Scripturient: Found in translation

Language translation fascinates me. It’s a mix of language skill, art, interpretation, science and, apparently, divination. Maybe even magic. Going from one language into another is far from a simple step of swapping words in dictionary manner – Flaubert’s le mot juste. Any fool can do that. Hell, even Google can. A single word can ...

Scripturient: Malory then and now

I recently started reading Malory in the original – that is, the language that Caxton printed in. Not the typeface Caxton used, since that would be harder to read, but rendered in a modern serif face. Caxton initially used black letter type (aka gothic) – pretty much all the early printers used it, although each ...

Scripturient: Reading as a forgotten art

Earlier this month (February, 2018), the Globe & Mail published an essay by author Michael Harris titled, “I have forgotten how to read.” In it, he recounted how he recently tried to read a single chapter of a book, but failed. Frustrated, instead turned to TV: Paragraphs swirled; sentences snapped like twigs; and sentiments bled ...

Scripturient: Fire and Fury reviewed

Dysfunctional. Childish. Self-centred. Narcissistic. Ideologically myopic. Illiterate. Cranky. Capricious. Arrogant. Scheming. Petty. Ill-educated. No, I’m not writing about our local council (although, yes, all those words apply equally to The Block). These are some of the words that came to mind as I read Michael Wolff’s book, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House. ...

Scripturient: Thoughts on reading Ulysses

Onomatopoeia. Odd, sometimes, entertaining too. Like speed bumps that make you slow down and silently mouth the letters. A slow smile at the sound it makes in your head. Alliteration. Anastrophe. Joycean wordplay. What is that word? A neologism? Or some Irish colloquialism? An anachronism? Another language? Or more playful spelling? So many to stumble ...

Scripturient: The House on the Borderland

“But for a few touches of commonplace sentimentality [it] would be a classic of the first water.” So said H. P. Lovecraft of the 1908 novel, The House on the Borderland, by William Hope Hodgson. But, Lovecraft admitted, the book was also a major influence on his own, later work. And for good reason: it ...

Scripturient: Guillermo, monsters and me

Tucked away at the bottom of a tall display case in the ‘At Home With Monsters’ exhibit at the AGO is a small collection of seven old, well-thumbed books, all by the 19th century French naturalist and entomologist, Jean-Henri Fabre. At the very bottom of the pile, its title almost hidden in the shadows, is ...

Scripturient:  Writers and reading

This post is about, and for writers, for reporters and editors, for book authors and editors, magazine editors, feature writers, layout artists, copy editors and anyone who either fancies themselves one of these, or has the curious desire to become one (curious because, at least for freelancers, it often involves spending more money on books ...

Scripturient: Montaigne and The Block

I do love reading Michel de Montaigne.  And writing about him. In 2014 alone, I wrote ten separate posts about him and his famous book, Essays. But since then, my reading habits moved on to other writers and topics. I hadn’t actually been reading Montaigne in the past few years, but recently while sorting some ...

Scripturient: The work of politics

Politics is like many other skills, jobs and pastimes in that it requires work to succeed. Hard work, sometimes, for some folk, and easy for others, but always it requires attention, study, and focus. It isn’t something you can do when you’re not paying attention or even when you’re napping at the table (no matter ...

Scripturient: The symphony of government

A good government in operation is like a symphony: disparate parts, dozens of different instruments and performers, each in their own space and place, all working together under the benign management of a conductor. When working in harmony, they are a delight to hear and see. There’s no “me” in a symphony: it’s the result ...

Scripturient: The Dude, the Tao and the Dharma

I suppose it all began with Benjamin Hoff. Hoff was one of the first contemporary writers to attempt to distill Taoism in a lighthearted form for Westerners when he wrote The Tao of Pooh in 1981, a very successful book still in print. It was on the New York Times bestseller list for 49 weeks. ...

Scripturient: Thrasymachus and The Block

There’s a character in Plato’s Republic called Thrasymachus who acts as a foil to Socrates by presenting a series of comments and arguments the old philosopher has to debate and counter. He (Thrasymachus) is based on an actual historical figure, a Sophist from the fifth century BCE. It’s unknown if the views Plato has him ...

Scripturient: Marcus Aurelius and The Block

Perhaps the most famous work by any Stoic is the Meditations, written as a series of notes-to-myself by Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius.  I’ve been reading a lot of Stoic works of late, and this remains my favourite. Although never meant for publication, just as reminders to himself, it’s full of wonderful, inspiring comments. And some ...

Scripturient: The strange life of Bobby Fischer

Forty five years ago this month, a momentous event took place in Iceland that shook the world. After 21 games spread over almost two months, the eccentric American chess master, Bobby Fischer, ended 24 years of Soviet dominance in chess after beating Soviet grandmaster, Boris Spassky. It shook the world at the apex of the ...

Scripturient: Square words

Writing has been described as the most significant human invention. We tend to think of inventions as mechanical things, like the wheel, or fire, or the printing press, the airplane, the internal combustion engine or cell phone. But without writing, few of them would exist. Writing allowed us to share the others, to improve them, ...

Scripturient: Assholes part two: Trump and his local mimics

Back in 2014 I reviewed a book by philosophy professor Aaron James called Assholes. A Theory. I discussed how his study related to politics and politicians, particularly those who call themselves “A-type” personalities (including one or two on the local council). Well James wrote another book, really an addendum to this one, titled Assholes. A ...

Scripturient: Albert and the Lion

There’s a famous seaside place called Blackpool, That’s noted for fresh-air and fun, And Mr and Mrs Ramsbottom Went there with young Albert, their son. A grand little lad was their Albert All dressed in his best; quite a swell ‘E’d a stick with an ‘orse’s ‘ead ‘andle The finest that Woolworth’s could sell. So ...

Scripturient: Three, six, seven, nine… how many basic plots?

When I was in school, back in the last century, I was taught there were three basic plots in which every story ever written could be classified: Man-vs-man, man-vs-nature and man-vs-himself. That was in the days when it wasn’t politically incorrect to use the word man to mean everyone. Today we’d say it differently, use ...

Scripturient: Book collecting: snobbery or reading passion?

The book has always been a sign of status and refinement; a declaration of self-worth – even for those who hate to read. That’s the lead into a recent piece on Aeon Magazine about book collecting and collectors. It’s also about reading and the snobbery of readers. Fascinating piece. For me, anyway. Pretty much everything ...

Scripturient: The hospital, the trolley and political ethics

In its decision about the redevelopment of the Collingwood General & Marine Hospital, Collingwood Council is evidently taking the track less travelled, trolleyology-wise. Seen as an ethical issue, our council has chosen to act against the greater good. Trolleyology is the somewhat humourous name given to philosophical intellectual exercises or thought problems about our ethics ...

Scripturient: The dystopian present

If there is one good thing to come out of the election of Donald Trump, it has been the renewed interest in a certain genre of literature. Sales of dystopian novels have skyrocketed on Amazon, in particular what might be called “The Big Three” of dystopian tales: George Orwell’s 1984, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, ...

Scripturient: Empathy and The Dog Allusion

Empathy, writes Martin Rowson, is one of the things that make us human, make us civilized, allows us to interact without tearing one another’s throats out. Without it, we’d have no civilization; we’d be like the beasts of the fields. And we’d have no dogs or gods, either. Empathy is what makes us own pets ...

Scripturient: Reading Moby Dick

Recently, coincidental to while I was reading Herman Melville’s classic novel, I read a story that some folks in Vancouver took offence to the name of a restaurant: Moby Dick’s Fish & Chips. Apparently the property overseers mistook the “Dick” in the name for a euphemism for penis, rather than reading the name of the ...

Scripturient: Auden, Trump and poetry

There’s a poem by W. H. Auden (1907-73) going the internet rounds these days with suggestions of Auden’s prescience towards the latest American president and contemporary politics. It’s a powerful piece, but the bad news for conspiracy theorists is that Auden was a poet, not a prophet. A good poet, even a great poet, mind ...