I love most of the poems in this book, and unlike Dana Ward's The Crisis of Infinite Worlds, Voznesesky's poems read as poetry. ThI'm new to poetry.
I love most of the poems in this book, and unlike Dana Ward's The Crisis of Infinite Worlds, Voznesesky's poems read as poetry. That is, despite the lack of rhyme, the structure and "feel" smell like what I think a poem is supposed to smells like. But maybe because of that, Vozneseky's poems, once I felt I was imbibing and ingesting them, didn't have the same kick or pungency of Dana Ward's. Maybe because it was similar to what I know, even though I don't know poetry at all— even though I don't know how to read poetry, I roughly kinda know how to read this, simply by being part of our "literary culture." Whereas Dana Ward's poems are/were outside of what I know and what I am used to.
But back to Vozneseky: he seems to be coming out of the beats, but he's really coming out of Pasternak, Boris and the "Khrushchev Thaw". I know a bit about the Thaw, but shit-all about Pasternak.
Fate flies like a rocket, on a parabolic curve— Mostly in darkness, but sometimes— it's a rainbow.
The hot sticky air of Academies, he defied gravity. ... But he, a roaring rocket flew Through the wind that was cutting off coats' tails and ears Not making the Louvre through the big portals— But on a furious parabola, crashing through the ceiling!
While I am still flying, flying, then landing on earth There comes a terrestrial, frozen signal from you! How hard it is to remember this journey. Sweeping aside all canons, all prognostications, paragraphs Art, love and history follow the parabolic Trajectory. His rubber boots, drowning in Serbian spring.... Maybe the straight line Is shorter?
There's many many beautiful pieces in this book. Many odd turns of phrase. The early half, as others have suggested, are a little bit richer than the later half, which is set in the U.S.A., and which is still pretty great. PARTY is really lovely and was read to me by a friend at my book store. In turn, I read A NEW YEAR'S LETTER to another friend and want to give you the later part of the poem:
But back at my place the window's wide open, on the tall city, as onto a garden—and the snow smelling like apples, yellow Antonovk apples its flakes suspended in air. They don't move they don't fall they're waiting, weightless, static, observant like small icon lamps, or tobacco plants in summer: but they'll swing in small arcs when touched by a little foot in a smart Polish boot... and the snow and the smell of apples....more
I've never been a poetry reader. But lately I've started asking the poetry readers who come into the store what to read. And Carson's name comes up aI've never been a poetry reader. But lately I've started asking the poetry readers who come into the store what to read. And Carson's name comes up a lot. Since I love Antigone, I pulled an advance copy of Antigonick, her rough re-telling and new translation, as soon as it came in.
But Antigonick isn't poetry. Or sort of isn't. I mean, it's still a play, but Carson has taken it and thrown it through a cheese grater and a colander and a quick pan fry. Her Antigone is full of funny odd touches and endless head-scratching but beautiful illustrations. It's not quite illustarted since the illustrations often come at the text at oblique angles. I laughed out loud many times and many times wondered why Carson kept coming back to Hegel in the middle of the text. And damn, the book is raw. And creepy.
The day after I started the book, I find out that Carson was going to preform Antigonik at NYU! And Judith Butler is in the play and part of a symposium on Antigone after! And it's open to the public! And it's free! So I send off my RSVP and... no response.
The day of I go anyway. It's a mad house. There's no way I'm going to get in. But it turns out that NYU never sent confirmation emails; they only sent out rejection emails. Sure enough, I can go in! And I'm sitting behind Laurie Anderson, Lou Reed, and the actress who played Samantha in Sex in the City. (Throughout the play, Lou Reed kept nodding off and Laurie Anderson kept running her hand through the back of his and around his neck.)
I was staring at Laurie Anderson's hand on Lou Reed's neck, not really paying any attention to the "visuals" of the play, which was more of a reading——a bunch of actors in chairs who would stand up to a microphone when it was their turn to speak. Anyway, I kept thinking, "Damn, I really like who is playing Creon. It's pretty smart to have a guy with an effeminate voice play the king." And then I looked up and saw that Juidth Butler was Creon. And she was damn good!
Anyway, Carson's take on Antigone is pretty great. There's some weird intrusions of the contemporary in the play (the aforementioned Hegel, some slang, etc.) but the play is funnier than I remember and way more brutal and creepy. (According to Carson Antigone is a bit of a gangsta in her thoughtless obsession to bury her brother. And what the hell is up with the incest motif? Reflections of Oedipus?) Many in the crowd asked about the "Nick" but Carson retained her Cheshire smile and let the audience argue it out. (Nick was on stage measuring everything. Nick of time? Cut? Measurement? Mark? One thing for sure: everyone's timing in the play is off. No one arrives in the nick of time. Always too late or too early.) I know little enough to compare translations or to comment on what Carson has done. Hell, I didn't even remember large swaths of the play, even though I loved it when I first read it years ago, so I'm not much of a guide or a critic.
But now I'm slowly starting to check out more poetry....more
I hate "hilarious" books. Or anything with a blurb that says something to the effect of "humorous." But this book is hilarious in a Beavis and ButtheaI hate "hilarious" books. Or anything with a blurb that says something to the effect of "humorous." But this book is hilarious in a Beavis and Butthead way, but with an intense anti-authoritarian streak. It's basically about a couple of disaffected dilettantes who want to create and cause chaos, and hopefully bring down the entire government with them. It's a series of progressively silly stunts and it's oddly believable. It's deeply cynical but at the same time so sure of the idiocy of the State and of the deep cynicism and idiocy of everyone else that it's hopeful of change and sure that corrupt regimes can fall with a gentle push from some disaffected slackers (even if they're generally replaced with equally shitty, corrupt, cynical, and idiotic regimes).
A few things: Cossery was an Egyptian ex-pat who spent most of his life in Paris. The events in this book roughly rhyme with some of the events in Egypt during the Arab Spring, but with less people and more Mad magazine/Yippie spectacle/goofiness (but effective spectacle/goofiness). And last, Cossery's take on women is really shitty. The stance of the book seems to be: once they bleed they're no longer trustworthy. Cossey's take on women is the only part of the book that is repugnant. I kept thinking about how deeply sexist the radicals of the 60s were....more
I'm really really sick of novels about creative men going through existential crises while holding up some random woman as their two dimensional muse.I'm really really sick of novels about creative men going through existential crises while holding up some random woman as their two dimensional muse. Fuck the Manic Pixie Dream Girl and fuck the Brilliant but Impotent CreAtor.
I do love Open Letter press and I heard Monzó's shorts are pretty good, but this book is clearly not for me....more
It's well written, but I'm just not in the mood for modernist games. Sometimes it's ok, but the writing needs to blow me awayI might return to this.
It's well written, but I'm just not in the mood for modernist games. Sometimes it's ok, but the writing needs to blow me away – or at least be funny – in order to keep me turning the page.
There was some beautiful passages and set pieces (some hot sex scenes and a few funny takes on the oh-so-virile-and-powerful paterfamilias/capitalist) but eventually I decided I had better things to do. I'm still willing to give Jelinek, and even this book, another chance – I do like hateful writers and I do tend to like Austrians, so this book goes back to my shelf instead of back to the book store....more
I'm going back and writing reviews/notes/thoughts.
But I don't know where to start with this. It's been over a month and this book still looms too largI'm going back and writing reviews/notes/thoughts.
But I don't know where to start with this. It's been over a month and this book still looms too large, like a summer blockbuster's turbulent clouds heralding an apocalypse.
It shouldn't have worked.
A novel of ideas that follows the lives of Wittgenstein, Moore, and Russell? A novel that seems to be a fictionalized biography? A historical novel of sorts? About a philosopher who I love?
That sounds awful.
Yet not only does it work, but it was the best thing I've read in months (except for the Lydia Davis translation of Swann's Way, which I read right before this—but that was a re-reading, even though it was a new translation, even though it is still one of the most amazing things I've ever read, even if it might be THE most amazing thing I've ever read). Anyway... I think the only reason I can write about it now is because Dana Ward's The Crisis of Infinite Worlds is as good. Finally....more
The problem with experimental writing is that the writer has to be brilliant. Plot is its own propulsion and I can tear through a poorly written genreThe problem with experimental writing is that the writer has to be brilliant. Plot is its own propulsion and I can tear through a poorly written genre novel even if the writing is shitty as long as the plot is tight and interesting. The question "What happens next?" (or in the case of a mystery/noir, "What happened?") is enough to keep me turning pages.
Molinaro's book has a fairly interesting plot buried in the modernist games. Actually, she has _three_ interesting plots: the "current" story about a married playa and the way his actions effect his distant wife and his prior flings; the story about his dad, married to a beautiful and talented but failed and adulterous singer; his distant relation who is both a philanderer and a cuckold and a believer in the new ideas of the Equality of Man; and a wealthy Roman patrician with a headstrong son into the new Jewish cult following this weirdo named Jesus Christ. Sounds good, right? But then there's annoying and random spacing & type changes & the use of ampersands and other text games along with sudden shifts where one character becomes another or the whole thing shifts into a dream or a deliberate metaphor or constantly reaches to this meta scene with twins or maybe the protagonist's daughter or son or both or mom or dad & now she's a child actress & now they're carrying Mickey Mouse watches ^ now they drop a watch on the Patrician Roman's head &... it's fucking annoying.
Anyway, the writer is not good enough to pull it off. She's good, but the modernist version of fantasy is damn annoying. Kafka and Schulz can do it, but most people can't....more
This might be a 5-star book, but I feel weird giving yet another comic 5 stars. Especially since I've been giving so many 5-star and 4-star ratings toThis might be a 5-star book, but I feel weird giving yet another comic 5 stars. Especially since I've been giving so many 5-star and 4-star ratings to comics, yet regular novels have been getting 3 and 4-stars from me, even books from amazing writers.
But I'm not sure what Leviathan is. I mean, it IS a comic, but it's an allegorical comic that is deeply elliptical. It's nearly wordless, punctuated with intertitle pages with quotes from Moby Dick and The Book of Job and The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, etc. The drawings are stunningly beautiful, as is the layout, as is the color scheme (blue and white and black). Jens Harder combines a realistic drawing style with numerous drawings cribbed from Medieval drawings of Leviathans and other monsters. Harder also uses extremely surprising "camera angles" and a good chunk of the book is from a whale's point of view.
The story itself isn't really a story. The story zips through antiquity and the present day; it follows the food chain, myths, historical sea tragedies, the whale in art and literature, and Apocalyptic scenarios all revolving around a marauding Leviathan. As in Moby Dick, it's hard to figure out if the whale is real, or a stand in for God. And although the book is a comic, and therefor a very quick read, I've read it over and over in a few days, and I'm still not sure what it's about. There is an underlying structure, and seems to be a philosophy of sorts, and perhaps even an argument of sorts, but I still don't know how to 'read' this book. It strikes me as high-modernism in comic book form, that is deceptively easy on the micro-scale but imposing, exasperating and intoxicating on a macro-scale. Something is being said, but it's hard to tell exactly what it is, but I, for one, want to keep exploring the depths until I figure it out, or at least get a semblance of understand that I'm comfortable with.
Bernhard with a smile... of sorts. This is almost Bernhard-lite. There's still the one-paragraph-book, still the despair, anguish, hatred for humanityBernhard with a smile... of sorts. This is almost Bernhard-lite. There's still the one-paragraph-book, still the despair, anguish, hatred for humanity (which includes, of course, Bernhard), focus on the base elements of our nature, and the bile, the endlessly spewing bile. But it is all leavened by the nature of the story, which is about Bernhard's brilliant and doomed friend who is Wittgenstein's nephew and equally as brilliant as Ludwig Wittgenstein, even if he never put his brilliant thoughts down on paper. It's weird reading Bernhard talk so highly about a person; talk so warmly. Bernhard tells of their adventures spurning the literary society, mocking the writerly cafe society, describing how literary awards are the State pissing on the writer, mocking the Wittgensteins who are a base money family who thought Ludwig embarrassing and never recognized his genius, etc. They bond in their bile.
But this book is also about the failure of friendship and about the looming whisper of death. As Bernhard is in the hospital for removed cancer, he finds out that his friend is nearby in the mental wing, but he can't bring himself to visit. He can't visit for various selfish, but well thought, reasons. And later, after his friend's lovely wife dies, and his friend spirals close to death, again, Bernhard can't bear to meet his friend, who smells of impending death. So this book, which is a rebuke of Bernhard's awful treatment of his friend, is also an eulogy. It sings the praises of Bernhard's dead friend, Wittgenstein's Nephew, who was also as brilliant, even if he never put his brilliant thoughts down on paper....more
I finished this book in my bookstore. The A/C is broken, it's the 4th of July and it feels as if everyone is at some palatial summer estate, leaving tI finished this book in my bookstore. The A/C is broken, it's the 4th of July and it feels as if everyone is at some palatial summer estate, leaving the city abandoned to the heat, the rats, and the roaches. This book is a short travelogue- hell, the title of the book is the plot of the book. We follow a writer, taking a break, wandering through the city from the mountain which he works. He watches snow; muses on the futility of writing; contemplates the self-imposed loneliness of his existence; watches strange people drink in a bar; meets a translator who tells him he's happy now that he's no longer writing; and generally meanders and mulls. I remember my old mentor once told me all of Proust can't hold up, quantitatively, to one moment in one quotidian day eating some schlock meal at Denny's. The pure quantities of information are simply too overwhelming to ever get down - impossible to transcribe in their infinite complexity. This book looks to get around that by spending such a small sliver of time with our author, our storyteller, but in effect, our author and storyteller exists primarily in his own head (as he himself observes, over and over) so in the end it's a futile gesture, but a beautiful one, more about the solipsism of a writer and how the written word can never truly capture that quotidian moment....more
Recently, I read Roadside Picnic by the Strugatsky brothers, which was the basis of Tarkovsky's Stalker. I realized that I had never read the classiRecently, I read Roadside Picnic by the Strugatsky brothers, which was the basis of Tarkovsky's Stalker. I realized that I had never read the classic source for Tarkovsky's other sci-fi movie, Solaris. And like Roadside Picnic, the book is significantly different from the Tarkovsky's movie, and different in wonderful ways.
Some of the greatness of the book is the same as some of the greatness of the movie: i.e., a deeply philosophical examination of existence, human exceptionalism, memory and desire. You might know the story. A psychologist goes to an outpost on Solaris, a planet that has spawned a whole branch of science for nearly a hundred years. The planet seems to be covered by a living "ocean," which somehow stabilizes an orbit around two suns, but no one is sure how, and no one is sure if the ocean is conscious. As soon as Kris, a psychologist, reaches the Solaris station, it's obvious that something is deeply wrong. Soon enough, the psychologist runs into his dead girlfriend. His girlfriend, btw, killed herself, and it was partially his fault. He figures out, with the help of the other members still alive at the station, that everyone has dealt with people from their past (or even worse, their fantasies). It appears that the ocean has created these people based on readings from the members' brains.
What's great about the ocean is how damn foreign it is. A great part of the book is spent reflecting on the past century of Solaris Studies, describing the various regular and irregular structures the ocean 'builds,' and guessing why the ocean has recreated physical versions of the members' memories. What's great about their experiments and discussions is that they are up against the limits of their human-ness. Solaris Studies have persisted because the ocean is so damn alien. It is Other in a fundamental way. And the researchers, being human, simply can't think past their human-constrictions. There's more to it than that, but it's a thoughtful cool book. Like a comic I just read, Leviathan, it's hard to tell if the ocean (like the leviathan from the comic, is a stand in for our deity worship, or if it's just meant to be up against the limits of our understanding. What the book pushes is is philosophical questions: What does it mean to be human? How can we escape our boundaries? What is our place in the universe? The Tarkovsky film leaves out the last question (and how could he? it would require a massive budget and several more hours to successfully reinterpret the part of the book that dealt with the hundred years of Solaris Studies) but both are beautiful and thought provoking pieces of art.
One other note: the book I'm reviewing is translated from the French. It reads well, but I wonder if someone has translated a new version directly from Russian?...more