Where Is William Wharton?

UPDATE (Oct. 30/08): Apparently he died yesterday. I’m saddened by the news. See William Wharton, 1925-2008.

william wharton

William Wharton is the author of Birdy, Dad, A Midnight Clear, and many other excellent books. He has written non-fiction, too, including Ever After: A Father’s True Story, a heart-wrenching account of how his daughter’s family got killed in a car crash caused by smoke from nearby fires in Oregon.

I was introduced to William Wharton’s books through Peter Gabriel, who did the soundtrack for the under-rated movie Birdy. The movie is based on Wharton’s book of the same name. It’s about a guy who thinks he’s a bird after a traumatic incident during World War II (although the movie uses the Vietnam War, of course). It’s one of Nicholas Cage’s and Matthew Modine’s earliest and best movies.

Franky Furbo is a novel about a soldier who’s rescued by a fox with fantastical powers. The author suggests that the tale is one he told to his kids; it’ll make you want to tell it to your own kids – it’s magical.

Wharton’s last book was Houseboat on the Seine. It’s a non-fictional account for how he bought a houseboat in Paris. I remember laughing out-loud at parts.

He hasn’t published anything that I know of since 1994. He has no “official” website; a lot of references to him online are inaccurate, and no full biography exists. You can learn a lot from him through his books, but he’s chosen to remain anonymous.

He also paints, as he describes in his novel Last Lovers (which I recently read and enjoyed a lot).

If you want to try Wharton (and you should), I recommend A Midnight Clear first, unless you prefer non-fiction; then, Ever After: A Father’s True Story.

He’s one of the few authors that I’ll read anything he writes.

Arthur Koestler Quotes

I’ve been reading Arthur Koestler‘s book The Sleepwalkers. Here are some quotes:

…I have been interested, for a long time, in the psychological process of discovery as the most concise manifestation of man’s creative faculty — and in that converse process that blinds him towards truths which, once perceived by a seer, become so heartbreakingly obvious. Now this blackout shutter operates not only in the minds of the ‘ignorant and superstitious masses’ as Galileo called them, but even more strikingly evident in Galileo’s own, and in other geniuses like Aristotle, Ptolemy, or Kepler. It looks as if, while part of their spirit was asking for more light, another part had been crying out for more darkness. (p. 10-11)

The Pythagorean discovery that the pitch of a note depends on the length of the string which produces it, and that concordant intervals in the scale are produced by simple numerical ratios (2:1 octave, 3:2 fifth, 4:3 fourth, etc.), was epoch-making: it was the first successful reduction of quality to quantity, the first step towards the mathematization of human experience — and therefore the beginning of Science. (p. 28)

The ecstatic contemplation of geometrical forms and mathematical laws is… the most effective means of purging the soul of earthly passion, and the principal link between man and divinity. (p. 28)

…the Pythagoreans regarded the body as a kind of musical instrument where each string must have the right tension and the correct balance between opposites such as ‘high’ and ‘low’… The metaphors borrowed from music which we still apply in medicine — ‘tone’, ‘tonic’, ‘well-tempered’, ‘temperance’, are also part of our Pythagorean heritage. (p. 29)

They were much more interesting within the context of his discussion. Oh well.

Penis, Vagina, Vulva, and Scrotum

A bunch of idiots want to ban the award (the Newbery, for children’s literature) winning book The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron because it contains the word “scrotum” several times. The author writes about the controversy:

There’s a direct correlation between fear of naming body parts and kids’ interest in finding out about them. To figure out the world, children have to unscramble a mishmash of secrets, clues, overheard tidbits, half-truths, out-of-context information, and their own observations. The lucky ones discover the Robie Harris/Michael Emberley books, and/or they have access to parents or teachers or librarians who will answer their questions and define unknown words.

librarian.net’s post about it includes some amusing comments, such as:

Some parts of the body are evil and should not be acknowleged. We should be thankful for the Christian librarians who show us the righteous path.

There are some intelligent comments there, too.

(via Larocque and Roll, who, as a librarian, provides an excellent opinion about the matter)

Beethoven And Libraries

I’m cleaning out my Bloglines posts that I’ve marked “Keep New”. Here are two from J-Walk I’ve had for months:

That’s it.