I hope your Thanksgiving holiday was super, and that you have some peace among the upcoming hectic holiday season. Because I travelled last week, we have three fantastic writers who selected two books each this week. Enjoy!
TWO FOR TUESDAY- BILL YARROW
Seven Dada Manifestos- Tristan Tzara
Picasso said his art was “a sum of destructions.” I love that phrase for the way it cracks opens up a world we think we know. Some of my favorite reading is S.O.D. literature—think Tristram Shandy, Jacques the Fatalist and his Master, The Marriage and Heaven and Hell, Crotchet Castle, Max Havelaar, The Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas, Ulysses, Tropic of Cancer, How It Is, The Innerworld of the Outerworld of the Innerworld, Flaubert’s Parrot….
So my first choice for Robert’s blog this week is Tristram Tzara’s “Seven Dada Manifestos,” a fabulous work difficult to find. I first came across it in Robert Motherwell’s outstanding anthology The Dada Painters and Poets and I still remember how shaken with excitement I was after I read it. It is to poetry what stock is to soup. Fun, experimental, shocking, unsettling, unreasonable, innovative, suggestive, and cleansing . Or, as Tzara explains, “A manifesto is a communication made to the whole world, whose only pretensions is to the discovery of an instant cure for political, astronomical, artistic, parliamentary, agronomical and literary syphilis.”
I love explication, exegesis—the art of making things clear. Brown’s Life Against Death, Herrnstein Smith’s Poetic Closure, Frye’s Anatomy of Criticism, Booth’s The Rhetoric of Fiction, Hirsch’s Validity in Interpretation, Gladwell’s The Tipping Point, Sacks’ Musicophilia, Grandin’s Animals in Translation, among others, have opened my eyes. For me, education is about making connections, so works that help me make connections are the works I most revere.
Paperback: Riverrun (1981)
Understanding Comics- Scott McCloud
My second choice is Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics (with his Making Comics a close second). This is a book about comic books in the form of a comic book, but it is so much more. You want to read the best book on comic art? This is it. You want to read the best book on art in general? This is it. You want to read the best book on the nature and potential of film? This is it. You want to read the best book on how to write fiction? How to write poetry? This is it. A book in which manifold connections abound and explode. ESSENTIAL reading.
Paperback: 224 pages (William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition April 27, 1994)
Bill’s Bio: Bill Yarrow is the author of The Lice of Christ (MadHat Press, 2014), Incompetent Translations and Inept Haiku (Červená Barva Press, 2013) and Pointed Sentences (BlazeVOX, 2012). His poems have appeared in many print and online magazines including Poetry International, RHINO, Contrary, DIAGRAM, Gargoyle, and PANK.
TWO FOR TUESDAY: DARRYL PRICE
Colorless Tsuruku and His Years of Pilgrimage- Haruki Murakami
The best book I have had the immense pleasure of reading recently, and one of the best books I have ever read in my entire life, is the new Haruki Murakami novel called, Colorless Tsukuru and His Years of Pilgrimage. Murakami elevates this profound work of literature into the rarefied realm of true and beautiful works of art. It is brilliant. It is at once a fascinating, interesting and moving story, but beyond that it is an experience that reverberates deeply into both your heart and mind always. A masterful work of word genius on every level.
Paperback (Kindle, Hardcover): 400 pages (Knopf, August 12, 2014)
Tune In: The Beatles: All These Years- Volume 1- Mark Lewinsohn
The other book I’d like to make your readers aware of is Mark Lewisohn’s terrific new book on the Beatles, simply called Tune In–All these Years-Volume 1. It is simply the best book out there about the Beatles written to date, and by that I mean it has the most accurate information available in it. It is beautifully told and written and deeply researched. There are so many boxes of books about this band that a book should be written on all the glut of books, the good, the bad and the ugly. But to get back to the point, this particular book does what so many other books and authors have failed to do, that is to talk about the music, and to make that the centerpiece of any conversation first. So many of the other books leave out the fact of the music or just gloss over it in an offhand kind of way. This of course is highly insulting to the band, its fans and to readers of every stripe. We would not be having a conversation about the Beatles still if the music didn’t warrant it. In so many of the older books they are so very quick to point out how humanly fallible the four Beatles were, but then fail to mention, oh yeah, and while this or that thing was happening to them in their lives they just happened to write a few masterpieces to go along with it all–which the whole world seemed to embrace to such a degree that it (their songs, their music) became a part of everyone’s daily approach to life. Beatle music sound-tracked us (those who were there) as we all grew and changed- for decades at a time. So I was happy to discover that Mark’s approach was all about getting the facts right, and inserting the musical main reasons that these facts are even worth being told again now. Can’t wait for Volume Two!
Paperback: 944 pages (Crown Archetype: First U.S. Edition- Oct. 29, 2013)
Darryl’s Bio: Darryl Price has published dozens of chapbooks, and his poems have appeared in many journals.
TWO FOR TUESDAY: ALEX PRUTEANU
Gravity’s Rainbow- Thomas Pinchon
This is the most difficult book I’ve read in my life. Pynchon’s heavy work here is also the most polarizing I’ve ever known a book to be. People either give him up within the first 30 pages, labeling him a hack/lunatic/incomprehensible scheister, or work through the novel (like me) and are rewarded along the 800-page life-changing saga with the most remarkable and complex set of ideas, digressions, characters, and narrative ever they’ve come upon. I hesitate to even call this a novel. It is…at times an advanced course in engineering, propulsion, guidance, and physics. It is a slapstick silent comedy film along the lines of Buster Keaton’s or Harold Lloyd’s work. It is a philosophical meditation on humanity and war, a rhyming, naughty limerick, a drug-fueled hallucination marked by outrageous acts such as coprophagia and an unforgettable trip via a filthy toilet into the sewage pipes long before Trainspotting stole the idea outright and brought it to a new generation of readers. Listen, Pynchon was “edgy” a good 27 years before Irvine Welsh and Danny Boyle impressed you. Gravity’s Rainbow is a profound, brilliant, immense journey transgressing boundaries between high and low culture, literary propriety and profanity, and between hard science and metaphysics. This book was so important to me and affected me in such a heavy, great fashion that during the two months I read this work, I rearranged my daily life in order that I could come home and engage myself in Pynchon’s world. There were many times when ordinary details and daily chores were neglected in favour of reading this brilliant work. When I finished, I came away not only an inspired writer but a more complete (if astounded) human being.
Paperback, 776 pages; Penguin Classics, Deluxe Edition (Oct. 31, 2006)
2666- Roberto Bolano
Bolano’s imagination has always reminded me of our quickly ever-expanding universe. There are no limits to what this great writer can conjure, no boundaries—physical or metaphorical. This massive, posthumously released work redefines the idea of The Novel and its form. In his usual, self-interrogating way, Bolano’s 2666 is an ambitious, landmark master statement to, for, and on humanity. The novel consists of five sections, each with an autonomous life and form. These five long sequences—each a book’s length in itself—interlock to form an astonishing whole, in the same manner that fruits, vegetables, meats, flowers, and books connect in the amazing paintings of Giuseppe Arcimboldo to form a human face. “The Part About the Crimes” (pt. 4) is a massive display of genial, blunt power of documentary compilation. It’s grinding. It’s crushing. It’s harrowing. And it’s pure and beautiful. After nearly 300 pages of brutal, lyrical, poetic gravity in this section, the reader is rewarded with the oasis-like final part. I felt a sort of physical lift reading part 5…something I’ve only felt once in my life, in a state of trance almost, while listening for the first time to John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme.” With this novel, Bolano has proven what literature can do, how much it can discover, and how purely it can indict our often disastrous, violent footprint left on this world. In fact, Bolano has proven it can do anything, including giving a name to the un-nameable, un-speakable, transgressive acts committed by human beings.
Paperback, 912 pages, Picador; reprint edition (Sept. 1, 2009)
Alex’s Bio: Alex is author of novella Short Lean Cuts: Alex M. Pruteanu; available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Powell’s Books, and So & So Books (Raleigh, NC). He is also author of Gears, a collection of stories from Independent Talent Group, Inc. (Gears: A Collection: Alex M. Pruteanu). He has published fiction in NY Arts Magazine, Guernica Magazine, [PANK], Specter Literary Magazine, and others. He recently finished his first novel, The Sun Eaters.
There are two books I read during Thanksgiving week, and really enjoyed both. One is Lauren Haldeman’s Calenday (poetry). I had the great fortune of reading with Lauren in the recent MONSTERS of Poetry event in Madison. The other book is Our Secret Life in the Movies by Michael McGriff and J.M. Tyree (stories). What did you read Thanksgiving week? What are you reading now? Both of these books, and being with so much family made me feel extremely grateful for everyone who is in my life. So, thanks!