Friday, February 17, 2012


Today, I had the most amazing experience. I tried to appreciate a widely praised writer whose work I thought was boring, tedious and a waste of time.

Of course, this is not the first time this has happened.

The writer's name is Nathan Englander. He is widely praised in the NY Times:

And he has his own page on Amazon:

I managed to struggle through one story, "The Twenty-seventh Man," the first one in a collection called "For the Relief of Unbearable Urges."

This story is about 27 Jewish writers who are rounded up by Stalin in the 1940s and taken to a prison to be held overnight and then shot to death the next morning. The story is tedious and long and predictable and drawn out and boring. Basically, it's a shaggy-dog story. There are no suprises here, no insights into human nature.

The only thing I can figure out is that those critics who rave about Englander's work are responding to the theme, the message, rather than the experience of reading. They are applauding a sermon.

Yes, it is terrible that these Jews are rounded up to be killed. But we know this already. We know there have been atrocities against the Jews, among many other peoples, over the centuries. We don't have to be told, again, that these atrocities are bad.

There is an old rule about writing: Tell them something new, that they don't already know, or tell them something old in a new way.

This story is neither one. It's something old, that we already know, told in an old way.

I don't think this is a matter of taste. I think it's a matter of applauding the sermon. But a work of art should be more than a sermon. It should be better than that. It should be more complex, more aesthetic in nature, more ambiguous, not just a message. It should have elements of poetry, meanings that are not easy to define.

This story is overwhelmed by its meaning. The message outweighs the art. It is too ponderous and heavy and dull to be a work of art.

-- Roger

Copyright © 2012, Roger R. Angle

Monday, February 6, 2012


I saw that Ron Artest, a rough-and-tumble professional basketball player, has changed his name to Metta World Peace.

A year or two ago, Ron Artest got into a hell of fight during a game and the fight went up into the stands. It was something to see:

Now he has a new name, Metta World Peace. And that is--if you can believe this--what the announcers call him on TV these days (he plays for the Lakers): "Metta World Peace takes the rebound ... Metta World Peace makes the shot ... Metta World Peace sets the pick ..." Etc., etc.

OK, OK, OK. I don't know if Ron Artest is trying to change his image or his nature. Or both. I guess he is trying not to be a thug any more. Change your name and your image. Why not?

I think I will change my name to Eternal Zen Master. That is on top of numerous joke aliases I have with my friends.

From now on, just call me Zen for short. Peace be with you, ya'll.

-- Roger, Eternal Zen Master

Copyright © 2012, Roger R. Angle

Sunday, February 5, 2012


I watched the Super Bowl today -- the whole game -- and it was a blast.

I take back all the bad things I said about it being boring.

And my team won. Hurray! I ended up rooting for the Giants, and it was a real cliffhanger.

It is weird how the game usually comes down to a few key plays. A dropped pass, a near-interception. I guess that is what makes it so exciting. You never know what is going to happen.

-- Roger

Copyright © 2012, Roger R. Angle