At the edge of being done half a dozen more but spread across enough titles, I tend to take a while.
In pursuit of novels in part, what do I have at hand that I never read?
155. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis, (Cox &Wyman, 1950)
People said this is a keystone childhood literature book. I got it as a child and declared it foolish, preposterous and possibly Satanic with talking animals, witch, giant, jinns. I heard Lewis did religious allegory, but I didn’t stick it out thru more than a few pages as a child. If I had I might have entered scifi and fantasy reading earlier.
It’s a rather charming depictions of beavers.
The books asks us though the children, how do we know that information we are given is true? By logic. As the old man who would be trusted with children would suggest you should believe the impossible if that’s what you think is so. By precedent. The truthful sister never lied before. The brother was a bully. But even he can reform thru the lion. By circular argument of experiencing what you experience. (Bringing to mind the old song: “I was there when Jesus saved me, the very moment he forgave me so I guess I ought to know.”) By gut. The witch gave a bad feeling. By results. The robin led them astray.
There’s some grey areas allowed as the satyr gave a good feeling but then admitted deceit and was killed for it. But being contrite before consequences and trying to make it right, meant he got a second life. The robin we can presume stayed dead.
It does all become clearly Christian allegory most of the way through. But then if the lion is Christ and the two sisters the Marys at the tomb, what else falls in line. The Queen of Narnia is not human but jinn and giant. The forces of evil killed the Christ but depicts the evil as trolls and whatnot, which is, shall we say, harsh on Jews. The children become kings and queens in the afterlife, eldest male first of course, and females told not to fight but cure and heal the victims of war. Statues restored to life, again, life giving way to afterlife. Except the evil ones who are hunted and killed and given no second chance since they have been doomed by pre-destined essentialism. Given any wish in heaven, being there a long time, we’ll want to return to earth as children instead of children of god, since heaven or the next world is years of slaughter.
156. Around the World in 80 days by Jules Verne (Penguin, 1873)
I tried to read this as a child. Each night for months I got a few sentences in and it put me right out. Much more engaging now. Funny how texts change like that, eh? We romped thru the whole thing aloud in 2 days. What curious characters, one excitable and foolishly oversharing, one phlegmatic and circumspect. It all hooks forward very well. Odd depictions of far off lands. Easy to fall into the old language.
157. Every Day in Tuscany: Seasons of an Italian Life by Frances Mayes (Broadway Books, 2010)
A second sequel to Under Tuscan Sun (which admittedly annoyed me with the airy style for the first few chapter, but I made it through). It’s a mixture of a travelogue with suggested trips to see art, a cookbook and a memoir of her summer vacations.
She and her husbands have lived there 17 years at this point, which she equates to being a rooted as the Etruscans. (It doesn’t seem intended as a comedic remark.) She recounts a bomb threat with an trumped up replay of horror and takes no blame on herself or second-guessing despite running a political petition and the outs those who signed it, thereby risking them all again. Then she boast of pulling strings behind the scenes with her powerful friends. She does a lot of name dropping. If I ever hear the word piazza again, I may overreact. Or that blasted painter that she’s on about calling him Luc and feeling herself a soulmate. She ogles ever male thing to a degree that she seems closeted lesbian. Is any human as lecherous? And the blond Jesus child is oddly recurrent.
The strength of the book is prioritizing beauty of meals with friends, tableware, fresh food, and taking life slow. She regales with beauty with a lot of words.
There are neat little peeks into details, like from ancients to present watering down wine at the table, a house using a liter of Olive oil a week, yet a party of twenty only drinking 2 or three bottles of wine with the food. That going swimming people bring various swim suits and each dip they go in with a dry suit. She gives updates on Cortona which we happened to. She mentions places we visited, talks about a gallery we went to that closed, but then she reveals that it moved. She sketches many sunny towns. She describes renovations of ancient places.
158. James Joyce & Ezra Pound: A More than Literary Friendship by Patricia Cockram (Joyce Studies, 2004)
Well, with the switches back and forth I may now muddle the two people as never before, as with studying Spanish and Italian at the same time. Both seemed rather miserable people to deal with. Nothing in there made me impelled to read more of either characters. Despite the title it seemed exactly a literary relationship but not so much as a friendship exactly. The book was a run thru what and when and where more than any how or why.
159. Illocality by Joseph Massey (Wave Books, 2015)
When I read too much poetry, I go to history for grounding and too much sentences, back to poetry for some density. This is a measured pace more than most poetry. The line breaks are not for converting prose to poetry by magical spacebar action. Each line is considered and each word. As with his other collections, there are no people but the narrator in solitude, only evidence of others. Instead of being a tracker of snagged hair or footprints, there is our plastic caught in fences, our detritus left behind, our carelessness in the wind. This is a book looking at mud, rain, snow instead of looking past them, like p. 76, a close-watched seeing,
Being present yes, but glum, yes, but also small beauties inside the breath.
One of my favs is The span, p 54.
Holding his writing constant it looks as though I am less depressed than I was since the bleakness used to look like optimism and now looks like getting by in life. The attention to breath and sound without giving the sense of being a looking back posture of cosmic transport. It is in the now and in the know of all things matter enough to be aware of.
160. On Poetry & Craft by Theodore Roethke (Copper Canyon Press, 1965, 2001)
A few sections are like a book of quotations but all by him such as “Therefore I shall get on with the daily business of revelation”. In love with his own authority, not much match for his cynicism and snobbery with poetry I’ve read of his. A lot of capital P poetry with Eliot as the start and end of Poetry. A lot of themes of one can learn but never be the better for it but at least not worst for it, probably and nothing is communicable. There’s more anger than joy.
When he wrote under a pen name scathing essays against colleagues, students and young writers, that sure livened up the collection. Funny for its contempt fed up with babysitting lumps of eyed flesh in their baby fat who are presumed to have yet to live or read anything, so long as its directed in the general about no one you know I suppose.
Reviews of things he liked were more mild and mildly interesting. Not quite a book where I want my hours back but if it can be so arranged…
161. Culls by Roland Prevost (above/ground, 2015)
A couple of my favorite poems by Prevost in here including Grounded to Airbourne. because I like the sense of refusal to accept a scene as prescripted. Even within the poem there’s a questioning of the interpretation,
[...] A dragonfly close-up,
my solitary index offered as a perch. Its seeming
friendliness, ad hoc, filled-in. As with all fictions.
Willing fools, we cram every blank with connection.
Ah, truth of how the brain connects and constructs. Rather than make a poem of pursuing one chain of interpretation, it cracks open wider. And how it is said with its pause and surge is gorgeous.
Later in Lenses at Both Ends the poem takes what is a common experience, to look out a lens from each end and takes it wider.
Those preposterous red blossoms
on the tallest branches, rest assured
don’t know your name either.
The position in the world, a little humble, a little absurd and called as such, which is not to say life is not loved or stoically dismissed as not really existing but human place in it is not the authority and master over all, but equal among trees and knowledges. It is a heartening point of view.
162. Printed Matter by Colin Morton (Sidereal Press, undated)
Chapbooks are a means to show me how papers scatter, yes? Where did I put it? Here a poem from it at the end of the Literary Landscape episode with Chris Johnson.
163. The Golden Mean by Annabel Lyon (Vintage, 2009)
What a ride. The research that went into making this life of this life of Aristotle and speculations into the early making of Alexander the Great was compelling reading. It isn’t a novel in the sense of being not-episodic but it holds together and have some sense of closed loop. There is a sequel which mixes history’s wine more freely with water of magical realism. Might like to try it.
164. Hungry Ghosts by Peggy Blair (Simon and Schuster, 2015)
Another case of oh, this is what a novel can do. Blooming highwater.
Absorbing, intermeshed, taking place half in Cuba, a less sunny Cuba than is usually portrayed as the city decays and people get around policies, and half in Northern Ontario on a native reserve. Detectives in both areas are looking at what might be a serial killer and the lives intercut as they move towards points of connection. As it is worked out with material at hand, it seems there’s a solution but more data comes and no, perhaps, no. It moves along with believable dialogue and enough description of a scene without getting lost in the set.
Her next book, Umbrella Man will be out next June – an espionage/thriller which involves CIA plot to kill Raul Castro.
165. A Book of Saints by Amanda Earl (above/ground, 2015)
I keep saying, no, this is my favourite chapbook from Amanda Earl. This is a different subject and style and yet continuous with the intensity. Here a poem from there at the end of this episode of Literary Landscape. There’s a compassion, elegance, poignancy to the poems. There’s more blunt literal talk than some previous poems, less soundiness, but these still have attention to sound and do not come out shallow for their straightness. Complex and with an insistence on resilient strength. For example Feat of the Guardian Angels, October 2
Does she watch over me
or am I alone?
It’s hard to tell.
I’ve always had the
feeling that I am
protected, but I’ve never
known why. I find no comfort
in death, nor do I understand
those who do. My faith
is in the rocks that tumble
out of the sea after a storm.
In the tumult of the waves,
the raucous calling of the
crows in the dawn
blinded by sleep and
yet I stumble forward.
If you have waves and crows, a poem is apt to stumble me to irritable but somehow she surpasses the elements with the strength and fit of the whole.
166. The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism by Naoki Higashida, trans by KA Yoshida and David Mitchell (Knoff, 2007)
This was fascinating. A kid writing what it is to experience his body and moods as they disconnect from his intentions. He’s keenly self-aware and self-directing but not always in as much control as he wishes. He communicates most easily by a board with 40 common Japanese characters that he pokes to make sentences, blogs, fiction, short stories and this autobiography.