Wednesday, December 8, 2010

What I'm reading; what I'm thinking...

This is a device so that I don't fall off the blogging bandwagon again. As folks who stop by know, I don't do this kind of 'personal post' – not much anyway. But since I am reading, all together, several books that exercise me, I thought it would be okay to share with you. I'll take them in no particular order.

Derek Walcott was just in Toronto to read and discuss his life and work, and so I dived into the Walcott books I'd not caught up with. I'm reading Tiepolo's Hound (not for the first time, but I'd not got too far in on the previous reading...), a gorgeous book illustrated with Walcott's paintings and published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in 2000. Having just finished a MS of sonnets, I am keen on what Walcott is doing with couplets in this book, running with alternately rhyming lines, AB AB BC BC DE DE FG FG, and so on. There are only one or two poems in my MS where I hold tight to any rhyme scheme, and one of the things I think I found out is that it works to run the unit of meaning, the 'sentence,' past the rhyme at the end of the line over into the next line. Not always, but often. Otherwise, especially if one is working with iambics, there's the danger of doggerel, sing-song, however highfalutin the sentiments. I'm watching for that here, as the poem trails about Europe and Camille Pissaro's little Caribbean island.

I'm also wondering in and out of two books by Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature at NYU, Timothy Reiss, a polymath if ever there was one. My pursuit is not academic. Interested in ideas of self (see sonnet, "Who loves not self, loves not..." in a recent post), I had started with Mirages of the Self, but realized that for a handle on Reiss's term, "analytico-referential," I'd need to go back to a previous work, The Discourse of Modernism. Maybe I'll keep you posted.

And I'm making my way steadily through Thomas Cahill's popular biography of Pope John XXIII, published in the Penguin Lives Series, and called just that. Pope John XXIII. Cahill, who is comfortable to read, begins with the long reach back to Peter the Apostle and the beginnings of the church, some of which makes for horrific reading. His strategy works because he eases the reader through the history, in an effort to provide Pope John XXII (and Vatican II, of course) with a broad, meaningful context. Which he manages to do. No easy task.

And finally, the inevitable detective-story-mystery thing, most recently Thomas H. Cook's Peril. Peril, especially as something which confronts small children, is something of which I have written (see title story of Pink Icing: Stories) with feeling, but I don't think that's why I remember Cook's story. (Often I forget stories in this genre within hours of closing the book.) He writes some good characters (except for the heavy-heavy, Old Man Labriola, who is unrelieved evil) and his approach to telling the story, short sections marked with the name of the character whose POV is explored therein, succeeds in moving the story forward quickly.

Gotta go. Next time around, DV, the state-sanctioned abrogation of citizen's rights at the recent G20 in Toronto. Walk good.

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