All posts tagged: Ben Lerner

Dept. of Speculation

“The baby’s eyes were dark, almost black, and when I stared at her in the middle of the night, she’d stare at me with a stunned, shipwrecked look as if my body were the island she’d washed up on.” “My love for her seemed doomed, hopelessly unrequited. There should be songs for this, I thought, but if there were I didn’t know them.” So, I’ve been wanting to read Jenny Offill’s Dept. of Speculation for a while. Certainly since I read Helen Phillips’ short essay on Offill for the Literary Mothers project (which I wrote about here). And then even more so after I read this wonderful conversation & book list. For reasons of practicality (reading in the bath! shelf space!) and aesthetics (the UK cover was nothing on the US one), I didn’t want to buy it in hardback. So when I knew it was coming out in paperback, I ordered it. I had the dispatch email yesterday, publication day. Then, walking home from my second coffee date of the morning, I veered very …

Reflections & intentions

The weather is mild again. The little ones are back at school. The Pip-Pop cried after we’d dropped them off and were walking to town. ‘Popsy go to school too, Mumma. Popsy want school.’ I feel jet-lagged — waking a full three hours earlier than I was by the end of the holidays. Through the loft window the sky is a dazzling turquoise and the clouds — fat and white with heavy gray bases — are racing by. If I think back, without looking, at what I read last year these are the ones I loved: Crossing to Safety, The Lowland, Leaving the Atocha Station, Light Years, A Suitable Boy and Daybook. And for this year I have a few projects in mind. I’d love to read/re-read all of Penelope Fitzgerald & Michael Ondaatje. I’d like to continue with my pencil in my hand, and I want to continue to start & end my days with a poem. T (seven & a half) is leaving me far behind her. At breakfast she told me the …

Leaving the Atocha Station

I wanted to know what she had been crying about and I managed to communicate that desire mainly by repeating the words for ‘fire’ and ‘before’. She paused for a long moment and then began to speak; something about a home, but whether she meant a household or the literal structure, I couldn’t tell; I heard the names of streets and months; a list of things I thought were books or songs; hard times or hard weather, epoch, uncle, change, an analogy involving summer, something about buying and/or crashing a red car. I formed several possible stories out of her speech, formed them at once, so it was less like I failed to understand than I understood in chords, understood in a plurality of worlds. How do you write a novel about the slippery instability of language? About the multiple simultaneous meanings of everything we try to communicate? About our fumbling, clumsy attempts to assign words to our emotions and to interpret the words of others? You probably need to be a poet to try. …

These luminous days

September. It seems these luminous days will never end. A Sport and a Pastime, James Salter Such beautiful opening lines. The September light, the slanting light of these days that I love so much, is wonderful this year. And always pregnant with the knowledge that we are on borrowed time, that the darkness of winter is approaching. Opening aside, after 67 pages, I’m not sure about A Sport and a Pastime. How to react to casual racism in a book first published in 1967 and set in the 1950s? By remembering that it is the first person narrator’s voice I’m reading? By remembering the mores of the day? By setting the book aside? I guess some combination of the first two, at least until the book is finished and I can form an opinion on whether the racism serves any purpose in the story. My hunch at this point would be that it doesn’t — but 50 years ago is a different age, so maybe I shouldn’t be expecting it to. Maybe, I should just …