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William Carlos Williams


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Sunday, March 18th, 2012

Hilit

In college, I used to underline sentences that struck me, that made me look up from the page. ... I noted them for their clarity, their rhythm, their beauty and their enchantment. For surely it is a magical thing for a handful of words, artfully arranged, to stop time.
In the NY Times Sunday Review*, novelist Jhumpa Lahiri reflects on the "urge to convert experience into a group of words that are in a grammatical relation to one another" -- I empathize with her as far as this being a primary motivation. I love her description of reading Italian, which captures perfectly how I enjoy reading Spanish.

I sometimes underline sentences too, though I don't remember having done so in college -- it's a habit come by recently, until only a few years ago I could not hilight a book without its feeling forced and unproductive. Just last night I started a reread of The Art of Resurrection, which happily contains lots of underlining and margin notes from 2010. I believe a part of blogging my reread is going to be quoting from these, seeing if I am still finding these artfully arranged bunches of words to hold the same beauty and enchantment, how my reactions have evolved over the time since I first read it -- which time of course includes my translation of and revising of the first chapter , and reading Santa Maria de las flores negras...

I'm thinking I'll try to keep fairly good bloggy notes about this reread. (As for Chapter 1 though, I am going to let my translation stand without discussing it.)

The second chapter (which I call "In Transit" in my notes) is slightly tedious compared to the opening (although, well, what would not be) -- there is a shift of tense from the imperfect narrative to a remembered preterite, the camera zooms out for a little setting up of the plot of the book. Here Magalena Mercado is introduced (again not in person, but via a story told by a traveling salesman) and we get some of Zárate Vega's back story.

My only hilight in this chapter is the last line -- ¡Aleluya, Padre Santo! -- where I note a transition into Zárate Vega's voice. Switches between tenses and between voices are a very, very important part of this novel I think -- based on the two books I've read of Rivera Letelier's it seems to me like these switches are almost the key feature of his prose style. In this regard, the Christ of Elqui makes an ideal character for Rivera Letelier to draw.

* and/or in the online "opinionator" section of the Times website? I am no longer sure with this newspaper what is the print organ and what is the digital presence. This piece is certainly printed on the front page of the "Review" section of the hardcopy Times delivered to my stoop this morning. However its url identifies it as part of the site's blog section -- perhaps there is no longer any distinction to be made between these venues.

posted afternoon of March 18th, 2012: Respond
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Sunday, January 8th, 2012

Rereads

So I am thinking (as 2012 rolls itself out before me like a glittering carpet...) that the READIN reading theme of 2012 might just be rereading. Somehow the Savage Detectives reread of the last few months seems to have primed me for getting new insight from books I am already familiar with... Rereading The Crying of Lot 49 last week set the course; and today it looks like I am starting to reread The Corrections (a book, it must be said, which owes a whole lot to TCoL49 if my memory of it is any guide).

Here is me reading The Corrections. Thanks for the photo, Sylvia!

posted morning of January 8th, 2012: Respond
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Friday, November 4th, 2011

Los Detectives Salvajes

Los poetas mexicanas (supongo que los poetas en general) detestan que se les recuerde de su ignorancia.
The opening pages of Savage Detectives made me fall down laughing when I read them last time around (about two years ago now) -- they are holding up in quality the second time around and in a different language. I could not find my copy of the book (indeed I may never have owned one, perhaps it was a library book), so have bought a Spanish copy and... will see how it goes keeping up with the group read. Even if I don't end up reading the whole book (which seems like it would be a stretch), I am getting some lovely reading experience out of it.

A nice coincidence, also, for the opening paragraph to have yesterday's date on it. A good omen of sorts -- it must be exactly the right time of year to be starting this book. (Shades of October 3rd, 2005!) And García Madero? -- he seems like sort of a brat, but in a lovable way -- I can identify with him.

posted evening of November 4th, 2011: 4 responses
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Sunday, September 6th, 2009

Annotations and Flow

...And maybe the best thing yet about Inherent Vice: it appears to have cured me of the intimidation I've felt towards Mason & Dixon, allowed me to really start digging that book! (Backstory: I read M&D when it came out 12 years ago, participated in the pynchon-l's "Mass Discussion of Mason & Dixon", tried my hardest to understand it and to love it, and sort of dropped the ball (or whatever sporting analogy is appropriate) -- and ever since it has been sitting on my shelf beckoning me to reread it, to try again.) So on Friday night, with Inherent Vice fresh in mind, I picked it up and opened it -- and found myself transported! It is a work of beauty. I'm following the pair's peregrinations around South Africa and St. Helena with bated breath, where my memory of reading it before is that this section was something to be gotten through so I could read the story set in America...

I'm a little annoyed with my younger self's pencilled annotations -- there are a whole lot of them throughout the book and they are pretty unbearably earnest -- looking at a scribbled cross-reference with question mark I can see myself at 27 reading the MDMD, trying to make a point in the discussion, hoping for praise from the other participants... (Some of the notes are useful of course but they do break into the flow of the text and they are difficult to ignore entirely.)

posted morning of September 6th, 2009: Respond
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Monday, March 30th, 2009

There and Back Again

Two things about The Hobbit, which I started reading aloud with Sylvia last night: It is a whole lot of fun to read aloud, with opportunities for doing new voices at every turn; and it seems like it will be kind of fun to be reading in parallel with The Fellowship of the Ring.

I'm just at the point in Fellowship, where the party is leaving Rivendell; in a lot of ways this seems like the real beginning of the story, with the first half of the book having been a prologue. I'm interested in Frodo, Sam, and Strider; none of the other travellers has really got my attention yet. (Besides Gandalf of course; but he distinctly does not strike me as a real character, as a human.) Pippin and Merry both have had moments but they are generally in the background so far.

posted evening of March 30th, 2009: 4 responses
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Tuesday, February 21st, 2006

Rereading

I left this comment to Roy's fine post on reading Swann's Way:

Here's a thought: many of the very best books I have read, I have come to in the same way that you came to Swann's Way (which I have not read or even made any serious attemt to) -- as Everests to be clumb, as adversaries to be bested. With all of them that I consider "very best books", there was a metamorphosis at some point, where the reading project turned into something my heart was really in, that I was really enjoying. Frequently I have given up on a book halfway through because this metamorphosis has not yet occurred; and frequently I have gone back to the book in question years later, and found that I enjoyed reading it -- sometimes this has taken multiple cycles of putting it down and coming back to it. Books that I finish without ever feeling like I was digging it, I'm pretty unlikely to go back to.

And even as I typed it I knew I was proving myself wrong -- I am now rereading Pynchon's V., a book which I slogged through to the end of despite losing the thread of, and -- well:

I started the reread last week, and early in the book I remembered how my reaction when I was first reading it was, the storyline set in the present tense, featuring Benny Profane, is a lot of fun though not particularly substantial; and the storyline set in the past, featuring the elder Stencil and any number of other oddball characters, is totally mystifying. And I felt all set to recapitulate that experience of the book when I read the chapter set in Egypt and could not understand what was going on. But as of this evening's reading (the chapter set in Florence) I have gotten in the groove and am loving the book. (It was kind of cool to be reading the scenes in and around Florentine landmarks, after a few nights ago Sylvia and I were reading her children's tour of Florence book, which we bought while we were there this summer. Also: Florence is where I started playing with yo-yos!)

posted evening of February 21st, 2006: Respond
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Monday, May 10th, 2004

This thread on Brad DeLong's site reminded me that I have not read Heart of Darkness since college -- in the same class indeed where I first read Don Quixote -- and that I have very little memory of it. Time to go back and reread; I picked up a copy of this newly topical book at Coliseum today.

posted afternoon of May 10th, 2004: Respond
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