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…