Hold It All

Tag: Samuel Johnson

Her Vivacity Gladdened Life

James Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson, Knopf: Everyman’s Library,  1992 

I’ve acknowledged previously the importance of Reinaldo Arenas and Eduardo Galeano  during the late 1990s into 2000 as I was trying to figure out how to write what became The Book of Mev.  Also, during that period I read with relish James Boswell’s Life of Johnson.  That biography proved a fecund  encounter, as  some of my marginalia became a “To Do” for my project…

  1. Include a letter to make the point [get another voice in there]
  1. Include some of her more creative pieces [journal or no]
  1. Force, vivacity, and perspicuity [vigor]
  1. Long footnotes of clarification at the bottom of the page
  1. Spend six hours writing, one after the other, all the topics and fragments in my Mev log

Read the rest of this entry »

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The Struggle Is One

In the 1970s Orbis Books was the U.S. cutting-edge publisher of books coming out of Latin America that heralded the phenomenon of liberation theology.   Gustavo Gutiérrez, Leonardo Boff, and Jon Sobrino were among the authors boldly questioning the Church’s historical alignment with the rich and advocating the preferential option for the poor.  A representative title was Jose Comblin’s The Church and the National Security State.

Perhaps it was the post-60s zeitgeist that accounts for a highly unusual book published  in 1978:  Raymond Whitehead’s Love and Struggle in Mao’s Thought.  That is no typo—that’s Mao, as in Mao Zedong, Chinese revolutionary, Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party, and Evil Incarnate to the West (along with Stalin and Hitler).  Just as Latin American liberation theologians and pastoral agents employed  Marxist social analysis as part of their struggle against oppression, Whitehead retrieved from Mao’s thought challenges that the mainstream churches needed to confront head on. Here are some representative passages:

“Each person, whether proletarian or bourgeois, revolutionary or reactionary, can progress by struggling against selfishness, arrogance, laziness, fear, and timidity. If constant, vigilant struggle is not maintained, then one will regress.” [48] Read the rest of this entry »

A More Lively Mode

I read James Boswell’s Life of Samuel Johnson in the summer of 1999. At the time I was gathering materials for what eventually became The Book of Mev.  The following passage from Boswell left its mark on me in that project…

Wherever narrative is necessary to explain, connect, and supply, I furnish it to the best of my abilities; but in the chronological series of Johnson’s life, which I trace as distinctly as I can, year by year, I produce, wherever it is in my power, his own minutes, letters, or conversation, being convinced that this mode is more lively, and will make my readers better acquainted with him, than even most of those were who actually knew him, but could know him only partially; whereas there is here an accumulation of intelligence from various points, by which is character is more fully understood and illustrated.

 

Take the Long View

I once wrote for a magazine:  I made a calculation, that if I should write but a page a day, at the same rate, I should, in ten years, write nine volumes in folio, of an ordinary size and print.

–Dr. Samuel Johnson, quoted in Boswell’s Life.

On Hope and Expectation

Hope itself is a species of happiness, and perhaps, the chief happiness which this world affords:  but, like all other pleasures immoderately enjoyed, the excesses of hope must be expiated by pain; and expectations improperly indulged, must end in disappointment.  If it be asked, what is the improper expectation which it is dangerous to indulge, experience will quickly answer, that it is such expectation  as is dictated not by reason, but by desire; expectation raised, not by the common occurrences of life, but by the wants of the expectant; an expectation that requires the  common course of things to be changed, and the general rules of action to be broken.

–Samuel Johnson, in Boswell’s Life