Home/Prufrock/Weighing the Neutrino, the State of the True-Crime Podcast, and Undervaluing Les Murray

Weighing the Neutrino, the State of the True-Crime Podcast, and Undervaluing Les Murray

KATRIN Spectrometer. Photo by DKW, via Wikimedia Commons.

First up: Adam Bellow to partner with Post Hill Press to “launch a line of books focused on Jewish readers and another line that will specialize in titles on environmental sustainability, investment, and human rights.”

Weighing the neutrino: “Of all the known particles in the universe, only photons outnumber neutrinos. Despite their abundance, however, neutrinos are hard to catch and inspect, as they interact with matter only very weakly. About a thousand trillion of the ghostly particles pass through your body every second—with nary a flinch from even a single atom. ‘The fact that they’re ubiquitous, yet we don’t even know what they weigh, is kind of crazy,’ said Deborah Harris, a physicist at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory near Chicago and York University in Toronto. Physicists have long tried to weigh the ghost. And in September, after 18 years of planning, building and calibrating, the Karlsruhe Tritium Neutrino (KATRIN) experiment in southwestern Germany announced its first results: It found that the neutrino can’t weigh more than 1.1 electron-volts (eV), or about one-five-hundred-thousandth the mass of the electron.”

Jailed Turkish author Ahmet Altan has been freed: “The jailed Turkish author Ahmet Altan, whose detention was condemned by 38 Nobel laureates, has been released from prison after more than three years behind bars. The 69-year-old was arrested in 2016 with his brother, the economist and journalist Mehmet Altan, on allegations of spreading ‘subliminal messages announcing a military coup’ on television.”

Is publishing too top-heavy? “As megabestsellers command more of publishers’ marketing budgets and retailers’ shelf space, breaking out the next crop of hit makers has become a challenge.”

Emily Ferguson surveys true-crime podcasts: “It used to be considered insulting if listeners, like readers before them, were taken by the hand and led from conclusion to conclusion with no room for their own thoughts or reflections. Podcast narratives differ from classic novels: the novelist hints, but the podcaster insists. But there are a few good storytellers in the true-crime genre.”

List:10 Famous Authors with Surprising Day Jobs.

Essay of the Day:

Les Murray’s poetry is seriously under-valued, Michael Hofmann writes in the Times Literary Supplement, and that won’t change anytime soon given our obsession with political correctness. Murray hated groupthink and cant. What mattered to him were particularities:

“‘A good poet’, as Randall Jarrell put it, ‘is someone who manages, in a lifetime of standing out in thunderstorms, to be struck by lightning five or six times’; a dozen or two dozen times, thus Jarrell, and you can call him/her great. Murray is more like someone who sticks his fingers in power sockets at will, electrifying himself and his readers (he describes the experience in the cool vernacular of his verse novel Fredy Neptune – ‘well it feels like nothing / of course, but ten times my nothing: I freeze / and it won’t let go my hand: my head is full of like / newspaper print all the way back across the country’ – and he actually has a whole poem on the subject, called ‘The Powerline Incarnation’). He does it too without the standing around, the slack, the waste, the self-consciousness, the contrivance, the patchy productivity of other poets. He wrote as much, as well, as unevenly, and for as long, as only the very best. Anything could make a poem for him – hot things, cool things, exciting things, dull things, close things, remote things. He covered the dartboard, and in poetry, unlike darts, triple one and double seven are worth hitting too. ‘Absolutely anything / is absolute to those / who see the poem in it’, he wrote, believed and propounded. He got the world into his poems, made poetry seem capacious, made English seem capacious, jagged and peculiar. With Murray, there isn’t the ‘oh, here we go again’ that you find in almost all poets, their groove, their schtick, their momentum, their rumble, their comfort, their familiarity. There are pages in his work that look at me so blankly and strangely, I’m sure I’ve never read them before, I’m practically sure no one has, I don’t know what they’re getting at, I have no idea where a given sentence is going, and it’s all I can do to parse what’s in front of me. No poet since Marianne Moore has had such an extreme verbal imagination or as little use for the expectable and ready-made – the expendable.”

Read the rest.

Photo: Dürnstein

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about the author

Micah Mattix is the literary editor of The American Conservative and an associate professor of English at Regent University.  His work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, National Review, The Weekly Standard, Pleiades, The Washington Times, and many other publications. His latest book is The Soul Is a Stranger in this World: Essays on Poets and Poetry (Cascade). Follow him on Twitter.

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