Monday, February 2, 2009

A wicked tongue...


I was so taken by yesterday's idea of columns-within-the-blog that I decided to construct one for my other great passion: books. Alas I haven't written anything on the subject recently; and I'm still deeply involved in City Poet: The Life and Times of Frank O'Hara, by Brad Gooch. (see in Sidebar, and click for the FO'H site) It's a big, thick tome: 470 pages, not including Notes and Index. It is, for me, a "read-before-going-to-sleep" book; the kind one takes in small enjoyable morsels, over time, letting it become part of one's daytime state-of-mind by inducing doses just before sleep. Eventually, I'll formulate an opinion of it and him. But right now I'm just enjoying the process.

Biographies of poets are, in my mind, both fascinating and frustrating. But I can't seem to get enough of them. An example is the last big one I read: Hart Crane: A Life, by Clive Fisher, which left me in an absolute fury. What a selfish, rich, self-pitying little shit! I've learned, over the years not to do bad reviews unless there's simply nothing else to say. Or, even better, say nothing. Perhaps the writer himself wasn't sympathetic, and someone who really liked Crane would tell the story in much different terms. But this was a book I hurried to finish and, through the last half, kept considering giving up altogether, except that I was curious about his death. I concluded, however that he was definitely a man I would not have wanted to know (no matter how sexually acrobatic he may have been), which sounds priggish, I know. Maybe I was just dramatizing to cover my own inability to find any merit in his pretentious poetry, when so many people admire it.

Whatever the final judgement, I'd better give you the full particulars, dear reader, so you can make up your own mind (although I wouldn't recommend it), and I've included a bit of review, filched from Google.


Hart Crane: A Life; By Clive Fisher; Edition: illustrated; Published by Yale University Press, 2002; ISBN 0300090617, 9780300090611; 567 pages

A gifted writer with a weakness for alcohol, a demanding mother and an untimely death by suicide, American lyric poet Hart Crane (1899-1932) might easily be mistaken for Ernest Hemingway, who was born the same day a few hundred miles away. Crane’s tragedies and creative struggles, like Hemingway’s, make for compelling biographical fodder. Clive Fisher, a very close reader, explicates attentively, and his meticulous detective work also sheds light on Crane’s forays into the gay underworld and the tense family dynamics that dominated much of his life. The book is less successful at sustaining a historical and intellectual trajectory, and, like his subject, Fisher likes to indulge in the occasional ecstatic ramble. Cahners Business Information (c) 2002

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