At first blush, Dietrich's collection of poems looks like a work of fan fiction. This book is very far from that. Yes, Dietrich uses the Frankenstein...moreAt first blush, Dietrich's collection of poems looks like a work of fan fiction. This book is very far from that. Yes, Dietrich uses the Frankenstein monster as the dominant image for his collection. However, he does much more than demonstrate his affection and reverence for this important pop culture icon. This collection throws some flickering torchlight on the cycles of birth, life, love and death. It's part philosophical meditation, part a campy romp through allusions both classy and trashy, and ever the gallery of excellent poetic form on the word, image, and storytelling level.
These observations are made through a variety of voices from the Frankenstein myth: the monster, his gypsy lover, a priest, and the scientist. But these characters are transmogrified by Dietrich's creative genius. They exceed the boundaries of Shelley's novel and Whale's classic film adaptation. Dietrich uses these works surrounding this icon to decompose and recompose ideas related to creation / creativity, love, sexuality, identity, desire, death, and more.
Yes, this is a very smart book, but it's paradoxically accessible. In fact, I am mesmerized by Dietrich's ability to create a fantastical world, more strange than I could ever forge myself.
For example, this excerpt from the poem "The Monster, The Master and The Windmill": "Here trapped between fire, fall, and windmill blade, unaware, perhaps, of the Quixotic irony fate has found them in, they struggle. One machine, one man. One maker, one unmade."
Here Dietrich shows the eternal churning forces of life and death represented in one time, one place. The monster and maker are joined by God and all creatures and by that Spanish dreamer, Don Quixote and by us. We fleshy creatures in various states of being and unbeing are all churning and turning in the water, the mud, the machinery and the ash. A microcosm of the whole of human history.
What a strange and marvelous place that I could never imagine myself. But yet I never feel lost along the way, so somehow I'm collaborating in Dietrich's acts of imagination. How does he get inside my brain? Buy a copy of Monstrance and see if you can figure out if you are Dietrich's co-creator or if you are his creature. (less)
Dietrich excels and mixing high and low culture, and he demonstrates this in The Assumption, where he uses this ability to penetrate to the deepest la...moreDietrich excels and mixing high and low culture, and he demonstrates this in The Assumption, where he uses this ability to penetrate to the deepest layers of the human psyche. In The Assumption, Dietrich presents a series of poems that examines assumptions, referring not only to the missing line of an enthymeme, but also to holy ascensions of biblical figures. And as a bonus, the title also refers to the many other peoples and cultures who try to climb ladders towards the divine. He also recognizes how these encounters with the sublime happen by accident or by an act of terror. His allusions to various close encounters range from archeological evidence of prehistoric rituals to tabloid reports of alient abductions--and dozens of other irrational, soul-quaking connections between the human and the extra-human.
I can't imagine that any one reader can trace all of Dietrich's influences, so these poems represent for me what would happen if a very large convention center quadruple books itself with these events: MLA, Comic-Con, Society of Biblical Literature, and the National Science Teachers Association. The syngergy of such a fantastical meeting is apparent in these pages, and I can imagine readers from any one of these subcultures enjoying the "cross pollination" of mixing with the other three fields. So if you are a person of letters, a pop-culture vulture, a theologian, or a science nerd -- come on and swim in the primordial soup of The Assumption. The water is fine. (less)
Total fluff, but a fun romp through the world of plant enthusiasts. The novel centers around the collection of 9 powerful plants and moves the protago...moreTotal fluff, but a fun romp through the world of plant enthusiasts. The novel centers around the collection of 9 powerful plants and moves the protagonist from New York to Mexico. Booty, botany and booties. (less)
Hillerman makes me feel a little less guilty about reading a detective novel. He brings in a good bit of Native American culture. In this particular b...moreHillerman makes me feel a little less guilty about reading a detective novel. He brings in a good bit of Native American culture. In this particular book, it's the Zunis who get the most attention. We learn about the kachinas -- ancestor spirits -- and their role in the Zuni's view of creation and view of the afterlife. The story is also peppered with a few Navajos, Catholic priests, anthropologists, FBI agents and members of a hippie commune. Lt. Leaphorn winds his way through these various communities in an effort to find a lost boy and to find a murderer--and to figure out if he's ultimately looking for two people or just one.
Hillerman does a good job balancing the ethereal and the material. I can see the characters and feel the earth beneath their feet. But I also learn something about history, culture, religion and each individual's hopes and dreams--or in some cases--their worst nightmares.(less)
I have read two of these books now, mainly so that I can contribute to discussions among my gal pals about the cultural import of these books. Yes, My...moreI have read two of these books now, mainly so that I can contribute to discussions among my gal pals about the cultural import of these books. Yes, Myers can generate suspense, but Bella is such a victim, she drives me nuts. She's male defined, reactive, pouting, and passive. What a horrible role model for women. And the dialogue is just vapid. Why do I read these? I get the same icky feeling when I watch Lifetime Television for Women, but I've weaned myself from the victim-du-jour made for television movies. Maybe I can wean myself away from Myers, too.(less)