Saturday, January 22, 2011

Required Reading Part 2: The Non-Novel Edition

See Part 1 here!

Part 2: The Non-Novel Edition

1. Pierce-Arrow by Susan Howe
Pierce-Arrow, Susan Howe's newest book of poems, takes as its shooting off point the figure of Charles S. Peirce, the allusive late nineteenth-century philosopher-scientist and founder of pragmatism, a man always on the periphery of the academic and social establishments yet intimately conjoined with them by birth and upbringing. Through Peirce and his wife Juliette, a lady of shadowy antecedents, Howe creates an intriguing nexus that explores the darker, melancholy sides of the fin-de-sicle Anglo-American intellegentsia. Besides George Meredith and his wife Mary Ellen, Swinburne and his companion Theodore Watts-Dunton are among those who also find a place in the three poem-sequences that comprise the book: "Arisbe," "The Leisure of the Theory Class," and "Rckenfigur." Howe's historical linkings, resonant with the sorrows of love and loss and the tragedies of war, create a compelling canvas of associations. "It's the blanks and gaps," she says, "that to me actually represent what poetry is-the connections between seemingly unconnected things-as if there is a place and might be a map to thought, when we know there is not."
2. The Book of Jon by Eleni Sikelianos
With a seamless weave of letters, reminiscences, poems and journal entries, Sikelianos creates a loving portrait—and an unblinking indictment—of her father. Jon, a multitalented, eccentric visionary, emerges as a brilliant, charming, irresponsible, frustrating, and ultimately tragic hero.

This is a saga of the rise and fall of family lines—a tale marked by bohemia, Greek poets, intellectuals, drugs and homelessness. It is the story of eccentrics and survivors, the strength of personal vision and the nature of addiction, and what it does to families. An exquisitely rendered exploration of the harrowing and motivating forces of family, history, and individual choices.
3. Blue Heart by Cheryl Churchill
The first new Caryl Churchill work in more than two years consists of two short, interrelated plays. In "Heart's Desire", a couple wait at an airport for their daughter but the scene refuses to progress; in "Blue Kettle", the words "blue" and "kettle" are substituted for other words randomly, in a play about a man whose hobby is passing himself off as the long-lost son given up for adoption by different women.

These three are all intriguing for various reasons. Any thoughts?


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