The Books of July

July was a thin month for books. I had a week in Port Townsend for the Centrum writer’s con­fer­ence and some per­son­al issues to attend to. But I did get through a few things.

Books I Read:

The Hatred of Poetry — Ben Lerner (2016)

The most often quot­ed bit in the reviews of this book begins: ‘Many more peo­ple agree they hate poet­ry’ Ben Lerner writes, ‘than can agree what poet­ry is.’
Lerner goes on to read the prob­lem of poet­ry in neo-platonic terms. That poet­ry is always bound to fail because we are for­ev­er com­par­ing a writ­ten piece of poet­ry to some Ideal that we hold. He goes on to par­tial­ly dis­man­tle this Ideal by con­sid­er­ing the prob­lems of how we have set up the Ideal in a world in which the Ideal is nev­er has nev­er existed.
It takes about 2 hours to read this — and at $8.50 its over-priced for some­thing that runs less than a 100 pages. (List price is $12.) I’m not sor­ry that I bought it and cer­tain­ly not sor­ry that I read it. But I’m also not sure that I got my mon­ey’s worth. Must be the phi­los­o­phy degree that snuck up behind me and said “That’s just the Platonic Ideal and as an epis­te­mol­o­gy it’s pret­ty sim­plis­tic, sure­ly poet­ry is more com­plex that that.”
* Surprising return to my orig­i­nal course of study *

Bukowski in a Sundress — Kim Addonizio (2016)

I was hop­ing to real­ly like this book of essays. There are a cou­ple — par­tic­u­lar­ly those that involve the end of her moth­er’s life — that strike me as deeply felt and filled with the great ambiva­lence that so many of us feel toward our moth­ers as we close in on the age that they were when we first knew them adult-to-adult and they con­tin­ue to advance into the future ahead of us.  Many of the oth­er essays are sim­ply about behav­ing bad­ly into your mid­dle age and don’t speak to me. I gave up eat­ing, drink­ing, and fuck­ing like one of the boys a long time ago.
Anyway. It has­n’t changed may opin­ion of her poet­ry, which I’ve always liked. Go read that if you want to see how well Kim can write.
* Maybe not worth the price of admis­sion for most of my readers. *

The Fran Leibowitz Reader — Fran Leibowitz (1994)

Fran holds up fair­ly well even though most of these pieces were writ­ten decades ago. Her cur­mud­geon­ly dis­re­gard for the niceties of soci­ety are uni­ver­sal and eter­nal. Children are still too often seen and heard in places that ought to be the province of adults. Smoking is still one of the joys of adult­hood — though I gave it up 10 years ago. A few of these essays are hope­less­ly dat­ed, but some stand up to the pas­sage of time even when the top­ic under dis­cus­sion is no longer in exis­tence. For exam­ple: How to be a Directory Service. We may not have Directory Assistance any more but we have Customer Support call cen­ters and the lessons for the tru­ly gift­ed sup­port staff are the same.
* clas­sics of snark * 

Nightmare Stacks — Charles Stross (2016)

Each sto­ry in the Laundry Files series has upped the ante and the lev­el of hor­ror and the lev­el of threat. Until at this point it’s near­ly impos­si­ble to top the pre­vi­ous act. Given Mr Stross’s pen­chant for burn­ing down the build­ing at the end of each book, just before the hero man­ages to save earth but bare­ly, there are not a lot of build­ings left. Alex (the genius mathematician/vampire) and Peter (the apoc­a­lyp­ti­cal­ly savvy vic­ar) are sent to Leeds. Because where else would the apoc­a­lypse hap­pen? The sto­ry goes on to become most­ly a satire with a twist of the goth girl/vampire urban romance. Except that there are, of course, ancient and vicious beings intent of destroy­ing the earth and enslav­ing it’s pop­u­la­tion. I gave up — it’s just too much of much­ness with the pre­vi­ous incar­na­tions. Once upon a time… know­ing that a book would deliv­ery the same sort of sto­ry and the same sort of char­ac­ters doing the same sorts of things with the same lev­el of humor appealed to me. (Terry Pratchett, Piers Anthony, Spider Robinson, et al) but late­ly I’ve begun to find it less enchanting.
* still a good yarn, but the same col­or as the last one * 

Books I Listened to:

Pride and Prejudice — Jane Austen (1813/2015)

When I read this in high school I just did­n’t under­stand it. But now, oh my god, the car­i­ca­tures are price­less pieces of work. This ver­sion is nar­rat­ed by Rosamund Pike and her voic­es are dead­pan and reveal­ing, each one appro­pri­ate to the char­ac­ter. Even her Mr. Darcy is near to per­fec­tion; com­ing off as both proud and shy. The shy part being the one that most inter­preters of the role don’t convey.
* Maybe I now get the appeal of Austen? *

I also con­tin­ued to lis­ten to Sherlock Holmes. It goes on forever…

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