12 May 2012 § Leave a comment
This morning, I was reading an old newspaper and came across an article about long biographies. It made me think of the massive book about King that my class read this semester. Taylor Branch came to one of our classes and told us that he had to cut half of his material (in which case his book would have occupied a month, rather than two weeks, of our class). He also asserted that there is no room for artistic license in historical writing. This came up because there are four or five instances of people blinking in the book; what effect does this have other than making the reader laugh? It’s still a mystery.
Yesterday, I finished Malla Nunn’s A Beautiful Place to Die, which was on the syllabus this semester and then cancelled because we were in South Africa (and in the midst of reading Parting the Waters there…also a mystery). The language impressed me little, and the story is only as strong as its rather typecast characters. I wonder how true the book is to actual 1952 South Africa. Only a desire to finish the reading list and curiosity about the title and cover made me read it, and only end-of-the-semester exhaustion and mindlessness (read: insomnia) lessened my disappointment.
In search of real writing, I read John Rybicki’s When All the World Is Old, a collection of poetry he wrote about his wife dying. Mysteries slip in and out of Rybicki’s poetry, too, but they are the good sort, those that want wondering rather than solving. Dissecting it would destroy its beauty, so I’ll just write a bit of it:
We all try / to armor up, weather and walk this earth, curtsy and smile, / make light happen through our faces / as we talk and talk, but it takes this spiritual exertion. / If you are lucky you’ll find one choice soul who becomes / your safe ground. They’ll gather / your war shield and say, “No, I will carry this for you. / I will go before you and lead the way.” You must believe / the wounds in your love to be exquisite. / No other woman but Julie stood up to the storm that is me. / Some drank, even in lavish doses, the constellations and aliveness that moved through me. / She was the only one who ever threw her arms around the hurricane / and did not let go. I guess I made for her that safe place / where she could surrender, / let a whole forest of trees fall down inside her, fall down in my arms . . .
(from “Julie the Valiant”)
Next on the reading list includes finishing some James Baldwin . . .