One of my favorite bookstores is Book Culture in Manhattan; I like the branch off Broadway. I visited it recently to stock up on books about India. My son Alex had recommended that I read the novels of J.G. Farrell, a writer who was completely off my radar, but luckily the reliable NYRB series had snapped up the rights to his books. I bought three; I'm planning my reading for this week, when the boys and I are taking a train trip from NYC to San Francisco. (But more on that later.)
you no longer like plums, William Carlos Williams notwithstanding?
And then, the pain. How do people stand it? I wish I could. Really. But I'm grateful that other people have been so bold; most bodies can stand a bit more of a decorative twist--it brings us closer to birdland.
Ulysses is probably the only line of the book that I actually understood. As with Remembrance of Things Past, I have tried to read Joyce's masterpiece about ten times, and I have never gotten past the first few chapters. Yes, I skipped ahead to the ending, just to see what a literary orgasm looked like. In finding links, I am reminded that I probably first heard a close approximation of the soliloquy on a Firesign Theater LP, How Can You Be In Two Places at Once When You're Not Anywhere At All. I used to spend hours listening to my Firesign albums. Really, I could spend the rest of my life simply re-falling in love with everything I once was smart enough to fall in love with before I knew any better. Joyce loses me; Proust depresses me. Someday I will have the maturity to tackle both successfully. I hope.
However, I am quite sure that I would put T.S. Eliot on my short list for arm candy any day. Right behind Eliot's Four Quartets, The Waste Land is one of my favorite poems--that's the one that begins:
April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Can you get over how he managed those words at the end of each line, breeding, mixing, stirring?...How beautiful, visually. However, it being only January we do not yet have to think of heartache. That pain can remain frozen under a cover of dirty snow. I found a site that gives you hypertext of the poem, so that if you are new to it, you can begin to follow all the references. See? This is what happens in a bookstore. Now I've just reread "The Waste Land."
I am very impressed by these tattooed readers. They were beginning to make me feel like I was wandering through a bookstore of body parts.
Bernard Maisner. He had been commissioned to design a tattoo for a young woman who was a runner and loved the work of Italo Calvino. Bernard came up with a design for the word LIGHTNESS. Just as men who have MOM tattooed over their hearts will always have to love their mothers, so too will Megan the runner always have to be fleet of foot--and spirit.
I have a fleeting moment of understanding what I like best about the literary tattoo: the way it hovers over coursing blood and flexing muscle, the way it creases and wrinkles with the skin. The life in the words. The way someone has laid down her arm, or leg, or breast, or flank for a poem. There can never be an end to the meaning in a word. But then again, I feel that way about words tattooed on paper, too.