28/9/2006

Closing on my house on Monday. The whole process is a pain. It will be nice to be home-owner again.

27/9/2006

Note to students. If you write beautifully and precisely for me I will love it. You will have 75% of the battle won.
Remind me never to get on [name deleted]'s bad side.
I was reading some criticism on Shelley recently. Don't ask why. I had picked up this Norton Critical edition with some critical studies in the back. Most are written from the 1940s to the 1960s, which is the apogee of the New Criticism, but what was striking was how New Critical positions were flouted. A constant invocation of Shelley's intentions (intentional fallacy), an urge to translate his poetry into conceptual terms (heresy of paraphrase). Little attention to language itself or to poetic form, as though Shelley had just been a social reformer who happened to write in verse rather than prose.

And this made me wonder: did the New Criticism ever filter down to the specialized study of authors? That is to say, didn't specialists on any particular author continue to do biographical, historical, textual, and ideological work beneath the radar of the official theories of the day? Or was it because Shelley was not in the New Critical mini-canon with Donne and Eliot, that specialists could ignore the critical orthodoxy?

I could say a similar thing about current studies of Lorca. Specialists in Lorca continue to do biographical, textual, and interpretive work. The more canonical the author, the more the positivist specialist model kicks in, for the normal course of criticism. There will be a small community of people interested in everything to do with their author, but relatively oblivious to theoretical considerations.

25/9/2006

Did anyone notice that the "five star" review of a particular book on Amazon is totally sarcastic? It is signed "Poetry Hater":

You should read this book! Right in the introduction Billy Collins explains that most poetry is terrible (83%!). He explains that he likes poems that are easy to understand. I know . . . I know . . . is there really such a thing as a poem that's easy to understand?! I remember discussing poems in English class and it was like a whole bunch of confusing symbolic metaphors and similes and I was all like "this stuff SUCKS"! But this book has poems that are the best and easy to understand. They're mostly like little stories with short lines. My favorite one is a story about an old dog who finds a shoe out in the woods . . . pretty easy, right? It's called RELIGION which I don't really get (maybe that's what makes it a poem ;)) but it is a nice little story that makes you go hmmm? I haven't read any poetry in a long time because I didn't think there were easy poems like this out there but now maybe I'll try again thanks to Billy Collins. Thank you Mr. Collins! Maybe I'll become a POETRY LOVER and one day even write my own poems!

Hilarious! Without this review the book would average one star, but this brings it up to a "two-star average."
My 13-year old self says to me:

What are doing? What happened to your poetry? You became a mere professor, hiding behiind a wall of books.

My 46-year old self responds:

Yes, but this is all really your fault! You obsessed over writing the perfect poem, reworking one stanza all night. You were already a mini-professor at age 13, beginning to accumulate those books. You never just relaxed and wrote, or ran away from home. You doomed me from the start. You should have known what I know now. "Bald heads, forgetful..." You didn't seem to get that Yeats poem.
Isn't there a mystery behind every poem? A mystery you're not supposed to figure out?

Among twenty snowy mountain, the only moving thing... An old pond -- a frog jumped in. Siempre la claridad viene del cielo. As I sd to my friend because I am always talking, John I sd, which was not his name. So much depends upon the apparition of these faces in the crowd, petals on a wet black bough. Nothing in that drawer. Verde que te quiere verde. Nothing in the drawer. Nothing in that drawer. Like cellophane tape on a schoolbook. Each joining a neighbor, as though speech were a still performance. Empieza el llanto de la guitarra. Nothing in the drawer. You were wearing... Snow has fallen into the bottle of eraser fluid.

So the problem is not having "accessible" poems (or not). A poem of perfect surface clarity might be enigmatic--or a seemingly more difficult poem might not really be that mysterious after all, once you crack the code. Enigmatic luminosity in the one case. Covering up something clear (in a riddle) in the other. What proponents of "accessbility" want the poet to do is explain, in the poem itself, who John is and why I don't know his name, why the frog jumped in and what it "means," why Padgett's drawer is empty, what the red wheelbarrow "signifies," what snow has to do with white-out, what the color green "symbolizes."

The poem should "communicate" something, according to some people. Well, no. At best that's just a lazy way of talking about the phenomemon in question, a kind of imprecise shorthand; at worst, it's profoundly misleading, because what would the opposite of "communicating" be? Offering a verbal experience not wholly translatable into a communicatable message. And isn't this exactly what poetry does, withholding its actual message? The poetry is in what's not "communicated," or more precisely, in the tension between what is and is not said. I'm not making this stuff up. This is just poetic theory 101. It tends to get lost in the age of Garrison Keillor, of course.

24/9/2006

It's never a good weekend when your student is killed by a hit-and-run driver.

22/9/2006

Isn't a solo by John Coltrane much more amazing than seeing someone bench-press 10,000 pounds, or turn themselves into a bear? Those other acts might be impossible, but what Coltrane does should be impossible too. Even more so! Not in the physical sense of moving his fingers so fact, but in the ability to come up with something that amazing. Coltrane's solo is highly meaningful, but its meaning is in itself, or in our reaction to its amazingness, which is a kind of awe that we are even alive to hear such things. That's what poetry is about, a feeling of awe in the face of human creativity. I sometimes almost see a particular light coming up from the page when I read something that has that kind of quality, that absolute luminosity. Some people call this "spiritual." I don't care whether you call it that, or whether you don't call it that, but it has nothing to do with having poetry with religious "themes." In fact, it has little to do with any sort of theme at all.

Would anyone expect the "Best American Insurance Co." to really have the best insurance? That would be a mighty big coincidence.

21/9/2006

"USUFRUCT - The right of enjoying a thing, the property of which is vested in another, and to draw from the same all the profit, utility and advantage which it may produce, provided it be without altering the substance of the thing."

What a beatiful word and beautiful concept. Usufruct. That's our relationship to poetry.
"Hand-crafted vitreous China."

Phrase from the cardboard box in which they have brought a new urinal for the men's room in the building where I work.

20/9/2006

You could multiply the dictionary by a thousand and still not have enough words to describe what most people think and feel in a single day.

Surely the problem of expression has almost nothing to do with the quantity of words in the dictionary! We have more than enough words in quantitative terms. Mauve. Dilapidation. Nugatory. Remediation. Perfunctory. Hostile. Ennervation. Empresario. Cashmere. Incomplete. Company. I. Bitter. Button. Stint. Marooned. Carburetor. Otherwise. Chingada. Dust. Insular. Up. Derivation. Boundary. Miniature. Box. I could go on and on. Each word is universe of meaning unto itself. Even a *small* vocabulary of 10,000 words is susceptible to a number of combination that I am too lazy to calculate right now, but it's a big, big number.

Even knowing a whole 'nother language doesn't allow you to express more than you can in your first language. Learning new words, after a certain point, doesn't allow for more expression. It just multiplies the number of choices; like giving a bored child more toys it does not address the real problem; and in fact aggravates the problem. Boredom is not a function of the lack of toys. Would Creeley's poetry express more if it moved beyond his rather limited repertory of insistent echoes? What is Basho's lexicon, in quantitative terms?

Multiplying language quantitatively is a poor solution, unworthy of a brilliant theorist and Language Poet such as Mr Piombino. You can do much better than that!
to speak of rabbits or hares running
through the countryside is an exception, but not
when looking out from a moving train: rabbits
run among bushes; the eye
exercises and slips through the gray
and sparse grass perceiving--same in
same--the agile movement
with ears, and then the tail
of the magpie
that lands in vibration.

--Olvido García Valdés [my trans.]
I can own a book of poetry but I don't own the poetry in the book.

***

Reading is a palimpsest, a process of writing over what has been previously read. Reading a book over again is like tracing over the same letters on this palimpsest.

***

There can be no system for recognizing merit in poetry. Poetry arises out of friendship and collaboration, coterie and competition, as well as from "blind submission." It doesn't arise purely out of "meritocratic" institutions, and never will. It may very well be the fact that one's best friends happen to be the best poets around. For example, if one is Kenneth Koch in 1960. Or Ron Silliman in 1980. Poetry arises in clusters, not randomly through meritocratic processes. To say otherwise is to be ignorant of literary history.

On the other hand, we can't have the dog enamoured of its own fleas. Someone needs to have an intervention with Ashbery to make him stop before he writes another blurb for some minor British imitator of Ashbery.

Of course, coterie poetics produces its share of dross too. I just find this dross to be more interesting than, say, the run-of-the-mill college journal of poetry that just selects from the poems sent to it, but without any strong aesthetic agenda to guide the selection. I'd rather read a journal selected by someone whose aesthetics are antithetical to my own, but who has a stong sense of preference, than a selection by a committee striving for MOD blandness and ecleticism.

19/9/2006

Ever thought about the inherent problem of taste? One can only judge someone else's taste, negatively or positively, by one's own. For example, if I say someone has good taste that will imply that that person's taste is an agreement with mine. It makes no sense to say someone has *better* taste than me, because this is epistemologically impossible for me to know. It would be admitting that my own taste is faulty, which is impossible, since MY TASTE is the measuring stick in the first place, my only criterion for judging. So people can only have worse taste than mine, by definition. The best one could say is that someone else's taste is almost as good as mine.

Doesn't this imply an impossibility of judging anthologies? That is, every reader is, by definition, in his or her own head, a better judge than the anthologist. The best one can say is that the anthologist is almost as good a judge as I am. So this is in a sense an optical illusion. For any given anthology, there will be a range, from people who say its *almost* as good as the anthology I would have made to people who say it's not nearly as good as the anthology I would have selected. What skews the distribution is that no reviewer would say it is *better* than the selection *I* would have made.

I'm not arguing here for the superiority of MY (Jonathan Mayhew's) taste, but for the absurdity of the measuring stick in the first place. However, there is no end to judgment. There's no way out of this box I've designed.
I could blog on politics if I wanted to. I have plenty of political opinions. The problem is that I couldn't do it better than Berubé, Leiter, or numerous other mostly political blogs that I read on occasion. Even if I wanted to do it, I don't have the time to keep track of every public depravity that occurs, and to moderate the number of comments that even a modestly popular political blog would be likely to get. [I noticed the Kirby Olson has become a right-wing troll on Michael Berubé's blog, not content with being a troll on Silliman's blog.] A lot more people have an opinion about Cheney or Rumsfeld than people who have an opinion about Clark Coolidge's prosody.

That being said, I think torture is wrong. It is one thing to have an opinion about whether one economic system is more just or efficient than another. I don't think the Soviet Union was condemnable primarily because it had vastly inefficient economic system, but because it tortured and imprisoned people unjustly. The first is mostly STUPID, but the second is EVIL. Conversely, the West was morally superior to the extent that it promoted human freedom, not merely ECONOMIC freedom. All economic systems seem to have their inherent problems, but respect for human rights transcends economic concerns for the most part, except where economic forces are so devastating that they become human rights issues in their own right. Which, unfortunately, happens all the time.

So I talk myself into circles whenever I try to talk politics.
Someone objected over the weekend when I suggested that "ad hominem" attacks on Lehman were justified.

But the issue is precisely one of character, or lack of character.

A good example of an ad hominem fallacy is Lehman's book on Paul de Man, which makes the argument that, since Paul de Man was a scoundrel in many ways, deconstruction is a flawed critical method, tainted by de Man's ethical failings. That is fallacious, because if deconstruction is bad criticism, it will be bad even if de Man is a saint. And if it is good criticism, it will be good even if de Man had particular ethical failings.

The argument against Lehman is that his anthologies are bad, and that they are bad in part because of his preference for mediocre people in his immediate circle, including, apparently, a spouse. That is not a fallacious argument, because there is a direct connection to be made. He is unethical in the very act of making the anthology, and the lack of ethics actually makes the anthology worse. [If he makes bad anthologies because he simply has bad taste, that is also a direct connection. That would be like saying that de Man is a bad literary theorist because he is a bad literary theorist. Tautological but not ad hominem in the fallacious sense.]

Billy Collins is evil, because he takes the highest art form possible and waters it down, perverts it. It is this very act that is evil, hence this is not a fallaciously ad hominem statement.

Many forms of ad hominem argument are, in fact, valid in the public sphere. If a wealthy person argues for tax relief for the wealthy, it is valid to point to the "cui bono" principle. In other words, to look at "who's saying it" as opposed to merely considering the objective merits of the argument.

18/9/2006

I've never smoked, and I've always hated the smell of cigarette smoke.

When I was 14 or 15, however, I once stood at some kind of outdoor event at a park, on a summer evening. (A musical performance or a play, I don't remember what.) A few feet away from me stood a woman in her late 20s or early 30s. She was fairly short and wore little make-up, and seemed quite absorbed in the performance, whatever it was. She was smoking cigarette after cigarette, and I made no attempt to move away. When I got home, of course, my shirt smelled strongly of smoke, which would have ordinarily been repulsive to me, but I slept in that shirt that night. Its repulsiveness, in fact, contributed to the erotic charge I felt all night long, associated as it was with this particular woman I had been standing next to for maybe an hour, and who probably was not even aware of my presence.

Eroticism, for me, has often had that double movement of presence and absence, of attraction and repulsion, and of metonymic displacement. Without that smell there would have been no experience to be remembered now. I haven't thought of it for years.
There's a serious radio debate. One side saying torture is a good thing we need to use. The other side, not. I kept waiting for TOTN host Neil Conan to say, "Look, here at Talk of the Nation we don't treat the pro-torture side as just one side of a civilized debate, so I'm going to have to hang up on you now, University of California, Berkelely Law Professor asshole John Yoo." Needless to say, Neil never said this.

14/9/2006

I've been reading a lot of poetry of a particular group of Spanish poets. Gamoneda, Casado, García Valdés, Suñén, Mestre. Poets who, seen from the outside seem to share a similar language. (Most are from Castilla-León.) But each very individual, with quite different styles, when seen from a position closer to the group. That is to say, the further away the perceiver is from the group, the more uniformity there will be. The closer one is to the group, the more the differences become evident. This is simply a universal law of perception, by which familiarity breeds greater differentiation.

I was never a good generalizer. Lumping always seemed lazier to me than splitting. And to the extent I do still lump, it is a function of laziness.

13/9/2006

The idea that there are different aesthetics, and that we have to judge a poem on its own ground rules--I reject that. A recent James Tate poem is inadequate, if it is inadequate, according to James Tate's own aesthetics. That is, the aesthetics of his best work more than twenty years ago. He lost it at some point in the mid-70s and never really came back. (The Oblivion Ha-Ha was a good book.) Is it my fault that Philip Levine only wrote one good poem, then endless variations on the same? Why blame me that Mark Strand, that W.S. Merwin, became more insipid with each succesive book? That Ashbery's been phoning it in since who knows when? Is it my fault that Jorie Graham is so pretentious? I've tried to read her many times. There really isn't but one aesthetic. Otherwise couldn't each poem have its own private aesthetic, according to which it was brilliant by definition?

I've been a little bit of a perdonavidas lately. I won't apologize for that, because the perdonavidas does not apologize.

***

Spain calls to me. New York calls to me.
I'm about 20 pages into the catalogue of my books, much less than half-way. Of course, I have to stop and actually read some of them, so the process is fairly slow. I am going to find, I suspect, that I own more books by Leopoldo María Panero than I really need. He basically writes the same book over and over.

I still am missing books from my summer's move. I'm hoping the next move in October will restore these missing items to me. I have a nagging sense that one box of Very Important Stuff is lost forever.

***

Fish once diagnosed the self-loathing of academic humanists in "The Unbearable Ugliness of Volvos." There is a kind of contempt for what we ourselves do, most evident in a lowering of expectations. On some level we think we deserve our comparatively low salaries and windowless offices.

***

I'm beginning to think Olvido García Valdés is the Spanish poet of her generation, of my generation, that I need to read most assiduously from now on. There was a barrier I needed to get past to read her work, which can sound aloof or inconsequential at first. Two of her books are missing, though one I had very recently, after moving to the apartment, so I'm sure it will turn up.

6/9/2006

It's not every day a story about me is published in the Daily Kansan, the student newspaper here:

Kansas Spanish Professor Jonathan Mayhew has signed a new, five-year contract that guarantees him at least $1.5 million a year, according to an announcement made today.

The new contract more than doubles his guaranteed salary, which was previously nearly $610,000 a season. The contract is written to begin Jan. 1, 2006 and expires following the 2010 academic year. The new contract make Mayhew the fifth-highest paid Big 12 Spanish Professor.

"I want to thank Chancellor Hemenway for his strong and continued support," Mayhew said in a release. "We all share the same vision for excellence in our Spanish program."

In the new agreement, Mayhew's base salary is raised from $128.438 to $220.000. He will also be paid $1.28 million for public appearances and radio and television shows. The contract also pays as much as $650,000 in incentives.

"This is a significant day in the history of the Kansas Spanish program," Kansas Chancellor Hemenway said. "Jonathan Mayhew has done an excellent job reviving this program. I think it's important that we not only reward Jonathan for the job he's done, but also give him the support and stability he needs to continue to turn this Spanish program into a top-tier program. We are happy to be able to make this announcement before this academic year starts."
For me, all middle-brow culture already wears a huge "Kick me, I'm stupid" sign. It's yards of bare flesh in a mosquito-infested forest. It's when the middle-brow presumes to lecture its superiors that it should be beaten down mercilessly. And I'm the person to do it! And I don't really care whether you are offended by it. This blog is not *for* you. It is *against* you, if you are l'homme moyen sensuel middle-brow subject. I don't know art but I know what I like.

Go watch some "quality" television. I have to bite my tongue enough as it is in my daily life. Take your tired, insipid, earnest arguments elsewhere. Go fret about the precarious state of literature at some other blog. If you really cared about poetry you wouldn't be an insufferable bore in the first place! Didn't you ever see a citizen split in two by lightning? Sorrentino, thou shouldst be living at this hour!
Next time some suit in a high-rise lectures to you about how poets are "out of touch with reality."

Next time someone writes an ignorant article about how TS Eliot made poetry popular, but that poetry lost its popularity again after World War II (Ginsberg, anyone?)

Next time an ex-corporate vice-president and present Bush administration official reads his iambs to you, making sure to thump them out in a sing-song voice.

Next time someone tells you how the factory workers in the Victorian age sang Tennyson in chorus.

Next time someone tells you how he memorized "The Cremation of Sam McGee."

Next time someone cites a blurb from Oprah's magazine on the Diane Rehm show.

Next time someone tells you how poetry should be more "accessible to the general public."

Next time Terry Gross interviews Billy Collins, Robert Pinky, or Tom Arnold.

Next time the wife of a Republican president holds an event to promote "literacy."

Next time someone tells you it's the fault of the English Professors, the Spanish professors, the postmodernists, Derrida and Foucault, and Zizek of course.

Next time someone say, "I saw a poem I liked in the New Yorker."

Next time Garrison Keillor features the whitest, squarest music on Prarie Home Companion or writes a humor piece for the New Yorker, and then publishes another anthology of darned good, above-average poems.

Next time Billy Collins publishes an anthology of honesttogodprettydarnedgood, above-average poems.

Next time someone writes about Collins in the New York Times Book Review, saying how, yes, he's not very deep, but we like him anyway.

Next time David Lehman edits an anthology of poems and diagnoses the situation of poetry in whatever year it happens to be.

Next time someone diagnoses "the situation of poetry" in earnest tones.

Next time someone cites in earnest tones some Republican suit's diagnosis of the situation of poetry, the crisis of poetry, how nobody reads poetry anymore.

Next time poetry "makes the news."

Next time someone says that television did poetry in.

Next time someone say language poetry is too "academic," and the person saying it is herself and academic or the suit in the skyscraper mentioned above.

Next time someone says, "Ah, Lorca, yes the duende!"

Next time someone says that rock music did poetry in.

Next time someone says our true poetry is in the lyrics to rock songs, or in hip-hop, or in advertising.

Next time someone donates millions to promote poetry, or gives the genius award to a poet.

Next time someone writes an article in Harper's magazine or The Atlantic Monthly about how James Joyce ruined fiction.

Next time someone writes an article in Harper's magazine or The Atlantic Monthly about how the "postmodernists" ruined fiction.

Next time someone writes an article condemning flarf, language poetry, or postmodernism.

Next time someone says there are too many poets.

Next time someone says that poetry isn't as good as it used to be when it was better than it is now.

Next time someone who can't name a living poet writes an article about how he can't name a living poet.

Next time someone who can't name a living poet writes an article about how dull contemporary poetry is.

Next time someone tells you about a thoughtful article s/he just read about how dull contemporary poetry is, written by a person who can't name a living poet.

Next time someone says, "You can't make a living as a poet."

Next time someone tell you the problem with poetry is it's too hard, too intellectual, too elitist.

Next time Stephen King says the problem with the literary world is that genre fiction doesn't get enough respect.

Next time someone asks "I used to read poetry in college, but who are the poets of today?"

Next time Dave Barry's blog features some amusing item he found on the internet.

Next time someone calls you "politically correct."

Next time someone points out, "Only poets buy books of poetry."

Next time someone points out to you that, "Poets never buy books of poetry."

Next time someone calls Donald Hall, "one of our leading poets."

Next time someone writes an article about the decline of the language, citing George Orwell or Mencken. (In Harper's or The Atlantic.)

Next time someone writes a book adducing hard scientific evidence for the superiority of middle-brow culture and the validity of conventional gender stereotypes.

Next time Silliman employs a superlative.

Next time Henry Gould invokes the authority of a Russian poet.

Next time one of us complains about any of these things happening...

Next time a cartoon appears in the New Yorker, featuring two dogs in a bar, a man on a psychiatrist's couch, a man being berated by his boss (who's sitting behind a huge desk), a man giving his excuse to a judge in a courtroom, a dog on an analyst's couch, a man on a desert island, a boring middle-aged couple sitting on a couch making droll observations, one fuzzy guy saying something incongruous to another fuzzy guy, one hip well-dressed woman at a cafe telling something amusing to another well-dressed woman, or a shabby couple's living room with odd-looking dogs and cats.

Next time a poem appears in the New Yorker amid these cartoons, featuring a private epiphany and some water-imagery (nod to Chas. Bernstein here).

Next time someone gripes to you about The Poetry Foundation or Poetry Magazine or Poets & Writers or about anything starting with a "P."

Next time any one of these rare and noteworthy events happens to occur, make sure to let me know right away. I'll write about it here on the blog.
Envy of the great and envy of the mediocre.

Envy of true accomplishment is easier to bear. It is easy to relatively easy to see a superior artist receive just recognition. It doesn't offend my sense of justice.

Mediocrity-envy is much more corrosive of the soul. To see a mediocre scholar's work touted as the best of the field, as happened in my own field at one time, creates a curious sort of vacuum in the soul. It's hard to explain--or maybe it's self-evident, I'm not sure. I'm not particularly proud of this kind of envy. It's not that praise of the mediocre takes away from me directly--it just devalues the currency. Suppose I win some prestigious award. The next year a monkey wins the same award. I don't envy the monkey, per se. Rather, I feel that the currency has been devalued.

Please feel free to praise my own mediocre poems, though.

No, actually, don't.

5/9/2006

Suppose someone owned several hundred books of poetry. That is in the order of tens of thousands of individual short poems. I own many books from which I remember no specific poem, others that I know from cover to cover. To get a Master's Degree in my department one would have to read maybe 100 pages of poetry from modern Spain, between 1700 and 2006. It is actually harder to understand the reading because so little is read. The reading list would be much *easier* if the students could just read about 1,000 pages, or 20 fifty-page books. They would get a better feel for the material. Of course they also have to read novels, plays, etc... from both Spain and Latin America. Here too, reading in greater quantity would be helpful, but of course the students are intimidated by the list as it stands. You couldn't increase it with the justification that it would make the reading easier. Nobody would buy into that.

It's a little like Kenneth Koch's maxim that if you write every day, you will be assured of writing every year.

***

Does anyone read Vicente Aleixandre any more? He was a post-war hero, and the Nobel prize came his way. A few books of his still seem fundamental, but I sense a waning of interest--both here in translation and in Spain itself. My own interest has waned, I have to say. The mediocre books of the 1950s don't help. Jorge Guillén also became a complete mediocrity from the mid-40s through the 80s. The later Cernuda is over-rated too!

There is something depressing about a book without a single memorable line or successful poem. The inertia of a career that has a life of its own, allowing someone to publish work of no discernible value. There is no corrective, no one to witness and adjust, no one to drive the car.

***

Wishing my friend Bob Basil a speedy recovery from his surgery.

4/9/2006

I'm cataloguing my books. I'm not quite sure why. Maybe to fill the dead hours when I am too tired to concentrate on anything significant. The first impression I have is a marked preference for primary sources over secondary or theoretical works. That speaks in my favor, if nothing else does. There is no particular merit in being obsessive or in owning 15 books by Kenneth Koch. It's just a fact about me. I don't have that many novels, plays, or works of criticism. The library is fine for those.

{George Steiner in his Real Presences goes on and on about the perils of the secondary, but what is he but a purveyor of the tertiary and the septenary? What a blowhard. It is hard to believe the same guy wrote After Babel. If vacuous generalities paid the rent... I've been reading this book to fall asleep at night}

I'll have a pretty objective ideas of my obsessions when I'm done. Not that I don't know them anyway, but I'll have a quantitative measure: how many books by that particular author I own. You'll be interested in my top 30, I'm sure.

I am in the habit of reading most everything I own. There are exceptions, books I am sent and don't get around to for a while. So the books I own give some idea of what I have read.

When I read for presses I get free books from the catalogues. I have a lot from Northwestern, some heavy LangPo theory from McCaffery and Andrews that I'm gradually making me way through. I have a lot of U of Chicago P books to, for a similar reason. Some I won't get around to for years, I'm sure. Perloff published some things in her series for Northwestern that are basically junior versions of Perloff. I won't name names here.

I basically leave a trail of books behind me wherever I am. Car, Lawrence KS apartment, St. Louis apartment, office. Julia is the same way!

2/9/2006

I recently read two stories. One by Kawabata called "The Master of Funerals." Another in Murakami's new collection Sleeping Willow. I don't remember the exact title of the Murakami story. Anyway, both stories feature a relatively young man who begins to attend an inordinate number of funerals. The odd thing was that I only put together the two stories in my head several days after reading both of them--even though it couldn't have been a week between the time I read the first and the second. Now the connection seems obvious, but somehow it wasn't that obvious when I read the Murakami story. Maybe they aren't all that similar on the surface and I had to forget a portion of both of them before the similarity dawned on me.

I'm interested in these small cognitive oddities in my own brain. For example, when I wake up realizing something obvious, but something that I hadn't realized the night before.