Though Al Roker and Ann Curry have already announced the big-category winners some suspense remains. At the Quill Book Awards' ceremony tonight the overall winner, the work that by its powerful nature renders classification by genre obsolete, will be announced by the lovely Ann Curry. Kevin Young won in poetry for his collection For the Confederate Dead (Knopf, 2007). For a full list of winners, visit the Quill site.
*Book of the Year -- Angels Fall by Nora Roberts (Putnam, 2007)
What a varied and strange universe!? What a week of surprises! I have no commentary to contextualize those statements; it wouldn't belong on a company blog anyhow. And though I risk sounding like I'm high on mushrooms, when do I not?
In this spirit of high-minded enthusiasm, I recently began reading The Present Age by Søren Kierkegaard (Harper Torchbooks, 1962) which includes the essays "The Present Age" (the latter part of the book A Literary Review) and "Of the Difference Between a Genius and an Apostle." Without going on about Kierkegaard's ideas contained therein, I thought I'd be more qualified to comment on the effect of its introduction. I can't remember the last time I've been so freely batted around by preliminary material. Walter Kaufmann, the American philosopher, begins his introduction so:
It is one of the characteristics of the present age that books of the previous century are reissued with more or less--usually less--learned prefaces. The point is partly that the new edition should have something new in it; partly that the reader should be told what a great classic will confront him when he is done with the preface. The reader wants to be reassured that he is not going to waste his time. And he is also supposed to be anxious to know what he should think of the book--which is another way of saying that he is supposed to be afraid of having to think for himself, though this is after all the only kind of thinking there is. In Kierkegaard's words, in The Present Age, the reader must be reassured that 'something is going to happen,' for 'ours is the age of advertisement and publicity.' Indeed, the preface is expected to say what is going to happen --or, more precisely, which parts of what is about to happen may be safely forgotten, which points are memorable, and what observations about them should be remembered for use in conversation.
And he goes on. An editor could graph this first paragraph onto almost any introduction, so long as the author being introduced is one of the celebrated dead (and, to temper that statement, so long as the intro continues in that vein (I'm not really going out on a limb here)), but it remains poignant where it is. He strikes solid ground between competence and enthusiasm when others of us can only try. If anyone wants a copy of this book, I'm going to order some and send one to you. My e-mail address is on this website, so do whatever's necessary.
"Ashbery's original, seminal Selected Poems crowned the first half of a career that has largely defined American poetry since the middle of the 20th century. Once could think of that first Selected, published in 1985, as the summation of Ashbery's philosophical period, in which the poet self-consciously interrogated the grip--or lack of one--language exerts on the world at large, most notably in poems like 'Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror.' This new volume--beginning with poems from April Galleons (1987) and ending with Where Shall I Wander (2005)--presents the first panoramic view of Ashbery's second phase, in which he explores, celebrates, sends up and revels in the American vernacular. Encompassing the surreal ('You mop your forehead with a rose, recommending its thorns'), the tender ('Everything was spotless in the little house of our desire'), the self-deprecating ('There was I: a stinking adult') and the quietly, utterly haunting ('Those who came closest did not come close'), Ashbery seems to hit every possible note in his scattershot manner. Of particular interest are extended selections from the book-length works Flow Chart (1991) and Girls on the Run (1999). This is an essential book. Along with the original Selected (Penguin), we can now see the full impact of the most representative poets of the last 50 years. (Nov.)"
"Bukowski's chatty free verse (and fiction) about disappointment, drunkenness, racetracks, flophouses, lust, sexual failure, poverty and late-life success amassed an enormous following by the time of his death at age 73 in 1994. Billed as the last book with new Bukowski poems in it, this hefty collection also culls from his prior books, and it is all of a piece: the warnings about lost potency, the ironic takes on ailments of mind and body, the comradeship with everyone down at the heels, down on his luck, or down to his last shot of booze. Bukowski's best poems have an exaggerated, B-movie black-and-white aura about them. One new poem warns 'that/ nothing is wasted:/ either that/ or/ it all is.' In another, 'hell is only what we create,/ smoking these cigarettes,/ waiting here,/ wondering here.' Near the front of the volume comes a page-and-a-half-long verse manifesto, 'a poem is a city,' that might describe what Bukowski could do: 'a poem is a city filled with streets and sewers,' it begins, 'filled with saints, heroes, beggars, madmen...banality and booze,' and yet 'a poem is the world.' (Nov.)"
In recognition of Robert Hass's Time & Materials being named a finalist for the National Book Award, I am pleased to offer a few commemorative broadsides of his poem "Ezra Pound's Proposition." The first five readers to e-mail CruelestMonthPoetry@yahoo.com with the title of a Pound poem as their subject heading and with their mailing address in the body will receive one of the beauties below:
I believe it was the Pharaoh Ramses who said that "humor is truth wrenched from a chicken." And I'll continue to believe that for my own amusement. Sorting through the shelves of a long-gone colleague, I came across SNAPS: The Original "Yo' Mama" Joke Book. I had the first editions in 2nd and 3rd grade and am discovering their full meanings only now. Here are some choice snaps (and no offense to anyone's mother):
"You're so fat, when you were a child you ate your chicken pox."
"Your mother is so fat, she uses a VCR for a beeper."
"Your mother is so fat, after sex she smokes turkeys."
"Your mother is so fat, when I got on top of her, my ears popped."
"Your nose is so big, it needs a screen so babies don't get sucked in."
"Your family is so poor, your house has a kickstand." - Mark Clark
"Your mother is so old, she eats rust." - Freddie Prinze
"Your mother is so poor, I saw her walking down the street with one shoe. When I told her she'd lost a shoe she said, 'No, I found one.'"
"Your teeth have more tartar than Red Lobster."
"You're so skinny, your nipples touch."
"Your mother is so cross-eyed, when she cries tears run down her back." - Donnie Simpson
"Your mother has wooden tits and breast-feeds beavers."
I can't tell if these are making more or less sense. Anyway, it's Friday.