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Summer is icumen in

Summer is icumen in

May 07, 2024

Hello friends! Today is Publication Day for my critical edition of Auden’s The Shield of Achilles. I think this is Auden at the very peak of his poetic powers, and I hope I’ve done a bit, in my introduction and notes, to make the poems more comprehensible and interesting.

Also, I just finished edits to my essay forthcoming in the July issue of Harper’s, “Yesterday’s Men: The Death of the Mythical Method.” That should be out in around a month.

My students’ final exams will be coming in today, so the rest of this week will largely be devoted to grading, but then Summer Will Officially Begin. What will I be up to?

First, some revisions — based on some helpful peer reviewers’ reports — to my “biography” of Paradise Lost. Then we’ll enter the copy-editing phase. The book will be out sometime next year, though I don’t have details yet.

And then further work on Dorothy L. Sayers, including the first of what will surely be several visits to the Marion E. Wade Center, which holds a last trove of DLS’s letters and papers. Getting back to Wheaton is always a wonderful homecoming for me.

I’m also going to be giving some deep consideration to how I want to write about the movies of Terrence Malick. I have a book’s worth of notes and drafts, but I just can’t find my way into this project. As Martin Mull (probably) said, writing about music is like dancing about architecture, and writing about Malick’s movies is like writing about music. It’s very hard to do without betraying, or anyway falsifying, the experience of watching and listening. I’ve read a number of books about Malick, and while some of them offer interesting ideas, not one of them comes close to capturing what it’s like to watch one of his films — and few of them even see this as a problem. It is a problem for me, and I’m beginning to fear that it’s an insoluble one.

I think I’m going to try to address this issue by blogging more about Malick, even if that means putting some material out there that a publisher might not like to see on the open web.

And anyway I expect to do more blogging. I’ve been thinking a lot about what Cory Doctorow calls his Memex method: “When Your Commonplace Book is a Public Database.” On my blog I have around fifteen years of quotations and commentary organized by tags. And I’m thinking that I need to lean into that as a resource for thinking and then ordering my thoughts. The micro.blog will continue to be the place for short-form fun things and links to those bigger blog posts. So those of you who are financially supporting me will be getting more bang for your buck!

But then, so will the rest of you. I believe in the open web and will always blog there, even if no one gives me a penny through BMAC. It’s my small attempt to participate in the gift economy, which is one of the manifestations of the Kingdom of God. Those of you who offer financial support participate in that alternative economy — but then, so too do those of you who can’t, or choose not to, give money. You give your attention, which is a thing of great value. The people who provide the money enable me to write more on the blog, which expands the circle of gift-giving and -receiving. That's a very good thing, I believe. It's like a Little Free Library, but on the web.


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