Merry Christmas

December 24, 2010

Anne Porter

December 21, 2010

I’ll have to find a collection…Anne Porter is the writer of the “Music” poem I posted earlier. Happy solstice!


by Anne Porter

When snow is shaken
From the balsam trees
And they’re cut down
And brought into our houses

When clustered sparks
Of many-colored fire
Appear at night
In ordinary windows

We hear and sing
The customary carols

They bring us ragged miracles
And hay and candles
And flowering weeds of poetry
That are loved all the more
Because they are so common

But there are carols
That carry phrases
Of the haunting music
Of the other world
A music wild and dangerous
As a prophet’s message

Or the fresh truth of children
Who though they come to us
From our own bodies

Are altogether new
With their small limbs
And birdlike voices

They look at us
With their clear eyes
And ask the piercing questions
God alone can answer.

“Noël” by Anne Porter, from Living Things. © Zoland Books, 2006.

Movies are good, but…

December 19, 2010

There are some books that even the best-made movies can’t really capture.

I’m not one of those who always goes around saying, “But the book was better!”, because I don’t always think that’s true. I’ve only read two Cormac McCarthy novels (so far), and seen those two movies–The Road and All the Pretty Horses–but there’s something about the internal voices of the novels that the movies, even as well done as these are, can’t capture.

A voice-over just isn’t the same.


December 16, 2010

Way back when some friends and I signed up for a reading challenge: choose 12 (in my case, 13) books from your to be read list and read one a month through the year. I had worked through lots of others, and have finally finished my last two TBR challenge books, Their Eyes Were Watching God and All the Pretty Horses. Both books describe eloquently the hard, hard lives of their protagonists, and there is a great deal of beauty in the difficult.

I might not do the challenge again, per se, but I think I will take G’s advice and do more shopping in my own library. These wonderful works at the end of the challenge have shown me I had good taste when I bought all these books.

I think I might also take the time, over the holiday, to purge some books, since the new year will bring a move, whether it’s a move back, or a move on.

Life in Literature

December 13, 2010

Over here G just filled in a meme using book titles to describe one’s life. He chose really excellent ones, at least 4 that I would have wanted to use. I did the other way and selected reads from the past year, so these are the best fit I had but not necessarily the best of my life. I like some of them, tho.

Describe yourself: Making History.

How do you feel: Small Beneath the Sky.

Describe where you currently live: Drinking Coffee Elsewhere.

If you could go anywhere, where would you go: Sunset Park.

Your favorite form of transportation: The Wayward Bus, or All the Pretty Horses. But neither would be true.

Your best friend is: “The More Loving One”

You and your friends are: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.

What’s the weather like: Decision Points.

You fear: Ghosts (not really, but it seemed a good fit).

What is the best advice you have to give: Failure is not an Option (ditto).

Thought for the day: Writing out the Notes.

How I would like to die: Their Eyes Were Watching God.

My soul’s present condition: Little, Big.


Silent men

December 6, 2010

So I liked Holden better by the end. I found him a little more self-aware at the end of Catcher in the Rye than at the beginning. Not much, but a little.

At the same time I was reading Paul Auster’s new Sunset Park. Loved Auster’s work in The New York Trilogy and now that I see that my library has a few more novels I’ll have to explore more widely. But I was struck by this passage:

“…when she thinks of that generation of silent men, the boys who lived through the Depression and grew up to become soldiers or not-soldiers in the war, she doesn’t blame them for refusing to talk, for not wanting to go back into the past, but how curious it is, she thinks, how sublimely incoherent that her generation, which doesn’t have much of anything to talk about yet, has produced men who never stop talking…whereas with the silent men, the old men, the ones who are nearly gone now, she would give anything to hear what they have to say.”

I loved it deeply. I think it captures the malaise of our time (and Holden’s?) perfectly.


December 3, 2010

So my 11th TBR book is The Catcher in the Rye. I think the true measure of Salinger’s genius is that I’m enjoying the book even though Holden Caulfield is the biggest prick in literature.


December 3, 2010

So I’ve finished with The Prince. I actually think it’s gotten a bad rap. Machiavelli is really just making an argument about the most effective way to gain and retain power, in a very specific historical context (I skipped some of those bits). He’s not making moral arguments, and in fact, when he does, I often found myself agreeing with him:

“Thus it happens in matters of state; for knowing afar off (which it is only given to a prudent man to do) the evils that are brewing, they are easily cured. But when, for want of such knowledge, they are allowed to grow so that everyone can recognise them, there is no longer any remedy to be found.”

“Whoever thinks that in high personages new benefits cause old offences to be forgotten, makes a great mistake.”

And of course the famous feared/loved dichotomy, although people don’t seem to quote the first part:

“…one ought to be both feared and loved, but as it is difficult for the two to go together, it is much safer to be feared than loved, if one of the two has to be wanting.”

I enjoyed the writing style; Machiavelli is clear in terms of the goals of his argument and the topics he chooses to cover, and offers historical explanation for his views. If we don’t want to read the book as political science anymore, maybe we can use it as a writing example for first year English students?

I was struck by one comment in the introduction (by Christian Gauss), though, and maybe it was because I was reading G.W. Bush’s memoir right before:

“To keep our consideration of Machiavelli in perspective it is necessary to remind ourselves that f there is any error involved, it is intellectual error, and that it is one of the fundamental tenets of American democracy that intellectual error is innocent.”

Maybe my liking of Machiavelli, and my disagreement with applying this principle in modern history, is just because it’s so removed from my time that I don’t see the other errors that accompanied the intellectual ones.