Review of Michael Bazzett’s translation of the Popol Vuh

At Rhino.

Teaser quote: If, gun to my head, I had to compare the Popol Vuh to something in European literature, I might compare it to the most deliciously twisted Russian folktales. The ones where the morals are deeply weird, and the structures arbitrary. (Or forget Europe. The Popol Vuh is a lot like Amos Tutuola’s The Palm Wine Drinkard.)

[originally posted Tuesday 1 October 2019]

Review of Aaron Kunin’s Love Three

At Rhino.

Teaser quote: By page 200, this reader was thoroughly fed up. This, despite the fact that Kunin really does have substantial knowledge of Herbert and his 17th-century milieu. Moreover, when Kunin goes all-out memoirist and recounts scenes related to his own enjoyment of being bottomed and humiliated, he does not fail to be interesting.

[originally posted Tuesday 1 October 2019]

Video of me reading from DH Lawrence’s The Rainbow, for Banned Books Week

Teaser quote: “Ursula started violently. She turned to see the warm, unfolded face of her mistress looking at her, to her. She was acknowledged. Laughing her own beautiful, startled laugh, she began to swim. The mistress was just ahead, swimming with easy strokes. Ursula could see the head put back, the water flickering upon the white shoulders, the strong legs kicking shadowily.”

[originally posted Friday 27 September 2019]

Review of I Hate Telling You How I Really Feel: Deluxe Edition, by Nikki Wallschlaeger

At Rhino.

Teaser quote: All it is is twenty-five very colorful photographs of the same Black “Barbie”-style doll (turns out the doll’s name was Julia), in different clothing in each shot, with a meme remark blasted across the top and/or bottom. The sodium content of the remarks is extremely high, and the effect, deliciously, is to make the fixed stare of the doll seem transfused with various levels of indignation or perplexity.

[originally posted Thursday 4 July 2019]

Review of Walt Whitman Speaks

At Rhino.

Teaser quote: Whitman seems, in the last five years of his life, to have had only three or four ideas, of which he never tired. Outdoors is better than indoors; the common man is better than the highfalutin; don’t take any advice; all men are brothers; history is full of inaccuracies; America is very, very, very special.

[originally posted Thursday 4 July 2019]

Ancient Greek Epitaphs and Their Betters

At The Paris Review Online.

Teaser quote:

If one were to construct a TOC just for Book 7, it would be even more of a mess than the TOC for the anthology as a whole. There would be sections on:

  • animals

  • insects

  • sailors swallowed by the sea

  • fools and unincorporated persons

  • children—’specially unmarried girls

  • long-dead celebrities

  • whole armies

  • persons who deserved what they got

—and so on. Only a very, very few of these came out of (or could dreamily produce) emotions. For the most part, whatever merit the individual specimens have is confined to the “recto” pages in the Loeb.

[originally posted Thursday 27 June 2019]

Et in Arcadia Ego

At The Paris Review Online:

Teaser quote: Reader, I swear to you (even as that Goddess, who has thus far lent me grace for writing this, may grant an immortality to my writings, such as they may be) that I found myself at that moment so desirous of dying, that I would have been content with any manner of death whatever: and fallen into hatred of myself, I cursed the hour that ever I left Arcadia.

[originally posted Wednesday 15 May 2019]

Tale of Genji—What Is It

At The Paris Review Online.

Teaser quote: The Tale of Genji, too, puts the adult reader right back where he or she was, in childhood, facing the Greek myths—but with a difference. Not for a microsecond does one think that Ovid (for example) has any resistance to the Cult of Beauty. You can see he’s a pervert through and through. The suffering involved in all that love stuff is part of why, according to him, the shit is good. Ovid—and the Romans in general—saw absolutely nothing wrong with gladiatorial combat, even if the weapons involved were people’s genitals. Whereas, one can never comfortably class Murasaki in that same category. With her, you’re closer to Milton Mind or Dostoyevsky Mind. She is able to disagree with something she idolizes; she doesn’t make herself agree with it ’cuz she idolizes it.

[originally posted Wednesday 5 June 2019]

Review of The Works of Li Qingzhao

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At Rhino.

Teaser quote: One is told a million times that traditional Chinese society was supremely sexist, and that one had better not hold one’s breath, looking for good poems in Classical Chinese written by women. Yet here is something good: Li Qingzhao.

[originally posted Wednesday 8 May 2019]

Review of Mir Taqi Mir: Selected Ghazals and Other Poems

#Mir Taqi Mir.png

At Rhino.

Teaser quote: For 120 seconds, people like me were shaking with delight. Those little sky-blue babies were pouring off the presses, like it was some kind of Soviet plan to catch up with the Loebs in ten years or less…

[originally posted Wednesday 8 May 2019]

Waterman Redux

six Waterman books.jpg

At The Paris Review Online.

Teaser quote: There are times I am facetious in these articles. It’s not always perceived. Therefore, allow me to take a moment to mention I do not actually think Waterman was crazy, and neither do I think all, most, or even any of his limericks are gibberish. They all make sense. They’re obscure, that’s all. He was eccentric, that’s all.

[originally posted Wednesday 24 April 2019]

A Poet’s Complaints Against Fiction

At The Paris Review Online.

Teaser quote: First, a word about the traditional feud between poets and fiction writers. I wish to acknowledge, up front, that that feud does not exist. Not traditionally. Conditions in the wild are very unfavorable to it. To witness episodes of this feud, you have to visit a special kind of mismanaged zoo called an MFA program.

[originally posted Wednesday 13 March 2019]