Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Books I Read in April 2024 - this irritation passes over into patient completed understanding

Grinding away at Gertrude Stein’s The Making of Americans (1925), a genuine monster.  “As I was saying it is often irritating to listen to the repeating they are doing, always then that one has it as being to love repeating that is the whole history of each one, such a one has it then that this irritation passes over into patient completed understanding” (291 of the 1966 edition).  So true!


Ris and Vamin (11th c.), Fakhruddin Gurgani – a long poetic romance, although translated by George Morrison into extremely rhetorical prose.  The story is that of Tristan and Isolde; in fact, the Celtic romance likely, or let’s say possibly, has distant Persian roots.  The book is among the most metaphor-packed texts I have ever read, many conventional and repeated, many others more surprising.  “So many cups full of wine were seen in the hands that you would have sworn the plain was all tulips” (224), for example.


Jakob von Gunten (1909), Robert Walser – I had never read an actual novel of Walser’s but only his little essays and sketches.  No surprise that this novel, at least, is a collection of essays and sketches with some recurring characters, a cousin of Rilke’s The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge (1910).  The pages eventually drift into a more novel-like form.

t zero (1967), Italo Calvino

James (2024),  Percival Everett – Huckleberry Finn told from the point of view of Jim, at least up to a point, when the novel turns into something else.  James is not a fifth as goofy as Everett’s Dr. No.  John Keene’s “Rivers” (2015) is also told by Jim but after the events of the novel.  These two texts would work together in interesting ways, and I assume they will frequently taught alongside Twain.

If I were to get on the wait list at my library right now, I would be number 61 for 16 copies, although five more copies have been ordered.  James is a hit.



Paterson (1946-58), William Carlos Williams – Another trip down the river.

Meditations in an Emergency (1957), Frank O’Hara

A Dream of Governors (1959) &

At the End of the Open Road (1963) &

Selected Poems (1965), Louis Simpson

Selected Poems (1979), W. S. Graham

Modern Poetry (2024),  Diane Seuss – A strong voice.



A Morte do Palhaço e o Mistério da Árvore (1926), Raul Brandão – The Death of the Clown and the Mystery of the Tree, a novella about a sad clown who wishes he were a tree.  “The book is as much a prose poem as a novel.”  Perhaps a smidge too hard for my Portuguese right now.

Journal (1939-1942), André Gide