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.
Think very compressed Kawabata palm-of-the-hand stories...compressed the way coal yields diamond. But then think of a diamond becoming a blackhole.
Th...moreThink very compressed Kawabata palm-of-the-hand stories...compressed the way coal yields diamond. But then think of a diamond becoming a blackhole.
The mind falls through these poems into another dimension, rather the way Homer Simpson falls through the toroidal opening in television's Flatland in that one Halloween episode and ends up in our world, and is left wondering why people are looking at him in wonder or terror as he's just walking down the street.*
Yes, that is the way the mind ends up after reading these poems.
My first post-downsizing read and my first Murakami.
It was okay.
Not revelatory. There were some nice passages, only one in the whole book I really wan...moreMy first post-downsizing read and my first Murakami.
It was okay.
Not revelatory. There were some nice passages, only one in the whole book I really wanted to share, but I can't remember it literatim so won't butcher it.
Maybe because the expectation was so high because of the GR hype, I expected epiphanies falling like frogs in Magnolia.
This is a book of short fiction. Maybe the novel is his real form.
It was about one cut above Granta, and if you read Granta you know that's not saying a lot.
If you want to be Kawabata be Kawabata. If you want to be Akutagawa be Akutagawa. If you want to do magical realism, we're going to need a bigger boat. Add oh, I don't know a tiger, and a bunch of other animals...sell it, Haruki...sell it...
He needs to spend some time with Kathy Griffin or something.
He needs to be just a little bit more the "sweaty, puffy crack whore" of modern lit...aka the Japanese Renee Zelwegger of the new new novel...
Moonlight and wet earth will only take you so far in this brave new world.
I remember reading this book because the poet Michael Weaver (not the well-known poet Michael Weaver but another Michael Weaver from San Diego) spoke...moreI remember reading this book because the poet Michael Weaver (not the well-known poet Michael Weaver but another Michael Weaver from San Diego) spoke so highly of the author.
So I read the book.
Then I too spoke highly of this author.
When a really smart writer takes on a genre populated by mostly cloneish writers, magic happens.