Friday, August 10, 2012

summer reading

Things of interest I've read this summer:

I downloaded from the internet someone's coding (for the Kindle) of the Complete Works of H.P. Lovecraft, and finished reading the entire corpus (!) over this past summer. I'd read almost everything, mind you, by the time I was 12, and spent many hours in wide-eyed terror at night, worrying over colours from space and multiply-tentacles elder demons. I must have revisited Lovecraft a decade ago or so, & found him unreadable – the prose too purple, the horrors too "eldritch." This time around, however, surprisingly compelling. Even a few shivers, and glances over my shoulder to make sure nothing was behind me in the darkness.

China Miéville's The City and the City, which won every SF and fantasy award available, it seems, pretty much deserved them, if you ask me. Somebody describes it as Raymond Chandler meets Kafka meets Borges, which is about right; but I suspect Miéville's been reading Eyal Weizman (Hollow Land: Israel's Architecture of Occupation), which describes how the IDF makes use of Deleuzian theory in their carving up of the West Bank. (This is probably already a commonplace of Miéville criticism; if it isn't, let me know – there's an article to be written.)

Much, too much perhaps, of Ruskin & Ruskin-criticism. It's hard not to tip a hat to Bernard Shaw's blistering Ruskin's Politics, however.

Christopher Benfey's Red Brick, Black Mountain, White Clay is about pottery and clay, mostly, but it's also about art-making and family (his mother is related to Anni Albers, whose husband Josef headed Black Mountain College for most of its existence). Written in that spare, laid-back manner that characterizes lots of the nonfiction I encounter these days (few New Yorker adjectival flourishes, thank God); lyrical nonetheless.

The winner of the books of contemporary poetry – which have in truth been rather thin on the ground since I burned through over two dozen back in April, and well-nigh burned myself out on the genre – is – by a mile – John Peck's I Came, I Saw: Eight Poems. Is it enough to say that Peck is at once the most learned and the most lyrical of contemporary American poets? Is that a hyperbolic enough claim to make you buy the book and read it for yourself? Do it anyway, even if you don't believe me. Peck is an extraordinary poet.

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