Sunday, May 31, 2015

Endless Visitations

My obsession with Pablo Neruda began in 1987, when I found a couple of anthologies of his work in the poetry section of the Harvard Bookshop's downstairs sale section. I still own those books though I can't find them at this moment. Instead I am using Ben Belitt's Selected Poems of Pablo Neruda (Grove Press, 1961).

Neruda was a great poet for many reasons. For some he will always be the orator in support of revolutions, the statesman with words making wings of his intentions. For others he is the poet of the infinitesimal truth, hidden in intimate moments; and for others still he is the Goethe of his world, describing malevolent winds, demiurges of the soul moving over the earth, over the lives of millions. The great poet, like Walt Whitman, understands both the multitudes and the one. 

Friday, May 1, 2015

Obsessions Revisited

There are many books over which I obsess for various reasons, foremost among them the fact that most books can never be fully digested, their subject is so elusive. This is the power of a book. This is why I still write, because truth is as slippery as literary craft. There are books I have fully and completely read, immersed in their subject, but which I return to years later with freshly bright eyes. For some reason, a book comes to represent an experience that re fulfills my need for a certain kind of experience over and over again. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014



There are a few subjects that rarely rise to the surface for discussion. One of these is the condition of extreme age. Writers who reach their older years evade the subject, preferring to deal with it through metaphor, or by use of a story that takes place in the distant past. Few allow that the here and now can contain such difficulty. Tsaurah Litzksy is not one of these. Her new collection of poems, Jerry in the Bardo, deals specifically with the ailing years of her father, Jerry Litzky, who suffered from various ailments that lessened his ability to function as an independent human being, and eventually, to be accepted around others as sane and normal. Her book is suffused with an undying empathy for his struggles as an elderly person.    

Starting when her father turned eighty, he began to exhibit behavioral changes that set him apart from what she knew of him at an earlier age. The challenge of infirmity for the elderly is only part physical, it is also primarily emotional, as these older adults come up against the changes in their bodies. There is also a sense that they have nothing left to lose. Every day is one step closer to death. They tend to be brutally honest, often just brutal, in their self-expression. They don't mind giving offense because only they can speak for what they are going through. There is a certain unspoken solidarity between the aged, a knowing glance that communicates between equals in infirmity, perhaps an acknowledgement that each ones knows the end is near, that life has been long, experience and knowledge have been gleaned, and that no one else will understand this until they get there.

I have chosen not to reproduce any passages of text from Liztky's poems because splintering them will not do them justice. They will not perform ably enough as parts, because what she is writing about is the enormity of such an experience. Buy the book, delve into it, cry a little if possible, I don't think anyone could help but be touched by these poems.


Sunday, May 12, 2013


There are many unfinished books in my history of reading. Many of the novels I read in college languished within this category for years, difficult but rewarding novels like William Faulkner's Sanctuary. But then I finally re-read them and it was worth the wait, for not only did I get to see how the story ended, but the story delivered surprises I would not have guessed at.

My newest unfinished book is Jane Eyre by Emily Bronte. I have been waiting years to read this book, always glancing at it while reading other things, even going so far as to read that one very singular first paragraph.

Every book that I read is affected by how I felt about the book that came before, and how long it may take to intellectually and emotionally digest. Jane Eyre suffered from two flaws. First, its historical distance from today, and second, its lack of content. Like any 'great' novel its content is its story. But the story has to matter. The characters have to be strong enough to pierce our everyday life.

The book I was reading just before was a very much about contemporary life, was a memoir of sorts, and also a study of literature:  Azar Nafisi's Reading Lolita In Tehran.  I have to say that I was extremely affected by this book. It is still very much in my mind.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Recent Obsessions

In the last few months, I have been reading books by two novelists in particular: Kurt Vonnegut (Slaughterhouse 5, Cat's Cradle) and Don Delillo (Great Jones Street, Falling Man). I don't know why these two have become paired in my mind, but I have been alternating on reading books of theirs, sometimes for the first or second times. I have also gone back into reading other classic books from my literary past, such as Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse and The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera.

Sometimes I want to reinvestigate a specific author because I was lazy in regard to his work years before. Most of the novels I read in college, for instance, I never finished, and when I did revisit them, I was much surprised to find how very good they were. Some of these books I will be covering here, though I may not mention this one salient fact at the time.

Great Jones Street by Don Delillo was a book that evaded me. I think that I read it very slowly the first time, and the second time around was no different. Parts of it were very hard to take, as they diverged from the idea of narrative. This was not the first book by Delillo that I read, but it was definitely his most psychotic.

The protagonist of the novel is a musician named Bucky Wunderlick, who drops out of his life. He leaves his current concert tour midstream, just walking off stage and leaving the building, chartering a plane, and finding a good place to hide. At least he thinks he can hide. He is a much more famous person than he thinks. It’s from this fact that all the details of the story originate. Great Jones Street is merely the anonymous physical location of the action, but the novel is about who we think we are and how we function in the world, alternately for ourselves, and for others.


This is a new blog I am starting to investigate the intimate function of reading and literature in everyday life. I was just on a well-deserved vacation that also happened to be my first-year wedding anniversary, and since I had a whole week on my hands, with nothing but free time, I let my mind wander. This is a luxury, I assure you. The life of a freelance curator and art journalist is rarely unbusy. Sometimes I have to be forced to relax. But when I find that space, it's usually with a book in my hands.