Well, a time of finishings.
The New York Sun is closing down today. It was good while it lasted. I have a list of newspapers online through which I glance every day and the New York Sun was one of those. One of the writers whose criticism I’ve found awfully useful, instructive and interesting is Adam Kirsch. I’m sure he’ll have no trouble finding a job somewhere else, but it is pretty safe to say he’s no longer employed as a book critic for the New York Sun.
Another finishing is the happy and sad finishing of a good book. As my wife lingered at Half-Wit a few weeks ago I prolonged my searches and found a book of essays by Joseph Epstein. I discovered Adam Kirsch by way of the New Criterion. The first issue of the New Criterion I received came with a great essay by Epstein from which I determined that here was a writer I needed to read. So I have put away a couple of volumes of his essays—I believe he has five or so out. My favorite so far has been the one I just finished entitled Narcissus Leaves the Pool. Why do I enjoy these essays? Well, he can write very well, informally—the essays are personal essays, with insight into literature and art, into human nature—usually by way of his foibles, the nature of friendship, and all the rest.
Are there any Gentiles writing anything worthwhile?
Owen Barfield is dead. I did finish his What Coleridge Thought, at last. It was a project of August, but so difficult and uncharacteristically unyielding that it took some plodding. It is the sort of book I will have to go back to for round two once I have had a round or two at the Biographia Literaria and others of Coleridge’s writings. Still, there is a sense in which there was only one thing preoccupying Owen Barfied and one thing about which all his books are the restatement. This book is the least approachable, but still worthwhile.
We finished another visit to Duluth. It entailed much walking in Superior, WI, in neighborhoods of decent but noticeable decay, around the center of town where there is much that is old. We were in Superior because I found an internet special for a place called the Superior Inn which I do not recommend unless your only considerations are pecuniary. Ours cannot have been said to be, but for some reason my wife’s congenital frugality was hanging like a pall over the preparations, and perhaps my occasional and short-lived however intense pangs of fiscal conscience may have been in operation at the time—I am prepared to deny it. I can say we are finished with the Superior Inn.
I don’t know if this is at all certain and have the feeling it is not, but it may be the last time I attend the Old Chicago in Duluth. We had spectacularly bad service—long waiting and cold food. I was so put out I short-tipped and I am not inclined to take things out on waiters. I have had bad service elsewhere in Duluth at 4:30 on a Saturday afternoon and have punished the Green Mill there by only returning once when there was such a throng at Old Chicago on a Thursday evening that the waiting could not be contemplated. The thing about Old Chicago is that it is in such an immense warehouse of a space, so uncrammed and usually with adequate service—in short, the ideal restaurant—that I do not look forward to punishing them by withholding from them my patronage. Still, I might.
We finished listening to The Silver Chair. We have found nothing makes a road trip go by like the Chronicles of Narnia. At least, I have found that. I ought to have taken two of them because the total trip was enough to listen to two. Instead I had Brahms who was very fine and to whom I am still listening. I do not think, no matter how many times I read it, I will ever stop laughing at the things Puddleglum says. It also seems to me that when it comes to ending books few end things as well as CS Lewis ended things. I will say that his remarks about the diet and meals of centaurs, perpetrated by the faun, constitute a lapse of imagination in my judgment. I think he had been enjoying Puddleglum so much that he decided he’d try a little of the same with centaurs and failed.
We have shut our windows. They have been open all September without interruption.
But I am tired of writing this and will make it another of my finishings, for now.