Monday, December 29, 2008

Reading with the ears --Part 2

I'd read A Wild Sheep Chase and After Dark and found that neither of them was up to Murakami's Windup-Bird magic. But listening to Dance Dance Dance was. I don't think it was the fact that I was listening rather than reading. I think it had more to do with the theme of the haunted hotel --and the romance.

Talk about romance and sheep in the same sentence and you're liable to talk yourself into trouble, but I've always been fond of the BBC's rendition of All Creatures Great and Small and it was nothing less than the best thing I could have done to listen to All Things Wise and Wonderful --read by none other than Christopher Timothy, who played Herriot on TV. There's something about the combination of humor, landscape, hard work and social interraction in James Alfred White's best work that warms me cockles.

High hats-off also to Junot Diaz: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao deserves every bit of praise and success --period.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

reading --summer 08 so far

Face of a Hero --Pierre Boulle: This is the author of Bridge on the River Kwai. The main character is repellent in the extreme. The book is worth reading as an exploration of the degree to which we can deceive ourselves. There's something about the style that makes the first few chapters slow going.

Into Thin Air and Into the Wild --John Krakauer: Nonfiction equivalents of good Tom Robbins. (I mean in the sense of hard to put down)

APR July/August 08: Dana Levin's and Maxine Scates's poems are definitely worth the effort.

Wuthering Heights --Emily Bronte: Glad I finally got around to it. Romance is not sweet here: it's painful, angry, deadly. Again, something about the style made me read it slowly. In this case, though, I think I was savoring it, not vexed by the slog. Did Emily Dickinson read this?

Monday, June 9, 2008

reading with ears

Some people have difficulty listening to books. I think you need a decent block of uninterrupted time. Maybe it depends on the book. I most recently listened to King's Duma Key. I have to say I was really looking forward to it, having thoroughly enjoyed On Writing and Lisey's Story. I found it hard to listen to, however. Maybe I'd have read it faster. Maybe Lisey's love story made the characters more sympathetic. I'm leaning toward the latter.

A few books that were easy (actually fun) to listen to:


All the Pretty Horses


The Castle in the Forest

The Plot Against America

The Bonesetter's Daughter

The Red Tent

The Road

Never Let Me Go

When We Were Orphans

And there are quite a few others.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

June and everything leading up to it

The current issue of APR (May, June 08) has an intriguing longish poem by Harold Schweizer about stones and angels. Normally I don't pay much attention to angels, but rocks are hard to ignore.

There's also an essay about Dunya Mikhail, Iraqi poet I was glad to hear about, and an exchange of letters regarding a Kevin Prufer poem, "National Anthem," well about a brief essay Prufer wrote about his poem.

The current issue of Rattle has a poem, "You Might," that author John Yohe says he wrote in response to a Kim Addonizio poem in the May/June 2007 issue of APR, "The Matter." These are both interesting and entertaining, but Yohe's note of explanation combines with the Prufer poem letter exchange to make me feel even more viscerally something I always believed --that no song or poem should need to be explained --unless the explanation itself takes the form of another song or poem. Do it and you risk being drawn into pointless argumentation, that very often makes you come across as petulant, agrieved, or not quite as bright as you might have appeared at first blush.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

what's in the news what's in the news what's in the news

It's getting to the point where I can't wait to finish what I'm reading before I respond to it. Mark Rudman's article on Carlos Williams in APR is ok, but somehow even harder to understand than Reginald Gibbons's on Apophatic poetics (that actually, was quite easy to understand, a triumph on Gibbons's part, considering the possibilities). Was he really such a quantum leap? He was an outsider. He was desperate. He was influential. Rudman's essay reminds me that I should read more Williams. Maybe that's what he wants.

Frank McCourt's Teacher Man is good stuff. Finished listening to it on the morning of March 27. His description of an old beat friend reminded me of something in Augustin Burroughs: the one about the house cleaner from hell. But the stories about teaching are as exhausting as the job itself. Hearing McCourt read it has to be an added bonus. Makes me want to read or listen to Angela's Ashes, something I haven't done yet.

Also in the middle of "Seymour, an Introduction." A remarkable bit of sustained enthusiasm and brotherly affection, though I'm glad he's not providing any of those double haikus. "Raise High the Roofbeam, Carpenters" was also very engaging. I have a lingering sense of deja vu about it.

Monday, March 3, 2008

the expanding universe

It takes a lot of gas to get to the edge. I've been listening to Down and Out in Paris and London. So different from Animal Farm and what I remember of 1984. Funny that reading Orwell as a kid might have shied me away from this gem, even though I'd heard it was good. I'd heard the description of Parisian restaurant work was the best part, but I also love story of the screever named Bozo --someone who could be both intellectual and poor. The gypsy scholar. I suppose that makes me a sucker for the romantic. Oh well. Britain in 1930's, tens of thousands of tramps. Of Mice and Men, but more reminiscent of Never Let Me Go. People on the go. Never Let Me Go. Maybe it's the voice of the reader.