Archive for the 'authors' Category

Poetry: The Four Quartets

December 12, 2007

T. S. Eliot is one of those love-him-or-hate-him guys. I’ll have a special place in my heart for The Four Quartets thanks to a wonderful junior-year seminar…hopefully you like him too.

O dark dark dark. They all go into the dark,
The vacant interstellar spaces, the vacant into the vacant,
The captains, merchant bankers, eminent men of letters,
The generous patrons of art, the statesmen and the rulers,
Distinguished civil servants, chairmen of many committees,
Industrial lords and petty contractors, all go into the dark,
And dark the Sun and Moon, and the Almanach de Gotha
And the Stock Exchange Gazette, the Directory of Directors,
And cold the sense and lost the motive of action.
And we all go with them, into the silent funeral,
Nobody’s funeral, for there is no one to bury.
I said to my soul, be still, and let the dark come upon you
Which shall be the darkness of God. As, in a theatre,
The lights are extinguished, for the scene to be changed
With a hollow rumble of wings, with a movement of darkness on darkness,
And we know that the hills and the trees, the distant panorama
And the bold imposing facade are all being rolled away—
Or as, when an underground train, in the tube, stops too long between stations
And the conversation rises and slowly fades into silence
And you see behind every face the mental emptiness deepen
Leaving only the growing terror of nothing to think about… [The Four Quartets, No. 2 ‘East Coker’, III]

It is entirely possible that Eliot was a lunatic. But if so, he is a lunatic whose writings are wonderful to revel in.


The Whiskey Robber strikes again!

December 10, 2007

Just kidding. He’s still in prison. (Huh? Catch up here.) But a commenter pointed me toward this recent video of Attila in prison speaking with author Julian Rubinstein. (Chris on viewing the video: “This guy is all over the place! I think we share a brain type.”)

So other than the fact that I’m apparently dating a guy bound for Hungarian prison, cool vid. I wonder why more authors don’t do this type of thing?

Check out this reporter-in-training

December 5, 2007

I am 10 years old. I love airplanes and cats. I like playing on the computer, riding my bike and playing with my friends. I am homeschooled. I live with my nice mom, cool step-dad, my very annoying little sister, and my freaky but very cute cats. I am going to write about everything in my world. [In The Air–]

10-year-old Matthew has Asperger’s syndrome and learning disabilities. His blog is amazing–not in spite of or because of these disabilities but just because he’s a remarkably literate, interesting 10-year-old kid. He’s on a mission to interview 100 people about their jobs.

7. Do you have a t-shirt with the periodic table on it?
I used to, when I was in high school. It was white, with a blue periodic table. But I don’t have it anymore.
8. What is your favorite color? Why?
My favorite color changes sometimes. Usually it is blue or green or black. Right now it is green, because I just bought some cool green shoes, and I like them.
9. What is your favorite word in Spanish?
I don’t know how to speak Spanish, but my favorite word in Spanish is probably muertos.

I certainly wasn’t doing anything like this at the age of 10. I remember running around the playground trying to avoid cooties and that was about it. This kid is amazing. Go check him out.

The Nanowrimo Approacheth (“Water for Elephants” reviewed)

November 1, 2007

I just finished Water for Elephants last week. This is the New York Times bestseller, the one that looks like it should have an “Oprah’s Book Club” ribbon printed on the front. In short, the kind of book I try to stay away from. (So I’m a book snob. Sue me.) Yet on a whim I snagged it off and on a recommendation from Vox I moved it to the top of my “to-read” list. Glad I did.

Sara Gruen did not get her start as a Nanowrimo author, as far as I can tell, nor was Water for Elephants composed in a month. But her previous book, Flying Changes, is said to have gotten its start as part of the frenetic novel-writing marathon (which, of course, begins today). But enough of that.

The book is set on a circus train in the Depression, in backlots of Midwestern cities that all look the same. Our hero is a young orphaned veterinarian from Cornell. There is a love interest, a five-hundred-pound (or so) woman, a schizophrenic, a dwarf named Kinko, and (as you may expect) an elephant.

Through it all there are occasional references to the present day, where Jacob Jankowski at ninety-three lives out the end of his days in a nursing home. The story is beautifully told, funny at the right parts and horrifying where it needs to be. Jacob’s an immensely likeable narrator at either age, and the ending, though cheesy, is incredibly satisfying.

The very picky reader will notice that Sara Gruen repeats a few well-worn phrases to the point of obnoxiousness, but I would tell the very picky reader to lighten up and enjoy the ride. This is a wonderful story that anyone and everyone can enjoy–even if you’ve never entertained the notion of running away to join the circus.

Taking Off Emily Dickinson’s Clothes

October 24, 2007

I’m on a Billy Collins kick lately, so here’s an excerpt of one of my favorite Collins poems :

First, her tippet made of tulle,
easily lifted off her shoulders and laid
on the back of a wooden chair.

And her bonnet,
the bow undone with a light forward pull.

Then the long white dress, a more
complicated matter with mother-of-pearl
buttons down the back,
so tiny and numerous that it takes forever
before my hands can part the fabric,
like a swimmer’s dividing water,
and slip inside.

You will want to know
that she was standing
by an open window in an upstairs bedroom,
motionless, a little wide-eyed,
looking out at the orchard below,
the white dress puddled at her feet.
on the wide-board, hardwood floor.

(More: Taking Off Emily Dickinson’s Clothes, by Billy Collins)