Archive for February, 2013

Here are some other books I’ve read. Keep in mind that some of these books (Hint: Rome) were finished last month, not read in their entirety.

The Poetics (Aristotle)—One of his most readable and essential works, The Poetics breaks down the form and effects of tragedy. If you want to be a writer, you must read this.

The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (Gibbon)—I read the abridged version, a blunt murder weapon. Gibbon is insightful and sarcastic. Some readers might want to quit after the Western Empire falls, but the later sections are masterful. They explain the impact of Asian invasions by Genghis Khan and Tamerlane upon not only the Byzantine Empire but Europe as a whole. His dissection of Christian heresies and disputes, as well as the corruptions of the Roman Church, are brilliant and sarcastic.

Mrs. Hollingsworth’s Men (Padgett Powell)—This book accomplishes the interesting and astonishing feat of making Nathaniel Bedford Forrest a nearly sympathetic figure. Forrest, however, is the perfect emblem for the ambivalent, trapped-in-the-nightmare-of-history South. He is both shady founder of the Ku Klux Klan and respected, beloved leader of men. He “was the purest of foolish heroes.” Also, there is an old woman writing a grocery list that explodes into a novel about Mr. Forrest and several lovers, one of whom is named Rape. She is visited by media titan Roopit Mogul, who wants to craft the New Southerner. She wants love. NPR and Volvos are bashed. We learn that we are “living in stilled and stilted timid toadspawn conformity, afraid of something [we] could not identify except in particulars.” This book is beautiful, man, beautiful.

We Have With Us Your Sky (Melanie Hubbard)—These poems will rock your face. Passive readers will have a difficult time with it: no comfortable messages are comfortably relayed to you. These poems require attention to individual lines and individual words in lines. Hubbard’s work is a joy. Full disclosure: she stayed at our house last weekend when she read at UNF. I like Melanie. Now hold on to your face

The Last Avant Garde

Youth wants

for a long time

secretly

that was the year

we were all

vast paper

murals

static

and classical

designates a place

where everybody is

wiggin in

I grew up

exemplary

an abyss

misjudged

Whatcha Readin’, Pactor?

Posted: February 25, 2013 in thanks to my sponsors

monkey-with-glassesMy plan this year had been to write brief but substantive reviews of everything I read. You can see how quickly that plan got shot to hell. Can I use my wife’s pregnancy as an excuse for that failure and my general failure to blog regularly? Or maybe it’s because I’m a monkey-nerd too deep in books and this other book I’m trying my damnedest to write and it’s hard to blog on top of that? Thanks for being so gracious about it. I can give you a brief note or two about some stuff I’ve finished in the past month or so:

 A Woman Named Drown (Powell)—A chemistry phd candidate drops out and gets involved with a local actress. Much alcohol is consumed. Florida’s small towns are explored. The nature of cause and effect is ruminated upon, drunkenly. You want to read about being with a good woman. Try this:

 Mary’s skin has a half-size—too large feel, giving it a satin effect, a softer touch than a younger woman. It is hard to imagine we want to leave at all. It is a halcyon, unjudged time: billiards crack, drinks fizzle, colors pour into the house from dazzling flowers every morning watered, making it a cozy, gauzy life, as if we were candied fruits sweetening in a snifter of brandy.

A Day, A Night, Another Day, Summer (Christine Schutt)—All stories are made of language, but few are made more consciously of language than Schutt’s. They rarely illuminate life’s mysteries. They deepen them. Often beautifully: “Bent, crooked, an impression of bones he was, a tent of bones, a sudden arm slung above his head, and the black tuft of hair there as startling as his sex.” That comes from this collection’s first and finest story: “Darkest of All.” Some mothers are lousy, and then there’s this woman. Don’t say I didn’t warn you about massages.

Edisto Revisited (Powell)—Edisto gets all the raves, but I dug the sequel more.  If you need to learn a moral lesson from fiction, then you might learn from this book that incest is not so bad.  You see how important it is not to learn moral lessons from fiction.  You should read to enjoy wicked awesome sentences about dildos and blow-up dolls: “If the plastic woman through her scarlet O-ring mouth were calling siren-fashion the lost dildo to her, it made no less sense than did my life.” You should get this book and read the entire dildo and blow-up doll passage. It is the greatest thing ever.

Fables (Sarah Goldstein)—This is slim, beautiful work. Goldstein’s fables are built upon all the old standys—”Three boys decide to go into a pine forest together,” that sort of thing. They are filled with stunning images and sideways but lovely commentary upon life in economically shaky times. In my favorite, three boys do go into the pine forest and pry the hooves off burnt horse carcasses. They get lost and lose the hooves. When they finally return home, they do all they can to burn off the smell. Nothing works, though it seems to them that they must return to the forest for those hooves. “In this dim and dappled landscape the shapes of horses converge and disappear around them with maddening regularity.”

I’ll write about some other books later this week, but I’d kind of like to write about Megadeth. Maybe I’ll do that instead.