A Suitable Boy - by Vikram Seth
A great and rolling novel that I am proud to have finished months after starting. I may have skimmed some sections, as my interest in Indian politics in 1951 is limited, and some of the story/commentary didn't really affect my appreciation or enjoyment of the bigger picture. But I do want to visit India. And I did care who Lata ended up with. I also cared about the rest of the Mehra & Kapoor families. I will say no more, lest you decide to pick up this behemoth of a book.
At one point, Lata (our protaganist, who is in the process of being married off to A Suitable Boy) quotes a poet named Clough. Her fragment intrigued me enough to look up the full poem, which I have not yet read, but is available here. The section she refers to reads:
There are two different kinds, I believe, of human attraction:
One which simply disturbs, unsettles, and makes you uneasy,
And another that poises, retains, and fixes and holds you.
I have no doubt, for myself, in giving my voice for the latter.
I do not wish to be moved, but growing where I was growing,
There more truly to grow, to live where as yet I had languished.
Mmhmm. Well said, Hugh Arthur.
Selected Poems - by William Carlos Williams
Speaking of poetry. I wasn't sure if I would find that WCW lived up to my hopes. But you know what? He did. Wow. WHAT. A. POET. I have so many favourites from this collection. I need to read the entirety of "Asphodel, That Greeny Flower" - its excerpts were phenomenal. For example:
I cannot say
that I have gone to hell
for your love
found myself there
in your pursuit.
I do not like it
and wanted to be
in heaven. Hear me out.
Do not turn away.
I also loved "The Dance Russe" (hear him read it here!!!!) and "Queen-Anne's-Lace." I had to copy this excerpt from "Overture to a Dance of Locomotives" into my journal:
Covertly the hands of a great clock
go round and round! Were they to
move quickly and at once the whole
secret would be out and the shuffling
of all ants be done forever.
Think about that for a minute. And then another.
95 Poems - by e e cummings
e e cummings is something else. His poems are often difficult to read, because of their layout and strange delineation. This is my favourite example:
Others are not so difficult to read, but still amazingly stunning. Like this one:
when any mortal (even the most odd)
can justify the ways of man to God
i'll think it strange that normal mortals can
not justify the ways of God to man
or this one:
i carry your heart with me (i carry it in
my heart) i am never without it (anywhere
i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)
no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet) i want
no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)
Poems (a pocket classic) - by Emily Dickinson
Seriously, you'd think by this point I'd be poem-ed out. But I'm not. I'm just continually delighted. The first poem in this collection begins:
A Day! Help! Help! Another Day!
Your prayers, oh Passer by!
It made me smile - we have all had those days. This one confused but intrigued me:
I started Early -- Took my Dog --
And visited the Sea --
The Mermaids in the Basement
Came out to look at me --
And Frigates -- in the Upper Floor
Extended Hempen Hands --
Presuming Me to be a Mouse --
Aground -- upon the Sands --
But no Man moved Me -- till the Tide
Went past my simple Shoe --
And past my Apron -- and my Belt --
And past my Bodice -- too --
And made as He would eat me up --
As wholly as a Dew
Upon a Dandelion's Sleeve --
And then -- I started -- too --
And He -- He followed -- close behind --
I felt his Silver Heel
Upon my Ankle -- Then my Shoes
Would overflow with Pearl --
Until We met the Solid Town --
No One He seemed to know --
And bowing -- with a Mighty look --
At me -- The Sea withdrew --
And this one rendered me speechless:
He fumbles at your Soul
As Players at the Keys
Before they drop full Music on—
He stuns you by degrees—
Prepares your brittle Nature
For the Ethereal Blow
By fainter Hammers—further heard—
Then nearer—Then so slow
Your Breath has time to straighten—
Your Brain—to bubble Cool—
That scalps your naked Soul—
When Winds take Forests in the Paws—
The Universe—is still—
Fugitive Pieces - by Anne Michaels
Having exhausted my poetry resources for the week, I turned to fiction. Unintentionally, about a poet. And about WWII - a topic that endlessly fascinates me. This is a beautiful and lyrically written story and I recommend it.
The Plague Journal - by Michael O'Brien
This was an unplanned way to kill the afternoon after we'd checked out of our room and before we headed to the airport. Fascinating dystopian novel set in interior BC in the mid-90s. Canada has drifted into a near-totalitarian leftist government. Themes include freedom of speech, parenting & education, the written word, and family. It was pretty good. Lots of political/philosophical content. Made me think about what kind of plans I'll have for child-rearing if I become a parent some day.