Change of pace: Poems and poems and Matilda


058) Itself by Rae Armantrout, finished June 21

I know of two main schools of bad high-school poetry (this taxonomy is based on style, not content): tortured rhyme and rhythm; itty-bitty-lined free verse. Armantrout's new collection looks on the surface very much like this latter school. But her skill shows that, just as rhyme and rhythm weren't hackneyed in the hands of Donne or Frost, itty-bitty-lined free verse need not be either.

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.
a few days


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.

Ah well.

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.
about nine months


056) Matilda by Roald Dahl, finished June 15

Although Matilda frequently comes up in lists of people's favorite Dahl novels, I've never read it before. I assume because it was his last novel, came out the year I turned twelve, and I was busy reading other things. (Though this was the time 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.

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.
about a week

Previously in 2014 . . . . :

Books fifty-second through fifty-fifth
055) Bad Houses by Sara Ryan and Carla Speed McNeil, finished June 14
054) Star Wars Underworld: The Yavin Vassilika by Mike Kennedy and Carlos Meglia and whoever, finished June 12
053) Batman Vol. 5: Zero Year - Dark City by by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo (et al), finished June 11
052) Deadpool's Art of War by Peter David and Scott Koblish, finished June 10

Books forty-sixth through fifty-first
051) Men of Wrath by Jason Aaron and Ron Garney, finished June 10
050) X-Men: No More Humans by Mike Carey & Salvador Larroca & al., finished June 9
049) Alex + Ada by Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn, finished June 9
048) Miracleman Book 2: The Red King Syndrome by Alan Moore (not credited by name) and a bunch of other people, finished June 6
047) Coffin Hill: Dark Endeavors by Caitlin Kittredge and Inaki Miranda, finished June 6
046) Coffin Hill: Forest of the Night by Caitlin Kittredge and Inaki Miranda, finished June 4

Books forty-second through forty-fifth
045) Castle Waiting: The Lucky Road by Linda Medley, finished at midnight so either June 2 or 3
044) The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami and translated by Ted Goossen, finished June 2
043) The Round House by Louise Erdich, finished June 1
042) Best American Comics 2014 edited by Scott McCloud, finished May 31

Books thirty-seventh through forty-first
041) The Brothers K by David James Duncan, finished May 18
040) Auntie Mame by Patrick Dennis, finished May 18
039) Skandalon by Julie Maron, finished May 1
038) The Final Story by Jeff Shaara, finished April 29
037) Shutter Volume 1: Wanderlost by Joe Keatinge and Leila Del Duca et al, finished April 29

Books thirty-second through thirty-sixth
036) The Motherless Oven by Rob Davis, finished April 27
035) Zero Volume 1: An Emergency by Ales Kot et al, finished April 22
034) Deadly Class Volume 1: Reagan Youth by Rick Remender, finished April 19
033) Animal Man Vol. 4: Splinter Species by Jeff Lemire et al, finished April 17
032) Swamp Thing Vol. 4: Seeder by Charles Soule et al, finished April 15

Books twenty-eighth through thirty-first
031) Small Gods by Terry Pratchett, finished April 6
030) The Frangipani Hotel by Violet Kupersmith, finished April 2
029) The Adventures of Rabbi Harvey: A Graphic Novel of Jewish Wisdom and Wit in the Wild West by Steve Sheinkin, finished March 29
028) Vivian Maier: Self-Portraits edited by John Maloof, finished March 23

Books twenty-sixth through twenty-seventh
027) Passing by Nella Larsen, finished March 18
026) Hangsaman by Shirley Jackson, finished March 17

Books twenty-second through twenty-fifth
025) Ghost World by Daniel Clowes and Terry Zwigoff, finished March 16
024) Hawkeye: L.A. Woman by Matt Fraction and some very talented artists, finished March 15
023) Hawkeye: Little Hits by Matt Fraction and a large number of artists, finished March 14
022) Hawkeye: My Life as a Weapon by Matt Fraction and David Aja and Javier Pulido, finished March 12

Books twentienth through twenty-first
021) Does Santa Exist?: A Philosophical Investigation by Eric Kaplan, finished March 11
020) Babymouse #8: Puppy Love by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm, finished March 11

Books sixteenth through ninteenth
019) The Book of Mormon, finished March 3
018) Cow Boy: A Boy and His Horse by Nate Cosby and Chris Eliopoulos, finished March 1
017) Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle, finished February 26
016) Drawings II by Jake Parker, finished February 19

Books twelfth through fifteenth
015) The PreHistory of The Far Side: A 10th Anniversary Exhibit by Gary Larson, finished February 18
014) Nation by Terry Pratchett, finished February 16
013) Fences by August Wilson, finished February 10
012) Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare, finished February 6

Books tenth through eleventh
011) Adverbs by Daniel Handler, finished February 4
010) Death by Chocolate: Redux by David Yurkovich, finished February 3

Books sixth through ninth
009) The End of the World by Don Hertzfeldt, finished January 31
008) Ms. Marvel: No Normal by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona, finished January 24
007) Drop Shot by Harlan Coben, finished January 18
006) Cardboard by Doug TenNaple, finished January 15

Books first through fifth
005) The Complete Peanuts: 1991-1992 by Charles M. Schulz, finished January 10
004) City of Brick and Shadow by Tim Wirkus, finished January 9
003) Harem Scarem in El Cerrito by Neva Calvert Carpenter, finished January 4
002) iPlates Volume II: Prophets, Priests, Rebels, and Kings by Stephen Carter and Jett Atwood, finished January 4
001) Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut, finished January 3

final booky posts of

2014 = 2013 = 2012 = 2011 = 2010 = 2009 = 2008 = 2007

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