December 13, 2012

What I'm reading

What the library, that great book dealer, has lately dealt me: a diamond, a spade, a heart, and a club.

Diamond, the hard guy

Fat City by Leonard Gardner
I had seen and not forgotten the movie John Huston made from this book (screenplay by Gardner, it turns out), starring one of my favourite actors, Stacy Keach, and a very young Jeff Bridges, and one day I saw that the book was back in print and put in a suggestion for purchase. It’s about the world of the boxers who never make it big, the tanktown circuit, as they call it, small matches for small money. Fundamental for me was the setting, a part of California that I find incredibly suggestive, Joan Didion country, the delta fields of the Central Valley, the deep water channels, the levees, the orchards, the heat, the small towns where the air smells like diesel.

Spade: one-eyed jacks

Syncopations: beats, New Yorkers and writers in the dark by James Campbell
A book I picked up by chance, the keywords jumping out at me, and took out, although that  "syncopations" worried me a bit, which turned out to be a bit of an omen. It's a collection of pieces of literary criticism, with all the good and bad that entails. I skipped the piece about Toni Morrison, and a few others I can’t recall right now, but learned some interesting things about Art Spiegelman, Richard Wright, and Alexander Trocchi as cartographer.

Heart: Edmund Valentine White

The Beautiful Room is Empty by Edmund White
syndetics-lcAt this point in Edmund White’s series of autobiographical novels he is growing up, ie at that stage where you become what White in a stroke of genius calls "a provisional equal”. In his last year of boarding school in Chicago he starts haunting a bookstore run or owned by a gay guy named Tex, who soon cottons on to what it is he’s wanting as much or more as a good book. Tex lets him know about the man in the corner who owns several bookstores and is married, but might make a nice date (he says something like, “He’s here without his wife and you’re a not uncomely ephebe”). Young White has a brush cut his father has chosen and thick black glasses. When he finally gets up the courage to say something to the man, what comes out is “What do you think of the Kierkegaard boom?”

Club (soda): I know he liked Gin tonics, but would he have said no to a Gin fizz?

The Paris Review interviews Vol. II
The highlight of this volume for me was an erratic, and often droll, interview with Philip Larkin, who agreed to be interviewed but only by mail and took five months to answer the first set of questions because “It has taken rather a long time because, to my surprise, I found writing it suffocatingly boring.”

Interviewer: Can you describe the genesis and working out of a poem based upon an image that most people would simply pass by? (A clear road between neighbors, an ambulance in city traffic?)

Larkin: If I could answer this sort of question, I’d be a professor rather than a librarian. And in any case, I shouldn’t want to. It’s a thing you don’t want to think about. It happens, or happened, and if it’s something to be grateful for, you’re grateful.
I remember saying once, I can’t understand these chaps who go round American universities explaining how they write poems; it’s like going round explaining how you sleep with your wife. Whoever I was talking to said, They’d do that too, if their agents could fix it.

Ditulis Oleh : Karen Craig // 12:00


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