Monday, February 06, 2006

Poetry, Schadenfreude, and an Excerpt


This happens in Schubert
And elsewhere,

Iowa, for example.
There is something incomplete that lingers,

Trails off
And a pause --

That lengthens
And goes on -- and on.

Strand by strand,
The rope breaks.
The fingertips cannot remember
The last thing they touched.

The boat pulls away from the dock --
The old confusion

Between forgetting and loss.
Then a series of notes played more slowly,

Echoing -- remotely, precisely --

The previous phrase,
Almost a melody,

On the edge --
A very slow waterfall

Suggesting completeness,

In the interstices of the stars.

Robert Rehder
The Iowa Review
Volume 34, Number 3
Winter 2004/05

Back to back poetry posts. This poem showed up in my inbox. Poetry Daily emails a weekly reminder of poems and also includes poems being retired from archive (poems are usually kept for a year). This is one of poems to be retired.

I have to admit I have been enjoying James Frey's excoriation by Oprah and her book club over his memoir-with-'truthiness'-issues book. I have little sympathy for Oprah as she defended this pile of dung on Larry King long after it started to stink. In the end it won't matter as Frey will still be very wealthy when it all blows over and will be dining out at trendy L.A bistros and cashing in on his new found notoriety for years. Maybe this saga of tainted success will lead to addiction problems, a further fall from grace, salvation, followed by another memoir with the subtitle 'This Time I Mean It! ', a triumphant return to the book club with a teary-eyed Oprah giving the poor embattled Frey a hug. Actually, she would have been better served selecting John Albert's Wrecking Crew for her book club. At least the web site Smoking Gun was able to scoop the print media and raise their status as journalists instead of merely as a repository for mug shots of the rich and famous and trial transcipts.

Not wanting to give up on the genre I just started reading a memoir that was well reviewed and a few friends have recommended as worth reading despite its appearing on several year end 'Best of' lists. A Tender Bar by J.R. Moehringer, is a coming of age tale centered around a bar in Manhasset, Long Island (also the model for F. Scott Fitzgerald's East Egg). I just started it so can't really comment except to say I like the writing so far and excerpts like the one below leave me wanting to leave work early in order for me to get back to reading it...

"Seated around the lopsided dining room table, we'd all talk at once, trying to distract ourselves from the food. Grandma couldn't cook, and Grandpa gave her almost no money for groceries, so what came out of the kitchen in chipped serving bowls was both toxic and comical. To make what she called 'spaghetti and meatballs,' Grandma would boil a box of pasta until it was glue, saturate it with Campbell's cream of tomato soup, then top it with chunks of raw hot dog. Salt and pepper to taste. What actually brought on the indigestion, though, was Grandpa. A loner, a misanthrope, a curmudgeon with a stutter, he found himself each night at the head of a table with twelve uninvited guests, counting the dog. A Shanty Irish reenactment of the Last Supper. As he looked us up and down we could hear him thinking, Each of you has betrayed me tonight. To his credit, Grandpa never turned anyone away. But he never made us feel welcome either, and he often wished aloud that we'd all just 'clear the hell out.'


scruffylooking said...

Ok. That's the 2nd person today who has told me they would rather be home reading rather than working. Damn, if we didn't need the paycheck, I'd say let's go. We'd get smarter instead of staying at work and getting dumber.

you know who i am said...

you chose to read it "despite" it being on several "best of" lists. I am so sick of the attitude from you and others that if something is enjoyed by the masses it is well beneath you - such snobbery!

No, I don't actually... said...

Yep and my bible is "In Defense of Elitism" by William A. Henry. In all honesty I was not intending to sound snarky or being snobbish. I am just wary of over-hyped books, movies, music and such that end up being disappointing.Especially in the field of memoirs which is dicey at best. I routinely champion popular poets such Billy Collins and Ted Kooser. I own a Weezer hat. I read Nelson DeMille novels, in public. My tastes are, if anything, catholic (small c).


El Duderino said...

Dexter may be a snob but he's the first to admit he's a common snob. As for me, if it don't rhyme how can you call it poetry? I enjoy poetry as much as the next man, if you're at bus stop in Newark, but I would rather work than read the stuff. If you have any doubt about the ability of the masses to discern good poetry remember that the greatest selling poet of all time is Jewel, and she doesn't rhyme either.