Sunday, November 3, 2013

Getting drunk with books?

Here is a poem published in Harper's Magazine in April 2013:

Untitled Poem

(by Hafiz, c. 1320-89; translated by Matthew Rohrer)

All I want to do
is get drunk with my wife

An endless glass of wine
both of us on the floor

So what if squares
look down on us?

Boring and misguided
are their miserable lives

When my wife is in the city
and I'm home
I want to cry

The moonlight
on the cypress tree
is a bitter light

No book has ever kissed me
like she does 

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Catch this

Here's a short, funny poem by Shel Silverstein:

Not Me

The Slithergadee has crawled out of the sea.
He may catch all the others, but he won't catch me.
No you won't catch me, old Slithergadee,
You may catch all the others, but you wo-

Friday, March 11, 2011

National Book Critics Circle 2011

The National Book Critics Circle has chosen Jennifer Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad, a collection of connected stories, the best fiction of the year.

In other categories, the winners were:

poetry- One with Others: (a little book of her days) [C.D. Wright]

general nonfiction- The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration [Isabel Wilkerson]

biography- How to Live: Or a Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer [Sarah Bakewell]

autobiography- Half a Life [Darin Strauss]

criticism- Lyric Poetry and Modern Politics: Russia, Poland, and the West [Clare Cavanagh]

An honorary criticism prize was awarded to Parul Sehgal of Publishers Weekly.

The Ivan Sandrof lifetime achievement award was presented by author William Gass to the Dalkey Archive Press (which deals with experimental fiction, translation, and literary criticism).

The Circle counts more than 600 critics in the United States among its members.

Evolution of Religion in "The Pope of the Chimps"

In Robert Silverberg's "The Pope of the Chimps," a group of scientists observes chimpanzees in captivity. One of them- Vendelmans, who is not yet forty- is diagnosed with leukemia. He is adamant to have a meaningful death, so he proposes to tell the chimps that he is going to die. After discussion and a narrow vote, the group allows him to proceed.

Because chimpanzees have no concept of human death, how would they take the news?

Christensen asked me this morning, "Have you noticed the way they seem to drag the notion of death into whatever conversation you're having with them these days?"
I nodded....
"Chicory was doing subtraction with me," Christensen said. "She signed, 'You take five, two die, you have three.' Later she turned it into a verb: 'Three die one equals two.' "

Yost, one of the researchers, believes that because the chimps do not comprehend human mortality, they think that humans live forever- that they are gods. There is irony to be found when Vendelmans says:

It's time they found out. Why perpetuate a load of mythological bullshit about us?

What follows after his disclosure, and what his wife Judy contributes afterward, is nothing he- or us- expects. The chimpanzees begin to develop the beginnings of organized religion.

Robert Silverberg uses the chimpanzee class system to reflect the workings of human society. If there is a deep thinker such as Grimsky and a strong male like Leo, there are archetypes in humans as well, such as Yost the philosopher. Silverberg writes in the voice of a scientist who seems to be keeping a journal, a nameless narrator who guides us into the world of chimpanzees and the logical conclusion.

In its examination of the nature of mortality and religion, language and behavior, "The Pope of the Chimps" is utterly fascinating.

Friday, March 4, 2011

PEN/Faulkner Prize 2011

The finalists for the PEN/Faulkner Prize have been announced.

The nominees are:

A Visit from the Goon Squad (by Jennifer Egan)

The Collected Stories of Deborah Eisenberg (by Deborah Eisenberg)

Lord of Misrule (by Jaimy Gordon)

Model Home (by Eric Puchner)

Aliens in the Prime of Their Lives (by Brad Watson)

The winner will be announced on March 15, and will be awarded $15,000.

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen was passed over.