Summer break is officially over tomorrow, tho I've a couple more days before my first classes. A moment to recap some of the highlights of the summer reading (none of it, alas, at the beach):
•Great bales of Virginia Woolf, early late & middle. Of the early ones (the ones I knew least), it's safe to say that I found The Voyage Out very moving, & beautifully written – Woolf finding her way to a modernist idiom, not quite getting there, but forging something quite lovely sui generis. Night and Day, on the other hand, seems a step back: a Victorian novel about 20th century problems, but structurally still a Victorian novel, with all the attendant bric-a-brac (& very little of the humor).
•Of the various wee books of poetry, Myung Mi Kim's Commons (U California P, 2002) & Erica Carpenter's Perspective Would Have Us (Burning Deck, 2006) grabbed me by the lapels & shook me. Carpenter, especially, has a wonderful lyric gift.
I'm in the middle of Benjamin Friedlander's The Missing Occasion of Saying Yes (Subpress, 2007), which is more good short poems than anybody has a right to have written. Somehow I'd missed his last big collection, A Knot Is Not a Tangle, & The Missing Occasion reminds me just how wry & simultaneously moving Ben's poems can be. (More later on this one...)
•Joseph Donahue's Incidental Eclipse (Talisman House, 2003) has one of those blurbs from John Ashbery – you know what I mean, "one of the major American poets of this time" etc. But y'know what? – while I'm not a race-horse kinda guy (my father-in-law used to try seriously to rank the top 10 writers of the 20th century), & I find myself just as keen on the fascinating "minor" as the imposing "major," Incidental Eclipse is a fascinating, incredibly moving book. I've stopped to read Joe's work whenever I've come upon it for some time now; this is the moment where he turns into something big.
•Things Davenportian: On the one hand, the Guy Davenport / James Laughlin letters. Frankly, I didn't understand why these got published – okay, Guy was one of the great letter-writers, but Laughlin was kind of a late friend for him, the publisher who stepped into the gap when North Point went down, but who only put out 4 or so of 20+ books. Then it hit me – of course, Norton has a series of volumes of selected Laughlin correspondences (Pound, WCW, Delmore Schwartz, Rexroth, etc.). Lots of discussions of book publishing. Too many anecdotes, too much Laughlinian skirt-chasing.
On the other hand, a bare beginning into Andre Furlani's Guy Davenport: Postmodern and After. I'll be damned – a critical book that approaches its subject with nothing less than admiration. How quaint! Furlani writes forthright sentences, & strives to knit his subjects together in an echt Davenportian manner. We'll see how well he keeps it up over the long haul of this study.