National Poetry Month Part iv

The changes between Djuna Barnes’s text of Nightwood and the book actually published are striking and make for an interesting study in political bibliographic outrages.I’ll post a paper on that soon, here or on a new Twentieth- and Twenty-First-century blog some brilliant minds are working on.

Here, from Barnes’s later poetry, a different voice that still echoes the darkness of her amazing novel. The change noted in the text was handwritten on a post-publication copy in Barnes’s files:

To One Who Feels Differently
–Djuna Barnes

To-night I cannot know you and I weep
For sorrow that’s upon you like soft sleep
Of which alone you are the one possessed—
And as one in long stuff of mourning dressed—
Drenched deep in garments that take shape of grief
Fold on heavy fold, as leaf on leaf.
You stand, all tremulous with stifled cries
And with chill tears like glass upon your eyes.
Thin shadows, darker than the darkness boil
With foamy somnolence and monstrous toil
The solemn lisping of untimely things
Approaches; and on high lamenting wings
Cold time screams past us, shedding sparks of pain {fire}
Of which you are the core and the refrain.

Books I love, that nobody seems to read.

After our extravaganza about classics we loathe, the erudite blogosphere and I have undertaken another endeavor.

Books we love that nobody seems to know about or read:

(This is harder than I thought it would be, since all my books are in a POD storage facility, waiting for us to either buy or rent, hinging on the daily fluctuations of the market, interest rates, and my hair-trigger vascillations. That said, if I know these are true loves from memory, isn’t that more authentic? Let’s pretend so.)

Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. Walker Evans and James Agee. Oh, my. Gorgeous photos. Compelling journalism.

Their Eyes Were Watching God. Zola Neale Hurston. Dear, me, that woman can write down to a person’s bones. Passion, love, poverty, power, and above all, the indefatigable soul of fatigued women. Damn.

Silences. Tillie Olsen. Can’t do it justice with words. Which is the point, as its goal is to textualize the silent periods of authors’ lives.

Collected Works. Grace Paley. Choose your favorites.

One Hundred Years of Solitude. Gabriel Marquez Garcia. Maybe people are reading this and I don’t know. I did not find Love in the Time of Cholera enjoyable. Everyone who has ever read One Hundred Years, though, was touched to the core, by its magical realism and epic grasp on the human heart. Is this already on everyone’s list? Please go read it. The Nobel Prize announcement insisted that, in his writing, he creates: “a cosmos in which the human heart and the combined forces of history, time and again, burst the bounds of chaos – killing and procreation.” Who wouldn’t read all of his books after that?

Nightwood. Djuna Barnes. Some of the most compelling scenes I’ve ever read. Some of the most sadly endearing characters I’ve ever met. Some of the most confusing passages I’ve ever pushed through. Really, really brilliant work.

Wings. Shinsuke Tanaka. Gorgeously spun tale of joy and intolerance, difference, and love. As with all good stories, we have to fudge the ending a bit with our toddler, but it’s easy to change the story’s climax just a little to make sure everything turns out even more okay.

Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth. Chris Ware. A poignant, gorgeous, thought provoking graphic novel. Especially tender about relationships of fathers and sons. The year I read it I gave it to everyone I knew for Chrismakkah.

Princess Bride. William Goldman. The cult following of the movie would imply a large fanbase for the book, which is (predictably, both for the track record of “the book was better” and for Goldman’s MASTERY of narration) ten thousand and three times better than the film.

Tender Buttons. Gertrude Stein. penelope said it first, but I second it. This is the work worth reading. There is molto there there.

Absolom, Absolom. William Faulkner. For some reason it’s neither read nor assigned as often as it should be. It’s the most compelling, for me, of his work because the female characters are the most poignantly drawn. As I Lay Dying is good, but not good enough to re-read a third time. The Sound and The Fury is remarkable, but harder reading. Light in August is brilliant and compelling but I can’t take the violence right now.

Poetical Dictionary. Lohren Green. Philosopher and History of Philosophy guy makes language visual and poetical. Very compelling intellectually.

An American Tragedy. Theodore Dreiser. I wrote my undergrad honors thesis on Sister Carrie, and I loved that book. And for a historical perspective on American industrialization and women, it still reigns supreme. But something about An American Tragedy just really floats my boat. No pun intended. Oh, dear, I should edit that out. No pun intended at all. Gross.

Not a Box. Antoinette Portis. Yes, it’s a children’s book, but it’s absolutely inspiring.

Infinite Jest. David Foster Wallace. Detailed and stream of consciousness and meticulous and hilarious and disturbing and prescient and nakedly raw. Delicious. Also Brief interviews with Hideous Men. Not so much The Girl with Curious Hair, only bits of which did I enjoy. Still working on Oblivion. I had taken a Wallace break to raise a child and write my own fiction, but now I’m tearfully relishing his every word. My God, I ache knowing that we’ll never get more.

The Yellow Wallpaper. Charlotte Perkins Gilman. I keep a copy in every room, and in my glove compartment. (Okay, not really, but I’m considering it this week.)

I couldn’t include many of my favorites here because most people have read them and still read them, which disqualifies them by definition. But I feel the need to show some lovin’ to some of the greatest books ever written: Catch-22, Brave New World, Fahrenheit 451, Joy Luck Club, Lord of the Flies, Green Eggs and Ham, The Color Purple, Their Eyes Were Watching God, To Kill a Mockingbird, and The Grapes of Wrath.