Updike: Alliteration and Stuttering

Porky Pig: Famous Stutterer

John Updike is addicted to alliteration and suffers, sporadically, from stuttering. Are those two facts connected?

Alliteration is everywhere in Updike’s work, most prominently in the titles he gave to his two famous multi-volume series (Rabbit, Run; Rabbit Redux; Rabbit is Rich; Rabbit at Rest; Bech: A Book; Beck is Back; Bech at Bay). Or consider this chapter heading from Hugging the Shore: “On One’s Own Oeuvre”. Alliteration doesn’t always work to the same effect: Bech: A Book is consonant heavy (not just the b sound but also the hard c of Bech and book). This makes the titles Bech: A Book and Bech is Back bumpy and jittery. Conversely the round rolling vowels of “on one’s own oeuvre” purr satisfyingly.

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John McCain: the video

The Yes We Can music video, beautifully turning Barak Obama’s words into a tune, was widely loved. Equally good in its own way is this sequel, featuring John McCain musicalized.

Trust me: it’s very much worth a look.

Iraq: Silence of the Catholics

Dorothy Day, anti-war Catholic (photo from the Milwaukee Journal).

When Tony Blair converted to Roman Catholicism last Christmas eve, there was a great hullabaloo in the press as to whether there was a contradiction between his new denominational identity and his support for liberal policies on abortion and gay rights. Joseph Devine, Bishop of Motherwell, went so far as to criticize Blair for leading “the most anti-family and anti-life government in recent history.”

Yet like many other Catholic critics, Bishop Devine was silent on an even more glaring contradiction: Blair’s most noteworthy political decision was his support of the American war effort in Iraq. John Paul II and Benedict XVI have both been strongly critical of this war, pointing out that it violates traditional Christian Just War doctrine. In 2002, before ascending to the papacy, Benedict flatly stated that the “concept of a ‘preventive war’ does not appear in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.” More recently, Benedict has lamented that nothing good has come out of the Iraq war. 

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The Language of Krazy Kat

Chris Ware’s cover for the new Krazy Kat book.

If you live near a decent book store, you can now buy a copy of George Herriman’s Krazy & Ignatz 1941-1942: “A Ragout of Raspberries”, which gathers together two years of great full-page, colourful Krazy Kat comics. Beautifully designed by Chris Ware, the book also has a substantial essay I wrote Herriman’s writing skills.

 In celebration of this new book, I want to quote a very pregnant bit of dialogue that appeared on Jan. 06, 1918 when Krazy Kat and Ignatz Mouse started arguing about the nature of language:

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Neo-Conservatism: The Chart

In today’s Washington Post, there’s an extensive chart tracing the history of neo-conservatism from Leo Strauss and Leon Trotsky to the Bush White House (the chart accompanies a review of Jacob Heilbrunn’s new book They Knew They Were Right: The Rise of the Neocons).

The chart manages to pack in a great deal of information in a small space but necessarily simplifies and unnecessarily contains factual errors.

A few notes: I don’t think it’s true to say that Ayn Rand was an influence on National Review (she was excoriated in the magazine for her atheism).

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Japan’s Justice Minister Hatoyama on Death Penalty

Hatoyama Kunio, Japan’s Justice Minister, gave an interview in the magazine Weekly Asahi last October that has been reprinted on Japan Focus, (a peer reviewed electronic journal and webzine on Japan), and reported recently in the Japan Times. The interview has some fascinating nuggets, but none so interesting as Hatoyama’s explanation for why Japan should continue to uphold the death penalty in contrast to Western countries:

Interviewer: Why should Japan not consider abolition?

Hatoyama: As the Japanese place so much importance on the value of life, it is thought that one should pay with one’s own life for taking the life of another. You see, the Western nations are civilizations based on power and war. So, conversely, things are moving against the death penalty. This is an important point to understand. The so-called civilizations of power and war are the opposite of us. From incipient stages, their conception of the value of life is weaker than the Japanese. Therefore, they are moving toward abolition of the death penalty. It is important that this discourse on civilizations be understood.