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Category: Literature

C Pam Zhang’s mesmerizing How Much of These Hills is Gold

C Pam Zhang’s mesmerizing How Much of These Hills is Gold

How Much of These Hills is Gold, by C Pam Zhang. 2020. Riverhead Books.

The American West of our imaginations, back in the day. Back in the days of cowboys and gold rushes, San Fran brothels and deadly coal mines, horse thieves and mountain men. The American West of our rather limited imaginations, if we grew up with a certain kind of preset range of ideas, photos, movies, stories and dreams in our heads; which, of course, to one degree or another, means pretty much all of us.

But it’s different if. Way different if, we’re of that tribe that ended up dominating all the other tribes, and all too often take it for granted that our stories, movies, ideas and dreams should be the focus, the main narrative, the supposedly real history of our West.… |To be Continued “C Pam Zhang’s mesmerizing How Much of These Hills is Gold”

How to Form a “We”

How to Form a “We”

The Buddha in the Attic
The Buddha in the Attic, by Julie Otsuka. 2011

In Julie Otsuka’s beautiful novel, The Buddha in the Attic, the narrator is a crowd, an us, a swarm of voices we want to listen to, because it’s truly an Everyone, and the voice is a poem. She speaks for them, as them, as a people, and as individual women who once shared a voyage from Japan to America as mail-order brides soon after WWI. There are shocks and surprises, radical disappointments and disillusionment along the way, but Otsuka’s incantatory prose moves us and moves the book swiftly forward, even though we want to dwell with this new “we” longer. |To be Continued “How to Form a “We””

Hamsun's Mysteries

Hamsun's Mysteries

Alexis Wingate — The Mystery of Mysteries


To dissect Knut Hamsun’s Mysteries as one would an ordinary novel is impossible. This is a book in which nothing is quite as it seems to be, and the more closely the reader examines it or tries to make sense of it, the more inexplicable it becomes. At the core of the story is Johan Nagel, easily one of the most enigmatic characters in literary history. His arrival in a small Norwegian town in 1891, with no visible aim or purpose, is the first piece in a puzzle that doesn’t ever quite fit together.… |To be Continued “Hamsun's Mysteries”

George Spencer's The Guesting Rose

George Spencer's The Guesting Rose

A Line from Barbara Guest’s Roses


That air in life is important but may be less so in the arts interests me. But we are 60% water and worth $28.49 in bone, fat and chemicals so should we focus more on water and $’s and less on air. But you may respond the atmosphere that encases us is all air but this is not completely true since there is pollution and those little filaments we see when light shafts float into a room and illuminate the air. Then we see what we think is truly there. Of course this ignores the question of the further reaches of space where air may be solid and water may be a gas.… |To be Continued “George Spencer's The Guesting Rose”

Robert Mueller: Barbara Guest and Jill Magi

Robert Mueller: Barbara Guest and Jill Magi

Barbara Guest, Now Jill Magi in brevi

by

Robert Mueller

 

Shearsman Books, which seems to specialize in poets on their way, recently brought out a fine collection of poetry by Jill Magi, her second full volume, titled Torchwood. This collection is assembled uncharacteristically, even for a time when in poetry books great attention is paid to the presentation. For Magi, it started with the patchwork of historical and personal documentation of her earlier volume Threads (Futurepoem, 2007), and is extended here in a sequencing and a selection that are beautifully realized. The poet nurtures a light touch, sometimes a homey touch, and almost always the quick and sure calibration. |To be Continued “Robert Mueller: Barbara Guest and Jill Magi”

Robert Mueller: Zamyatin's Garden

Robert Mueller: Zamyatin's Garden

by Robert Mueller

 

Reading Evgeny Zamyatin’s A Godforsaken Hole (Na kulichkakh, 1914), what is the novel like?

First of all, it is very funny. And familiar. And yet the strange thing is that those other novels and texts that it can remind you of would seem to come after; and it would not be any particular writer or book, but merely the feeling of its being so familiar.

What is funny about this book?  Here we feel in Walker Foard’s translation (Ann Arbor: Ardis, 1988) the full effect of its capricious humor.  The magic of caprice does in fact lead to something different, some indication of Zamyatin’s genius and personality. … |To be Continued “Robert Mueller: Zamyatin's Garden”

Robert Mueller: Barbara Guest, West and East

Robert Mueller: Barbara Guest, West and East

The Silent Confucius, The Confetti Trees, Hollywood, Who
Else but Barbara Guest
by Robert Mueller
 
Barbara Guest’s books are wonderful because of how they come to us with their bountiful co-valencies and layering.  The Confetti Trees, a series of short-short stories or quasi-filmmaking anecdotes that qualify as prose poems (Sun & Moon, 1999), has this implicating character, so that when it takes its measure in the rich play of glitter and artifice that are Hollywood, one of its expounding layers is a blending cosmic plot.  Guest’s stories, deft and trothfilled-wacky in their fabulous causes, propose circumstances that concern none other than the coming to America of Confucianism. … |To be Continued “Robert Mueller: Barbara Guest, West and East”

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