Member Blogs > Pistil BlogWhat We're Reading - May 17

  • Thu, 17 May 2018 12:02:00    Permalink
    I am reading a monograph on Lionel Feininger, the German painter, fifty of whose early canvases were trapped behind the Iron Curtain for much of the 20th century. I am also reading Voltaire‘s fable The Princess of Babylon. As a diversion, I just began Lucia in London, by E. F. Benson.

    At lunch today at Amy and Sean’s place, the discussion ranged from real estate adventures in Snohomish County to Marcel Proust, a favorite of fellow guest, Kam.  My bookish allusion was to Philip Levine’s collection What Work Is (Knopf 1991; winner of the National Book Award), wherein may be found Levine’s “Among Children,” a new favorite poem.  Forty-four lines of unrhymed verse tending to measure out to five accented syllables per line, the poem plays on Yeats’ “Among School Children,” written when the Irish poet visited a Catholic school for girls in 1926, the one that ends with the ecstatic image of a dancing chestnut tree where “Labour is blossoming.”  Levine’s children, are “the children of Flint,” whose fathers “work at the spark plug factory or truck /bottled water in 5 gallon sea-blue jugs/ to the widows of the suburbs.”  Written at least 23 years before the water crisis in Flint, the poem seems prescient.  Unlike Yeats, the 60-yo smiling “public man” whose encounter with the students brings to life dreams of his lover as a child and thoughts about Plato, Levine’s visit to the classroom stirs up earlier memories of a visit to these children as newborns “burning with joy” as infants in a Catholic hospital.  He wants to sit with them now and read aloud the Book of Job and whisper to them “all I know, all I will never know.”
    --Sue Perry


    I just finished reading a novel called A Fairy Tale by Jonas T. Bengtsson.  The novel takes place in Copenhagen in the eighties and nineties and is told from the first person point of view of a young boy and later young man who spent the first part of his life on the run with his loving but outside-the-law father.  I really liked the first part of the book from the child's point of view.  It's told in a slow, matter-of-fact tone of the daily rhythm of a child's unconventional life by an observant boy who adores his father and, like the reader, doesn't understand why he isn't going to school or participating in other normal social relationships.   The second part of the book narrated when the boy has grown up and is working in a letter sorting office and drinking excessively lost the fairy tale charm of the first part of the book for me.


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