Thursday, February 28, 2019

pile of reading

It’s been two years since I did a pile of reading post. Two years! Wow. I used to do them pretty regular. The pile I have going right now is small. These are the ones I’m in the midst of. Several books are piled up, totally ready to be in the reading, but I haven’t actually gone beyond putting a placemark at the first page of text. So they aren’t technically in the pile of reading. So I won’t list them today.

The Best American Poetry 2009 David Wagoner, editor; David Lehman, series editor
This one barely counts, according to the above criteria. I’ve read the first page of Lehman’s intro. He’s talking about poetry criticism. I don’t get that he likes it. But maybe the argument will develop beyond that. For the first several years of BAP I read each volume as it came out. Then I let that annual ordeal go. I’m catching up on unread volumes. If you don’t like the poetry of the guest editor, you probably won’t like the poems the guest editor chose. They like to read what they like to write. 

Deaf American Poetry: an anthology edited by John Lee Clark
I’m also not far into this anthology. Past the intro! Four pages into the 19th century verse essay by John R. Burnet. You can’t make a deaf person hear, Burnet agrees. “We cannot bid the long seal’d ears unclose, / Nor give the nerves to thrill when music flows[.]” But you can educate their minds and stir their souls!

Unthinkable: an extraordinary journey through the world’s strangest brains by Helen Thomson
I like this sort of thing. Thomson says the writings of neurologist Oliver Sacks inspired her to pursue an interest in science journalism. Sacks writes with a literary bent. Thomson not so much. Her prose may not be particularly evocative but I liked her casual rapport with some of these strange brains. One Spaniard who sees auras, among other synaesthetic experiences, talks about red and how men he finds sexy look red to him. “‘I had a boyfriend up until a few years ago and the first time we met, I remember thinking he was this bright red. But he had this amazing voice and these blue, almost green, eyes — and those two things, the color of his voice and the color of his eyes were so distinctive that they mixed and that became his color. It was this pale gray. No one else had that color.’”

Haiku, vol. 1: Eastern Culture by R. H. Blyth
Blyth’s books on haiku, this first volume was published in 1949, have been in my hands a few times, but Blyth surrounds the haiku with so much interpretive prose that I’ve been put off up to now. I prefer to form opinions without a whole lot of handholding. The handholding starts to feel clammy and uncomfortable when I find myself disagreeing. But the Blyth books are comprehensive, a serious and thorough discussion of the topic, probably the best up to that point and, perhaps, since. Blyth has spent many pages on religion and philosophy, not just Eastern but Western as well. It’s fairly interesting. “They spoke no word, / The visitor, the host, / And the white chrysanthemum.” — Ryota

The Weary World Rejoices by Steve Fellner
At only 57 pages, it’s a pretty brief book of poems. There’s a batch toward the end about Matthew Shepherd. “I am at the Hole in the Wall alone. / Forty years old. Twice the age that you, Matthew, were / before you died. You can see the lines under my eyes, / the gray in my hair, my flabby belly. Here I like to pretend / that everyone is looking at me. I like to pretend a lot of things.”

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

"nauseatingly love-rotted and psychotic"

In an introduction to a collection of his comics dream diary (or dream-like tales), Jim Woodring talks about childhood influences. Like me, Woodring found a real sympathy for L. Frank Baum’s Oz. 

I believed that Oz was a place, a real place a person could visit … Magic … was extensively and convincingly documented in the Oz books. In the great The Marvelous Land of Oz, a rough and tumble boy learns that he is really the flouncy, frilly, flower-bedecked Princess Ozma, and he accedes to the retransformation willingly! That’s real magic. You can’t make up something like that.

All of the Oz books had unpleasant magic in them, but The Tin Woodman of Oz was by far the grimmest, the most nauseatingly love-rotted and psychotic. For one thing there was a fifty-foot woman who was completely amoral. I vomited right on the book. For another there was an invisible monster called a Hip-po-gy-raf, which I suspected was covered with blinking eyes … And there was a lot of cutting and gluing of human flesh in the book.

The Oz creature’s being covered with eyes seems to be a vision unrelated to Baum’s description or John R. Neill’s illustrations. It’s not the only thing Woodring says he imagined was covered with eyes. On the other hand, Woodring doesn’t go into one of the weirder scenes in The Tin Woodman of Oz, the scene in which the Tin Woodman converses with his old meat head, after he finds it stowed in the tin smith’s cupboard. The head has a sour disposition and you don’t blame the Tin Woodman for feeling well rid of it. 

source:Jim by Jim Woodring
2014. Fantagraphics Books, Seattle WA