Archives for 2005

The Mind of the Maker, by Dorothy L. Sayers

Contrary to popular belief, this is not primarily a book about God. Sayers wisely does not try to tell us about God directly, but about what is godlike in ourselves. ‘The characteristic common to God and man,’ she says, is ‘the desire and ability to make things.’ She draws a vivid and detailed analogy between the Christian Trinity and our own creative imagination. In working out the details of this analogy, she tells us a great deal about them both; but, inevitably, more about our own minds than God’s. [Read more…]

A Reader’s Manifesto, by B. R. Myers

Even before B. R. Myers lobbed this magnificent stinkbomb into the mailbox of the New York literary establishment, I think most of us knew what this book tells us. Yes, the emperor has no clothes; yes, the book reviews will praise the most ridiculous tripe rather than risk losing an advertiser, and the bigger the author’s name, the more blatantly they will cringe and fawn. And yes, too many ‘literary’ authors today have inherited all the pretentiousness of their predecessors, but none of their skills. After all, why learn skills when attitude is so much easier?

For readers, this is pretty good fun, and Myers’ caustic wit makes the journey doubly worthwhile. But for writers, it is a message that we ignore at our peril. [Read more…]

Murphy’s Widow

An excerpt from a work long in progress.

Chapter Zero:
Your call will be answered in the order in which it is received

Life, they say, was simple once.

When Man first appeared, none of the older and wiser animals would have bet a well-chewed bone on him to rule the world one day. He wasn’t as strong as the gorilla, or as sociable as the chimp, and the orangutan was much more handy with his feet. You would never notice this new kind of ape in a mug line, unless you happened to spot the crude wooden club clutched in his hand. A mere detail, said the older and wiser animals. Why, it wasn’t even part of him, not like fangs or claws or a good set of running muscles. How could carrying a silly stick help anyone take over the world?

It was at that moment that Man came up behind the older and wiser animals, swung his club, and smashed their brains into jelly.

As strategies go, this was an all-time winner. In a blink of the cosmic eye, Man conquered the earth. Oh, the club was upgraded a few times along the way, replaced by the knapped flint, the spear, the M16 rifle. But the hand that controlled the tool stayed just the same, and the brain that controlled the hand—well, it could still just about cope with the finer nuances of, ‘Swing club. Smash head. Repeat as necessary.’

Nowadays, life is far too complicated. But the ape with the club is nothing if not an optimist, and still hopes to find some grand theory that will explain everything and make it simple again. Science, religion, philosophy, daytime soap operas, all were created to meet this primal need: the craving to feel that we understand. But of course we don’t understand. So we think there must be something more—a conspiracy, perhaps. There must be someone out there who pulls every string, rigs every game; someone who breaks every gadget the day the warranty expires, and turns every neat square knot into an unsolvable granny. Someone we can’t see; someone very, very powerful. And someone, alas, who doesn’t seem to like us very much. If only this conspiracy could be unmasked and defeated, life would be good, the world would be our playground, and everything would just make an amazing amount of sense.

By a remarkable coincidence, the ape with the club is the only species of animal that gets locked up in mental institutions.

[Read more…]

To an editor

Dear Sir: Your silence sets my ears ablaze;
   your spurning pen is eloquently mute. [Read more…]


I, the forgotten, rejected, the Great Unwanted,
unwelcomed, unmissed in departing, in loss unlamented,
I who have walked in the umbras of wasted seasons,
dwelt in the midden of others’ discarded lessons,
for none of my betters would taste the nauseous wisdom —
only the dying take medicine, and they but seldom,
for attar of funeral roses is sweeter solace —
I, I alone, know such thirst as to drink from that chalice.  [Read more…]

Scribbles found in a margin

Between the light of purposed action
   and the darkness of the deed,
a shadow falls. All life is faction:
      man and master, fat and lean,
   mother’s love and daughter’s need,
ungrateful as the worm affection
      bred. A shadow falls between
   a poet’s lips and ears that heed. [Read more…]

The Spam

With apologies to Edgar Allan Poe.

See my inbox full of spam —
Email spam!
What a world of cluelessness in each pathetic scam!
How they babble, babble, babble,
As their packets are discharged!
Now they’re promising me Venus,
But they’re not sure if my penis
Or my breasts should be enlarged!
See them sell, sell, sell,
In a sort of hacker hell,
Texas Hold ’em and Viagra by the kitschy kilogram
With their spam, spam, spam, spam,
Spam, spam, spam —
As my filter fights off gigabytes of spam. [Read more…]