RSS

Category Archives: American Lit

Poem of the Week

dog-525956_1280

Dog Around the Block

by E. B. White

Dog around the block, sniff,
Hydrant sniffing, corner, grating,
Sniffing, always, starting forward,
Backward, dragging, sniffing backward,
Leash at taut, leash at dangle,
Leash in people’s feet entangle—
Sniffing dog, apprised of smellings,
Love of life, and fronts of dwellings,
Meeting enemies,
Loving old acquaintance, sniff,
Sniffing hydrant for reminders,
Leg against the wall, raise,
Leaving grating, corner greeting,
Chance for meeting, sniff, meeting,
Meeting, telling, news of smelling,
Nose to tail, tail to nose,
Rigid, careful, pose,
Liking, partly liking, hating,
Then another hydrant, grating,
Leash at taut, leash at dangle,
Tangle, sniff, untangle,
Dog around the block, sniff.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on May 18, 2019 in American Lit, fiction, poetry

 

Tags: , ,

The Moviegoer

THE_MOVIEGOER

Walker Percy’s The Moviegoer excels at presenting New Orleans at Mardi Gras from an aimless, skirt-chaser who’s about to turn 30. Binx, the protagonist is asked by his aunt to watch over his cousin Kate, who’s battling depression.

There’s a lot of well-written passages on movie watching, New Orleans, Binx’s complicated family and his pursuit of each of the three secretaries he’s employed. The book doesn’t have a plot with momentum as it’s more of a slice of life. At the end there’s a little action for which Binx get’s chastised, but while in 1960, it might have been a big deal, now it isn’t.

Good style wasn’t enough to win me over with The Moviegoer. I need more engaging characters and I need some sort of obstacle for the hero(ine) to overcome. Binx’s ennui grew tiresome. He wasn’t as witty or perceptive as Holden Caulfield from Catcher in the Rye. For a rather short novel, this story dragged.

As time has passed, The Moviegoer’s vocabulary regarding race and work relations between men and women has certainly gotten dated. Binx gets romantic with all his secretaries and they’re shown to welcome the boss’ rambling hands. Percy doesn’t expect us to like Binx completely, but for me he wasn’t just flawed but overprivileged and boring.

Quotes

“Whenever I feel bad, I go to the library and read controversial periodicals. Though I do not know whether I am a liberal or a conservative, I am nevertheless enlivened by the hatred which one bears the other. In fact, this hatred strikes me as one of the few signs of life remaining in the world.” Binx, protagonist

“Ours is the only civilization in history which has enshrined mediocrity as its national ideal. Others have been corrupt, but leave it to us to invent the most undistinguished of corruptions. No orgies, no blood running in the street, no babies thrown off cliffs. No, we’re sentimental people and we horrify easily. True, our moral fiber is rotten. Our national character stinks to high heaven. But we are kinder than ever. No prostitute ever responded with a quicker spasm of sentiment when our hearts are touched. Nor is there anything new about thievery, lewdness, lying, adultery. What is new is that in our time liars and thieves and whores and adulterers wish also to be congratulated by the great public, if their confession is sufficiently psychological or strikes a sufficiently heartfelt and authentic note of sincerity. Oh, we are sincere. I do not deny it. I don’t know anybody nowadays who is not sincere.” Binx

“The fact is I am quite happy in a movie, even a bad movie. Other people, so I have read, treasure memorable moments in their lives…” Binx

 

 
Comments Off on The Moviegoer

Posted by on April 3, 2019 in American Lit, fiction, novel

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

Poem of the Week

By Billy Collins, one of my favorite poems.

 
Comments Off on Poem of the Week

Posted by on March 27, 2019 in American Lit, fiction, poetry

 

Tags: ,

Poem of the Week

beech-10587_640

Autumn Movement

by Carl Sandburg

I cried over beautiful things knowing no beautiful thing lasts.

The field of cornflower yellow is a scarf at the neck of the copper
sunburned woman, the mother of the year, the taker of seeds.

The northwest wind comes and the yellow is torn full of holes,
new beautiful things come in the first spit of snow on the northwest wind,
and the old things go, not one lasts.

 
Comments Off on Poem of the Week

Posted by on October 11, 2018 in American Lit, fiction, poetry, postaweek

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

The Wings of the Dove

th

It seems like I’ve been grudging through The Wings of the Dove by Henry James forever. Every summer and winter my friend Bill and I read a classic novel and discuss it online. Our last book was Zola’s Germinal, which was full of blood, sweat and tears. James’ writing is the opposite in every way imaginable. Zola was earthy and real. James is ethereal and intellectual. Zola crafted characters with whom I sympathized, even his villains had their reasons and adversity. I don’t like a single character in The Wings of the Dove.

I haven’t finished and though I’m just 30 pages from the finish line and have now given myself permission to skim, I dread my daily reading. The situation in Wings of the Dove is that Kate Croy can’t marry her love Merton Densher because he’s too poor. She lives with a rich aunt who’s going to marry her off well. When Milly, an orphaned American heiress with a terminal mystery disease arrives, Kate plots to get her lover to cozy up to Milly. She figures if Milly leaves Densher her fortune, then after Milly dies, which hopefully will be soon, Kate and Densher can marry. How charming.

It bugged me that we never know what Milly has. If it’s in the book it’s hidden amongst the long-winded writing that includes few concrete description. James wanted to convey the psychology of his vapid characters. I could not care less about what they thought. Also, I don’t think he succeeded in conveying true consciousness since most the time when I’m thinking, my mind is wandering. I may think about a work situation when I’m bored in a conversation or unable to listen at church. Whenever we’re privy to Kate or Milly or some other characters’ thoughts, they’re in the situation.

I thought Densher was weak, and hence unattractive, for buying into this insipid plot. I’d say the same for Kate, who didn’t realize her plan might not go as she figured. Had she never heard the cliché, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry”? Evidently not. Milly seemed like a will o’the wisp who floats through the story allowing herself to naively be taken advantage of.

I thought watching the movie would make reading easier or the characters more sympathetic, but it didn’t. I didn’t like the movie much either. While I read, I often just plowed through content to miss a lot. Sometimes I’d consult a reference on the story to see if I was missing something, but my take on the chapters captured all the key events.

I can’t wait to read something else. I know some people must love James or his work  wouldn’t be considered classic, but I don’t care for him at all.

Zzzzzzzz.

 
Comments Off on The Wings of the Dove

Posted by on August 10, 2018 in American Lit, book review, classic, novel

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Pamplona

pamplona_02.jpg

I was lucky to get to see Pamplona starring Stacy Keach at the Goodman Theater. Set in a hotel room in Spain, Pamplona shows Ernest Hemingway struggle with writer’s block as the tries to write an article on bullfighting for Life magazine. As he struggles, Hemingway looks back on his life – all four of his marriages, his conflicts with his father and mother, his writing career and his love and respect for bullfighters and their sport.

Throughout the play, vintage photos are projected on the hotel walls placing the set in history. Pamplona is staged in Goodman’s smaller theater, which resembles Chicago’s Shakespeare Theater so every seat provides a good view in an intimate setting.

Keach brings Hemingway to life and is wonderful in this show. You have to be a powerful performer to captivate an audience for 90 minutes. Kudos to Keach, who made me want to read more Hemingway novels.

I enjoyed learning more about this writer and was pleased with the surprising ending. Just masterful. The play was one of the best of this year’s season.

 
Comments Off on Pamplona

Posted by on July 24, 2018 in American Lit, drama, historical drama, history, postaweek

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

The Wings of the Dove

I’m reading the novel The Wings of the Dove with my friend Bill. We’ve been discussing novels in more or less chronological order. I’d never read a Henry James novel and I’m not enjoying this one so I thought if I saw the movie, I the plot would be clearer as I read.

I have not been won over. This story about Kate, a plotting middle class girl who falls in live with middle class Merton. Since the rich aunt who supports Kate financially won’t let her marry down, Kate manipulates Milly, a dying rich, American girl she meets and Merton. Her plan, which the wimpy Merton agrees to, is for her lover Merton to cosy up to Milly with the aim to getting into her will. Despicable, n’est pas?

The film stars Helena Bonham Carter, who’s moody and and sort of dark, as Kate. Elizabeth McGovern plays Milly’s companion Susie and Merton’s played by Linus Roche, who was an ADA on Law and Order for several seasons.

The film isn’t doesn’t go into each characters’ psychology as the novel tried to but the poor people weren’t that poor and their plot was doomed from the start. I just had no sympathy for Kate or Merton and very little for Milly, who was dying of some unspecified aliment and had little sense. It wasn’t clear to me whether she was an orphan. If her parents were living, I’d expect them to keep better tabs on their naive daughter. Susie is a fine companion, but had little sway over Milly.

The film was pretty, but the story itself was a non-starter for me. Watching the movie hasn’t spurred me to dig into the novel. I’ll continue to trudge through it.

 
Comments Off on The Wings of the Dove

Posted by on July 20, 2018 in American Lit, film adaptation, novel

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,