On August 19, 2003, The New York Times headlined a book review
Bending Over Backward
for a Well-Known Lout.
The word "lout" here refers to author John O'Hara.
On August 24, 2003, O'Hara was the subject of a New York Times Book Review cover calling him a "jerk."
In view of the continuing controversy over the role of the Jews in the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth, the role of The New York Times in the crucifixion of John O'Hara seems of interest. Below are some journal entries dealing with this subject.
Sunday, August 24, 2003 2:56 PM
Passing the Crown
Today's New York Times Book Review vilifies author John O'Hara as a "jerk." Earlier this week, the Times called him a "lout." These attacks amount to a virtual crown of thorns. For commentary on these attacks by the Times (a publication generally more sympathetic to Jews than to Catholics), see
The Crucifixion of John O'Hara.
But there is, to use a term of Harvard philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson, "compensation."
Today's New York Times Magazine paints an excellent portrait of Harvard President Larry Summers. This portrait, by author James Traub, is less than flattering. Traub notes that Summers is "a blunt and overbearing figure," and quotes an anonymous faculty friend of Summers as saying that many on campus "just despise him. The level of the intensity of their dislike for him is just shocking."
Traub notes that at Harvard, "Despite the protections of tenure, virtually all of Summers's critics were too afraid of him to be willing to be quoted by name."
At Yale, however, at least one professor has dared to criticize Summers openly.
In the Boston Globe on August 14, Alex Beam, Globe columnist, quoted Yale music professor John Halle as saying that Summers, an economist, "knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. By all accounts, he is a deeply vulgar individual...."
These remarks suggest the following illustrations, based on today's Times Book Review and Times Magazine, of a thorny crown being thoughtfully passed to a new generation.
Tuesday, August 19, 2003 10:23 PM
In The New York Times Book Review of next Sunday (August 24, 2003), Book Review editor Charles McGrath writes that author John O'Hara
"... discovered a kind of story... in which a line of dialogue or even a single observed detail indicates that something crucial has changed."
From the Online Etymology Dictionary:
crucial - 1706, from Fr. crucial... from L. crux (gen. crucis) "cross." The meaning "decisive, critical" is extended from a logical term, Instantias Crucis, adopted by Francis Bacon (1620); the notion is of cross fingerboard signposts at forking roads, thus a requirement to choose.
The remainder of this note deals with the "single observed detail" 162.
Francis Bacon says
"Among Prerogative Instances I will put in the fourteenth place Instances of the Fingerpost, borrowing the term from the fingerposts which are set up where roads part, to indicate the several directions. These I also call Decisive and Judicial, and in some cases, Oracular and Commanding Instances. I explain them thus. When in the investigation of any nature the understanding is so balanced as to be uncertain to which of two or more natures the cause of the nature in question should be assigned on account of the frequent and ordinary concurrence of many natures, instances of the fingerpost show the union of one of the natures with the nature in question to be sure and indissoluble, of the other to be varied and separable; and thus the question is decided, and the former nature is admitted as the cause, while the latter is dismissed and rejected. Such instances afford very great light and are of high authority, the course of interpretation sometimes ending in them and being completed. Sometimes these instances of the fingerpost meet us accidentally among those already noticed, but for the most part they are new, and are expressly and designedly sought for and applied, and discovered only by earnest and active diligence."
Inter praerogativas instantiarum, ponemus loco decimo quarto Instantias Crucis; translato vocabulo a Crucibus, quae erectae in biviis indicant et signant viarum separationes. Has etiam Instantias Decisorias et Judiciales, et in casibus nonnullis Instantias Oraculi et Mandati, appellare consuevimus. Earum ratio talis est. Cum in inquisitione naturae alicujus intellectus ponitur tanquam in aequilibrio, ut incertus sit utri naturarum e duabus, vel quandoque pluribus, causa naturae inquisitae attribui aut assignari debeat, propter complurium naturarum concursum frequentem et ordinarium, instantiae crucis ostendunt consortium unius ex naturis (quoad naturam inquisitam) fidum et indissolubile, alterius autem varium et separabile ; unde terminatur quaestio, et recipitur natura illa prior pro causa, missa altera et repudiata. Itaque hujusmodi instantiae sunt maximae lucis, et quasi magnae authoritatis; ita ut curriculum interpretationis quandoque in illas desinat, et per illas perficiatur. Interdum autem Instantiae Crucis illae occurrunt et inveniuntur inter jampridem notatas; at ut plurimum novae sunt, et de industria atque ex composito quaesitae et applicatae, et diligentia sedula et acri tandem erutae.
-- Francis Bacon, Novum Organum, Book Two, "Aphorisms," Section XXXVI
A Cubist Crucifixion
An alternate translation:
"When in a Search of any Nature the Understanding stands suspended, the Instances of the Fingerpost shew the true and inviolable Way in which the Question is to be decided. These Instances afford great Light..."
From a review by Adam White Scoville of Iain Pears's novel titled An Instance of the Fingerpost:
"The picture, viewed as a whole, is a cubist description, where each portrait looks strikingly different; the failings of each character's vision are obvious. However, in a cubist painting the viewer often can envision the subject in reality. Here, even after turning the last page, we still have a fuzzy view of what actually transpired. Perhaps we are meant to see the story as a cubist retelling of the crucifixion, as Pilate, Barabbas, Caiaphas, and Mary Magdalene might have told it. If so, it is sublimely done so that the realization gradually and unexpectedly dawns upon the reader. The title, taken from Sir Francis Bacon, suggests that at certain times, 'understanding stands suspended' and in that moment of clarity (somewhat like Wordsworth's 'spots of time,' I think), the answer will become apparent as if a fingerpost were pointing at the way. The final narrative is also titled An Instance of the Fingerpost, perhaps implying that we are to see truth and clarity in this version. But the biggest mystery of this book is that we have actually have no reason to credit the final narrative more than the previous three and so the story remains an enigma, its truth still uncertain."
For the "162" enigma, see
The Matthias Defense, and
The Still Point and the Wheel.
See also the December 2001 Esquire and
the conclusion of my previous entry.
Tuesday, August 19, 2003 5:23 PM
From my August 31, 2002, entry quoting Dr. Maria Montessori on conciseness, simplicity, and objectivity:
Above: Dr. Harrison Pope, Harvard professor of psychiatry, demonstrates the use of the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale "block design" subtest.
Another Harvard psychiatrist, Armand Nicholi, is in the news lately with his book The Question of God: C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud Debate God, Love, Sex, and the Meaning of Life.
For the meaning of the Old-Testament logos above, see the remarks of Plato on the immortality of the soul at
For the meaning of the New-Testament logos above, see the remarks of R. P. Langlands at
The Institute for Advanced Study.
For the meaning of life, see
The Gospel According to Jill St. John,
whose birthday is today.
"Some sources credit her with an I.Q. of 162."