I read this volume of Jamaican poetry, fiction, and reproductions of paintings by (St. Hope) Earl McKenzie this morning, in a house in Albuquerque filI read this volume of Jamaican poetry, fiction, and reproductions of paintings by (St. Hope) Earl McKenzie this morning, in a house in Albuquerque filled with his poems and paintings (both originals and reproductions on the walls all around me. The impulse here is one I share: how the visual and the textual interact. In this case, the visuals are his paintings and the texts are his poems and stories, and sometimes two expressions of an idea arise from one idea or image in McKenzie's life. The book also includes short essays by McKenzie explaining the intersections.
As individual pieces, the texts rarely worked for me. The stories are too much about surface, the poems are too much about ideas instead of language. But as a whole, I love the interplay of ideas in different forms, and I even like the explicative texts. Some of the paintings are quite wonderful—simple in execution but filled with color and texture. Alt together, however, this made for an interesting morning's read. ...more
Alain Badiou answers, in conversation, questions posed to him by Nicolas Truong, which he then translates into a book about love, and its essential naAlain Badiou answers, in conversation, questions posed to him by Nicolas Truong, which he then translates into a book about love, and its essential nature and its transformative effects in human life. The main focus here is on the concept of romantic love, and Badiou argues against the "sceptics" who believe that love does not exist and is only a socially acceptable replacement for inexorable sexual desire. Badiou argues finally that love is a quest for truth, the truth that two people can be separate and entirely different and operate so as to perceive the world together, somehow, inexplicably, as one.
The book could have used more expansion and support of its ideas, but it exists now as something short and accessible, a readable account of one philosopher's ideas on an issue of great human import: the existence and value of love. He ends, a few sentences from the very end of the book, with these words: “To love is to struggle, beyond solitude, with everything in the world that can animate existence.”
One of the most vulgar books I've read and one of the most lively, this translation of Catullus' verse, by Carl Sesar, presents en face translations oOne of the most vulgar books I've read and one of the most lively, this translation of Catullus' verse, by Carl Sesar, presents en face translations of all the poems except for seven long ones and seven random others. Sesar notes that the remaining poems are "the poems I felt most and love the best," and it shows in his translations.
These poems veer from vituperation for Catullus legion of enemies, to love for various women and men, to despair upon the death of his brother, making these lyric poems of the entire human experience. These are not simply pretty little lyrics. They are words felt and thus written down, and they are filled with wit, including the most witty vulgarity I've ever read. Reading these poems, I can see from which well the Earl of Rochester drew his inspiration.
I do not know Latin, but I know enough Romance languages to see the meaning in individual words, if not the syntax that threads them together, so when I read the vulgarity in the Sesar's English I let my eyes slip to the Latin at the left, and I confirmed that the artful and direct profanity in the original. The word "irrumabo," close enough to its English cognate for me to understand, appears with hilarious frequency, and once, in a flash of irreverent profanity, Catullus compares a man's lips to "mulae cunnus," all at once comparing him to female genitalia, associated him with a lowly animal, and giving him status as a being that cannot even bear progeny. I'm not sure we have this kind of skill to use profanity anymore.
Yet the profanity is only part of the allure here. I bought this book primarily for the 101st poem to Catullus' brother, a tender and heartfelt poem, but I found many other things here. An entire life.
The copy I bought yesterday includes an inscription to an unknown Daniel (who, to my mind, duplicates the many named but otherwise unknown people in Catullus' poems), and the dedication Sesar gives is
Quod habe tibi quid quod hoc libelli qualecumque . . . . ...more
Nicholson Baker's novel "A Box of Matches" is written in daily entries by a man setting a fire in the dark every day with the matches of one box. EachNicholson Baker's novel "A Box of Matches" is written in daily entries by a man setting a fire in the dark every day with the matches of one box. Each day, he lights the fire, thinks about the fire, thinks about his animals and his family, remembers his past, and generally does not consider the future. We learn what kind of person he is and what propels him (if such a verb could be used for this gentle and uncomplicated man). There is no story here, though parts of what might be a story arise, and the book ends when the main character uses up his matches. In a narrative, that fact would be the only one that could be a spoiler
The book is well written and quiet, but unengaging. Although it is a short book, I wanted it over sooner. It is a fine description of a life, but I could pull nothing else out of it. Maybe my problem is that I came to the book expecting something Beckettian, and I found something not run by the examination of the mind or irony or witfulness, but something run by darkness in the early mornings of a New England winter. Plenty of people of a certain intellectual bent will probably enjoy this book, but to me it was nothing more than middlebrow pointlessness. And the brow I always try to avoid is the middle one....more