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Joel Solkoff's blog

Practical Politics

Tom Lehrer’s song comes to mind when making observations about the central issue of this tawdry election which Congressional Quarterly estimates will cost $6 billion. Lehrer’s sardonic perspective concludes, “But during National Brotherhood Week, National Brotherhood Week,/ It's National Everyone-smile-at-one-another-hood Week./ Be nice to people who / Are inferior to you./ It's only for a week, so have no fear./ Be grateful that it doesn't last all year!”

The central lesson of this election is regardless of who wins, the fate of the Republic depends on our elected officials—indeed, on all of us,— figuring out how to solve, with people whose views we do not agree, problems. 

We will have the same problems as existed before the election. Indeed, even before the new Congress is sworn in and before Inauguration day, the current Congress will have to pass major economic legislation which President Obama will have to sign. If that does not occur, the Congressional Budget Office predicts DEPRESSION.

So, nearly all the same cast, vilifying each other for months, will have to work effectively with “people who / are inferior to you.” 

The outcome of two elections relevant to Voices readers is already clear. 

Even early in October, as I write, Obama will be re-elected because of his solid lock on the Electoral College. Rep. Glenn (“GT”) Thompson will be elected to his third term in Congress here in the Fifth Congressional District because—with the exception of 1976—a Republican has been elected to the Fifth Congressional District in every election since the Civil War. 

This District is 94 percent white; 87 percent of the voters have an education limited to high school. Two years ago, Thompson won re-election by 69 percent. Four years ago, when Obama won in Centre County, so did Thompson. Read more »

By any definition of scholarship, Penn State is the world center of Hemingway scholarship

“Scholarship implies the possession of learning characteristic of the advanced scholar in a specialized field of study of investigation (a first –rate literary scholarship).” This explanation comes from Miriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. The quotation comes from a useful section which differentiates among knowledge, learning, erudition, and scholarship.

My experience with scholarship comes from classes at the Hebrew Academy of Greater Miami where I was taught, in grades one through eight, the distinction between the word of God and scholars interpreting the word of God.

For example, in Grades one and six we read Genesis in Hebrew. Our text dated to the 7th and 10th centuries CE era when the Masoretic text was codified, the earliest and most authoritative Biblical text available. Each letter in the book of Genesis we read, the publisher counted and proofread to make sure it was identical with the original and the publisher reproduced the word count to Genesis at the end to the book.

Distinction was made between the Bible and its many distinguished interpreters. The word of God was authoritative. Rashi and Maimonides both were scholars, high-respected as were other scholars, but no one presumed, including the scholars themselves, to distinguish between interpreting God and the word of God which we believed the Bible had given us.

I am not equating Hemingway with God (although reading George Plimpton’s interview with Hemingway in the Paris Review might cause the reader to conclude that at times Hemingway thought he was God). The point I am making is that the most important scholarship comes from the primary texts. Read more »

Lost in the current tragedy: Penn State is the world center of Hemingway scholarship

Lost in the current tragedy: Penn State is the world center of Hemingway scholarship

How Penn State came to be a center of Hemingway scholarship is a multiple tragedy in itself. The first tragic figure was Hemingway himself denying the validity of scholar Philip Young’s book. Hemingway tried to suppress the book because Young said to truly understand the author, the reader had to realize that Hemingway had been seriously injured during World War I. The consequence of his physical and emotional injuries, Young explained, was a therapeutic working out of his problems in Hemingway’s fiction.

Young explained Hemingway’s reaction to his book, “But then he really wondered if I really understood how damaging it could be to a practicing writer to tell him he has a neurosis. It damages him with all his readerss and could so injure the writer himself that he could no longer write.”

When Hemingway killed himself in July, 1961, Young received phone calls, telegrams, and letters at Penn State congratulating him. “You called it, Young! These messages belong to a rare species of the genus Congratulation, but the recipient was not gratified. Nor was the remark particularly accurate, as anyone who reads my book will see…” Read more »

Suzan Erem: An Appreciation

Suzan Erem: An Appreciation
Many women have disapproved of me. None has done so in a fashion likely to win my gratitude with the exception of Suzan Erem, whom I met during Barack Obama’s presidential campaign and who became my managing editor and friend. Knowing Suzan well, I have no idea whether she will react well to this appreciation. I once told her I was sorry for something I had done or not done and she said that she does not like apologies and I should not appologize again. It would not surprise me if she said, “Joel; I never want you to express your gratitude again.”
Suzan Erem is, to those of you who do not live in the currently freezing hothouse of State College, PA, the managing editor of Voices of Central Pennsylvania. Suzan will be leaving Centre County to move to Iowa City. The exact date of her planned hegira was published on the cover of the November monthly hard copy issue of Voices, in part as a way of forcing the Voices Board to name a successor, but subsequent conversation causes me to suspect that she may leave earlier than June 2011.
Last month, Suzan published the news that Lucy Green will be the next managing editor, succeeding to a publication whose existence over the past two plus years that I have been writing for it, often depended upon Suzan’s effort and Suzan’s efforts alone. Since this is not a blog posting on the future of Voices, but is instead focused on me and how Suzan has helped me, I trust that Lucy will succeed despite the difficulties of replacing someone whom I have come to regard as irreplaceable. The fact that Lucy is the daughter-in-law of Gary Green gives me cause for hope.

Won’t ride ‘em cowboy: This is my final column

 Note: The following is the text of my February, 2011 column at Voices where I announce the end of my From Where I Sit column. The hard copy text, complete with a phograph of me, is available at newstands in Centre County. I am reproducing it here for two reasons. First a reader insisted that I was required to explain my rationale more fully or, in her words, "face a grilling."  I therefore intend to call my next blog Grilling in which I not only explain but provide the reader with reassurance that the issues of the elderly and disabled will continue to be covered at Voices--only not from me. Not within the context of this From Where I Sit monthly column. Writers interested in covering such subjects are requested to get in touch with me at the email address below.] <?xml:namespace prefix = o />

 The handler applies the fully-charged cattle prod to the rear of a bull bred for ferocity. The cowboy—Slim really is his name—holds onto his hat with his left hand. Read more »

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