- Cortijo's Wake/El entierro de Cortijo, by Edgardo Rodríguez Juliá, translated by Juan Flores (I grab anything I find by him, and this book, about Puerto Rico's most important 20th century bomba y plena pioneer, and by extension, the lives and culture of Afroricans, was one I couldn't dare pass up; I still want to translate Peloteros, which has a chapter titled something like "Dreaming of Bob Gibson")
- For Years Now: Poems by W. G. Sebald, Images by Tess Jaray (fluffy but pretty; Sebald obviously wrote these poems while in deep REM sleep, but so what?)
- Joseph Beuys: Early Drawings (I haven't yet grown tired of him)
- Philosophy in the Flesh: The Embodied Mind and Its Challenge to Western Thought, by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson (Lakoff provided one of the emprical lingustic memes for the Democrats, and has been slapped about a bit as a result but his work is solid and this book called out to me from its shelf).
On the New Statesman site, critic, inveterate Marxist, University of Manchester don and After Theory author Terry Eagleton keenly reviews Pascale Casanova's The World Republic of Letters, a volume I mentioned in my booklist last month. I've enjoyed reading it quite a bit, though one aspect of its argument is, unsurprisingly given that Casanova is Paris-based, too Francocentric to be convincing. Some of its analyses, however, particularly of writers from the periphery or margins, and their usefulness to various political or social arguments, are persuasive, and it has made me rethink to some extent the global nature of literature and how it functions.
A few days ago I came across this cool omnibus site, Mark Rosenfelder's Metaverse, which has links of a vast array of things, from Jaime Hernandez's Love and Rockets to a model languge constructure kit to science and science fiction critiques, to an article on the nutty, still living Jean Baudrillard (who actually once did get things right with his theory of the simulacrum, though much else in his thought still strikes me as a bad, wet dream/nightmare about America that he hasn't been able to stop transcribing). How did he manage to outlast Roland Barthes, Michel Foucault, Raymond Aron, and Pierre Bourdieu?
NEA Head Dana Gioia, whose poetry and politics usually turn my stomach, makes a sincere but not forceful enough plea, I think, in today's Boston Globe (which has just found itself in a Jayson Blairesque moment concerning a fake report on a seal kill) on behalf of increasing and nurturing readers, especially readers of literature among our fellow Americans. I previously had linked to the NEA's report on "Reading at Risk," which is grim, grim, grim, and something every imaginative writer and person who cares about society and humanity needs to take to heart. I wish Gioia had stated his remarks with more urgency, perhaps by saying that as a poet, he depended upon more current and future readers (with no aesthetic sense, but that's another story), and, more importantly, the lack of reading is endangering our society and helping the wackos clustered around the party he supports to flourish out there. If more of these people actually read, let's say, oh, the actual text of the four Gospels, for example, we might not see the hatred and bigotry that pass for righteousness among. (Well, it's doubtful, but what's a little optimism in a time of war?)
For example, the late Theresa Schiavo's vigilists might start with Matthew 6:5-7: "And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking." Even I remember having read and comprehended that much in theology classes (though in the Jerusalem Bible's modern version at Catholic school).
Since MS mentioned Constantine Cavafy (1863-1933)--a poet I return to more and more as I get older--in his post on the Ashbery poem, I'll post two Cavafy poems for today.
HE CAME TO READ
He came to read --
He came to read. Two or three books
are open; historians and poets.
But he only read for ten minutes,
and gave them up. He is dozing
on the sofa. He is fully devoted to books --
but he is twenty-three years old, and he's very handsome;
and this afternoon love passed
through his ideal flesh, his lips.
Through his flesh which is full of beauty
the heat of love passed;
without any silly shame for the form of the enjoyment.....
Constantine P. Cavafy (1924)
Body, remember not only how much you were loved,
not only the beds on which you lay,
but also those desires which for you
plainly glowed in the eyes,
and trembled in the voice -- and some
chance obstacle made them futile.
Now that all belongs to the past,
it is almost as if you had yielded
to those desires too -- remember,
how they glowed, in the eyes looking at you;
how they trembled in the voice, for you, remember, body.
Constantine P. Cavafy (1918)