|Interior art by Clive Hicks-Jenkins for The Foliate Head|
(UK: Stanza Press, 2012)
It's May Day, so I hope you went out and washed your faces in dew! If not, how can you expect to be beautiful forever? The birds are singing, the first chilly flowers are stars in the grass, the rain drops are on the rose canes, and it is Yankee-springish around here.
THOUGHTS ON READING CERTAIN CUSTOMER REVIEWS
What is a right reaction to a book that goes against the grain of our expectations? The closer a book is to our expectations, the less surprise--and the more comfortable we feel as readers, so comfortable that we might as well be asleep and having a pleasant, undemanding dream. But let's say a book doesn't conform to our expectations. It doesn't, say, have the sort of resolution and closure we expect. Or maybe it's airier, more
|Vignette, chapter heading by Clive Hicks-Jenkins,|
Thaliad (Montreal: Phoenicia Publishing, 2012)
The easiest way to deal with variation from expectation is to point out the variation as if it were a bad thing. To point out is to discern something, though not to discern deeply. It's a step on the way to understanding.
A difference is noticed. Why does it exist? What was it trying to do, and why? Is it interesting? On its own terms, according to the internal laws and shape of the book, does it work?
THE NPM POETRY GIVEAWAY
By midnight, I will write all those names on little pieces of paper and put them into a hat! I did rescue a lot of names from the moderation abyss--don't know why they went there, but there they were--and will be picking out a hat and then a national poetry month great poetry giveaway winner. Maybe I'll let child no. 3 pick, when he gets home from track practice this evening, just to make sure the chooser has no hint of bias! As stated, the prize will be the winner's choice of Thaliad (pb) or The Foliate Head, plus another writer's book...
ADDENDUM MAKES 4
I like Joseph Epstein's essays, and am always recommending "What Yiddish Says," about the marvelous tales of Isaac Bashevis Singer. William Giraldi has written a bright "look at Joseph Epstein's work, the importance of reading, and the role of the critic. I recommend it! (Hat tip to Prufrock News.)
The critic of abiding literary values and astute aesthetic sensibility has an obligation to help influence the reception of a book, a duty to punish efforts that transgress against originality and vigor, and to laud efforts that, in their language and vision and architecture, aspire to greatness—and then, alas, normally go unnoticed by the public.
Plot never supersedes artistic purpose and artistic purpose is never separated from moral vision: Add “the dynamism of language” to “moral vision” and there’s your working definition of the difference between literary work with one eye on immortality and commercial work with both eyes on the trashcan. In “The Literary Life Today” (1982), Epstein quotes the great Cyril Connelly: “The true function of a writer is to produce a masterpiece and no other task is of any consequence.”