Edward Dorn: Two Interviews
Some useful tidbits here to deepen one's appreciation of the work of Edward Dorn.
Edward Dorn: Gunslinger
In the ferment of the long 1960s it seemed especially incumbent upon young artists to, as Pound is popularly believed to have urged, make it new. When making it new it is, unfortunately, easy to make it bad. Happily, the works of those whose zealousness exceeded their ability to innovate fruitfully are not remembered. Attempting to recall them--was there a poet who names himself after a deer's horn?--though, brings the raging success of a work like Edward Dorn's Gunslinger into stark relief. In this long narrative poem, he succeeds in giving us something we hadn't had before, something that, though grounded in its time continues to sing fifty years after its genesis.
Jane Thynne;: The Winter Garden by Jane Thynne (2014-10-09)
Another in Jane Thynne's series of historical thrillers set in and around World War II Europe. In this one, the protagonist, Clara Vine, is still in Berlin in the run up to the war, and Thynne continues to write well about that period, instructing us in history that is particularly interesting, because her focus is often on what those years were like for women during those years. It's also a heck of a thriller, though the unveiling of the bad guy was less of a surprise than I had hoped for. It was the sadistic Nazi after all, rather than the idealistic upper-class Englishman. Imagine that!
Patricia Hampl: The Art of the Wasted Day
This is ultimately a satisfying look at the importance of leisure to the life of the mind. One reason for that is that Hampl successfuly combines the essay, travel writing, and literary criticism, to create a satisfying generic mash-up. It circles around Montaigne, a writer and thinker who took the time he needed, alone in his tower, to think about things, and then to "meddle with writing" to get some of it down. As is often the case with books of this sort, one's eyes glaze over a bit when Hampl drifts into her gently religious philosophizing, but open again when she recounts her own travels, both literary and literal.
Michael Pronko : The Moving Blade
Once upon a time it was the project of modernist literary titans to capture their cities in the novels they wrote. Now that literary work seems largely to have passed to those writing detective fiction. Michael Pronko's Detective Hiroshi series, of which this is the second, is in this tradition, Tokyo being as important a character as Hiroshi, the city as compelling a story as the plot. There are no Fu Manchus here, no sultry geisha, but instead a city that those who know it will recognize. We look forward to joining Pronko on further explorations of his city in forthcoming Detective Hiroshi tales.
Junko Tabei: Honouring High Places: The Mountain Life of Junko Tabei
The first women (that we know of) to summit Everest happens to have been a graduate of the university at which I teach. That's one thing that spurred me to read this book, but much more important is Tabei's accounts of the expeditions she took part in and led. Especially appealing is her honesty: She doesn't hesitate to let us in on the in-fighting among the mountaineering clubs that were, apparently, very important when Tabei was starting out, and also the bickering among the climbers who joined her on her expeditions.
Also, of course, the book is a feminist document, an account of how a determined woman overcame the resistance she encountered in a "men's" sport.
Jane Thynne: Black Roses
This is an excellent historical novel which has, as it's main character, an English actress who finds herself in Berlin in the run-up to World War II, and who finds herself spending time with top-level Nazis and their spouses. I recommend it, and am happy to report it's part of a series. I've downloaded the next three (they were about $2.00 each) and will probably download the fifth in the series when it becomes available.
Leonard Orr: Don DeLillo's White Noise: A Reader's Guide (Continuum Contemporaries)
A useful overview of the things DeLillo writes about in White Noise, and the things that have been written about what DeLillo writes about in White Noise.
Don DeLillo: White Noise (Contemporary American Fiction)
One of the nice things about teaching is that one is forced to go back and reread the books one is teaching, and any book worth teaching, worth reading, is worthy of rereading. This is certainly true of Don DeLillo's White Noise, probably the best American novel of the '80s. The prose is so good that one rereads sentences and paragraphs as one goes just to re-experience the joy to which perfectly-wrought words give rise. One laughs again at DeLillo's deadpan take-down of American weirdness, and shudders at the accuracy of his vision of what America is. If you haven't read this for a few years, go back and do it, and then head on the rest of DeLillo's oeuvre.
Jane Bowles: Two Serious Ladies
I'll be teaching this, so I've just reread it. It is rich enough that it bears many rereadings. Jane Bowles never wrote a boring sentence, and also creates characters who, in their actions and decisions, are mysterious enough to be compellingly human. As Millicent Dillon has pointed out in her excellent biography of Bowles, the novel is autobiographical, not in the crude story-of-my-life-lightly-fictionalized sense but in that each of the characters has Jane Bowles in her: her neuroses, her wit, her dissatisfaction, her splendor.