058) Itself by Rae Armantrout, finished June 21
a few days
That said, I don't feel well prepared to say just how Armantrout manages to make her work better. Some lines absolutely shoot of the page. Some images and metaphors and conceits and juxtapositions are clearly brilliant. But sixty to ninety percent of the book isn't those moments. It's still "well written," but it might take a few more times through to figure out just what made it good. And I'm not sure I liked it enough for that.
Less than perfectly helpfully, after the poems had ended, at the end of the author bio, was this link: http://raearmantrout.site.wesleyan.edu/ and the promise of an "online reader's companion."
I'm not sure that's what I would call that site, Wesleyan.
057) Western Wind: An Introduction to Poetry by John Frederick Nims and David Mason, finished June 19
I loved this book. Maybe part of my love is that I'm no longer a harried undergrad having to cut corners, but a steady adult able to take as much time as I like, working my way through its 600 pages. Be that as it may, Nims's explanations of things such as metaphor and allegory are so helpful I've already incorporated them into my own teaching, and if I ever do get to teach a poetry class, this is the text I would want to use. Though I don't know how to get kids with constant deadlines to reproduce my experience with the book.about nine months
Although this is really a book about analyzing poetry, I think it's of even more use to poets. Self-proclaimed poets are a lazy bunch and Western Wind reveals how much craft goes into the finest poetic work. If you care about poetry and [accurately] believe you can get better, this book will be a powerful tool. Pick up an older edition on the cheap.
056) Matilda by Roald Dahl, finished June 15
Henry Sugar was blowing my mind and prepping me for Dahl's adult work, so this excuse isn't quite airtight.) Anyway, I found myself waiting in line at Costco having left my book in the car. Next to the checkout is the (sadly diminished) media section where I saw a copy of Matilda separated from its boxset, so I picked it up and started reading it. I got a chapter or so in before leaving it with the cashier. The next day I was at the library and picked up the same edition. I was making quick progress until Big O stole it from me. Anyway, I've finished now.about a week
In some ways, this is the quintessential Dahl novel. About a kid surrounded by miserable adults failing to care for her, but this time her salvation comes from inside her---and it's not just her salvation: she also saves an adult who had once been a child surrounded by miserable adults---and who still awaits redemption.
Matilda is a marvelous character. Her gifts and circumstances are no doubt shared by plenty of to-be supervillains, but Matilda never really loses her innocence, even when she is given greater stores of knowledge and tastes the pleasures of revenge. It's wonderful to watch.
Perhaps no Dahl book has been better served by its Quentin Blake illustrations, either. Matilda is small and birdlike and charming and clever and innocent. Her parents and the Trunchbull are horrifying and ugly and menacing and fearsome, while Miss Honey is kind and put-together with a vulnerability and hesitance that don't get in the way of her being a stone-cold fox.
You don't need any more proof of someone's mastery of anatomy and emotion and technique generally than to look at Quentin Blake and how he makes things look so dashed off. He astonishing really.
Another thing I admire about Matilda is how quiet its ending is. And understated ending to one of his quieter books. I would argue Matilda is more magical than, say, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, yet it is simultaneously much less mad.
The perfect ending, methinks, to a career.
Previously in 2014 . . . . :