Monday, June 09, 2008

pile of reading

My Song Is the Light: the California Poets in the Schools Statewide Anthology 2007, edited by Mary Lee Gowland
… We had four poets who teach under CPITS auspices read for Poetry & Pizza last Friday. It was a good reading, a little long, what with four poets each getting feature treatment. I told Susan Herron Sibbet that I’d had a poem in the CPITS state anthology back in … 1982? Maureen Hurley and Zara Altair had taught an after school CPITS class at my high school and it opened my world to poetry. Poetry as freedom, rather than restriction. Invention rather than convention. Excitement rather than moderation. The other poets at P&P were Cathy Barber, Tobey Kaplan, and Emmanuel Williams.

Circus World, by Barry B. Longyear … Back in 1978 and ’79 I was buying every new issue of Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine. I would read Isaac Asimov’s introductory essay, and typically read other nonfiction, like book reviews, but I wasn’t reading many of the stories. I remember seeing Longyear’s Circus World stories. The only Longyear story I actually recall reading, however, was “Enemy Mine”, a novella which, coincidentally, had a dual-sex alien, thus might be said to be of gay interest. Some years later I saw a paperback of Circus World selling for cheap so picked it up, thinking it a novel sequel to the stories. When clearing out the house after my mother died I threw all the old IAsfms into the recycle bin. But I brought back to Berkeley boxes of paperbacks. Circus World, the book, is not a novel but a collection of the short stories that appeared in Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine (Barry Longyear calls it, “a series of stories that … constitute an episodic novel”). I’ve now read my first Circus World story. Not bad. Well, now I’ll know what I was missing all those years ago.

Tender Is the Night, by F. Scott Fitzgerald … I started reading this Fitzgerald novel before going on our last trip but I didn’t take it with me. I haven’t gotten back into it. I prefer to read only one novel at a time (Proust excepted), but I’ve lately been reading short stories, and I started Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting at Hill House as my breaktime book, so the space for fiction is crowded. I note that I began reading this because I feel like I ought to read Fitzgerald again and, perhaps oddly, because I like “Tender Is the Night”, the song by Jackson Browne.

Otherhood, by Reginald Shepherd … I summoned this book of poems from another of Berkeley’s branch libraries after I read Reginald Shepherd’s account of a recent hospitalization. In comments I said, “I understand when somebody's reading a poem strength flows to the poet. So I'll go get one of your books and sit down and read.”

The New Yorker, February 5, 2007 issue … At my library we have a box where people can drop off (& pick up) recent magazines. Issues of The New Yorker appear there frequently and earlier this year a fairly complete run of 2007 enticed me. The last piece I read was a rather discouraging account of the damage inflicted on Sublette County, Wyoming via increased natural gas drilling there. The more development the greater the damage to the environment, yes, but it seems violence and drug abuse increase hand in glove with the drilling, too.

Crashing the Gate: netroots, grassroots, and the rise of people-powered politics, by Jerome Armstrong and Markos Moulitsas Zuniga … Jerome Armstrong founded and still runs the Democratic activist blog MyDD. Markos is the “Kos” of DailyKos, the Big political blog, which I discovered when it wasn’t nearly so big about five years ago. I was interested in reading their Crashing the Gate, so when the Friends of the Library got a copy I snapped it up. “Those of us who became energized ever since Bush and his circle of fiends took over in 2000 … must now act to take back our party and our country.” Fiends! Aw. I like this book already.

The Ten Cent Plague: the great comic-book scare and how it changed America, by David Hajdu … I like the cover illustration by Charles Burns. Hajdu starts the book with a sympathetic portrait of an artist, Janice Valleau, whose career was cut short (destroyed?) by the anti-comics hysteria of the 50s. In an appendix Hajdu lists 15 pages of “artists, writers, and others” whose careers were hurt in this particular subwar of the greater War on Culture in the United States.

Welcome to the Monkey House, by Kurt Vonnegut Jr … Perhaps it was Vonnegut’s recent death that made me decide to reread old Vonneguts. I decided to start with this collection of short stories, partly because it contains some of Vonnegut’s earliest fiction. (I don’t think I will reread Vonnegut’s first novel, however. I did not like Player Piano.)

Ploughshares, Spring 2002, edited by Cornelius Eady … I added this to the browsing paperbacks collection at Claremont. After two years spinning on the rack (and 3 check-outs) it was time for it to retire. So I brought it home.

Fence, Spring/Summer 2004, edited by Rebecca Wolff … Remember a few days ago I said, “When I look through a long list of a literary magazine’s contributors, it surprises me that after 25 years of regular poetry reading so few are names I recognize. It is true that I’ve been delighted by a poem then discovered that the poet who wrote it had work in other magazines or anthologies that I’ve read. Suddenly the name sticks out.” That was when I was talking about Sorry for Snake, remember? Well, glancing at the editorial staff of Fence a name suddenly sticks out. One of the Sorry for Snake poets I quoted is Poetry Editor of Fence. Funny.

Tristes Tropiques, by Claude Levi-Strauss … I was assigned a section of this book in an Amazonia class in college. I read that section but kept the book figuring one day I would read it through. Last night I was charmed by the opening: “I hate travelling and explorers. Yet here I am proposing to tell the story of my expeditions.”

The Buried book: the loss and rediscovery of the great Epic of Gilgamesh, by David Damrosch … In his introductio Damrosch describes some of his research, including this trip to the British Museum’s misleadingly named Central Archive: “I made my way to the Central Archive, which is reached, oddly, through an unmarked door at the back of the British Museum gift shop. Once through that door, I walked through a series of darkened, echoing rooms filled with empty bookshelves (the books having been transferred to the recently constructed British Library), then came to a warren of small offices, among which is the Central Archive. Of the seven days of the week, it is open to the public for five hours on Tuesdays.”

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