What are you currently reading?

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What are you currently reading?

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Redigeret: aug 1, 2007, 3:30 pm

I'd like to start the group discussion by asking for a brief bio from you. I'd like to know what you are currently reading and how that reading is shaping your thoughts. One of the topics I'm recently consumed with is the correlation between Mark Rothko's paintings and Theodore Roethke's poems. This topic is in the "genesis" stage of my thinking right now. I've also been reintroducing myself to everything "Modernist," especially poems and art. You need not comment on my interests at this point; I'm mainly interested in getting to know you and what YOU are interested in.

aug 1, 2007, 7:28 pm

I like the freedom of modernism, the escape from formality and formula. Anything goes, POV's shift, verbs are electric and plots elastic. But...sometimes experimentalism goes too far and makes for dull and uninvolving reading. Too cold, cerebral. Reading becomes a chore, an act of endurance rather than pleasure. It's a fine line (and it always seems to be moving).

In terms of reading, we just made our monthly pilgrimage into Saskatoon (nearby large city) and I scoured the shelves of that city's public library for CD's, DVD's and books. I've got a BIG backlog of reading material right now, teetering in stacks around my home office, so I was quite discriminating. Took Charles Simic's COLLECTED POEMS 1963-2003 as well as some science fiction, so I can keep up with that scene. I recently read Simic's DIME STORE ALCHEMY, a collection of prose poems written in response to the strange, unique artworks of Joseph Cornell and LOVED it so I have high hopes for his poetry.

Right now I would desperately love to clear some quality reading time so I could tackle Louis Ferdinand's Celine's trilogy, CASTLE TO CASTLE, NORTH, RIGADOON. Celine was a genius, a misanthrope, a writer of notorious political views...who, nonetheless, managed to win the admiration of none other than Samuel Beckett (and old Sam was not one to throw around idle compliments).

There. There's my two and a half cents worth. Thanks for dropping the invite my way and I hope I can contribute something of worth for this topic. At first glance it certainly strikes close to my heart and conforms to my view that without art, a chance for humanity to express our dreams and aspirations, we would never have built tall buildings or escaped our dreary caves.

aug 1, 2007, 7:42 pm

Hi Cliff, thanks so much for the intro. I really like what you said here:

"I like the freedom of modernism, the escape from formality and formula. Anything goes, POV's shift, verbs are electric and plots elastic. But...sometimes experimentalism goes too far and makes for dull and uninvolving reading. Too cold, cerebral. Reading becomes a chore, an act of endurance rather than pleasure."

I agree, and I find it interesting how some of the Modernists recognized the coldness of mere experimentalism and turned to more personal explorations. For me, the greatest among them were able to balance the experiments with deep explorations of the self.

I see that you pretty much credit the imagination with all human progress.

Enjoy all that reading!

aug 1, 2007, 8:52 pm

I think human progress comes from scientific design, chance, conquest, mutation, slow building on previous thinkers, etc. Imagination has been credited with some of the important ideas in science, but chance has played a big role, and so has logic, and experimentation.

I'm not sure there has been much progress in the social or political realms, given the horrors of the 20th century, and the continuing horrors of our own time: Darfur, Gaza, African poverty, Governmental corruption in Russia, Gaza, Washington, etc.
There has been progress in science, in terms of the atom, and Dna, and the understanding of biological processes in the human being, and cosmolgy.

Art for me has had many uses. The novel has taught me various approaches to living life- The bohemian, the bourgeois, the conformist, the cynic, the authoritarian. Visual art has given me pure pleasure, and a feeling of joy, but also disturbing and depressing feelings when looking at paintings like Guernica, and the Goya disaters of war. many of the avant garge approaches to art like minimalism, and the saffron fabrics in central park are confusing to me, as is a lot of surrealism, and some of the germans like Joseph Beuys, and Gerhardt Richter.

As an artist, i was more comfortable doing sculpture, but have nnot done any for a long time. now, I quilt. It produces abstract art that is useful and I give it away to family and friends. I didn't work at getting my work shown, since I had to make a living.

Redigeret: aug 1, 2007, 10:28 pm

Oh, I am so glad you came to "Art is Life." I was so hoping you would. There is much to disgest in your post. I would like to follow up on your life as an artist. You say, "Now, I quilt. It produces abstract art that is useful and I give it away to family and friends." This brings up several possibilities for discussion.

1. One interesting idea that could be discussed is the ways in which art can be "useful." I think immediately of Alice Walker's short story, "Everyday Use" in which a mother must decide which daughter is to be given the quilts she has made: the one who values them for "everyday use" or the one who sees them as a commodity. The artist is so often torn about the idea of art as commodity. This was one of the great griefs that Mark Rothko went through. Also, is spiritual regeneration a "use"?

2. You also mention "abstraction." Just by chance, I was reading about Carl Dreyer, the great film director, tonight. He said two things that caught my eye. Regarding the possibility of artistic renewal, he said that "abstraction" is the way to artistic renewal. His concise explanation was "the artist must describe inner, not outer life."

I wonder in what ways your quilts perhaps describe your inner life?

I would pose the same question to anyone else stopping by: how does your art describe your inner life? Or, if you don't create art, how do your reading choices describe your inner life?

Feel free to start a new discussion on any of these points.

aug 2, 2007, 5:52 pm

Miriam, I would love to know what you are currently reading.

Redigeret: aug 2, 2007, 7:14 pm

Novels:I am reading the grimmelshausen novels that follow Simplicimmus, tearaway and the one about Mother Courage. I just found out about them from adding Simplicimuss to my catalog. They are picaresque novels of the 30 years war.

I just reread a Muriel Spark the Only Problem, and finished Ama. a story of an african slave by Manu Herbstein a Library Thing author.
It was extraordinary. Very well written, exciting, and touching.
I am rereading
Daniel Halpern's The Art of the Tale which is a superb collection of short stories from around the world. It contains masterpiece after masterpiece. I keep it in the car and read one while my husband is driving.
I am also reading Stendahl's short novels. I just finished Armance and plan to keep going.
latin American Magic Realism= Brazil
I have also just finished Quincas Borba by Machado de Assis.
I am continuing to wallow in the new complete poems of Zbigniew Herbert that was published in February. I have the John and Bogdana Carpenter 's selected poems of his, and his Mr Cogito which was very hard to find.
On my tbr pile is Metaphysics as a guide to Morals by Iris Murdoch and some john Rawls- on Liberalism, a guide to his work, and the revised Theory of Justice.
I also just got a big book of Paintings from the Prado Madrid. I'm a big fan of Velasquez. His brush strokes are very much like the impressionists, but when you stand back, the images become very clear. I have some 1500 piece jigsaw puzzles of paintings which are terrific for studying technique, and I did his Las Meninas.The brush strokes were very like the Renoir's Boating Party. That is sort of it for the moment.

aug 2, 2007, 7:38 pm

That is an impressive list; I must say those books are not familiar to me. You describe your experience with the poetry collection as "wallowing." Then you take care to talk about Velasquez's brush strokes. You seem to experience so much through your senses. The senses are not my primary way of experiencing things; I experience mostly through feeling. It is all about emotion; however it is more remote from the immediate world than sensory experience.

aug 3, 2007, 9:52 am

This is the sort of question on blogs or online surveys that I have anything to say about. I am reading Richard Yates' Revolutionary Road and enjoying it immensely. I am also almost finished with a wonderful book about Stanley Kubrick called The Complete Kubrick.

aug 3, 2007, 11:59 am

Isn't Kubrick a fascinating man/character? Reclusive, driven, obsessed by his visions. His films are too antiseptic at times, particularly in his later work. Then again, "Paths of Glory" is the greatest anti-war movie ever made and when you have flicks like "Strangelove" and "2001" in your portfolio, perhaps a few lesser films ("Barry Lyndon", "Eyes Wide Shut") can be forgiven. I've read quite a bit on Kubrick and also saw an impressive documentary that shows some of his home movies, Kubrick cajoling his daughters to act out scenes for him on his 8mm camera while they, prima donnas that children are, do their best to ignore him.

Incidentally, I listen to a lot of instrumental music as I write and it was Kubrick who introduced me to one of my new faves, Gyorgy Ligetti. Amazing and disturbing modern composer. We won't see directors like Stanley Kubrick again--a true artist who somehow gained complete control over a collaborative process like film-making, putting his personal imprimatur on every frame of film he composed.

aug 4, 2007, 12:09 am

I feel like a fraud compared to the rest of you. My artistic tastes are very limited. The poet I read is Charles Bukowski. The only art books I have read lately were on the paintings of Edward Hopper and Vincent Van Gogh. I listen to very little music.

aug 4, 2007, 1:52 am

xenchu, don't be ridiculous. :-)

Bukowski is one of my favorite poets. Reading him taught me so much about how to write. I've just begun to add to my collection of art books the last few years. They are so expensive. I got an art degree (undergrad); then I switched to English for both Master's. I raised a family, went to school, tried to write/publish, and art (and music) went out the window for a long time. I'm just now coming back to it. He had this toughness about him, and that beat sensibility, and yet the poems about his father are sometimes full of pain. His simplicity was a boon for me.

aug 4, 2007, 9:33 am

I wanna see that doc with Kubrick's daughters. It is referenced in the book I just read and I had never heard of it.

And it was Kubrick who introduced me to Jocelyn Pook, whose left-of-center music I now adore.

aug 4, 2007, 1:32 pm

A quick note to thank Theresa for the invitation and to say "hello" to others who've joined the group... I suspect that the group name holds for all of us--so we'll all understand the experience of being too busy living it at times to write about it. I will, however, contribute when I can and look forward to reading more from each of you (after having skimmed through the posts that are already here).

Theresa asks about our current reading, so here's a sample of what is piled nearest to my desk at the moment... Julian of Norwich's Showings and Hildegard's Healing Plants (a translation of part of her Physica)--both of which I've been rereading while working on a new collection of poems (A Net of Seven Graces) drawing on "mystics" from a variety of traditions... Also for that project, Hildegard's Scivias, Meister Eckhart's sermons, and the Daodejing... Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens, for a project with a Chinese colleague exploring different readings of Stevens' work... The Essential Rumi (translations by Coleman Barks) while thinking about a reading in his honor in September, Kirk and Raven's Presocratic Philosophers, thinking about a paper on "war" that responds to a call for papers beginning with a fragment of Heraclitus... the first volume of Simone de Beauvoir's diaries (1926-27)... and, waiting to be reviewed, a new collection by John McDermott and a history of Tascosa (where I grew up in Texas) by Frederick Nolan. Baltasar Gracian is in the stack, too--just finished editing his Art of Worldly Wisdom for a new edition; and three wonderful new books on pragmatism--by Joan Richardson, Eddie Glaude, and Doug Anderson... The latest issues of Mid-America Poetry Review, After Hours, and Crazyhorse... New collections of poems by Li Sen (Chinese Windmill) that virtual artists collective is publishing (look for it soon!)...

Never a dull moment. :)

Bio and other such things are on my website, but I think what we're reading is the best introduction...

Looking forward to the conversation!


Redigeret: aug 4, 2007, 7:10 pm

I'd urge folks to check out the book A Brush with Darkness by Lisa Fittipaldi, and visit the author's website to see her remarkable work - all done after she lost her sight.

16rennikka Første besked:
Redigeret: aug 5, 2007, 7:31 pm

Wow, now I'm going to have to add a few books to my reading! The book about Kubrick sounds delicious.

Hello, group. I'm not much for elaborate introductions, so I'll let you in on my reading as an introduction. I'm in the midst of George Eliot's Daniel Deronda, and I'm taking heart and sometimes exception to selections from Anne Carson's Decreation and Camille Paglia's Break, blow, burn. I'm about to sit down with Laurie Sheck's Captivity, as soon as I get everything unpacked (I am also in the midst of a move).


Redigeret: aug 5, 2007, 7:49 pm

So much rich and somewhat heavy (for me right now) reading going on here. In addition to Rothko's writings on art, I'm reading Rick Moody's THE ICE STORM. It is great reading, very lively, funny descriptions of sex. It is sort of like Prufrock but in the 1970s, at least the first chapter. There will be time... there will be time...

Welcome, everyone. Keep coming back.

18Ekphrasticaster Første besked:
aug 6, 2007, 12:04 am

I'm R. Joyce Heon -- and on LibraryThing, Ekphrasticaster.

Ekphrasiticaster, because the poetry I write is mostly ekphrasis (poetry about or in response to the visual arts). I have written over 200 poems in response to Jerry Uelsmann's composite photographs ( he was creating with photographic plates what nowadays they do in AdobePhotoshop).

I also have written poems in response to Joan Miro, Picasso, Kandinsky, Dali, Phillip Curtis, and lots of others. I let the paintings tell me what they "need" to say more than writing about the image itself.

I read mostly poetry. At any given time I am likely to have 20-30 books from the library. I read the poetry books, but I do not "read" the art books, I peruse them.

Two recent poets that I have really enjoyed are Lynne Knight and Alberto Rios. His book The Theater of Night has on its cover a painting by Phillip Curtis about which I have written a poem. I discuss the poem at Writer's Village University's exhibit for National Poetry Month. I don't know as I am allowed to include links here, so anyone interested in going to the site, post a message at my ekphrasticaster account, and I will backchannel via e-mail.

I guess that gets the ball rolling. Oh, and a question...does this introduction constitute joining the group or do I need to do something else?


aug 6, 2007, 3:13 pm

Thank you for inviting me, tho I'm not sure why you did! As I looked at the books that overlapped mine I was prompted to reread "The Two Deaths of Quincas Wateryell." I have others of Jorge Amado, but this 97-page paperback is a good reminder of why I have his works on my shelf after many cullings as we moved around. Sardonic, vivid, complete within its narrative nevertheless this slim paperback has unusual full-page illustrations by Emil Antonucci that enrich its text. Here fingerprints serve as brush strokes a technic I'd never seen.
(I will try to do it now with my computer's paint program. . . wish me luck!) Esta1923

Redigeret: aug 6, 2007, 4:03 pm

I do wish you luck, Esta. I love shorter texts, novellas I guess they're called now. The book "The Two Deaths..." looks great. I looked it up on Amazon and ordered a copy. It's out of print but there are several used copies over there. I think it's a shame publishers don't print many novellas. There are a few, but not that many. I invited you because you seemed like a really interesting person with a lot to say. Thank you for coming and I hope to see more of you here.

aug 7, 2007, 12:28 am

Since starting the Books Compared group (everyone here is invited), I have added a long list of novels to my "must read" list, and I am working my way through it. Doctor Zhivago is the one I'm reading now, inspired by some of Miriam's comments and my recollection of A Tale of Two Cities. I wanted to compare these, because both relate to bloody revolutions that began in an idealistic fervor to remake society for the better, and both led to a great deal of butchery and despair.

I re-read A Tale of Two Cities last month and was astonished by how much I enjoyed it. It was more profound than I remembered and more realistic. I had remembered Lucie Manette as a rather one-dimensional and sentimentalized character - on this reading, I was more impressed by Dickens' psychological insight. Yes, she does seem a little too nice - but being overly nice is one way people react to certain kinds of adversity.

Pasternak is less concerned with the mechanics of crafting a plot that will sweep readers along, and I am having a harder time getting into it. Some of his characters and scenes don't seem clearly related to the central concern of the novel. But it is getting more interesting as I go along, and I am expecting to enjoy it more as I get deeper in. I last read it as a young teenager after seeing David Lean's classic movie, and I was sooo disappointed to find the romance between Yuri and Lara played such a relatively minor role in the novel, compared to the movie.

I also have a pile of books and articles about Tielman Susato and 16th century Antwerp by my desk for an article I'm writing. It was an amazing time and place - Antwerp walked a fine line between avoiding outright defiance of its fervently Catholic emperor and avoiding religious persecution of its large community of foreign merchants, many Protestant, who fueled the city's economy. Alas, it finally went too far out on the tolerance limb, and the emperor set his army loose on the city.

aug 8, 2007, 9:51 am

I LOVED The Ice Storm. One of my favorite domestic novels. I have just finished Garcia Marquez's Memories of my Melancholy Whores and just started Small World, by David Lodge. I have also started working my way through Beckett's shorter plays.

aug 8, 2007, 9:00 pm

Ohh, everyone here seems to be reading such interesting stuff. I'm currently delighted by Tooth and Claw, as it does an intriguing job of turning some fictional tropes on their heads, and by Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World which I'm reading for a class but enjoying for the new perspective on some familiar historical events.
Like almigwin above, I've also been reading the poems of Zbigniew Herbert, which I don't have much to say about at the moment. They hit me quite viscerally, but as often happens for me with poetry I'm still turning over in my head how to articulate the why of it.

aug 8, 2007, 9:11 pm

rarm, keep trying and the words will come. It takes a long time, many years usually in fact, to be able to explain a visceral reaction to art. It isn't logical, that's why! But it's very gratifying indeed when you're able to do it.

aug 12, 2007, 7:18 pm

Sometimes I don't know how to articulate a feeling or experience I'm having until I start trying to describe it in writing. That doesn't mean I always succeed in writing about it well, but it usually means that when I have written for awhile, I understand myself and the world a little better.

aug 13, 2007, 10:06 am

Someone smarter than me said, a thought is not a thought until it is spoken. I could go one further and say it is not a fully realized thought until it is written down. I believe, wholeheartedly, in the power of the word to at least attempt an explication of the heart.

aug 13, 2007, 4:13 pm

Oh, I missed the introduction thread. Oops. Theresa, thanks for the invite!

I'm interested in the beginnings of a conversation on here about quilting, being a fervent fiber artist (knitter and seamstress) myself. That's my primary art form at the moment, and the experience is so much richer for me because the final products are "of use" in a direct, tactile way. NOT that I believe literature/music/visual art is less "useful"; heaven forfend I should claim such a thing. But right now I'm enamored of the mythical/artistic potential of clothing, and how it can be evocative of so many different narratives for both the wearer and the observer. How we carry it around with us on our bodies, and it both shields us from the outside world and presents us to that same world.

Anyway, I'm also reading, of course! Right now I'm deep into Dickens' Bleak House, which is pretty much exactly what I feel like reading right now. An old-fashioned, densely written, plot-driven novel full of lush Victorian language, amusing/compelling characters and boatloads of London atmosphere. I'm also almost done with Kurt Vonnegut's Timequake, which is thought-provoking and good but somehow not quite what I'm in the mood for. Maybe too postmodern, although I can get deeply into that when the urge strikes.

Oh and xenchu, I LOVE the poetry of Bukowski, and I'm not one to romanticize boozing and whoring, so I like it despite myself. The man has an amazing knack with a devastating final line.

aug 16, 2007, 9:02 am

Sometimes I wonder if I am proof-texting myself through the authors I read: do I go after those sonorous, pensive and often lonely confessional poets because I really love their language, or is it because I find a confirmation in them of something in my own psyche and pathos? I would bet it's both.

aug 16, 2007, 9:06 am

I also love Bukowski, and I think for the same reasons you do (just finished 'Love is a Dog from Hell'). I recently began reading his books of letters as well as his poetry. I admit, though, that I consider his the 'mind candy' of poetry.

Redigeret: aug 16, 2007, 3:02 pm

Never Let Me Go by Ishiguro - pretty creepy so far.
Tropic of Cancer - I pick this up every couple of weeks and read a bit. It's not like it has a plot. Truly inspiring (and intimidating) for a writer.
A Multitude of Sins - short stories about marriage and infidelity by Richard Ford. Quite a deft touch. My novel-in-progress centers around very close relationships, so this is helpful.
Until I Find You by J. Irving - I'm almost done but haven't picked it up in a couple of weeks. Not one of his better ones.
Seducing the Demon: Writing for My Life - Erica Jong. Reading Jong is like eating candy. Maybe I'll read the books I haven't and reread the others.
Oops! I almost forgot this one because it was Stolen by a new "friend" I was chatting with in a bar: Trust by Cynthia Ozick. Isn't that just the rudest thing? What kind of person steals a book that you're in the middle of reading? Anyway, it's quite good, but now I have to replace it.

Poetry - I've never read this much poetry in my life.
The Complete Poems by Anne Sexton - crazy people rock.
Crow - Ted Hughes. I can only read a little at a time. It's so bleak with disturbing imagery.
Les Fleurs du Mal by Baudelaire. Also disturbing, but the words are so pretty.
The Wasteland and Other Poems - Eliot. Just getting started with this one.
Becoming Light - Erica Jong. I prefer her prose.

Redigeret: aug 16, 2007, 3:25 pm

citygirl, be sure to get back with us about The Waste Land. Have you ever heard Eliot recite it? It's wonderful. Sexton's recitations are also very fine, strong, expressive, and more than a little eerie to me. I haven't read those Jong books: they sound fascinating.

aug 16, 2007, 3:27 pm

southwestpoet: Bukowski's work has always seemed a little uneven to me, in the same way that Richard Brautigan's is uneven. Sometimes the poems are very light. But when Bukowski gets down, he really gets down. You can feel the pain behind all the posturing. How do you find his letters? I collect writers' and artists' letters; I didn't know his had been published.

aug 16, 2007, 10:54 pm

Among several other books I am reading, you can find them on my profile, I am reading The Secret of Hurricanes by TheresaWilliams and am absolutely blown away by the story, the depth of character, the style and especially, since I spent my high school years about 15 miles as the crow flies and 80 miles by road from where the story is set. It evokes a nearly overpowering sense of home in me. I can only say bravo Theresa and recommend this great read to everyone here.

aug 17, 2007, 3:29 am

Yes, I'm reading The Secret of Hurricanes too, now. It's so vivid and the prose moves so swiftly that it's like a guilty pleasure compared to Doctor Zhivago. I'm about halfway through and will certainly finish before I finish Zhivago. I love the scene about the boy who touches her loom.

aug 17, 2007, 8:53 pm

Reading War Trash. I've been wanting to read Ha Jin's work and this is my first. Wondering if you folks who mentioned Bukowski have seen the documentary Born into This. I watched that a couple of weeks ago. Right now I am watching Be Here to Love Me, a documentary about Townes van Zandt.

aug 18, 2007, 12:52 am

Yikes! What an intimidating list of books and authors everyone is reading. Right now I am reading a multitude of books in many genres:

A Short Story Writer's Companion by Tom Bailey
The Complete Stories by 'Flannery O'Connor
Never Drank The Kool-Aid: Essays by Toure
Yes, Yes, Cherries by Mary Otis

aug 19, 2007, 12:39 pm

I've lately been very interested in exploring morality and art from the point of view of the primeval hunter. There's something in that nomadic, self-sufficient seeking that reminds me of the artist's figure in contemporary culture, or, at least, to my mind, what being an artist entails, the relentless pushing of the self to explore and make new places one's own, the necessity of unequivocal standards, the ever-present dread and fear that accompany a hyper-aware recognition of man's perpetual teetering on the verge of death.

This interest has, I suppose, been latent for a long time. I've always loved James Dickey's poems, and I think Dickey owes a lot to Roethke, both as a poet and as a deeply troubled man presenting himself to the world as excessively virile. And both of these poets also share their sort of primitive inner darkness with Plath, Ted Hughes, and Robert Penn Warren.

Lately I've been reading a lot of Warren, and re-reading Dickey's The Whole Motion. I've also been reading the plays of Sophocles and Aeschylus, Franz Wright's Earlier Poems, Mary Oliver's American Primitive, and going back through the Essential Wordsworth. It's been interesting comparing their various interpretations of nature, and how these interpretations shape the writers' overall ontology, in seeing how Dickey and Warren and, to an extent Wright, turn from Wordsworth's infatuation with the sublime toward a view of nature's darker and more destructive powers, toward the primitive mentality you find in Old English poems, how their turn avoids the more socio-economic motivations of the 20th century American naturalists like Steinbeck and Richard Wright and the later Stephen Crane and instead focuses on the idea's more inward force, how it shapes the individual.

aug 19, 2007, 2:40 pm

JMatthews #37: Thank you for this comment. It helps me to put together some stray thoughts I've had about Dickey, Wright, and Roethke: all of whom I love and have been consuming almost daily for about five years. They are never far from my thoughts. This notion of a primitive inner darkness is present in their work (one only needs to look at Deliverance). Dickey's "The Sheep Child' has always said profound things to me about the convenant between humans and nature. Wright, it seems to me, works a lot within the area of paradox: I think he never let go completely of a kind of innocence, or notion of lost innocence or lost paradise. This also comes through to me from reading his letters. Wright was such a beautiful soul.

aug 19, 2007, 2:58 pm

I am reading The Oxford Book of American Poetry. With most of it I feel no connection at all. Those poems I like I like in an intellectual manner there is no emotional connection, nothing visceral about it.

When I read comments such as those by JMatthews I am troubled by my lack of connection. Even Bukowski doesn't seem to affect me as others are affected by poetry.

Whether it is lack of heart, lack of soul or lack of training, it does bother me.

aug 19, 2007, 6:59 pm

Well, think of the situation I find myself in xenchu, when I tell people one of my favorite poets is Robert W. Service. Most people who love poetry look at me like I just dropped out of the trees. But I find his poetry so stark, immensely evocative of time and place, haunting in it's loneliness, forlorn in its smallness in the face of unforgiving magnificence. I often suspect it is all the things that are wrong about his poetry, that I find so right.

aug 19, 2007, 7:33 pm

I think one of the beautiful things about poetry, especially poetry, is what a reader brings to it. xenchu, if you love "intellectual" poetry, then that is superb. If Gene loves Robert Service, that is fantastic. The trick is to find what speaks to you, what you love. I think we can also be led to certain poets. A good friend or teacher can show you how to appreciate certain poets or poems. Or a good documentary. Now, I don't care for Robert Service, but this is probably because I haven't looked at him as carefully as Gene has. When Gene calls his work "haunting in its aloneness, forlorn in its smallness..." I know Service must have been on to something. There must be something of Robert Service inside of Gene. I think sometimes we have to find the poems inside ourselves and find how the poet not only can speak to us, but how the poet IS us. It's a calling almost, a recognition of the self.

aug 19, 2007, 7:43 pm

I like Robert W. Service too, he is one of the few poets I ever reread. I enjoy the rhythms of his poems. I also enjoy Kipling even if he seems to be out of favor these days.

In fact, poets of this type seem to be those I can relate to best, poets such as Edgar Lee Masters and Edwin Arlington Robinson (they seem the same type to me anyway).

I suspect that I am extremely low-brow.

aug 19, 2007, 7:58 pm

xenchu, I love Masters and Robinson both. They brought me under the umbrella of poetry when I was a sophomore in college. They were both very important in the development of modern American poetry. Edwin Robinson (thanks for not calling him "Edward"!) lived a particularly forlorn life and he evokes this sadness in his poems. They are very beautiful to me. I use Masters' Spoon River Anthology sometimes in my creative writing classes.

aug 19, 2007, 8:07 pm

PS--I read that the great critic Edmund Wilson was once writing an essay about Stephen Crane, but he just couldn't wrap his mind around Crane's poetry. He asked his friend, John Berryman to help him out. Berryman, who loved Crane, followed Wilson all around the house, talking to him about Crane. And finally Wilson got it: he found his way into Crane.

One of the great things about this group is that--maybe--we can show each other what is so great about the writers and artists that we love.

aug 19, 2007, 8:27 pm

Theresa, you are so right in #41 about what readers bring to a poem or other literary work.

In the first place, fashions in literature (and art and music) go in and out of style, so what a particular age thinks is high art may be considered low brow by another age and vice-versa. Just to pull an example out of a hat, take Jonathan Swift and Gulliver's Travels. In its time, it was considered (and was) a highly intellectual work of biting satire. Later, because Swift had structured it as a fantastic tale of giants and talking horses, it was relegated to the children's shelves. More recently, people have dusted it off and reconsidered its value as satire.

In the second place, we often gravitate to literature that speaks to our hopes and fears, and while people generally have quite a bit of common ground here, our deepest fears and most cherished hopes still vary quite a bit from one person to another.

aug 19, 2007, 8:40 pm

margad, what you say about our deepest fears and most cherished hopes is true.

And what art, all art, has done for me is to show me the way to my self.

Now, when I read Roethke, Wright, Bly, Rumi, and so on, I AM Roethke, Wright, Bly, and Rumi. That person not only lives inside me, we are the same. There are fewer connections more profound.

aug 19, 2007, 8:42 pm

PS--I also think it is good that xenchu is questioning why he isn't moved by the poems he is reading.

aug 19, 2007, 8:57 pm

Yes, Theresa, that's a profound statement about art showing the way to the self. I think that's one of the greatest gifts novels, in particular, have given me. I think art can also show the way to greater respect and compassion for other people. I have so often felt moved when reading about someone who is superficially quite different from me, as I discover how much alike we also are.

aug 19, 2007, 9:35 pm

#45 Following the idea that you find poetry that fits you, I like Nietzsche's comment: "A book can't teach you anything you don't already know." While, obviously, this isn't true for, say, a Geometry book, in regard to books that deal with subjects other than abstract, anonymous facts, I think he's got a point. Experience prepares you to read; if we had no experiences, we would have thought and felt nothing and the feelings and thoughts of others would be meaningless as we wouldn't have a context in which to locate them. With experience comes the possibility of kinship.

It's true that we can't be friends with people who aren't our peers, and I think it's also true that we most enjoy poems by our experiential peers. We can have amicable relationships with those who aren't our peers, and we can maybe appreciate the technique of a poem by someone whose experiences are greatly different from our own, but that kinship, that intimacy, that sense of relating, will be absent, and we'll always feel that absence.

aug 19, 2007, 10:55 pm

On my desk / Esta1923

excerpt from "To the Book" by W.S.Merwin:

Go on then
in your own time
this is as far
as I will take you
I am leaving your words with you
as though they had been yours
all the time

aug 19, 2007, 11:06 pm

Oh, Esta.

Thank you.

aug 20, 2007, 10:38 am

#42 Xenchu
As a reader of Robinson, Masters, & Robert W. Service, I would not say that enjoying their poetry was "lowbrow". As Margad said in her post, their is a "style" in poetry, art & literature that goes in & out somewhat like fashion. When I was a child, my Aunt would recite poetry in the car. When she was a child, Everyone memorized poetry & recited it, the same way others played the piano or sang. Even when I was in elementary school, the teacheer would write 2 lines of poetry on the blackboard & we would memorize them & the next day 2 more until we knew the whole poem. I can still recite (to myself, sometimes lying awake at night) poems I learned this way "High Flight" or on my onf "Kentucky Belle" or just from reading so many times. (Much of Keats & Emily Dickinson & Sara Teasdale &Edna St. Vincent Milay) & other romantic poets that are out of style now .
Being popular does not mean that the poems are not of value. I believe that valuable art will endure. Kipling has not gone away, tho colonialism has been rightly thrown into the dust-bin of history, much of Kipling's work deals with human values which still endure, in fewer places perhaps, but not entirely lost. Rhyme. rhythm & poetic forms are also sneaking back into acceptable use. I have discovered the poetMary Oliver a modern poet - She was the US Poet Laureat last year, her nature poetry can take your breath away. Ted Kooser & this year;s laureat Charles Simic are also good.

aug 23, 2007, 3:07 am

I wish we memorized more poetry nowadays. I can still do "Ozymandias" if I work on it a bit (though I keep forgetting if it is Shelley or Keats). The time spent memorizing and the act of speaking it aloud slows me down and gives me more insight into the sonnet's meaning. A spoken poem is tactile in a way that a poem read silently can never be.

aug 23, 2007, 3:41 am

LOL, I memorized "Ozymandias," too. I mix up some parts, but most of it is there. Also the prologue to Canterbury Tales. I can say it but not spell it properly:

Whan that Aprille with its shoures shoote, the drought of March hath pierced to the roote, and bathed every vein in swish licquour, of which vertu engendered is the fleur...

I always get such satisfaction out of reciting that. It's true; we don't memorize enough poems.

aug 23, 2007, 10:53 am

In Greece all these many eons ago someone created an "alpha-beta" and with chisel and stone (wax?) began writing in the same poetic forms they taught their children the history of their people. This was an absolute scandal, it was going to destroy the ability of the youth to memorize and thus change the way children were taught from a social activity to a solitary activity. Look how that turned out.

Sure enough, memorization has gone down the tubes.

aug 23, 2007, 11:36 am

Donald Davidson, in his essay, "Poetry as Tradition," makes a fairly cogent argument for the case that books, as we now know them, have actually hurt poetry's relationship with culture. His argument goes something like: before books, poetry existed as part of the culture, as something passed down through generations by word of mouth and memory, but, with the onset of the printing press and its economic possibilities, poetry became predominantly a written entity, a thing made for the page not the voice, and, subsequently, divorced itself from its origins in such a way as to make itself a commodity, and, as all commodities are, disposable. While he doesn't condemn books, or condone such misguided, militant actions as book burning, he does make an interesting point when he explores the book's role in our cultural shift. At the onset of printing, books were circulated as manuscripts among a small community; books were things of convenience that, acknowledgedly, served as ersatz means of conveying the oral tradition.

However, when the printing press allowed poets and printers to profit economically, the book itself became the standard means of circulation, with oral events, such as readings, taking the back-seat, and, therefore, largely poetry itself moved toward the abandonment of such orally-oriented devices as meter and rhyme, furthering the disconnect between the culture itself and the poet. Davidson points out how few people now memorize poems, how few people take poetry as a legitimate means of knowledge, and, acutely, I think, discerns that even clergy now, following the joint enterprise of science and business, present parts of the Bible as being "only symbolic," as if poetry weren't a means of reaching truth.

aug 23, 2007, 12:11 pm

P.S.#53 "Ozymandias" is Shelley.
Also, if anyone's interested, I talk more about books and their effects on my blog: http://unorthodoxorthodoxy.blogspot.com

aug 23, 2007, 1:53 pm

Only symbolic?!!! What an outrage.

aug 23, 2007, 4:34 pm

Is there any indication that language may have begun as poetry. Poetry has the ability to convey a lot of information in just a few words. I know that meter and rhyme are aids to memory, but they can also create forms of emotional contact that non-poetic spoken language cannot.

aug 23, 2007, 6:22 pm

#59 Gene: Others may know more about this than I do. But it seems to me poetry may have originated from music, in other words the sounds people heard in nature and in their every day lives, and perhaps the poetry/songs were part of their gravitation toward a spiritual life.

aug 23, 2007, 6:23 pm

Your comment interests me: your first sentence forces us to consider what poetry is. There are innumerable theories, and all of them seem to me unsatisfactory, but I think I most agree with the definition Robert Penn Warren and Cleanth Brooks give in their seminal text, Understanding Poetry, which is that poetry is any language not intended to communicate information.

I think in your comment, you mean information in a very different sense than Brooks and Warren. Their definition of information would be more akin to what we now call "facts," and the discrepancy in definitions is, I would guess, largely an effect of the dominant trend in the evolution of contemporary English, that is to obscure sense.

Nevertheless, if we work with Brooks and Warren's definition, that poetry is any language not expressing objective facts, that poetry is the language of subjectivity, then the majority of our everyday speech is poetry; granted it is poetry of a significantly lower caliber than Shakespeare or Donne in that it generally lacks the cohesive structure necessary for the whole to be greater than its parts, but it is poetic in nature. Something as simple as "I'm sad" is poetic in nature.

So, then the question is did language begin as an expression of the individual or as a utilitarian method of signaling danger, or food, etc. Of course, we can only speculate, but, as intonation and expression would probably vary contingent upon the perceiver's perception, even of danger or food, I think it's likely that poetry has been around as long as there's been language, though, obviously, as language has enriched the capabilities of poetry have proportionately increased.

The second part of your comment also interests me. All language is metrical, though, in our daily speech patterns, the meter is greatly irregular. And, while English rhymes are more sparse than those in Romance languages, I think even non-poetic, or factual, language would rhyme from time to time.

But, if the poetic devices in non-poetic languages are emotionally empty, I think it has to be because in non-poetic language the style is divorced from the subject. Much of poetry's power, to my mind, lies in the unity of style and content, so, in poetry, the rhymes are not happenstance but are intentional and work to cement syntactic groups, which are themselves generally complete thoughts or complete linguistic / emotional units. Poetry, or good poetry, consists of, among other things, a meaningful psycho-emotional order; meanwhile the guy reading the weather, if he should stumble into a rhyme, does so purely out of accident ("In Houston, it's 94, for more on the weather go to nonpoetry.com, etc"), which, by its randomness, greatly decreases the force of the language.

One way I like to think about poetry is that it is, often enough, the maximizing of language's kinetic potential. That is, language has within it, a massive potential for energy, and the responsible maker attempts not only to harness the energy of the language, but also to set that energy in motion toward a unified aim. It is perhaps an inept example, but one way to think about a lyric poem, which is generally circular, is to think of it as a closed circuit, wherein all the energy is harnessed and sent back and forth through all the vectors, and each vector must be open in order for the circuit to work. Most of our everyday language has closed vectors, or, in other terms, makes ill use of the kinetic energy of language. I could write a lot more, but I've probably blabbed long enough.

aug 23, 2007, 6:25 pm

#56 and #59: Do you mean i.e. a "literal" translation of the Bible? Metaphorical truth is such a deep truth; it is hard for me to fathom why some people reject it and think of it as an "only."

aug 23, 2007, 6:29 pm

#61: "poetry is any language not intended to communicate information."


aug 23, 2007, 6:32 pm

I think the reason some people think about particular parts of the Bible as "only symbolic" is the same reason that Kirk Cameron went on TV to scientifically "prove" the existence of God. Our culture has privileged science to the point that faith, that symbols, that the irrational are now trying to prove their value within a scientific context, which is preposterous, but such is the fall-out of Enlightenment era empiricism.

Poetry, which includes the Bible, is, to my mind, antithetical to the fact-oriented world which science and the deification of rationality has created. So, in back-pedaling, in a, well, pathetic, attempt to justify their own existence, those who hold irrational beliefs feel compelled to attempt a rational explanation of their beliefs, which in turn devalues their beliefs and makes fools of the equivocators themselves, ie, Kirk Cameron.

aug 23, 2007, 6:36 pm

P.S. I hold many irrational beliefs, and I'm fine with their irrationality. There is a limit to reason and representational thought. In fact, one might argue, as Heidegger does in his Discourse on Thinking that the attempt to live by pure reason is destroying our ability to think meditatively, which is to say, reason, when misused, impairs our ability to be human.

Redigeret: aug 23, 2007, 10:16 pm

I agree completely with #64 and #65. Some sort of balance is necessary. I don't mean an EVEN balance, but we need both faculties. The Greeks knew this: that is why they worshipped both Apollo AND Bacchus.

aug 23, 2007, 6:53 pm

It speaks to the evolving concept of poetry that Apollo was the god of poetry. I've lately been interested in Heaney's omnipresent "omphalos," which, in its origin, was a rock outside the oracle at Delphi, a rock supposed to have been the center, or navel, of the world.

I'm interested in this because, it seems, we generally think now of poets and poetry as being Bacchic (I'm always looking for the elusive bacchic foot), and the Romantics fit this description to varying degrees. But, the origin of poetry was Apollinian. Personally, I've favor the blend like Theresa: I always liked Herrick's phrase, "a wild civility."

Eudora Welty's masterpiece "June Recital" from The Golden Apples I think is a great example of the artist blending the two modes. Cassie's story-telling is greatly structures, ordered; she gives us a chronicle. Meanwhile, Loch gives us a wild, prophetic, visionary account of events, a transformative, and in that sense, poetic account. Where Cassie sees fireflies, Loch sees a burning tree. Where Cassie sees a metronome, Loch sees a bomb. Finally, I think Welty manages, by her shifting points of view, to combine the two of them in a sort of "Ars Poetica," which, I think accurately portrays the duality that I'm looking for.

aug 23, 2007, 10:19 pm

#67: Delmore Schwartz dealt with the split between Apollo and Dionysus in a poem. I think that because he was a manic depressive, this subject had particular relevance for him. Too much Apollo makes us cold; too much other other makes our thoughts unintelligible and takes us over the edge to oblivion.

I know that for the Norse, Odin was the god of poetry.

aug 24, 2007, 1:08 am

The more I think about it, the more I think poetry must have come from a need to express the ineffable. So much of poetry seemingly is derived from the ancient chants. Walt Whitman's prosody was inspired by the Bible. Emily Dickinson's by hymns, although she consciously manipulated her poems so that they wouldn't be like hymns. Gregory Orr says the repetition in a refrain, a chorus, or a chant is soothing and meditative.

aug 24, 2007, 2:01 am

I buy that poetry's rooted in the ineffable. I'm not sure anything substantial can be expressed, not fully anyway. "We dance round in a ring and suppose, but the Secret sits in the middle and knows."

aug 24, 2007, 2:37 am

#70: No, we can never express ourselves fully; but it is the trying that makes me want to live. The trying IS life. Like Camus said of Sisyphus, I suppose. Camus sits in the middle and knows? (smiles)

aug 24, 2007, 2:39 am

And PS: What is this about Mother Teresa? Who would have known she experienced such darkness? Yet she kept on.

aug 24, 2007, 12:04 pm

The ineffable is one form of information expressed through poetry. Deep emotion is another. In the beginning of human language the ineffable was all around, especially in the dark.

Poetry is the device we use to communicate the irrational, that which we can know, but cannot think, the ineffable.

Poetry is as much a part of human language as non-poetic language. Like non-poetic language it has its rules for creating sensible transmissions and the success of poetry is aided by the successful implementation of these rules. As poetry declines in popularity, we are losing a part of ourselves.

What is the official term for plain, non-poetic speech?

aug 24, 2007, 1:39 pm


aug 24, 2007, 2:42 pm

Good question, citygirl #74. Any thoughts?

aug 24, 2007, 3:59 pm

No, I meant prose as the official term for plain, non-poetic speech. :-)
But since you asked...poetry can also be viewed as a type of encryption. If there is any reason why a writer may not want to say something plainly she can code it, make it a little more elusive. Perhaps it serves to express something "effable" (is that the opposite of ineffable?) that, for whatever reason, shouldn't be spoken. Maybe in this way a poet can even hide from herself.

aug 24, 2007, 11:21 pm

I know this has sort of evolved into a discussion about poetry. But I wanted to answer the original question.

I like to read by author. I'm not sure if it's weird or not - instead of reading, say, the "1001 Books To Read Before You Die" (ugh), I read everything written by a single author, then change authors.

Does anyone else do this? Anyone else not read a lick of Hemingway but the entire published works of F. Scott Fitzgerald?

Anyway, right now it's Willa Cather. So far this summer I've read eight of her novels and am heading into my ninth. (There are twelve, total.) I don't know what I'll do when I finish the last one. Cry, I guess.

aug 25, 2007, 12:04 am


I've looked at quite a few profiles on library thing and noticed that you are not the only one to do this.

I don't do that, exactly. If I get interested in an author or story, I will research the author and particulars about the story. Often I will read more than one of that author's works; however I have often been disappointed by doing this and I do it less than I used to.

For instance, I am very interested in Richard Brautigan. I have been for a number of years. I have my favorites but I still have not found my way clear to read everything he has written. But I have bought almost all the Brautigan criticism or biography there is to be found.

I got interested in Cather not long ago by reading a contemporary short story that featured one of her books as a plot device. The book about the young girl who ice skates? Lucy Gayheart What I took from Cather is her classic style. Her perfection (which she preferred over experimentation).

I admire your tenacity: getting through all twelve of Cather's novels. I have never performed such a feat.

Redigeret: aug 25, 2007, 12:10 pm

--> 78

Interesting that you also collect Richard Brautigan books. That is the *only* author whose books I collect. I wonder what that means? :-)

It's also interesting that you not only collect his books, but haven't read them all. Same for me! Why is that, I wonder?

By chance, I just this week bought and read Willard and His Bowling Trophies. I gave it to my daughter (who has a bad habit of taking my Brautigan books off my shelf and putting them in her room) to read. At first, I didn't think I'd like it, but it turned out to be very funny. By the time the story was over, I loved it.

I'd like to know...how that reading is shaping your thoughts.

Hmmm? With Brautigan, I love the irony with which he sees people. He casts a very cynical eye on people's actions. I think readers can, albeit sometimes with embarrassment, identify with the absurd characters of Brautigan's novels and poems.

--> 77

In regard to the way I read books, I hate to read the same author back to back. I like each book to be very different and a total surprise. I do return to authors I like, but not at once. I also don't want stories by the same author to meld into one another. I can't remember details of stories long after reading them so separating them out in this way helps a lot. :-)

aug 25, 2007, 10:47 am

#77 Bess Streeter Aldrich is a contemporary of Willa Cather. Her novels deal with the early settlement of the plains from a woman's point of view. A Lantern in her hand is probably the most well-known. While Willa Cather is considered a better writer in the literary sense, Ms. Aldrich deals more with the personal & details of daily life during that time period. I, too, have gone through phases of reading everything I could find by an author, The summer I graduated from hi school I overdosed on Thomas Wolfe. My Bess Streeter Aldrich phase was in my 1st. year of college. I remember her with a fondness never engendered by Mr. Wolfe.

Redigeret: aug 25, 2007, 11:58 am

Right after high school I got on a Steinbeck kick and read everything I could find by him including the dreaded Red Pony and The Pearl. The one that stayed with me and shaped a good deal of my politics for quite a while was In Dubious Battle. I tried rereading it a couple of months ago, but couldn't get into it. The only books of his I know I did not read were The Winter of our Discontent and Travels with Charley. No reason, just didn't.

I was on a Melville jag a year or so ago and read many of his lesser known works like Israel Potter and Pierre. Of course I read his South Sea adventures.

The only author I still feel that way about is Joseph Conrad. I read Heart of Darkness at least once, often twice a year. Lord Jim, Aylmer's Folly and his other Indonesian works are great. I just love the darkness he settles over his stories. I can only believe that Marlowe must have been a most interesting man.

Wonky touchstones.

aug 25, 2007, 2:59 pm


A Lantern in Her Hand is probably the first book I read that transported me to a different time and place. I found a copy recently at a library book sale and bought it. It's a wonderful book for anyone, especially young girls. I never read any others of that author's books, though.


I have an excellent hardcover edition of Willard and His Bowling Trophies but I have not read it. Maybe your reaction to it will cause me to read it at last. I am just so in love with my favorite Brautigan books Trout Fishing in America, The Abortion, In Watermelon Sugar, and So the Wind Won't Blow It All Away. I keep wanting to do a longish essay on Brautigan, a very personal one about how much he means to me.

I love to read certain books over again, too. For instance, I read Winesburg, Ohio at least once a year.

aug 26, 2007, 4:56 am

I'm backtracking a little, because I'm fascinated by the discussion on poetry, the definition of which seems to have expanded to include any communication that deals with emotion, intuition and symbolism rather than factual information that is susceptible to proof or disproof.

No one can really know how poetry originated, because it predates the written word. But when children are first learning to speak, they play with rhyming sounds and alliterative sounds, and just sounds in general that please them. I wonder if it is too much to say that children first begin to speak in poetry? The first words they speak with true understanding must have very expansive and primal meanings to them. I suspect it was just this way when the first humans began to invent language.

In pre-literate societies, things that needed to be memorized and remembered very precisely, such as herbal formulas for treating medical problems, or the history of a tribal group, were expressed in poetic form (metered rhymes and/or alliteration) because that made them so much easier to remember with word-for-word precision. I think formulas like this would come under the heading of factual material - would that cancel their value as poetry?

aug 26, 2007, 1:13 pm

I'm interested in this last question about pre-literate societies: a good deal of what we have in the way of poetry from, say, Old English (which represents a generally preliterate society) has to do with practical usage. For instance, there are gnomic verses, which can be found in the Exeter Book and the Cotton ms, that outline basic truths, many of which deal with nature and work toward understanding its principles. There are also poems that were "charms," intended to help get rid of splinters or to encourage a harvest. But, while these are practical, in the sense they were designed to provide solutions to common problems, they also rely heavily on myth and superstition, these latter being far from facts.

What I'm getting at is that, in regard to preliterate societies, I find it dubious that they possessed such scientific knowledge as to separate the practical from the mythological, the fact from the fiction, and, when one deals with myth one is dealing with the stuff of poetry.

aug 26, 2007, 2:18 pm

I would echo Jim's assertion that in preliterate societies, there was no separation of practical from mythological. I see this in my Native American literature that I teach each semester. It is all of a piece. Everything connected, everything sacred and holy. It is indeed a beautiful thing. This is why I love poetry that elevates the so called ordinary things to sacredness, such as what Roethke and Brautigan do in their work. There are lessons for us all in these ancient civilizations. Poetry seems to mend the chasm that now exists between the compartments we've made of our lives.

aug 28, 2007, 12:41 am

I think we lost something extremely valuable when we made such a stark separation between the factual and the numinous. Of course, the witch hunts of the Middle Ages are an example of the horrors that can happen when one makes no distinction at all.

I'm intrigued by some of the research that has been done on the placebo effect. "Placebo" has entered the language as a word for a useless illusion or even a lie that pacifies stupid people. But I have a feeling something far more profound is happening. The "charm" poems people recited to produce various practical effects may really have worked, to at least some extent. Perhaps in a society in which everyone deeply trusted in their efficacy, they might even have worked quite well.

aug 28, 2007, 1:08 am

I do not doubt the efficacy of the non-factual. It feeds me.

aug 28, 2007, 2:14 am

#86 margad, what a fascinating thought regarding the "placebo effect."

aug 29, 2007, 11:41 pm

I don't know that believing in something makes it true; I just know that believing is essential to surviving.

aug 30, 2007, 12:40 am

I finished the Keith Abbott biography of Richard Brautigan last weekend. I've always taken pleasure in how Brautigan used the imagination to transcend reality. The more I read about Brautigan, though, the darker his reality seems. While I believe writers like good Theodore Roethke transcended the painful realities of life though writing, I am beginning to think that Brautigan became trapped in the world of his imagination which, finally, could give him no respite from his pain. Somewhere along the line, he quit "believing" that survival is important. His very last writings are all about suicide. His writing seemed to trap, rather than free him. Roethke's writing set him free. He continued to have good and bad days, but his writing also continued to buoy him.

Redigeret: aug 30, 2007, 2:09 am

In Praise of Prejudice by Theodore Dalrymple came in yesterday's mail, and The Wisdom of Solomon by David Winston and perhaps God came in today's mail. As much as I would like to dive right away into either, when I go to bed in a few minutes I will read from among A Song of Love and Death: The Meaning of Opera by Peter Conrad, Middlemarch by George Eliot, Hitler: 1889-1936 Hubris by Ian Kershaw, and Naming the Elephant: Worldview as a Concept by James W. Sire.

I am a late-comer to opera and have no technical skills in music. Opera to me is drama and ideas delivered by an intimate association with music, and I have to read about that. Conrad's book is very literary, and he talks of music in ways that I can understand (for example, loud, fast).

I am old enough now, and I am unhappy enough with how governance rarely improves that I am ready to confront the idea of totalitarianism; I was helped in that direction by Europe Central by William Vollman, a difficult but rewarding novel. I started with a recent two volume life of Hitler because I bought it before I bought Mein Kampf. (I have tonight ordered Mein Kampf alongside among others The Secret of Hurricanes; I trust that the juxtaposition is inoffensive.)

Religion, to me, is roughly world view (actually universe view and relationship, but more). Sire's book is a careful reflection on what that might mean. As a Unitarian, no matter how transcendental, I have to adapt his Christian thinking to my own, but that does not devalue the work.

I have loved George Eliot since I read Silas Marner as an adult. I wondered then why they had made us read it in grammar school; it is too well written to be appreciated by most sixth graders. I put her off too long, so I announced to my church book group that I would be reading Middlemarch. They joined me. In starting it, I have seen clearly that I have put her off too long.


aug 30, 2007, 2:16 am

#91: I can't say I'm a late-comer to opera because I'm not inside the door yet, but I have this odd desire to go out onto our boat and play opera loudly on the river in the wee hours of the morning.

You made me chuckle with your comment about the juxtaposition of Mein Kampf and The Secret of Hurricanes. Thank you for bring my book into your life. I hope you take something from it.

aug 30, 2007, 2:21 am

#91 Robert:

1. I see we are both night owls.
2. I noticed we share 17 books in common, among them OF HUMAN BONDAGE. I read that book when I was very young, probably 14. I remember being completely taken by the work. I couldn't have understood the complexities, but the book still spoke to me in a deep way. I suppose I felt like I was in bondage like the main character, freakish, unlovable. I should read the book again. Didn't they make a movie of this book?

aug 30, 2007, 2:37 am

93 A quick google of '"of human bondage" movie' shows three of them, in 1934, 1949, and 1964. For no good reason that comes to mind, that does not surprise me. I have still not read Maugham, and I may not for a long time, but the intent is there. His short story collection has been on my BN.com wishlist for, probably, a year now.


aug 30, 2007, 2:47 am

Robert, I can see from your booklist that you have your work cut out for you. I hope you do get to Maugham. He had such intelligence. That was what I admired about him, and about his work.

aug 30, 2007, 11:07 pm

I just finished Michael Gruber's third mystery novel Night of the Jaguar. His books have heavy doses of philosophy and alternate views of reality of primitive peoples (or non-technical peoples). They seem very well researched and are certainly interesting and a good read.

I have also lately read The Oxford Book of American Verse and The Oxford Book of Comic Verse. Reading what JMatthews and others have to say about poetry makes me realize all over again how shallow my understanding of poetry is.

sep 8, 2007, 5:30 pm

Xenchu, I think good poetry has a way of insinuating itself into the subconscious so that we don't need to analyze it at the conscious level to plumb its depths. Your unconscious mind may be a great deal less shallow in your understanding of poetry than your conscious mind realizes.

sep 18, 2007, 6:16 pm

I am reading Madeleine L'Engle's Two-Part Invention: The Story of a Marriage. When I read author's obituaries they often provoke a desire to read more about their lives. She writes most movingly of her husband's terminal illness.

sep 18, 2007, 8:00 pm

I just started Bel Canto by Ann patchett, & just finished Nemesis, the last days of the American Republic by Chalmers Johnson. Before that, I read The Secret of Hurricanes by Theresa Williams. I like to alternate reading fiction with non-fiction as I tend to get lost in the fiction world & it's easier to return to reality by following with non-fiction. So Theresa, it took the possibility of the end of government as we know it to shake lose from your North Carolina world. Actually, I wasn't very impressed with Mr. Johnson's thesis - same old, same old. Fiction worlds are better.

sep 19, 2007, 3:13 am

One of the great things about teaching is that you get to re-read things and look at them closely, deepen your understanding of them. For my classes I've recently reread Hamlet and some of the Cantos by Ezra Pound. I am also rereading some different versions of Little Red Riding Hood as well as some scholarship on this fairytale, including, again, Mr. Bruno Bettelheim's wonderfully Freudian interpretation!

sep 19, 2007, 10:30 am

#100-Ah! I remember Bettelheim's interpretation from my psychology classes in college. My special love is for mythology, folktales and fairy tales. There are so many story parallels across every culture in the world, basic tales that express the hopes and fears of every people across time. I love retellings of these stories.

In that vein, I just finished reading Stardust by Neil Gaiman.

Redigeret: sep 19, 2007, 11:17 am

i'm reading housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson very slowly to savor the haunting beauty and strangeness of her story as well as the many themes she weaves through it: resurfacing of the deeps; scapegoats and sheltered vagrants; grief and loss; identity, belonging, and isolation; the sacredness of the everyday world; etc. Her story grows on you and, like the best books, has the power to change the way you view the world.

sep 19, 2007, 11:48 am

#101: I, too, am fascinated by fairytales and myth. I am looking forward to doing the Little Red Riding Hood unit with my students. So far they have much enjoyed the comparison of Hamlet and The Lion King! I've never read anything by Neil Gaiman but have heard good things. I will have to check him out sometime.

sep 19, 2007, 11:49 am

#102: Oh, what a treat, reading Housekeeping for the first time! Enjoy!

sep 19, 2007, 4:05 pm

I've just joined this group at Theresa's invitation. I was reading some of the postings and I think I am going to find this an rewarding and interesting experience. It's wonderful to be in a world of readers. A little background about me, I live in Portland, Oregon lots of rain in the winter! I have a degree in philosophy and history. The philosphers I am more interested in are the existentialist. The last book I read with The Rebel by Camus which I really recommend. I wonder what comments he would have for this age. I read lots of history, the novel I am reading now is Life and Fate, about WW2 from the Russian point of view. Very powerful. I also do volunteer work for hospice, issues surrounding death and dying are important to me. Thanks for having me in the group.

sep 19, 2007, 11:38 pm

I think those who have had experience with hospice as a result of our loved ones dying would join me in thanking you for the work that you do. Hospice took care of both my father and mother and, more recently, my husband's mother. The workers and the volunteers do incredible work. How intriguing that a philosopher interested in existentialism is a hospice volunteer! You are one person I would definitely like to know better! (smiles)

sep 20, 2007, 7:05 pm

Recently finished Modern Love by George Meredith, which is as brutally honest and artful book as I've read in a long time. Also, Rudin by Turgenev, and right now I'm working on A Place to Come To by Warren.

sep 21, 2007, 1:08 am

Hello JMatthews. I see less of you these days. You must be busy like the rest of us. I hope all is well for you. I have missed our connection that happened during the initial flurry of posts.

sep 21, 2007, 3:59 pm

I am now reading Flesh in the Age of Reason by Roy Porter. I am also chewing slowly through Plutarch's Lives. Finally I am reading Finite and Infinite Games by James P. Carse.

All this is more than enough to read, so naturally I went to the library today and checked out three more books.

sep 21, 2007, 4:47 pm

xenchu, you speaketh for all of us. (big smiles)

sep 23, 2007, 10:46 pm

I'm reading THE GROUND OF OUR BESEECHING which is helping me to further evaluate the poetry of Theodore Roethke. It is an excellent book; erudite yet highly readable. It shows the emphasis Roethke put on transcendence in his poems.

okt 6, 2007, 6:29 pm

I am currently reading The Sickness Unto Death by Kierkegaard. I believe in college when I was taking a class on Kierkegaard, the teacher said you can only read him for about 15 minutes then you have to get up do something else! I totally agree, Soren has a way of twisting one mind. As I understand his thesis he believes that what we call self, is self looking at self. For example as I write this post, I am both aware that I am writing and aware of what I am thinking and feeling. The other main thesis is that we all live in some sort of despair. In a sense that goes with the 4 Noble Truths of Buddha, the first being life is painful. For Kierkegaard despair can be the way to salvation, K was very much a Christian and believed in salvation. Kierkegaard also thought that despair of course could destroy the spirit, especially if we hide or denied the despair.
This Sunday is the Portland Marathon, as a old marathon runner, I came up with this understanding of K idea about despair. In running a marathon, at least for me, there are times of pain, usually after the 20 mile mark. As a runner I learned to use that pain, the pain was a message from the body to the mind. To listen to the pain, to see it as a friend enabled me to perform better. I just wanted to share this

okt 6, 2007, 10:45 pm

Good insight, Michael. I've read that some people are born with a rare condition, lacking the ability to feel pain. They generally don't live very long.

okt 7, 2007, 12:03 am

#112: There is so much in your post. I feel as though you should start a new thread about it. I think we could talk about these things for quite a long time.

Redigeret: okt 7, 2007, 12:28 am

My reading is on a much less lofty plane! While waiting for a review copy to arrive (since the imprint was unfamiliar) I got from the library a book from the same publisher. . .This book,"House of the Dead," by Lamar Herrin, was not uninteresting, but its title puzzled me. It does not give a clue to the plot, and, having finished reading the novel, I cannot, by any stretch relate title to content!! (An American student, studying in Spain, is killed in a bomb attack. Her father, and later her sister, go there in search of closure of some sort.) If anyone has read it and can tie together plot and title I'd appreciate being enlightened. (Meanwhile I plan to reread Hellenga's beautiful "The Fall of a Sparrow," and write a review of it.) Esta1923

okt 9, 2007, 11:41 am

Amost finished with Saturday by Ian McEwan. Also browsing thru poetry Mary Oliver's 12 Moons & Sleeping in the forest & Ted Kooser Weather Central. And off & on with The Journal of Hildegard of Bingen Also another book on the approaching end of oil as we know it which is from the library & has to be finished soon so it can be returned.
Sometimes when I enter the library I am just overwhelmed by all of the newly released books waiting to be read. And my stacks of To be read books at home. And old favorites that I want to read over again, especially poetry books like the ones mentioned above. If the secret to a long life is having something to look forward to, then books should take me to 150.

Redigeret: okt 12, 2007, 1:39 pm

I've decided to call an intervention with myself. I must finish Wuthering Heights, The Wasteland and Other Poems and half of The Complete Poems - Anne Sexton before I start anything else. Good. I can stand to have some poetry dancing in my ear; the quotidian has been crowding the ethereal lately.

Edited because 306 pages of Anne Sexton is an unrealistic goal for a short time period. Instead, I have decided to go book by book. So, I start with To Bedlam and Part Way Back. So far I am loving her turns of phrase: "the believing money" "godding the whole blue world" "the beach waits like an altar" and a death (obsession) is apparent even from the early poems. Meaty stuff.

okt 10, 2007, 8:23 pm

I just finished The Peloponnesian War by Donald Kagan and Crashing Through by Robert Kurson. Now I need to start something else.

Redigeret: okt 11, 2007, 3:07 pm

#116 - I'm reading about Hildegard, too! She was quite a remarkable woman.

okt 12, 2007, 1:45 pm

xenchu, you might be interested in The Peloponnesian War by Thucydides.

okt 12, 2007, 2:38 pm

geneg, I am interested in Thucydides but I read that Donald Kagan's book was more complete and unbiased. The book was good history and well-written but I think it lacks Thucydides's poetry.

okt 13, 2007, 3:40 pm

I've not read Donald Kagan's book but I bet it lacks the eye witness authenticity and immediacy of Thucydides.

okt 23, 2007, 2:09 pm

Forgive my being 2 months late to the party here, but I feel blessed to have stumbled upon such intelligent life.

I'm currently reading To Live's to Fly... I saw the documentary of Townes' life - what a heartbreaking marvel of a buckskin minstrel.

Also reading for inspiration:
Writing to Change the World - a gem found at just the right moment in my life

Writing Down the Bones - thoughtful little slices of advice

Rule of the Bone - my first Russell Banks' book and certainly not my last... what a masterful take on the restless angst of growing up in a dysfunctional family

Bodies in Motion and At Rest - a fascinating collection of ruminations by a professional undertaker

These illuminating threads on Art is Life!

okt 23, 2007, 2:51 pm

I would love to know more about Bodies in Motion and At Rest! Do tell! Would also love to know more about the Banks book, when you have time. So glad you found us.

okt 28, 2007, 1:12 pm

I started reading Proust's Sodom and Gomorrah, one my goals is to read all Of Search of Lost Time, I got throught the first 3 volumnes now I am on 4. Anyway, this Sunday beautful sunny morning in Portland I my issue of the NY Times. In the magazine there was an interview with Piere Bayard a French writer and teacher of literature. It is a very short but interesting interview, I liked that he said what I felt about Proust, that he is a very diffcult writer to read. "His sentences are long and have very strange constuctions, it is not possible to read from the first line to the last line."
Sorry for being so long winded, but Bayard talks about the value of literature which got me thinking and wondering what I value about reading.
One thing I noticed about my reading is at different times a sence or a character or issue from a book I read will enter into my thinking. I may not remember where I read it, but there it is. I am somewhere else with people that both known and strangers. Yet that part of the book that I may have read years ago still speaks to me.

okt 28, 2007, 3:16 pm

What value do you find in reading such a difficult author/book as Proust's Lost Time? I have it on my shelf but have not been able to tackle it. (shame on me).

okt 29, 2007, 10:05 am

68 TW > #67: Delmore Schwartz dealt with the split between Apollo and Dionysus in a poem. I think that because he was a manic depressive, this subject had particular relevance for him. Too much Apollo makes us cold; too much other other makes our thoughts unintelligible and takes us over the edge to oblivion.

Toni Morrison counseled about this in a 1993 Paris Review interview:

Interviewer: Do you ever write out of anger or any other emotion?

Morrison: No. Anger is a very intense but tiny emotion, you know. It doesn’t last. It doesn’t produce anything. It’s not creative… at least not for me. I mean these books can take at least three years!

Interviewer: That is a long time to be angry.

Morrison: Yes. I don’t trust that stuff anyway. I don’t like those little quick emotions, like, I’m lonely, ohhh, God… I don’t like those emotions as fuel. I mean, I have them, but –

Interviewer: — they’re not a good muse?

Morrison: No, and if it’s not your brain thinking cold, cold thoughts, which you can dress in any kind of mood, then it’s nothing. It has to be a cold, cold thought. I mean cold, or cool at least. Your brain. That’s all there is.

okt 29, 2007, 10:06 am

49 JM > It's true that we can't be friends with people who aren't our peers, and I think it's also true that we most enjoy poems by our experiential peers. We can have amicable relationships with those who aren't our peers, and we can maybe appreciate the technique of a poem by someone whose experiences are greatly different from our own, but that kinship, that intimacy, that sense of relating, will be absent, and we'll always feel that absence.

i'm not sure i agree. Care to say more?

okt 29, 2007, 3:13 pm

The poems I most enjoy are those which possess a quality of emotion or ideology that resembles some part of me. I don't necessarily mean that the poet must have a shared experience in material terms, but I must have gone to a place similar to the place the poem leads, or else I usually can't participate fully. Of course, Shakespeare and I probably share few actual experiences (for instance, he never sat at a computer and searched the internet, etc), but when he writes about love I can often be deeply invested because whatever aspect of love is available to me within my own personal experience.

My argument really is more about the participatory quality of a work of art: work that lets me participate, that opens up the space where I can apply my own experiences. If art doesn't do that, if it keeps me out in some way (for instance the overly-cerebral, Communist L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetry) I don't become invested in it. I can admire Charles Bernstein's work, but I'll never love it the way I love James Dickey, simply because I can enter Dickey's poems personally: I can only enter Bernstein's poems intellectually: the heart is missing.

okt 29, 2007, 4:16 pm

Thanks, i see what you're saying now.

okt 29, 2007, 4:31 pm

the best art/music/poetry/walk of lif experiences for me are more often than not ones that catch me completely unawares, that cling to no prior experiences. when i dive in to a book or a song, or a painting, or a foreign city, or a river,

i want it to take me where i've never been. i want to open my eyes underwater and see atlantis. hear the voice of a tiger. dance on the edge of a redwood branch, 90 feet off the ground.

and when i return to the world i know, dust myself off and think it deep enough to smile and actually say


even so, i do enjoy James Dickey.

okt 29, 2007, 4:35 pm

Anger is a very intense but tiny emotion. So beautifully and wisely said! Thank you, Native Roses, for sharing that snippet of Toni Morrison's Paris Review interview. Anger blocks my ability to write, and now I know why.

Redigeret: okt 29, 2007, 4:46 pm


I don't generally feel qualified to speak about poetry, as it's not a medium I feel I respond intensely to; a poem can definately fascinate me, but I rarely connect with a poem, not on an emotional level at least.

How familiar are you with Matthew Arnold? One of his arguments - if I understand him correctly - runs that poetry (and art) that aims to communicate the unchanging and universal aspects of human experience is superior to the transient. (Which, Arnold asserts, Shakespeare did - appeal to the universal, that is.) Do feel as if you search for poems that do have this universal quality to them, or that you generally require a poem to appeal to very specific moments in your own experience?

I'm curious, as I have trouble approaching poetry and am interesting in hearing how other people succeed in connecting to it. Do you approach a work with a conception of the author's experiences already in mind, looking to connect yours to it - perhaps similiar to holding a puzzle piece and looking for the place to fit it?

okt 29, 2007, 5:57 pm

It's not so much about sharing material experiences, that is, the physical events of any occurrence, as about sharing the subjective experience, a similarity of emotion that can arise out of a variety of material experiences. A poem that doesn't lift upward in discovery, that doesn't attempt to transcend the particular and enter the universal, isn't worth the change in your pocket, if you ask me. The trick is for the poem to find the universal in the transient. Sorry to quote myself, but I once wrote an essay on Emily Dickinson in which I said, "Dickinson discovered the whole world in her back yard." I think that's true of every good poet: no matter their physical surroundings, they move through, not away from, the physical/temporal into the emotional/universal.

On a surface level, I'm always interested in poets that grew up or write about my hometown, but, on a deeper level, I'm much more interested in poets that emotionally take me to places I know. Of course, I'd prefer that the places are places I didn't know I knew: that is, I'd prefer for the poem to make me a tourist in my own house. That's the wonder of poetry: estranging the mundane, revitalizing experiences we drag around like corpses. So, to refer back to Dickinson, it's not so much the physical experience I'm interested in as the slant it's given, the angle of the vision.

okt 29, 2007, 6:42 pm

Poetry is as diverse as any other genre. There are poets who only stir my interest with a few of their poems, and others who are somehow speaking my language every line, every word, every poem.

I've been reading Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass - there are areas where my attention is captured without question, and other areas where I appreciate what he is conveying, but it is less real to me. This isn't the first time I've read this. Years ago I read it, it was interesting and had some fascinating imagery, now, for whatever reason, it is really amazing to me.

Poetry asks us to open up and let it in...mind or heart or body. Take your pick. If you like this kind of intrusion, there is much to discover...if you don't ... that's okay.

If you are not crazy about poetry, think about the lyrics of songs you love...they are (the best ones) poetry with music.

I will never forget when my son was a young adolescent, he wanted to purchase some CDs of Green Day...I was not impressed, until I read the lyrics and we discussed the emotional content (what he was comfortable with - these are some rather large concepts for a kid)...my relationship with my son went 10x10 beyond were we had been. There were several other bands that we had this same experience with. (Creed, comes to mind).

I suppose my point is that Poetry isn't all acedemic... written by people hundreds of years ago. It's real and current and diverse.

okt 29, 2007, 8:21 pm

I have just finished The World Without Us by Alan Weisman. It's an amazing book that I would recommend to anyone and everyone.

Just one of the fascinating things I have learned from this book:

The Demilitarized Zone in Korea is laced with land mines, so humans don't dare to go there, even if they were allowed to. Weisman says: "One of the world's most dangerous places became one of its most important - though inadvertent - refuges for wildlife that might otherwise have disappeared. Asiatic black bears, Eurasian lynx, musk deer, Chinese water deer, yellow-throated marten, an endangered mountain goat known as the goral, and the nearly vanished Amur leopard cling here to what may only be temporary life support - a slender fraction of the necessary range for a genetically healthy population of their kind."

So maybe international tensions are good for something, after all.

okt 30, 2007, 8:43 pm

I have not read The World Without Us. I am imaginatively challenged as to the purpose of this book beyond fantasy.

We can have no idea what the world would be without us, and what's the point?

okt 31, 2007, 9:06 am

well, i'm chuckling at both your entry, margad, and yours, geneg. I have these images, the first of guards at either side of the korean dmz, bullets aflyin every time a chinese water deer flies 20 feet off the ground in a flash of smoke and debris. other than "the poor creature", i find the concept of animals randomly blowing to bits kind of funny, like the cow toss near the end of a monty python movie.

and the other image is of a man on his deathbed saying to no one because no one else is there "well, i guess that's it." and smoking his last of his stash of cuban cigars.
as for fantasy, i firmly believe this planet will survive the human race and only begin to recover once we're gone. luckily for it, we seem to be all too eager to rush that era in. can you just imagine the beauty of plantlife overtaking our largest masses of steel and concrete!

now there's a gift to the gods. the ultimate peace. cool beans.

okt 31, 2007, 1:53 pm

Steps by Jerzy Kosinski - strong, brilliant imagery that is much more disturbing now than when i first read the author as a child

Redigeret: okt 31, 2007, 3:25 pm

Wow, NativeRoses - you read Jerzy Kosinski as a child? I read something of his in my early 20s, and it took me awhile to recover.

Geneg, I highly recommend The World Without Us. I find it both alarming and highly reassuring. I live in a more-or-less constant state of low-grade worry over the rapidly increasing pace of environmental degradation, to the extent that I've often wondered whether it wouldn't be better for the planet if all human beings suddenly disappeared in a puff of smoke.

Though it revolves around an imaginary premise, TWWU is a masterful and sound job of journalism which pulls together information on most of the awful things humans have done and are continuing to do to the planet, and describes how these things are likely to affect not just the planet but us. That's the alarming part.

And yet I find it reassuring to at least have these things documented. We can't do anything about bad stuff we don't know about. Nor can we do anything at all effective about a lot of this stuff as individuals - only as a collective effort - so the existence of this book and others helps raise people's awareness so that we can begin to do something collectively.

It's also reassuring to know that the planet does have a surprising capacity to heal itself of the ravages we've put it through. Except for the accumulation of plastics, almost all the damage we've done to the planet will reverse itself within a few hundred years, and after a few hundred millennia, plastic-eating microbes are likely to evolve and undo that damage, as well.

After reading the book, I'm confident the planet will survive what humans have done to it. The real question is, can humanity survive it?

nov 3, 2007, 4:35 am

I was in my 30s before I read The Painted Bird and I STILL have not recovered.

Anyway, I am reading The Life of Emily Dickinson by Richard B. Sewall.

People who have been following my posts know by now that I have been trying to connect with Emily Dickinson. Sewall's biography is excellent and it is helping me to understand why Emily wrote. The first chapter I read was on the "Master Letters" because tht is what I was most curious about. I am starting to feel a kinship with Emily based on her yearning for connection. I recommend Sewall's book!

Redigeret: nov 9, 2007, 5:03 pm

Reading "The Melancholy Fate of Capt. Meriwether Lewis," and "Do Not Open," both of which came to me as a result of my membership in Early Reviewers Group. Esta1923~~~now have posted reviews of them

nov 9, 2007, 7:07 pm

i started Kosinski with The Painted Bird when i was about 10 or so and that led to Steps and Being There. The only thing i really retained were the sex scenes and the sense of isolation. My recent re-reading of Steps was mind-blowing.

i'm currently re-reading The Contortionist's Handbook by Craig Clevenger. It's exactly what i look for in books - a scalp-crinkling, surprising, big-hearted tale by an extraordinarily intelligent author. Extremely highly recommended.

nov 10, 2007, 10:53 pm

I just finished Mason & Dixon by Thomas Pynchon which was a horrible experience. I do not recommend the book.

Also read Dark of the Moon by John Sandford which I did enjoy.

Touchstones are wonky again.

dec 22, 2007, 1:42 pm

Wow. I thought Mason & Dixon was hilarious and one of Pynchon's must accessible books.

Wow. The Painted Bird at 10. I was in my early 20s when I found Kosinski's Blind Date (not the lb touchstone) and then read everything he wrote. I can't image reading that at 10. What a sad end to his story. Accused of plagiarism, shunned by the literati, he becomes a recluse, desperate, depressed, and finally dead.

Re-reading His Dark Materials (or, rather, reading The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass after re-reading The Golden Compass because although I knew my three sons loved those books, I recently learned they consider them "life changing." (They are 20, 17, and 13 -- and the life changing bit really attaches to the two older ones.) Naturally, I must see what kind of writing changes their lives.

Also reading Polyani's Personal Knowledge. A bit too much of a structuralist argument for my tastes, but his take on tacit knowledge is well put.

dec 23, 2007, 5:12 am

#142: I read that book about Lewis, Esta. It's excellent. I am very interested in Lewis. There is a documentary called The Loss of Nameless Things which is about a young man who fell from a bridge and destroyed his brain. Before the accident he had been a promising playwright. One of his plays is called Grinder's Stand which is about the death of Lewis.

#145: I have not read The Golden Compass but I think one of my sons did. One of my students at the university said they messed up the ending in the movie version.

dec 23, 2007, 3:37 pm

Yes, Theresa, I heard the ending of the movie version was a mess. Or incomplete, I think might be a better description. I am enjoying the trilogy. So much is made of the anti-religious aspects. They are there, for sure. But I interpret it more as speaking to our natural nature, the constraints that distract us from belief in our humanness, and the lies peddled to us as truth. I think that's what "kids" react to when they read these books -- especially kids in this media-saturated, fake, 24/7 market scheme posing as reality. Maybe it's just wishful thinking on my part, but my experience has been that kids are pretty savvy on the manipulation they are subjected to on a daily basis. So, it's the Golden Compass now, and for me it was The Catcher in the Rye.

dec 28, 2007, 5:28 pm

I am almost done with the book: Salem Witch Judge, the Repntance of Samuel Sewall. Sewall was a one of the judges at witch trials, he was on the trial were 20 people were convinced and sentance to be hanged. What makes this judge interesting is that he was the only one to publicily say the trials were wrong and that he was wrong for doing what he did. After he realized that the trials were wrong he made ever effort to make amends. After the public repentance he became a voice for social justice, in the treatment of Indians, of women, and to end slavery. He was perhaps the first white American to speak for the enviroment. Mr. Sewell story is that of man looking for a way to make what he did which was wrong into a right. He never denied that his part in the trials was moralily wrong but he tried to right the wrong that he had done.

dec 28, 2007, 5:51 pm

A paperback "the circus of dr. lao" edited by ray bradbury (lack of capitals on paperback edition). I had forgotten these stories, read long ago, and am surprised by how difficult they are!

dec 29, 2007, 2:47 am

Just finished In the Bedroom by Andre Dubus. What a talent Dubus was.

jan 12, 2008, 3:24 pm

I've been reading Terry Eagleton's How to Read a Poem and Edmund Hirsch's book of the same title, and now also Patrick O'Brian's The Reverse of the Medal.

The Eagleton and Hirsch are to gain some insight and depth for my recent return to reading English and American poetry; the O'Brian is one of a series of historical novels of a high literary caliber that I enjoy re-reading at a leisurely pace.

jan 14, 2008, 4:15 pm

My husband gave me the complete Harry Potter set for Christmas, and I read the first 5 in one big, long gulp. I'm taking a break now for Ken Follett's new historical, World Without End. I can see why his historicals are so popular, especially with people who don't read a lot of historical novels. He includes a lot of explanation of medieval customs, like trenchers and professional guilds, but in little bite-sized chunks that don't get in the way of the story. His characters tend to be quite stereotypical, though, and his protagonists seem unbelievably nice, given that they grew up in a world that was pretty brutal. I tend to prefer grittier, more vivid and passionate portrayals of the past.

jan 14, 2008, 8:55 pm

I'm reading the new Dick Francis!!!!!

I'm crazily excited. I didn't know there was a new one out.

jan 15, 2008, 12:37 am

Raymond Carver and more Raymond Carver. I just received a slew of Raymond Carver in the mail!

jan 17, 2008, 5:15 pm

"The Isles" by Norman Davies.

"In Search of England" by Michael Wood.

"Collected Poems" by Wallace Stevens.

"Collected Poems" by Edward Thomas.

"The Boke of the Duchesse" by Chaucer.


Hmm. That's definitely too many at one time. I should rationalise somewhat.

jan 17, 2008, 5:20 pm

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice
The Mindful Way Through Depression by Mark Williams, John Teasdale, Zindel Segal, and Jon Kabat-Zinn
Affinity by Sarah Waters

jan 18, 2008, 1:58 pm

I just finished a biography of Sigmund Freud, by Peter Gay and a novel by Freud's great grandaughter, Esther Freud called Summer at Gaglow. I like Ms. Freud's writing, this is the second novel I've read by her. Her great grandfather, Sigmund once wrote that the best path to mental health is by using your creative side, Ms. Freud is very creative! Not only is she a fair to good writer, she is also an actress and very involved in the theater. I do recommend the biography of Freud.

jan 19, 2008, 12:48 am

rereading "Confederacy of Dunces."

jan 19, 2008, 8:50 am

Finished Anne Lamott's Grace, eventually but I thought her other books on faith were much better. She is a better writer than this book indicates.
If you aren't familiar with her work, traveling Mercies is much better.
I also read a Tony Hillerman which was disappointing, not up to his usual best. this was Hunting Badger & I usually count on Mr. Hillerman to take me away to his world of the desert southwest, but this book didn't do it.
Now I have started Leave me alone, I'm reading by Maureen Corrigan & this is even better than I thought. Right at the beginning she mentions favorites that are also favorites of mine so I'm looking forward to the rest of her book.

feb 1, 2008, 1:29 am

I just found this group the other day. I like it!

I'm reading Anna Karenina - a first time read for me. I'm loving it! I'm catching up on some classics that I now realize should have been part of my education, especially considering I got a degree in English in 1993 (rather late in my life - in my 40s). It's kind of stunning what was left out of the required reading. I read a lot of contemporary lit in college, much of which I loved, but feel I don't have that solid foundation that the canon provides.

I'm still reading a variety of things and still love contemporary lit, but I have lots of classics on my shelves now and will be reading many of them this year. War and Peace will follow A.K. (with a book or two in between). Also on the list for the year: Pride and Prejudice, Middlemarch, Brave New World, The Good Earth, Persuasion. All first time reads. And a couple of Shakespeare plays thrown into the mix.

Others that I read for the first time in the last 12 months: Grapes of Wrath, Sense and Sensibility, Old Man and the Sea, Mrs. Dalloway.

It's hard work playing catch-up! Good thing I love to read. I'll be retiring in October, so will have lots of good reading time!

feb 1, 2008, 3:07 am

Congratulations on retirement, teelgee! Looks like you're getting a good head start on those long days of rest, reading, and relaxation. What a reading list!

feb 1, 2008, 6:06 am

Hi! I just joined this group because I really want to get back into reading Art History/Essay books. I am currently reading Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie. I found the 1001 books you must read before you die discussion and book thru LT and I'm slowly checking off books I have read or have interest in reading. I love art and I believe it is all around us everywhere and in everything.

feb 2, 2008, 3:27 pm

#160 - What fun you must be having, teelgee!

feb 2, 2008, 5:05 pm

#162, I would love it if you would get us back on the track of discussing art, art history, etc. Anytime you want to start a new topic, feel free.

feb 7, 2008, 5:42 pm

Just finished In the Dutch Mountains by Cees Nooteboom and The Devil's Footprints by John Burnside. Planning to move on to The Slave Ship by Marcus Rediker for a little nonfiction imput.

feb 8, 2008, 6:34 pm

Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie ~ finding it wild fun. The narrator, Saleem, is one of the 1001 midnight's children who were born within the first hour of India's independence and endowed with a magical talent. His power is telepathy and he uses it to hold meetings in his head with the other midnight's children. But it's impossible to summarize the story. Saleem's fragmented narrative is absolutely crammed with colliding thoughts, events, and smells: cows that smell death and eat corpses, packs of dogs that hunt and shred packs of assassins, a man who falls in love with his wife after viewing her in pieces through a hole in a sheet, etc. Self-important Saleem also has a magical ability with smell and uses it to order his world in binary oppositions:

Having realized the crucial nature of morality, having sniffed out that smells could be sacred or profane, I invented ... the science of nasal ethics.

Sacred: purdah-veils, halal meat, muezzin's towers, prayer-mats; profane: Western records, pig-meat, alcohol. I understood now why mullahs (sacred) refused to enter aeroplanes (profane) on the night before Id-ul-Fitr .... I learned the olfactory incompatibility of Islam and socialism, and the inalienable opposition existing between the aftershave of Sind Club members and the poverty-reek of the street-sleeping beggars at the Club gates....

'Course Saleem tends towards the profane and sniffs out the city's most decrepit whore.

A great deal of the tale is quite violent and riddled with massive casualties. For example, while in the Pakistani Army, he aids the violent repression of the Bangladeshi independence movement:

Futility of statistics: during 1971, ten million refugees fled across the borders of East Pakistan-Bangladesh into India but ten million (like all numbers larger than one thousand and one) refuses to be understood.

i've got a lot of respect for Rushdie attempting to point out the scale of suffering by having Saleem find it incomprehensible. Yet for every scene about poverty, violence, a group's loss of hope, etc. there's also plenty of humor, representations of the natural world, penetrating family dynamics, etc. Breathtaking accomplishment.

feb 10, 2008, 2:09 am

NativeRoses--I am also reading Midnight's Children. I am finding it very difficult to get through! I had to re-read the first several pages to get the style of writing. I did put it down to read The Namesake for my bookclub and that was a nice break. I am a little over half-way through Midnight's Children, and I am bound & determined to finish! But, its taking me awhile. Thanks to your post I think I will finish the rest of the book with a new approach.

feb 14, 2008, 10:08 am

i know what you mean. i'm enjoying it, but i did put it down for a bit for a re-read of The Kreutzer Sonata and the Death of Ivan Ilych. Am loving The Kreutzer Sonata this time through. Reading Tolstoy's language is like re-reading the letters of an old friend.

feb 14, 2008, 2:25 pm

I am reading Affinity by Sarah Waters.

This is the passage that sums up the title of the book. Selena, a spiritualist, speaks first, and is a prisoner at Milbank prison. Aurora is her 'visitor' who is attracted to her.

‘ It is a world that is made of love. Did you think there is only the kind of love your sister knows for her husband? Did you think there must be here, a man with whiskers, and over here, a lady in a gown? Haven’t I said, there are no whiskers and gowns where spirits are? And what will your sister do if her husband should die, and she should take another. Who will she fly to then, when she has crossed the spheres? For she will fly to someone, we will all fly to someone, we will all return to that piece of shining matter from which our souls were torn with another, two halves of the same. It may be that the husband your sister has now has that other soul, that has the affinity with her soul—I hope it is. But it may be the next man she takes, or it may be neither….’
…When I spoke at last, it was to ask her this: ‘How will a person know, Selena, when that soul that has the affinity with hers is near it?’
She answered, ‘She will know. Does she look for air, before she breathes it? This love will be guided to her; and when it comes, she will know. And she will do anything to keep that love about her. Because to lose it will be like a death to her.’

feb 15, 2008, 9:09 pm

I will have to put Affinity on my TBR list. Longer and longer alas - or should I say, yippee! How awful it would be to run out of exciting books to read.

Currently reading: Samantha Hunt's The Invention of Everything Else, a novel about the inventor Nicola Tesla. Also Richard Kieckhefer's Magic in the Middle Ages, and The Money Men by H.W. Brands, both nonfiction.

feb 23, 2008, 10:18 pm

On this beautiful Saturday, blue skies in the great PNW, spring is coming! I started reading Down in my Heart by William Stafford, sub tittle Peace Witness in War Times. The book is bascially a journal of William Stafford days in different camps for conscientious objectors in WW2. Mr. Stafford spend most of WW2 in these camps. It is a very moving story and uplifting that there where men that were willing to follow their conscientous even during that war. It is story of love and hope

feb 23, 2008, 10:30 pm

Also enjoying the beautiful spring-like weather here in the Northwest. I have gardening fever, so started some seeds and also Michael Pollan's book, Second Nature : A Gardener's Education. I'm also listening to Into the Wild. And slowly reading the new translation of War and Peace, and at the rate I'm going, I'll be reading it for the rest of my life!

The Stafford book sounds wonderful, michael - I really need to read more of his work - and his son has written a biography of him - Early Morning : Remembering my Father, William Stafford. It's on my wish list!

feb 28, 2008, 6:38 pm

That makes 3 of us enjoying spring on the wind in the PNW! I've been tackling some of last year's weeds and enjoying my hellebores.

I didn't know William Stafford had been a conscientious objector. His journal must be interesting; I have no idea what the camps were like, but it can't have been all bad to spend the war in the company of other conscientious objectors.

feb 29, 2008, 1:39 pm

The camps weren't terrible according to Stafford, in fact I would say he enjoyed the brotherhood at the camp. When reading about their life inside the camp, I also thought of the sense of brotherhood that was shown int the show Band of Brothers. Each camp became a community and each member was committed to there sense of duty and each other. Again in much the same way that members of the military felt. Currently I am reading "Day" by A.L. Kennedy, where the main character was a member of WW2 plane crew. Ms. Kennedy does I think accuratly writes the sense of community men feel in both a militarty unit and in this novel in a POW camp. Back in my past I felt a strong sense of community with my fellow soldiers in my unit in Vietnam. Hate the war, love the fellow soldiers.

mar 1, 2008, 9:25 pm

What an interesting insight, Michael! I remember being struck by the closing episode of Ken Burns' series on the Civil War. He showed a clip of some Civil War soldiers (from both North and South) re-enacting a charge, and then talking about their feelings about the reunion they were attending. They no longer considered each other enemies. Somehow, the value of the intense comradeship stayed with them, while the hatreds that gave rise to the whole conflict did not. I wonder if the conscientious objectors felt as intense a sense of community as soldiers develop. The feeling of being in a life-and-death situation might be necessary to create the intensity.

mar 14, 2008, 11:26 am

Currently reading If on a winter's night a traveler. It's fantastic. My mind is being blown.

Redigeret: mar 14, 2008, 8:08 pm

I just finished The Mulberry Empire by Philip Hensher, about the disastrous British occupation of Afghanistan in, if I recall correctly, 1839. It was surprisingly slow moving considering the inherent drama of the events themselves. But I'm not sorry to have read it. Hensher's focus was on how the British came to make such a foolish mistake - his thesis seems to be that it just sort of percolated up from the arrogant assumptions of a populace too much in denial about the pain in their own lives to think clearly about the lives of other people. It was published in August of 2002, so it was written well before the Iraq war began, and almost surely before 9/11 and the war in Afghanistan, as well. So there's a prescient quality to it.

Now I'm reading Pope Joan, which I have read before, and trading off with an excellent book integrating Buddhist thought with modern cognitive psychology, The Lost Art of Compassion by Lorne Ladner.

mar 15, 2008, 7:37 am

I'm about 2/3 of the way through Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco and have a couple of stories left in Haruki Murakami's The Elephant Vanishes. I listen to unabridged audiobooks and have reached disc 10 of 18 in David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas The smallest room has Charlie Brooker's Screen Burn, a collection of his TV criticism from The Guardian Guide, in it.

mar 15, 2008, 1:50 pm

i'm on the last cd of the audio book version of the painter of battles by arturo perez-reverte. a former war photographer, who retires to do a mural about the horrors of war, receives a visit from one of the subjects of his photographs who announces that he is going to kill him. it is essentially a novel of ideas, and a meditation on painting and photography. i find myself liking the book despite myself. the meditations are somewhat grandiose and not very impressive. his understanding of painting is very limited. even though he tries to depict war as absurd, the tone of the book overall is very romantic. and yet i like the characters and their relations. the war episodes are very vivid, which is not surprising considering that perez-reverte was a war correspondent before becoming a novelist.

mar 24, 2008, 3:17 pm

I just finished A Woman in Jerusalem by A B Yehoshua, and found it to be a very powerful and moving book. One of the themes, at least for me, was the fear of dying and no one missing you. The plot is that a woman is killed in a terroist attack in Jerusalem and her body is unclaimed. A newspaper runs a story on the woman, the only evidence is a payroll stub. The owner of the business concerned over the bad imiage has his human resource manager learn why no one claimed her body. We learn that this woman of course did touch people's lives even after her death. And that this woman had a very rich and complex life. Yet, perhaps because I am single with no family and getting up there age wise, that fear of dying and no one noticing is at least part of me. I highly recommend this book and anything written by Yehoshua.

Redigeret: mar 24, 2008, 6:21 pm

For me, it's the fear of dying and not having done anything significant to leave the world a better place than I found it. I have to admit, there is a good deal of egotism mixed into the "altruism" there. I know I've done many things over the course of my life that have given people happiness. Is it more important to publish a book with my name on it that the critics will ooh and aah over and the public will clasp to its collective bosom as a bestseller (often mutually exclusive phenomena), than to leave a bunch of people happier than I found them but in such a subtle way that they don't recall me specifically? I have to say no. But there's still a part of me that wants the recognition.

It sounds like A Woman in Jerusalem is very similar thematically to The Bridge of San Luis Rey.

apr 1, 2008, 10:36 am

Last night I read Symposium of the dialogues of Plato, this dialogue was discussed in the novel A Woman in Jerusalem. The dialogue is about what Plato, in the form of Socrates believed what the nature of love is. The bottom line it seems that he hoped that love is the spirit that encourages us to be better then what we are. To act for the good of the other, a spouse, a community, the nation. What I found interesting however at the end of the dialogue, Alcibiades shows up, as usual drunk. Alcibiades in Greek history was sort of a male version of Ms. Spears. Anyway Alcibiades in his drunk fastion tells everyone how much he loves Socrates and how he once attempted to "sleep with him". Socrates does not return his love. I think what Plato was showing here, is yes love can at its best a force or spirit that gets each of us in touch with or better nature, love can also be base and show our Alcibiades side.

apr 1, 2008, 12:39 pm

Symposium sounds delightful! I have just ordered it. Although now I am just cracking open The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett. So, I guess I will be getting lost in fantasy and enlightened!

apr 2, 2008, 8:52 pm

margad, do you think it is better to be George or Harry Bailey? (It's a Wonderful Life)

Redigeret: apr 3, 2008, 5:23 pm

while working in my studio i've been listening to the audio book for point to point navigation by gore vidal. i suppose that is the main course.

for side dish, on the train i've been reading some random essays from reported sightings by john ashbery. he was mentioned often in that new art city book and i was curious. on the train i've also been nibbling on a book of luminous things. a poetry anthology that i had read eons ago but i've seen mentioned so many times since i joined this site that i decided to pick up again. i've also got a bunch of art books from the library just to look at the images.

apr 4, 2008, 12:54 am


Thank you for this invitation. I cannot wait to wade through every one of these posts. For now, I've skipped to the bottom to say I just finished Gail Levin's biography on Edward Hopper: An Intimate Biography. He helped me break through my artist's block and I now have 3 watercolors in progress. My work may be viewed on www.recollections54.com. I've also decided to fly to Chicago to see his retrospective at the Art Institute. I'm thrilled to read all of you, and am overwhelmed to read the statement introducing this group--the statement that "drew me in." Art is my life--visual, literary, musical. I teach the Humanities because art is all I can think about and practice. I'm ready to resume reading volume 3 of Richardson's Picasso biography, but also wish to go back into what I've read over the past 9 months and try somehow to consolidate those riches. Maybe this group will help me stay with it. As to the recent past, I've been through the 2-volume Matisse by Spurling, Rothko by Breslin, and DeKooning by Stevens and Swan. These are a few of my guiding spirits in this enterprise.

apr 4, 2008, 1:01 am

Hello xenchu,

I just read your post and your connection to Edward Hopper and Vincent Van Gogh. What timing. I just finished a Hopper biography, and just tonight completed a slide lecture on Van Gogh that I'm presenting to a high school class in the morning. I'm glad to meet someone else who connects to some of my favorite artistic spirits.

Redigeret: apr 5, 2008, 2:40 pm

Finished reading Joseph Kerman's "Opera and the Morbidity of Music " which I got as an Early Reviewer. Posted my review/sent a copy to publisher/was pleased to get a thank-you in response. So for contrast I picked 3 at random from library (en route home from Brunch) and will try "Still Life with Elephant," by Judy Reene Singer, "Consequences," by Penelope Lively, +/or "Digging to America," by Anne Tyler.

apr 6, 2008, 8:05 pm

Theresa #184 - Oh dear, I've never seen "It's a Wonderful Life." I know, I know, it's on TV every year in the Christmas season, probably more than once, how could I miss it? And it's not even that I eschew TV. I've put in my time as a couch potato.

I remember The Symposium quite distinctly, though it's been decades since I read it in college. Alcibiades was of course hopelessly uncouth - but to a girl in her late teens, there was also something thrilling about him. Not unlike James Dean, perhaps. I always preferred Aristotle to Socrates. He seemed more level-headed. It's not that I'm opposed to Plato's mysticism. It's the way he denigrates matters of flesh and earth as mere illusion. Impermanent, yes, I would say with the Buddhists. Illusion, no.

apr 7, 2008, 4:43 pm

margad: It's a Wonderful Life is such a great American Fable. It's up there with A Christmas Carol for me. If you look deeply into the heart of the story, it is about quiet heroism, about the miraculous that happens every day without our knowing or noticing it. George Baily literally wakes up from a lifelong slumber, but it takes his near-suicide to make this happen. It is also about adjusting one's expectations in middle age. It is about how we are all connected. I just love it. I've always thought the contrasting tale to It's a Wonderful Life is The Fisher King. Whereas George Baily puts out ripples of hope (as Bobby Kennedy said), Jack in The Fisher King puts out negativity and his acts have tragic consequences. I like to talk about the two works together in certain classes that I teach.

apr 8, 2008, 11:44 am

Having read 3 books (picked at random from nearby library: see #188 for titles) I now know why I prefer to reread books on my own shelves at home!

apr 8, 2008, 2:19 pm

Yesterday I finished The Wal-Mart Effect which is completely depressing, so I started Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman & now I've started Anita Shreve's Body surfing from the library.
Esta, Ann tyler is a favorite of mine, but Digging to America was a disappointment.

apr 10, 2008, 10:38 am

I just finished A Personal Matter by kenzaburo Oe. The book was written in the early 60's, the main character, "Bird" starts off as a anti-hero, running from his life, dreaming of going to Africa. His wife has a baby, it is deformed, and now Bird must either step up to the plate and become an adult or lose his soul. Thankfully he becomes an adult. However I think this book is more about Japan and the Japanese culture. Japan was coming to grips with its involvement in WW2 the war was the deforming, becoming the father was and is the accepting the responsibility for the war. Oe is a powerful writer and I enjoyed this book on a number of levels.

apr 10, 2008, 5:50 pm

What an insightful analysis, Michael!

apr 27, 2008, 9:06 pm

I am almost finished with Doctor Faustus by Thomas Mann. I find it a very hard read, because of the style, each sentense is so full, like rich chocolate cake. However the story is very good, the novel, it finally dawned on me, it a story of passion. What is passion, this seems to be the issue that Mann is exploring. Passion that can create great art, music, science but can also cause destroy and be the cause of death and pain.

apr 28, 2008, 5:24 pm

I see that theme of the glories and the dangers of passion in so many works, Michael. You have stated it beautifully in regard to Doctor Faustus. In one of my classes this semester we looked at Ovid's Icarus and then compared with Auden's "Musee Des Beaux Arts" and Sexton's "To a Friend Whose Work Has Come to Triumph." Ovid seems to be warning about the destructiveness of passion, but Sexton decries mediocrity, focusing instead on the intenseness of experience or the imagination that brings about great works. Who cares if Icarus failed, she says. He knew the experience of tunneling into the hot eye of the sun.

maj 1, 2008, 6:29 pm

Reading Middlemarch for a group read.

maj 14, 2008, 5:30 pm

I am finishing a biography of Edward Hopper, the artist, perhaps best know for Nighthawks. I really love his work, I think Hopper caputures the lonlinees of modern culture in a very powerful way, yet after reading about him, I think in real life he was a jerk! He was politically very conservitive, a sexist, didn't think women were capable of being artist, and he certainly wasn't very nice to his wife. His wife, Jo, was a artist when they meet, they got married when there both 40, he discourage her working, he was faithful, but at times abusive, won't let her drive the car for example. It makes me reflex on the reality that what people create is not necessary a reflection of who they are. Or perhaps when we look at art we see what we want not what the artist sees.

Redigeret: maj 14, 2008, 10:39 pm

I couldn't agree with you more, Michael. He's one of my favorite painters, but I cringed at every detail of his personal life. Was it the Gail Levin biography you read (Edward Hopper: An Intimate Portrait)? I finished that one about a month ago, just before going to the Art Institute of Chicago to see his show. At any rate, I also love the work of Andrew Wyeth and Pablo Picasso, and like very little of what I read concerning their treatment of family, business associates and friends. With Hopper I keep returning to the solitude vs. loneliness debate. Paul Tillich refers to those respectively as the glory vs. the cross of the individual. When I look at a Hopper, I vacillate between the sublime and the depression--the dual nature of the creative individual.

maj 15, 2008, 12:16 am

#199: Fascinating discussion of the solitude vs Loneliness idea. I just mentioned it on the INFP site in reference to J. D. Salinger! What connected me to Salinger's work was the way his characters navigated that terrain.

I don't know much about Hopper. Why do you "cringe", D.?

maj 15, 2008, 7:33 am

Why did I cringe? Well, before I read the biography, I only knew that his artistic work eclipsed hers, and she became his model and secretary, so to speak. It wasn't until I read Gail Levin's work that I learned of their physical fights--he was 6'7", she was tiny. He slapped her with his open hand, one time even dragged her by her hair out of the car. His verbal abuse was horrible--he belittled her artistic ability, often in front of other artists he put her work down. He demanded she do the wifely things--cooking, answering the phone, cleaning up he house. He thought women were too incompetent to drive automobiles, and always fought with her over their own vehicle. I was appalled, knowing his intellect, and insatiable scholarly appetite for philosophy, literature, his love of French, etc. I just couldn't believe he was such a bastard toward his wife. Those were details I didn't enjoy learning, but nevertheless they don't prevent me from tearing up when I stand in front of his work. I was just in a daze recently in Chicago, and could not tear myself away from his watercolors and oils. But I'm deeply saddened at his misery, and how it flowed out toward his wife, his soulmate.

maj 15, 2008, 9:39 am

I looked up that Levin bio. on Amazon. It does look fascinating, DM. It's always disappointing to find out that artists we love can be so flawed. I've been through it many times myself. Recently I've been reading about Robert Frost and how cruel he could be to his wife and children. I think it was the poet D. Walcott who said that Frost's poems cannot redeem the person, but we can still love the poems. I guess this is also what me must do with Hopper.

So many people have said to me, "I used to like _____'s work until I found out _____." And I say that pretty soon we won't have any art to enjoy, because artists are human beings and humans are complicated.

DM, did the book say whether or not Hopper was bi polar? I think Frost must have been.

maj 15, 2008, 11:52 am

I don't recall Levin mentioning Hopper as bi-polar. He was clearly depressed, and had so much trouble staying motivated to paint. He was a bibliophile and found it easier to read another book than to start a new canvas. I certainly know what that's all about, but I stay too busy with teaching to be depressed.

I appreciate your remark about running out of art to enjoy if we write off every artist with character flaws. Right now, I am hard-pressed to think of a creative spirit who hasn't had his/her character faults published.

maj 15, 2008, 12:01 pm

i'd like to say that knowing the personality of the artist won't affect my appreciation of the art. the truth is that it does affect it, at least in the more extreme cases. i don't care if picasso was a jerk but what bernini did was criminal. and i still can't stand bing crosby.

maj 15, 2008, 12:54 pm

Most, if not all art is born of communication from the sub-conscious to the conscious. The problem is the niggling or raging need to SAY something, something which is undefined and directly inaccessible, but nevertheless whispers and screams its desire to find expression. The effort of chasing the thoughts or concepts, or images from the depths of the unconscious to the surface where it can be re-codified into a message that must be transmitted from consciousness to consciousness and then captured by the receiving sub-conscious would render anyone irritable, irascible, and just plain nasty sometimes. After all, art is probably the most difficult thing a human being does (except hitting a spherical object about 3" in diameter going 100+ mph thrown downhill at you from 60' 6").

Some use drink, some others, other drugs. Some have insufferable personalities. It takes a certain kind of person, with particular gifts to access and then make intelligible thoughts or images which present themselves in fleeting moments and then as ghosts. The image of the tortured artist is, alas, more than an image.

maj 15, 2008, 1:05 pm

it was the Gail Levin bio that I read. Ms. Levin did not talk or hint that Hopper had any mental illness. It should be noted that much of her bio comes from the journel of his wife but in the bottom line I think he was at times a jerk. I do like that he was a very well read jerk!

maj 15, 2008, 3:46 pm

This all reminds me of Jenkins's Gladstone. Not a single remark on mental illness... but the man was clearly bipolar.

Sometimes when you read it you can just tell. But then, I spend every moment of my life analyzing the symptoms...

maj 15, 2008, 10:33 pm

Yes, there's truth to the idea of the tortured artist. That's for sure. I wonder if Hopper is mentioned in Touched With Fire? I don't see my copy lying about at the moment.

I try to live according to Flaubert's dictum so far as I'm able: "Be regular and orderly in your life...so that you may be violent and original in your work."

But if someone held a magnifying glass up to my life, much of it wouldn't be very orderly, nor very pretty.

maj 18, 2008, 1:50 am

It has occurred to me from time to time that artists and writers often write most eloquently about the virtues they recognize as lacking or insufficiently developed in themselves. We're startled to find that a writer who is eloquent about the journey toward some variety of inner peace has been unable to attain that peace in his/her own life - but the art comes out of that longing for inner peace. A writer who had achieved that sense of peace would not necessarily need to write about it.

I'm not sure this principle applies squarely to Hopper, but the discussion here made me think of this. Someone so abusive must have been a deeply lonely person. And of course, his ability to convey the sense of loneliness in his work would speak to people who have struggled with loneliness for any number of different reasons.

maj 18, 2008, 10:34 am

margad, what a perceptive and beautiful comment. This makes a lot of sense to me.

maj 26, 2008, 2:43 pm

I just finished The Ginseng Hunter, a short but very beautiful novel. It is very sad but very wonderful. I highly recommend it.

jun 1, 2008, 2:55 pm

Reading Against the Day, Thomas Pynchon. Just finished part one. I am enjoying the ride. It's full of the usual Pynch-drunk madness, and I especially like his parody of Gilded Age style.

jun 10, 2008, 5:02 pm

I am finially finishing Ethics by Spinoza, started reading this a couple of years ago and found it so complex in its approach I gave up on it. Reading Spinoza is like reading a math proof, which of course is what he wanted. A friend told me, the last 1/4 of the book is well worth reading and she was right. The person Spinoza shows himself, a man that believed very passionity in reason and believed that if we used reason we could have a more just and humane world. You can't read huge sections of Spinoza, I can't, but he is well worth the effort

jun 14, 2008, 3:13 pm

I am reading Shakespeare by Anthony Burgess which was recommended to me on LT in another forum. So far I find it interesting and worthwhile. It is also well illustrated with photos and paintings.

jun 21, 2008, 8:48 pm

I just finished reading Ethics by Spinoza, a very hard but interesting read. What I came away with, if what is Spinoza's view of God? Like most philosophers Spinoza uses very focused writing, he wanted to clear what he was writing about and clear about what he wasn't talking about. The interesting thing to me, is that as he attempted to be very clear, he leaves the door open to interpretation. In my case what is God to Spinoza, he certainly does not share the current view of God being in a sense our best friend or the older brother or sister that will menter and at times protect us. Spinoza does believe that our relationship with God should be based on passion or emotions. To truly understand God is to developt our ability to reason. God seems to be the basic principals of the cosomos not in anyway a personal God. He believes, if I understand him, that when we by reason understand the principals of existence, we then understand God.

jun 26, 2008, 12:37 am

I just finished From Dead To Worse by Charlaine Harris. It was a light, fun read but she manages to keep my interest better than more 'serious' writers do.

Maybe I'm just shallow.

jul 5, 2008, 11:52 pm

I just finished reading Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson, it is a wonderful novel. An older man has moved to a remote cabin in Norway, he dicovers that his neighbor was his neighbor as a boy. The main character then remembers that summer when both of there lives changed. The theme of the book seems to come from the open line in Dickens's novel David Copperfield:
"Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages will show." The writer, Per Petterson, is exploring the idea that perhaps we not even the main character in our own life.

jul 8, 2008, 11:03 pm

The other day, I was sitting on a plane and a man took the aisle seat next to me. He glanced at my book and said, "This is the summer you read* Les Misérables."

"It sure is," I replied.

He shrugged. "We all had one."

*past tense

jul 9, 2008, 12:13 pm

Checked 4 out of local library: "Mister Pip" by Lloyd Jones, a lovely little book. "The Night Climbers" by Ivo Stourton,328 page shaggy-dog story. Now reading "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao" by Junot Diaz. (I'm 1/2 way thru and fascinated.) The fourth is "His Illegal Self," by Peter Carey.

jul 22, 2008, 5:43 pm

A co-worker loaned me a copy of Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom. To cut to the chase I don't like this book! Morrie is a very sympathetic character and the idea of the book seems to be heart touching. Mr. Albom spending Tuesdays with a former teacher that is dying. The book strikes me as one huge cliche. Mitch after spending this time with Morrie sees how superfical popular culture is, he memtions made for TV movies, yet the book reads as a made for TV movie. Now Mr. Albom, a sports writer, after his time with Morrie has learned the real values of life. Please! No doubt Morrie was a wonderful man and great teacher, but he was that way before he started dying of ALS, Morrie like most people died like he lived. Something that the author seems to never realize. We don't become saints or devils on our death bed. Actually you are more likely to become a devil, because of the pain or physcial changes you are going throught. My experience as a hospice worker is that people face death the same way they face any issue in there life. We do the best we can. The other big issue I have with the book, is that it implies that there is a good way of dying. Sort of this romantic sense when we die all will be seen and understood. I am not saying that for some people that doesn't happen, but again we die as we live. All of life is both magical and not magical, it just is. I have seen families spending time with a member that is dying and they hope for some resultion of years of anger, mistrust, fear, and even abuse to happen in the dying process. It does not happen. On the plus side I have seen families truly say good bye and to share moments of love in the dying process. But those families had done that there whole lives. I feel there is something very false about this book, it certainly lacks the honestly of The Year of Magical Thinking.

Redigeret: jul 27, 2008, 6:36 pm

Hi, Michael. I haven't read Tuesdays With Morrie - I had a feeling I wouldn't like it, for exactly the reasons you describe.

I've just finished reading a novel I can heartily recommend: Linda Proud's A Tabernacle for the Sun. I cannot fathom why it isn't more widely available. Some major New York publisher should pick it up. It's about philosophy and art at the beginning of the Renaissance. Art is Life folks probably wouldn't assume a book like this would be dry - and they'd be right. Proud has a gift for blending beautiful prose and one insight after another with a plot that keeps you reading to find out what happens next.

Edited to include a link to the review I've just posted on my Historical Novels website: www.HistoricalNovels.info.

Redigeret: aug 27, 2008, 5:37 pm

She, by H. Rider Haggard
and Watchmen.

aug 27, 2008, 7:11 pm

im currently reading flush have any of u read it and have u read the twilight series

aug 27, 2008, 11:31 pm

#223: As a general rule, we use punctuation and, uh, spell out the word "you." I did read Twilight, but none of the others in the series.

And, since I'm posting, I'm currently reading Barnaby Rudge.

aug 28, 2008, 10:59 am

#224 Some of us take a stab at using punctuation: sometimes more successfully than others. But I agree with the jist of your comment.

I just finished Midnight's Children for the Group Reads - Literature read, and am beginning The Book of the New Sun for the Group Reads - Sci Fi read.

aug 28, 2008, 7:45 pm

I just started reading Evil in Modern Thought an alternative history of philosophy by Susan Neiman. Ms. Neiman is a teacher of philosophy at the Einstein Forum in Germany. She is writing about how western philosophy attempted to understand evil. She uses two major events in history, the first is the Lisbon earthquake in the 18th century and Auschwitz. Different tradigies but both forced thinker, philosophers to exam how we should response. Ms. Neiman saids in the introduction, I found this to be very powerful: "The fact that the world contains neither justice nor meaning threatens our ability both to act in the world and to understand it." In a surprising way this is an uplifting book, not because there are answers but because there are attempts to look at the darkness and understand.

okt 2, 2008, 3:28 pm

I am almost done with The Captive and the Fugitive, vol 5 of Proust's In Search of Lost Time. This for me is the best of the volumes I've read so far. Perhaps I am learning how to read Proust, he demands total focus on his writing. This book brings up a number of issues that I am either involved in or very interested in. First the narrator is in I think a abusive relationship and he is the abuser. It is emotional abuse but abuse all the same. When she leaves him, she is killed in a accident and he now griefs. And finally desire is reawaken as he seeks to find love again. I work with a agency that helps women in DV situations, the Portland Women Crisis Line. So it was interesting to see the abuse situation from the abuser point of view. Of course he didn't think he was being abusive! I am also a hospice volunteer, so how he coped with her death, I think Proust was very accurate about both issues, abuse and grief. I also think Proust accuratly describes how desire comes into our life again and how powerful it is.

okt 3, 2008, 11:58 am

I am currently reading Graham Greene's Our Man in Havana. A very interesting book. On one level it's almost funny, on another level Greene plays with how what we think creates our reality and how reality responds. I'm not finished yet (hope to finish today), but this one will be worth a review.

okt 3, 2008, 1:07 pm

I finished the group read Kristin Lavransdatter It is such a powerful book, I can't seem to pick anything to read after it. This was my 2nd. reading, the1st was in 1981 with a different translation. Both were good. But it's time to leave the 14th century & return to the 21st.

okt 5, 2008, 10:30 pm

I'm on to The Revolution Betrayed by Leon Trotsky. Waiting for the next group read.

okt 18, 2008, 6:14 pm

The Location of Culture by Homi K. Bhabha. Finished reading Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbervilles just last week. My brain is leaking, between those two.

nov 4, 2008, 7:11 pm

Emerson, by Lawrence Buell. When Nietzsche Wept by irvin D. Yalom. Anti-Semite and Jew by Jean-Paul Sartre.

nov 5, 2008, 9:50 pm

Thus Spoke Zorathustra

nov 22, 2008, 2:46 pm

I just finished Death With Interrupations by Jose Saramago. This is the most increditable and powerful novel that I have read in a long time!! This is a myth is way that Joseph Campbell wrote of myths, a way to talk about something that we can't talk about directly. Of course the novel explores how society deals with death, how each of us deal with death, but he talks about how death deals with death. This is a very short novel, 237 pages, but so very rich. The main character is death and what a complex character she is

nov 22, 2008, 2:46 pm

I just finished Death With Interrupations by Jose Saramago. This is the most increditable and powerful novel that I have read in a long time!! This is a myth is way that Joseph Campbell wrote of myths, a way to talk about something that we can't talk about directly. Of course the novel explores how society deals with death, how each of us deal with death, but he talks about how death deals with death. This is a very short novel, 237 pages, but so very rich. The main character is death and what a complex character she is

dec 8, 2008, 9:12 pm

Just finished reading Nothing to be Frightened of by Julian Barnes. I seem to be on a theme in my reading, Julian in his early 60's is relexing on death, the existance of God, and does life have any lasting meaning. Themes I've been thinking a lot on. Does life have core meaning, I wish I had the words to express this. Is there anything at the core of existance. I also read and was very moved by The First Duino Elegy by Rainer Maria Rilke, he expressed in that first poem my sense of how fleeting all existance is. Is there anything behind the fleeting?

dec 9, 2008, 9:24 am

While well into Irvin D. Yalom's Existential Psychiatry (I had just finished "Part I, Death"), I bought a copy of his Mamma and the Meaning of Life (more autobiographical, citing case studies Yalom is a professor of psychiatry at Stanford) and have, just now, finished reading that, which has aided me tremendously in understanding his Existential Psychiatry.

feb 12, 2009, 2:38 pm

In celebration of Valetine's Day, I am reading the journal of Anais Nin (what a beautiful name, Anais) Henry and June. I just started it but already it started me thinking about the tension between the desire for freedom and the responsiblity of love. Anais writes that she loves her husband, a banker just irony there, and yet she wants to be free. She feels that as a writer she should have freedom, to fully experience life. She wants to have sex with anyone that she desires, in this case Henry Miller and his wife June, but she knows this will hurt a man she loves, her husband. I was once so many years ago with a woman that shared Anais desires for freedom. For so many years I could only see the pain that cause me reading Anais it a real awaking to see the conflict it it caused Anais and I am sure the woman I was with at the time.

Redigeret: feb 12, 2009, 7:15 pm

feb 12, 2009, 10:16 pm

Lark Rise to Candelford with the Virago people

mar 30, 2009, 4:09 pm

I just started "Loneliness as a Way of Life" by Thomas Dumm. This is a topic that holds a lot of interest for me. While I enjoy being alone, which of course is different then loneliness, I discover myself not in a state of being alone but in loneliness. As I said I just started this book, to be honest I don't like the writing he seems to write around the issue not taking the issue directly. Anyway I hope that he does speak directly to the topic. One thing he did say, which I found to be true, that loneliness seems to build on itself. When we in the state of loneliness we feel trapped there with no hope of escaping. Remains me a little of Kierkegaard talking about depair.

mar 31, 2009, 12:21 am

just finished reading out stealing horses by per petterson. one of the best fiction books i've read in quite a while. an old man remembers traumatic events in the summer of 1948, his adolescence and his father. that doesn't quite describe the book but can't really say much more without giving the plot away. very evocative. very very evocative. i'm glad to see that so many people in the website seem to agree.

mar 31, 2009, 12:52 am


I'm intrigued by your book, and would be interested in hearing how your reading of it progresses. The theme is one that draws me in, and I've enjoyed Paul Tillich's sermon "Loneliness and Solitude" (in his book The Eternal Now), and Anthony Storr's book "Solitude: Man's Search for Himself." I haven't yet given Kierkegaard the attention that I believe he deserves, and hope to correct that by this summer, when my own activities let up somewhat.

Thanks for sharing.

mar 31, 2009, 7:46 am

Coming off Great Expectations, which did not rock my world, I swung way the hell in the other direction and am reading Infinite Jest. Jury's still out -- I might like more economic word usage but on the other hand DFW's making me a little dizzy with this one and dizzy's good. Despite his suicidal tendencies, I trust the man and am willing to go where he wants to go. We'll see.

apr 3, 2009, 12:59 am

From the library The Poet of Tolstoy Park by Sonny Brewer. . . Tho a novel it is an account of a real person, Henry James Stuart, who lived the final years of his life in a totally unpredictable way. (The book is short and worth your time, I think.)

Redigeret: jul 13, 2009, 7:06 am

Currently re-reading The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy. While in Berlin recently visiting my daughter (and gaining a beautiful new granddaughter and an almost equally beautiful new German son-in-law) I borrowed it from the 'books in English' part of their home library. I bought the book for myself as soon as I got home a few weeks ago as I found the writing so superb and I needed to go through and savour it and underline great tracts of the text in pencil, which of course, one can't do in someone else's books.

By the way, Theresa, did you know that there was an exhibition, Rothko/Giotto, which was on at the Gemaldegalerie in Berlin while I was there although, sadly, I just couldn't find the time to see it. It highlighted the influence of Giotto on Rothko's art. The info is here at the gallery website: http://www.smb.museum/smb/kalender/details.php?objID=21386〈=en&typeId=10

jul 13, 2009, 8:07 pm

Hamlet in Purgatory by Stephen Greenblatt

jul 14, 2009, 10:01 pm

Rereading "Herself Surprised" by Joyce Cary.

jul 15, 2009, 12:22 am

I like books that are literary, well written, beautiful, funny and moving. Comedy is important to me-- but then, I think Kafka's {Metamorphosis} is hilarious-- and so did Kafka.

Am currently reading {Home Repair} by {Liz Rosenberg}-- book which fits into all my favorites and reqirements, above. Loved all the characters, even the walk-ons were full of life. I agree with the idea that all characters should be well-rounded-- these were. Loved where it takes place, too, a gloomy small upstate NY city.

Am also reading {The Guernsey Literary and Potato peel Pie Society} and am sure I just spelled the title wrong-- again, a book that mixes hilarity with the deep sadness of loss from a war. Many characters here as well, and a great sense of community. Made me want to get on a plane and go to Guernsey.

Finally am also reading {Olive Kittridge} --beautiful writing! Alas I am hearing an abridged version so worry what I may be missing. But I like it, it's very fine-tuned and subtle.

jul 23, 2009, 7:13 am

"The Gift of Therapy" by Irvin D. Yalom.

jul 27, 2009, 10:55 pm

Alas, I am reading the manuscript of an unpublishable book written by a friend who admits "sometimes I can't read it". . . . What do I say to her when she visits in 2 weeks?

aug 4, 2009, 3:00 pm

"The Hedgehog and the Fox" by Isaiah Berlin.

aug 4, 2009, 7:55 pm

Olive Kitteridge was one of the best-written books I've read this year. Try to find an un-abridged version, it's worth it.

aug 5, 2009, 6:33 pm

Based on your recommendation, I checked out reviews on Amazon and ordered it.

aug 6, 2009, 1:14 pm

I just finished the reading mentioned above #251 (of truly unpublishable manuscript) and am waiting for advice on how to talk to its author who comes soon to visit!

aug 6, 2009, 1:38 pm

I would say, if she can't read the manuscript, how can she expect anyone else to.

aug 6, 2009, 1:53 pm


first, thank your friend for trusting you with their manuscript. next, try to find any part or theme or character in the manuscript that may have some value if brought back to life in a new manuscript, then find a way to compliment your friends imagination, or perseverence, or maybe even their boldness. Most of all, remember that anyone who hands you a manuscript instead of sending it to a publisher is not really looking for you to help them prepare it for publication. if you find a few things positive to say about the story, without lying, your friend will appreciate that. and, even more, if you're lucky, they will notice what you dont say and appreciate your holding back.

remember, it's not your job as a friend to tell them they're not a very good writer. your job is to be their friend.

good luck!

aug 7, 2009, 9:07 am

The Full Room (Plays and Playwrights) by Dominic Dromgoole

aug 14, 2009, 11:41 pm

I'm reading The Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian. Has anyone else here read this? I'm not sure I like it - he's using Gatsby as though it's nonfiction. The main character comes from West Egg, belonged to a country club that was once Gatsby's house, is trying to figure out how to get hold of Tom and Daisy's daughter Pamela...

It's well-written and seems thus far to be a good story, but I'm not sure I can make it through without eventually throwing the book at the wall in frustration.

Redigeret: aug 18, 2009, 11:41 am

The Essential Tillich: An Anthology of the Writings of Paul Tillich, by T. Forrester Church

aug 21, 2009, 12:11 am

Denne meddelelse er blevet slettet af dens forfatter.

aug 21, 2009, 2:08 pm

Olive Kitteridge: Fiction, by Elizabeth Strout

maj 22, 2010, 5:15 pm

I just finished Rebecca Goldstein's 36 Arguments for the Existance of God. Ms. Goldstein's novel is about a college teacher that writes a book about the 36 arguments for the existance of God and how those arguments are flawed, this book becomes a best seller and he becomes rich and famous. The book is a novel of ideas, about religion, scholarship, and philosophy. In the novel there are many references to William James. However I think Ms. Goldstein could have paid more attention to Henry James. While the many important ideas are explored, the characters are flat and at times one diminisional. There parts of wonderful writing and the characters are more full but for the most part no. I think that writers like Henry James pay attention to the small details. Ms. Goldstein, perhaps like William James, is more interested in the big picture

maj 22, 2010, 5:51 pm

Also Out of god's Closet, by Stephen Uhl: an autobiographical account of a Catholic priest, who while meditating on Saint Augustine's "proof" of God's existence began his slide into agnosticism thence into an atheist proselyte.

maj 22, 2010, 8:10 pm

That's one reason I get my faith directly from the Bible. All religious writing has an agenda, and the only way I can be sure what I am reading is God's agenda is to read it from God's book. I am not advocating Sola Scriptura, just saying that if you are reading someone else's idea of Christianity, keep in mind they may or may not be on the right path, depending on their agenda.

maj 23, 2010, 8:10 am

Or their "book" of myths.

Redigeret: jul 10, 2010, 11:27 am

It's been a long time since I've posted here. Today I entered thirty-eight more books into my LibraryThing, and then realized I had not been participating in the chats.

So. With a long-anticipated summer vacation in full swing, I have been able to immerse myself in some quality reading and reflection (although most of it has been on a plane or in hotel rooms). Three books are stirring me in ways that I haven't experienced in a number of years. As a full-time school teacher, I find it difficult to pursue my passion as a watercolorist, though I do manage to squeeze out studio time in the evenings and on weekends. Of course, reading then suffers.

So, with no classes to pursue this summer, and travel continually taking me out of the studio, I have managed to listen carefully while following the texts of these three: Creative Authenticity, by Ian Roberts, The View from the Studio Door, by Ted Orland, and Art & Fear, by David Bayles & Ted Orland. These books are not written for the blocked artist, but for the prolific artist seeking to find his/her own voice. I have read several works intended to stimulate the artist seeking inspiration. I'm not discounting those works; it's just that I never had problem finding inspiration. Rather, I've felt the isolation and need for communion with others who were indeed making art. These three books indeed delivered. I wish I could sit over coffee with these writers, but at least I've been able to find considerable enrichment and a sense of connectedness by reading their texts.

jul 10, 2010, 12:20 pm

Poetry! On my desk: six (6!) books of poetry from Copper Canyon Press. . . I have reviewed Connie Wanek's "On Speaking Terms." Waiting are Jon Davis, Heather McHugh, Chase Twitchell, Stephen Dobyns, and Lucia Perillo. (I'll have more time for poetry after World Cup finals.)

jul 11, 2010, 12:41 am

Poetry and World Cup Finals.
Only at Librarything. eeek

jul 16, 2010, 4:25 pm

Like David it's been some time since I last wrote on this site. It's a Friday afternoon and work is slow and when it's done my vacation starts! I am going to Seattle for a few days. Taking the train from Portland, very excited to ride a ferry visit the Seattle art museum, go to Pike's Market. To stay a nice hotel. Anyway I am almost done with Augustus a novel by John Williams. John Williams is such an overlooked American writer it's sad that he is not better know. The story is about Ocgavius Caesar, from his teen age years to the end of his life. The story is told by many different characters, all real historical characters, by journal letters reports. The most interesting person, for me, is Julia, Augustus' daughter. Her story is the journal she keep. I wonder if there is real journal.
Back to John Williams, while this is a nice story, his nover Stoner is one the best novels I've read. Have a great summer everyone!

jul 25, 2010, 12:44 pm

Got in late, late last night from an Oklahoma-Missouri-Iowa-Arkansas sweep, and slept the sleep of the dead (solo road trip leaves me pretty weary, having no relief-driver). Thought it's nearly noon, I feel like the dawn is beginning to break. Because of my recent watercolor activity, I have re-visited some Historic Route 66 landmarks, and got hooked again. Just finished painting some sites west of St. Louis where I just returned from a meaningful road trip. Now I'm preparing to visit some Texas landmarks in the vicinity of Amarillo, while en route to Colorado. On my return, I hope I'll get over to New Mexico and revisit some of those historic sites as well. The books that are holding my attention now are "Route 66 in the Missouri Ozarks" and "Route 66 in St. Louis," both purchased in a St. Louis county Barnes & Noble. Also I have re-opened my "Route 66 Lost and Found" that I purchased a few years ago, and the road trip fever has me re-reading William Least Heat-Moon's "Blue Highways." So, plenty of repeats, but new ideas coming to the surface. I've always had this thing about re-reading books from the past that gave me new ideas. They just have a way of continuing to give.

jul 25, 2010, 1:12 pm

Both going to Guam in 1953 and returning in 1957 we took US 66 from someplace in Ohio where we picked it up (Chillicothee, maybe) past Needles to Barstow. It was some trip. Took about four days. Most of the larger towns and cities we passed through had MAJOR highway construction going on, building roads that would make trips like that a distant memory (Thank you, Ike). I remember in Texas and Oklahoma there would be a small town every few miles with a series of speed limit signs slowing you down coming into town, and another set speeding you up going out of town. It would have driven me nuts had I been driving.

jul 25, 2010, 1:55 pm

A daughter & I drove from OH to Riverside CA in 1975 in a beat up Ford Falcon which daughter had bought in OH. She was stationed at March AF Base. My sister-in-law also & part of her family were living in Riverside. I had never been to. CA.
WE picked up 40 before Dayton. I was driving when we crossed the Missippi at St. Louis & we were so excited looking at all the scenery we ended up headed for Kansas City. (We didn't have a map, friends had given us directions.) So we turned around & picked up 44 which pretty much followed the old 66. At that time, 44 wasn't completed, there were places where we traveled on old 2 lane 66. We stayed in Motels in Arkansas & New Mexico. The door brok on the Falcon & we borrowed a rope to tie it shut, we had to get in & out on the passenger side. We drove thru the Mohave without A/C, saw the giant thermometer at Needles, had some kind of trouble at Barstow which was fixed at a garage while we waited. We drove through the Pass that leads down into the Valley after dark with all the lights of southern California spread out before us. (Can't remember how to spell the name of that famous pass) It was around 2:am in Riverside & cousin Pat was so excited to see us she grabbed the broken door & the whole thing came off in her hand! so
we were welcomed to CA. I stayed a week or so, then flew the red-eye from LAX back to Cleveland. Oldest daughter picked me up in Cleveland.
I can't hear an Elton John song without thinking about that trip. The AM stations changed from town to town, but it was Elton singing all the way.

jul 29, 2010, 3:12 am

It's been a long time since I've visited LT; just been so busy with school, traveling, and writing. In my lap right now is Essential Haiku by Hass: a book I keep coming to again and again and again and again.

Redigeret: jul 29, 2010, 8:49 pm

Somewhere, hidden in the various TBR stacks, I have Essential Haiku, and would be inerested in your reactions to it.

Right now, I am deep into Rober G. Solomon's Existentialism.

jul 30, 2010, 10:44 pm

Essential Haiku is a wonderful book; it has a good amount of information in it about Haiku and about the authors (Basho, Buson, Issa). The translations are good. I always grab it first when I want to get into a haiku frame of mind, then migrate to Zen Poetry: Let the Spring Breeze Enter and my two books with works by Ryokan: One Robe, One Bowl and Dewdrops on a Lotus Leaf. I was excited recently to find a used copy of Blythe's book on haiku (volume 1) at a reasonable price on Amazon. I would love to have the full set, but it is out of print and the other volumes are very expensive.

jul 31, 2010, 7:03 pm

i'm about to finish fathers and sons. i've also been nibbling on poetry by nazim hikmet, cavafy and rilke.

aug 18, 2010, 12:22 am

If anyone likes the painter Edward Hopper's "Nighthawks," I'm more than halfway through Gordon Theisen's "Staying Up Much Too Late: Edward Hopper's NIGHTHAWKS and the Dark Side of the American Psyche." One critic refers to Hopper's "Nighthawks" as "imbued with the underhistory of America. We live in the loneliest country on Earth." Theisen draws richly from literature and cinema as he explores this theme of the diner and its place in American culture, and of course displays a well-researched knowledge of Hopper's personal life. I'm finding the book to be a very engaging read, especially late at night as I try to "psyche" myself into beginning another year at school.

aug 18, 2010, 12:21 pm

I'm reading Aubrey Menen non-stop.

aug 18, 2010, 5:09 pm

I'm reading William Manchester's American
Caesar the biography of Gen. MacArthur. I was hoping he might give some insight on the coup to get rid of President Roosevelt, but he skips that sour note in the generals career - he is in Washington , then transferred to the Philipines. The Pacific War has always interested me, & this bio. is Manchester at his best.

aug 22, 2010, 8:17 pm

"POPISM: The Warhol Sixties." Last spring I heard four lectures from TCU's Professor Mark Thiselthwaite on the Andy Warhol phenomenon. The event was in conjunction with a fabulous show at the Fort Worth Modern Art Museum: "Warhol: The Final Decade." Finally this afternoon I found the volume on a shelf at Border's Books. Sat down and read the first chapter, then got up and bought it. Having trouble putting it down tonight. I enjoyed so much reading "Factory Made" several summers ago, and recently bought the "Andy Warhol Giant." Cannot read enough about him and the Pop Art movement.

aug 26, 2010, 2:30 am

Gordon Theisen's book sounds fabulous. I think I'll look for that one. I have finally gotten all four volumes on Haiku by R. H. Blyth. It's good for the soul.

sep 28, 2010, 11:19 pm

I really enjoyed a summer on the road, and re-read Kerouac accordingly. Now, with school in high gear, my road trips are sharply curtailed. But I am nevertheless drawing rich inspiration from John Leland's "Why Kerouac Matters: The Lessons of On the Road (They're Not What You Think)" published by Penguin Books. In the spring I'll have to pick up a Humanities elective, both at the high school and the university, and I think that this book will force me to add a serious Jazz unit to follow my Blues piece. I've always wanted to do the art, literature, music and philosophy surrounding the Jazz Age, but never took the time to assemble the pieces. This book certainly has me wanting to try.

okt 4, 2010, 6:26 pm

I love Edward Hopper's Nighthawks, I do believe that picture does express the lonelist on the human experience especially in this country. I am interested in finding Theisen's book. In the bio I read on Hopper, he was very politically conserviative. I wonder if that how he comes across in this book. He wasn't the nicest husband. I do love his (Hopper) work.

okt 5, 2010, 1:06 am

Are you speaking of the Gail Levin biography? I read that one and hated finding out about Hopper's treatment of his wife, as well as his general political views. Nevertheless there are quite a few others out there (Picasso, Pollock, deKooning) who also turn me off with their personal traits, nevertheless I love their body of work. The Theisen work provides some Hopper biography, but not enough to supplement the extensive work of Levin. But there are some great critiques of cinema and American literature that make this book worthy of reading.

Redigeret: okt 7, 2010, 7:13 pm

Gordon Theisen, in "Staying Up Much Too Late: Edward Hopper's NIGHTHAWKS and the Dark Side of the American Psyche", brings out, that, through the act of nostalgia, we might permanently stop time, by looping back to another era, thus we put off the inevitability when we must "Unburdened crawl toward death" Shakespeare: King Lear, act I, scene 1; thus here we encounter the most pervasive existential anxiety DEATH; and then we are faced with the existential isolation (loneliness) anxiety, which lights "fools the way to dusty death" Shakespeare: Macbeth, Act V, scene 5

okt 5, 2010, 9:31 pm

Finished Lucky Jim a relaxing interlude as I'm now starting Under a Green Sky a study of global warming run amok.

okt 26, 2010, 3:34 pm

I am currently reading The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver. I am really enjoying reading about the relationship between Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo. Becoming a huge fan of Frida! She was a amazing woman and painter. Diego was a womanize and of course had the double strandard. He was also a great painter, Frida was strong enough to stand up to him on both fronts. It must be said that Diego was very supportive of her art work. The novel looks at the connection between art and politics. Both were communist. Yet both opposed Stalin and supported Trotsky. I wonder what would have happen if Trotsky came into power after Lenin

okt 26, 2010, 8:27 pm

Rereading "The Sixteen Pleasures" Robert Hellenga's first novel as I prepare to review his newest, "The Snakewoman of Little Egypt" (Early Reviewer copy).

Redigeret: okt 27, 2010, 12:29 pm

"Stronger Than Iron", also an Early Reviewer copy.

nov 24, 2010, 2:35 pm

Currently reading Frida A Biography of Frida Kahlo, fell in love with her after reading Lacuna. Seems many people loved her! She is a interesting exciting wonderful artist. I find her relationship with Diego so interesting, reminds me a lot the relationship of Sartre and Simone

nov 24, 2010, 4:33 pm

Please keep us posted. I would love to know more. I never went very far in exploring the relations of Simone and Jean-Paul, or Georgia and Alfred for that matter. I have decided it is time to explore the paintings of Georgia and Frida (something else I have never gotten around to doing) and figure that I would do well to start with biographies on them.

dec 29, 2010, 6:00 pm

I finished the biography of Frida Kahlo, now reading Georgia O'Keefe A Life by Roxana Robinson, thank you David for the recommendation. It's very interesting reading about the cultural difference that happened in the 10 years between Ms. O'Keefe birth and Ms. Kahlo birth. While both women are strong and independent, both had to deal with the cultural image of what a woman should be and how they should act. It seems to me that Ms. O'Keefe lived in a time that women at all levels, career personally and relationship was more boxed in. Certainly there were women that broke the expected roles those roles were more limited for her and harder to break out. Ms. O'Keefe relationship with Alfred was not as open emotionally as Ms. Kahlo had with Diego. Ms. O'Keefe couldn't be as open and direct as Ms. Kahlo was. Certainly another huge difference was how political art was in Ms. Kahlo time. While Ms. O'Keefe was very liberal in your political views she wasn't very political in her art. Nor was she very interest in political work. Ms. Kahlo was very political.

feb 13, 2011, 4:22 am

I jumped on the bandwagon and got True Grit by Charles Portis. I also read I Hate to See That Evening Sun Go Down by William Gay and enjoyed it ever so much. So I'm working on his novels. I also got Crazy Heart because I liked the movie. Cobb's book has its moments, though the writing isn't as strong as Portis's and certainly not as strong as Gay's.

feb 21, 2011, 12:02 am

I had to purchase Crazy Heart because I paid twice to watch it at the theater. Have watched it 3 or 4 times at home now, including this afternoon. Love it.

Nearly finished Thomas Friedman's The World is Flat, and now reading plenty of T. S. Eliot--Waste Land, Four Quartets, Hollow Men, Prufrock, and now getting into his Metaphysical Poets essays. Also returned to William Carlos Williams and Robert Frost. Been away from them too long, I'm afraid.

mar 5, 2011, 11:47 pm

Just started The Autobiography of William Carlos Williams. Wow! Can't believe this poet's insatiable curiosity at such an early age, and what drive he had!

mar 12, 2011, 12:54 pm

Digging Deeper by Peter Weissman. This book is apparently the second book of a trilogy; the first was I Think, Therefore, Who am I.

mar 17, 2011, 2:23 pm

T. S. Eliot. I've spent the last few days reading "The Waste Land," "Four Quartets," "The Hollow Men," and "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock." Also spent awhile reading the lengthy chapter on Eliot by Howard Gardner in "Creating Minds." Also working on Ezra Pound and William Carlos Williams. I'm trying to return to poetry, bothered that I always seem to get away from it.

Redigeret: mar 22, 2011, 3:52 pm

We just finished watching the DVD of Georgia O'Keefe; I think that, as far as biography is concerned, is as far as I want to learn of her life, however, the scenes of her paintings and the acting of Jeremy Irons were outstanding.

Otherwise, I have several other books being "multi-tasked":Jesus the Jew, by Geza Vermes; Who Knew: Unusual Stories in Jewish History, by Jacks Cooper; The Man who Made Lists: Love, Death, Madness, and the Creation of Roget's Thesaurus, by Joshua Kendall; Staying up Much Too Late: Edward Hopper's Nighthawks and the Dark Side of the American Psyche by Gordon Theisen.

Interspersed with all of this "required" reading, I have a great deal of interest in following the acting examples of various good actors, e.g., Al Pacino, Jermy Irons, Joseph Fiennes in Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice; Jack Nicholson, from One Flew Over the Cuskoo's Nest to Is This As Good as it Gets? to The Bucket List; Morgan Freeman, from Driving Miss Daisy to Shawshank Redemption to The Bucket List; Dustin Hoffman, from The Graduate, to Tootsie,to The Rainman, to The Last Chance Harvey.

jul 16, 2011, 9:24 am

I'm having an internal battle with myself between 'How to Read a Poem: And Fall in Love with Poetry' by Edward Hirsch and 'In the Company of Rilke : Why a 20th-Century Visionary Poet Speaks So Eloquently to 21st-Century Readers Yearning for inwardness, Beauty & Spiritual Connection' by Stephanie Dowrick. I discovered and bought both these at around the same time and have been alternately dipping into both and loving them, and darting off to follow leads to new poets and writers that are mentioned in the books. I really MUST be strong and choose just one to read in its entirety first!

Redigeret: jul 18, 2011, 4:29 pm

Inner-artist: I know that frustration. I've had trouble choosing this summer between the poetry of T. S. Eliot and William Carlos Williams. And now I'm part-way through an amazing biography: "Le Corbusier and the Continual Revolution in Architecture" by Charles Jencks, but suddenly have purchased the relatively new (2009) "Pop: The Genius of Andy Warhol" by Tony Scheman and David Dalton. I always seem to have too many books open at the same time.

jul 19, 2011, 2:32 pm

In addition to Maimonides (an early reviewer book), via UPS, I just now received The Ethics of Ambiguity by Simone De Beauvior, The very first sentence, of Chapter I (Ambiguity and Freedom): "The continuous work of our life," says Montaigne, "is to build death.", hooked me and now I am launched into another book.

jul 21, 2011, 2:39 pm

I am reading Stranger From Abroad, Hannah Arendt, Martin Heidegger, Friendship and Forgiveness. Hannah and Martin had a love affair pre WW2, Martin was at the time well regarded philosopher, wrote Being and Time. Which influenced Sartre a great deal. Anyway Hannah was his student, they fell in love and had a affair. Martin joined the nazi party and supported Hitler raise to power. Hannah was Jewish, when Hitler came to power she first went to France and then the US. She had a very successful writing career. Ater the war, Hannah not only forgave Heidegger she resumed the friendship. I want to understand this relationship.

Redigeret: jul 22, 2011, 3:19 pm

>303 michaelbartley: Ater the war, Hannah not only forgave Heidegger she resumed the friendship. I want to understand this relationship.

In wanting to understand that, you are not alone, of course. But the line of people banging their heads against the wall to do just that is a long one indeed -- stretching from Arendt's first meeting him as one of his philosophy students at age eighteen, plunging herself into a heavy affair with her famous married professor, traversing the wrenching ups and downs of the tumultuous pre- and post-war years (immersed in the collapse of the Weimar Republic and Hitler's rise to power), through their on-again, off-again relationship of over fifty years, all the way up to her eventual death in 1975, as a world-famous philosopher in her own right (and -- not without deeply conflicting views -- his admiring and even amorous advocate throughout), a year before his own. Many of the major themes and issues instrumental in my own life, in its thinking and feeling, are found in this stormy constellation of times, places, and people. Philosophy, psychology, theology, religion, art, literature, and even music are found swirling and twirling in this mix. Maybe we should enumerate the strands and thought-threads each of us has found significant. What do you think?

jul 22, 2011, 6:05 pm

Check these books: : Correspondence: Hannah Arendt/Karl Jaspers – 1926-1969; Heidegger’s Children: Hannah Arendt, Karl Lowith, Hans Jonas, and Herbert Marcuse by Richard Wolin

sep 4, 2011, 9:15 pm

I just purchased Stranger from Abroad, and so far am finding it a fascinating read. Did you finish it? What did you think?

sep 12, 2011, 11:28 am

I did finish the book and really found it to be a rewarding experience. The book is very thought provoking on many levels. I thought about the what the author said long after finishing the book. I hope you find it has rewarding at I did

sep 12, 2011, 11:50 am

>305 Naren559: Check these books: : Correspondence: Hannah Arendt/Karl Jaspers – 1926-1969; Heidegger’s Children: Hannah Arendt, Karl Lowith, Hans Jonas, and Herbert Marcuse by Richard Wolin

Thanks, Naren. I'm pulling as much of that net in as I can get into the boat. The people are known to me -- but the particular reference you site here wasn't. I'll check it out. Much thanks to you, - Gene

sep 14, 2011, 12:55 pm

Silent Places: A Tribute to Edward Hopper by Gail Levin

sep 14, 2011, 10:03 pm

It has been a while since I've been to LT. Well, I've been doing lots of reading--and writing. I've been reading anthologies of prose poems, and writing prose poems.

I've also been reading Faulkner, his short stories and three novels, As I Lay Dying, Sanctuary, and Light in August. Of his stories, "That Evening Sun" is and always has been my favorite.

I spent the summer writing poems and short stories and getting a few of them placed for publication. I also discovered IOUMA, a mailart community online, and got back into artwork that way. I did art and wrote poems about the art. Some of the poetry and art is going to be published online. I had a very productive summer!

sep 22, 2011, 2:26 pm

The Persistence of the Color Line: Racial Politics and the Obama Presidency by Randall Kennedy

sep 22, 2011, 3:58 pm

Re-reading "The Sound of One Hand Clapping," by Richard Flanagan, one of the most beautifully written books I own.

sep 29, 2011, 2:50 am

Tibetan Book of the Dead bought nearly thirty years ago, has waited patiently for me to be ready to read it. Now, my father has terminal cancer and the time has come. Halfway through, I can see I may not be able to help him; however, it has re-invigorated my Buddhist inclinations.

okt 29, 2011, 6:19 am

Descartes' Error by Antonio Damasio

nov 4, 2011, 11:42 am

I am reading The Falls by Joyce Carol Oats, I've forgotten what a powerful writer Ms. Oats is. This is an excellent book that touches a number of topics, how is it that basically good people do evil things, of course family, and sexual desire. One of the book's focus is the Love Canal, in examing that Ms. Oats exams how people accept evil, decent people. A lot of her discussion reminded me of Hannah Arendt's writing. Ms. Oats shows how powerful sexual desire is both in a good postive way and how can be a dark force. Especially when sexual desire is not accepted as being human. I really love this book

nov 21, 2011, 7:23 am

The Stuff of a Lifetime by Gene Ruyle.

Redigeret: dec 30, 2011, 6:43 pm

The Feeling of What Happens by Antonio Damasio

Redigeret: jan 25, 2012, 8:18 pm

Currently reading and how that reading is shaping my thoughts: "Current reading"? The brain gears shifted unexpectely the last week; As we were preparing for a visit with our son, Hiram, in Davis Clifornia, I fully intended to take one of the five books in which I am presently engrosed, specifically, The Feeling of What Happens by Antonio Damasio. Alas, with the hustle of remembering everything else, this book was among the "forgotten" and I was at a loss trying to occupy idle time (on the plane there, back and during our stay). However, Hiram had, in his library, Will to Freedom, A Perilous Journey Through Fascism and Communism, I began reading it and found it difficult to put down. Although I, myself, get too deeply involved in whatever to the protagonist is prominent and, in this book, it is the author, Egon Balas--his auto-biography covering from June, 1922, to July, 1966, with lots of "side-bar" back ground histories. For those, who might not respond too well to the tensions of prison torture, etc. without affecting blood-pressure (I being one of those), perhaps staying away from this would be good for you. Anyway, I am now on page 439 in the chapter called "Exodus"--He does finally emigrate from Romania. Well, while I was composing this "message", I finished Will to Freedom. Immediately, I went to the index, for names: Martin Heidegger (the subject of study, by one of his student companions, who was "reading" philosophy, but no Mircea Eliade (the academic "father" of the history of religion); Eliade, who had been a member of the Romanian Iron Guard, during World War II, re-fashioned himself, migrating to the U.S. and promoted his new academic image at the University of Chicago.(see Tainted Greatness: Antisemitism and Cultural Heroes, Edited by Nancy A. Harrowitz.

Now, I must begin to take my responsibilities to Librarything: as a reviewer of Maimonides by Israel Drazin, and Aging as a Spritual Practice by Lewis Richmond and others, in which I am reading bits at a time, e.g., The Stuff of a Lifetime by Gene Ruyle.

aug 3, 2012, 5:26 pm

I just started reading A Lover's Discourse by Roland Barthes. I learned about Barthes is a European novel class I took spring term. Then I read a reference to this book in a recent novel The Marriage Novel. That term I also took a class, the philosophy of Sex and Love, lots of interesting discussion on what love is. Lots of talk about Socrates ideas about love. On a personal level I've fallen in love. Anyway Barthes has many interesting things to say about love.

jan 3, 2013, 3:40 pm

reading, almost finished with 1Q84 by Murakami. I really like his writing, this novel is a lot like The Wind-Up Chronicle Birds. Very magical realism. This is a very long novel, perhaps to long but as I get near the end my interest is still being held