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57. The Sound and the Fury (2nd)
58. The Book of the Duchess
59. Mrs. Dalloway (2nd)
60. Emerson by John Jay Chapman
61. Antigonick
62. The Dead (3rd?)
63. The Ruined Cottage/The Brothers/Michael (Nth)
64. Red Cavalry
65. I Am - Selected Poems of John Clare
66. Selected Poems of Charlotte Smith
67. Worldly Hopes
68. Things Fall Apart
69. Holderlin's Odes and Elegies, tr. Hoff
70. The Cherry Orchard, tr. Mamet

Antigonick is the first book of Carson's I didn't particularly like.

Things Fall Apart did what I assumed it would but much better than I'd have imagined.

The book new to me I most enjoyed this year was Great Expectations, though My Antonia was stiff competition. Among shorter works I loved Bishop's prose things, especially those tying in with her verse. The evolution of Clare's nest poems was pretty fascinating, too, as were some of the Red Cavalry stories (which Johnson admits he ripped off when writing Jesus' Son - in retrospect I do see it). Best reread was probably The Dead, after that some bits of Blake and Holderlin. Also Shakespeare, The Jew of Malta, Stevens, Bishop, the early books of The Prelude etc.
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52. The Essential Emily Dickinson, ed. JC Oates (all Nth)
53. Tragedy of Mariam Queen of Jewry
54. Oroonoko
55. A Sentimental Journey
56. Heart of Darkness

Reading fell apart during a sleep adjustment but I'm trying again - having lost too much time to part 2 of The Sound and the Fury, which requires more untiredness for progress than any other significant text I know of; with Finnegans you can at least go with the flow. Well, the beginning of Sound, since you have enough to go on by halfway through, and Quentin's wanderings get fun by themselves.

Heart and Sound 2 are both quite strong in McCarthy so I thought about him a lot, and of course Salinger for Sound. The relationship of Sound to Heart seems too complex to trace, though it's surely there - maybe Waste Land looms too large between them, or the assimilation to Stephen on the beach is too complete. Perhaps influences melt rather than tangle in Faulkner.

Curious how the difficulties of Part 1 could be resolved by like eight footnotes, whereas 2's you really only get past by continuing to read 2. 1's are designed to help put you into a state as unmoored as Benjy's, then once they've spent themselves because you know what's up, that all this renaming's occurred, you're supposed to brood on the significance of the epidemic of renaming. For what it's *trying* to do this procedure is remarkably clumsy, unmimetic and annoying, like many of Joyce's, but also like many of Joyce's it's ridiculously successful as a way to draw the (persevering) reader deeper into the text than one's used to going. Enhancements of pathos, which, given the subject matter of 1 and 2, render them close to unbearable wherever they're not estranging you. Which of course was the main point of those other things, but it's almost like they provide their own shortcuts. I guess in art it helps to set up your alley such that lanes and gutters flow in and out of each other, what-you're-doing and what-you-must-have been-trying-to-do chasing each other productively in the reader's impressions.

Hated the Sterne at first but was slowly won over, enough that I'm more curious about Tristram. Mariam and Oroonoko weren't very good, but the latter had some glimmers of historical interest in the Surinam parts.

Dickinson reminded me of what I should actually be doing with my time: reading Dickinson.

They have me grading for the American survey course again this year. Among longer works there's Franklin and Douglass again, for the Fall, joined by The Scarlet Letter, Benito Cereno and Huck Finn; then Gatsby and Baldwin again in Spring, plus Albee, The Awakening, The Bluest Eye and The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz. Haven't so much as glanced at that last one but I'm looking forward to the Morrison and various rereads - Who's Afraid and Scarlet Letter I haven't read since I think high school.
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48. School for Scandal (2)
49. The Country Wife (2)
50. Whitman's Selected Poems, ed. Bloom (2)
51. Keats' Lyric Poems (contents Nth)

Missed a couple reading nights, in part because they gave us a practice test. Which went sufficiently well that I'm wondering if reading books of marginal interest is worth my time - the questions were of broad enough application that I chose texts I'm very familiar with. I only used Great Expectations among the new ones. Perhaps I should just stick to what I consider the basics. Maybe even prepare notes, however one does that.

Rereading Scandal and Country was curious - fifteen years ago I was impressed by Sheridan and hated the Wycherley for being nasty and predictable, to the point of wondering why it was even in anthologies. This time School seemed boring and pointless while The Country Wife was a fairly clever farce. Maybe Congreve was too fresh in my mind, but you'd think that comparison would annihilate Sheridan too. Or maybe it was The Rivals I liked and I'm confusing it with School.

Those were the last two plays, except for Mariam Queen of Jewry which I'm not having much luck with. They were also pre practice test. I've been reading a lot more Whitman and Keats than are on the list - mission resolve is sinking, given the new circumstances.

I haven't been following chronological order, clearly, but just reading all these different texts across a brief period of time is clarifying the ways many connect. Autobiography of Red is haunted by Crusoe in England, Whitman's Lilacs by much in In Memoriam, The Sleepers and Out of the Cradle by some Shelley moments - and Keats' Nightingale Ode pops up all over in Whitman. The thorough indebtedness of which Ode to Hymn to Intellectual Beauty always surprises me. Cradle group weds Hymn, the end of Adonais, Nightingale, Poe's Raven for some reason, conceivably Shelley's widow bird, and Wordsworth's Ruined Cottage (maybe filtered through Isabella) - like some shore odes written in its wake it attempts to streamline most of the Romantic gestures into one set piece. The difference from Shelley or Wordsworth is that they'd stick several together across a vague narration, like in the Two Book Prelude or Epipsychidion (or Song of Myself for that matter). The concentration of somewhat separate symbolic elements into one quivering tableau or diorama, the Cornellian mini-genre characteristic of Bishop, to a lesser extent Frost, seems like it maybe comes via middle Whitman. At least I'm blanking on where else it might come from - even Triumph and Adonais have separate locations for different focuses, even Resolution and Independence or Childe Roland. Tintern falls apart into slightly different reactions to one stimulus, but the stimulus itself isn't really multifaceted. I'll think more about this later - this hesitation at the nexus of story and picture and thought.
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39. Astrophil and Stella (2)
40. In Memoriam AHH (2)
41. Beggar's Opera (2)
42. Importance of Being Earnest (N)
43. Gawain and the Green Knight (3)
44. Major Barbara (2)
45. A Streetcar Named Desire (2)
46. Death of a Salesman (2)
47. Beowulf (4)

Sidney seemed facile in both the good and bad senses this time, and lets slip that he's a bit of a Machiavellian, and successful, in the love department. Which weirdly makes his sequence feel sincere, despite one's impression of his cavalier personality: as seduction this is often pretty inspired, enough to maybe help if not seal the adulterous deal, whereas as poetry about a soul in love it mostly phones it in.

Prefixing astro to your first name is a bold move even for a humanist pickup artist, though. Points for making it seem fine, too. Smooth guy. Essentially a rapper.

I love a lot of In Memoriam but usually avoid most of it. The Christian parts get really strange, especially in the middle where Tennyson's anticipating Eagleman's Sum (a failed read of last year) in his manic afterlife speculations. But the rest you can't overpraise. Maybe someone's made an Atheist's Cut for ease of revisiting?

Beggar's Opera is cute but pretty much valueless, Earnest I know too well by now to read easily, sad to say (though a few bits surprised me into laughter, like "marry again and marry often"), Gawain is painless in Merwin's version but no favorite of mine.

Major Barbara didn't suffer as much as I feared - it's a neat play, probably more stirring for not making full sense idea-wise. Nice build up to the last few pages, which are mostly aphorism.

Streetcar I love.

Miller is moving, clearly influenced Goodbye Columbus.

Why do people keep making me read Beowulf? The testosterone was a welcome contrast to caregiver life, this time, but I had to give people mental voices to hold my interest. The narrator was John Hurt, some supporting people were Zoidberg, Beowulf himself the "previously on Lost" artificially lowered guy. The last fit well.

Norton's proofreading staff can suck the lead paint out of my underwear. If you have a copy of their 2nd edition Tennyson selection burn it. The last three generations of their tissue anthologies are little better. What happened to that company.

Their Beowulf edition was fine, to be fair. And Heaney does everything mortal wight could with it.

Beowulf and In Memoriam have put my father back in my thoughts. As has my daughter, who sometimes looks like him. Though more often at the moment Putin.
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30. Henry 4, Part 1 (Nth)
31. Midsummer Night's Dream (Nth)
32. A Winter's Tale (Nth)
33. Autobiography of Red (3rd)
34. Faerie Queene, Book 3 (3rd)
35. Othello (Nth)
36. Rasselas (2nd)
37. Volpone (3rd)
38. Utopia

Whittling away at the list. Haven't read anything this year that wasn't for Comps or a class.

Only new to the last, which was pretty interesting. Rasselas held up awful well - it really is the best statement of what it's stating. A bit tedious, but even that fits its bubblebursting agenda, and Johnson is wisely brief. Main artistic flaw is that everyone is Johnson, but that's also its most entertaining aspect. Still amazed at how much of this Shelley internalized; fuse Rasselas with Wordsworth's wanderers and Milton's magi and you get something like a Shelley figure. Enough so that Peacock's main way of deflating his friend was by bringing him back among those elements of the Rasselas context he'd cast aside. But you can only deflate Shelley in fiction - his rejection of comedy as escape was principled and relentless. And right.

Wistfulness aside, Utopia functioned, through negation, as a satire not dissimilar to Rasselas. It's unclear to what extent More anticipates Johnson's qualified despair, is bringing things to a similar 3x - y = Jesus closure. Take out the Jesus and comedy, satire, most forms of despair no longer fit. Shelley inverts Johnson but it's often the same skin.

FQ 3 is beautiful crazy and fun, but of course the still center, 3-6, is much more. And Marlowe's response to Book 3 (and 2-12) in Hero & Leander and Shakespeare's to both Hero and Spenser in Venus & Adonis were much on my mind - and how closely these responses parallel those of the more godless of the Romantics to Paradise Lost. Obviously Shakespeare and Marlowe went on to do other things with their time, plays and whatnot, whereas in a sense the Romantics never did, but it's fascinating that secularizing Spenser, with some help from his source spots in Ovid, was such an important gesture for both.

A Winter's Tale felt a lot like my life, for reasons I may go into sometime. Iago's two or three scenes alone with Othello still strike me as the best things anyone's ever done with drama.

Different parts of Carson light up for me each time I read her. She's an incredibly various poet. This may be a flaw on some level but makes her easy on rereading eyes.

Volpone is okay, I guess.
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14. The Road (3rd)
15. Shame
16. Chaste Maid in Cheapside
17. Gallathea
18. The Roaring Girl
19. Gulliver's Travels
20. Great Expectations
21. Essential Blake (Nth)
22. Pedlar/Tintern Abbey/Two Book Prelude (Nth)
23. Waiting for Godot (3rd or 4th)
24. Jew of Malta (2nd)
25. Thomas Gray (Everyman, 2nd)
26. Doctor Faustus (A-text, 3rd or 4th)
27. To His Coy Mistress etc. (Dover, Nth)
28. Duchess of Malfi (3rd)
29. Four Quartets (2nd)

After Dickens a rereading deluge, which I'll probably continue with.

The Gray/Marvell contrast was interesting, and seemed reflected in their names - each with similarly tiny bodies of work, and with two poems greatly overshadowing the rest (Mistress and Garden, Elegy and Eton), but Gray's best only rival Marvell's average efforts, while Marvell's best rival next to nothing. Well, maybe slightly more than two for Marvell - there's a secret continuation of The Garden near the end of Appleton House, and the faun poem still fascinates me, and not just because I can't quite nail down the euphemisms.

Faustus is similarly mostly valuable for scattered passages, but I'd forgotten how neat The Jew of Malta is. Marlowe's the founder of counterculture literature, among other things, and after the Middletons and Lyly it was good to remember Renaissance drama didn't only have Shakespeare. Marlowe may not be profound, but here he amuses me profoundly.

Malfi is always fun too - exciting, atmospheric - but probably beneath analysis. Julie was writing a paper about it around the time I met her, and we still laugh about it because all she could talk about was Good and Evil. Not a lot of original thought in Webster, but he reproduces a lot of the color and formal qualities of a Shakespeare tragedy.

I read a lot of these guys at c. 20 (excepting Lyly, him I'm new to) and developed an especial taste for Fletcher, who isn't on the list, in part because he clearly didn't take his job seriously. But that's part of what I admired about him, that these commonplaces weren't part of his actual mind, as they clearly are of Middleton's, Webster's. Marlowe had a mind, Shakespeare something more, but the rest of the mob are usually just television, mostly without knowing it, and television's what I respond to in them. Eliot condemned Beaumont and Fletcher because, unlike the others, they knew better, but that very perspective let them make television I enjoy more. Drama's the hardest genre to bring about literature in, maybe for the same reason it's the easiest to make amusing.

The Quartets were more moving this time, I guess because I can better sense the estrangement from gnosis behind the forced efforts to define and sermonize it. These are crisis poems with false, schematized completions - hence the need to write several of them, I guess, as lies don't actually help. And each is also several: there's hardly more unity among the sections than there is among the four. I think apart from the Yeats encounter with its moving, if parabolic, apology for Eliot's antisemitism, I liked best the opening of East Coker, lines which get disavowed in the same poem as a return to a tired mode. Opaque, only subtly suggestive description is what he was best at, which he doubtless knew. The observations of someone wondering what he feels, where the things observed are somehow the answer. Probably bearing out Stevens' attack on him as someone unable to tell his desire from despair, but we've all been there, whereas I can't recall visiting a suffering-purified peace just outside of time. Though perhaps one wouldn't if one had.
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13. Pride and Prejudice

I liked this a lot and was wrong about her.
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8. The Big Sleep
9. Goodbye, Columbus (3rd)
10. Bishop's Complete Poems 1927-1979 (3rd)
11. No Country for Old Men (2nd)
12. Beloved

Beloved takes some amazing risks with its title conceit, ones that I'm not sure completely pay off on an idea level. All Lost-watchers know that an indeterminate floor helps your story go all the way down, though - while control is endangered, those aspects of occurrence, personality and feeling that really do go all the way down, even in books, emerge to sight. Clarifying obscurity, like in Rembrandt? This is especially great for Morrison's purpose of bringing life back to history, restoring dimensions of experience people didn't talk about - though it affected how they talked, is frozen into the words of (e.g.) Jacobs and Douglass like the polarities etched in stones at their crystallizings, subtly affecting how they'll skip. A fantastic novel, using Sound and the Fury and Dalloway but not shadowed by them (whereas The English Patient is trapped completely in this book's shadow, I now see). I avoided it in Ohio in the '90s because of its oppressive ubiquity, which I can't defend but also don't regret, as it saved something pretty wonderful for here and now.

The Big Sleep I liked almost as much, though it took some work to un-see the movie while reading it. The movie misses the wonderful set pieces, as good even as the similes, or rather is unable to capture them despite some really inspired attempts. In this respect, Chinatown may be the best adaptation of the book, followed closely by vatious Coen moments, just like Kurosawa's samurai movies have the best grasp of Chandler's Marlowe. The altered Big Sleep movie ending is interesting but smudges the clarity of the character. Wasn't really thrilled with the politics of it - I'm as much a child of the '90s as my highly offendable sister, finally - but noir is probably written out of one's reactionary streak, or anyway the part of the mind ready to see everyone in the worst light. The recoil from which by both author and reader over the course of the book being maybe the point of noir.
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2. My Antonia

Beautiful book, especially the first half. Hadn't read much Cather before, just "Paul's Case" (early sympathetic analysis of narcissism) and "Neighbor Rosicky" which is along the same line as this novel. One of the things I'm proudest of having done is a drawing of a car from a sideways angle, back in high school - it was very difficult to convey three dimensionality. Cather attempts something similar by writing life events sans plot, succeeds far past anything anyone else could have done. To her the ordinary things were exciting, and it's exciting anyone could share that so well.

3. Goodbye Columbus

Second time. I'm not sure how much of the message I caught back in 2004 - this time I was presenting on it, so read it carefully, and it turns out it's aimed at close reading as much as those stories they pick out for 101 textbooks are. Every single detail means something beyond its descriptive function, like in major poems by Bishop and Frost, and a lot of Chekhov's stories. I found it pleasant the first time but it wasn't one of my favorites - this density of oblique content that didn't flag itself as content probably made for a paradoxically distracted effect. Makes me somewhat apprehensive that the rest of Roth is like this too, but I don't think so, since Roth's switch to voice-based writing with Portnoy necessarily took him away from symbols. Not that there aren't any, but this is practically a mosaic. And a good one. I like what he's saying, against the worst, runniest part of America - it's a more impressive debut than I'd known.

4. An Enabling Humility: Marianne Moore, Elizabeth Bishop, and the Uses of Tradition

Picked near randomly for a class assignment - started a couple longer Bishop books but was turned off by academic-ese and pretentious poet-ese, respectively. Hit and miss critical work, to some extent criticizing Bloom but very much contaminated by him. A large percentage of the Bishop monographs were from c. 1990, so most are written out of the same feminist moment, where the Adrienne Rich-type scorn for Bishop's supposed meek gentility gets replaced by insistence that she's instead sneakily subversive of patriarchy.

This author, Jeredith Merrin, also tries to argue that it's okay that Bishop and Moore are influenced mostly by male figures, for her Herbert and Browne, respectively; Gilbert and Gubar decided women can influence one another in sisterly, unagonistic fashion, and Merrin suggests Browne and Herbert were sisterly too, somehow. She does realize Moore and Bishop are continuators of Romanticism, but insists that it's there their subversion comes in. It's also there that agonism comes in, at least for Bishop, which Merrin might agree with but doesn't address. Moore might be an exception - see below.

5. Poems of Marianne Moore, ed. Schulman

Here's below. I'd mostly avoided Moore: of the poets who are clearly saying something, and something not idiotic, I found her by far the most difficult. In class once I compared reading her to having the shit beaten out of you for ten minutes then handed a thimbleful of really good ice cream. Having made the effort to grasp her in toto I don't think I'll ever feel so beaten up again, but I'm still not sure it was worth it (though I do thing everyone should take a stab at her thirty or so most anthologized pages). She's beyond amazing at times, but those times are usually restricted to passages, even in Marriage, which I read a dozen times and agree is her best. At other times she made me wince all over my body by being way too right about what goes wrong with me: Old Tigers, To a Steamroller. She wrote a whole stack of poems like that, self-castigations where the self's our shared one. So even the really good ice cream can be You Suck-flavored.

I didn't need to make a real effort here - few of my fellow students seem to have, judging by their talk before and after class. Mostly I wanted to see if she's truly a presence in Bishop, and truly she is. She's a ridiculous, exasperating, bizarre figure with something amazing in her. Often Bishop cherry-picks the amazing and carries those bits over into her own pure amazingness parade. But she doesn't get all of it. And it's not at all clear to me who Moore's essential influences are. She's writing her own genre, something that wanders through the sublime sometimes but then back out, across backyards in several worlds alien to me.

6. The Grapes of Wrath

I'd seen the movie a couple times so much was overfamiliar, but the parts that weren't filmed impressed me a lot - the platonic scenes, the ending. Steinbeck had some immense strengths. I think his main flaw was not realizing when he was being awkward. Time and again he achieves supermimesis for a passage or two then puts his foot in it. I read most of this aloud to Julie, as it's one of her favorite books, and was impressed at how vocally distinct the main figures were. He's good with characters, dialect, incidents, meaning, everything really. He just falters in magicianship, in sustained command, and it's sad how much that seems to matter. I was reading him at the same time as Cather, and boy did she win in that department. And that department was the only one that mattered: other things only matter as you can get them onto that blue guitar, and Steinbeck's kept flashing brown and violet.

7. Miss Lonelyhearts

Gazillionth time. His shock metaphors don't stop shocking. Most because of thingness, the way we fall into just things. And all so well done - I'm reading Chandler and Bishop now and there's no contest whatever with Chandler, despite how neat his can be, and an astonishingly close one with Bishop, who just nobody beats in metaphor. The perfect book of the worst of our several moods.

Unlike Steinbeck and Moore, who are peerless in their corners of strength and just weird otherwhere, West's book is very influenced, especially by "Young Goodman Brown" and Bartleby. And it sires promiscuously: Crying of Lot 49, when fused with "Lottery of Babylon" and Bartleby again; Barton Fink and The Man Who Wasn't There, among tons else in the Coens; and a major strain of Roth's, even in Goodbye Columbus I'm seeing. Central, slicing, fantastic story.
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(1. The Palm at the End of the Mind)

In parentheses because I may want more Stevens.

There, I read at least one book this winter. I think Chocorua to his Neighbor came across best this time around, though it may need some of his other poems as context. After the strange beginning sections Extracts from Addresses to the Academy of Fine Ideas struck me as the clearest introduction to later Stevens in general - among the poems anyway. The perplexed would be best off reading his Adagia. Some poems I love I found I'm still just burnt out on - Owl in the Sarcophagus, some of Ordinary Evening, various late lyrics.

I like when flurrying qualifications give way to dithyrambs, in Stevens - both look the same down the page from you, and how he puts words together doesn't change much either, so tone shifts occur through what he says, not how he's saying it. He repeats with variations when something is making him very happy or very sad, which creates a quickening effect, and that and the logic of what he's saying (if you're following that) is the only way you'll know he's even emotional, that this isn't just blather. This is exactly what annoys people coming to grips with him, but it's fantastic once you're with him because it gives the impression of what reasoning your way back to happiness is like. He's evoking that mood where you're frowning, you're trying to keep your emotions out of it while you figure something life and death to you out, avoiding premature elation and panic both, it's all too important to not be painstaking over. And when this impasse unblocks it's because one of the many paths you've been following over and over that all lead back to the tangle is suddenly going somewhere else, and you pore over every inch of it carefully, then start to pull on it, and say to yourself exactly what should appear around the corner of the table after each new tug. And it does, you're giving names to things before they appear for a change, the way you would if you finally knew what you were talking about. You speak to yourself the same way you did earlier when it was all hopeless because it's the same task. These poems aren't logical proofs, but they're just like what someone would talk like while discovering a proof of something changing everything. The champagne comes afterward - unceilinged excitement's where the poem's meant to take you, is what emanates from the whole poem as you glance back at it on finishing. But it's not baked into particular lines. No, I overstate - he has his secret passages of rapture. But they're not his signature.

This effect is especially neat because the change in a Stevens poem is a slight adjustment to interpretation, never a new exposure of facts. The particles are the same before and after, and so should the clauses be. But the astral and Shelleyan lights have changed the world.
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Procrastination/"one plausible definition of insanity"-defying entry.

So though the core 10 part of my reading plan mostly fell apart maybe I can carry it over to next year but make it a bit more specific, with one particular book by each:

Ivan Ilych and Other Stories, tr. Pevear & Volokhonsky
Swann's Way, tr. Davis (switching to Moncrieff the second she flags)
Oxford Authors Wordsworth
OWC Shelley's Major Works (or Reiman's? Bloom's supplemented with The Cenci?)
Riverside or Signet Selected Emerson
Norton CE Leaves of Grass
Final Harvest
Palm at the End of the Mind
Kafka's Complete Stories and Parables, tr. Muirs et al.

None terribly long, most of them in detachable segments so I can string them out over the year. I'll just line them up by my bed. Maybe replacing the Kafka with his Diaries, which I've been meaning to finish. And I'll be reading some Shakespeare plays for Comps so that should cover him.

Might as well add Invisible Cities and Ficciones since some time has elapsed. They'll help de-anglamerify my reading year.

And Little, Big if the anniversary edition finally comes out.


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