95 Books for 2014: List 14: Medieval Now, Objectless Reading & The Parallel Contemporaries

  1. Time Was Soft There: A Memoir A Paris Soujourn at Shakespeare & Co by Jeremy Mercer (Picador, 2005)
    This was a lovely read. It has vivid details about the history of bookstores and the nature of the characters who come to live there, among the 40,000 writers who have crashed at the store. There’s something of a novel’s arc to it as it recount’s George’s lifetime adventures, his philosophy of give what you can, take what you need as he runs his space for writers for decades. It has to start somewhere and he felt “the stronger the community, the stronger the individual” unlike capitalism where society is judged by the richest state. “Look at the poor people, look at the single mothers, look at the prisoners,” he said, “These are the yardsticks of a civilization.” (p. 213). Also memorable, p. 239

    Tom and I once had a long discussion about signs. I held there was a message to be had in them, that one could determine one’s path by keeping an eye out for omens such as snarling dogs or smiling girls. Tom felt this was an internal process, that every minute of life was surrounded by a thousand potentially meaningful incidents. […] Tom would say that on the same corner as the snarling dog might be the girl, and if one wasn’t so nervous of the dog, one would notice her smile and believe it was a charmed day.

    It was written by a former Ottawa resident, former writer for the Ottawa Citizen. Here’s another article on George Whitman [via the Paris Review daily roundup].

  2. The Poems of Aemilia Lanyer: Salve Deaus Rex Judaeorum (1611)
    This is a book that I’ve been pecking away at for years. Poetry Foundation describes it as “Aemilia Lanyer was the first woman writing in English to produce a substantial volume of poetry designed to be printed and to attract patronage.” and it’s “arguably the first genuinely feminist publication in England.”
    One section is allegory. One is repeating bible stories in a different rhymed form. Blood dripping onto feet and lover as Christ is prevalent enough to give you an idea.

    Nor is he fit for honour, or command,
    if base affections over-riles the mind;
    or that selfe-will doth carry such a hand,
    as worldly pleasures have the power to blind
    so he cannot see or understand
    how to discharge that place to him assign’d:

    Some are over the top kiss ups to her arts patrons, where her eyes are brighter than the sun itself, has incomparable excellence or virtue, chaste breast, pure mind, etc. Some are thanks for letting the poet stay at her estate,

    Each Arbour, Banke, each Seate, each stately Tree,
    Thought themselves honour’d in supporting thee.
    The pretty Birds would oft come to attend three,
    Yet flie away for feare they should offend thee:

    She was a contemporary of Stanley, even referencing him. Somehow her poems seem more like verse but then they are much more outward poems. The function of her poems is more didactic to create unity among Christians. These are occasion poems and public lecture kind of poems, poems proclaiming a feminist spun version of Christian faith rather than an inner neurotic rant made public. The latter naturally would naturally feel more personal somehow.

  3. Five (Apt 9 Press, 2014)
    This anthology from An Accord of Poetsis an enjoyable read from young new poets. You can read about the road trip making of the tour in an account by Cameron Anstee. It has poems by jesslyn delia smith, Jeff Blackman, Cameron Anstee, Rachael Simpson and Justin Million. All distinct and accomplished voices from political to lyrical to minimalist. Anstee’s pared down to essential movement poems,

    the gathering rain
    will occupy the whole air

    from p. 13, a section by smith

    beneath our
    umbrella we damage the soil, we
    dig with purpose. in the end
    we ask for the rain, for what it
    becomes when we’ve torn up the streets

    I have heard all the poets read before but appreciate having them in the print. I wasn’t fast enough to get a second set of poems from jesslyn delia smith which she made for the tour. That stack disappeared fast.
    From Jeff Blackman, “Year of Well,” p. 26

    Hey downhill slope, hey thing I say, hey wife downstairs watching the Leafs blow; why’s everything so possible? Hey probable
    show yourself.

    Poetry that’s “on”, alert, questioning itself and everything else. Flips of tones because life isn’t a fixed thing.
    From Justin Million, longer poems, 2-4 pages,

    a walking checklist
    with everything on it–
    not as much dust
    on the world wheb
    the poem’s pussy (never say poem in a poem,
    they will write you out
    of the hottest clubs) is such a vastness–
    my million booms lower, pens
    wish something wide
    open, when I fail at least
    I am emptied into friends…at least we try

    A similar sort of dexterity of movement among subjects and tones, a roving sharp mind.
    From Simpson’s Day Moon (p 55) the keen observing mind, minimalist but also with a non-superfluous flourish of elegant.

    in search of a fallen
    object behind an object.
    Cream in your cup
    rises to the top and you
    stir again.

  4. Roland Barthe‘s The Pleasure of Text (1973)
    Barthe saying, “The pleasure of the text is the moment when the body pursues its own ideas” might apply as well to bpNichol as Barthe.
    More the philosophy of reading,

    On the stage of the text, no footlights: there is not behind the text, someone active (the writer) and out front someone passive (the reader); there is not a subject and an object. The text supersedes grammatical attitudes: it is the undifferentiated eye which an excessive author (Angelus Silesius) describes: “The eye by which I see God is the same eye by which He sees me.”

    Interesting read. Spins in ideas.

  5. Polyamorous Love Songs: A Novel by Jacob Wren bookthug, 2014)
    This I already talked about over at Humanyms in relationship to the movie My Dinner with Andre Some books leave no trace. Not all books need to. This one is extremely complex in the sense of being worthwhile. It collages different stories but has a sense of closure at the same time. Some poetry and literature may be social opinion but this is more sharp commentary. How much of the time do we forget as artists or citizens how comfortable we feel even when despairing, our electric blanket, behind our insulated walls while others struggle for rights and privileges like the right to vote and be part of government that we don’t even bother to exercise. It inquires into core identity, drives for authenticity and realness and implications of that.
  6. Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell (Little, Brown, 2008)
    Some things I’d gleaned from articles here and there. Those born January-March tend to have success that follows thru life and those born in the last 3 months of the year where cohorts are divided by year are the squirts among older more developed kids every years until about adolescence, the quick reading group, a few months more skills at hockey and the advantages keep accumulating. I’ve read from Ruby Payne about class culture difference. Terman’s IQ studies of kids in the 150-200 IQ was fascinating. In the end it wasn’t the deal maker or deal breaker. Followed longitudinally, p. 93

    Terman ran through every conceivable explanation. He looked at their physical and mental health, their “masculinity-feminitity score”, and their hobbies and vocational interests. He compared the ages when their started walking and talking and what their precise IQ sore were in elementary and high school. In the end only one thing mattered: family background.

    Wealth, yes but wealth or poverty culture. Those who succeeded came from parents who painstakingly cultivated the children, instructed on how to navigate, pressed to try and to question, while lower class kids were constrained to obey and internalized different rules. Richer kids were taught soft skills of “knowing what to say to whom, knowing when to say it and knowing when to say it for maximum effect” (Sternberg). Equally intelligent but lower class children were taught to be independent, find their own way and mistrust authority.
    It’s easy to feel fated, stuck but also easy to blame character or choice when some things faster than consciousness can be at work. Attitudes are also cultural, even hundreds of generations long. Feels damning to hear how many of these I use or my maternal side does:
    At the same time we are categorical descending from the various inheritances. Looking at students in Michigan, some from high-wealth families with a culture of asking people to ask questions and so on collides in the hall:
    So with the set-up of being called a name, what does it do to a “finish the story” scenario and to the cortisol under the tongue? If your ancestors were the wave of settlement of cultures of honour from Ireland and Scotland, your responses were different than puritan settlers.
    On the second threat of a pathway being impeded, northerners moved 5 or 6 feet before they needed to whether insulted earlier or not. The southerners moved out of the way differentially 9 feel ahead if uninsulted but if insulted played chicken until 2 feet away. Backs got up and stayed up.
    Tricky shifty unshifting unconscious. So much goes on in there.

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