Sunday, March 21, 2010

Cyborgs & Cannibals

Day 40 of the "What are you reading, and why?" project.

Susan is reading Real World by Natsuo Kirino (fiction) and Oneiromance by Kathleen Rooney (poetry), and she will tell you more about that at her own blog! This entry mentions cyborgs & cannibals, about which I know nothing! I think she also said she was reading Orange Crush (also poetry) by Simone Muench, and if it wasn't Susan, then somebody is reading Orange Crush and thinks it is "a beautiful, beautiful book." And we will watch for Susan's own book about Cyborgs (poetry!) to come out this summer from Mayapple Press.

And this brings me to Mike's nice comment about liking the blog because people who say anything about the books here have actually read them! This was in response to the previous entry about book clubs (Great Conversations), where sometimes people haven't actually read the book they have gathered to discuss! I want to make sure Mike and any of you know that often I am simply reporting what other people say about the books they are reading! I could not possibly read this many books in a week or a day!!

But I do read a lot, and read books simultaneously, as many of you do, an interesting thing to learn. I connect the simultaneous reading to our generally fragmented and interrupted lifestyles these days, and to the deep cyberspace click and go somewhere knowledge cloud of the Internet and how it is changing the ways we read, think, and gather information. I am alternately worried about what is happening to our thinking (sustained, contemplative thought and the making of certain kinds of logical connections perhaps going by the wayside) and very excited about us using more of our brain folds! We can think in different ways and make new kinds of connections! Maybe we can even recover some intuitive ways of thinking that we've lost!

I carry books around with me so I always have something to read, and this is part of my fragmented, simultaneous reading. Between volleyball matches at a tournment, I might be reading a poetry chapbook! Odd place to read poetry, but, on the other hand, the loud music, buzzers, and yelling of warmups makes me focus, and the poems also grab my intense focus. Reading in a peaceful place, like my own back yard, might encourage me to look around at the birds, clover, etc., remember an old boyfriend, and the next thing I know, I am writing my own poem!

I finished the book of Letters to a Young Fiction Writer, which had a wonderful thread at the end: a letter from Caroline Gordon to Flannery O'Connor about Wiseblood, a letter from O'Connor to another writer, and so on. I continue to read essay after essay in The Death of Adam by Marilynne Robinson with utter amazement. Now she has a deeply contemplative thought process and style, and I am learning so much from her. One of her complaints--uttered with both patience and subtle peeve--is that historians and literary critics will repeat blanket statements and dismissive cliches about books they have not even read--examples: The New England Primer and The McGuffey Readers--which ties right back in to Mike's comment and concern. Those who dismiss the books without reading them reveal their ignorance...but only to those who actually know something!


Susan said...

When I see the phrase "Cyborgs & Cannibals" I get all jazzed & feel as if someone has been reading my mind... or in this case my blog!

I did just finish Simone Muench's Orange Crush, which I recommend very highly. I especially love the beautifully rendered section of 'language portraits' which depict contemporary female poets! It's a fabulous collection.

I also love the way you have used this space to create an online dialogue about literary works... You are using technology to encourage the sustained, contemplative thought you mention in your blog post. Perhaps it is not so endangered after all? Actually, I am seeing a number of blogs which include at least some lengthy posts about the intersections of language, art, and culture. I find this an encouraging trend.

mike said...

Kathleen: thanks for reminding me about Flannery O'Connor! She went to Lourdes to pray that she'd recover from MS, but ended up praying that her novel would go well instead, according to Francine Prose. I realize that I also opine on books I haven't read, like Dan Brown's, because my friends have read him and said that he was bad. But that's as bad as any of the people I condemn. I'm reading Rebecca West in the living room (because it's too heavy to carry) and "One Hundred Years of Solitude" on the subway. In bed I'm reading Calvino's "Cosmicomics." I'm anxious to get to "The Stories of John Cheever" which I was hearing discussed on NPR's To The Best of Our Knowledge. His life was hell because he was married for forty-one years even though he was bisexual. In the novel "The Wapshot Chronicle" (I wonder if I have the title right), he writes about a man in such a situation, I hear. I haven't read it all. But he is mostly known as a short story writer. He'd get ideas and make them into stories. It sounded profound on the podcast although it couldn't be simpler.

I love your blog!
Mike Peterson

Kathleen said...

Mike, thanks for loving my blog, and I love your comments. I like Cheever, too, and one year my dad gave me Susan Cheever's memoir about her father, Home Before Dark, indeed poignant. How hard it must be to live a certain way because you feel you can't live another way. And how hard on those you are "supposed" to love! Love hearing about WHERE you read what you read, and why!

Susan, I will put Orange Crush on my Wish List for sure! And cannibals can't actually eat cyborgs, right? Or not all of them.

Douglas Robillard said...

I am glad to see I am not the only person who reads multiple books at once. I think you are correct when you suggest that it is a symptom of our busy, fragmented lives. In my case, I read some books quickly. Others linger on for a week or two. . .and still others for a month or two!

There are two books that I have been reading slowly over the last year,"The Discoverers" by Daniel Boorstin and "The Anatomy of Melancholy" by Robert Burton. Boorstin's book is a magisterial survey of humanity's great discoveries: medicine, mechanics, time and its measurement, navigation, &c. Burton's book is a charming,eccentric compendium of obscure lore written in beautiful Jacobean-era English--the first edition was published in 1621. Did you know that mandrakes can bring on melancholy?

Flannery O'Connor's trip to Lourdes is captured in a series of letters in the collection "The Habit of Being." She definitely didn't want to go, but yielded to pressure from her mother and some family friends. "The Violent Bear," as she liked to call it, was the novel she was working on at this time.

Re your mention of Ayn Rand's books and their popularity at Babbit's. I love O'Connor's snarky comment on Rand's work: "She makes Mickey Spillane look like Dostoevsky."