3 May 2017

larryhammer: topless woman lying prone with Sappho painted on her back, label: "Greek poetry is sexy" (greek poetry is sexy)
"Reading Wednesday" sounds like I'm reading the actual day, which is nicely surreal. So: Reading Wednesday! -- in which I am still inhaling narrative poetry.

Finished:

The Charivari by George Longmore, an early Canadian poet (Montreal flavor). The influence of Byron is overt, and acknowledged in the subtitle ("in the style of Beppo"): this is a slender narrative interwoven with a plethora of narrative digressions that ostensibly distract from the story but actually support the point(s) the author is trying to make -- which, here, is to satirize and hopefully tone down the titular boisterous mock-serenades-cum-shakedowns upon the remarriage of widows or widowers, as part of a broader program to get Canadian arts and culture to parity with the Old World. Having recently read a couple Beppo-influenced tales where the digressions aren't on point, I applaud. Longmore's language is vigorous and colloquial, the verse under control, and the punctuation of this edition could use some serious editing for modern style -- specifically the commatization (the m-dashes are fine, even plethoric as they are). The ending doesn't quite land as firmly as I wanted, but it's appropriate for the story and genre. This deserves to be better known outside of Canada, so here: go read it.

Snow-Bound by William Greenleaf Whittier, an account of a New England farming family's time during a circa 1820 blizzard -- before trains and other modern communications changed how people lived and thought. Whittier started writing it after the death of his little sister, as a remembrance for his niece, and while nostalgia is the dominant mode, this never controls the narrative. There's multiple deaths being dealt with, actually, including explicit acknowledgement of the suffering of the recently concluded Civil War (Whittier was an ardent abolitionist, even unto being a founding member of the Republican Party, but as a devout Quaker he was a committed pacifist). The historical details keep ringing in my mind, after -- that and the imagery highlighting the importance of the fireplace.

The Fairy of the Fountains by Letitia Elizabeth Landon, a retelling of the Melusine story. I've been wandering through some of Landon's mid-length narratives, and this one is particularly interesting -- enough that I reread it. There's a few signature touches (including, yet again, a character getting in trouble through an emotional response to a story) and lot of echo patterning between Melusine and her mother. (Due warning: I haven't found a modern edition, and Landon's punctuation is atrocious, even by 1830s standards. If a period jars you, try mentally replacing it with a comma or other shorter pause -- the sentence will likely make more sense. Also, the first line makes more sense, both locally and symbolically, if you emend "mother's" to "mother".)

The Troubadour by Letitia Elizabeth Landon, a book-length historical verse romance. This has the structure of a bildungsroman, though Raymond doesn't seem to learn very much. Provençal knight with some facility with the lute more or less grows up, or at least survives vicissitudes of adventure (helped by a couple coincidences). Not entirely successful, nor as interesting as The Improvisatrice, but Landon's habitual pattern of expanding longer poems via inset stories/songs is handled well.

In progress:

Spirit Gate by Kate Elliott, the first of a trilogy. Almost gave up after the time jump after chapter 2, but got hooked by the end of chapter 7. Am ~⅓ through -- see how long I stick with this prose thing. (I understand that many people read a lot of that.)

And pomes. Lotsa pomes.

---L.

Subject quote from "Makamat," al-Hariri of Barra, tr. Theodore Preston.

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