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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””

Wallace Stevens and the Mandolins of Spring

Wallace Stevens and the Mandolins of Spring

Rod Stewart’s Mandolin Wind

 

So, I’m up in the mountains again, and I’m reading Wallace Stevens — reading about him, reading his poems. I take music with me, listen to it before and after the readings. It’s very windy on the top of the mountain. Actually, the winds are ferocious at times. Merciless. And because I heard the Rod Stewart song in the car before I went to my place, my perfect spot, near the beautiful jagged rocks and the vulnerable pine trees, I hear the mandolin notes in that wind. They’re everywhere, including on the page.… |To be Continued “Wallace Stevens and the Mandolins of Spring”

Alice Kaplan: Looking for the Stranger

Alice Kaplan: Looking for the Stranger

Looking for The Stranger, by Alice Kaplan. 2016
Looking for The Stranger, by Alice Kaplan. 2016.

Biographies of writers, artists, musicians and the like fill our libraries to the brim. But in recent years, a new kind of bio has emerged: the “life” of a particular work of art. One very fine example of this sub-genre is Alice Kaplan’s Looking for The Stranger.
The book gives us a brief (but continuous) bio of Camus, his birth and early years in Algeria, providing the North African as well as Parisian contexts for his literary output before, during and after WWII. She takes us through the process of his writing, beginning with several early missteps and rejections along the way, and then follows him almost chapter by chapter through the completion of his short but seminal novel of the Absurd.… |To be Continued “Alice Kaplan: Looking for the Stranger”

Dwell Here: Nostalgia’s Graveyard Seductions

Dwell Here: Nostalgia’s Graveyard Seductions

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The poem I sent into the aether yesterday, Probably the Last Dawn Poem, was an old one. It was already a slightly belated look homeward (angel) to a time of some social and romantic turmoil, when my life was at one of its all too frequent “crossroads.” I had written a series of poems ab0ut a young woman with the perfect name for all of this, whom I had fallen for, hard, but who was still entangled with someone else in our little, mostly work-based social circle at the time — and I had come to the conclusion that it was all for naught.… |To be Continued “Dwell Here: Nostalgia’s Graveyard Seductions”

Dylanesque Mountains Blowing in the Wind

Dylanesque Mountains Blowing in the Wind

20161014_141352I go to my spot. It’s my spot though it’s everyone’s. It’s everyone’s though it’s really just mine. Because I say so. Because I believe the rocks, the trees, the birds, the clouds all speak for me. They are my eyes and ears and voice. Voices. Plural times plural. So close to infinity, but not quite.

Again, because that is my thinking and I don’t really want to take the easy way out.
The easy way out would be to let go of time and just claim the infinite, always, everywhere

Which really means no time and nowhere. Or does it?… |To be Continued “Dylanesque Mountains Blowing in the Wind”

Don DeLillo’s Zero K

Don DeLillo’s Zero K

Zero K, by Don Delillo. 2016

Don DeLillo, the author of White Noise and Underworld, has given us one of his best novels to date at the ripe old age of 79. The subject matter is fitting. It’s about mortality, life after death — or its absence — and is a poetic meditation on the potential of science to extend said life. It may also be about the potential for junk science to heighten and exploit our delusions regarding the hereafter, but DeLillo doesn’t tell us how we should take this. One way or the other. And its success, its strong, compact prose, its aphoristic beauty in parts, its solid craftsmanship, also go against one of my own (poorly supported) theories about artistic creation: That its quality tends to go down over time, and with novelists, especially, declines rapidly after one’s 30s or 40s.… |To be Continued “Don DeLillo’s Zero K”

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