Saturday, August 28, 2010

Dean Young's The Art of Recklessness

Young's new book-length essay on poetry is terrific. It reminds me of Speed Levitch's SPEEDOLOGY, his wild tour of NYC. If anything, Young's book is not reckless enough.

He uses all-caps sometimes, as when he says SOME THINGS MUST BE MADE OPAQUE TO BE SEEN. The book is full of great pronouncements from him and the pantheon of writers he quotes on the topic of Poetry as Assertive Force and Contradiction. He cites G.M. Hopkins calling for "More wreck and less discourse," which is great.

My main thought is that Young does not identify and contradict the orthodoxies of contemporary poetry as much as I had hoped. He uses John Ashbery as the signal quote of the book, of course. He presents Ashbery from an essay called The Invisible Avant-Garde saying that the reckless makes experimental art beautiful. I agree, but even the most formal art is reckless in conception, or idea, or on some level, or it fails.

Then he quotes Ashbery going on to say, with the soft-headedness that has characterized him and his followers all too often: "Religions are beautiful because of the strong possibility that they are founded on nothing." Well, if you mean by "nothing" our fear of death, our need for order, our desire to be known, loved, our lust for the absolute, and lots more, then sure, religions are founded on nothing. Those words betray so much naïvete and thin thinking that I'm grateful to Ashbery for having demonstrated his failure to grasp the world outside his nonsensical aesthetic.

I have no love for religion, and no love for poetry that cedes ground to it.

The strong possibility is that Ashbery's poetry is founded on nothing. What amazes me is that Young and others like him (Tim Liu, Elisa Gabbert, Rauan Klassnik, David Berman) have emerged from that wreck and done so much. More on this soon.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Reality Hunger by David Shields

Reading bits of Reality Hunger, and haven't finished it yet. A couple of things so for have surprised me. He says:

"The Bachelor tells us more about the state of unions than any romantic comedy could dream of telling us."

That's sort of like saying candy corn is unfathomably more nutritious than cotton candy. But I think it's quite a bit more wrong. Shields is saying no one can make another Annie Hall, I guess. That these days love has changed enough that our best pop cultural authority on it is a game show that is reality-based only in name? Sounds like he's torturing an argument to conform to his thesis.

Then he says the origin of storytelling is the Indian Vedas of 1400 B.C. I guess he is excluding oral storytelling. And cave painting. What about the Quipu of the Incas and Tartaria tablets?

Still I like the style and intent of the book. To jolt us awake in our consideration of reality as it's represented.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Are you checking out the new DeLillo?

I am reading so many things right now I'm not sure if I can squeeze in Point Omega.

I didn't like Cosmopolis, the last one of his that I read. When I like DeLillo, he's making the world seem more real than it normally does to me: White Noise, parts of Underworld. Cosmopolis suffered from, I think, its head-on confrontation with a city that has resisted the Joycean program ever since imitators started trying to Ulysses-ize New York.

I suppose I should give Omega a chance. I fear polemic on the Iraq War and the right wing, both targets deserving of as sharp a critique as we can muster.