Monday, January 2, 2012

Quick Reading?

For some reason, I tore through the winter reading list.  I'm sure there are a few aspects to this.  I know that the more one reads, the more one wants to read.  It's also a result of practice.  The more one reads, the better one gets at it.  Even so, a list of 8 to 10 books in a season is no small sum.  I generally like to build a list for the seasons.  This practice started several seasons ago when discussing The Virgin Suicides with Mark Dragotta.
At any rate, it took less than three weeks for me to read the winter list.  Something I attribute to the long nights following the dark days of Portland's winter, and a recent decision to stop drinking.  In a way, the lack of Jim Beam and Pabst Blue Ribbon beer may be solely to blame for my shrinking paunch and for more reading hours.
Things got underway with Ginsberg.  Admittedly, "Howl" is an amazing read.  I was surprised at what I found in the lines of this poem.  As many know, I have never been a fan of Walt Whitman, and I also prejudged Ginsberg of emulating Whitman.  At this stage, I may need to revisit "Leaves of Grass" just to see if I have changed as a reader.  But more than "Howl," it was the reading of "America" that meant to much to me.  "Businessmen are serious.  Movie producers are serious. Everybody's serious but me."

Inside of "America" I made some brilliant discoveries of the pulse of the America which came before me.  "Burroughs is in Tangiers I don't think he'll come back it's sinister." and "America Sacco and Vanzetti must not die." are the notable heartbeats.  I say this because of two other books from the list: Naked Lunch and In Cold Blood.  The themes of America and her discrepancies inside Ginsberg's poem made sense even in the pages of Miller's Tropic of Capricorn and Thompson's The Rum Diary.  It seems silly to build a reading list on one poem, and it was not an intentional act on my part.  Most of the books were simply written, published and read around the mid-century mark when Ginsberg said "America this is quite serious."
Naked Lunch was not an easy book to read.  I find that Jack Kerouac's description of Ol' Bull Lee (A direct description of Burroughs himself) in On the Road  is more digestible than the descriptions, the lack of story and the looping scenes, words, ideas inside Naked Lunch.  I did, however, buy a beautiful copy of the book.
After setting Burroughs down, I thought Henry Miller would save me.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Tropic of Capricorn is the third Miller I've read.  There was a storyline, or plot if you will, in the book, but the stream of conscious style of prose got in the way.  Laced into "fuck, fuck, fuck, cunt, cunt, cunt," Miller paves brilliant observations and philosophies on roads of memoir.  The book is his adolescence in Brooklyn before the Great War, the book is an account of the roaring twenties, the book is a prophetical analysis of the end of days.  Try as I might, I cannot say that Miller saved me.
Truman Capote did.  In Cold Blood is all plot, it is all revelation and exposition.  In Cold Blood is a lovely example of story and back story.  From a writer's point of view, as well as a reader's, In Cold Blood has it all: timely descriptions of the characters Dick and Perry, and their place in the world.
The Rum Diary? I'm not disappointed.  This novel, fiction, took Hunter S. Thompson years to write, perhaps forty?  It is, however, without the voice of the man who wrote Hell's Angels and Fear and Loathing.
As for the other books, they were fun to read.  I've always been a fan of Rebecca Brown, who isn't?  The Dogs fit with so much of what I know of this writer.  She is well read, incredibly intelligent and very cunning with her words.  In reading this book,  you must keep track of the allusions, the moralistic tendencies and please don't be late.
Bad Monkeys well, just hold on, you can't do much more than that.  When the clowns arrive, well, just hold on.
Edwin Arlington Robinson was big time.  He was a well cherished poet and playwright in his time.  We've all but forgotten about him.  If you want the introduction to his words look to the song by Simon and Garfunkel "Richard Cory."

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