Saturday, May 19, 2012

When Will it End?!?!

What sort of lunatic picks as a New Year's Resolution the reading of one hundred pages a day? It's not the reading that's the problem; I like that part. It's the blogging about it. The keeping up on Goodreads. From now on, expect briefer reviews. You don't care, I know, and I want to blog about other things. So here's a lightning round:
Kayak Morning by Roger Rosenblatt. A father mourns a lost child, framed in the setting of his morning kayak trip. Lovely, poetic writing, but I feel that I missed Rosenblatt's earlier memoir on this topic. Similar to Jeanette Winterson's work in that way. Can you keep plowing the same field in memoir?

Selected Poems by Carl Sandburg. I'm struck by how new and surprising Sandburg must have been when these poems were written, because they still feel new. I'm glad the Tea Party hasn't banned his work. All that pro-labor stuff, you know.

Clamor by Elyse Fenton. Fenton's husband was a medic in Iraq, and she captures the sweep of life during war, after war, and for the family left behind. I wish this book were better known. I had to beg Amazon for it for months.

Collected Poems by Philip Larkin. Modern poetry's bitter man. I'm sure it is neither coincidence nor a bad thing that his words fit my ear so well. Never has a less happy man written better verse.

This Will Make You Smarter edited by John Bockman. Every year the folks ask scientists and other smart people for one idea they think will make a difference for the rest of us. Last year was the one scientific concept they think their fellow citizens should understand. Here are all their individual answers.

The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs. A very funny attempt at following the two testaments literally. My personal favorite was the attempt to stone a cranky old man in Central Park. The author makes many adjustments to the actual text of the bible or he'd still be in jail, but worth the read.

The Hunger Angel by Herta Müller. I'm a Herta Müller fan, but this one was a little odd. Here is a young man sent to a work camp in the post-WWII USSR, worked and starved nearly to death, witness to years of horror, and there just isn't much emotion here. Nothing seems to bother him much. Perhaps that is the point, though, as he has cast his hunger into the form of a separate being, a hunger angel that hovers nearby at the worst times. Has he dissociated from suffering? Did I dissociate from the story? I'll have to re-read this one.

Pulphead by John Jeremiah Sullivan. When these stories and essays are good they are very, very good, and they are never horrid. But there were several that didn't particularly interest me due to the subject matter. Axl Rose? Whatever. But there is some great work in here. Particularly fascinating was an essay about animal attacks. Was this fiction or non-fiction? The line is very thin and very faint.

Up the Down Staircase by Bel Kaufman. I don't know how teachers teach. How do they control a room full of students, much less get any information into their heads? This entertaining book didn't answer that question, but it made me glad there are people willing to try.

The Complete Stories by Truman Capote. Genius. I can't think of a writer better able to capture the variety of American voice. He could write from a holler to a penthouse. No age or social circumstance was outside his reach. The only sad thought I had while reading this collection was that I don't know if this sort of diversity is possible any more. I worry that publishing is categorizing writers for the benefit of marketing. Writers are now "that Ozarks writer" and "that barrio writer" and "that Florida writer." Can a writer today cover the ground Capote did, not just talent-wise but in terms of what the market will bear?

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