Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Finished this today. I hope everyone reads it, but I hope it doesn't become so famous that people start to avoid it. Tom Hanks recommended it in Time magazine recently. But I wanted to read it since I heard about it last year. I can't remember where I heard about it. New York Review Books has a habit—more like a mission, apparently—to put old good books back into print. This first came out in 1965. John Williams died in 1994. Anyway, I loved it. It's sort of bleak, but not really. So far this is only the third novel I've finished in 2010. Already more than last year though.

Stephen Elliott writes about it here, much better than I could.

No one took me up on the idea of reading that Henry Green book. There's still time. I'm going to start it today. But I realized I have no interest in writing or talking about books in a very specific way, so I probably won't do that. Feel free to do so yourself though.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Where do you sit when reading an e-book?

People who like e-books can't understand why people who dislike e-books dislike e-books, and people who dislike e-books can't understand why people who like e-books like e-books. I certainly don't understand how people could like e-books. Or, how they could prefer them to real books. People who like e-books like to claim that it's all about the words, that nothing else should matter. I don't understand how anyone can have that opinion. The experience of reading isn't just about reading, but about sitting, or standing, or reclining, or walking, or doing something else with your body while reading that is a comfort to your body. Sitting at a desk in front of a computer, staring into its buzzing electronic light burning into your retinas, hunched over, your arms with nothing to do, your neck stiffening, the words on the screen a good foot and a half or more away from your face, is never comfortable. Comfortable is sitting in a comfy chair, couch, bed, bench, or standing on a sidewalk, or walking on an esplanade, or pacing back and forth in a hotel room. In how many locations of those I just mentioned is it practical, or even possible, to read from a computer? A laptop, you say? Who wants to hold something that heavy for an extended period? What happens when the battery runs out? What if you're in a sketchy neighborhood and you don't want people to notice that you own an expensive electronic appliance? (I know there are e-readers, like the Kindle, but that's a different discussion altogether. Not that I don't hate those too. But I'm talking about those e-books that are designed only as e-books and run on some kind of e-book program on your computer.)

So the gist of what I'm saying here is, with e-books you're chained to your desk. With real books you can read in any position or location. You can choose what's best for you. Also, your eyes won't boil and dissolve in your head like they do when reading from a screen.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

From a Salon interview with Nell Irvin Painter, author of The History of White People:


One of the biggest whiteness-themed pop culture sensations of the past few years was the blog Stuff White People Like. Many people thought it was racist. What did you think?

I was a professor at Princeton for a long time -- and I did my Ph.D. at Harvard -- and I circulated among wealthy people. So much of what is considered "what white people like" is what middle-class people like. I live in New Jersey and we have middle-class people of every background and we all like those same things. It's very common, particularly in the 20th century, to make the equation that white means middle-class. It's a lazy equation, and as time goes by it becomes lazier and lazier.

Who wants to read Henry Green with me?

So basically what I'm proposing here is an extremely informal online book club. I've been meaning to read Henry Green for a long time. The first one I've decided to read is Back. What I was thinking is that maybe someone else out there who has been wanting to read Henry Green, or this book in particular, would like to read it at the same time as me. Then, I don't know, we could talk about it as we go along, or something. Or not. Maybe we wouldn't talk about it. Maybe that would be best. Or you could talk and I could just listen. Or you could talk to each other, if there's more than one of you, and I could listen to that. And by talking, I mean, writing comments online, on here or your blog or Twitter or whatever. This is starting to sound kind of dumb. It's very probable no one will want to do it, which I understand. We're all busy doing things and reading other books. I know I am. Anyway, it was just an idea. Maybe you could read the book without even telling me, so that you're a member of the club only in your mind, and I'm unaware of your existence altogether. Maybe that would be best. But really, if you are interested in doing this—reading the book, telling me you're reading the book, and talking about the book to me or with me—then by all means go ahead, I welcome anyone. I plan to start reading Back as soon as I finish reading Stoner, by John Williams, which should be within the week. I'll let you know.


Back

Thursday, March 18, 2010

A kind of ["a"-word] poem that's not stupid!

Elisa Gabbert on HTMLGIANT writes about matters concerning the concepts we know as accessibility and plainspokenness in poetry. It is a good post.

My favorite book of poetry among the books of poetry I'm currently reading is Bill Kushner's Head, which came out in 1986. It uses ordinary language in a way that makes it more than ordinary. Kushner is not the only person who writes poems like this, but he is one of the best I'm pretty sure. I hate to say the poem you're about to read is accessible, because that makes it sound stupid. But it's not stupid. It's great. It's:


REPORT FROM ABOVE


Oops you knocked over the South Seas you silly
What they just cancelled St. Louis? never
It gets a little hairy up here in heaven even the weather
You just can't get sex off of your fruit mind can you hardly ever
Is that a hardon or you got your wings screwed on
Backwards? what's it like down in HoHokus? sheer hell
& between your armpits it never rains well almost
I'm hungry I'm cold I've got the most torn heart & underwear
In the world & you expect me to be perfect as a life
Say well lived well forget it I was born to bitch
& if you asked me to become your wife upon your knees
Would I? The sun comes bouncing upon the snow
I've got a poetry reading to give & don't I know no one will show I
Just wanted to bring you this rose to match your nose


                                        3/9/84

, originally uploaded by majawalk.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

I gave Molly Gaudry some $$$ and she wrote me a poem. (Ch-check it out: here.) You can do it too! Help a poet out why dontcha.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Ross Simonini writes a facepalm-inducing review of Hoagland for the L.A. Times. It makes me very sad that this person works at The Believer, an otherwise wonderful and amazing publication that nevertheless is nearly as clueless about poetry as something like, I don't know, the L.A. Times is. Sigh.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Tentative reading schedule:

Great Jones Street
The Fermata
So Long, See You Tomorrow
As She Climbed Across the Table
Revolutionary Road
The Little Girl and the Cigarette
Special Topics in Calamity Physics
Spending

So far I've only finished two books this year, Jakob von Gunten and The Body Artist.