Wednesday, March 03, 2021

Frost: A Literary Life Reconsidered by William H. Pritchard


Astounding book, not quite biography, not quite literary analysis, but mixing both to sublime effect.

The satiric impulse is deliberately unfair in that it refuses to treat other people as human beings with real feelings, with inner lives-- refuses to try to understand all and thus forgive all. Rather, it seizes on a single aspect of a person, or a person's work, a partial truth, and exaggerates it by developing it into a simplification, a caricature which it is comically satisfying to contemplate. (p. 115)

Frost on "Spoon River Anthology":  "The book chews tobacco I'm afraid." 

on Carl Sandburg: I heard somebody say he was the kind of writer who had everything to gain and nothing to lose by being translated into another language. (117)

I found that by thinking they [Amherst] meant stocking up with radical ideas, by learning they meant stocking up with conservative ideas. (p. 123)

A teacher's talk is an outrage on fresh work that your mind still glows with. Always be far ahead with your writing. Bring only to class old and cold things that you begin to know what you think of yourself. (p. 139)

My love of country is my self-love.

I do love a country that loves itself... that insists on its own nationality which is the same thing as a person's insisting on his own personality."  (139)

Narrative is a fearfully safe place to spend your time. Having ideas that are neither pro nor con is the happy thing. Get up there high enough and the differences that make controversy become only the two legs of a body the weight of which is on one in one period, on the other in the next. Democracy monarchy; puritanism paganism; form content; conservativism radicalism; systole diastole; rustic urbane; literary colloquial; work play.

"elevated play" (182)

I'm a mere selfish artist most of the time. I have no quarrel with the material. The grief will be if I can't transmute it into poems.

I own I never really warmed/To the reformer or the reformed.

He pointed out that it was impossible 'to get outside the age you are in to judge it exactly.' (183)

There is at least so much good in the world that it admits of form and the making of form. And not only admits of it, but calls for it. We people are thrust forward out of the suggestions of form in the rolling clouds of nature. In us nature reaches its height of form and through us exceeds itself. When in doubt there is always form for us to go on with. Anyone who has achieved the least form to be sure of it, is lost to the larger excruciations. I think it must stroke faith the right way. The artist, the poet, might be expected to be the most aware of such assurance. But it is really everybody's sanity to feel it and live by it. Fortunately, too, no forms are more engrossing, gratifying, comforting, staying than those lesser ones we throw off, like vortex rings of smoke, all our individual enterprise and needing nobody's cooperation; a basket, a letter, a garden, a room, an idea, a picture, a poem. For these we haven't to get a team together before we can play. (p. 184)

[after his daughter Marjorie's death] Why all this talk in favor of peace? Peace has her victories over poor mortals no less merciless than war... We thought to move heaven and earth... heaven with prayers and earth with money. We moved nothing. (p. 195)

Sons and Lovers by D. H. Lawrence


Wednesday, February 17, 2021

A Promised Land by Barack Obama

Going to keep trying, but find first 100 pages of this boring, like an exquisitely composed speech you slowly realize you've heard before. Even revelations and self-discoveries are posited in rounded prose, without a rise in narrator voice or tone. Don't think I'll learn much from reading it.

Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell


Really enjoyed this, if a little subdued and poetical-sounding. Reminded me of Anthony Burgess' NOTHING LIKE THE SUN. The story of Shakespeare's wife and dead son, without almost no input from Shakespeare himself, who's never even named in the book.

Monday, February 01, 2021

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath


Reading as a companion to the new RED COMET biography. Sort of strikes me as a darker, female CATCHER IN THE RYE this time around. And most of it is straight out of Plath's real life.

The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich


Friday, January 15, 2021

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