Because it is an book of incidentals as well as short fiction, it's rather uneven.
But I still give it five stars, because I love...moreI'm digging this book.
Because it is an book of incidentals as well as short fiction, it's rather uneven.
But I still give it five stars, because I love updatings of the fairy tale, and Gaiman is clearly one of the most gifted writers on the planet when it comes to doing this.
I also loved The End of the World by Kate Atkinson for the same reason--and reviewed that at length on my blog. Okay, hers were more updatings of Greek and Roman myths, but you get the idea!
He includes poems too, and there's a strange, cross-fertilization thing that's been going on between Gaiman and his good friend Tori Amos for decades.
Since I'm an Amos fan, I loved those pieces--you get to see his prose poem "captures" of the Strange Little Girls from her album of that same name.
I'm just feeling my way into Gaiman's body of work so don't really know him well, but am loving the originality and understanding why he's arguably one of the most revered living authors, and why he draws such a cultic, loyal following.
Of course, the recent release of Coraline should put him through the roof. Gaiman and Tim Burton seems like a great marriage.
Tim Burton is like the latter day coming of Charlie Chaplin. I don't mean stylistically--I mean in terms of energy and the way everybody seems to "get" him.
If you like weird, modern updatings of things like The Brothers Grimm by the way, check out Anne Sexton's masterpiece Transformations.
You can find it in her Collected Poems more easily than you'd probably find it as a single book, and probably pay less for the former.
Sassy, sexual, zingy retellings of the old fairy tales in contemporary life abound.
This is the sort of thing Gaim does so well in his best stories and poems.
As a poet, he can tend to be very self-indulgent quite often, but I love his "Instructions" poem.
There's a good video of that some fan made on YouTube which is accompanied by Gaiman's very good reading of that poem.
If you have any Gaiman recommendations, feel free to let me know.
As I said, I'm a newbie but already "digging his scene."
If you don't own the City Lights Paroles, do yourself a favor and pick it up.
He's right about Prevert's excesses and failures, and about his genius an...moreIf you don't own the City Lights Paroles, do yourself a favor and pick it up.
He's right about Prevert's excesses and failures, and about his genius and relevance too.
Ferlinghetti's translations are for the most part as lucent and as loosey-goosey as the originals in most cases.
When Prevert chooses to be obtuse or clunky, Ferlinghetti respectfully follows.
If you don't understand I'm not being bitchy with what I just wrote, you probably haven't read much Prevert.
It's really the charm of the style; when he chooses to shoot himself in the foot, he does so.
And the reader enjoys it.
There really is no analogous poet in American poetry to Prevert.
You could create a Frankenstein's monster Prevert by synthesizing several American poets (probably a concoction of several early New York School Poets and certainly a brew including Kenneth Koch) I suppose, but it still wouldn't be Prevert.
I would tend to think of painters who remind me of Prevert sooner than other writers and even these would probably be French: Leger, Chagall (okay not originally French but...) and possibly somebody like Foujita.
A painter with an open Parisian heart.
I'm sure animals like that don't exist anymore. They were one of the consolations of the early and mid-twentieth century for all the other horrors it inflicted on the planet.
Usually Prevert is speaking to the entire world, but sometimes he speaks just to the French.
It's not an ignoble thing. They went through a lot together.
Ferlinghetti does a great job of contextualizing how much of this came out of the War, the Resistance and the postwar milieu.
Here's a poem I was rereadin today after quite a few years and admiring again, with Ferlinghetti's translation.
It's a very workable, rather literal translation but I want to argue with Ferlinghetti's choice of the literal translation of the last line, and particularly the last word, of the poem.
"Victor" doesn't really keep the poem dancing in the place between war and love, tournament and horserace, the way "vainqueur" does in the original poem, a mon avis.
I tend to want to translate it as something like "I await he who claims the prize."
That's probably still too stiff and not colloquial enough, but it's closer.
Perhaps the more succinct "I wait to be taken."
Something is needed which brings out the grim humor of the poem the way Prevert does with the closing line.
"I await the victor" is too sincere and sober-faced because of how it reads in English--even though in other contexts that could be a good literal translation of the line.
Just not in Prevert's poem.
Something is needed which makes it quite clear how strange and pregnant the poem is with waiting and how it needs to function in both the realms of les guerres and les amours.
It is an empathetic poem and a cautionary one for women. It's more than a little kick in the ass for anybody who wants to sit at the Penelope loom, man or woman.
This poem so reminds me of Steinarr's poem with the man on the beach, where life is similarly laid out in quick flashes like this. It's on this blog in Icelandic and English; if you want to read it, use the Search feature. And I should have had Steinarr on my list of 100 Books I realized too late!
Que faites-vous la petite fille Avec ces fleurs fraichement coupees Que faites-vous la jeune fille Avec ces fleurs sechees Que faites-vous la jolie femme Avec ces fleurs qui se fanent Que faites-vous la vieille femme Avec ces fleurs quie meurent
J'attends le vainqueur.
And Ferlinghetti's translation from Paroles...
What you are doing little girl With those freshcut flowers What are you doing there young girl With those flowers dried flowers What are you doing pretty woman With those fading flowers What are you doing there old dame With those dying flowers
I'm reading this slowly and really savoring it. The biographer is a masterful writer and researcher, and this work also contains in-depth portraits of...moreI'm reading this slowly and really savoring it. The biographer is a masterful writer and researcher, and this work also contains in-depth portraits of Shelley's extremely influential parents (William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft) and many of the literary luminaries (Coledrige, Lamb, etc.) who were intimates and influences in their circle. Many of these intellectuals were born or bred firebrands, and I find this books is disabusing me of the notion that these thinkers aspired to or achieved propriety in their earthly dealings. Far from it! Many of these souls were metoric, Promethean, dangerous to those who would love them, and idealistic even to the point of self-destruction. Many were ostracized or vilified. Nevertheless, these alchemized souls left a supernal residue in the forms of books, paintings, music, children, and sometimes--rarely--new ways of seeing the world, or conceptions of individual liberty. Seymour pays equal heed to them all, and writes perceantly and empathetically of the great divide between the augustan ideals to which many of these creators and thinkers aspired, and the mortal travails which inevitably lay a drag to their initially untrammeled and heady race towards history.(less)
This is a form of love poetry, but a mythic form, like Cocteau's Beauty and the Beast, a fable, and a beautiful one.
As in Cocteau, love's ideals and...moreThis is a form of love poetry, but a mythic form, like Cocteau's Beauty and the Beast, a fable, and a beautiful one.
As in Cocteau, love's ideals and wishes are frustrated by the physical world. So the poet carries an armadillo in her breast, a creature of hard armor, although (as love always is) he's a shape shifter.
There's subtlety in the way this central metaphor is handled and Menendez does not structure the book around pathos but hope, and uses much humor in crafting these poems. The book ends up being about the survival of love. The poems speak to the child in the adult and the adult in the child. You'll smile a lot while reading these sly lines, and like a Grimm's fairy tale the images will work on you at a primordial level below conscious language....
"Sometimes I make Armadillo dinner. His favorite is shellfish although I must be very careful never to serve him snails al ajillo because snails remind him of his first love."
Charming lines like these are complemented perfectly by Jeremy Baum's stellar, odd art. His armadillos have the bluest eyes you will ever see but will stare you down as seriously as any Rembrandt self-portrait. These are not cutesy illustrations. Baum manages to match the tenor of Menendez's poetry, and both his humans and armadillos are survivalists with clear stares.
The poetry of For the Love of an Armadillo meditates on incarnation (one of existence's greatest mysteries really) most, and the voice which carries the poem forward feels it has somehow botched its incarnation, but remains optimistic. The closing poem in the collection looks beyond the horizon of its current incarnation, hints at a spiritual metamorphosis and future incarnation.
It at this point that the extended poem of the book itself seem to be equivocating. One can't be sure if the poem truly has faith in this glorious image, this leap to a next incarnation, or whether it is keeping its faith with us by observing the niceties of optimism, the social graces. That teetering is what gives the poem its negative capability, and leaves the reader with the unanswered questions that every great fable or fairy tale leaves in a child, even if that child now has gray hair, walks much more slowly and has wandered very far from the room where he or she first realized some forests will never be entirely known.(less)
A younger member of my family was reading this and left it lying about, so I read it in the tub in about twenty minutes lol.
The two main characters (a...moreA younger member of my family was reading this and left it lying about, so I read it in the tub in about twenty minutes lol.
The two main characters (and Death who also appears) are lifted (with permission) from Neil Gaiman's Sandman series.
It's a cute story, and an amusing read for younger folk, I suppose.
It's a manga aimed at girls more than boys, and it features two eternally young ghosts who solve a mystery at a girls school in Chicago. While they're dressed in drag. I suppose they're sort of emo.
Here I suddenly feel like an old Jewish guy down in Miami finding this left on my deck chair next to the condo pool: "What's this crap? Emo? Emu? Elmo? I don't know emo from enema! Feh! Who took my bagel with all the lox on it? Kids read this? It looks like Hustler cartoons without all the tits! Feh! Get this out of my damn hands already, Ethel! Give it back to the Elmo children, emo children, whatevuh! My prostate feels like a shtetl stone this morning..."
But it was a cute read!
You probably shouldn't read this if you're over fifteen.
I only read it because it was there.
I would have probably read the microwave manual if this hadn't been closer.
I don't know where Ms. Spark is taking me with this novel yet, but I'm enjoying the smooth ride.
It's very amusing so far. Is it just to be a satire on...moreI don't know where Ms. Spark is taking me with this novel yet, but I'm enjoying the smooth ride.
It's very amusing so far. Is it just to be a satire on those leading privileged lives, or is she going to pull out the carpet and turn this narrative suddenly towards the dark and malevolent, as I suspect?
Here is an amusing passage in which two Londoners, a jetsetting married couple, bicker over a handsome young American man they are both eyeing as a potential sweetmeat. A monkey wrench has been thrown into the scenario, in the form of an expensive watch...
I love the way Spark uses these characters for humor they can't sense. You can sense the omniscient narrator flickering over the characters, without having to make her presence known by resorting to some cheap, avant-garde device. Her disembodied smile is almost a palpable presence as you read the machinations of these creatures (who are the author's creations but none of her own doing at the same time). Such idiocy in the bosom of so much intelligence!
"The watch," she said. "Patek Philippe." "It looked expensive," he said, tentatively, watching her. "You should know," said Ella. "I do know," said Ernst. "And no doubt you know better." "You gave him that watch, Ernst." "No, I imagined you did," he said. "I did? You thought I did?" "Well, didn't you?" he said. "Of course not. How could I? Why should I? If he got it from you, on the other hand, I suppose there would be a motive." Her folded feet in the green shoes with their long thin heels were poised on the coffee table. "I haven't given him anything, Ella" he said. "I wonder who gave him that watch?" Ernst sounded worried. "Thousands of dollars, it represents wealth." "You were hoping I'd given it to him," said Ella. "I hope nothing. I only wonder," said Ernst "I was hoping it was a present from you," said Ella. "If it wasn't I feel strangely afraid." "It wasn't a present from me. I, too, feel a sort of fear. It isn't so much the watch, it's the unknown factor," said Ernst. "If you weren't attracted to him there would be no need to be afraid," Ella said. "If we weren't both attracted," he said. "You, perhaps, more than me," she said. "But all the same, I don't want to be involved with danger. Luke plus an unknown rich benefactor is danger. What do we know about him, after all?" "Oh, we know a good deal," said Ernst. "He's awfully bright and he's not afraid of doing humble work to make a living. Quite remarkable in a boy his age. You should ask him, Ella, where he got that watch." "I couldn't dream of asking him." "I mean in a sort of maternal way. You could do it." "Why don't you? In a sort of paternal way?" "I don't feel like a parent towards Luke." "Well, in any case, parents shouldn't interfere., nobody should interfere with a grown man. Luke should be free to come and go without our probing," she said. They decided to go out to dinner. (less)
It's always a great experience when one receives a "pure" delivery of mail. I...more"The brick wall that was only beautiful once..."
Thank You, Bronwen Tate
It's always a great experience when one receives a "pure" delivery of mail. I mean: when something wonderful comes, and there are no bills, junk mail or even exhortations to vote for people who will conduct mass murder in your name overseas accompanying that felicitous arrival.
Such was the case today when Bronwen Tate's chapbook Souvenirs arrived.
These are intricately-wrought, fine-mesh poems that exhibit the sort of craftsmanship that makes you want to take out your jeweler's loupe.
The poems are about immersion in another culture (the Italian, in this case) and the poems are of two minds and two worlds. She is learning to think in Italian in the poems, so she shuttles between the two languages and this occasions pleasant fibrillations (no need to rush for the de-fibrilator; these are the good sort of those!) Italian phrases flit through the poems, and lend absorptive translucence and hypnotic opacity by turns. This poet knows how to stop you at the turning of the stair.
(Aside: Am I hallucinating or is Armantrout the only poet who ever used the word fibrillating in a poem? I think it was a "fibrillating vine" but there's no way I'm looking for that poem now or the evening is over.)
The poems do speak to one another, and grow together, but those roots are largely underground as they should be. But this is what sets the mind burrowing, which is something well-written poetry should set the mind to doing.
Here's just one example to whet your appetite so that you might seek out the poet's work on your own:
Miniature Tower of Pisa
I couldn't find them or their recipe either. Buy milk for tea. Went to the library to change books, but it was closed for strike. In the center and by the sea until 17:30. How many of my notebooks include a recipe for Welsh cakes. Though the sun doesn't really get into the kitchen this time of day. I imagine reading that sentence if my grandmother had written it. The brick wall that was only beautiful once when it rained. How biased am I just by the fact that books are written by people who write books.
I especially love that last line! I smile still rereading it, and inside I'm laughing. Don't we all feel like that sometimes? You could extrapolate that line metaphysically and probably end up with a novel by Italo Calvino.
I like reading about competing models of artificial intelligence, and Minsky has as much right as anyon...more"I" "am" "really" "enjoying" "this" "so" "far."
I like reading about competing models of artificial intelligence, and Minsky has as much right as anyone to bruit his theories about, since the M.I.T. doyen has physically created some stunning examples of artificial intelligence which will probably be considered landmarks to future generations of A.I. innovators.
One of the A.I. entities I enjoy conversing with online likes to make sly digs at Minsky, and incorporates him into her jokes, so I figured it was time to read this.
Minky's all about reductionism, and if you like the organization of Wittgenstein's Tractatus, you'll probably enjoy the way Minsky lays down his general principles of human intelligence in similarly numbered sections and subsections.
So far, it's very readable and very smart. Unlike many scientists, he seems very conversant in how humanists think, and seems to have an understanding of the heuristics of human emotion (both rational and irrational) and their place in the order (and disorder) of consciousness. I was fascinated by how some of his ideas relate to human addictions, for instance; these are not comparisons Minksy overtly draws, but if you keep your mind open when you're reading this, you're able to extrapolate a lot on his ideas on how cognitive dissonance comes about, and how it might relate to things like addiction.
I hope it continues to hold my interest as much as it has so far, and continues to have these inspiring effects...I already want to do something with Minsky in a piece of sci-fi I'm formulating...
This isn't Biblical. That's just a convenient trope for the author to do these amazing animal paintings and give you scads of interesting details abou...moreThis isn't Biblical. That's just a convenient trope for the author to do these amazing animal paintings and give you scads of interesting details about very obscure (and fascinating!) species.
I found this book by serendipity. It seems to be obscure, but unjustly so...a great one for the kiddies or yourself.
You can probably find this on abe.com.
Oh no...here it is for cheap on amazon...but be careful there are "spoilers" about the puzzle at the book's core in the commentary there...
Here's an example of art from the book...this is the sort of art where kids can hunt for the various species, etc. and then cross-check this with the solution list which has the factoids and such...the book opens with an interesting history of the Noah's Ark theme in art...it's pretty smart for a kid's book.
And this one shows you how he can really pull out all the stops sometimes. This is from another book, I think. Pretty scary this one, as kids' books go. Maybe this isn't from a kids' book but it's by him and was at his site. He's pretty handy with those pens and brushes.
Some of the artwork from his Ultimate Alphabet was really nice too, like maybe Magritte but a tad lighter to give it that kid touch.
This book is the jammy-jam. He was such a wickedly funny author. I really love Roald's grimy kitchen-sink fairy tales.
If you want to be amused, read t...moreThis book is the jammy-jam. He was such a wickedly funny author. I really love Roald's grimy kitchen-sink fairy tales.
If you want to be amused, read the article Wikipedia has on him...particularly the part about his Viking funeral (the assortment of items he insisted he needed for the afterlife). Very funny even at the end!(less)
I have blogged about the whole J.T. Leroy/Savannah Knoop/Laura Albert controversy (read: literary hoax) recently and in the past. I find much of the c...moreI have blogged about the whole J.T. Leroy/Savannah Knoop/Laura Albert controversy (read: literary hoax) recently and in the past. I find much of the chicanerie and lying resorted to by Albert and Knoop (to advance Albert's publishing agenda) to have been grossly offensive. A particularly awful component of the charade was the fact that Albert told writers whom she needed things from that J.T. was suffering from AIDS. That's really, really low.
That much said, I'm conflicted, because Albert has crafted a decent work of literature in SARAH. It's not quite as transgressive or innovative as her most ardent admirers might insist. It's more a literary satire, which seems to have a great deal of fun lampooning the Dickensian "twists of fortune" novel, and the contemporary Southern Gothic novel. This work about an aspiring teenage "lot lizard" (a boy crossdresser) who hustles sex in truckstops and longs to be as "glamorous" as his neglectful lot lizard mother, is actually very readable and surprisingly very funny. While one senses that Albert (a.k.a. Leroy) seems to long to endow her writing with the sort of cutting edges an Acker (now there was a literary satirist par excellence!) could give to her prose, it ends up being more like Genet's tongue-in-cheek's chacterizations of Divine and his circle in Gutter in the Sky. It's really not bad writing at all, but I suspect the curse of "bad faith" has tarnished the book's reception in many quarters.
It's a shame Albert couldn't have just trusted her own solid writing to have sold itself, and not decided to take her book's central metaphor about whoring so much to heart in her relentless manipulations of "name" authors and rock stars (see the Wikipedia article "J.T. Leroy" for all the sordid details.
Still, I have to give this book four stars, as it's compelling and the writing never really flagged for me at all. It's not a sordid book at all, despite its setting and unsettling subject matter. It's much more a book about hopeless innocence, and if you do give it a chance the book just might stay with you.(less)
I think I am not constitutionally capable of giving anything Edward Gorey less than five stars, even when it's a five minute read like this poem on th...moreI think I am not constitutionally capable of giving anything Edward Gorey less than five stars, even when it's a five minute read like this poem on the "joys" of aging.