"The artifex verborum of the dream ... was no less adept than the waking Coleridge in the metamorphosis of words." — John Livingston Lowes, The Road to Xanadu. Observations on language (mostly ancient), religion, and culture.
By Edward M. Cook, Ph.D.
what an inactive year for Ralph. This
reflects what an active year it was outside of Ralph. The first half of the year was devoted to
writing lectures and then delivering them – most notably in Cambridge (a
splendid and sumptuous event, for which I am eternally grateful) and in
Jerusalem (ditto). The second half of
the year was less spectacular and more dismaying; I refer to the recent
presidential election, which is the most disturbing one in my lifetime. Some of my Facebook statuses reflect my growing
sense of foreboding:
will be voting for the same person this year for the first time ever.#nevertrump (July 22)
Only Trump could make "Merry
Christmas" sound like a threat.#nevertrump (July 30)
Evangelicals supporting Trump have
permanently lost credibility to speak on public policy or public morality. But
hey, good for Albert Mohler.#nevertrump
I really hope that the white male
middle class, its spurious Herrenvolk aspirations in jeopardy, doesn't elect
the most grotesquely unqualified Presidential candidate ever. (Sept. 26)
Come back, baseball. Don't leave us
to face next week without you. (Nov. 3)
Kitchen dialogue in the a.m.: "I'd like to punch Trump in the face." "Oh, that's a real Christian attitude!" "The heart wants what it wants."
Haven't felt this grieved since 9/11.
And that about says it. On 9/12/01, I felt that the foundations of
society were fragile; now I feel the same way.
Now the Ralphies are more important than ever.
There has been a lot of good music this year – none of, regrettably,
from our newest Nobel Laureate in Literature.
I've heard a lot of great female voices, like Angel Olsen, Mitski, and that gal in Sylvan Esso, and that
other gal in Tennis. But my favorite music came from a bunch of
guys, namely Foals. Can't decide what their best track is, but
I'll go with "Birch
Tree." They're supposed to be awesome live, which I regrettably can't
confirm by experience.
I've read some really good sci-fi this year, with super thumbs-up to
Lavie Tidhar's Central
Station and Ted Chiang's "Story of Your
Life" (about which more below).
Also, I was surprised to find out how good C. S. Forester's Hornblower series
is. The rumor was that the Aubrey-Maturin
series (which I love) was far superior, but this turned out not to be the
case at all. Forester's prose is superb,
the stories are terrific, and Hornblower, in his own way, is as compelling a
character as Jack Aubrey. But my book of
the year award goes to Moby-Dick, by Herman Melville (c'mon, you don't
need a hyperlink for this, do you?).
I've never been ready to read this book before, but this year I was, and
it was enthralling.
was an indifferent consumer of TV this year, with two exceptions. One was the series Law and Order: SVU,
which is in more or less continuous re-runs on a variety of channels. I figured
it was junk, but I watched a few, and found the series as addictive as potato
chips. Pretty good plots, interesting
characters, decent acting (especially Mariska Hargitay). It
ain't Breaking Bad, but it ain't bad.
But the Ralphie has to go to Stranger Things, which I binge-watched
during a free month of Netflix. So much
MOVIES: We saw exactly two in the theater, namely The Secret Life of Pets (it was OK) and Arrival, based on Ted Chiang's "Story of Your Life" (see above). Arrival takes the prize, just for making a linguist the hero, but a high runner-up is Hail Caesar, which I watched on the plane twice going to and from Israel, then I bought the DVD, which is a rare event indeed. A knee-slapper, for sure, and Ralph Fiennes' scene with Alden Ehrenreich is not to be missed.
Sports was pretty meh this year, with one exception: the Nats' playoff
drive, which fell short. Better luck
next year, guys, but thanks for making the summer and early fall a lot of fun,
and a great distraction from the collapse of the republic.
OK, see you all next year, if there is a next
year. Not that I'm pessimistic or
It has been noted and repeated many times that this year's
Presidential campaign is almost without analogy in American history. The Republican candidate is hilariously, grotesquely, unfit for high public office, while the Democratic
candidate, despite her credentials in public service (which are not without blemish), bids fair to continue
many of the highly questionable policies of the incumbent. She herself has a somewhat rebarbative
personal style – irrelevant, I know – but it makes it hard to build up a big
enthusiasm for her.
For these reasons, many people in the country are
considering voting for a third-party candidate.
I am one of them. For years, I
have kidded people that I am a member of the "Green Tory" party,
which is nonexistent, but which would include, if it existed, strong pro-life
and pro-traditional marriage planks (traditionally associated with
Republicanism), as well as strong support for environmental protection
(including limiting greenhouse gas emissions), universal health care, opposing torture as a tool against terrorism, and pro-gun control (traditionally
associated with the left). I distrust both Big Government and Big Business. But since there is no Green Tory party, I
have been forced, every four years, to vote for a candidate whose views I
consider in part repugnant. This is the
price of being a citizen in the US.
However, this year I will be voting for a party whose
platform I believe in, namely the American Solidarity Party. The ASP is an American version of the European-Latin
American Christian democracy parties, and its platform, as you can see, has a
great deal to recommend it to Green Tory members. For the first time in – well, ever – I can
vote for President (the ASP ticket is Maturen-Muñoz) whole-heartedly.
But I need to
defend this choice against two charges. The first charge is, "Everyone has
a duty to keep Trump out of the White House, and only a vote for Clinton will ensure
that." I do agree with this up to a point.
Indeed, if Maryland were a swing state, I would probably vote for
Clinton for exactly that reason.
However, Maryland is solidly Democratic and my vote for Clinton is not
The second charge
is, "You are wasting your vote on someone who cannot win." However,
the value of a third party does not rest on electoral success or failure. Politics is concerned not only with elections
(who holds power), but also with policy (what the government should do). A third-party platform can express certain
ideals of public policy and will represent a unified political and social
worldview, that is an alternative to the inadequate views of the two big
parties. To the degree that the third party
gains votes and, with them, a higher public profile, the more attention will be
paid to these ideals and this worldview, and the more traction they stand to
gain in the society at large. This seems
to me to be a goal worth working toward.
For these reasons, I am voting for the ASP in 2016, and I recommend their platform to those looking for an alternative. See you at the polls!
It’s time for the Twelfth Annual Ralphies. Once again, I can’t believe I’ve been
blogging this long. When I started,
blogging was a cutting-edge thing to do, now it seems kind of passé. Nevertheless,
I still enjoy doing it when I have time.
BOOKS, Fiction: Even
in the midst of the academic year, I have to have a novel to read; it’s a
lifelong habit that I’m not likely to break now. I have to have a fictional world to escape
to. This year I re-read some old
favorites, and finally finished the last book of the Aubrey-Maturin sea novels
by Patrick O’Brian, Blue at the Mizzen.
There are no bad books in this series, but the last few (including this
one) are notably weak. I’m glad to see
Aubrey get his admiralship, though. As I
write this, I’m reading the last book in Ian MacDonald’s Everness trilogy, Empressof the Sun (2014). Great
science-fiction of the YA variety. But
this year’s Ralphie goes to Haruki Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
(1995). This is a long, strange book in
the tradition of magic realism, originally written in Japanese; not my regular
cup of tea. But for some reason I couldn’t
put it down.
MOVIES: I only saw
three first-run movies this year: The End of the Tour, Ex Machina,
and The Force Awakens. Tour was
an odd little movie, based on the sort-of memoir Although Of Course You End
Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace, by David
Lipsky (2010), which I read after seeing the movie. I love the writing of DFW, but I don’t know
if this movie (or book) would make the uninitiated want to read him. The performances were good. The Ralphie goes, of course, to The Force
Awakens, just for not letting us all down.
TV: TV is no longer
about “appointment viewing,” except for sports.
My only non-sports appointment in front of the TV this year was for PBS’s
magnificent Wolf Hall. Someone
should really try once again to film the Aubrey-Maturin books, because Mark
Rylance (who played Cromwell) would be the perfect Stephen Maturin.
COMIX: I’ve let
reading comics slide lately; too much else to do, and they are too
expensive. But I have kept up with Brian
K. Vaughan’s Sagaseries, which continues to be awesome. I gather the series will be on hiatus for a while, unfortunately.
MUSIC: Good music is
where you find it, but sometimes you have to look pretty hard. This was one of those years. My favorite album of the year was Sufjan
Stevens’ Carrie & Lowell, a nice return to form with an emotionally
draining record. My drive-time commute
was immeasurably improved with the addition of Tom Petty Radio to the Sirius XM
lineup. TP just hasn’t ever put out any
lousy music. My sabbatical theme song
(and default Song of the Year) was an older song of Sufjan’s.
SPORTS: My motley collection of allegiances provided mixed
results this year. The Nationals were my
favorite, despite an underachieving year.
The Lakers and Longhorns have had to be content with fading memories of
glory in the course of horrible seasons.
The Bengals? The jury is still out.
The Spuds have had an overachieving, and satisfying, year; yay! for Kirk
OK, kids, see you on the flip side! Happy New Year to all.
I’ve been thinking about David Foster Wallace a lot lately
-- catalyzed by the release of the movie End of the Tour, reading David
Lipsky’s book on which it is based, and re-reading some of DFW’s pieces, both
fiction and non-fiction. When I read
about Wallace and his all-too-short life, I feel sad -- but when I read Wallace
himself, I don’t feel that way at all; rather, intensely stimulated by his
intellect and humor. It was natural to me, given my other interests, to wonder
if Wallace had ever been translated into Hebrew. He would be a challenge to
translate into any language, since his style incorporates so much idiomatic
American speech. Judging from this article, a few books of his have indeed appeared in Hebrew translation (all after his death), though no one (apparently) has yet taken on the
task of rendering Infinite Jest into Hebrew.
That doesn’t mean that DFW has no admirers in Israel,
however. The above cited Wikipedia article
has a link to an appreciation of Wallace that appeared shortly after his death,
written for the newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth by the novelist, musician,
and translator Assaf Gavron, which appeared on October 3, 2008. Since we have a natural interest in views of
American letters from abroad, I have undertaken to render this piece of Gavron’s
into English, which I give below. Occasional short comments from me are in
square brackets. Footnoted comments by
me are signaled by asterisks.
TRAGIC-COMIC GENIUS by Assaf Gavron
Foster Wallace has not been translated into Hebrew [no longer true--EMC] and it
is reasonable to assume that he never will.
For this reason, his suicide two weeks ago, in contrast to the flood of
eulogies and memorials overseas, passed here in complete silence.
several years I tried to interest at least five publishers in Israel in putting
out his long article “A Supposedly Fun Thing I Will Never Do Again,” from the
collection of the same name. I called. I had meetings. I sent the book. One of the publishers, it
doesn’t matter which one, even lost my copy, so I bought another one. I said,
“This is the funniest thing you will ever read in your lives.” I said: “You
will cry, it’s so funny.” I said: “This
guy, you just don’t ....” They didn’t go for it. No one other than me (and I
don’t have the means, although I swore that I would do it when I did) wanted to
bring out in Hebrew David Foster Wallace’s impressions of his voyage in a
luxury cruise ship in the Caribbean, impressions written originally for the
periodical Harper’s and published there serially [actually not
serially-EMC] in the ‘nineties.
starters, allow me to give you a short paragraph, footnote 53 of the text, and
it doesn’t matter what the footnote refers to: *
53 This is counting the Midnight Buffet, which
tends to be a kind of lamely lavish Theme-slash-Costume-Partyish thing, w/
Theme-related foods--Oriental, Caribbean, Tex-Mex--and which I plan in this
essay to mostly skip except to say that Tex-Mex Night out by the pools featured
what must have been a seven-foot-high ice sculpture of Pancho Villa [the
Hebrew translation actually reads “a famous Mexican general”] that spent
the whole party dripping steadily onto the mammoth sombrero of Tibor, Table
64's beloved and extremely cool Hungarian waiter, whose contract forces him on
Tex-Mex Night to wear a serape and a straw sombrero with a 17" radius53a
and to dispense Four Alarm chili [Hebrew paraphrases as: “spicy chili”]
from a steam table placed right underneath an ice sculpture, and whose pink and
birdlike face on occasions like this expressed a combination of mortification
and dignity that seem somehow to sum up the whole plight of postwar Eastern
Europe. 53a (He let me measure it when the reptilian [rendered
as “lowly”] maitre d' wasn't looking.)
just a small sample, but it is pure David Foster Wallace. The footnote, the
footnote-within-a-footnote, an entire paragraph which is only one breathless
sentence, a description of a static scene that somehow, from buffet meals on a
luxury cruise, gets to the political situation in postwar Eastern Europe --
and, most importantly, the humor.
encountered (the works of) David Foster Wallace in January 1997, in a big
bookstore in New York. On a table there was a giant pile of copies of a giant
book by the name of Infinite Jest. This was the edition in soft cover of
the book that had come out in the previous year. The picture of the author, 34
years old at the time, the pure chutzpah of a writer at such an age putting out
a 1079-page novel, the flood of reviews from all the important newspapers, and
several sentences that I sampled at random from the book -- all these convinced
me to buy it.
remember a lot from that first reading. I remember that it continued through
some long nights. I remember superfluous pages, arcane descriptions, but I
remember most of all excitement and amazement. I remember laughing out loud.
What is certain is that the experience of reading Infinite Jest was
enough to cause me to buy and read every word that Foster Wallace had
Infinite Jest is a funny novel, full of imagination and
excitement, about a tennis academy in North America in the not-too-distant
future (if I am not mistaken 2011, that is, 20 years from the time that the
novel was written). It is also about Alcoholics Anonymous, Quebecois freedom
fighters, differential equations and more. It is a parody of an America addicted
-- to drugs, alcohol, sports, sex, entertainment and more, bubbling with humor
and creative energy.
Infinite Jest tested the infinite possibilities of the
novel. Wallace broke down the format and
put it back together again in unexpected ways.
He wrote sentences several pages in length. He switched from style to style. He turned the footnotes (which take up almost
100 pages of the 1079) from a tedious academic tool to a creative and sexy
contemporaries of Foster Wallace, like Jonathan Franzen (who was his best
friend), Jeffrey Eugenides, Rick Moody, Michael Chabon and others, noticed
these experiments , used them as a template, and refined them, for novels which were more coherent, more
accessible, and shorter, easier for people to buy and easier for literary
juries to award prizes to. I would like to think that I too learned a thing or
two from Infinite Jest, both in fiction and in experiential journalism.
Infinite Jest was to be his last novel**. He had published
a novel before it, as well as a collection of short stories, and after it two
more collections. Although his rare
talent was evident, the last story collections (Brief Interviews with
Hideous Men and Oblivion) were uneven, and went in darker and
gloomier directןons. They include, along
with flashes of brilliance, some absurd stories that were in part
unreadable. Other than fiction, Foster Wallace, as noted, published a few
collections of essays that had previously appeared in all of the important periodicals
in the US.
maintained that journalism was not suitable for his style (for example as a
writer who does not believe in limitations of space and word count), but
evidently he was wrong. Among his
brilliant essays there are profound analyses of cooking lobsters, tennis (he
was a professional*** player at the youth level), mathematics, and a visit to
the State Fair in Illinois, the place of his birth.****
the experience of watching the tennis player Roger Federer he wrote for the New
York TImes, “It was impossible. It was like something out of ‘The Matrix.’
I don’t know what-all sounds were involved [rendered in Hebrew as “what
sounds came out of my throat”], but my spouse says she hurried in and there
was popcorn all over the couch and I was down on one knee and my eyeballs
looked like novelty-shop eyeballs [rendered as “eyeballs from the
Foster Wallace was not the greatest or most successful writer of his
generation. But he was perhaps the most
impressive. Daring, intellectual, pure,
uncompromising, exciting, and a comic genius. His experiments were a catalyst
for many writers who were very distant from him.
Wallace suffered from clinical depression.
Last summer he stopped using a particular medication because of severe
side-effects, and from that point on his condition grew steadily worse. On
Friday, September 12, he hanged himself.
FOOTNOTES TO TRANSLATION [EMC]
*All quotations from DFW
are given in the original English. The footnote from “Fun Thing” is from page
296 of the paperback edition.
**The Pale King was
published posthumously in 2011.
***He was not a
professional,but was a regional youth league player.
****Actually, he was born in
Ithaca, N.Y., but was raised in Illinois.
While I am interested in the subject itself, I also have to confess an interest in the grammar of the short sentence "Dylan goes electric." My first idle question to myself was, What grammatical role does the adjective "electric" play in the sentence? My first idle answer was that it was functioning as an adverb, but a moment's thought demonstrated the wrongness of that answer. "Dylan goes electric" is not synonymous with "Dylan goes electrically"; i.e., "electric" doesn't describe how Dylan went.
But it's also not where he went, although the verb "to go" typically takes a complement indicating location. "Dylan goes electric" is not the same type of sentence as "Dylan goes home."
The key is that "to go" in the sentence is not functioning as a motion verb, but, as it often does, as a kind of linking verb, like be (prototypically), become, appear, seem. "Dylan goes electric" has a family resemblance to "Dylan is electric," "Dylan becomes elecric," "Dylan appears electric," "Dylan seems electric," or to non-Dylanesque sentences such as "Maggie went native" or "The lake goes flat when the wind subsides." NOUN + GO(linking) + ADJECTIVE means "NOUN adds property ADJECTIVE."
"Electric," then, is a predicative complement. But also the word "Dylan" requires a certain amount of semantic unpacking. In the sentence it is straightforwardly a Noun used as a Subject. But it can't be interpreted straightforwardly as a proper noun, denoting the person Bob Dylan, who did not become electric. Here "Dylan" refers via metonymy to "Bob Dylan's music."
But "Dylan" = "Dylan's music" is not so simple, either. There is an overtone to "Dylan goes electric" that is not found in the paraphrase "Bob Dylan's music changed to electric (=using amplified instruments)." Some people blame or praise Dylan for going electric, which would make no sense if Dylan, the person, was not volitionally involved in the process. The thing is, "Dylan" has to refer simultaneously to the performer and the music.
The linguist James Pustejovsky has a name for words that display this kind of two-sidedness: dot objects. Dot objects display "inherent polysemy," that is, entities that can simultaneously be interpreted as two different types of entity. One example is "book," which can be simultaneously "tome" and "content": "The book with a green cover [physical object] is interesting[story]."
This is signified by a dot: tome•content. One of the dot-object types is performer•product, which licenses "Dylan [performer•music] goes electric." The "performer" facet licenses the volitional feature of "goes," while the "product" licenses the predicate complement "electric."
By the way, judging by the video, the most "electric" part of the set was not Dylan's Stratocaster strumming, but the late Michael Bloomfield's face-melting Telecaster licks. In my opinion, the wrong guitar gets all the credit. Where is Bloomfield's Telecaster now? (EDIT: here.)
BIBLIOGRAPHY: James Pustejovsky, The Generative Lexicon (MIT Press, 1996); Elijah Wald, Dylan Goes Electric: Newport, Seeger, Dylan, and the Night that Split the Sixties (Harper Collins, 2015).
S. A. Kaufman has taken in hand to offer some critiques
and corrections to my recently published Dictionary of Qumran Aramaic.
Some of his remarks deserve
consideration, while others reflect plain misreadings of the book or of the
texts in question. While I am grateful
for the attention paid to the book by such an eminent Aramaist, and for the
occasional faint praise, I deplore the overall snide and bullying tone of the
piece, as well as the liberal, and unwarranted, use of
the rhetoric of certainty, wherein Kaufman, speaking de haut en bas, frequently
attaches “clearly” and “surely” to his own unsupported pronouncements.
One of the drawbacks to Kaufman’s review is that he
evidently failed to read the introduction, in which he would have found
discussions of some of the issues he raises.
For instance, he regrets that I did not include the vocabulary of the
Geniza Aramaic Levi Document, a decision that I discussed on page xviii. I still believe that this is a reasonable choice.
He also has no use for or, apparently, comprehension of,
some of my remarks on prepositions (he uses the word “gibberish” at one point),
although I briefly discussed the rationale for including them on p. xix. The problem with prepositions is that their
meaning is typically vague (in the technical semantic
sense), highly dependent on context for their
construal, and therefore dictionary entries of them tend to be long lists of
contextual senses or translation equivalents.
I find this unsatisfactory, and I look with favor on semanticists who
attempt to find some unity in the multiple uses of a preposition. Some
do this by the identification of an invariate core, others by tracing
the ramifications of metaphorical extension.
My brief characterizations of some of the prepositions in DQA were at
least a gesture toward this semantic project, and an attempt to bring them into
practical lexicographical use. None of
these issues are on Kaufman’s radar at all.
He also apparently did not read, or take to heart, my
explanation of why Greek and Hebrew equivalents were included (p. xvii). In no case are they used, or appealed to, as
determining the sense of a particular word (except for rare words or
problematic cases). He believes, for
some reason, that I translated דרתה in
4Q197 (Tobit) as “courtyard” simply because the LXX uses αὐλῆς for דרתה; and that context favors simply
“house.” But private houses at that
time, even small ones, were typically built around a central courtyard through
which entrance was gained; so that when Reuel is found sitting “before the gate
of his courtyard” it means exactly the same as sitting “before the gate of his
house.” Presumably in later dialects
(such as the Jewish Babylonian Aramaic appealed to by Kaufman) דרה came to denote “house” simpliciter via metonymy. But
evidence is lacking to show that this was the case in QA.
Another case of Kaufman’s
misconstrual of my purposes is also found in Tobit (4Q196), [ולא
]בר לה אחרן, which I translated as “he has no other child.” Kaufman believes that I included the gloss
“child of either sex” for בר with this citation,
solely because the LXX translates it by τέκνον.
But this is not so. In context
(Tobit 3:15), Sara, Reuel’s daughter, is speaking, and she says, “I am the only
child of my father; and besides me, he has no other בר.” Since Sara is a female,
she must be included in the wider meaning of בר. This is clear without appeal to the Greek,
and in fact I made no appeal to the Greek.
Finally, I shall address
Kaufman’s characterization of DQA as a whole, namely, that it is not an “academic
lexicon” because it lacks “an indication of the vocalization and morphological
structures of well-known words, lists of derived forms for verbs, or even a
guide for students as to what words are common elsewhere in Aramaic and what
are relatively or extremely rare.” This suggests that Kaufman has not fully
understood the purpose of a specialized lexicon for a very small corpus such as
QA, which contains only about 20,000 word tokens and about 1,500 word types. With
such a small corpus, it is possible to include most of the occurrences in the
entries, but it is not possible to provide, say, “lists of derived forms for
verbs” because the occurrences of all but extremely common verbs are too few
for such a list -- as pointed out on p. xix of the introduction that Kaufman ignores,
where the question of vocalization is also addressed. With respect to “morphological
structures,” I am not sure what Kaufman is referring to, or what information in
addition to the headword, root, and exemplification might satisfy him. As for
the last point, I fail to see the purpose of providing a guide for what words
are common or rare in other Aramaic dialects; DQA is not a textbook for
introductory classes in Aramaic.
It should also be pointed
out that the Qumran Aramaic corpus is different from other, larger, Aramaic
corpora, in that each text in the corpus has been published in DJD with
detailed notes and concordances, collected and re-collected in a variety of
anthological publications, and several have been the subject of encyclopedia
articles, commentaries, and popular books. There are at least two book-length
grammars of QA (by Schattner-Reiser and Muraoka), a separate printed concordance
with full line references, and a variety of electronic publications, including
CAL, which makes retrieval of all the data quite straightforward. Therefore Kaufman’s complaint about the lack
of “an index to cited passages” is captious in the extreme. (The forthcoming electronic publication of DQA
will also make such an index superfluous.)
As for the rest, it would
be tiresome, and tiring, to register counter-comments to each of Kaufman’s
comments, nor do all of them warrant opposition. I shall limit myself to a few cases,
especially those where, in my opinion, Kaufman has overlooked evidence or committed an
For זעק, Kaufman says that the Aphel “makes no sense morphologically or
semantically” and says it must be Pael; and yet in CAL s.v. zʿq the root
appears only in the G, C (Aphel), Gt, and Ct stems. The root does not appear to
be used in the D stem (Pael) at all in Aramaic.
In connection with a
citation under the root חלם II, Kaufman says, “This
reading and interpretation of לבר is impossible”; but
he offers no reasons for this opinion and no alternative. I would readily accept, by the way, an
emendation ofהמון to מנהון
(in the phrase לבר המון) although it is
With regard to the entry חתף, Kaufman says, “But since when does a
Qumran Aramaic imperfect express the general present as in SBH [Standard
Biblical Hebrew]?” Well, two possible examples are in the Genesis Apocryphon:
כל בתולן וכלאן די יעלן לגנון לא ישפרן מנהא,
“no virgins or brides who enter the bridal canopy are more beautiful
than she” (20:6), although these could be construed as modals. But חדה לחדה ידבקון, “each clings
to each” (11QtgJob 36:1-2) is an undeniable example of an imperfect used as a
Kaufman’s note on יאש is to the point; if the opportunity arises
for a second edition, I shall incorporate it.
Kaufman says “
‘chastisement’ [יסור] elsewhere is always a
plural form.” Always? Not in Tg. Jeremiah 30:14 יִסּוּר אַכְזְרָאִין,
“chastisement of cruel men.” If Mishnaic Hebrew is relevant, then we also have אין ייסור גדול מזה (b. Sanh. 45a).
For נגד I and II, he says baldly, “This is a single root.” I would like to see some justification for
this, since prima facie there is no semantic connection between “pull,
lengthen” and “scourge.”
For נחיר, Kaufman says the lemma should be plural or dual. In response,
I can do no better than to cite CAL s.v. nḥyr: “normally in the pl.
(originally: dual!), but with some major exceptions, especially in poetry.” In
general, words for body-parts (such as יד
or רגל) are not given dual forms in dictionary headwords,
although in use they may be predominantly dual or plural. (This is also relevant
for Kaufman’s remark on חלץ.)
For סגר, Kaufman says “it only acquires the connotation ‘to hand over’
when used with ביד.” And that is how it
is used in the cited passage (1QGenAp 22:17)! Kaufman’s remark is inexplicable.
For the preposition על, Kaufman claims that English “over” can be
used as a translation equivalent in “virtually” every case. Really? For עלת על
בתאנוש, for instance, what is better, “I came to Bitenosh” or “I came
over Bitenosh” (1QGenAp 2:3)? This is a silly suggestion.
Kaufman makes the
following remark: “קץ n. m. time; end:
The examples of ‘end’ (קצוי)
are from קצה
not from קץ.”
In DQA the forms קצוי are in fact booked under קצה, so Kaufman’s “correction” is to an entry that does not exist.
*Edited later to remove personal expressions of pique, which I regret.
It has been a quiet year for Ralph, as has become usual. Because of things originally written in this space, I found myself co-featured in a couple of books about Bob Dylan (The Dylanologists by David Kinney, and Time Out of Mind by Ian Bell), and named by Rolling Stone as Bob Dylan's 7th most crazed fan, which says something about that once-great magazine's current level of insight. Would you like to know how many media calls I got after all this pub? Zero. I'm not complaining.
On to the awards ....
MUSIC: Since we're talking about music, let's do that first. It seems to me that this was a good year for music -- better than last year, for sure. My impression is that indie rock, the category I pay most attention to, made a turn towards pop this year. Again, I'm not complaining. Some songs like I'm Callin' (Tennis), How Can You Really (Foxygen), Do You (Spoon), and Talking Backward (Real Estate) are just great pop songs and you wouldn't guess that these were indie bands, with the Pitchfork seal of approval. In a rational society, there would be a Top 40 based on record sales and radio play, and these songs would be on all the time. But my Song of the Year Ralphie goes to Water Fountain by tUnE-yArDs, and if this song doesn't make you bop across the living room with a smile on your silly face, check your pulse. As for Album of the Year, that goes to Rips, from Ex Hex, a three-piece band that arose from the wreckage of the late great Wild Flag. This is what used to be called power pop, and for all I know still is. Mary Timony's guitar lines are pretty amazing, in that they are just as hummable as the vocal melody, if nor more so. (Here's a sample.)
MOVIES: Ehhh ... we only saw two movies all year. Guardians of the Galaxy, which was OK, I guess? I love comics, but, honestly, most of the comic book movies out there, no matter how jolly, are not good translations. People think of movies as a long-form art -- like novels or TV serials -- but they're not. Movies are essentially short stories, and the best ones pack a punch like a great short story. That means that things that require a lot of exposition, like biographies, epics, or novel adaptations, are diluted on the big screen. Comic book stories (good ones) are long-form, and to put them on screen a lot of the character development has to be left out or taken for granted. GOTG was no different. It was noisy, and a little too pleased with itself. The other movie we saw was The Theory of Everything, about Stephen Hawking. It was interesting, but not a great movie. Same problem. So no movie award, as per usual.
TV: There was not a single current TV show that I watched regularly this year. However, I did catch up with Breaking Bad and binge-watched most of it. I thought it was fantastic, and the last few episodes unfolded like a Greek tragedy. When Walter died (c'mon, too soon? this isn't a spoiler, is it?), I felt like someone I knew had passed away. Powerful stuff. It's true, like the pundits say -- TV has taken over from movies as the genre of choice for quality plot and acting. What I said above about long vs. short form applies here. Breaking Bad is a great novel.
BOOKS, FICTION: Although I didn't see the movies based on them, I did read two best-sellers made into movies that came out this year: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn and The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. Both were excellent works of their kind -- Gone Girl, in particular, I just couldn't put down -- and I'm glad to have made the acquaintance of these authors. But the best read of all was Jeff Vandermeer's Annihilation, and its two sequels, Authority and Acceptance. It was like watching Lost, without the disappointing ending. Runner-up goes to an Israeli mystery novel by Dror Mishani, אפשרות של אלימות (Possibility of Violence), which is now out in English translation.
BOOKS, NON-FICTION: I read a lot of non-fiction.
OK, kids, see you next year! Might be a more active year for Ralph, who knows?