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Posts from the ‘essays’ Category


Quarterly Essay: Enemy Within


ReadQuarterly Essay, vol. 63;  Watson, Don,  16 September 2016  (Australian)

  1. I’m trying to read a back-log of essays…and this one caught my eye!
  2. Enemy Within – American Politics in the Time of Trump  by  Don Watson
  3. This essay was written BEFORE Trump won the US election.



  1. This is one TOP NOTCH  piece of writing!
  2. I am amazed how Don Watson (Australian) has written such
  3. clever an insightful observations about a
  4. complex and chaotic American political landscape.


  1. Strong point: D. Watson is well read.
  2. He uses this information…to support his conclusions.
  3. The Tragedy of American Diplomacy (W. A. Williams, 1988)
  4. America’s War for the Greater Middle East (A. Bacevich, 2016)


  1. Strong point: writing style
  2. Don Watson is cheeky and at times irreverent.
  3. For example calling  John Foster Dulles
  4. …and his brother Allen door-kickers
  5. hitmen for the cause of US world supremacy. (ouch)
  6. Watson  gives us a refreshing look
  7. at the divides in America (Blue-Red sates)
  8. zooms in on the ‘purple state’ of Wisconsin,
  9. the circus  we call the US elections,
  10. the TV news media and the candidates.
  11. …especially the appeal of Bernie Sanders!


  1. Strong point: Best chapter: 6
  2. Watson makes remarkable comparisons between
  3. Trump’s campaign….and fascism
  4. …fanning the flames of rhetoric to win votes.


Last thoughts:

  1. I am very, very impressed with Don Watson’s essay.
  2. He is one of Australia’s foremost writers and intellectuals.
  3. There are so many Australian writers who we must discover!
  4. After reading this thought provoking essay
  5. …I think of a phrase I saw on the internet:
  6. Obama is the America…it thinks it is
  7. Trump is the America….it knows it is.


Here are a few gems:

  1. US:
  2. The United States is a concatenation of sulky tribes provincial
  3. …ignorant and seething with ambition…. [OUCH!]


  1. US TV NEWS:
  2. The pundits are not there to judge the quality of thought or action
  3. An election is a horse race and
  4. …no one cares what horses are thinking. [OUCH!]


  1. TRUMP vs TV NEWS:
  2. Donald Trump understands the news channels
  3. better than they understand themselves.
  4. His “outrageous” tweets push people toward the media
  5. and the media towards him.
  6. He dominates the news.
  7. He wins every day.
  8. Even when he loses, he wins!   [HOW TRUE….]


  2. Americans want a president through whom God can act.
  3. But as well as the right president
  4. …it must be the right god.
  5. Trump understands this too.
  6. [DE TOCQUEVILLE…wonders has TRUMP read my book?]
  7. Personally…I don’t think Democracy in America is on Trump’s TBR.


  2. Sanders never had to worry about an “image problem,
  3. …because he didn’t have an image.
  4. When he appeared on television he did not look like
  5. …a man in search of a camera;
  6. …more like a man  just retired
  7. …who  stumbled in on a talkshow  [LOL]



Readings Week 52

Twitter: @burns_nancy

….Time to slowly leave the kitchen and get back into my reading chair.


Update: 25 December 2017

Read:  The Dublin Review: 4 issues per year containing first-rate writitng from Ireland and elsewhere. Essay: The Tourist and the Journalist by D. Ralph (Ass. Prof Sociology Trinity College, Dublin).

Read: Path to Power (R. Caro) I’ve been listening to the 1st vol of Caro’s award winning biography series about Pres Lyndon Baines Johnson. Started on 06 Dec and hope to finish this week.  I am surprised how little I know about this man.

Finish date: 25 December 2017              On Elizabeth Bishop by C. Tóibin

Genre: non-fiction
Rating: A
Review: Biography, analysis of Bishop’s poems, and her world (trauma losing her parents, childhood in homes of family, friendships male (R. Lowell) and female (Lotte, Marianne Moore).
The fact that the world was there was enough for Bischop and she describes all that is around her. This was her defense…. so she can avoid descriptions of herself. #MustRead if you are interested in Elizabeth Bishop’s poems.

Read: On Elizabeth Bishop (C. Toibin) – biography, analysis of some of her poems, and descriptions of Bishop’s world so she can avoid descriptions of herself.  #MustRead before I try to read Bishop’s poems.

Read: Bishop’s poem “North Haven,” her elegy to Robert Lowell. In six, five-line stanzas the poet composed a masterpiece of remembrance that stands among the finest evocations of a Maine island ever written.

Read: The Sun December 2017  (ad-free independent magazine, stories, poems, interviews, essays) – Read short story Believers by Kate Osterloh. I found this short story…a bit too long! Not especially interesting to me. 15 ch each alternating  about ‘HE’ and SHE’. Narrator is flat, detached and not one line of dialogue. in comparison to Dave Ralph’s essay which I loved…this was a boring read.

Read: short story by Poe Ballantine. He  is a fiction and nonfiction writer (1955)  known for his novels and especially his essays, many of which appear in The Sun. This short story that was very entertaining….a bit more polished than Believers. Poe Ballantine wrote Mining the Lost Years. I liked this quote: “ Mining the lost years….or how to take the dirty coal of your life (breakups, breakdowns, shattered dreams, sickness, death, misdeeds, indiscretions and other ringing failures….and compress it into diamonds!

Read: Poem by M. Cochrane    Stage Four  in The Sun.  The form is 37 lines with no paragraph breaks. I see that Cochrane uses ‘ I believe…”  repeated 6 x . I will read the poem with these words as a ‘mental break’ (lines then divided 4-15-4-4-10). Cochrane lists so many things he believes in (therapy , mindfullness, holy water and the saints….etc) but the powerful ending made the poem worth reading! It is what the poet makes us as readers think of ourselves. I remembered my own ‘lemonade small business on a summer street curb’!

“….Always stop at a lemonade stand.
Doesn’t matter where you’re going, who’s
waiting for you, or how late you are.
You pull over, get out of the car,
take it all in, savor the sun on your face,
the sweetness on your tongue,
this little kid watching
you drop a twenty in her jar.”

( good feeling!)

Mick Cochrane is professor of English and Lowery Writer-in-Residence at Canisius College, where he has three times been named Peter Canisius Distinguished Teaching Professor.


Update: 26 December 2017 –  reading The New Yorker 18-25 December


Update: 27 December 2017

Read: poem  Emotional Astronomer by Bronwyn Lovell  in Australian Literary Magazin Meanjin and the poem spoke to me instantly. She has been shortlisted for the Fair Australia Prize 2017  . There is something unique, something hidden in the images….something  but have not been able to put my finger on it yet!  This one needs more reading and thinking. Bronwyn Lovell’s website.

  • Wordsworth believed that the poem is the record of a great emotion,
  • …later ‘recollected in tranquility’.


Emotional Astronomer

cares for telescopes like mechanical pets

camps out with cameras and an aching neck

tints torchlight, dims his van brothel-red

waits for the Earth to move, the moon to set

props a director’s chair for the fade to black

can’t factor his children’s resentment

accepts the conditions, won’t ask the sky why

will not love a nebula less the tenth time

gets teary at a clear viewing of Alpha Centauri

feels things to which his wife won’t relate

needs no chart to plot the now fragile arc

of a retired accountant’s amateur star

knows meteors will rain down consolation:

Jupiter a river pebble, Saturn a silky stone
















Readings week 51

Twitter: @burns_nancy

  • Between grocery shopping and cooking…
  • I’ve litte time for ‘ sit down serious reading’.
  • Here are a few snippets, thoughts while making pumpkin pie (Mom’s recipe)
  • and  …mushroom lasagna! (Cookbook Plenty by  Y. Ottolenghi)

  1. #SNAFU in the Xmas kitchen….chilled dough ready for pumpkin pie
  2. …. and I can’t find my rolling pin!
  3. PS:  I can eat Pumpkin Pie for breakfast!


  1. This  dish took me 4 hours to make:
  2. 4 different cheeses – béchemal sauce – chop 2 lbs mushrooms + 15 onions
  3. pre-soak lasagna pasta….and then put all this together in layers!
  4. I deserve a ‘y-uuuge’ glass of wine after this culinary extravaganza!
  5. Ready for the oven….XMAS Mushroom Lasagna!
  6. I used every frying pan, dish, spatula and bowl in my kitchen
  7. to make this…I’m exhausted!
  8. Happy Holiday!


UPDATE 17-18 December 2017

  1. Read: ISLAND  magazine (nr 151)
  2. This is a Tasmanian Literary publication sent to me all the way from Port Hobart!
  3. Read: editorial by Geordie Williamson
  4. Read: poem Munchian O by Mededith Wattison.
  5. Re-read the poem   Munchian O   this morning with my coffee: makes very little sense to me except the allusions to E. Munch ‘The Scream‘ and Bruegel’s ‘Landscape With the Fall of Icarus‘. I’m sorry …I really tried to like it!
  6. Read: personal essay by Erin Hortle “How Do You Make Them See You Belong” (feminist issues in the middle of Tasmanian surf culture). This essay was so-so….issue seemed trivial to me.  Erin is trying to make a mountain out of a mole hill in my opinion…but it is important for her.
  7. Read: The Writer at Present Interview  by Benjamin Law with author Heather Rose.
  8. She is the winner  of Stella Prize 2017  book: the  Museum of Love Modern Love. She describes her journey while writing her prize winning book.
  9. Read:  2 personal essays by husband and wife team on their decision to move to Tasmania from Melbourne. These were excellent  personal essays by  Damon Young and Ruth Quibell.


Film: finished  short series HBO The Young Pope (Jude Law nominated Golden Globe 2018) ..I spent 6 hours watching the last episodes and enjoyed it but felt still as if I was wasting my reading time. Watching films and series on HBO or Netflix just feel like a ‘sugar buzz’  and later I come crashing down. On the other hand…books keep me afloat for days.

Read: The New Yorker with the new app “The New Yorker Today”.

Daily shouts:    Xmas grocery shopping/cooking got you down? #JoinTheClub
But I have just been jolted into ‘Ho-ho-ho” spirit @NewYorker “Life Hacks for the Reluctant Home Cook” (@tasneemraja)   Tasneem Raja’s  article has given me #CulinaryShame “Astronauts in space find time to make their own stock. What’s your excuse?”


ReadMeanjin  – an Australian a literary magazine

  1. Essay:  Two Fires  by T. Birch – winner of the  P.White Award 2017
  2. He is the first first indigenous writer to win the Patrick White Award
  3. His newest novel is Ghost River (2015)
  4. A collection of impressions  and people Birch met during a
  5. 2 week residency in Canada, Banff Cenre for Arts and Creativity
  6. …and Christmas Hills Readers and Writers Festival 2017.
  7. The history of a stolen generation in Canada…sound haunting.
  8. Tony Birch makes many comparisons (CAN vs AUS) and its history
  9. …of dispossession and attempt to destroy the indigenous peoples.
  10. Essay was very readable but did not ‘wow’- me.


ReadQuarterly Essay, vol. 68;  White, Hugh,  28 November 2017  (Australian)

This is worth the time it took to read….2 hrs!

  1. Essay: , ‘Without America: Australia in the New Asia’
  2. Hugh White is Professor of Strategic Studies
  3. ….at the Australian National University.
  4. Stop assuming that USA is going to dominate Asia forever
  5. Stop  assuming that USA will keep Australia safe.
  6. China is now so strong and ambitious that USA under weak
  7. that USA will cease to be a  significant player in Asia.
  8. Australia must prepare itself for this transformation.
  9. I loved White’s explanation of two world powers put their rivals to the test!
  10. “classic power-political salami-slicing”
  11. “…each slice of the salami might be insignificant,
  12. Washington looks weak if it can’t or won’t stop China taking
  13. …one slice after another, and China by contrast looks strong and resolved…”
  14. OUCH!
  15. “Rex Tillerson has proved to be the worst secretary of state in living memory,
  16. ….and the overpraised General James Mattis in Defense
  17. ….has failed to bring coherence to the administration’s strategy.”
  18. WHAT?
  19. Who would have thought that Indonesia will be a
  20. ..VERY POWERFUL country, second only to China?
  21. Thank you, Hugh White for opening my eyes….about China and Indonesia!!
  22. I think TRUMP should put this essay
  23. ‘Without America’ in his bedside night table….
  24. …his TBR!!
  25. Conclusion:
  26. 40 years ago Australia managed a ‘post-alliance’ transition with Britain.
  27. Now Australia’s task in the next few years will be…doing the same with America!
  28. China’s rise is a fact and isn’t going away.
  29. This will require Australia to rethink a lot of things,
  30. ….to make some hard choices, and perhaps
  31. …to pay some heavy costs.
  32. #ExcellentMustRead essay!


Pre- Christmas movies: 

  1. Babette’s Feast ( Best Foreign Film Oscar 1988) –  classic favorite
  2. Casablanca   –  classic love  WWII story (3 Oscars – best picture, screenplay, director 1944)
  3. Going My Way –  7 Oscars 1944;  Oscar for best actors B. Crosby and Barry Fitzgerald #MustSee
  4. Hail Caesar – picked this up at the library….don’t waste your time!
  5. Mr. Holmes – great actor Ian Mckellen…..despite this talented thespian the movie was boring!








Wrap-Up Deal Me In 2017 Challenge


Challenge DEAL ME IN  2017

  • Thank you Jay….for hosting at Bibliophilopolis
  • I finished this challenge
  • ….but keep reading short stories and essays!
  • List is essays, short stories 2017:


#DealMeIn2017 challenge  60/52

  1. Short Story – J. Updike You’ll never know, Dear, how much I love you – READ – REVIEW
  2. Short Story – J. Updike The Alligators – READ  – REVIEW
  3. Short Story – W. Trevor  The Piano Teacher’s Pupil – READ – REVIEW
  4. Short Stories –  H. Ellison – Shatterday & Other Stories   READ  11/11 – REVIEW
  5. Short Story –  H. Lawson The Union Buries Its Dead –  READ – REVIEW
  6. Essay – Who Killed Tolstoy? – Elif Bautman – READ – REVIEW
  7. Essays – E.B.White – REVIEW


Comparison 2 essays about Neil Gaiman’s writings:


  1. Short Story – J. Updike Pigeon Feathers – REVIEW
  • The trauma of an adolescent crisis of faith is brilliantly described in this story.
  • I laughed out loud…
  • during the allusions to Updike’s mother Linda,
  • to Updike’s his blustry  but ineffectual father and
  • dazed….Granmom with
  • My favorite quote: 
  • “….her usual expression of bewilderment.
  • Her irises were pale discs of crazed crystal.”


  1. Short Story – W. Trevor – Meeting At Middle Age – REVIEW
  • My favorite quote: (pg 10)   
  • Mrs. da Tanka: “You are an occasional table. Or a coat-rack in a boarding house. Who shall mourn at your grave?
  • Mr Mileson: ” You are a creature with your face and fingernails. Mutton dressed as lamb….!”


  1. Short Story – W. Trevor – Access to Children – REVIEW
  • My favorite quote: (pg 29) 
  • Divorced man realizes what he has thrown away for a chance meeting with a woman in a train.
  • “They drank (man and barmaid)…to the day that was to come…
  • when the error he had mande would me wiped away.”


  1. Short Story – W. Trevor – The General’s Day – REVIEW
  • Retired General Suffolk walks ‘through a land of morn’
  • ….on an Irish Saturday morning.
  • Tea with pie and later a few dubble gins with split tonic.
  • The General swayed catching the bar to balance himself.
  • My favorite quote: (pg 46)
  • “Are you ill? …the General smiled…I’ve not been myself for many years.
  • Today is just another day. “


  1. Essay – Darwinism – Marilynne Summers Robinson – READ
  2. Essay – A Cat’s Meow – Joseph Brodsky – READ
  3. Essay – Of Our Spiritual Strivings – W.E.B. Du Bois – READ
  4. Essay – Remapping history, Reclaming memory Wilson plays (J. H. Scott) – READ
  5. Essay – How Technology Disrupted the Truth – K. Viner – READ – essay – READ
  6. Essay – Michael Sweerts: Another Dimension  S. Schama (critic) – READ
  7. Essay – Bleak House: Dead Mother’s Property (H. Schor) – READ



Neil Gaiman in the 21st Century

  • Editor: Tara Prescott
  • Title:  Neil Gaiman in the 21st Century
  • Published: 2015
  • #DealMeIn2017

Essay:   What Neil Gaiman Teaches Us About Survival (M. Miller)
Essay:   Remembering the dead: narrative of childhood (R. Long)


I read 2 essays commenting on Neil Gaiman’s  The Ocean at the End of the Lane.
I plan to read this book very soon.
Commenting on essays that are works on a single book by Neil Gaiman is not easy!
How do you review a review?


What is the narrator in Gaiman’s  the book trying to do?
The narrator is trying to survive his traumatic childhood.

Essay nr 1:
Monica  Miller tells us that the child uses creation and imagination to survive.
Creation here is the art of cooking and sewing (domestic arts)
that give the boy a sense of comfort and security at Hempstock farmhouse.
He has lost the feeling of being safe in his violent home (abuse).
The Hempstock ladies  – grandmother, mother and daughter
help the narrator relive, restore and recover from his trauma.
They seem magical to the young boy!

Essay nr 2:
Rebecca  Long tells us the nucleus of childhood is imagination and memory.
Children construct childhood as they go along.
Childhood is not only lived experiences but stories and narratives other than their own.
The narrator is constantly trying to figure out what was ‘lived’ and what was ‘imagined’.
Child is caught between the inner (imagination) and outer world (reality).
His trauma can only be resolved  through a cycle of remember, retell what he has
forgotten….only then to forget it again.

Do the essays have anything in common?
Both essays emphasize the importance of imagination in a child’s life.


Rebecca Long’s essay was good but didn’t appeal to me.
She relies on quotes by philosophers
Trigg and Warnock, Hollindale and literary theorist Frye to support her views.
Tone: academic, helpful, knowledgeable
I enjoyed essay nr 1 because it felt more polished and personal
Monica Miller referred to many lovely quotes
from the book. and also used Neil Gaiman’s famous speech
‘Make Good Art’ as the backbone of her essay.
Tone: sincere, intelligent, creative