Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Quick Reviews

Blogging is like life, like does take attention, and I confess the ambition, insistence, habit, energy, attention does ebb and flow, but before the old year pours artificially into the new, here are a few very quick, crude and hopelessly superficial reviews of recent books read.

Dying to Fly Fish - David Leitz: Now that we are actively collecting every fly fishing mystery ever written here at Western's Library, I feel it my humble duty to read them all. This is one of the Max Addams/Whitefork Lodge mysteries, and a fun read. Leitz is a decent writer and knows the art of fishing with flies. Plenty of local color, situations and suspense (set in Vermont). Recommended.

Firehole River Murder - Raymond Kieft: Another recent FF mystery acquisition. Worst book I've read in decades.

The Quiet Girl - Peter Hoeg: Hoeg is an often unnerving and brilliant writer, but this newest attempt (the protagonist a clown/violinist/detective) seemed overly pretentious. At stake were children who could detect earthquakes, and real estate speculation in Denmark. I finished it however because it had moments.

The Right Mistake - Walter Mosley: I was pretty blown away by the first two Socco novels, but this one, an attempt on the part of Fortlow to build a center for discussion modeled loosely after the ancient Greek universities in a house he came to inhabit, fell a bit short. It lacked some of the earlier dramatic tension, was a bit over-insistent on Socco's bad-boy status (Mosley does not have to tell us he's a murderer and rapist every other time he mentions his name), and it seemed to come to a rather hasty resolution. However, Socrates Fortlow is one of the most interesting characters I've witnessed in contemporary fiction, and any text where he appears is worth reading.

The Maytrees - Annie Dillard: I love Annie Dillard. No, literally. I would marry her in a heartbeat, given many life changes. She is, as anyone who's read her knows, a stunning writer whose attention to detail is nearly unparalleled. This novel, her second, is a love story, a triangle actually, that wrestles with all the great themes. Set in Provincetown and Maine. Highly recommended.

Rock Crystal - Adalbert Stifter: A lovely little gem of a book, written in spare, under-stated style, about two towns, two children, and mountains. Subtle and almost fugal by design, the novel explores by penetration the forces of nature and community. Highly recommended.

Ulysses - Joyce: The beast that will not break me. Only 70 pages left. What a tome. It stands like Denali towering above anything around it.

Have a great New Years.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Frank O'Hara

I don't buy books much anymore (I work in a library, duh) but I am going to buy the new Frank O'Hara Selected Poems edited by Mark Ford. There should be a law that forbids people to read Ted Berrigan, or God forbid, Billy Collins, without having first read Frank O'Hara. In fact I will buy thousands of copies, placing one in every window of our little town, candles of life, affirmation & love.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Dog Poem

I'm working on a series of Dog Poems. Here's one of about 10 I've done so far.

Dog Reads Issa

Dog has been reading Issa, The Year

of My Life. Soft tears clot the corners

of Dog’s eyes. Dog wants to lick Issa across

the years of his hand, his gentle eyebrows, chew

his sandals, sniff the warm salt of his crotch. Instead

he chews the book, wanders into the moon-flooded

yard and lifts his head, howls, and listens

to the echoes die away. Perhaps someone

in another time and place will hear him howl, and

wish to gently lick his eyebrows.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Odetta, in memorium

The first and only time I saw Odetta in concert was at a New Year's Eve party at the Earl of Old Town on Chicago's near-north side many years ago. It was a memorable occasion for two reasons: I had never heard a voice with that degree of power, majesty and control before. It was also my first call and response session. The crowd was the usual assortment of Chicago folkies (I went with my father who introduced me to folk music early in life) and it was a mixed crowd both in age and ethnicity. But we were unified by this amazing woman's presence. I have, over the years, purchased and listened to her music, but never without returning to that seminal experience. And I have never doubted the power of one person and a guitar. She will be missed, but she will live on, and perhaps in greater scale and fame as death often achieves for artists.