Hold It All

Month: September, 2015

The Gradual, Lifelong Construction of a State of Wonder and Serenity

On Tim Page, Glenn Gould: A Life in Pictures

This is a book in celebration of what would have been GG’s 70th birthday; it’s a short book, consisting overwhelmingly of photos of the eccentric, the genius all the time, the night-owl who worked till dawn, the despiser of concerts and touring, the glutton of weak tea, the telephoner sans pareil especially at odd early morning hours, the relationship control freak, the one whose Bach keyboard work on 10 CDs brought me out of the dark space of Mahler mourning that I had immersed myself in after the death of Mev.

Here is an example of a perfect sentence by Gould fan Tim Page: “No matter how one chose to define that extra, ur-Gouldian dimension—as expressive urgency, brainy intensity, spiritual seeking, nervous energy or some combination of all these and more—it was ever present in his best performances, which could have been by no other artist.” [14]   And this one: “He was witty, kindly, energetic and intensely interested, and extended an instant camaraderie to anybody whose company, telephonic or otherwise, he enjoyed.” [37] Read the rest of this entry »

Current Reading

Other Americas

September 30, 2015

An Hour for Ai Weiwei

After meeting with Marty, J’Ann, and Suzanne, I offered to propose something for a gathering of old and new friends Thursday 1 October at Hartford Coffee on Hartford from 4:30-5:30.

I want us to discuss Ai Weiwei! He is at the creative intersection of art, activism, and accountability. He said, I am always trying to find how to get the message through. [In Munich] we custom-made five-thousand backpacks like the ones of these students [who died in Sichuan] to construct a simple sentence [spoken by the] mother of a dead student. It was: “She has been happily living in this world for seven years.”

If you have 12 minutes, check out his Ted Talk.

If you have 15 minutes, read the Weiwei-isms I’m compiled from one of his books, below (sort of his answer to the Quotations of Chairman Mao). Note the ones that grabbed you.

If you have 20 minutes, visit his web site.

If you have 90 minutes, watch the documentary available at Netflix streaming, Never Sorry.

Look forward to being with those able and interested to make it,



Weiwei-isms, by Ai Weiwei, edited by Larry Warsh

Liberty is about our rights to question everything.

My favorite word? It’s “act.” Read the rest of this entry »

4400 Chouteau Avenue


Walking west on Chouteau

Texting My Best Friend in Louisville

I: You attained full enlightenment yet?
She: Yesterday morning.

How Much John Kerry Learned to Forget

John Kerry, Winter Soldier Hearing, 1971:

The country doesn’t know it yet, but it has created a monster, a monster in the form of millions of men who have been taught to deal and to trade in violence, and who are given the chance to die for the biggest nothing in history; men who have returned with a sense of anger and a sense of betrayal which no one has yet grasped.

We saw Vietnam ravaged equally by American bombs as well as by search and destroy missions, as well as by Vietcong terrorism, and yet we listened while this country tried to blame all of the havoc on the Viet Cong. Read the rest of this entry »

September 18, 2015

Maryville Campus

Maryville University Campus

A Pope (Opening Up the Imagination)

Given the visit this week of Pope Francis, I want to share a short chapter from my new novel, Dear Layla Welcome to Palestine. This chapter was originally written in 2010 during the pontificate of Benedict XVI.

I’ll be having a collective reading and book signing at Sophia House (4547 Gibson Avenue 63110) on Saturday 24 October from 6:00–8:00 (potluck begins at 6 p.m.).  Please join us!

What if the Supreme Roman Pontiff made an unprecedented decision?
What if he made it straight from his gut, his innards?
What if his calculating rational mind did not hold sway?
What if he listened to the still, small voice within, and blurted out: This I must do!?
What if he realized that heretofore for all intents and purposes he had been a bystander?
What if he could reel off all the likely forthcoming criticisms?
What if he listened, in fact, to Vatican officials’ critique of his decision, but nevertheless remained convinced as to the mission?
What if he privately took humble refuge in the example of Monseñor Romero?
What if he made a simple statement?
What if he eschewed the language of the encyclicals?
What if he said he was going to devote some of the Church’s own resources?
What if he said he was going to sell off some of the Church’s riches, to put toward this effort?
What if he arranged to gather the necessary supplies and material?
What if he invited some members of the Judaic and Islamic religions to join him?
What if he did two weeks’ worth of intensive nonviolence training beforehand?
What if he asked for a thousand Catholics to make preparations to follow in his footsteps?
What if he offered to subsidize their efforts?
What if he refused security accompaniment and all the guarantees normally afforded representatives of a state?
What if he started to be pilloried by Christians, Jews, atheists, liberals, and conservatives?
What if he gently smiled when told of the latest castigation, this time by a prominent Italian politician?
What if he said mysteriously to a confidante that he had experienced an epiphany?
What if he was told that there were even threats being made on his life if he followed through with such “an asinine, anti-Semitic stunt”?
What if he said his life was not more important than their lives?
What if he mentioned that, yes, in his youth, he had been a fisherman?
What if he noted that many Catholics around the world were no longer making contributions to their parishes?
What if he also noted that, while some Catholics left the Church, others were now coming back?
What if he held a prayer service before he went?
What if he insisted that it be simultaneously translated into Arabic?
What if he slept well the night before he left?
What if he was all set to wear jeans and a work shirt and a hoodie?
What if he spoke with urgency of the situation to the few reporters who’d been told of his point of embarkation?
What if he and his companions all boarded the boat with aplomb?
What if the Pope was on his way to break the siege of Gaza?

Wednesday 23 September 2015

Forest Park

Forest Park

Face to Face with Elie Wiesel

This short review was originally published in the bulletin of the Center for Ethics and Social Policy in Berkeley, April 1993.  My book, Elie Wiesel and the Politics of Moral Leadership, was published in spring 2001.


On Harry James Cargas, Conversations With Elie Wiesel

Elie Wiesel is one of the most widely known writers on the Holocaust, principally through his haunting memoir Night (originally entitled in Yiddish, And the World Remained Silent).  An accomplished  novelist as well as a public spokesperson for human rights around the world, Wiesel was honored with the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986.

Harry James Cargas is a professor of literature whose encounter with Wiesel left him so moved that he undertook what has become a life-long confrontation with the implications for morality and Christianity posed by the Nazi genocide of the Jews.

This book, then,  is a record of conversations dating first from the mid-seventies with an additional eight interviews from the 1990s.  Cargas engages Wiesel in such a way that affords the reader intimate glimpses of  Wiesel the writer and the man:  his rigorous work schedule (writing fiction daily from 6 am to 10),  the depths of the father-son relationship, and his deep respect for study (spending two hours on 10 lines of  Midrashic text).   Moreover,  Cargas draws forth Wiesel’s ruminations on the various silences — of creativity, mysticism and indifference — that have preoccupied him throughout his career.   Wiesel describes his writer’s responsibility as one of bearing witness, identifying injustice, and honoring the memory of those Jews who died under the Nazi regime.   The Holocaust is considered the yardstick by which we in contemporary society ought to measure our choices.

Wiesel is deeply nurtured in the Jewish tradition, from the Bible,  the Talmud and Hasidism.    He sees his role as bridge-builder and critic to the Jewish community from within and its defender from without, a difficult role to balance. Read the rest of this entry »