No sooner home than away again: or so one hopes. The tickets for "spring break" in NYC are ready for tomorrow, but P. abruptly manifested a 104-degree fever this afternoon, & is as limp as a rag doll, pale as Helena Bonham-Carter in her Sweeney Todd makeup. Alarming indeed. So travels might be modified, depending on what the pediatrician has to say in the morning.
A dreary department meeting this afternoon, working over the figures of what the regular bi-yearly state budget crisis will do to the university.
Dear E –
Oh yes, the times have changed, & to be called the "leading" anything makes one's beard go greyer on hearing. "Jokerman" may have been the last really first-rate Dylan song, & one of my favorite music videos of all time. If you scroll thru the "related" videos in the YouTube crawl beneath that one, you'll find Bobby Z performing it on Letterman with a black-clad bunch of punkish 20-somethings; they belt thru 2 or 3 verses, then the band vamps thru the rest of the song as Dylan futzes around looking for a harmonica in the effing right key.
I want my conversion kit, & soon. Let's get down to business, bay – by.
Dear N –
A post soon on "My Paul Auster Problem." Those last two – The Brooklyn Follies & Travels in the Scriptorium – make me despair of our boy. But there's a first-rate joke in the latter (actually clean) which makes it worth the (remaindered) admission.
Souls of the Labadie Tract, Susan Howe (New Directions, 2007)
Vintage Howe, in many ways: to my ears, less impressive than The Midnight but more moving than Pierce-Arrow. The method is of a piece with her earlier works, the evocation or reanimation of angular or marginalized voices form the past, whether the 18th-century Utopian Quietist (note to ND blurb-writer: not "Quietest") Labadists, or the insurance lawyer & executive (& sometime poet) Wallace Stevens. For Howe the truly obscured voices – tho I haven't lived with this book long enough to assert this with any assurance – are female: Stevens's wife Elsie (model for the Liberty dime), the women Labadists, Jonathan Edwards's wife Sarah Pierpont, a fragment of whose wedding dress the exceedingly fragmentary textual scraps of the final poem – "Fragment of the Wedding Dress of Sarah Pierpont Edwards" – circle around.
The proportion of prose to verse is lower than in Howe's earlier books, the paratexts framing the poetry proper less extensive & developed. In earlier writings such as the long poems collected in The Nonconformist's Memorial (my own favorite), the "explanatory" prose sections & the more oblique verse sections had been more closely interwoven, what might be regarded as the prosaic "frames" interrupting & even impinging upon the exceedingly dense "poetic" sections. In Souls, in contrast, the proses lay the scene for each poem – the Utopian community of the Labadie Tract, Wallace Stevens's home at 118 Westerly Terrace, Hartford – then retreat before the poems proper. It is as if Howe were drawing back from the generic cross-cutting of her earlier poems, reforming her poetics – like some 21st-century Puritan – into a purer, simpler, more nakedly scriptural generic mode.