Reading The Cantos

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1948 New Directions Edition

READING THE CANTOS

I am not the only person in the United States reading The Cantos. I know because the internet tells me so. Another man is blogging The Cantos. He started in 2015—he’s up to LXVII, about fifty more to go. Elsewhere, The Cantos Project (“peer-reviewed by a board of scholars”), is seemingly the only active website dedicated to them, and has annotations up to XVI. I am neither impressed nor depressed by these on-line affairs. Nobody “likes” to read The Cantos and of the few called, many are passionate. The Cantos become an obsession because they are about large swathes of human history and its languages, subjects equally infinite. Guy Davenport avers, “I have seen students learn Chinese because of him, or take up mediaeval studies, learn Greek, Latin, music…” I expect others ardently caught up are similar to myself—undoubtedly most male, politically disenfranchised by both squirming sides, hunched over a haul of books, rueful at not being brought up in a French or Italian immersion school, and feeling fucked by standard stateside curriculum that left Latin in the dustbin. Continue reading

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Object Fiction?

In “Collaborating with Surveillance: Wolfgang Hilbig’s East German Fiction” (see below), Angela Woodward highlights, among other things, Hilbig’s tendency in his fiction to privilege objects over persons:

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Hugh Kenner Hits a Home Run

Wouldn’t it take an outsider to aptly critique the American scene, the American people, the American culture? Hugh Kenner, a Canadian, did this at the end of a section devoted to Wallace Stevens and William Carlos Williams in his book A Homemade World: The American Modernist Writers. A book dedicated to Guy Davenport. A book on Donald Barthelme’s syllabus.

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Coming: The Sounds of Sam Lipsyte in The Fun Parts

THE SOUNDS OF SAM LIPSYTE

In the next few weeks we will hear that Sam Lipsyte’s The Fun Parts (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) is funny, irreverent, sex-obsessed, witty, broken, indiscriminate, and wry. Listening is the key verb as concerns Lipsyte. In the best stories: “The Climber Room,” “Deniers,” “The Wisdom of the Doulas,” “Snacks,” “A Worm in Philly,” “Expressive,” “Ode to Oldcorn,” and “Nate’s Pain is Now,” readers reading to the little man or woman that controls their brains will hear in their heads a prose holding piteous subjects grandly animated with vibrant and uncanny sounds. These delightful noises are a bonus because they accompany such an unwonderful world—not necessarily an evil place, but a staging ground for the salacious and ignoble to have their way with the weaker of the species.

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Kellie Wells’s Fat Girl, Terrestrial

Fat-Girl-Terrestrial-Wells-Kellie-9781573661706

Chronology commits you to a straight line, I said. This story’s ovoid.” But no, not ovoid either. Vertical. Kellie Wells’s Fat Girl, Terrestrial looks up rather than out. There’s that “terrestrial,” right there in the title, to remind of us the orientation the book intends us to have; the language comes from Wallace Stevens (as do several names, or else maybe that’s coincidence), but instead of pointing me to Stevens, it had the effect of making me feel alien to myself somehow. Continue reading

Mini-Review of Paolo Portoghesi’s Nature and Architecture

Take shelter from the rain under a leaf. Look toward the light pouring from a dome’s oculus. Here ears become tunnels, eyes portals, and mouths doors. Huts echo bower birds’ nests. Phallic spires court vaginal apertures. Towers mirror the mullein’s vertical inflorescence. In his 528-page tome, Nature and Architecture, famed architect and theorist Paolo Portoghesi, examines

what it is that turns archetypes into interpretations of nature and life or even projected images of the nature of man’s impulses, desires and needs and therefore the founding principles of a discipline, architecture…In the field of architecture, archetypes express the collective dimension and the richest possible stratification of experiences accumulated over the years, generation after generation.

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Beginning to Dig into Gass’s The Tunnel (1 of 2)

Gass on history: “What counts for me…is what happens to human consciousness…what was lost when you piled up bodies, what is gained when you decide not to.” – Bookworm interview with Michael Silverblatt

 I felt ready for The Tunnel. I could have warmed up more with his first novel Omensetter’s Luck and read Gass’s fiction in order of composition but an inside voice said, No, and as I kept paging through The Tunnel, I knew I was holding the object I’d have to read next. But surely, just looking at The Tunnel and not reading a word is an experience of the book, of the art. One marvels at how many typefaces there are, how many bolded sections, the pictures, the comics, the limericks, the stanzas of poetry—a book beginning with two opposing pennants on the page after the title pages (The Pennants of Passive Attitudes and Emotions). Niggardliness is opposed by Churlishness. Spite by Sloth. What is going on here? We aren’t even on page one and passiveness has been pasted and highlighted, poured over the reader’s mind.

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