Saturday, August 23, 2008

According to my self-reported tally on Goodreads, I am currently reading 106 books.  Some of these are not actually in my possession—I've checked books out from libraries and turned them back in before I had time to finish them.  Did I mention I'm a slow reader?  I don't even go to the library anymore.  My reading habits are not conducive to its policies.  And vice versa.  At the NYPL the borrowing period is three weeks, and you can renew three times.  So that's...let's see...twelve weeks.  A/k/a three months.  People, three months is the blink of an eye for me.  It takes me at least twice that long to read a typical novel, sometimes up to a few years.  I should start a reading movement called Slow Reading.  Or SloRe for short.  Maybe not.

I am now seven pages in to the fourth chapter of Sentimental Education.  I'm still reading Chester's Exquisite Corpse.  I'm still reading DeLillo's The Body Artist.  I'm still reading Denis Johnson's Already Dead.  I'm still reading Harry Mathews's Cigarettes (which I keep wanting to call Coffee and Cigarettes because of the Jim Jarmusch movie and because of the cup of coffee pictured on the cover!).  I'm still reading The Floating Opera.  I'm still reading scores of poetry books.  Yesterday I bought two more.

Yesterday I bought an incredibly amazing (you're hooked already, aren't you) book called Hagiography by Jen Currin.  She lives in the nation of Canada.  You will find a representation of the book's front cover at the top of this post.  Here is one of the poems:


A man hits his granddaughter with a sock.
We are sinking deeper into the muck.
I stand on one foot like a duck.
All the cats follow me
across the gravel like sugar thieves.

So the wire bird abandons writing.
I give up
my plastic mouse.
The apartment lobby choked with incense,
red leaves piled at the door.
A donkey who loves to drink wine.
A little piece of yellow paper
for your mother on the Sunshine Coast.

I keep falling off the table. What do I know.
Erotic ideals. Orange and a slice of pie.
What do I know. The sun leaves me.
All the children I know are me.

In the desert we go barefoot and pregnant.

Finally, we reach the seventh day.

Finally, we reach the eighth sister.

Silence, I wish you sounded more like rain.


What'd I tell ya?  Incredible and amazing.  Yesterday I also bought The Tennis Court Oath.  I've read it, but I hadn't gotten around to buying it because I was waiting to find a used copy somewhere.  At least two years I've been looking.  Two years gone by in the hope of saving, like, seven bucks.  Dummy.  So I caved in and bought a shiny new one.  It's a book that serves as a pretty reliable reminder that it's okay to break rules and not make sense.  Y'all should hear him read "How Much Longer Will I Be Able to Inhabit the Divine Sepulcher..." on PennSound.  For a small taste of a big poem, here is section 39 (out of 111) of "Europe":

The few children
Seeds under the glare
The formal tragedy of it all
Mystery for man—engines humming
Parachutes opening.
The newspaper being read
Beside the great gas turbine
The judge calls his assistant over
And together they try to piece together the secret message
       contained in today's paper.


So, here's what I meant to say when I started this post.  I pledge that I will not buy a single book until I have finished ten that I'm currently reading.  I thought of making a pledge like this a while ago, but I really just had to buy these two books first.  The pledge  No, now.  Now!  Nnnnnow!!


  1. i've made this same pledge 10 times. things always exempt from said pledge: used books from charing cross road and weekend market stalls, manic midnight amazon finds.

    also, i love delillo. white noise was an incredible piece o' work. i, too, have had the body artist languishing bedside forever.

  2. The Jen Currin book looks promising. I'd like to know how it goes.

    whenever i seriously wanna finish reading a novel and still remember who the characters are i only read one at a time, allowing myself to read as many poetry books in between as i feel necessary... so during the course of one novel i might read 1-3 books of poems, and the # is probably an indication of how enveloped i am in the book or not... you have a lot on your plate my do you keep everything strait?

  3. The more I like a book, the more I tend to avoid it, since I don't want it to end. Those are the ones that end up taking longest to finish.

    For me it's not so hard to keep different stories straight as long as I'm looking at different fonts, different sizes and spacings of fonts, different sizes of books, different shades of paper color (bright white, off-white, cream, gray, etc.) And of course I never read more than one book by the same author at the same time. If you do that, the stories are very likely to become fused and intermingled in your mind.

  4. O spark that is tiny, I think I love you for loving DeLillo.