bedside books

Cormac McCarthy’s Suttree is his most fulsome, flowery language, so different from his Bible-influenced rhythms in Blood Meridian, yet  full of the darkness, the basso seriousness––his homage to Joyce and Shakespeare in counterpoint to his Meridian homage to Job and the Manicheans.

Jim Harrison’s poetry voice has taken up permanent residence in my head, and I keep wanting to hear more of his inspired conversation with himself. I’m  rereading, probably forever, his last two: Saving Daylight and In Search of Small Gods. His genius is knowing  what’s right there in his mind is his art. But sensing what’s right there is the art of consciousness and craft.

The Selected Letters of Allen Ginsberg and Gary Snyder are a testament to friendship and  literature, spanning their whole lives; there’s no similar relationship in American letters. So filled with respect and helpfulness; an example of two bodhisatvas at work. Ginsberg’s restraint and intellectual rigor is on show, a really deeply compassionate man. Snyder’s exemplary life is a serious marker of sensible living  when the world is falling apart around you.

Naipaul’s The Mask of Africa, a travelogue on African religion, is a shallow, egotistical  failure; his first. The quirky aspects of his life and voice took over; it’s  too indulgent; the writing begs for an editor. Where was Robert Silver when he needed him?

Philip Larkin’s Collected Poems are like funny, sad, beautiful fish shining in clear water.

Conrad’s voice in A Personal Record sounds like a polished recording. You wonder at the raw, vast distance between that voice and the sea and sun, the palm tress, the tropical nights of his youth. It’s the parlor room version of  some great stories. He should have inhabited the  Whitmanesque “I,” but it was foreign to his nature. The ladies were always in the room.

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