"Love follows knowledge."
"Beauty above all beauty!"
– St. Catherine of Siena

Saturday, December 29, 2012

The First Blog: Introduction

Ash on an old man's sleeve
Is all the ash the burnt roses leave.
Dust in the air suspended
Marks the place where a story ended.
Dust inbreathed was a house-
The walls, the wainscot and the mouse,
The death of hope and despair,
This is the death of air.

T.S. Eliot, from "Little Gilding."

This is my literary blog, reflecting my reads and thoughts on literature, novels, short stories, poetry, plays, even literary criticism. I'll also comment on writing style, especially the use of the English language. My name is Manny. I have an advanced degree in English Literature, but that's relatively meaningless. The love of high literature is the only criteria that really matters. Literature is the ultimate art form, abstract yet tangible, rhythmic yet static, didactic yet aesthetic. Literature as art form has had hold on me for over thirty years. Since I talk about it elsewhere, since I read continuously and ponder the artistry behind the works, since I dilly-dally with creative writing myself, and have built up some store of knowledge, I thought it high time to share my thoughts with those that may want to hear them, create a dialogue on shared readings to reach some sort of conclusion, and just kibitz on literary topics in a way that would occur if we dear reader were sitting at a cafe with a coffee or tea and a Limoncello or Sambuca.


I take the name for this blog, "Ashes From Burnt Roses" from T.S. Eliot's poem cited above. Set aside what Eliot might actually mean by the phrase, what the rose symbolizes here for me is the highest artistic perfection from nature. And yet, in our discussion as we dissect and break literature down, it gets burned to ashes, reduced to cinders, dust and dirt. But let us hope that from our examination the rose rises from the ashes into the greater rose, the finer rose, the more complete rose. It is in understanding art, in reaching its central mystery—whether the mystery is revealed or veiled—that great art is fulfilled and reaches it teleologic purpose.


In addition, during the course of the week, I'll throw in a music video or an interesting picture or painting from the fine arts world to keep things moving. I’ll throw in a quote to ponder.  They'll reflect my interests and if you wish to comment, please do. I certainly don't claim expertise in music or art, other than my overarching understanding of aesthetics in general. But we all enjoy great music and art. You'll see I have a particular love of the Blues, and so I think I'll have a regular video clip of a Blues work on Tuesdays. Why Tuesdays? Why not?


About me, the raw facts: I'm Italian-American in ethnicity, lived in the outer boroughs of New York City all my life, just turned fifty-one years old, married to the same woman for over twenty years, and until recently childless. Two years ago we were blessed to have adopted a little boy from Kazakhstan, Matthew, my dearest of dears. As you can imagine, my travails as a first time father at this age can make a good story. I will use the blog to post a picture or relate a tale about my little joy from a doting parent. I'll call that Matthew Monday.


To fill out my background, my real career is in mechanical engineering. The literature degree was achieved as a side hobby after I doubled majored in college in engineering and English lit, and worked as an engineer for a number of years. Yes, that coupling might seem odd, and I guess it is. As to how this blog will reflect my engineering discipline, it is not entirely clear to me at the moment. I definitely will never mention my specific work, but engineering is a craft, and craft is a subset of art. There may be occasion to bring it up.


Also I am a Roman Catholic by faith, and I would consider myself somewhat devout. This is not a religious blog, and I don't intend to ever talk about theology, except if it might pertain to a work under discussion. But my religion will at times reflect my reading choices and perhaps my readings of various works. That is who I am. I will also post an entry on Fridays--an image, or a poem or a music video--that reflects my faith. It will be my form of virtual prayer. Feel free to ignore it if it does nothing for you.


Finally, I am a political animal as Aristotle says we all are. This blog will have absolutely no politics or issues of the day associated with it. I do comment on politics elsewhere, and you may notice my avatar in the comments section of various blogs and news sites. I am also a guest blogger on J's Cafe Nette where I express an occasional opinion. Those that know me know I can be passionate on the issues. Feel free to reply to my opinions at their source sites. Please do not bring up politics here. I want nothing controversial on this blog. I want no one to feel alienated or aggrieved. It will be a failing on my part if this blog does not live up to the first line of the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi, "Lord make me an instrument of your peace."

 With that I wish you peace.

UPDATED, 2 February 2013:
I'm going to change the recurring Blues Tuesday blog to just Music Tuesday.  Limiting a music entry to just blues doesn't do justice to my wide musical interests.


  1. What a nice idea for a blog- I'll be reading along! I hope you and your family had a wonderful Christmas.

    1. Kathy, you're the first to find it! I haven't even told my co-bloggers at J's Cafe. Thank you for being the first. I hope this will be interesting. In the mean time I'm trying to figure out how to configure this place.

  2. Yay! Can't wait to read here :) Already posted you on my sidebar :)

    1. Thank you so much Kelly. I wish I could figure out sidebars and blog rolls. If I give you my emkail, can I bounce some questions off you since you've had a Blogger blog for a while?

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  5. Thanks Kelly. I removed your email address off the public. I sent you a note with mine.

  6. Congratulations Manny, I look forward to reading your contributions and learning more about literature from you. Happy and blessed New Year. Joyce

  7. I'm glad to see that you're well and I look forward to read your posts. Happy New Year!

  8. Joyce and Antonella! I'm glad you've found it. Happy New Year to you both. :)

  9. The citing from Little Gidding in the introduction took my breath away. How I love The Four Quartets. It played a part in my conversion to Catholicism, and I still love it to this day. I'm a painter, and I like to read. Art and literature are so mixed up for me that I can hardly distinguish one from the other. I take lessons from writers as much as from painters for my work, and read books and poems quite the same way I read a painting or a film. It's all one and the same thing to me it seems. It is always a blessing for me to find fellow Christians who love art and literature. I will be a frequent reader for sure. Wish you and your family a very fruitful new year!

  10. Your blog has a great start. Four Quartets has been on my current reading shelf for since about 1970. Recently I have heard a fine lecture on it from a Christian perspective at a college I never heard of before: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fnTqmpti6So&list=PLiNKJVnujUNy0CIkpV_XihldxMIUP4i5k&index=2

    1. Galicius, a million thanks for that link. That's Thomas Howard who is a foremost authority on Eliot and The Four Quartets. I have his book, Dove Descending which explains the poem. I don't have time to listen to the entire lecture, but I will do so at my nearest opportunity.

      Welcome to my blog. :)