They just followed me home, I swear... but can I keep them?

[A post begun last night, and finished this afternoon...]

The lovely spring weather continues apace here - so much so that I walked to my salon appointment (a little over four miles round trip) and wished I hadn't worn a heavy sweater.  The walk is quite beautiful - it takes me past Halifax's Armory and Common (where people camped in tents after the 1917 Explosion destroyed their homes, and where they were hit by the brutal blizzard that followed that calamity) before leading me across the highest point in town, the star-shaped Citadel fortress (the most visited historic site in Canada), and along the border of the Public Gardens.

But I awoke this morning feeling an exhaustion disproportionate to the amount of sleep I had gotten.  I wouldn't swear to it, but it may also be possible that a family of elephants had taken up squishy residence in my sinuses in the early hours of the morning.  By the time I was about an hour into my time in foils at the salon, I had a screeching headache.  And now, come evening, I am running a low fever and feeling utterly discombobulated.

So there is nothing to do to soothe my fevered brow but to contemplate the books that followed me home this week (via mail, or having hopped into my hands at the bookstore):


I have been coveting this collection since participating in a reading to mark its launch.  It is a beautiful, tactile volume - heavy, velvety paper filled with odd little sketches by Reaney himself.  But the true oddity is in the vivid poems.  Consider the beginning and end of "The Antiquary": 
Within these jars and casks 
I keep French and German moonlight [...] 
Here in these flasks 
Lie the coughs of Emily Brontë, 
The urine of John Donne, 
And Jane Austen's caul. 
Here is Queen Anne's seventh child  
Pickled in liquor...  


Did you know that the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design was founded by Anna Leonowens, whose writings about her time in Siam inspired The King and I?  Neither did I, until quite recently.  That's why I need this book.  


I am on record as adoring Gabrielle Calvocoressi's previous book of poems, The Last Time I Saw Amelia Earhart, both for its title cycle, and for the long poem that treats the Hartford Circus Fire.   In that first work, she was a prodigy of perspective, getting at the experience of historical catastrophes by giving us the vivid points of view of various bystanders and participants, all laid out with imagery that circles back on itself and back and back, building in complexity with every return.  This new collection, from what I can tell so far, circles round the dual themes of desire and boxing.  Consider the power of these lines from the first of two poems called "A Love Supreme" (paying particular attention to how she uses the line-breaks to create double meanings):
You beautiful, broke-
back horse of my heart.  Proud,
debonair, not quite there

in the head. You current
with no river in sight.

There are lines I want to tell you about in the poems I have read so far, but I am reluctant to share them, since they seem to me to be spoilers.  That's right - these are poems so playful and surprising and urgent that I am fearful of spoilers.  And can we also agree that Calvocoressi has quite the gift for titling her books?  There is a wonderful onomatopoeia to Apocalyptic Swing....


Ruined by Lynn Nottage
One of the most acclaimed plays of 2009 (it swept up the Pulitzer, the Obie, and the NY Drama Critics' Circle Award, among others), it tells the tale of a brothel in the wartorn Congo, and is based on interviews Nottage did with women fleeing the sexual violence of the civil conflict there.

I can't quite remember how this came to be on my BookMooch wishlist, but I am glad that it is.  It is a set of tales of otherworldly horror by an early-twentieth-century director of Cambridge's Fitzwilliam Museum.  I am enthralled by the prospects promised by this description on the back cover: "In a style as neat as a croquet lawn he penetrates to the heart of Hell and beyond."


I do know, however, how this volume (about the arrival of a wealthy stranger in a remote Brazilian[?] village) came to be on my wishlist: it is one of the 1001 books I must read before I die.  


And speaking of that project, I recently returned to the spreadsheet that tells me how many books I must read a year in order to read the whole list before I die, based on my age and gender.  And it was a sobering memento mori.  Despite the fact that I have devoted my entire adult life and a solid portion of my childhood to the study of literature, I have only read about 17% of the list.  This means I must read 16 books from the list a year for the rest of my existence to complete the list.  How many did I read in the last year?  One.  So this calls for a serious shuffling of Mt TBR.  What are some of the works I might start with?
  • Ovid's Metamorphoses
  • Rose Tremain's The Colour (which Wendy recently brought back to my attention)
  • Ian McEwan's Saturday
  • Dickens's Our Mutual Friend (which I should have finished back in college - sorry, spirit of the late Professor K.  I think of you every time I see it on my shelf.)
  •  The Lover by Marguerite Duras
  • A Pale View of Hills by Kazuo Ishiguro
  • Borges's Labyrinths
  • Possession by A.S. Byatt
  • Mario Puzo's The Godfather 
Any favorites from this list?

    2 Responses so far.

    1. Christine says:

      Read Possession. You will adore it. (I go back to it 1-2 times yearly.)

    2. Ooh. I have been meaning to read it for a really long time. OK, getting it down from the shelf right now.

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