by Lesley M. M. Blume

The Sun Also Rises, it turns out, really happened. Hemingway took a bunch of jaded Parisian emigres fishing, and then took a bigger bunch to see the bullfights in Pamplona. They really did get into fist fights. They really did get into each others’ beds, and each other’s wallets. The stuff with the wineskins really happened. We don’t actually know that Hemingway had three martinis before lunch and then drank three bottles of wine himself, but there’s not a hell of a good reason to doubt it.

Lesley Blume has tracked down enormous detail about the months before and after this trip, months during which Hemingway’s first marriage broke up and Hemingway moved from promising but scarcely-published struggling artist to literary lion.

Feb 17 24 2017

The Magicians

Streaming on Netflix, a fairly loose adaptation of Lev Grossman’s Magicians trilogy for television.

It’s interesting to see the changes that the screenwriters inserted. The central problems with the story remain: the hero is a goop, and the fantasy world with which he is obsessed is not very well drawn.

The screenplay doesn’t try to remedy these problems; it makes the hero even more clearly aware of his shortcomings, and of the shortcomings of his childish fantasy. (The Magicians is chiefly a response to Harry Potter but it’s also a response to Narnia, though Pullman’s His Dark Materials is a better and more complete rebuttal.) That knowledge deepens the story.

Grossman doesn’t love Fillory, which is Narnia with the serial numbers rubbed off; his protagonist does love it and despises himself for loving it. Grossman builds a world but his heart isn’t in it. That doesn't matter terribly because this is a story of our world in which some characters step out for a time elsewhere.

What makes the series work (and what eventually redeems the books) is Julia’s story, a thread that only gets started in in the second volume. Julia doesn’t pass the entrance exam for the magical school, but she’s not going quietly into that muggle night: she will pay any price for magic. Everyone pays, but Julia pays up front: it turns out there’s an underground magic scene, a grim network of drug dens and safe houses, and she pays her dues with interest. The screenwriters get Julia’s story going right away and they water it well.

Feb 17 22 2017

Tinderbox 7

Tinderbox 7

Tinderbox 7 is ready.

Tinderbox helps you visualize, analyze, and share your ideas. I’ve been working on this release, pretty much literally nonstop, for months on end. There’s a ton of new stuff. Some is research. Some is just engineering and polish – better performance, more effective multi-tasking.

Tinderbox will help you work your work.

by Ernest Hemingway

This is Hemingway’s masterpiece, and an important hole filled. It’s a nifty little book, though its spareness (which must have been striking in 1926) no longer comes as the shock it must have seemed then. I’m less clear how surprising Brett, the woman in the case, really seemed when this book was new; she exercises sexual autonomy and regrets the narrator’s incapacity, and since this was two years before Lady Chatterly that incapacity was fresher then. Was Waugh thinking of this when he wrote Vile Bodies (1930)?

Malden’s mayor recently decided that Malden has no need to consider becoming a sanctuary city, because Malden is so inclusive and welcoming.

I respond, in the Malden Observer.

All of us should — and some of us will — defend our friends and neighbors if their government comes to deport them. Where will Malden's officials stand?

We should resolve now that Malden will neither cooperate nor collaborate. Malden police should neither assist mass deportations nor pursue those who shelter fugitives. Public services should plan to provide necessary resources and protection; Marty Walsh has vowed to use Boston City Hall itself to shelter threatened and vulnerable residents. Malden's representatives should work to extend these resolutions throughout Massachusetts. The clarity of our resolve today might forestall a dark future.