Monday, December 5, 2016

Gabriel Josipovici's Everything Passes

This episodic novelette from 2006 underscores several problems meta-fiction has found itself backed into. Ostensibly about an asshole who’s alienated his wife (now ex), daughter, son, and literary friends, these segments serve only as set-up to the book’s main focus: asshole creator shirking familial and literary duties in order to turn the tap of existential angst to ten, tricking himself with that faint hope of literary self-worth. But even that faint hope can never be realized, of course, because, as the narrator/Josipovici has it, the creator, post-Rabelais, is speaking to an invisible audience. The sections of meta-assertion, a historical critique much more fully positioned and developed in the author’s What Ever Happened To Modernism?, slams the brakes on whatever enchantment, interest, or intrigue his clipped narrative may have achieved, but there’s a more serious, more fundamental problem in the meta-critique.

Josipovici is, of course, right to point out the long history of novelist as self-conscious navigator in bellwether works . But Cervantes, Sterne, and others, used that awareness in the service of the author/narrator voice as fictional and imaginative hijinks largely separate from the transparent worries of the author over his or her own creative process. The reader of many late-postmodern works is often left with a solipsistic defense of the writing process, interesting, even fascinating, no doubt, to the author and (similarly) philosophically inclined writers, but of limited (and redundant when scrolling through book promos) appeal to those wanting to get out of the overseeing, stifling, never-ending loop.

The book is sixty pages, with plenty of white space. Most poetry collections contain more words. Despite that, Everything Passes isn’t compressed or concise. The refrain, some variation of, “He stands at the window./Cracked pane./His face at the window./Greyness. Silence.”, gathers irritation, rather than profundity, by repetition. The protagonist (if that’s the appropriate word) reminisces. Those thoughts aren’t interesting, and can’t be improved by pleading for a multiple suggestiveness from other characters or the reader her- or himself. The meta-commentary was philosophically problematic, but it was also problematic structurally. The bridge between glum remembrance and meta-aspiration was poorly synthesized, and the latter focus ended in a terribly overwrought ecstasy of creative explosion (however ironically one wants to take it) that reminded me of that ridiculous cliché to be found in the movie Amadeus, where the effervescent hero pens a new score in dramatic frenzy.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Joe Queenan's One for the Books

A cantankerous, half tongue-in-cheek provocation of bibliophilic obsession, Joe Queenan’s eight essays, gathered from previously published newspaper and magazine columns, ruminate on the author’s book reading habits (he’s polished off over six thousand fiction tomes, and, averaging out his actuarial lifespan probability, expects to read 2,132 more), library experiences and thoughts (“[p]utting James Patterson next to Proust is like displaying Babe Ruth’s uniform alongside Three Finger Brown’s” – [must be a small library]), bookstores (“[s]pindly boys with thick Clark Kent glasses wearing ill-advised polo shirts and unpersuasive facial hair routinely come up to me and say, ‘Can I help you with anything?’ as if I were a disoriented extraterrestrial or the last man to straggle home from Gettysburg”), personal reading resolutions (always different – one year it’s a deliriously happy and exclusive concentration on novellas, reading almost one a day; the next it’s books picked out blindly from the library shelves, not such a great idea), and book-related experiences on his travels (a “gaunt, humorless widow”, as landlord in Paris when Queenan was twenty-one, let him off the hook for unbecoming living habits after she discovered he was a rabid fan of Henry de Motherlant), among other thoughtful anecdotes, uproarious buffoonery, and shiv-like satire.

I’ll let Queenan do the rest of the talking:

“In the case of The House of the Seven Gables, I know perfectly well why I have never read it – I hate people from Massachusetts, and I know the book is going to give me a headache”.

“I read [Bear, by Marian Engel] as soon as I got back to the States and loved [it], though I was somewhat surprised that this straightlaced Canadian would recommend a book about a lonely female historian who treats herself to a short, ergonomically implausible love affair with a bear. The bear was a bit surprised, too.”

“For decades well-meaning pedagogues have been sabotaging summer vacations ... One reason the average American reads no more than four books a year may be the emotional trauma suffered while trying to hack his way through Wuthering Heights at age fourteen.”

“It’s possible that minor books can lure readers to major ones, functioning as a cultural Venus flytrap, but crummy books only lead to more crummy books.”

“Reading books may make you smarter than other people. It does not make you better. I know things about the Vietnam War because I read them in books. My friend Richie, a nonreader, knows things about the Vietnam War because he went to Vietnam.”

“A few years ago, several people in my town asked if I would like to join a book discussion club ... I left town for about six weeks, disconnected the phone, stopped answering e-mails, and told people that I had a weird retinal pigmentation disease that made it impossible for me to read books. Especially books like The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time.”

“I have come to believe that people who get dressed up in period costume, with three-cornered hats and high-buckle shoes, and who speak in archaic English, suffer from Reenactor’s Autism, a malady that renders victims incapable of detecting otherwise unmistakable visual cues indicating that most of the people in the room would like to see them disemboweled.”

“[My father’s] books allowed him to cling to dreams that would never materialize. Books had not enabled him to succeed. But they had mitigated the pain of failure.”

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Gabrielle Roy's The Tin Flute

A CanCon classic, and Gabrielle Roy’s first novel, The Tin Flute, first out in 1945, follows the fate of feisty Florentine, Montreal waitress during WWII, as she fights family poverty and relationship neglect. There’s your boilerplate plot synopsis, and if that were all the novel offered as thematic thrust and narrative line, it would be boilerplate to potboiler. Fortunately, there are sub-plots (or, more accurately, interior interludes) that make up the heart of the structure: father Azarius fighting his own lassitude and lack of purpose; mother Rose-Anna trying to keep her brood alive; Florentine’s shy second suitor, Emmanuel, infatuated, pursuing his desire with a painful mix of courageous persistence and hangdog passivity; and the snowblown streets and windowpanes themselves as (obvious yet lyrically well-handled) symbolic back-up to the shifting tonal state of the characters.

Fortunate, too, that the plot scaffolding covers little of the roof, because the Florentine-Jean will-he-won’t-he romance is pure melodrama. When the weather fails to make a point artfully, Roy dips into Florentine and Jean’s skulls with the stock groaners, “with her whole being” and “he shook his head emphatically”.

Still, the author’s grasp of psychological understanding is often acute, wise, and convincing across multiple characters in the same scene. And she gives an honest sense of perplexity without mawkish exclamation, in many instances, when dealing with the motivations and decisions of Florentine, Emmanuel and Azarius, (not so much with Jean or some of the minor personages).

Intermittently affecting, the novel is too uneven, yet its worth seems pressed in canonical cement, and after modernism’s earlier upheaval, there’s little excuse for the faded Victorianism. SPOILER! (The sex scene and subsequent pregnancy are alluded to in the airiest of hints, a quaint and amusing hunt for today’s reader.) Yet there’s a courageous honesty that lingers underneath the often ramped-up emotion, and I’d recommend the book mildly because of it.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death

First published in 1985, this cultural polemic against the pervasively deleterious influence of television on the sober subjects of religion, politics, news, education, history, and science may seem outdated, if not quaint. But, despite the blooming of computer use, TV viewing hasn’t receded much, if at all, in aggregate total hours. It was four hours a day thirty years ago; it is now, I believe, about three-and-a-half hours. Apparently, teh interwebz isn’t replacing TV watching, but other activities such as ... well, reading, for one, I suppose. In this way, Postman, ironically, may seemingly have overshot his thesis, which, because of the inherent nature of its subject, depends on prophetic weight to lend force to its argument. Still, Postman is tuned in enough to realize that television – the medium, not necessarily the intention – emphasizes image over word, speed over exposition, contemporaneity over history, disjunction over relevance, simplicity over perplexity, solutions over ambiguities, and entertainment over edification, while also noting parallels with the later electronic development.

Postman provides a brief overview of how oral communication transformed into written forms, and how those forms were dramatically altered by the Gutenberg revolution. He then gives a detailed account of typographic life in the seventeenth through nineteenth centuries, emphasizing the seriousness with which readers in America took their transmitting politicians, journalists, religious speakers, and even novelists (imagine Sir Walter Scott as a best-seller today). Abe Lincoln and his opponent(s) would orate over the stump for seven hours at a stretch with no complaints or restlessness from an engaged audience.

The telegraph, in 1840, changed everything. The speed of transmission could now outrun its environment. In Postman’s words, “a man in Maine and a man in Texas could converse, but not about anything either of them knew or cared very much about. The telegraph may have made the country into ‘one neighborhood’, but it was a peculiar one, populated by strangers who knew nothing but the most superficial facts about each other.” It’s here, and in many other examples, that Postman’s analysis creates a comparable shiver of recognition in today’s reader of political commentary, however different the mediums of discourse may appear to be on the surface. Following closely behind telegraphy, the daguerreotype (and then photography) further eroded the reign of typography as the accepted mode of serious transmission. Image over word then took off with further refinements we’re more familiar with.

Postman’s been called a stuffed shirt, a ridiculous idealist, an alarmist, and, probably worst, hyperbolic and irrelevant. But take a few tests based on Postman’s own questions. How many people projecting facile memes (created by someone else, at that), on Facebook and other social media sites, know anything relevant about the candidates they’re mocking or celebrating in elections for premier or president? How is it that TV news is even worse than it was in 1985, what with scrolling bottom-text during the talking-head segments, as if even the half-minute ‘story’ (before the always prevalent “now ... this” mendacious fracture) commands too much attention and thought to sit still for? And how is it that Charlie “I’m interrupting once again even though I don’t have a fucking clue what I’m talking about” Rose is the leading TV interviewer on serious topics? Postman’s all for junk TV because it’s not trying to be anything else – no snob, he. ‘Gunsmoke’ and ‘Dallas’ are fine, if that’s your bag. Take away a smattering of professional sports and the occasional Hogan’s Heroes rerun, and I could do a toned-down version of Howard Beale, portable box in one hand, raised window sash in the other, ten floors above ground.

And we haven’t even covered subsequent technological developments since Amusing Ourselves to Death’s initial release: multiple recordings for distracted viewers, fast-forwarding at one click, hundreds if not thousands of channels, TV’s continued preference for speed and popularity over relevance by news hour’s highlighting of what’s going viral on youtube or what’s trending on Twitter, the accelerated link between government-media and what is even possible (or not) to air at all (though that would go against the author’s Huxley-over-Orwell argument). Postman just scratched the surface.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Simon Sebag Montefiore's Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar

I'm back for a series of book review postings, one a day until just before Christmas. As a bad habit, I've collected thoughts and jottings on books I've read this year, brushed them up somewhat, and, since they'd gathered into a dozen-plus, decided to set them down here. This is only a small sampling of what I've read throughout 2016. I've read lots, and there's no particular reason these books got words while others didn't. Time after reading a certain book, perhaps. Perhaps a particular theme or idea caught my attention. And in a few cases, a particular ecstasy or annoyance quickened my decision to engage. These are presented in no reasoned order, though they follow somewhat chronologically. Towards the last 5-7 days, I'll post some reviews from earlier journals in which they first appeared, and I may end this burst with a complete year-end reading list. I've no idea whether I'll resurrect the blog in the new year, or if this will just be a frozen quasar on a spaceship blog-log past Pluto. But enough. Here's the first review.


Montefiore’s 2003 historical biography of Stalin is an expansive genre offering in that it uses almost as much textual consideration of the Vozhd’s magnates as on the dictator himself. Most readers with a bare acquaintance of Soviet history will know, broadly, of the Great Purge during 1937-38. But the intrigue, paranoia, alliances, disinformation, frame-ups, political jockeying, secret murder, fear, ideological assertion, factional preference, 14-19 hour work days, alcoholic bingeing, fury, and bungling pervaded not only that black period, but most of the rest of Stalin’s rule from 1924 till his last breath in 1953. The author takes advantage of biographical material heretofore unreleased, but, in addition, goes the extra thousand miles to unearth detail locked away and forgotten in coded diaries from none other than Stalin’s Georgian mother. In this way, he’s able, with authoritative substance, to disagree with earlier assessments: for example, Montefiore notes that earlier biographers considered Stalin’s brutal slap and outrageous denunciation of daughter Svetlana, after she makes known her initial seduction by a sophisticated lover, a low point in the mass murderer’s roll call of evil. But the age difference (the seducer was 21 years older), the cultural norms (it wasn’t uncustomary for Georgian fathers to pull out the proverbial shotgun in such cases), and Stalin’s shrewd awareness of Svetlana’s emotionally unsophisticated personality (borne out during the rest of her life) enables the biographer to downplay prior assessments of this event. On that note, one criticism of Montefiore is that he makes Stalin too human. This, however, is what makes one of the top three monsters of the 20th century even scarier. The fact that someone who tends to his lemon trees, who gives money to old friends from decades ago just because he thought of them lately, who reads, at times, 500 pages a day of literature (or history or Marxist commentary or political news) can also issue specific death quotas of 100,000 whether many of those victims are innocent or not, can terrorize (and at times, kill) his own extended family and the families of his own Party, can psychopathically turn on long-time friends with cruel and delayed tactics, can murder millions based on absurd paranoiac fantasies of plots against his leadership or life: the complex record is an extreme reminder that wholesale wickedness isn’t the sole domain of a non-human entity, the present-day equivalent of a fantastical horror figure, but that of a brutal man made worse by upbringing, street intrigue, fanatical organization, megalomania, and a series of fortuitous circumstances.

But it’s the relationships between Stalin and his grandees that make for gripping, incredible drama. Montefiore casts a dubious eye over many post-Stalin accounts, cross-referencing them with many other sources to come up with credible reports of the maze of relationship shifts over the decades. The pusillanimous Kaganovich, the multi-faced and punctilious Malenkov, the savvy Mikoyan, the brave and ill-fated Ordzhonikidze, the plodding but effective Molotov, the alcoholic and prissy Zhdanov, the murderous rapist-terrorist Beria, the murderous bisexual dwarf Yezhov, and many more, often co-existed in close quarters, while trying to protect themselves (in part by betraying colleagues) from Stalin’s unpredictable outbursts and changing alliances.

Montefiore’s writing is all over the map. At times disjointed – he too often funnels quotes from his own narrative, thereby creating a confusion of referents – and at times typo-ridden, there are passages of surprisingly daring diction as well as sentences of gorgeous comparison: (“Malenkov stood up and ran forward, chins aquiver, with the desperate grace of a whippet sealed inside a blancmange.”)

Incredibly, Politburo vet Mikoyan survived not only Stalin, but, while also in high office, Lenin, Khrushchev, and Brezhnev, as well. And though Mikoyan was implicated by signing off, with the others, on continual death warrants, he also tried to save innocents at the risk of immediate death for himself and family (wife and seven children), was a major factor in defusing the Cuban missile crisis, and (with Khrushchev) was the driving force of de-Stalinization after the dictator’s death. In a long, densely-packed armoured tank-rolling display of text, it was he, and the sporadic appearance, on the periphery, of artists, that allowed for several fresh breaths in an otherwise perpetually claustrophobic charnel house.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Edward Carson's Birds Flock Fish School

“Something is moving them/into the sky, spreading their wings.”

“Something about what has come/and gone swirls and eddies in our brains, hastily forgotten.”

“something/more than ordinary light,”

“a mark of something largely more.”

“We already understand/something has gone missing,”

“It happens every time we say something about//what’s coming for each of us,”

“Something departs, ambitious, perfect.”

“something/more than knowing what to do, how to arrive,”

“someone might be searching for something else//entirely.”

The last of these nine quotations (in eight poems) from Edward Carson’s 2013 collection of poetry, Birds Flock Fish School, applies to yours truly. So there’s your answer (though Carson hates answers) to at least one particular “something” or “someone”.

Vague sermons dressed up with somber, vatic assumptions (Carson hammers, in most every poem, on the “we” undergoing the experience, a beautifully funny example of the grammatical term, “subjective case”) are a mainstay of an always-popular subset of Canadian poetry, which depresses, in its dime-store translation of timeless spiritual wisdom, with an embarrassingly unsophisticated caress of air. Carson, worse than most followers in this school, gives next to no concrete colorings or imagery which would at least help to make vivid, in relief and contrast and context, the abstractions he finds so important. But it would also force Carson to be far more nuanced and responsible in those pronouncements. It would also show, even more humorously, the pretentiousness “we” find, in lines such as, “One thing beckoning at the edges of another,/we think of things retrieved”, or, “brilliant mosaics of now”, or, “a new opening/opens”, or, “We see the horizon/lingers, speaking in tongues”, or, “In the end, will we find this to be what is here/for us to wonder, what dark embrace we covet, identical as heaven?”, or, “the morning shows the way/to what is meant to be”.

Further to the problem of bastardised content, Carson has only one note. Every poem (but one) shows it, and relentlessly, but here’s a passage from the end of “Symptoms” which best captures his (not our) discovery:

“The day breaks before we know it. Our restlessness
is impossible to subdue. A promise appears, invisible

as light, pushing past the literal, the loosely knit ideas
of what the only thing is on earth to know, to believe in.”

Aside, again, from the arrogant first-person plural, note the tone. The one note in content is matched by a consistency in mood. The voice, strangely, is both grey-green and ridiculous, almost an unintended parody on the foolish spiritual sufferer, meditating for ten hours a day with the familiar patina of woes and minute, finely-tuned turnings of the deluded mind, however calibrated those thoughts may be to an ontological profundity.

And however a reader may approach these thoughts, and downplay any residual meaning (Carson, like others in this school, gets to step away from challenges of content since even the concrete nouns are general: cloud, sky, bird, star, earth, light), the overwhelming focus, as appears in the last-quoted segment above, is on “our” exasperated failure, always just out of reach, of and for enlightenment. I don’t deny this is real, and that it’s experienced by many (it accords with a minority of my own history) but it’s the importance – no, the obsession – he attaches to this experience that finally irritates at least this reader. Life – including meditation, whether formal or spontaneous – is far more various in mood and spiritual insight than Carson lets on. To be brief about it: divinity is in reach, at times, and, opposite, at most other times, even a hint of it is completely foreign.

There is one very good poem in Birds Flock Fish School: “The Force that Keeps Things Afloat”. Here, Carson forgets the script, and a sensitive, extended four-part nature metaphor builds to an affecting consideration on how the past defines us (yes, the “we”, finally, is fitting), but is paradoxically (and optimistically, for a change) lightened by the wind (forgetfulness? or superseded by joy, however brief?). No matter on the takeaway. These lines are good for the mind to roll around in, and the language here is devoid of easy mystification, instead letting the reader luxuriate, however briefly, in the sensuous contact of, “The force that keeps things afloat takes note/of what it is to be the falling leaf, imagines//the tension of its balancing, face up, against/the water pressing back.”

The last poem in the collection is titled “First and Last Things”, and whaddaya know, a second human finally appears, in itself giving the narrator a human (if generic) element. But, and despite the success of “The Force that Keeps Things Afloat”, it’s much too little and too late. The weight of spiritual fatalism smothers all (the book’s worst, “Flying Formation”, schools us with, “[the clouds] describe what turns out to be the rising//shape of our fear”).

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Don Coles' A Serious Call

Don Coles has often etched his poems on a membrane separating enchantment from mundanity. To his great credit, the cell has rarely broken, and his fascinating recollections, sprinkled liberally with cleverly shaped bursts of spontaneous wonder, add to the stock of that all-too-rare breed of poetry: elevated thought and feeling, fragile, ensorcelling, imprinted, and sensitively adjusted. But Coles’ latest offering, this year’s A Serious Call, is a collection of staggering missteps. Gone are the close relationships between narrator Coles and his subjects, to be replaced by long-distance, rambling reminiscences. Here’s a cut from “People I Knew for One Year”:

“Frank Elsom who won a blue sleeveless sweater
with ‘Bolo-Bat Champion’ on it for hitting
the Bolo-ball on its elastic string more times
than anybody.”

The standard objection to this type of quoting is that it’s cherry-picking for weak spots. But this is a representative example. It’s not just the tediousness of the thoughts that dismays, but the dead tone one naturally evinces to give them voice. Robert Lowell, in his otherwise seminal Life Studies, isn’t a stranger, either, to the biographical doldrums, banging out a pedestrian observation of, “Father and Mother moved to Beverly Farms/to be a two minute walk from the station,/half an hour by train from the Boston doctors.” At other times, though, Lowell hauls his diurnal drudgery up from its roots by language alone. Coles’ talents, however, don’t lend themselves to virtuosic rescue of this sort.

There’s also the problem throughout of ground covered like the front row of a three-day outdoor international congress with the Pope. “Moonlight” – actually one of the poems that shows Coles here at close to his best manner of offhand-raconteur-turns-spellbinding (“a kind of be-cloaked Caspar David Friedrich walk-on/gibbering under the moon to a nodding-off fellow-cloakee/while on a remote hilltop his tiny wife lies with her white legs/in the air either side of his happy teenage apprentice”) – descends into, “I’ve so often wished I had asked him much more/about all that, and right now there’s a blurred couple of seconds which could be my chance,/but in the moonlight and the remembered quiet /I let it go.”

The greatest travesty, though, arrives with the titular effort. To mangle Delmore Schwartz: “with many pages begin responsibilities”. “A Serious Call” occupies the final nineteen pages of the book. After the first half, a little trepidation naturally crept in. But that was eased by the first page. After a blackly humorous epigraph on Pushkin’s response, while on his deathbed, to the question of whether or not he wanted to say goodbye to his friends, (“He looked around at his books/and said, ‘Goodbye, friends’.”), and the opening setting wherein Coles mixes a mysterious stew of geography, fitting allusion, hints of danger, an as-yet-unrevealed bookstore gig, and art-to-commerce enjambments in cutting yet even-toned revelation, (“Nowadays the area’s rampant with wine bars/patronized by rich youths who got that way/shifting currencies in nearby highrises”), the poem quickly falls apart when and after a clumsily rendered depiction of first-person narrator Coles and the bookstore owner ... well, put their feet up, smoke roll ‘ems, and read whatever they want. This dull recording then passes into a Colesian standard: the many-angled consideration of epiphany, here in its literary manifestation. In previous volumes, Coles was a master, in this vein, at creating moods at once unnerving and welcoming, but in this poem the transference is borrowed from the deathless, and splashed with a ramped-up, laudatory mystification. The reader (the current reviewer, not Coles) is treated to particularly contorted, long-winded, and multiple asides, and the clauses are interwoven so thickly within the core statements that rereading this section, immediately, and more than once, is necessary just to parse the hesitant declarations, which owe more to enthusiasm than to transferred experience. Here’s an example:

“I can even remember what the first lines, the first
of so many lines to be read aloud by one of those two
(one of us two, sure, but we’re so almost out-of-sight
way back there among the years that from where I am now
we look to be a those) and listened to by the other one
(roles undecided, who would do what, who would read
and who listen – usually this depended on who was the first
to be prompted by a newly arrived sentence cluster to know
that there was no way he was going to move past this cluster,
its unexpectedness, without getting some backup)”

But let’s move on. Once settled in, stationary, feet up on the table, Coles then continues with a statement of poetics before launching into scattershot omnibus review-bites covering canonical favourites from the past three centuries. The poem’s set-up, then, disappears. We are now entirely inside Coles’ head, and the bookstore, any people who may have ventured into it, his boss, and the relationship between this outlet and the surrounding community, have dropped away. This criticism is entirely justified since Coles laid down these elements in the initial stages. And yes, I know that interior concentration is the point – the epigraph is a reminder – but structurally, the poem is a mess. But let’s talk about what’s there for the remaining pages. Coles’ valedictory penchant moves to the fore. It’s always been a strength, and in snippets from – and commentary on – writers from Flaubert to Hardy, George Eliot to Camus, the author warms his heart (and occasionally mine) by turning over a mini-highlight reel of verse and prose passage. There is nothing particularly illuminating here, though. The great writers speak for themselves. Coles simply admires for the most part, though he also reviews a Hardy passage by remarking on, “ ‘starlit’ locked into its perfection-slot [ugh!] in that last line”, and George Eliot is rightfully belaurelled (or whatever the equivalent word is for novelists) for a specific passage in Middlemarch, after which Coles remarks that Eliot “allows you to bring to mind, possibly from very far off, someone you know or, just as possibly, love”. Even here, though, the emotion, deep, devotional, can be, should be, readily evident from the source quotation, never mind the novel itself. Here’s the late Ralph Gustafson, Coles’ friend and neighbour, from his similarly considered winter poem-memoir, Configurations at Midnight:

“North, where I live, the crocus blooms
For about four weeks, less,
Perhaps, I haven’t counted, being
Too busy with coming peonies,
Then eating garden green peas,
Then August Indian corn
(Eight minutes is about all you need
For that, the water already boiling,
That is), far quicker than reading
Remembrance of Things Past. George
Eliot’s Middlemarch matches
Eating corn though and Chopin’s
“Barcarolle,” peas ...

Sadness to know there is no time.”

The latter passage is from a poem with complications. Coles’ enthusiasms are not much more than book blurbs.

Outside of the act of arranging these words, the sentiments herein give me zero pleasure. On this site, I’ve plugged all of Coles’ books – four? five? – that I’ve read. I just hope this volume isn’t indicative of the last offerings of some of our other gifted senior poets – Daryl Hine jumps immediately to mind – and that it’s just one bad note in a continuing, mesmerizing sonata. The second option is retirement. The other choice doesn’t bear dwelling on.