Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Thank God for the Lettuce

The burden of reading a poem to the entire nation and the world, on the occasion of a particularly historic inauguration, is tremendous of course. I commend Elizabeth Alexander for reading a poem that was not obscure, not meant only for an audience of poets, that did not subscribe to the current preference for language over sense.

Not that a poet would dare be so impertinent, but you never know.

Still, the line where she invoked the dead who "picked the cotton" in this nation lost its impact when she saw fit to include "and the lettuce." Need I say why?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Literary Thrillers Part One

I have been reading a bit of "genre" fiction that has a literary bent recently. Financial thrillers in particular. A great one I'm going through now is by Peter Spiegelman.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Lorca's Poet In New York

I just read again Mark Statman and Pablo Medina's translation of Lorca's Poet in New York.

Check it out. It amazes me each time I dip into it.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Novels and Social Change

One interesting thing to me about novels and some other art is that while it can be prophetic (Kafka on the rise of bureaucracy and false incrimination under secret-policed states) the prophecies don't manage to stop the crimes they anticipate.

To my mind this is a problem with readers more than it is with novels themselves. In other words, if people more carefully interpreted great works of art, they would find the necessary humanizing wisdom to avoid most catastrophes. My idea, not one limited to me I think, is that where we fail as a species is not in the pursuit of science, but in the pursuit of humanities.

The tough thing of course is that part of the glory of the humanities is they can be interpreted so many ways. And another sobering fact is that if a writer as great as Shakespeare couldn't change human behavior, perhaps no one can. But I don't like that idea.

Better teaching could be the essence of it? There is always Ayn Rand's argument that Shakespeare was an amoral genius. And that books like hers influence behavior because they're trying to do so. Who can deny that hers have influenced behavior? The public ranks Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead as numbers one and two best novels of all time? And Reagan, Greenspan and dozens of neo-cons cite her as a determining influence.

So is it perhaps that novels could influence public opinion if they simply tried harder? I honestly believe they could. I mean, the artists who resisted Communism clearly had something to do with its overthrow. And theoretically, novels with a different message than Rand's and with perhaps more artistic merit could be written that make an impact. Who knows?

Fiction Reviews and Interviews

Regarding fiction reviews and interviews, I go to Bookslut and to New York Review of Books and to identitytheory and find them helpful.

However, there is something lacking there in my opinion. Perhaps what I’m looking for is lit crit more than reviews. But I share in the widespread dissatisfaction with the premises of many literary critics today. See this document on Marquez. That’s a dissertation, granted, but it’s part of the problem in my opinion.

I mean, what I’d really like is to find someone with a strong point of view who really digs into a variety of authors’ work. Something like Ron Silliman’s site, but which is not dedicated to poetry but fiction. I’m sure that’s out there. Maybe somebody can help me find it, once I let people know I’m doing this blog.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Review of Holy Land by Rauan Klassnik

Check out my review at Cutbank here, or click below cover to buy the book from Black Ocean Press.