Auden, supine?

Harold Bloom’s latest book is out, Till I End My Song: A Collection of Last Poems. Leafing through a copy, I found a wonderful poem by W. H. Auden (hardly surprising) called “A Lullaby:”

Your daily round is done with,/you’ve gotten the garbage out,/answered some tiresome letters/and paid a bill by return,/all frettolosamente.

A troublesome footnote follows at the bottom of the page. Thus, my email to the publisher.

Dear HarperCollins,

I wish to notify you of an error I found in Harold Bloom’s new book, Till I End My Song, published by Harper this month. On page 287 there is a note on W.H. Auden’s poem, “A Lullaby” explaining the Italian adverb frettolosamente (line 10). The translation reads, “Lying down.” I have no idea if this is Mr. Bloom’s note or someone else’s, but frettolosamente means hurriedly, hastily. This makes perfect sense in the context of Auden’s poem, as “lying down” would be an odd way to take out the garbage (though one could surely pay one’s bills that way). Please forward this to the correct recipient.


Marc Alan Di Martino

p.s. What’s Italian for “howler?”

36 Arguments

I just finished reading Rebecca Newberger Goldstein’s 36 Arguments for the Existence of God. Well, I still have to get through the appendix, where the arguments are stated (and refuted) logically, but the meat of the novel is behind me.

Tempted as I was to think of it as the first “new atheist” novel, one whose protagonist is a public atheist a là Sam Harris (though much more cuddly and polite), I’m not so sure if that’s the best way to characterize Goldstein’s book. Which means it’s not fiction-as-propaganda for the new atheism. It’s a pretty sappy modern love story with affectionate portraits of Hasidim reminiscent of Chaim Potok’s The Chosen.

Of course, there’s a lot of what John Brockman dubbed the “third culture,” which means science: game theory, mathematics, anthropology, etc…and a brilliantly over-the-top lampoon of Harold Bloom which is worth the read in itself.

So will this book convince you God does not exist? No. But then again, you don’t need books to help you with that, do you?