Wednesday, March 06, 2013



Three more books to mention. The next post is going to be about new work of mine! Stay tuned.

            Philip Roth
                        —over six nights an old man, Murray, now 90, recounts the life of his brother, Ira, filling in the blanks for Nathan the listener, in whose voice the story’s told. In his formative years, Nathan hero-worshipped Ira. Ira was a larger than life sort of character, both in stature and in the way he dealt with the world. He married Eve, who came with the daughter from hell, Sylphid. It’s Eve who eventually writes the book that undoes Ira, I Married a Communist—but wait, did she write it or was it those nasty gossip column people? A really engaging read. I haven’t been as mad at a couple of characters as I was at Eve and Sylphid in years! Full of little bits of Rothian humour. An example, this little riff on the value of literature and why it wasn’t invented at the beginning of time, according to God: “‘Literature? What are you talking about? What use does it have? Where does it fit in? Please, I am creating a universe, not a university. No literature.’” Well, I’ve been sick for the last two weeks, worst chest cold/flu thing I’ve had in yonks, and I’m telling you if it wasn’t for literature I’d have gone mad!

            Arundhati Roy
                        —smashing good story. Read this one in less than 24 hours, but you must take into account the fact that I’m felled by a bug of some sort that is keeping me prone and coughing. And reading. Twins. Star-crossed lovers. Politics. India. Another book, like The Poisonwood Bible, that everybody but me has read by now, but it was kicking around the bookshelves here and I really do like reading on paper, so away I went. It made me think of Cereus Blooms At Night, the same lush imagery. And it made me think of At Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept, a skinny little novel that this one could have been, had the writing been reined in a little. Okay, a lot. But man, what a story! And that’s what keeps you reading. Me reading, anyway.

            John Tranter, ed.
                        —did I say something earlier on about not liking to read poetry on an electronic device? I downloaded this one to my phone because it was available as an iBook and I wanted it for one specific poem (that of my friend Geoff’s cousin, Fran Graham—“Golden But Tarnished”, a narrative poem about her parents) and I figured what the heck, I can read one poem on a teeny-tiny screen, surely. Well, I just spent an hour and a half reading who knows how many poems as well as the introduction. A word about the latter—at the end of Tranter’s justification for the existence of anthologies in general he writes a cento himself, using lines from various poems within. And as I read it (I read the intro after I’d browsed the poetry for awhile) I recognized many of the lines, thinking “that one’s from the poem about Wallace Stevens” and “that’s from that blood-curdling poem about one of the young boys who murdered that 2-year-old” and so on. Turns out the way this book works is quite brilliant. A few pages into the table of contents (and there are over 700 “pages”, given that the page is a phone screen) I noted a title that made me want to read it (which also reinforced the importance of titles for me). Not expecting anything to happen, I tapped it, and voilà! There it was. But not only that, at the bottom of the poem-page was a link back to the TOC! Another handy feature is the built-in dictionary that allows you to finger a word (and what poet doesn’t want to finger words?) and up pops the definition. Or, you can highlight it, or make a note about it if you’re so inclined. An adjustable font size means reading isn’t too much of an issue, and you can also change the appearance from a white-on-black reversal to a sepia or white background. I would still rather read poetry on paper, but this tells me there’s hope for the Kobo/Kindle/iPad/iPhone/etc.-lovers out there, too. And that Fran Graham poem? It’s a winner. 


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