Best Poetry

images-1.jpgDavid Orr writes about the best books of poetry published in 2015. Interestingly, Orr must follow editorial policy and not include a few excellent contemporary poets because the Times must avoid even the hint of favoritism which might be demonstrated by naming one’s friends or acquaintances to a top 10 list.

Although I still contend that my literary focus has been traditionally poetry, I did take a turn into drama when at graduate school and I have been concentrating on all the novels I missed along the way for 20 or 30 years now. Since I have been reading novels to catch up, I have neglected keeping up with the world of poetry and it’s lists such as Orr’s that help me keep my interest alive.

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Who Should Be Kicked Out of the Canon?

1001_Books_You_Must_Read_Before_You_Die_(cover)There is a big heavy book that professes to illuminate the 1001 books that everyone should read before they die. Well, the reality is that this is a joke for most people since they will actually read very few books of fiction after leaving school and very few of those books would qualify for any recommendation list other than a short-lived publisher’s marketing hype. But there is a subtle problem with the 1001 list: it has been revised.

It struck me as odd that I should definitely read a book that was then dropped in the next edition of 1001 Books. I can see adding books that might have been published since the previous edition and even books that might have been overlooked, but I cannot accept telling me I had to read something worthwhile and then saying never mind. Is it possible that the books themselves (which do not change) are less important than our attitude towards those books?

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Literary Taboos?

RochesterThis is the subject of today’s Bookends feature from the Sunday NYT Book Review: “What Are the Last Literary Taboos?” Francine Prose and James Parker play a little Crossfire with the topic and it gives us an opportunity to think about a difficult subject and to develop our own opinions. If you consider the idea of literary taboos a bit passé, I guarantee you will encounter, on a daily basis. a clear example of someone or some organization that doesn’t think it is passé and furthermore considers it a clear and present danger to the survival of our culture … our species, even. Think of it, a naughty short story might one day destroy all that we hold dear … or maybe just bring a smile to our faces … you never know.

Prose gives a nice summary of some of the well-understood examples of questionable fiction:

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Giles Goat-Boy: A Review

GGBI’m almost finished with John Barth’s excellent, but long and involved novel, Giles Goat-Boy. There is so much to say (and even more to wonder about) that I thought reprinting the original review from the New York Times might be a good way to start. If you haven’t read Barth, this novel will confuse and exhaust you as well as any other of his texts … so why not start with Giles Goat-Boy?

If you are interested in Barth’s other work, this list from Wikipedia might pique your interest (warning: he’s still writing!):

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