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Chinese Whispers

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3.77 of 5 stars 3.77  ·  rating details  ·  119 ratings  ·  10 reviews
According to a Victorian volume called "Drawing Room Amusements" (1879), in the game of Chinese Whispers "participants are arranged in a circle, and the first player whispers a story or message to the next player, and so on round the circle. The original story is then compared with the final version, which has often changed beyond recognition." In John Ashbery's latest col ...more
Paperback, 112 pages
Published September 5th 2003 by Farrar Straus Giroux (first published 2002)
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Community Reviews

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Zalman
Jul 27, 2008 Zalman rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Ashbery fans
I really wanted to like this book more, because Ashbery has written some of my favorite poems. Hearing him read once, in Cambridge in the late 1970s, was an unforgettably pleasurable experience. And of course I realize that emulating, amplifying, distilling, and somehow organizing the random buzz of everyday speech and our media saturated environment, is part of Ashbery's method. I often appreciate the results, and some of the passages in "Chinese Whispers" struck me as brilliant, alive with wit ...more
Eric Phetteplace
Ashbery jams together faux philosophy, common speech, and some cool images in such a way as to create his own very distinct narratives. Some prose poems here and a lot of typical free verse that blends together. You could take any title, then jump around the book for an arbitrary length of time reading lines here and there, and you would have a poem as good as any in the book. Not that that's bad, but it does show how experiments like this sacrifice a certain specificity which can create a great ...more
Bill  Kerwin

At the age of 75, John Ashbery still has it--whatever it is. As is true of all his work, each poem is a cloud of almost-meaning, organizing fragments of speech so enticing and with such formal excellence that the reader is seduced into participating in the poem's creation and completing the meaning for himself. As is appropriate for a book by an old man, this is about death, endings and legacy. Or at least that is how this almost-old-man completed the meaning for himself.
Kent
I have such a deep trust in Ashbery's ability to lead me into places that I had never really thought of. And so even when I feel vague through most of this book, I still find that the tone, the tonal shifts, and the imaginative possibilities are what I most want. I just wish that all of the poems were as lucid to me as "Under Cellophane."
Troy
Dec 07, 2011 Troy rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Andrew
Ashbery fucking rocks it. He's a hundred years old and still more prolific and elegaic and wildly, coherently abstract than anyone. Although it seems to me that some poems would benefit from some cutting, his fluidity is probably somehow inextricably wedded to his verbosity. He's a great Living Poet. Read him now before he's Dead.
Dawn
The large thing ending up small. That's how I feel about the poems in this here book. How the sweepingness of Ashbery's gesture gets suddenly so miniscule and degraded, almost unconfortable, so as to make them, "um" "well" I don't know exactly. Sort of bitchy and breaking open at the same time.
Emma (Miss Print)
I really, really want to like John Ashbery's poetry. But I just don't. Nothing will ever convince me that it's okay for a poem to make absolutely no sense, but none of the poems in this collection do. Which makes it impossible for me to enjoy them.
Eric T. Voigt Voigt
As with the Chinese whispers I'm used to this was impossible to understand and I had the sneaking suspicion I was being judged the entire time I was in the restaurant.
John
Dec 17, 2008 John added it
More from American poet John Ashbery. A lot of randomness in his work: like a waterfall of words.

Like Guided by Voices? Like Pavement? You'll like Ashbery.
Kenny
Apr 04, 2010 Kenny added it
where are the openings into this?
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John Ashbery was born in Rochester, New York, in 1927. He earned degrees from Harvard and Columbia, and he traveled as a Fulbright Scholar to France in 1955. Best known as a poet, he has published more than twenty collections, most recently A Worldly Country (Ecco, 2007). His Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror (Viking, 1975) won the three major American prizes: the Pulitzer, the National Book Award, ...more
More about John Ashbery...
Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror Selected Poems The Tennis Court Oath The Mooring of Starting Out Girls on the Run

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