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Archive for December 22nd, 2008

December 22nd, 2008 • Posted in Authors and Books

About Graywolf, Alexander, Obama, Auden and Ekphrasis

Just learned that I wont be able to interview Katie Dublinski, editorial director at Graywolf Press in Minneapolis during my upcoming trip, because she will be proofreading what Elizabeth Alexander professor of African-American studies at Yale University, will be reading at Barrack Obama’s inauguration.

Alexander  was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2005 for her poetry collection "American Sublime." Her other books include "The Venus Hottentot," "Body of Life" and "Antebellum Dream Book." Last year, she won the $50,000 Jackson Poetry Prize. She is only the fourth poet to read at a presidential swearing in. Robert Frost read for President John F. Kennedy,  Maya Angelou and Miller Williams read at President Clinton’s inaugurations. I read somewhere that Alexander has been brushing up on her Auden. So, with this in mind:

Musee des Beaux Arts by W.H. Auden, 1940.

About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer’s horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.
In Breughel’s Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the plowman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.


December 22nd, 2008 • Posted in Authors and Books

Comparisons: Novels, Short Stories, Novellas and Female Icons…

Tony Cenicola/The New York Times Cynthia Ozick

Apropos of Richard Crary musing about limitations of the term ‘novel’, here’s Cynthia Ozick on the differences between novels, short stories and novellas, found in Ali Smith’s delightful commonplace book The Book Lover:

"Not length (though some say length is the only difference), but maturation. The novel is long because it commences green and ignorant. The novel is long because it is a process, like chewing the apple of the Tree of Knowledge – it takes the novel a while before it discovers its human nakedness. The short forms are short because they begin with completion – with knowledge of nakedness. If the novella is the most captivating short form of all, it is because there is nothing more interesting than beginning with the end, nothing more mysterious than heading out to seek your fortune with your destination securely in your pocket."

And my; now that we are in comparison mode, doesn’t Cynthia look like Jane Jacobs…

who in turn looks oddly like Margaret Mead…

not to mention Eleanor Roosevelt…