Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Poem of a Life: Review

No sooner am I back in south Florida than I find myself in the midst of thesis-defense season – MFA theses, that is, the sort of documents that you can't really contest on the grounds of argumentation or density of citation, but have to find real live aesthetic critiques to make about. One down today (Monday), another scheduled for Wednesday, & I believe a couple (I'll have to check my datebook) coming up next week.

Our defenses are technically open affairs, which means that one or two friends and family members of the defendant show up and nod along with the proceedings; I sometimes hanker after the old-style European system, where one would have to defend in a big auditorium, in full academic regalia. None of this lounging around the seminar table and chatting friendly-like.
On a more depressing note, the benighted Florida legislature seems on the verge of castrating the Board of Governors, the body that runs the state university system, & reshaping it as a rump group with no more than "advisory" powers: in short, doing away with the only body in the state capital that has a clear idea of what a university actually is & opening the state universities to direct political control from Tallahassee. This will be a nightmare, something far worse than the periodic budget crises we suffer (we're in the midst of a doozy right now). If the legislators get their way (& I suspect they will) I predict a wholesale exodus of active research faculty from the state. I imagine a lot of folks are polishing up their vitas even as I write this.
While I was delighted that Marjorie Perloff reviewed The Poem of a Life: A Biography of Louis Zukofsky (link to amazon.com on the right, if you haven't yet ordered your copy) in the TLS ("incisive") & that Dan Chiasson called it "terrific" in the New York Times Book Review, I'm majorly pleased to learn that Nicholas Manning, who edits the excellent Cosmopolitan Review and maintains the blog The Newer Metaphysicals, has written about the book – at length – in a forthcoming issue of John Tranter's Jacket.

It's not merely that Jacket allows reviewers a rather more expansive space in which to examine books, but that Manning – addressing an audience who already knows something about Zukofsky, and who doesn't need to have the salient facts of his career repeated to them – has paid close attention to the form, the rhetoric, & the procedures of the biography, & has made some really lovely points about them. It's a nice review, & I'd consider it nice even if it weren't as positive about the book as it is.

(The money word this time around: "extraordinary.")


Bradley said...

I was glad to read your thoughts on the legislature's attempts to get rid of the Board of Governors; partially glad, anyway. The truth is, we're really nervous about this at my house, but I sometimes feel like Emily and I are prone to a certain degree of irrational panic when it comes to our careers. So I appreciate knowing that you don't think it's irrational to be so concerned about this.

Of course, the downside to all this is that it's apparently perfectly reasonable to be terrified and dismayed about what our state legislature is doing to higher education. That's small comfort.

On a more positive note, congratulations on yet another impressive review. And you might consider showing up at one of those MFA defenses in full academic regalia anyway; I know I usually wear my Star Trek uniform...

Anonymous said...

Damn it. I was not "nodding along"---"London Calling" was running through my head.