Monday, February 27, 2012


Christians come from time to time – plump, with shaven necks, from a seminary that believes in exposing them to other religions. Some are wary but intrigued; some frankly delighted. Some are horrified: they can't believe that their own teachers have sent them into a nest of devil-worshipers who bow to golden statues.

When I recognize that we have a contingent of Christians, I generally forgo my three bows, though I love them: love the physical acknowledgment, love my forehead kissing the cool clean wood of the floor, love the heart's-ease of saying, with all my body, “there is something more important than the petty parade of wishes and fears, and I remember that now” – forehead to the floor – “and now” – forehead to the floor – “and now” – forehead to the floor. But the Christians have no idea what I'm doing, that my reverence is not for the golden trinkets on the shrine, nor even for the Buddha, but for what the Buddha in turn represents: the possibility of being awake. So I would have done without, but I was late and careless. Lama Michael was already speaking, and I was anxious to get to the cushion. I did my three bows and settled down to listen. On my left, a young woman I didn't know, gingerly holding a printed liturgy, stiffened.

“Oh, shoot,” I thought. “A Christian, and now I've not only done bows right beside her: I've cut off her clear escape to the door.”

Michael gave some meditation instructions, and we mumbled and moaned our way through three repetitions of the refuge and bodhicitta prayers. Tibetan, being a tonal language, lends itself admirably to this sort of droning chant: it's always melodic, and anyway in Tibetan it's mostly written in verse. Listening to Tibetan monks or nuns chanting is in itself a lovely esthetic experience, even if you have no idea what they're saying. The imitation of it in unmetrical, toneless English is a rather dismal, drawling drone, like schoolchildren, who have given up all hope of recess, reciting their lessons. I take inspiration from it, now, and I love the prayers, awkward, clunkily-worded translations though they are. There are even particularly gifted chanters who can make them beautiful, and sometimes you're lucky enough to sit beside one. But it would take a very generous outsider to guess at the beauty we old hands are experiencing.

Finally – I sometimes suspect that Michael, knowing how very long 50 minutes of sitting is going to seem to newbies, drags out these preliminaries a bit so as to give them an easier first ride – we settle into meditation, simple following of the breath, the sensation of the air moving at the end of the nose, tickle cold on the inbreath, tickle warm on the outbreath, the strangely erratic spaces of time between each. Sometimes no interval; sometimes almost a catch, and then a fall. Sometimes the deep even breathing that I used to think ought to be usual, but now recognize as, for me, a bit of an oddity. The usual discomforts, the usual panicky thoughts – “Oh my GOD I'm sitting STILL, am I going to DIE?” – acknowledged and sent to go play quietly with their toys in the other room. I love sitting shamatha.

The young woman on my left shifts and fidgets. Her fingers twitch at the liturgy on her lap. I imagine that physical contact with it repels her. Oops! Losing my attention on the breath. Back to the tip of my nose. Such a wonderful, reliable tether, the breath. Always there, always just interesting enough and not too interesting.

More twitching on my left. I imagine that this is getting harder, not easier, for her. “You have no idea what she's experiencing, Dale,” I tell myself. “And back to the breath, bucko.”

Five minutes, maybe ten minutes, pass, and suddenly she takes the liturgy out of her lap, lays it on the zabuton in front of her, and stands. She finds her way between me and the person behind me. A moment later the door opens and closes quietly. I imagine her taking deep breaths in the clear cold air of morning.

I don't move; I haven't moved even my eyes: my physical stillness is pretty deep at this point. A little sad. A silly fantasy of trotting out after her, reassuring her, bringing her back in. The worst thing I could possibly do, no doubt. And anyway, once I've set the intention to meditate, I'd damn well better do it: nothing is more destructive to practice than letting something – anything – override the intention. And furthermore, Mr Dale, this impulse is fueled in large part by her being young and pretty, isn't it? And you're losing attention on the breath. Back to the tip of the nose.

Part of my mind is still out on the porch, and going down the stairs, guilty and overwhelmingly relieved, running from the golden idols and the weirdly painted deities, the horrible bearded old men with their droning voices and smug self-satisfaction: getting out, out into the clarity of God's morning, weaving the story of the morning this way and that. I'm with you, dear. One faith is hard enough.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Newtonian Theology

Natura valde simplex est et sibi consona, wrote Newton: “Nature is very simple and conforms to Herself.”

So deeply do we moderns take this for granted, that we are likely to be puzzled to know, at first, just what Newton is driving at. Nature conforms to Herself? To our ears, that verges on tautology. In this instance what he meant was that the laws of motion that obtain in Galileo's tower should obtain in his own Cambridge chambers: that they should apply equally and impartially to the sun in heaven and to a particle of dust floating in a shuttered room. It is overwhelmingly due to Newton that we speak of natural “laws.” Many philosophers of science disapprove of that word, and would like to replace it with something more neutral. I have no objection to that, except to observe that Newton – a passionate, if eccentric, theologian – would probably never have achieved what he did had he not believed that he was discovering and revealing God's design principles. He was not working out descriptions: he was finding out laws.

“Nature conforms to herself.” Newton made no argument for this, and in fact it's a difficult point to argue. Most people, for most of the time human beings have existed, have not believed it. They have seen no reason why one should assume that nature plays by the same rules in the neighboring village as it does in their own. They lived in a world of multiple deities and local powers, which made up own rules as they went along, and often enough found themselves at war with each other. When that happened, a prudent man kept his head down, made offerings to as many of the powers as he could afford to, and hoped to stay out of their way till things settled down.

Science never got very far until monotheism prepared the ground, until whole cultures believed that everything everywhere obeyed the same rules, and was subject to the same Judge. Individuals might speculate, and did: flukes might produce a Pythagoras or an Aristotle. But for science to get very far, it needed a scientific community: it needed continuity and debate, financial resources and social prestige. We only find such communities arising in places where monotheism has been firmly established for generations. The typical “history” that most science people believe, in which courageous fact-based scientists arose ex nihilo to dispel the immemorial fogs of religious dogma, is almost exactly backwards. A scientist, historically speaking, is simply a Jewish, Christian, or Muslim theologian who has followed his speculative discipline so far that it has begun to destroy its own foundations.

Whether scientific communities can survive, having eaten their own roots, is an interesting question. So long as they offer power, commercial and political princes will support them, in their fashion. But science needs more than money to survive. It needs a powerful sense, throughout the community, that the service of truth is sacred, and that truth is One and universal. Otherwise, scientists will begin to be seen more and more as alchemists and magicians: as mere grubby contractors with arcane, possibly diabolical, powers. There are many people who already see them this way, and it's a cultural current that I don't see slackening. If science is to regain (find?) its place in the hearts of the public, it's going to have to learn to speak of its sense of holiness – its radical devotion to truth, and its conviction of the unity of that truth – in terms that the religious communities that begot them can understand. It will not really be that hard: there is not much that really separates science from the religions that produced it, except bogus history, mutual ignorance, and arrogance.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Nina Tovish

Oh my God. Designer and photographer Nina Tovish has been working on a book putting together some of her photographs and my poems: she just sent me an initial pdf. It's so beautiful, and put together with such care. Unbelievable.

Nina and I go way back: she must be one of the very first bloggers I knew. I have never – to use the archaic vocabulary of the meat-world – met her: but from the start we've understood each other with startling depth and completeness. It's the sort of connection that makes you nervously reassure yourself that all that former-life stuff is nonsense. God and desire, risk and consequence: we're often on the same page when other people can't imagine what book we might be reading.

I'm full of – what? – joy and gratitude and yearning: some feeling compounded of those.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Vegetarian Tigers

Every day I see denunciations of corporate greed. I see them on Facebook, and on Occupy poster-boards. “End corporate greed!” they say: and often they complain bitterly about how little taxes corporations pay.

This perplexes me. Corporations are supposed to be greedy. That's what they're there for. The wealth of a nation is determined largely by how efficiently its people are organized to produce its goods: and that translates pretty directly into how successfully greedy its corporations are. It's no more wrong for a corporation to be greedy than it is wrong for a tiger to be carnivorous.

So I don't want to make corporations less greedy. I don't want to turn them into philanthropic organizations. They produce plenty of public benefit just by being themselves. And I don't want to tax their incomes, which puts American corporations at an international disadvantage. Tax their shareholders, by all means. Tax their ridiculously compensated CEO's. Tax their sales, if you must. But leave the tigers healthy to hunt.

But by the same token, it's silly to treat corporations as persons, and give them political rights. A corporation is no more capable of public spirit and selflessness than a tiger is capable of becoming vegetarian. The founders of the United States would have been horrified at the idea of a corporation having political rights. And so am I. It's not just common sense that's outraged by the idea of a corporation having god-given, inalienable rights. It's political sense. A corporation, given the power of political speech, will use it for the one thing it knows: maximizing profit. The same thing that makes a corporation a healthy economic creature makes it ineligible to be a political creature. A corporation doesn't, and shouldn't, understand the public good. It doesn't have children whose future it's anxious for. It doesn't care about rivers being polluted. It doesn't think some things belong only to God.

Corporations don't belong in the political arena for the same reason that tigers don't belong in sheepfolds. And it's not because they're greedy. It's right and proper that they're greedy. I wouldn't have them any other way. It's because they are not, never have been, and never will be persons. No matter what the Supreme Court says.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The New Erasers

I remember when the new erasers came
long and sleek and gray, suspiciously like
antler velvet, as though behind the blackboard
might be heaped the heads of desecrated deer.

The teachers knew you could not let a child,
even once, even as a treat, even alone,
clap those long erasers each to each:
so white and full an ectoplasmic cloud appeared,

a mother ghost of chalksmoke: they would
never ever stop, clap after clap, summoning
mother after mother. But once, one afternoon,
I don't remember or I never knew why,

the glory came to me: and instead of recess
I got to stand alone, calling ghost after ghost
to life in the slantwise sun, until my throat caught
and my hands were powdered like a baker's.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Ordinary World

I have the privilege of reading Jo Hemmant's Houdini poems in manuscript. I don't know any other poet quite like Jo. She's a novelist, really – but her novels are a couple dozen lines long. The writer she reminds me of most is Maupassant. That spareness and clarity. I think she hails from an alternate universe, in which Wordsworth and T. S. Eliot never existed. None of this heavy breathing and groping for God's privates, none of this blundering about knocking over the furniture in search of the sublime. She has nothing to confess or apologize for. It's the ordinary human world, but in focus for the first time. You didn't know how blurry your vision was, until you put on your Jo glasses.

The next three-week project is underway. No refined carbs at breakfast, fresh veggies every day, no eating after 7:30 pm.

Winter is quietly packing his belongings, getting ready to leave. He's been an unobtrusive guest this year, in the Willamette Valley.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Enough Rope

Wooden soldier, wooden sword,
Chocolate coins in crinkled gold
Hints of something bought and sold,
Hints of murder in the stars.

Gjertrud Schnackenberg, “Advent Calendar”

Quickly I've come to love the low, growly form of Mt Tabor against the western sky, when I walk down from our little ridge to the 82nd Avenue Safeway to buy milk. The main hump is mama bear: just beyond her sleeping nose is the smaller hump of the baby bear. His tail wanders northward, along about 70th Avenue, making a little hump for the commuting cyclist to climb over. The baby bear's tail, and the ridge of 84th Avenue, don't exist on the geological survey map. But they exist to a bicyclist, or to a shopper going on foot. At twilight Venus glows above mama, and the baby's tail points at his celestial counterpart, Ursa Minor, circling his own cruelly staked tail over the unseen river to the north.

Patiently, day after day, I pick apart the strands of the rope. As Martha Grimes noted, it's always easy to find reasons to hate, when you have the will to do it. I don't like to hate. All precepts and commandments aside, it's like having a fever or an intestinal complaint. What I don't really know is whether there's a core under all these fibers, something that needs to be fixed or addressed. Maybe it's just hatred all the way down. I come to the slam-dunk reason to hate, the one clear treacherous dishonesty, and – satisfying though that momentarily is – with it comes the certainty that this reason, this rational and justifiable reason, has actually nothing to do with the blaze: I'd have to rewrite the whole history of the injury in order to pretend it did. No, I think all I ever hated anyone for was not loving and admiring me. That's the only unforgivable sin: that's the rope, the twist, and every fiber.

“Saint Valentine's is past,” observes Theseus, pausing by the tangled, sleeping lovers. “begin these wood-birds but to couple now?”

Friday, February 10, 2012


Also fragen wir beständig,
Bis man uns mit einer Handvoll
Erde endlich stopft die Mäuler --
Aber ist das eine Antwort?

We keep on asking, said the old not a Jew,
not a German, dying of the lead-cancer --

until our mouths are plugged with a handful
of earth -- but is that an answer?

Well, in the same sense as the fingernail-white
is an answer to the cloud-eaten sun;

even if you can't step in the river twice,
you can drown in it as handily as in the same one.

Thursday, February 09, 2012


For the first time I understand the old King of Troy
who wanted the body back: when I was young

I thought, what good is that? But it wasn't for good.
It was for anything, for the eyes and tongue

caked with dust, for the torn skin
that could not keep its brightness in.


Virginia Cafe. The conversation, rises around me, like spaghetti sauce bubbling, slowly, through its own thickness. I wonder how much of the habit of my mind has been formed by the fact that I walk all day through soups of unintelligible words? I understand so little of what is said around me. Nowadays I can blame my worsening hearing, but the truth is, even when my hearing was keen I often heard just splutters of sound. Maybe there's something off about the tempo at which I decode speech: I'm slow at it, slow and easily thrown off. I spend lots of time smiling and nodding pleasantly at little explosions of verbal sound that have conveyed nothing to me. Often I don't know what people have said. It seldom makes much difference. Mostly people just make noises and hope for reassurance: if you supply the reassurance, you've done all that's required. I'm happy to do that. But it leaves me oriented a little obliquely to the human world: like I'm usually watching the television of human life with the sound turned off.

Am I just making it up, pretending I don't understand? Or maybe everyone else is just making it up, pretending they do? Even when I understand the words, I often have difficulty stringing it into a meaning. I wonder sometimes: are we are apes that know how to speak, or just apes that believe we know how to speak? Maybe in heaven we learn to actually speak, and to actually hear: now we're just learning the motions.


CM: Forget all this political BS for a bit - if you had the power to nominate a specific individual to be President, whom would it be?

[ entertaining comment thread, people suggesting Martha Stewart, Jon Stewart, the Dalai Lama, P.J. O'Rourke... ]

DF: What disturbs me about any discussion like this, is that it's based on a fundamental misunderstanding of American government, and of what the president is supposed to be. He's not a king. He's not supposed to solve our problems. He's supposed to implement the solutions that we send to him. We are supposed to be running this country, and we're doing a really, really, really bad job. It's our fault. So get some real damn opinions and elect a real damn congress and quite expecting tabloid celebrity presidents to fix all your damn problems for you.

CM: Damn Dale, those are the harshest words I've ever seen from you...

‎DF: :-) I get a little cranky about it. Didn't we fight a long bitter war in order not to have kings? And now we want them back, because we're too lazy to do some arguing and organizing? Sheesh.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Roof, Part II

Oh, yes, I knew. How could I not? Who better
to detect the small motions of intimacy, the gaiety?
I wasn't born yesterday. And across
the long green surge of water, the treachery
of cold pilings gulping, the uncertain sky –
I discover only what was always there: it was only
ever love. So I was right, after all.
And if it twinges, what of that? I never expected
a life free of twinges. I never expected a life at all.

I recover the hammer from the muddy ground,
recover the heft and sway of it. No notion
of what to build. That comes later.

I would take back only one thing. I said
I would never be happy, and that's true enough,
but I said it in bitterness, as if it were your fault.
I wonder if I can say, now, that I'm sorry?
I have more wilderness to wander in,
but that is not your fault; it never was.

But this happiness is one piece
I can hammer into place. This joy
need no longer be denied or idolized.
It's paid for, done, sealed, and still.

And the warm beating in my hand
of some strange fruit takes life again,
fledges in one flowering moment
and wheels toward a country still unknown.

Monday, February 06, 2012

The Skilful Deployment of Oomph

I recently read some books that are not in my usual range: books with titles such as Willpower, Succeed, and Learned Optimism.

The psychology of cognition and and will has changed beyond recognition, in the past twenty years. Or rather – it's changed so that, for the first time, I do recognize it: for the first time, what these people are describing looks something like my interior landscape. I don't live in a world of low self-esteem, deep suppressed anger, and endless replication of childhood trauma. I live in a world in which I frequently run out of steam. Oomph, as I call it. Oomph is what allows me to resist temptation and change habits. I also use it to write poems, and to write difficult database queries, and to engage in socializing. It is a precious and limited resource: and a couple years ago I formulated my notion of its importance. “The art of life,” I declared, “consists of the skillful deployment of oomph.”

It turns out that psychologists have been studying oomph a lot, lately. They call it self-regulation, which is a rather negative way of phrasing it. Roy Baumeister calls it willpower, but rightly cautions against a) the grandiosity of the term, and b) the tradition of considering “willpower” a fixed personality trait, rather than the name of something that rises and falls, is depleted and replenished, in everyone. He also – and this appears to be the mainstream view, at the moment – thinks it can trained up, like muscular strength. I'm a bit skeptical about this, but he has some data to back the idea up.

Trainable or not, it's a limited resource in everyone. People are very bad at assessing how much of it they have: almost everyone overestimates. And hence they put themselves in the way of temptations they can't really resist, or set themselves self-improvement programs that they can't really carry out, which is very discouraging, and they draw the conclusion that they're weak-willed, in a permanent and pervasive way, which is even more discouraging. But in fact they've just been treating their oomph as it was inexhaustible, which it's not, not in anyone.

So. I have some things I've been trying to change in my life, for years, for decades, actually. These books, and my own thinking about oomph, have given me new hope about succeeding in changing them. The basic approach is to split the changes into manageable steps – steps that will require oomph, but not more than I have. I create clear, explicit goals for these steps, so that there's no waffle-room – I know for sure whether I'm succeeding or failing. I track it on a calendar. If I succeed in a step for three weeks, by the end of that time it should be requiring much less oomph. It will have moved into “habit” territory. I get a reward of some sort, and I go on to the next step.

If I fail – and the steps should be ambitious enough that sometimes I do – then I don't need to waste much time scolding myself and beating myself up. I just need to recognize that what I thought was one three week step is too big for that: I need to break it down, somehow, into a couple of steps, and start over. It's important to really start over: rewrite the goals, re-set the endpoint, and to thoroughly give up on making it all the way through that project in three weeks.

From time to time is that I'll start failing again at something I thought I had mastered and had moved into the “habit” column. This is to be expected, and when it happens I simply need to put it back into the “un-mastered” column. I'll take it up again.

The key here is to have only one or two steps that I'm working on at any one time, so that I know what I'm focusing on, and so that I'm not overspending oomph at any one time.

The reason all this has come up, now, is that in moving to a new place, I lost several good habits, and have had to recover them. Things as simple and fundamental as showering and doing the dishes every day had moved from being habits to being things I had to spend oomph to accomplish. I'm fortunate to have stumbled over these books when I did, because they made this deterioration much easier to understand, and made it seem much less sinister. It's more than just the stresses and uncertainties of being displaced, and having a large house-full of stuff to sort, store, or dispose of. Habits are tied to time and place: with the move I lost my bearings in both. My schedule was disrupted, and the daily furniture of my life was gone (or at least in storage). The cues for doing my back exercises in the morning, and for doing the dishes in the evening, had vanished. I was going to have to rebuild my habits in the new house.

I've re-established most of it, now. When the current three-week projects are done – I'm about halfway in to them – I should have restored my habitual exercise (cycling 4+ times per week), and moved my schedule back 2½ hours, so that I'm getting to bed at 10:30 again. From there I will move into the much more difficult territory of changing my eating, which looks to be a whole string of three week projects involving planning, shopping, cooking, and storing food. Actually restricting what I eat will come last: I need to have a whole infrastructure of food habits in place before I attempt that.

Restricting eating is its own game, uniquely difficult: one of the more fascinating discoveries that Baumeister et al have made is that self-regulation – the expenditure of oomph – depletes the glucose supply to certain oomphy areas of the brain, which results – of course – in strong bodily cravings for a quick carb-rush. It's a neat little catch-22 that was not understood until recently, but which sheds a lot of light on the failures of dieting. I have some ideas about how to circumvent it – but that comes later. First I need to have daily habits of cooking and supplying a kitchen in place.

Friday, February 03, 2012

The Death of the Author

In the Guardian, recently, Ewan Morrison shared his dismay over the impending death of the author:
In the last 50 years the system of publishers' advances has supported writers such as Ian McEwan, Angela Carter, JM Coetzee, Joan Didion, Milan Kundera, Don DeLillo, Salman Rushdie, Norman Mailer, Philip Roth, Anita Shreve, Graham Greene, Muriel Spark and John Fowles. Authors do not live on royalties alone. To ask whether International Man Booker prizewinner Philip Roth could have written 24 novels and the award-winning American trilogy without advances is like asking if Michelangelo could have painted the Sistine Chapel without the patronage of Pope Julius II. The economic framework that supports artists is as important as the art itself; if you remove one from the other then things fall apart.
Well. You know, I really don't give a damn about the death of the author. I've read one or two books by most of the people listed above. I may get to one or two more before I die, but I'm not fretting about the possibility of missing them. I certainly would never sink the rest of my reading life into reading all of the books of any of them. For one thing, most of the ones I've read are not all that good, and for another thing, for most novelists, when you've read one of their novels you've really read them all. After a couple hundred pages of prose, pretty much everyone takes to repeating himself. I don't know who the people are who “keep up” with the modern novel, but they must read thousands of pages of fiction per week. This doesn't strike me as a hunger for literature so much as a hunger for sedation.

We are now supposed to view with horror the fact that the system that sustained these writers, and kept them producing novel after novel after novel, is decaying. I really can't work up much. The novelist does not strike me as a major kind of artist, and the novelist is the only sort literary person that this system supported anyway.

And did this system ever work so splendidly, keeping the good writers in steady work? All my life I've known “failed novelists,” people working along, isolated and increasingly desperate, who couldn't “get their novels published,” and who took this to be the failure, not just of their books, but of their lives. I would guess that number of these men and women were novelists every bit as good as Morrison's list of makers. No one ever read their books, or ever will. Were they well-served by this system? Was it kind and humane to dangle the lure of professional authorship in front of these people? Everyone knew that novels were the only real literary form. And everybody knew that if you weren't published, you were nobody, and your stuff wasn't worth reading.

To my way of thinking, mainstream publishing was never good for writers. It never employed even a sizable fraction of the good ones. It promoted an idea of the “author” – meaning always and only, someone who writes a new novel every year or two for decades – that is limited and deadening. And it was incredibly centralized: the whole system orbited around a close, interlinked coterie of the graduates of a few universities, who had moved on (or, usually, back) to live one of the three capitals of literary English. They might adopt mascots from other places, exotics from the lower classes or from poor countries far away, but the power of selection remained firmly in their hands.

I'm not going to mourn that system. And I'm not going to miss the professionalization of writing, which is a much more recent development than Mr Morrison seems to realize. No, Shakespeare did not make a living wage from the publishing business. He made his money from producing plays, which he happened to write the scripts for. His “published” works, during his lifetime, were all pirated editions. He never made a penny from them. He thrived in an environment that was much more like the coming internet age that Morrison fears: an age in which intellectual property barely existed, and brought no income to anybody. He was not a professional writer; he was a professional producer. Like most of the best writers, he did a lot things, and did them very well. No one gave him purses of gold so that he could stop everything to brood and “focus on his writing.” He had plays to put on, properties to furbish, rehearsals to oversee. He had a life. That's why he had something to write about.

I do share one of Morrison's concerns. How will writers find leisure to write? But this is part of something larger: and it's not a literary issue, it's a labor issue. How will painters find time to paint? How will dancers find time to dance? How will anyone find leisure to do the things that make life worth living?

But this has nothing to do with the breakdown of the “professional author” system, which never employed more than a small fraction of literary writers. It has to do with wages dropping to levels at which one has to work most of one's waking hours just to sustain oneself. Having to work twenty hours a week at some crummy job never kept anyone from writing a great book or painting great paintings. But having to work fifty or sixty hours a week, or being unable to find any work, certainly will. That's the real disaster for the arts, and for all of us. In the Thatcher-and-Reagan world, we 99 percenters are either frantically busy or anxiously poor: swollen with economic desire or paralyzed by economic fear. That is something to worry about.

The fact that the dissemination of writing has become so cheap as to make it nearly free, that the classics are readily available, that the wealth of the literary world stands open to anyone who can afford an internet connection, is the most wonderful thing that has happened in my lifetime. It is a great good thing, and while I'm not surprised that the people who stood to profit by literary scarcity are complaining about it, I'm not about to join them. Today I will read some marvelous poems that a friend who lives off in the sticks of Kent sent me, and continue to review the manuscript of a terrific book on massage that another friend in Texas is preparing for publication. I wouldn't even know these people, if not for the internet. I would most likely never have seen the work of either of them, under the old dispensation. I'm willing to take the risk, in return, that I might miss Don DeLillo's 16th novel. I'll even forgo the $50,000 advance that Random House was poised to offer me to continue writing this blog.