had we no hands to pluck them off with. "Parasites are, perhaps, the organisms in which evolution is most obvious," she wrote. Each is a small, shining example of natural selection at work in a crowd.
Rothschild had no formal education. Instead, she was raised in a Doctor Doolittle setting dominated by her famously eccentric uncle, Walter, the second Lord Rothschild, whose animal collection came to include (in addition to fleas) some 250,000 butterflies and moths, 300,000 bird skins, 200,000 birds' eggs and 144 giant tortoises, which he housed in his own museum. He rode on the back of his giant tortoise Rotumah, drove to Piccadilly in a zebra-drawn carriage and helped 4-year-old Miriam raise ladybugs. Natural history "wasn't a subject," she later recalled. "We just lived it." She was recipient of six honorary doctorate degrees (including one from Oxford). She worked on the Enigma project to break German codes during World War II. She played cricket for the national team, under a pseudonym she kept secret.
Rothschild sought the ecological ties that bind. She studied biochemical codes shared by insects and plants. Butterflies are poisonous to predators, she found, because of a toxin they get from their milkweed diet. She felt that most land management was ruinous to the intricate web of biological diversity and successfully persuaded Ladybird Johnson and Prince Charles to grow wildflowers wherever possible. She fired her groundskeepers and let her prim gardens devolve into a Rousseauvian free-for-all. Butterfly bushes sprouted from cracks in her former swimming pool. The house itself was half-encased in brambles and vines and ivies. "The battle with weeds, the conquest of Nature, is a thing of the past," she wrote.
"I'm a good example of thinking small," she said once. "My scientific work is all bits and pieces that may or may not add up to something.
I've never had a master plan." Marcel Proust, by contrast, was "a person who thought big." She admired Proust deeply; she could no longer count how many times she'd read him. She lamented that no one had ever subjected his madeleine to a gas chromatogram, to decipher the aromatic chemistry of memory. Then again, she said, any entomologist could guess the agent: vanillin, one of those creamy scents concocted by weeds to attract pollinating butterflies. In her opinion, Proust was "the first and greatest urban naturalist the world has ever known." Perhaps she should be remembered as his inverse - a natural urbanist, that rare species of observer able to conjure the entire world of nature from the 60,000 microscope slides by her bedside.

What would an American Aristocrat look like?

Miriam Rothschild

Weekly Standard on Charles Addams...

If Addams’s wit is sardonic, there is also something warm and inclusive about it. This is a reflection (as it must be for all artists) of who he was. The much-indulged only child of a housewife and a prominent naval architect, Addams followed his father in his early avocation for the art of drawing and his mother in displaying an offbeat sense of humor and fascination with haunted houses and graveyards, something which continued throughout his life.

More,from Roger...

The cult of genius therefore led to an emphasis on originality as the test of artistic genuineness — the thing that distinguishes true art from fake. Alhough it is hard to say in general terms what originality consists in, examples such as Titian, Rembrandt, Corot, Matisse and Gauguin; such as JS Bach, Beethoven, Wagner, and Schoenberg; such as Shakespeare, Diderot, Goethe and Kleist enabled both critics and artists to grasp the general idea of it. The one thing those examples ought to teach us is that originality is hard: it cannot be snatched from the air, even if natural prodigies such as Rimbaud and Mozart seem to do just that. Originality requires learning, hard work, the mastery of a medium, but most of all the refined sensibility and openness to experience that has suffering and solitude as its normal cost.

From Roger Scruton...

We are interested in high culture because we are interested in the life of the mind, and we entrust the life of the mind to institutions because it is a social benefit. Even if only a few people are capable of living this life to the full, we all benefit from its results, in the form of knowledge, technology, legal and political understanding, and the works of art, literature and music that evoke the human condition and also reconcile us to it. Aristotle went further, identifying contemplation (theoria) as the highest goal of mankind, and leisure (schole) as the means to it. Only in contemplation, he suggested, are our rational needs and desires properly fulfilled. Kantians might prefer to say that in the life of the mind we reach through the world of means to the kingdom of ends. We leave behind the routines of instrumental reasoning and enter a world in which ideas, artefacts and expressions exist for their own sake, as objects of intrinsic value. We are then granted the true homecoming of the spirit. Such seems to be implied by Friedrich Schiller, in his Letters Upon the Aesthetic Education of Man(1794). Similar views underlie the German romantic view ofBildung: self-cultivation as the goal of education and the foundation of the university curriculum.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

One of my favorites:When the Sons of Heaven meet the Daughters of the Earth by Fernanda Eberstadt

Booklist Monthly Selections - #1 March 1997
/*Starred Review*/ Eberstadt's new novel flows like a sun-spangled brook on a bright spring day. It continues the saga of New Hampshireman Isaac Hooker that began in Isaac and His Devils (1991), but no prior knowledge of Isaac is required for total immersion in this astute, animated, and funny tale about the sublime and the ridiculous in love and art. Isaac is destitute when he first moves to New York City, but various guardian angels take him under their wings and soon he begins to paint. Full of tumultuous if naive passion, Isaac barges into the oh-so-chic art world like a bull in a china shop, his narrative paintings rampant with color, mythic eroticism, and biblical drama. His most ardent champion is Dolly Gebler, the formidable head of a generous arts foundation and the wife of a man of tremendous charm and epic debauchery. Dolly and Isaac fall in love, and things get very complicated. Each page is an adventure as Eberstadt animates her marvelous characters, struts her fine psychological stuff, and offers provocative musings on the meaning of art and the nature of love. ((Reviewed March 1, 1997)) Copyright 2000 Booklist Reviews

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Great Freeman Dyson...

The fringe of physics is not a sharp boundary with truth on one side and fantasy on the other. All of science is uncertain and subject to revision. The glory of science is to imagine more than we can prove. The fringe is the unexplored territory where truth and fantasy are not yet disentangled. Hermann Weyl, who was one of the main architects of the relativity and quantum revolutions, said to me once, “I always try to combine the true with the beautiful, but when I have to choose one or the other, I usually choose the beautiful.” Following Weyl’s good example, our string cosmologists are making the same choice.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

BRIAN DOMITROVIC To the Randians of All Parties Why Ayn Rand’s economic arguments make sense—and why they’re ignored 19 November 2012

r goals of The authors endorse the Randian argument that remarkable people need extra space to achieve self-realization. Their capacities are larger than most people’s, their horizons broader, and their scope of impact more vital—so get out of the way, government. And when remarkable people succeed in business, the authors note, the public benefit is often immense. But such people aren’t greedy, according to the authors. Rand described the motivation of businesspeople and entrepreneurs as “rational selfishness,” and Yaron and Brook elucidate Rand’s view that purely acquisitive or “greedy” types are not rationally self-interested—that they haven’t thought fully about the propelife.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

On the Hold Shelf Double Entry by Jane Gleeson-White and Mr. Penumbra's 24-hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

PW Reviews 2012 August #1
For those who fear that the Internet/e-readers/whatever-form-of-technological-upheaval-is-coming has killed or will kill paper and ink, Sloan's debut novel will come as good news. A denizen of the tech world and self-described "media inventor" (formerly he was part of the media partnerships team at Twitter), Sloan envisions a San Francisco where piracy and paper are equally useful, and massive data-visualizationâ€"processing abilities coexist with so-called "old knowledge." Really old: as in one of the first typefaces, as in alchemy and the search for immortality. Google has replaced the Medici family as the major patron of art and knowledge, and Clay Jannon, downsized graphic designer and once-and-future nerd now working the night shift for bookstore owner Mr. Penumbra, finds that mysteries and codes are everywhere, not just in the fantasy books and games he loved as a kid. With help from his friends, Clay learns the bookstore's idiosyncrasies, earns his employer's trust, and uses media new, old, and old-old to crack a variety of codes. Like all questing heroes, Clay takes on more than he bargained for and learns more than he expected, not least about himself. His story is an old-fashioned tale likably reconceived for the digital age, with the happy message that ingenuity and friendship translate across centuries and data platforms. Agent: Sarah Burnes, the Gernert Company. (Oct.)
[Page ]. Copyright 2012 PWxyz LLC

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Fortune: Everyone seems hungry to make a fortune, but on nearly every occasion the word ‘fortune’ pops up, it refers not to the treasure, but to chance, to accident, to people committed to pushing their luck. In this book, a fortune isn’t always something you are pleased to take possession of Kids Gone Rotten,by Matthew Bevis,London Review of Books

 Everyone seems hungry to make a fortune, but on nearly every occasion the word ‘fortune’ pops up, it refers not to the treasure, but to chance, to accident, to people committed to pushing their luck. In this book, a fortune isn’t always something you are pleased to take possession of Kids Gone Rotten,by Matthew Bevis,London Review of Books

Monday, October 22, 2012

Other blogs I have... Great Pyrenees dogs garden design favorite drawings Christian art of my art... 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Another Quote...

 The Romantics are read because schools are not very successful in linking discipline to creative thought.

A Quote from Malcolm Muggeridge.

It is only possible to succeed at second-rate pursuits - like becoming a millionaire or a prime minister, winning a war, seducing beautiful women, flying through the stratosphere or landing on the moon. First-rate pursuits - involving, as they must, trying to understand what life is about and trying to convey that understanding - inevitably result in a sense of failure. A Napoleon, a Churchill, a Roosevelt can feel themselves to be successful, but never a Socrates, a Pascal, a Blake. Understanding is for ever unattainable. Therein lies the inevitability of failure in embarking upon its quest, which is none the less the only one worthy of serious attention. “ 
Malcolm Muggeridge.

Friday, October 12, 2012

A Classic,from"The Third Man"

In Italy, for 30 years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love, they had 500 years of democracy and peace - and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock." 
A major stream of human accomplishment is fostered by a culture in which the most talented people believe that life has a purpose and that the function of life is to fulfill that purpose.Charles Murrary

Another quote:

This art is about a certain kind of romantic tosh, a false idea of what the world is like that gets into little girls' heads before they are mature enough to know the truth. What is original about Kilimnik is that she doesn't dismiss this stage of growing up: she treasures it.
Had there been a particle of cynicism in all this, I'd have hated every second of the Serpentine show.
But I genuinely believe that in her dotty way this strange artist responds to a beauty she sees in European culture that eludes most of us who live here. Kilimnik is one step away from being an outsider artist.
You don't judge her work by its skill or technique but by the authenticity of its vision

A Good Quote...

We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures that we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open. ~Jawaharlal Nehru ~ 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

What would an American Aristocrat look like?


Paris Theodore, 63, Inventor of Spy Weaponry
By STEPHEN MILLER Staff Reporter of the Sun
Paris Theodore, who died November 16 at 63, was a holster-maker, gun inventor, and clandestine manufacturer of weapons meant to kill men without leaving a trace.
With a secret laboratory located behind a safe at his Seventrees, Ltd. holster shop in the garment district, Theodore evoked comparisons to a fictional master of lethal gadgetry, Q, from the James Bond books. If the stories told by associates and family contain even a few grains of truth, the comparison would have to include 007 himself, because many people think Theodore worked as an assassin for government agencies so secret they don’t even have names. He never told.
Government documents show that he was specially exempted from all provisions of the National Firearms Act, which was necessary for pursuing research into his “Uzi in a briefcase” — a gun that could fire from within a briefcase. He developed a working cigarette lighter that would spray three .22 rounds in a pinch. He called it a “Zappo.” For the FBI, he produced a clipboard to be used by a hostage negotiator that could fire a dozen rounds.
But Theodore’s most important invention may have been the ASP pistol, a sleek, lightweight, 9 mm handgun that became de rigueur for government agents needing a concealable weapon. First produced in the early 1970s, the ASP (named for a subsidiary company, Armaments Systems Procedures Corp.) became a gun world legend for innovations like its clear Lexan window in the stock, which allowed the user to determine how much ammunition was left, and the “Guttersnipe” sight, a beveled channel running down the top of the gun.
“It was the first service-caliber sidearm in pocket size,” a former Army lieutenant colonel who served in Special Operations Forces in Vietnam and later became an instructor in specialized weaponry at Fort Bragg, N.C., Rob Jones, said. “All of a sudden today the gun market is filled with subcompact weapons in service calibers.”
Mr. Jones and others also credit Theodore with challenging decades of conventional wisdom, epitomized by human-profile shooting targets with a bull’s eye on the chest, about the best place to aim to stop a foe. Theodore insisted that it was better to aim for the central nervous system — the spine, the head, and the medulla oblongata at the base of the skull.
“There is no such thing as knockdown power. It is a figment of the collective imagination of the Hollywood scriptwriters,” Theodore once wrote, addressing the common misperception that the sheer force of a .45 slug can knock a man down.In 1985,he patented parts of what became known as the Quell system, a shooting protocol that included a distinctive,two-handed shooting pose and a line of targets with vital areas outlined.
“He was essentially an artist,” said Michael Hershman,president of the Fairfax Group,an international global intelligence and investigative security company based in Virginia. “That gave him a perspective that others didn’t have. If he was working with a poison, what sort of vehicle would transport it best?”
Theodore had several answers to that question, including a bee-sting antidote kit, a tube of toothpaste, and a single strand of fiber optic cable fired into a victim’s scalp.
But then Theodore came from a creative family. His mother, Nenette Charisse, was a vaudeville dancer and ballet instructor, and his aunt, Cyd Charisse, was a dance legend. His father, John Theodore, was a sculptor and art professor, and his stepfather, after his parents divorced, was Robert Tucker, a choreographer.
Paris Theodore took up painting and also appeared on Broadway as the character Nibs in the 1954 production of “Peter Pan,” starring Mary Martin. He was paid $15,000 for four months’ work, his son Ali Theodore said. It was the last money he ever earned that the IRS was aware of, yet somehow he managed to raise a family on Park Avenue.
Shortly after graduating from the Browning School, Theodore was apparently recruited as a courier by clandestine services. Stories from ensuing years link him to violent encounters in Greece, Africa, and Vietnam, although nothing can be verified. In Czechoslovakia, a longtime friend at a large metropolitan police department, Steve Minguez, said,Theodore was wounded, captured, and then escaped.
Part of the reason he was involved in so much violence,Mr.Minguez said,was that the clandestine services leaked his name while using him as a decoy to cover for other operations.“They were surprised when he came back.”
By 1966, perhaps tiring of the danger,Theodore founded Seventrees, Ltd. Soon he was producing innovative holsters, as well as all sorts of what were called “unique defense devices.”There were binoculars that could shoot .38 rounds, gun silencers, knives that attached to the soles of shoes, and a type of explosive that acquaintances said would detonate in total silence.
Theodore did business with multiple government agencies and also sold holsters and weapons to police officers and people with jobs in private security. But the clandestine weapons work was more or less ended by the Church Committee hearings into CIA operations in 1975.Theodore testified, but in a closed session.
Mr. Hershman of the Fairfax Group escorted Theodore to the session.When they came to the metal detector outside the Senate office building, Mr. Hershman said,Theodore balked — normally he was permitted to walk around metal detectors, but not here. “I’m packing,” he told Mr. Hershman. Irritated at this breach of protocol,Mr.Hershman asked him where he had secreted the weapon. “It’s behind my tie,”Theodore said.
His weapons lab shut down,Theodore began working on gun training, and also filed lawsuits against manufacturers for infringing on his gun and holster patents. In the late 1980s, he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and spent most of the past decade bedridden.
One of his sons, Paris Kain, has been putting together a documentary of what can be reconstructed about his father’s shadowy career. In it, Theodore, speaking with effort, confirms practically nothing about his covert missions. But when discussing his contributions to unique defense devices, he smiles broadly and proclaims, “I was Q!”
Paris Theodore
Born January 9, 1943, in New York; died November 16 at St. Luke’s Hospital in Manhattan of complications from multiple sclerosis; survived by his sons, Ali Theodore, Said Theodore, and Paris Kain. His wife, Lee Becker, a well-known choreographer, died in 1987

Saturday, September 22, 2012

What would an American Aristocrat look like?

She's red,she rides-what else do you need to know?

What would an American Aristocrat look like?

Sir Patrick Michael Leigh Fermor, DSO, OBE (11 February 1915 – 10 June 2011) 

My Kind of War...Double Cross by Ben Macintyre

PW Reviews 2012 May #2
"Any method of seeking the truth can also be used to plant a lie." Therein lies the root of the brilliantly dangerous Allied plan (which MI5 called Double Cross)â€"recounted by Macintyre with the same skill and suspense he displayed in Operation Mincemeat and Agent Zigzagâ€"to throw off the Germans and launch an assault at Normandy on June 6, 1944. The key to the planâ€"convincing Germany that the impending attack would come either at Pas de Calais or in Norwayâ€"was the careful manipulation of five double agents, each feeding misinformation back to their German handlers. Polish zealot Roman Czerniawski volunteered his services to his German captors, only to defect to Britain and become "Agent Brutus." Serbian playboy Dusan Popov ("Agent Tricycle") became one of MI5's most prized assets. Failed Catalan chicken farmer Juan Pujol ("Agent Garbo") badgered both German and British intelligence services into accepting him, eventually becoming the linchpin of the D-Day ploy. Lily Sergeyev ("Agent Treasure"), a high-strung Frenchwoman, had the opportunity to blow the whole operation with a single punctuation mark, while Elvira de la Fuente Chaudoir ("Agent Bronx") transformed from a gambling Peruvian society girl to solid double agent. Macintyre effortlessly weaves the agents' deliciously eccentric personalities with larger wartime events to shape a tale that reads like a top-notch spy thriller. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


But in 1834 the Quarterly Journal of Education reported that "before an Eton boy is ready for the University he may have acquired . . . a confirmed taste for gluttony and drunkenness, an aptitude for brutal sports and a passion for female society of the most degrading kind, with as great ease as if he were an uncontrolled inhabitant of the metropolis." 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Joseph Campbell

One thing that comes out in myths is that at the bottom of the abyss comes the voice of salvation. The black moment is the moment when the real message of transformation is going to come. At the darkest moment comes the light.  — Joseph Campbell

Monday, July 30, 2012


Without boldness, and extreme boldness, there are no beauties. One must dare to be oneself. One must be very bold. Thus one has to surpass oneself, in order to be everything one can be… There can be no rules for great souls; rules are only for those who have merely a talent that can be acquired—not for genius… The most sublime effects are often the result of pictorial license. For example, the unfinished appearance of Rembrandt’s works, and the exaggerations in Rubens. Mediocre men never have such daring, they never go beyond themselves. Method cannot supply a rule for everything, it can only lead everyone to a certain point.                                    Besides having generally conservative instincts, the painter was also a classicist, a solitary, a talented writer and an altogether engaging man. In John Russell’s words, “Delacroix in his Journal is one of the most cogent arguments for the human race. That we are in the company of a great man is never in doubt. But whereas not every great man gains from proximity, or can usefully be studied in isolation from his work, Delacroix the diarist begins with our respect and ends, just on half a million words later, with our unbounded affection. Incomplete as they are, his diaries rank among the fragmenta aurea of European civilization. They are passionate but not scabrous, worldly but not heartless, intimate but not indiscreet, animated but not rackety, profound but not ponderous, discursive but not self-indulgent. Above all, they are truthful and direct.”