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  #11  
Old 08-23-2017, 12:33 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is online now
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“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1

Cheers,
John
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  #12  
Old 08-23-2017, 02:30 PM
Erik Olson Erik Olson is online now
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I believe that faith in the Father of the universe, though much is hidden from mortal eyes, is different than having it in, say, the author of a book, though one has not read it. It does not follow that because it is right to have faith in X, it must be right to have it likewise, therefore, in Y. I may, very rightly, have faith in the promise of a friend or someone who has not crossed me; but that is not to be used as a reason why I should, therefore, have faith in some thing else, whatever it be, of necessity. Indeed, the same leap of faith that is wise with regard to some objects will be found foolhardy in respect to others. Mind you I say this only because, whatever position you are taking here, I do not see using this passage from Scripture as a support of it. We could use this quote, perversely, to justify faith in anything whatever, but that would not be proper.
Best,
Erik

Last edited by Erik Olson; 08-23-2017 at 04:07 PM.
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  #13  
Old 08-23-2017, 03:50 PM
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Andrew Mandelbaum Andrew Mandelbaum is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael Cantor View Post
There are two threads on the Eratosphere discussing the same book by Mike Juster. There is this one, in Accomplished Members, which is essentially favorable; and there is this one, in General Talk, which is mostly unfavorable.

What intrigues me is that out of the dozen or so individuals who have responded, the only one who has actually read the book is Mike Juster.
I am reading it now, Michael. My partner got given a free E-reader called a Fire and we wanted to try it out. Not liking the screen experience but it was cool to recieve a book instantaneously. That said, I think you are missing the guist of the objections. They aren't that dependent on the book. The review has a mind of its own.
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  #14  
Old 08-23-2017, 04:16 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is online now
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Erik: "We could use this quote, perversely, to justify faith in anything whatever, but that would not be proper."
Exactly my point, Erik. It would NOT be proper. But I agree, I am at the same time being a little flippant.

Cheers,
John
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  #15  
Old 08-24-2017, 09:31 PM
James Brancheau James Brancheau is offline
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I'm gonna reread some Lowell (and I have a feeling I'll love it again).
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  #16  
Old 08-25-2017, 08:07 PM
Michael Juster Michael Juster is offline
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Well, I am glad to see that my Lowell review has sparked two animated threads.

I'm not going to get into a point-by-point exchange, particularly with a couple of people who seem determined to misread my review, but let me make a few general statements:

1) I absolutely DID NOT criticize Jamison for using an older term for "bipolar." "As is Jamison's right as a clinician" was the phrase I used to introduce my ACTUAL criticism that Jamison only belatedly explains her use of terminology; my only criticism in this zone was that many readers will be confused because the explanation of the terminology comes so late in the book. This type of problem is a recurring one with this author--she also hides the ball on the fact that she married into the Lowell family and relied on her husband--not for the recounting of facts, but for expert medical opinion. That feature of the book crosses an ethical line I wouldn't cross.

2) I absolutely do criticize Jamison for largely assuming Lowell's "greatness" as a person and as a poet. In my view Jamison needed to explain what outside of his literary work would justify a claim of "courage." I saw almost no evidence to support her claim, and very little evidence of genuine remorse at any time about the many victims of his physical abuse--most of which were women & some of which were nearly killed. Nowhere in this long book does Jamison identify a non-manic period in which we can more sympathetically judge the character of Lowell. Nowhere in this long book do we see documentation that Lowell found it difficult to return to what he most loved doing after his institutionalizations.

3) My criticism of Jamison on Lowell's poetry is mostly based on her utter failure to make ANY assessment of the poetry and her only limited use of a few positive assessments in the secondary literature. My view of Lowell's work is pretty common: he wrote a few great poems; he wrote a larger number of dreadful poems; and there is a vast amount of other work about which there is much to admire but little to love. I consider myself somewhat open-minded in my assessment of Lowell's work & would have loved to see Jamison use her perspective to enhance my understanding of individual poems--in the way John Irwin's recent bio of Weldon Kees did. It's not that I disagree with Jamison's readings--I disagree with her decision not to even try to use the life to explain the art.

As for the cheap-shot ad hominem remarks, I have promoted bipolar into positions of great responsibility and selected a bipolar person to be the public face of the Social Security Administration--someone who became a cherished friend and co-worker. I actually believe that Jamison's book is unintentionally damaging to the people she clearly wants to help because she seems to argue that they can not be held morally accountable for anything--a standard that would disqualify them from significant jobs. She also consistently skirts history that contradicts her thesis--such as the controversy over The Dolphin and his Vietnam protests.

It is a widely praised but horribly flawed book.

Last edited by Michael Juster; 08-25-2017 at 08:12 PM.
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  #17  
Old 08-26-2017, 01:42 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is online now
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Good evening Michael,

I believe I don't have a dog in your fight. I did the following in these two threads. I stated my objections to Jamison's method. I noted the drawbacks to relying on reviews without reading the book in question. I discussed the challenges mental illness imposes. I appraised Lowell's worth as a poet. And I wrote this:
I did read Juster's review, which stated if I understood correctly among other claims that the only problem in Lowell's privileged existence was his mental illness. Similarly, the only problem in Steven Hawking's privileged existence is his ALS. I did work for several years at a mental health clinic, and I have some grasp of the hidden challenges - they escape people - that mental illness routinely imposes. Those challenges did not seem visible in Juster's review, and my previous post in this thread aims to redress that balance. Particularly if folks read the review and skip the book, as I did. Misrepresentation comes easy in describing people. I hope to have avoided it here.
If this is unfair to your review, please do feel at liberty to tell me how and where.

With all good wishes,
John
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  #18  
Old 08-26-2017, 07:26 AM
Michael Juster Michael Juster is offline
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John:

You're 100% twisting what I said--I acknowledged that bipolar disorder was a serious problem in Lowell's life. The fact that he had state-of-the-art medical treatment (including lithium, not widely available at that time), he had a trust fund, he had friends at Ivy League schools who invariably invited him back no matter how much he damaged students, and he had incredibly supportive family & friends is also all undeniably true.

I just don't think Lowell's diagnosis is a blanket excuse for the wreckage he created, particularly his vicious violence against women. Jamison disagrees with me on that point, and that would be an important topic for you to discuss. She also asserts, without any evidence tied to dates, that he had periods of lucidity. OK then, but I don't see any breaks from dangerously violent behavior, frenetic sexual coupling, or poor treatment of people he considered lower on the social scale--or any regrets at all for his past behavior. In other words, how can one possibly make a case for his greatness as an individual--apart from the poetry? I don't see how you can, and the book is annoyingly vapid on that topic.

I also acknowledge that disgraceful human beings can be great poets--it's not hard to create that list. As I said before, my opinion on Lowell's value as a poet is not nailed down, but Jamison's book doesn't do anything to advance discussion about his literary merits.

By the way, I caught the implication in your comment and you should know that I suffer from a serious degenerative condition myself, and I have won many national awards for improving the lives of people with disabilities.

Mike
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  #19  
Old 08-26-2017, 08:21 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is online now
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Good morning Mike,

OK, let's post exactly what you said, instead of relying on reports. You say this in your review:

The only serious adversity in Lowell’s highly privileged life was his severe bipolar disease. To overcome that adversity Lowell had wealth and class advantages that guaranteed him the best and least restrictive medical care. Had he been named Robert Jones, Robert Connolly, or Robert Berkowitz, the odds are that he would have been warehoused for life in a hellish Massachusetts institution, like the one that Frederick Wiseman exposed in his famous 1967 documentary film, Titicut Follies.

Now I believe i have fairly characterized that statement in the words I quoted above. Rather than delete a word, i will repeat it in its entirety:

I did read Juster's review, which stated if I understood correctly among other claims that the only problem in Lowell's privileged existence was his mental illness. Similarly, the only problem in Steven Hawking's privileged existence is his ALS. I did work for several years at a mental health clinic, and I have some grasp of the hidden challenges - they escape people - that mental illness routinely imposes. Those challenges did not seem visible in Juster's review, and my previous post in this thread aims to redress that balance. Particularly if folks read the review and skip the book, as I did. Misrepresentation comes easy in describing people. I hope to have avoided it here.

Once again, do feel at complete liberty to indicate at which point in these two passages I am 100% twisting what [you] said. I feel that I was fair. If i missed another passage, please feel free to quote it. You know your review better than I do.
Update: as i said, I think you have the wrong dog.

Cheers,
John

Last edited by John Isbell; 08-26-2017 at 08:46 AM.
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  #20  
Old 08-26-2017, 09:18 AM
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Andrew Mandelbaum Andrew Mandelbaum is online now
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I wish I had more time to devote to this than I do. The bit of a window I had was taken up by reading the book, a fascinating read for which I am quite grateful. From this side of the read I am afraid the book described in the review has little relation to what I found in Jamison's work. I am sure there are reams of worse reviews out there but I can honestly say, of book reviews that I have had a deep interest in, it is the farthest off the mark I can remember.

(BTW, I got a hold of it on kindle for like ten bucks but if readers want a bit of a taste there are several chapters available online at amazon for free. The available chapter on Character was enough to induce me to order the whole. Easy enough to check it out for yourselves. I would love to write a review myself and if I can weasel it into my classes ( which just started and buried me with 1000 pages of reading I will be sure to post it here. )

The ridiculous claims regarding "the disgraceful person" of the whole human at issue here (his lack of lucidity, remorse, and courage) are not a point of disagreement between you and Kay Jamison but rather one strained two page reviews revision of Lowell against the deeply founded love and common histories of his wives, his daughter, his students and his friends. Many of these same are brilliant writers and close observers themselves, whose quotes and experiences of Lowell fill out much of the book (IMO to its credit) without fudging the dark and painful sides of these experiences despite the surprising assertions of sanitization (a telling choice of words) you put forward. Being honest about the role that mental wounds play in the human animal, facing the disturbing fact that very self we love can in fact go under the rising waters and be lost for a time is not about blanket excuses. The shame and remorse such moments carry in the souls of many of the folks that deal with this harsh business wouldn't be easily mitigated by such claims in any case. Your claim to find no evidence of character in the person reflecting through Jamison's selections and in the deeply felt memories of those who loved the fellow are really strange to me. I began highlighting early with an eye to such but quickly realized how silly the pile up was getting. Your assertions are fair enough, I suppose, being that the currency in question depends on what you are willing to acept in exchange. The complexities of love and life outside the neat shops away from the well-mannered lawns of the supposed normals open us up to all sorts of barter. It can get dicey as hell but in the end the salvaged bits of real treasure make the serial-numbered, uniformly-cut and colored stacks of conventional character look a bit like bland paper. I reading off my own walls here. And paraphrasing Hardwick. I speaking of dicey, I am giving a hundred to one odds on the bet that she would kick your review in the shins. The passion here is that I recognize in Jamison's Lowell a ring of truth because of my own experiences with the courage you seem blind to. No one is intent on misreading your views. You wrote words that have a certain tone and meaning to me. I took your words seriously and responded with feeling. Glass houses and rocks as they say.
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