Jay Daze's Reviews > On Grief and Reason: Essays

On Grief and Reason by Joseph Brodsky
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's review
Jun 18, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: literature, essays
Read from May 29 to June 18, 2010

Twenty-one essays by the Nobel prize-winning poet. Two of the essays are his Noble lecture and his acceptance speech, and many of the other essays were written for occasions or lectures. What makes these essays stick is that Brodsky has the knack of living in his prose pieces and imbuing them with his warm, intelligent personality. I would have payed money to eavesdrop on the parents walking out after listening to his 1989 Dartmouth College commencement address, "In Praise of Boredom". Good luck kids! It's all down hill from here. I bet there were some pissed off parents in that crowd, though some others might have been nodding their heads in agreement.

I wasn't as big a fan of the line by line readings of poetry by Frost, Hardy and Rilke, though the title essay on Frost is the best of the lot and mostly manages to transcend the lecture hall feel of the other essays. I'm sure Brodsky was an amazing teacher, but reading lectures when you know there isn't a test tomorrow can be a little tedious.

Who knew, though, that I was going to get a summer reading list for the beach. Want to get up to speed on contemporary modern poetry (at least for the 1st half of the twentieth century)? "If your mother tongue is English, I might recommend to you Robert Frost, Thomas Hardy, W.B. Yates, T.S. Elliot, W.H. Auden, Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop." I'll take that assignment.
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Reading Progress

06/02/2010 page 56
11.11% ""poet always knows that what in the vernacular is called the voice of the Muse is, in reality, the dictate of the language...""
06/02/2010 page 67
13.29% ""Anonymity is adultery's oxygen and nothing fills up one's lungs with it like being abroad.""
06/02/2010 page 85
16.87% ""Among the many agents of the public's spiritual debilitation, it is the voyeuristic genre of biography that takes the cake...The last bastion of realism, biography is based on the breath-taking promise that art can be explained by life.""
06/08/2010 page 136
26.98% ""...we are nomads in our reading.""
06/17/2010 page 144
29.0% ""...without a little masochism the meaning of life is not complete.""
06/17/2010 page 207
41.0% ""I don't rightly know what's worse, burning books or not reading them...""
06/17/2010 page 260
52.0% ""So what was it he [Frost] was after in this, his very own poem? He was, I think, after grief and reason, which, while poison to each other, are language's most efficient fuel - or, if you will, poetry indelible ink.""
06/17/2010 page 427
85.0% "To be honest, his essays "Wooing the Inanimate", "Ninety Years Later" and to a lesser degree "On Grief and Reason" which are line by line lectures on poems by Robert Frost, Thomas Hardy, and Rainer Marie Rilke, piled on me like hulking college linebackers crushing me into the grass and breaking my bones with their minute examinations of the poets' words... Though does give an idea of what B's poetry might be like..."

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