Biblitz delivers advise

Questions for Leo Biblitz.

The Deborah Solomon-ish Interview.


Questions for Leo Biblitz

INTERVIEW BY DEBORAH SOLOMON-ish FACSIMILE

The celebrated ASKBiblitz.com host talks about why he thinks authors should be read and not seen, whether the world is planning sufficiently for the growing number of people with disabilities and why most of us should forget about the luxury of retirement.

veryGoodBiblitz

The Uncollected Wodehouse

Edited and Introduced by David A. Jasen

Hardcover

I look in my glass, dear reader, and what do I see? Nothing frightfully hot, believe me. The face is slablike, the ears are large and fastened on at right-angles. Above the eyebrows comes a stagnant area of bald forehead, stretching away into the distance with nothing to relieve it but a few wisps of lonely hair. The nose is blobby, the eyes dull, like those of a fish not i the best of health. A face, in short, taking it for all in all, which should be reserved for the gaze of my nearest and dearest who, through long habit, have got used to it and can see through to the pure white soul beneath. At any rate, a face not to be scattered about at random and come upon suddenly by nervous people and invalids.

And yet, just because I am an author, I have to keep on being photographed. It is the fault of publishers and editors, of course, really, but it is the photographer who comes in for the author's hate. (From Photographers and Me, p. 22).

The Papers of Samuel Marchbanks

Hardcover

By Robertson Davies

OF THE UNSIGHTLINESS OF AUTHORS

I rarely play cards, but I was taken to the cleaners this evening by a couple of young women in a spirited game of "Authors." I reflected as I played upon the appearance of authors, as a class. They are a mangy lot. Shakespeare appears to have been a dapper fellow, but look at James Fenimore Cooper, who kept turning up again and again in the hands I was dealt. And look at Ralph Connor and Sir Gilbert Parker, the two Canadians included in the game. Scarecrows, all of them. Authors should be read, but not seen. Their work unfits them for human society. (From The Table Talk of Samuel Marchbanks, p. 274)

OF EDITORS

... I think that Canada is wise never to have created a stamp with the head of an editor on it; editors at best are disagreeable fellows, professional contradicters and sassers back. An editor of any degree of experience becomes incapable of complete agreement with anyone, and he reads the dictionary so much that he always knows more nasty names for any particular offence than the man who has committed it. Whatever an editor may be in his private life, he is professionally ferocious, and he can turn on his tap of belligerence at a moment's notice. There was a time when the horsewhipping of editors was a common sport, and shooting their hats off in the street was regarded as mere pleasantry. Now the law forbids both of these manly pastimes... But glorifying an editor by putting him on a stamp is as inexplicable to other nations as is our Canadian custom of worshipping the beaver, that other unattractive, gnawing, surly mammal. To be obliged to lick even the back of an editor's picture would be intolerable to a free man, though, an instant later, he could punch the picture in the face with his thumb. (-- p. 294)

Jeeves in the Offing

Paperback

By P.G. Wodehouse

Strange, I was feeling, this strong pro-Kipper sentiment in the Wickham bosom. I mean, consider the facts. What with that espieglerie of hers, which was tops, she had been pretty extensively wooed in one quarter and another for years, and no business had resulted, so that it was generally assumed that only something extra special in the way of suitors would meet her specifications and that whoever eventually got his nose under the wire would be a king among men and pretty warm stuff. And she had gone and signed up with Kipper Herring.

Mind you, I'm not saying a word against old Kipper. The salt of the earth. But nobody could have called him a knock-out in the way of looks. Having gone in a lot for boxing from his earliest years, he had the cauliflower ear of which I had spoken to Aunt Dahlia and in addition to this a nose which some hidden hand had knocked slightly out of the straight. He would, in short, have been an unsafe entrant to have backed in a beauty contest, even if the only other competitors had been Boris Karloff, King Kong and Oofy Prosser of the Drones.

But then, of course, one had to remind onself that looks aren't everything. A cauliflower ear can hide a heart of gold, as in Kipper's case it did, his being about as gold as they come. His brain, too, might have helped to do the trick. You can't hold down an editorial post on an important London weekly paper without being fairly well fixed with the little grey cells, and girls admire that sort of thing. And one had to remember that most of the bimbos to whom Roberta Wickham had been giving the bird through the years had been of the huntin', shootin' and fishin' type, fellows who had more or less short their bolt after saying 'Eh, what?' and slapping their leg with a hunting crop. Kipper must have come as a nice change. (-- pgs. 36-37)

On Photography

Hardcover

By Susan Sontag

The limit of photographic knowledge of the world is that, while it can goad conscience, it can, finally, never be ethical or political knowledge. The knowledge gained through still photographs will always be some kind of sentimentalism, whether cynical or humanist. It will be a knowledge at bargain prices - a semblance of knowledge, a semblance of wisdom; as the act of taking pictures is a semblance of appropriation, a semblance of rape. The very muteness of what is, hypothetically, comprehensible in photographs is what constitutes their attraction and provocativeness. The omnipresence of photographs has an incalculable effect on our ethical sensibility. By furnishing this already crowded world with a duplicate one of images, photography makes us feel that the world is more available than it really is.

Needing to have reality confirmed and experience enhanced by photographs is an aesthetic consumerism to which everyone is now addicted. Industrial societies turn their citizens into image-junkies; it is the most irresistible form of mental pollution. Poignant longings for beauty, for an end to probing below the surface, for a redemption and celebration of the body of the world - all these elements of erotic feeling are affirmed in the pleasure we take in photographs. But other, less liberating feelings are expressed as well. It would not be wrong to speak of people having a comnpulsion to photograph: to turn experience itself into a way of seeing. Ultimately, having an experience becomes identical with taking a photograph of it, and participating in a public event comes more and more to be equivalent to looking at it in photographic form. That most logical of nineteenth-century aesthetes, Mallarme, said that everything in the world exists in order to end in a book. Today everything exists to end in a photograph. (-- pgs. 23-24)

Biblitz, you're not drinking?

It is only 10 o-clock, madam, though I see you've trousered a goodish blend of the finest of Scottish sheep pastures, so let us not stand on ceremony. Cups up to you and the excellent Times Magazine, which continues to show the world that quality journalism is still alive and kicking even if the humor columnists seem all to have perished, bless them.

That's true, isn't it? Do you think it says something about the state of the world or at least world politics?

I think it says something about the dullards controlling corporate media and, happily, the Web has usurped them although so far these, too, lack humor and wit. Why, you ask? Probably lack of exposure to quality material after the invasion of the vulgarians in the last century and, of course, fear. The Bush administration's restrictions, shall we say, on civil liberties created a great deal of well-founded fear of prosecution which quickly spread globally along with the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties (MLATs) the U.S. extorted in an imperialistic effort to impose itself on the world. Some of us wonder post-Bush whether America still reflects the defining features of the common law on which its system is based. Have another!

I shall! Thanks. Wonderful stuff, though I'm not sure I agree with your view of America, land of the brave, home of the free.

Ah, well, not your fault. You probably don't get about as much as you used to. No one does thanks to all the above-mentioned closures of the so-called open society.

Yet you profess to like Americans.

Yes, very much. Happy, happy years did I spend in the magical, mystical Bay Area on the edge of the world, literally. The Biblitz baby used to wave to the hang gliders flying past the living room window overlooking the ocean while dancing in its jolly jump-de-jump. The salty spray rusted the stereo components, and most of the housing seemed to be made of cardboard and held together with glue and paper clips but, all in all, public transit was the only San Francisco feature Biblitz found wanting.

Speaking of housing, as you do much of the time, tell me about this 'failed housing industry' you claim the politicians are in on.

Not

prohibitionNarrow

I wouldn't try it, sir. You have only to ask John O'Hara what happened the last time America buckled under ham-fisted Prohibition!