Wednesday, January 17, 2018

New poems at Mezzo Cammin



Three newish poems online at the polar bear issue! Bites from the openings:

Melville at Mooring

So frail and nearly mad, too old for seas,
Recalling Greylock like a cresting wave,

and
Zodiac

One of them is wandering with Bartram,
Tasting breast-of-heron, vision shaken

and
Family Storybook: Peter Rabbit

In the yard with the thrum of hummingbirds,
With zinnias rioting from coffee cans,

I see lots of familiar names, including old friend Jeanne Larsen. Thank you to poet and editor Kim Bridgford.





Books for young boys who read at a high level

Updated January 18 I made this list for the son of friends--he is 8 and already reading young adult books, long past Lewis's Narnia and Rowling's Potter. A request for titles included asking for some suggestions of books from earlier eras, so there are quite a few older books. 

Please add your own thoughts about books you loved as a boy or girl in the comments. You might think also do something similar and consider books that seem just right for some particular child you know. And please think about the age--after ferreting about, I have concluded that there is not a good list online for boys--or girls--who are desiring more challenging reading but are still quite young. That is the focus here. I'm particularly interested in the idea of the young child who does not wish for books powered by gore, violence, and sex but who wants books that are adventurous and well-written.

The list has a rough, rather higgledy-piggledy organization with realistic and "low fantasy" books toward the top, mythic and fairy tale material midway, fantastical work toward the bottom, and many of the additional comments from others at the bottom (sometimes elsewhere, if more suited to the sort of books elsewhere.) Maybe some day I'll go alphabetical, after comments quit appearing. Or maybe I'll just leave it as a joyful hodgepodge.

Help build the list!

* * *

Joan Aiken, The Wolves of Willoughby Chase. There's a whole series of the Wolves books about two girl cousins and a goose-boy who must outwit the scheming Miss Slighcarp.

Robert Louis StevensonKidnapped. I still love Stevenson and reread Kidnapped not long ago. The flight in the heather is wonderful. Treasure Island

Rudyard KiplingThe Jungle Book. An interesting coming-of-age stories.

Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi. Wonderful! The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. The Jumping Frog of Calaveras County. Diary of a Campaign That Failed. Huckleberry Finn. 

Farley MowatLost in the Barrens. Two teenage boys, survival story.

Johann David WyssSwiss Family Robinson. Four shipwrecked boys and their ingenious parents. I have often found myself putting characters into trees, and I think it's partly the fault of this book.

Eric SevareidCanoeing with the Cree. Wish I had known about this one for my boys. Have not read it--Eric Sevareid and a friend graduate high school and go on a 2,250-mile canoe trip. Sounds marvelous, so I couldn't resist adding it.

I have not read these but was looking for books that would please a fantasy reader whose parents wished he would attempt something else occasionally. I read a lot of the author's fantasy as a child and later. with my own children Check out Lloyd Alexander's Holly Vesper adventures? A Victorian girl, age 16, ranges the world with her guardian Brinnie, or Professor Brinton Garrett. "She’s Indiana Jones, Sherlock Holmes (minus the violin playing, the bees, and the cocaine), and Nancy Drew and Richie Rich." --Mari Ness

Jack LondonThe Call of the Wild.

Marjorie Cowley, Dar and the Spear-Thrower. Go back in time 15,000 years and be an orphan boy in France! Coming-of-age tale. This one appealed to a son of mine who was not a devoted reader. 

If you want a child to experience something that conveys the excitement of learning to read and how important it is to possess written language, the early part of Frederick Douglass's autobiography that tells how he learned to read as a slave child is thrilling.

"Do boys still read G. A. Henty? suppose not, and they are the poorer for it. Men who were boys when [I] was a boy will thrill even today to the very names—With Wolfe in Canada, and With Kitchener in the Sudan, and With Hornblower at Riga. Yes, most of all With Hornblower at Riga. No other book ever written (save perhaps its un justly neglected sequel With Hornblower in Nicaragua) so evokes the smell of tar and salt." --Thaddeus Holt, NYT, 13 June 1971. Holt pans C. S. Forester's Hornblower series as missing the great mark of Hornblower, but Hemingway and Churchill both praised the Forester Hornblower books.

E. B. White, The Trumpet of the Swan.

Laura Ingalls WilderFarmer Boy. Set in Malone, where my husband Michael grew up. The house is now restored and can be toured.

Jean Craighead GeorgeMy Side of the Mountain. I don't think that I read this one but had a son who liked it.

Leon GarfieldSmith. A boy pickpocket sees dangerous things he should not and eventually rises in through muddling accident, merit, and heart. Victorian gritty. Gorgeous story of finding a home in a dangerous world. The rare book that feels truly Dickensian, though the term is bandied about quite often. I like some other Garfield books, but Smith brings tears. Rare! It is the last book I read to all three of my children at once, and I have to say they were transfixed. A while back, FSG's Robbie Mayes edited some beautiful reprints of four of Garfield's children's novels that can probably be picked up used, and there's a newer edition from NYRB.

Alexandre Dumas, pèreThe Three Musketeers.

Esther Forbes, Johnny Tremain. The silversmith's apprentice dramatic story--a boy's life in eighteenth-century Boston.

Writer and photographer John O' Grady had a suggestion: "The only book I'd add is Lad: A Dog by Albert Payson Terhune. (I'd probably also throw in his Wolf and Gray Dawn.)"

My blog-friend George left some titles in the comments that I am passing on here with a bit more information--I think these are interesting choices, though I think the first may be more appropriate as a read-aloud with a parent for a younger child who may have questions. My target age of around 8 is awfully young! Commander Edward L. Beach, Jr.Run Silent, Run Deep. That one's definitely heroic, as submarine Commander Edward J. Richardson tells the events that led to his receiving the Medal of Honor. Includes a figure whose character is wayward (bit wild and risky in his actions, unfaithful to his wife) but changes in the course of the book. Jean Lee LathamCarry On, Mr. Bowditch. Biography of sailor-mathematician Nathaniel Bowditch. Newbury medal winner. The true story of a boy's rise from chandler's apprentice to captain and Harvard grad. An American dream saga. Great choice. Mark TwainRoughing It. I thought about this one but was not sure--but why not give it a try?

Mabel M. DodgeHans Brinker and the Silver Skates. 

Alan Garner, The Stone Book Quartet. Cheshire setting. Each book features a child of a different era.

Louisa May Alcott, Little Women, Little Men

A smattering of the legendary and mythic: I liked Howard Pyle's Robin Hood and Arthur stories, but they may seem a little more dated now. Kevin Crossley-Holland (UK) has an Arthurian trilogy that has won awards, and I think he has a Norse myths book as well. I've only read one of his books and that was long ago, but I think it would be a safe choice. Neil Gaiman also has a new Norse legends book which I've read and would add. Leon Garfield's The God Beneath the Sea won Carnegie and Greenaway medals but I've not read it--according to what I have read, it is more adult than his other work, and he was concerned about that, which seems sweet of him, given that anything goes now in y. a. I read Nathaniel Hawthorne's retellings of myths early on.

Folk and fairy: Alan Garner has folk tale collections from his native Cheshire. I was a re-reader of the Grimms' tales in childhood. In addition, I'd recommend the Lore Segal and Randall Jarrell translations in a two-volume set wonderfully illustrated by Maurice SendakThe Golden Book of Fairy Tales (with illustrations by Adrienne Segur and some translations by Marie Ponsot) Also: The Fairy Tale Book (with illustrations by Adrienne Segur.) I pored over my copy of TFTB many, many times. Has a version of E. T. A. Hoffmann's Nutcracker story, "The Snow Queen," lots more. I know so many women writers who were entranced by one or both books when they were girls, but there's plenty to like for boys as well. Andrew Lang's Blue Fairy Book, etc. Oh, and Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale collections, of course.

And for gentler fantasy, try E. Nesbit and Edward Eager. Lots of books by each.

Writer, poet, and secret singer Roderick Robinson added some specific E. Nesbit recommendations--"the adventures of the Bastable family (The Story of the Treasure Seekers, The Wouldbegoods, The New Treasure Seekers"--and you can see his remarks in the comments.

Lucy M. BostonGreen Knowe. Tolly goes to stay with Mrs. Oldknowe and meets the people who once lived in the house in earlier centuries. Six books in the series, I think. Boston makes the world feel enchanted. The Sea Egg. This lovely little book was recommended to me by Robbie Mayes, back when he was an FSG editor. Two English schoolboys discover an egg with a triton inside.

T. H. WhiteThe Once and Future King. Arthur! Robin Hood! Being a bird! The first section--"The Sword in the Stone"--about Wart and Merlin is enthralling for a boy.

John RuskinThe King of the Golden River.

Nancy WillardThe Firebrat.

Roald Dahl, James and the Giant Peach. It's hard to decide which one to pick with Dahl.

Lloyd Alexander, The Chronicles of Prydain, Time Cat, the Westmark books, etc.

Terry PratchettThe Wee Free Men and A Hatful of Sky. A strong-minded young witch. Somebody in the house loved The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents. If a boy gets addicted to Pratchett, he'll stay busy a long time.

Richard AdamsWatership Down. My high school English teacher (the woman to whom I dedicated Catherwood) gave me the rabbit-saga when it came out, and I wish that I still had the copy with her inscription.

Lewis Carroll's Alice books. I can't say how much those meant to me. Alice for all, girls and boys!

Otfried Preussler, Krabat and the Sorceror's Mill. Brilliant little book. Scary. Maybe shouldn't be on this list, but it is so good! A parent ought to check this one out first, as children vary in what they find frightening. Eh, save it till he's older! A beggar boy is captured by a great sorcerer and made to work and learn his mysterious arts. A girl and an Easter hymn promise him more. This one is from The New York Review of Books children's collection, and I highly, highly recommend browsing through it to find some interesting books.



George MacDonald: the short stories were published a while back by Eerdmans in two volumes as The Gifts of the Christ Child. A lot of them like "The Golden Key" are beautiful and aspiring. Little violence. Ruth Sanderson just did a gorgeous scratchboard-illustrated version of that story, also from Eerdmans. Some of his other stories have been Sendak-illustrated books like The Light Princess. Try The Princess and the Goblin and The Princess and Curdie. I loved At the Back of the North Wind as a child, but I expect that one may feel pretty dated now.

Madeleine L'EngleA Wrinkle in Time.

Norman JusterThe Phantom Tollbooth.

Another fantasy writer I liked when young was Alan Garner, whose children's fantasies were set around Alderney Edge. He was in the reread category for me--particularly The Weirdstone of Brisingamen. 

Franny Billingsley, The Folk Keeper. Corinna in disguise as the boy Corin, who must keep down the Folk in their labyrinthine home. 

Gary D. Schmidt, What Came From the Stars. We judges for the 2012 NBA-YPL swapped books, and I swapped one of my mine for this one--and liked it. This tale of Tommy Pepper and the dangerous Valorians is well-written, boy-friendly, and adventurous. (What book did we pick for the Young People's Literature Award? William Alexander's Goblin Secrets. A lovely, surreal creation.)

My eldest son adored the Brian Jacques books. If a boy likes one, there are a zillion more. 

My daughter Rebecca's favorite fantasy writer was Diana Wynne Jones (an author who had three sons, so she knew boys!) Try the Chrestomanci books--magic and lots of boys. Some of her fantasy is rather cerebral in structure, but there are a number of books for younger readers. Rebecca loved Howl's Moving Castle, which was transformed in its migration to a Miyazaki Studio Ghibli film. I recall thinking that Aunt Maria gave Rowling the structural basis for her third Potter book. She has a long bibliography and more books that would work for a young reader who wants something challenging.

Isaac Bashevis Singer, Zlateh the Goat and Other Stories

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, LOTR. LOTR is terrifically sad for an adult, but I think it tends to be less so for younger readers.

I think Jules Verne could work well as a read-aloud, as would Dickens (Nicholas Nickleby, A Christmas Carol, Oliver Twist) or Blackmore's Lorna Doone. (I love the narrator of the last one in the same way that I love the first narrator of The Moonstone.) I did not read King Solomon's Mines as a child, but I knew boys liked it.

Louis Untermeyer's The Golden Treasury of Poetry. Via eBay or abe.com or library, I guess. Wore mine to pieces. Boy-friendly, definitely! 

James Weldon Johnson, God's Trombones: Seven Negro Sermons in Verse. This was one of the few single-author poetry books I owned as a child. Great swing, inspired by what Johnson saw as the "folk sermons" of his childhood.

Randall JarrellThe Bat-poet. 

For non-fiction, there are lots of interesting choices, but one that appealed greatly to me was the Foxfire series that came out of the Rabun Gap - Nacoochee school (edited by Eliot Wigginton), not far from me when I was in high school in Cullowhee, North Carolina. I pored over those books and have continued to occasionally look at them. Whenever I passed the school on trips to Georgia, I longed to be a student there.

I've left out Avi, Nancy Farmer, and so many others who wrote books that my children loved. But maybe it's time to let other people tell me what they like...

Note: Be sure and come back later, as I will keep adding in suggestions from twitter, facebook, and messaging!

Via writer Susan Henderson aka @LitPark on twitter: "When my boys were that age, they loved The Mysterious Benedict Society." And another: "Oh, and Terry Pratchett's Maurice and His Educated Rodents. Not long after, they got into Pratchett's Tiffany Aching series." [I read one of the Benedict books in the year that I read 316 children's books for the NBA-YPL. And I liked it. Author: Trenton Lee Stewart.] Henderson is also in the comments below.

Writer Kim Beall put in a vote for Tolkien's LOTR in the comments, and I think what she says reflects what I said above: it's a different narrative for a child than for an adult. One of Ellen Kushner's Sound and Spirit episodes muses on that thought as well. LOTR pops up here and there in her series. And there is a show on music inspired by LOTR (episode 5048.)

Peter in Wales: "Some violence in [Hergé's] Tintin, of an adventurous kind, but certainly NO sex. YA wasn't definite genre in my day, but other read-them-all favourites at 8+ were Arthur Ransome, Hugh Lofting, Asterix, Tove Jannson. And I know Clive would add Alan Garner. Too young for Pullman?" [I would suppose so, at least for the third volume of the trilogy.] "The trilogy's the thing with Pullman. [Note: One of my children read the trilogy and liked the first two books but not the third. The complaint was that the third should have been two books and that it had too much anti-Christian axe-grinding.] Lofting wrote Dr Dolittle, a very different person than either of the film versions. A rarer favourite were 2 children's books by Eric Linklater - Pirates in the Deep Green Sea and Wind on the Moon. None yet re-read with modern sensitivities."

Writer and book reviewer Nancy G. Pate: Great list with many of my favorites. My [Untermeyer's] Golden Poetry, like yours, is falling apart. Smiled at that pic. I’d add Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising series. Still reread it.

I thought about Susan Cooper and dithered about whether The Dark is Rising books were the right age. (She was on our 2012 NBA-YPL judging board, and I liked her very much and reread the whole TDIR series after we met.) Maybe that's because I was older when I read them. I guess that's one where I would think about my child, and whether they might enjoy them more at a slightly older age.

Writer and professor Jessica Hooten Wilson: "I was glad to see Roald Dahl—I’ve been reading his books aloud to my 3 and 4 yr olds."
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Monday, January 15, 2018

Updatery

Brazilian photographer André Rainaud of Vitória, Espírito Santo
For the curious who must know and for the curious who are merely idle, well, I am barely back from a nine-day trip to North Carolina--all five of us shut up in a Tundra truck for 1800 miles round trip! And we survived and had no fights and no burst pipes at home, so that is lovely.

I have plunged back into frigid Cooperstown life and duties--and am also polishing on a novel manuscript set in the fascinating seventeenth-century world of those who called themselves "the godly," aka the Puritans. Perhaps I will now understand the Yankee mind better.

Now that long books are out of fashion, I have finally written a long book. How strange that is! And yet somehow typical. I did not intend to be against the grain but somehow once again I am. The book is a good bit more than 500 print pages long, as it is almost that long in typescript.

And so I shall be scurrying about fulfilling promises and then hurrying home to scour my manuscript and keep the house from tumbling down for the next several weeks. I have various bits of book-related news, some of which I have already discussed in the Rollipoke, that I will be announcing in a month or so. And with luck and labors, I shall be doing something or other with this large novel soon.

Send chocolate, be well, and stay cozy! 

Saturday, January 06, 2018

Friday, January 05, 2018

Twelfth Night, with poems online


"Murmurs of the Crones in Hackmatack" and "Cronesong" are up at The Orchards Poetry Journal. Catherine Chandler, Philip Quinlan, Corey Mesler, Kevin Durkin, Andrew Frisardi, and more are included.

Thursday, January 04, 2018

Resolves and best-laid plans, 2018

Janusz Hylinski at sxc.hu
Last year was a year of much travel for me--three trips from Cooperstown to western North Carolina, one long stay in Worcester, Massachusetts at the American Antiquarian Society, a trip to Paris, and a trip to Japan. This year will also have some travel, but I mean to make better use of time when I am at home. As I have a husband and three children plus lots of regular activities scheduled, I'm pretty busy there too.

Make resolves you can keep. Make resolves you can't keep.

Don't linger with what is meaningless (boring or feeble) in visual or written art.

Don't waste time. Marvell's winged chariot whirs like a cicada in the background.

Don't finish books that aren't what they were meant to be or what they should be. Don't waste your precious time.

Don't judge books based on what they are not.

Clean up your writing room and all books and papers throughout the house.

Jettison things. Books, clothes, objects.

Less sugar!

Support small presses.

Go through the masses of poems and other work that you've never revised or published.

Throw much away!

Finish polishing the (very) long novel, acquire your third agent, and write a short novel.

Publish a book of poems.

Sell a novel.

Quit dithering and decide what to do about reprints.

Volunteer. Do secret things that feed the soul.

Do much less social media.

Hunt down what is meaningful.

Merry 11th day of Christmas!

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Some books I read, 2017

Selected Reads and Rereads
I'm not sure how much of a picture this gives of my reading, since a great deal of it is piecemeal (especially with poetry) and not shown here. But it is a part-picture of a ramble through the year. And you can probably puzzle out something or other about my current manuscript by a study of these books.

Currently I'm reading some MacFarlane, some Denis Johnson, and various poets. Again, the poetry is mostly piecemeal. The most accurate portrait of my poetry reading over a year would be a fat anthology I make myself, including a good bit of Yeats. I've only listed poetry here if I read a complete book. I point that out for those of you who might possibly pass by and wonder why your book is not listed--must mean I have not read the entire thing as yet!

* * *

Attila József, Perched on Nothing's Branch: Selected Poems. Translated from the Hungarian by Peter Hargitai. Foreword by Maxine Kumin. Buffalo, New York: White Pine Press, 1999. Academy of American Poets Translation Award. Don't miss József's "Curriculum Vitae" at the start, as it will be an effective way for you to break into tiny, sharp pieces glazed with tears. Poem snip: "Shadows of silverfish sweep the corals, / usher in the blackness, flutter on soft sand; / they touch tired snails and fall asleep for a long time..."

Bible. Various forays into the library of books that we call The Holy Bible. Took a class on Genesis and one on Exodus. Have been reading KJB, NRSV, Robert Alter's translation of Genesis, and David Bentley Hart's brand new translation, The New Testament, meant to mimic the style of the Greek, even where rough, impetuous, and careless as to tenses. It was lauded recently in The Atlantic. A more tempered view by Wesley Hill here.

C. Day Lewis. The Poetic Image. Still pertinent and well worth reading. Essays/lectures from someone who understands literary history and the Modernist place in it for good and for ill. "The Lyric Impulse" is a great introductory piece. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole book. Highly recommended for those interested in song, ballad, and shapely poems.

C. P. Cavafy, The Complete Poems of Cavafy, translated by Rae Dalven, with an introduction by W. H. Auden (Harcourt, Brace and World, 1948.) Auden: "The most original aspect of his style, the mixture, both in his vocabulary and his syntax, of demotic and purist Greek, is untranslatable." Every now and then I feel drawn to reread Cavafy in various translations. I love the way he writes of things historical!

Camille Paglia, Glittering Images: A Journey through Art from Egypt to Star Wars. (New York: Pantheon Books.) I read this aloud to my husband on our drive to my mother's house in western North Carolina in October and finished it up on the way back to our home in upstate New York. Some of her speculations are of the very sheerest, but it's a great read if you love art and don't care for the sterility and jargon of much arts criticism. Enthusiasm and respect for spiritual search inform the book. With the early works, the miracle of survival of ancient art and the admiration for the distinctive styles and crafts of shaping wielded by ancient, anonymous people are on Paglia's mind. And if you feel at all uncertain about the history of Modernism, she'll help you out in understanding how one sub-movement reacted to another. (And I must say that she managed to make me see Mondrian in an surprising new way--I had no real sense of what Mondrian thought that he was doing and found him surprisingly symbolic in his mode of conceiving and carrying out paintings.) I like and agree with her ideas of Warhol (or Mapplethorpe) as the dead-end of the avant garde, and I think those ideas translate well to what happened with poetry in the twentieth century, particularly when you look at how both painters pursuing realism and narrative and poets pursuing formal variety (including some ancient forms) and a widened subject matter are slowly gaining ground. Paglia is my favorite feminist because she insists (mightily!) on formulating her own thoughts without a whit of care for the winds and trends of culture in an era when academics tend to march together.

A CLOSET for Ladies and Gentlewomen, or the Art of Preserving, Conserving, and Candying. With the manner how to make divers kinder of Syrups, and all kinds of Banqueting-stufs: Also divers Soveraigne-Medecines and Salves. London: Printed by R. H. [Richard Hodgkinson], 1651. I loved holding this one in my hands and wished I could put it in my pocket (tiny!) and take it home. Cordial waters, preserves, candying, medicines. I've read some other books like this one (I won't list them all!) in the past year, and they are invariably enjoyable--there are some online. Read in a 90-degree cradle at The American Antiquarian Society, AAS.

C. S. Lewis, The World's Last Night. Essays. Here's a favorite clip on culture and on what is "real and live and unfabricated": "But when the things are of high value and very easily destroyed, we must talk with great care, and perhaps the less we talk the better.... For the true enjoyments must be spontaneous and compulsive and look to no remoter end. The Muses will submit to no marriage of convenience."

Cynthea Masson, The Alchemist's Council. I had failed to pack a book for my flight to Japan, and an ARC of this novel was the sole volume on the United book-giveaway shelf, so of course I had to take it along.  The author is a Canadian professor who had a postdoc fellowship in medieval alchemical manuscripts at The British Library. As I used a more traditional mode of alchemy to structure a forthcoming book (written some years back), I'm always interested in seeing what others do with alchemical meanings. The realm is complicated enough that the author is forced into info-dumping at times, but it's ingenious, using strange erasures that bring memory losses and an elaborate linkage between scripts and our world. And bees! I left it at an onsen on Sado Island, so perhaps it found someone who can read English.

Dave Bonta, Ice Mountain. An Elegy. (Montreal: Phoenicia Publishing, 2017.) Design and woodblock illustrations by Elizabeth Adams. With an interesting essay by Dave about his inspiration from 3eanuts and much more. I know Dave through qarrtsiluni, a meeting in Wales, Via Negativa, and mutual friends. "at the top of a hemlock tree / a porcupine sleeps / in a sunlit halo of quills."

David D. Hall, Worlds of Wonder, Days of Judgment New York: Knopf, 1989. Hall looks at learning faith via gaining literacy and the sacred nature of text. Interesting on the reading matter of the godly (and the less so) of Mass Bay, as well as the wonders and "remarkables" of the time. More on the Sabbath, Sewall, etc. I knew a lot of the material discussed already but still found it interesting. Checked it out at AAS and then ordered a copy--well worth the read.

David Schmer Svahn. Conflict and Genius: A Brief Introduction to a Complex Man--19th Century Scholar, Poet and Priest. William Wilberforce Lord 1819-1907. Doylestown, PA: Otsego Press, 2017. Bassett doctor and amateur historian David Svahn wrote this account of W. W. Lord, poet praised by Wordsworth and eviscerated by Poe, priest who served in the siege of Vicksburg and at Christ Church Cooperstown, where he got into a colorful ruckus! Great book for Cooperstonians and people interested in nineteenth-century poets, thinkers, and clergy. Reviewed for the local Christ Church Chronicle.

Emma Donoghue, Wonder (Boston: Little Brown, 2016.)

E. M. W. Tillyard, The Elizabethan World Picture. Just as good as it was years ago. Eustace Mandeville Wetenhall Tillyard, former Master of Jesus College, Cambridge, going at chaos and order and the Great Chain of Being.

French Poetry from Medieval to Modern Times, ed. Patrick McGuinness (New York: Everyman's Library, Knopf.) Read on a trip and need to reread.

G. K. Chesterton, The Wit and Wisdom of G. K. Chesterton (New York: Dodd, Mead, and Company, 1911.  LibriVox. I did not expect these to be so very good--the first half is wonderful. Listened to them while on the treadmill. Amusing and full of marvelous turnings and surprise. In his words, even the frailest of subjects become "thistledown...the roots of stars." The wonder of nonsense, a defense of public obsession with absurd facts, the decline in rash and impossible vows, the proper worship of babies (each a new world), and more.

George and Weedon Grosssmith, The Diary of a Nobody. LibriVox.

(Sir) George Webbe Dasent's translation of Popular Tales from the Norse (Norske Folkeeventyr) collected by Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jørgen Moe. Folk tales. You may remember this book from childhood; I did. Tolkien referred to "Soria Moria Castle" as a possible name-source for his Mines of Moria. He also refers to Dasent in "On Fairy-Stories." 71 tales short and long, with a wild variety of voices and accents. LibriVox.

Joanna Moorhead, The Surreal Life of Leonora Carrington (London: Virago Press, 2017.) Reviewed in a round-up called "The Runaway Powers of Leonora Carrington."

John T. Hull, The Siege and Capture of Fort Loyall: Destruction of Falmouth, May 20, 1630. A paper read before the Maine genealogical society, June 2, 1885. Portland, ME: Owen, Strout and Co., Printers, 1885. Hard to believe he read the entire book to the state genealogical society.... Though it is quite interesting. Read at AAS.

John Dane, A Declaration of Remarkable Providences in the Course of My life. By John Dane of Ipswich. 1682. To Which is Added a Pedigree of the Dane Family, And a Few Notes. By a Member of the New England Historic-Genealogical Society. [Identified as John Ward Dane in pencil.] Boston: Samuel G. Drake, 1854. An account of some charm, full of temptations (a proto-Tom Jones!) and odd events. Influenced a passage in my novel. Read at AAS. I keep seeing this referred to, but with no sense that John Dane is closely related to the heroic Mr. Francis Dane, minister of Andover and defender of accused witches and wizards.

James Turner Johnson, A Society Ordained by God: English Puritan Marriage Doctrine in the First Half of the Seventeenth Century. Studies in Christian Ethics Series. Nashville and New York: Abingdon Press, 1970.

Kingsley Amis, Lucky Jim. I read again after many decades and was surprised to find how well I remembered it, particularly the episode of the burned bedclothes and the "Merrie England" talk. The apex of the drunken address still reminded me of Fink-Nottle's, and antihero Jim Dixon of a sharper, less hapless and sweet Bertie Wooster. After being in the British army, Kingsley Amis must have been out to break all the campus rules.... Is Dixon sometimes roiling with class rage, spite, boredom, maliciousness, immaturity, self-contempt, and an Amisian-Larkinesque view of women? Sure. Here's Dixon in the morning: "Consciousness was upon him before he could get out of the way; not for him the slow, gracious wandering from the halls of sleep, but a summary, forcible ejection. He lay sprawled, too wicked to move, spewed up like a broken spider-crab on the tarry shingle of morning. The light did him harm, but not as much as looking at things did; he resolved, having done it once, never to move his eyeballs again. A dusty thudding in his head made the scene before him beat like a pulse. His mouth had been used as a latrine by some small creature of the night, and then as its mausoleum. During the night, too, he'd somehow been on a cross-country run and then been expertly beaten up by secret police. He felt bad.” Now I feel like rereading some Wodehouse and maybe The Loved One.

Leena Krohn, Doña Quixote and Other Citizens. Portrait: Tales of the citizens of an usual city. I wrote about Doña Quixote here.

Leonora Carrington, Down Below (New York Review of Books, 2017.) I reviewed Carrington books here.

Leonora Carrington, The Complete Stories of Leonora Carrington (The Dorothy Project, 2017.) Reviewed in a round-up called "The Runaway Powers of Leonora Carrington."

Leonora Carrington, The Milk of Dreams (New York Review of Books, 2017.) Reviewed in a round-up called "The Runaway Powers of Leonora Carrington."

M. Michelle Jarrett Morris, Under Household Government: Sex and Family in Puritan Massachusetts. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013. I don't think I read all of this one...

Michael Donaghy, Shibboleth (Oxford, 1988) Recommended poetry collection. "...the dive was there before the hawk was, / Real as a wind shear before the blown snow reveals it."

Peter J. Bohan, Early Connecticut Silver, 1700-1840. Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press, 1870. This one also talks about earlier silver in the short text. Lots of images. AAS.

Philip J. Greven, Jr., Four Generations: Population, Land, and Family in Colonial Andover, Massachusetts. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1970. AAS. Had to skim this one, as I didn't have it for long.

Philip Larkin, The Whitsun Weddings. I wrote about this volume (and a bit about Charles Causley as well) here.

Robert Alden Rubin, Seeing the Bones and Other Poems (read in manuscript.) This one will find a home eventually.

Robert Forby, The Vocabulary of East Anglia--originally published in 1830. 2 vols. Fascinating.

Robert Macfarlane, Landmarks (Hamish Hamilton, 2017.) Lovely, bumpy, tactile, strange place names in the UK.

Rod Dreher, The Benedict Option. New York: Sentinel, 2016. Oddly, I found this book helpful in thinking about the feelings behind Puritan emigration and town establishment in New England. That is, it's really clear on communities needing to form in resistance to the dominant culture. In other ways, entirely different!

The Saltonstall Papers, 1607-1815: Selected and Edited, with Biographis of Ten Members of the Saltonstall Family in Six Generations. Boston, Massachusetts Historical Society, 1972. 2 vols. I only used the first volume--some great letters, and the biographies were useful and sometimes contradicted earlier sources I had used. Great interest, and answered some questions I had. Read at AAS.

The School of Good Manners, 1769. I finally learned the source of "the upper hand." When you're walking with another person, the right hand position is the one for the superior person. When three, he/she should be placed in the middle. (This reminds me of Darcy and Bingley's sisters walking in the garden, and Darcy's attempt to have Elizabeth join them. But no, they are "charmingly disposed." Or something like that.) Hey, and "Spit not in the Room, but in the Corner, and rub it with thy Foot...."

Steve Turner, Imagine. Basic. Very much in line with his International Arts Movement talk.

Susan Hankla, Clinch River (Roanoke: Groundhog Press, 2017.) Poetry collection reviewed for The Hollins Critic. Read it! Our interview is also forthcoming. This is one of the second series of volumes from poet and writer R. H. W. Dillard's new and much-appreciated Groundhog Press (Roanoke, Virginia.)

T. McClure Peters, A Picture of Town Government in Massachusetts Bay Colony, at the Middle of the Seventeenth Century As Illustrated by the Town of Boston. Dissertation, School of Political Science, Columbia College. The McWilliams Printing Co., 1890. A highly useful little book to help understand town officers in early towns and Mass Bay governmental courts and structure. The number and variety of offices is surprising. And some offices are open only to Selectmen. Really curious and interesting if you like knowing such things! Read at AAS.

Ted Hughes, Selected Translations: Poems, ed. Daniel Weissbort. (New York: FSG, 2006.) A bit of Homer, an opera text (a version, not a translation) for the Bardo Thödol, Ferenc Juhász's marvelous "The Boy Changed into a Stag Cries Out at the Gate of Secrets, and more. Wide variety in close, near-literal versions for the most part. Great collection for Hughes fans or for anyone who wants to take a look at a wide variety of writers.

Thomas L. Purvis, Colonial America to 1763. Almanacs of American Life. Facts on File, 1999.

(The Reverend) Thomas Morong, Puritan Life and Manners. An Address, Delivered in Ipswich, Massachusetts, at the Memorial Services on Forefathers' Day, Dec. 21, 1870, Together with a Notice of the Exercises on That Occasion. Boston: Lyman Rhodes, Printer, 1871. A good year-by-year source, despite a few oddities. Fat tabloid publication. Another one that it's hard to believe was a presentation because it's the length of a short book. People must have been more patient than we are. Read at AAS.

250th Anniversary of Ye Anciente Town of Haverhill. Worcester, MA: F.  S. Blanchard and Co., July 2 and 3, 1890. A big fat tabloid publication. What a bargain for a mere 10 cents! Loved this crumbling, darkening source. So helpful. Read at AAS.

[William Badcock.] W. B. of London, Goldsmith, Touch-stone for Gold and Silver Wares. Directing how to know Adulterated and unlawful GOLDSMITH'S Works, and the greatness of the Cheat therein; and how to punish the Offenders, and recover Recompence to the party wronged. Being a Treatise of great life for every Buyer of PLATE, and all Buyers and Wearers of Silver-Hilts, and Silver Buckles, and all other kind of GOLDSMITHS Works. The second Edition with Additions, Comprising the principal matters relating to the Goldsmiths and Cutlers Trades, and material things concerning all other Manual Trades. London: Printed for J. [?] Bellinger, in Cliffords-Inn-lane, and T. Basset at the George near Cliffords-Inn in Fleet-street, 1678. This is one I didn't get to keep long enough to read the whole thing, but it's fascinating and another volume that is tiny and packed and delicate. Read at AAS.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Bontasaurus poetry assemblage & more

Dave Bonta's second annual list of poetry books of the year is up, each chosen by a different writer:

Just like last year, I thought I’d put out a call to poetry readers to contribute to a favorite poetry books list that doesn’t pay much heed to critical fashions or even date of publication. I asked people to try to select a single favorite book, which I realize is a tough assignment… and not quite everybody managed it. (I allowed a few reviewers to sneak in a second book, as you’ll see.) Unlike last year, I forgot to do this earlier in December so people could use the list for holiday shopping purposes. Oh well. Poetry books do make great Valentine’s Day gifts! And the responses I got are, I think you’ll agree, wonderfully varied, personal and eccentric. Thanks to everyone who took part. —Dave

Take a look! My choice was Susan Hankla's Clinch River, which I reviewed for The Hollins Critic.

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29 December, the fifth day of Christmas

And Gary talked about Thaliad...
What fun!
I'm adding an assemblage-update: I'm realio-and-trulio touched by the wonderful Gary Dietz putting me in his personal pantheon here. Gary is an all-around interesting person and a wonderful single father who has surmounted more challenges than most people ever face I'm putting a link here because I'm pleased by his tribute but also because it feels immodest to say so, and most of the people who will read this post have already passed by. So I suppose I'm hiding it in plain sight in order to say thank you, Gary--what a sweet man.

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When I woke, I was having such an obvious, complex dream about the state of arts culture and my own minor place in the hierarchy of that world that I'm still bemused. Talk about symbolic! It involved being in a large Checker cab with a bunch of male writers (including Bob Dylan) and no back door. I had that horrible dream sensation of forgetting something--in this case, my manuscripts to read--but was rescued by sending out a mental call for a very large bird to fetch them.