Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Quick Hits on Select Lit

Flush, Virginia Woolf. Woolf plays her usual winning hand in this unlikely novella about Liz Browning's pooch.

An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, David Hume. You’d think that someone like Hume, legendary for his questioning conventional thinking, would also question the prevalent racist beliefs of the 18th century, but sadly, such is not the case. If you can somehow look past the blinding bigotry, though, he’s Wile E. Coyote level super genius.

The Death of Ivan Ilyich, Leo Tolstoy. Spoiler alert--the title gives away the ending.

Stepping Stones, Seamus Heaney. Heaney gives his unique twist to this cover of the Monkees hit single & fucking nails it!

Lost in the Funhouse, John Barth. Brilliant collection of stories!  More fun than a freaking funhouse barrel of funhouses!

The Body Artist, Don DeLillo. Although DeLillo has a distinctly distinct voice, this novella reminds me of something that a young Haruki Murakami might write.  No cats, though.

Martín Flores & the House of Dreams, Lucinda Grey. Finally! a book of poems about a virtually unknown golfer--does anyone remember Flores from any of the many PGA games on Sega?--off the links & out of his element in various slice-of-life situations. It’s sort of a chapbook-length treatment of Weldon Kees’s Robinson poems, with Robinson replaced by the Most Interesting Man in the World (who himself was recently replaced), to varying degrees of humor.

Proposed Roads to Freedom, Bertrand Russell.  I admire Russell’s ability to talk about philosophic concepts in a way that makes them easy to understand--in this case, socialism & anarcho-syndicalism--but what the hell is it with philosophers & bigotry?  (See above entry on Hume.)  In fairness, this book was published in 1919 & Russell's views on race do a 180--well, maybe a 135--degree turnaround by the 1950s.   Aside from his wrongheaded racist views, he also expresses several inexplicably positive, yet erroneous views about egalitarianism in the USA, which today, despite Russell's bold predictions, has the rotten distinction of being one of the worst countries in the world in terms of disparity between classes.

Man & Superman, George Bernard Shaw. Oh, I don’t know. It’s misogynistic & semi-antisemitic–duh, it’s based on Nietzsche, yet another (sigh) philosopher.  On the bright side, it’s clever, which is more than you can say about the egocentric, ethnocentric, downright emetic, big-mouthed bigot Donald Trump, but I digress.  Point is, I fucking hate Trump, who, given his desire to be associated with interesting quotes, shouldn't mind my mentioning his ignorant ass here, since Shaw is a pretty witty quote machine.

Ragtime, E.L. Doctorow.  Aptly titled, for like ragtime music, I don’t have any strong opinion about it whatsoever, one way or another.

Thérèse Ranquin, Emile Zola.  My god, it's too fucking long.  [Insert "That's what she said" here.] Poe would have knocked out a tale like this in 30,000 ham-handed words or less, the ever clever Dupin solving the caper quicker than an orangutan scaling a lightning rod.  Much better than this psychological melodrama is Zola’s Germinal, which I enjoyed reading some 30 years ago.  Sadly, I don’t remember anything about it--the book nor the past 30 years--other than something about rooftops & the vague memory of champagne that taste(d) like cherry cola. Zola, Z-o-l-a, Zola (Repeat & fade).

Dome of the Hidden Pavilion, James Tate. Reading the last collection of one of my all time faves, the late, great James Tate, made me sad in spite of the poems, for there will be no more--unless some bookworm digging around Tate's old papers unearths some great unknown pieces & publishes them posthumously. Digging around. Unearth.  Great unknown.  Such puns border on disrespectful, which I certainly don't intend to be, or rather, I mean not to be.  Death is a grave matter--well, you could opt for cremation, which, like this book, I recommend.