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Archive for June, 2011

To write a single book of true literary merit and enduring influence is no small accomplishment. Biographer Michael Scammell sees value in works by Arthur Koestler other than Darkness at Noon – mostly because of their prescience on politics – but it’s really because of that novel that anyone knows Koestler’s name.

And it’s impossible to consider Koestler’s work, life and legacy without invoking the names of other giants of twentieth-century literature, as I demonstrate in a Logos essay. Orwell, Camus, Conrad, Auden, Sartre and Hemingway, among others, factor into his story – and not always in exclusively literary ways.

Koestler sometimes vacillated on the core principle of his best writing – that ends do not justify means – but Darkness at Noon expresses it superbly and powerfully. Paul Berman sensibly groups Koestler with Orwell and Camus, whom he deems the best writers on totalitarian themes of their era. That trio still has few rivals.

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In the June 13 Detroit News, Rod Beard writes a great story about the Downtown Boxing Gym Youth Program, which helps kids thrive by developing their discipline and focus through training to box. In “A First-Class Sport,” an essay in Fighters & Writers, I discuss a similar program at another gym and marshal the arguments supporting such efforts. Not only boxers and trainers, but senators and presidents, among others, have noted the real benefit of boxing for young people, but this has not been as widely recognized as it should be, I sense. I hope Beard’s article helps get the message across.

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The last book review I wrote while residing in Oregon appears in the Sunday, June 12, 2011, edition of The Oregonian. Appropriately, the novel considered, Once upon a River, is set in Michigan, where I’ll be living for the foreseeable future. Author Bonnie Jo Campbell resides in Kalamazoo, where I attended college, but that’s not where I’ll be. I’m going back to where it all began for me: where I grew up, where I went to school (except for those undergraduate years), where I met my wife, where my parents and sister live. I’ll continue to remark on writing and related subjects here, but I’ve also started a separate site – Detroit48221 – to document my return to Detroit.

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