Saturday, June 17, 2006

I've added Joel Sloman to my links.

Friday, June 16, 2006

coupla recently arrived poem books at the library. by Franz Wright and Dan Chiasson. both published by Alfred Knopf, and I guess it is Knopfiness that they exhibit. you know, thin, airy books, lots of blank, air of solemnity. what ways to kill poetry has Knopf not thought of? I'm being tactile here, and the thing doesn't want to be touched. somehow Knopf read Darwin while other publishers of poetry were what, reading poetry? Chiasson's production was granted by several fellowships or what all, including kind and beneficent Harvard. I don't begrudge the free money, but how much support does a little poem book need? I mean time to whip this creation up? it's the work of down time. honest to god, Chiasson needed support for his hobby? for this glib plain by the book stuff? Wright's book is another matter. this guy, clearly, has seen some shit. there's some real kick to it. I just wonder as I read why is it Poetry. okay, it is poetry because the work is broken into lines. broken is the right word. those lines are purely visual, and even there the critical valve barely holds. why must Wright be so slavish to format? he is a poet. he's got a smacked up Bukowski rawness that can't be faked. I mean, I dunno the living truth of his persistent dark night of the soul, but it rings like he means it. but what is the art of poetry to him? I mean that he should formalize what is so sore and needful in him. Knopf is no help. they just want precious, but I think Wright is working with crucial. but that sense of proper format (poetry by the numbers), ugh.
I am obliged to to pass along this link
I got Not Even Dogs by Ernesto Priego (Meritage 2005). a collection of hay(na)ku. the hay(na)ku format is simple to the point of wicked simple (one word line, then 2 word, then 3 word, or turn that upside down). its value consists in how it places emphasis on each word. or put better, each word is weight bearing. Priego uses the form here exclusively as a stanza. altho the form presents a haiku-ish potential as a brief meditative measure, it also links nicely. Priego writes easily within the format. a micro/macro simultaneity occurs (sorry for that lump of a phrase), in which one reads the poem as a whole, but also looks to each stanza discretely, poems within poems. one poem hangs on a sore throat (I infer):

the cactus
in your throat

let you
sleep at all

the poem ends with the question:

want to
say without pain.

so there's this physical sense (or demand) of writing. but verses jump out singularly for me:

and dirty
in your throat

in there
like a desert

green, black,
dusty present pain

white page
full of sand

(I just noticed that Ernesto capitalizes the 1st word of each stanzas, which, let us say, defines porous limits). see, the verses can be read out of order, as you find them, but also narratively. I learned an emphatic attention from Robert Grenier (not to say I utilize it well, just that he provided a rich exemplar), in which the reader gives every word all chances to, um, mean something. consider all definitions, yup, peer at etymology, okay doke, but also, perhaps weirder, be prepared to see lack in black, age in page. look at all possibilities. I think Ernesto Priego possesses that attention. that he is bilingual adds a consternation and question, in the sense that he has these 2 languages, but Poetry is his mother tongue. that sounds like a floppy statement but give me a chance. the Wryting list to which I belong is small but its members are from all over the globe. posts are mostly in English, but it is English inflected by all these languages, including programming. Poetry then is the lingua franca. Ernesto's language is largely ordinary and conversational. which is sneaky, because his words reveal such depth and perception. I want to note the book design by Michelle Bautista. the central colums oif the poems are offset by larger boldface repetitions of the 1st stanza. this demarcates the poems from each other and is visually gratifying. I mean, even if my description doesn't zackly make it sound so. lovely book.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

I know you shouldn't start judging a work until you've finished reading it, which is pretty much why I do it. I like to see some issues as I read. Sorrentino's book is kicking ass at this point in my reading, about a quarter of the way thru. he does indeed have the sort of story in a story in a story frame that Flann O'Brien used. as he urges the story along he's commenting on the contaption that is the novel, the occasionally silly demand of plot and characterization. sometimes it reads like a roman a clef, other times the characters just seem like types. Sorrentino reaches a snide hilarity, prickly and indiscreet. rather relentlessly so, you might think Smollett. it feels like he decided as he wrote to trash his characters rather than just paint them. I'm fine with that, tho I did earlier note my discomfort with authors who don't like their characters. I guess if the author can unfurl an acid tongue as well as Sorrentino, it's okay. tho really, he lets the characters skewer themselves. I hate the attitude of keen portraiture in fiction, the sort of refiend work that wins awards. authors of such seem so uninvested when they effort such precision, as if the author can't get dirty. even Proust gets dirty, because he's so crazily focused on the people of his milieu, focused, curious, envious, and enamoured of. this book isn't as wild as Love and Fame in New York by Ed Sanders, with which it shares similarities. Sanders cranks invention by setting the story slightly in the future. Sorrentino ushers current types (circa 60s) thru his book. so much so that the book at times feels dated. I don't know all references, but even those that I do sound of a period. references to WCW, for instance, sound like what references to Creeley must sound today, an accepted master yet still vigourous (the writing at least). soon the honourifics will tone down with Creeley and emphasis will be given more to his human frailities. I mean, drunken fistfights with Pollock sound cool now, but when the big critical bio appears, we'll be treated to a pattern. this is an important step in the bio industry. that and What's this I hear about Creeley and the American Nazi party?. but I digress. Sorrentino seems lighthearted (in a grouchy way) about the process and procession of the novel. the novel as a form suffers so many plangencies, especially the one where you're supposed to feel better, learn more about the human condition, etc etc, GAH!!! like a poem, the novel does not want to be directed. as Sorrentino comments and footnotes, he allows lateral movement on the path. that is, he shifts his gaze away from that pinpoin goal THE THEME, you know: Moby Dick is about Man's Inhumanity to Man. please, let us all eschew straight lines.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

reading Imaginative Qualities of Actual Things by Gilbert Sorrentino. yeah, because he died. I've never read him except, I'm sure, a few poems long ago. just another gap. I think poets should write novels, that the quality of poetry that one can bring to this craggy form might allow for something unique. possibly because novelists are fitted for plot first of all, and plot is often the most perfunctory aspect of a novel (like melody versus harmony). a sense of poetry in the writer seems a good idea. by sense of poetry I don't mean flowery language, that kind of well-weathered simulation, I mean the sense of open form and possibility that poetry is. James Schuyler's novels effortless avoid plotpush strictures, allowing for some amazing subtleties. Sorrentino's novel brings these thoughts up because he seems to confront the assumed necessities of the genre. he does this with asides by the narrator and footnotes by the author's. does separation exist between the two? I'm working on that one. the 1st chapter carefully portrays one of the characters. the tone is wry, yes, but also a bit untouchably superiour. the narrator participates in the story (barely, as yet), so this superiourity can work, tho as yet I find it tiresome. it's hard to read fiction in which the author shows little sympathy for the characters. I'm not yet sure how far that goes here, just an impression so far. the 2nd chapter takes on another character, 1st character's husband. I kinda want to skip these surgeries. I guess I want Sorrentino to weird out in the manner of Flann O'Brien. the author photo (window to the soul) suggests that he mightn't: full sideburns, studious glasses, and a dark turtleneck, circa 1971. if only he had a rapier scar on his cheek. I realize that I approach this book at a critically clumsy angle, but I defend my right to be tired of perfunctory novels (and poetry too, but that's another matter). narrative isn't dead, it just needs to be seen differently. narrative is not as simple as a conveyor belt. that Sorrentino can mention Spicer, Williams, O'Hara is a right step. you know, an alternate reality where people like the aforesaid can actually matter. jeepers, Stephen King makes passing notice of Creeley and Olson here and there in his novels. horror has the advantage of being of a different world. domestic novels really make my eyeballs squeak, unless someone has the grace and subtlety of Schuyler.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

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okay, I'm up to pop culture speed regarding Da Vinci Code, having absorbed the movie yestreen. before I'd seen/read, I assumed the movie would outstrip the book (having seen the explosion laden trailer) but hafta say otherwise now. we arrived way early, thus sat thru many repetitions of the loop of items on the screen prior to the previews. the something to look at that we early birds needed. to wit, a still from King Kong (did that movie sink or swim? I neve paid attention), a still from Ferris Buehler's Day Off, a still from Ray (did you know Jamie Fox wore eye prosthetics that made him blind for 14 hours a day? can you comprehend any reason why?), a tantalzing picture of an X-Men promotion featuring a limited edition Harley, and then, long tympani roll, a reminder that a snack bar exists in the complex and happy to displace funds from your grasp. each screen shot had different music. it went on and on. we were Da Vinci Code all the way, btw, tho Erin would have opted for X-Men. 2 theatres in the complex were movie-less. praps that's renovation but I feel just spooky enough about the economy to wonder about downturn. of course, why should I worry, I have 15,000,000 shares of Vonage. anyway, the future bodes more movies with explosions, surprisingly enough. personally I'm coocoo for Cocoa Crisps. the new James Bond, you know, whatever. I was struck that it didn't look like a James Bond movie. it had IMAXy breadth and a more frantic pace than earlier renditions, not to say combustion wasn't the co-star. Adam Sandler has a new movie to hate. talk about code, someone break the Sandler code for me. also upcoming a film from M Night Shyamalan. I quite liked that Shyamalan crop circle movie with Mel Gibson. the spookiness is very intimate and personal in it, in the way, somewhat at least, of Lovecraft. this new one, who can tell from previews, but it looked disturbing. something about a female what, ghost? mermaid? in a hotel swimming pool (Erin aptly spoke the phrase 'watery tart'). more definitively Lovecraftian, it would seem. anyway, we stayed to watch the feature too. at least with an Opie/Gump production, money's gonna be spent. and you could see it on the screen. that's enough to satisfy me. it's too hard to boil novels down to 2 hour movies, I knew that from the beginning. Hanks is at the point, careerwise, where he's just too much. the accolades, the niceness, the earnestness, all that overwhelms anything he might do on the screen. he postured some, seemed to be gliding. he should do dinner theatre as a change of pace. I like how in movies, if the lead plays a teacher, especially a prof, when he (always he, I think) shows off his teacherliness in lecture, his audience is always gape-mouthed morons. the arrival of Sophie in both book and movie just don't work. in the movie it is roughly her only pro-active moment. the rest of the way, Hanks does all the sleuthy thinking, which is not the case in the book. the monk Silas is an oddly sympathetic character in both movie and book. he wears his cilice tighter than I do. he should have been shown reading Gerard Manley Hopkins. the creepy side of the Church fascinates me. there were some brief visual evocations of the Crusades and pagan Constantinople that made me wish for a movie based on that. in Coppola's goofy Dracula, there's a short scene that shows the beginning of Vlad's impaling career (for some reason, he wears armour made from corn chips). I'd rather see more of that than the histrionic carnage that FFC served. the escape of the dynamic duo is so usual. you'd think escaping duos would trip over each other. especially when, as in DVC, you got characters (Sophie) driving down a Paris sidewalk backwards. I suspect if you haven't read the book, much would confuse you in the movie. finally, our heroes end up with Sir Leigh, which is to say, Gandalf gets to step centerstage and take a playful turn as a dotty Englishman. Hanks doesn't really let go of the earnest bit so he doesn't get to play along. he's capable but I think Opie believed that with such a serious subject, due resepct must be shown. yawn. things swirl to a finish, in which neither Sophie or Gump die whatesover. but wait, there's more! and this more seems anticlimactic. the final mystery must be broached and, yawn, is. Hanks kneeling down reverently at the end is one all star fake moment. here's a sop to those who thought this movie was sacrilegious. religion? Hollywood? come on! there's a kind of now what at the end of things here, like, can anything be made of this trust me royal line? Brown's next book, and it better be a doozy.