THE BOOKS OF OCTOBER 2019

KEVIN YOUNG《THE BOOK OF HOURS》

in rilke’s book of hours, there is a poem that begins:

If I had grown up in a land where days
were free from care and hours were delicate,
then I would have contrived a splendid fête
for you, and not have held you in the way
I sometimes do, tightly in fearful hands.

kevin young’s samely named volume of poetry is a similar mediation on loss, the idea of what fits into a quantifiable amount of time, and what transpires when that time expires and vanishes, and there is no proof of their existence save for consequence. it seems to me that an emotional life is incompatible with the idea of temporariness, and young unfurls the endless curls and pathways by which feeling and other immeasurable things reveal, beyond temporality, beyond figuration and assessment, inside bodies unmistakably human.

WANG ANYI《FU PING》

read my full-length review of fu ping on the asymptote blog.

MINA LOY《THE LOST LUNAR BAEDEKER》

mina loy’s poetry reads, on one level, like scripture, and the woman herself like deity. in roger l. conover’s text, he describes her astoundingly intrepid existence with equal parts awe and condolence; that someone with such a largesse of spirit could so easily fade seems an abominable consequence of the world’s apathy towards us, and yet loy’s élan vital seems to resist any sort of permanent location or commemoration. even her texts have such movement. the first poem of the lost lunar baedeker strikes with such immediate intelligence and devotion to living:

There is no Space or Time
Only intensity,
And tame things
Have no immensity.

the poems that follow are prolific with imagination, insistent in their assertions, and proceed with an intuitive desire that it is right and essential to create art for art’s sake. and though she declaimed her status as a poet (true that she was a great many other things), she had the crazed poet’s love for words. that innate love of words, that possessed infatuation that leads one to grow the land of language to create something unassailable. so it is that one may find in her work appearances of the ecstatic.

The days growing longer
Fulfilling her of curiosity

R. O. KWON《THE INCENDIARIES》

“if nothing we do matters, then all that matters is what we do.” this line, pulled from one of my favourite tv shows of all time, embodies the simultaneous nihilist and idealist natures of much of my generation. there is a strong sense of oxymoronic dread and pervading our existence; we are constantly threatened by loss and provoked by desire, bombarded with stimuli of positive and negative extremes, torn between individualistic pursuits and perpetrating a curated image, and concerned with morality both superficial and discerning. in the incendiaries, R. O. kwon evokes faith as the most obvious antidote to this maelstrom of contradictions; after all, with spiritual guidance and the unshakable knowledge of a higher power, then the things we do matter, the choices we make are in accordance with our very existence, and our existence thereby serves our purpose, which is much less stress-inducing than the idea that we have to somehow invent a purpose by way of existing.

certain reviews of the incendiaries have commented on how unbelievable a central character’s religious conversion is, and yet it seems to me a incredibly plausible alternative to drowning in the existential tides of making choices. the very idea of choice is a concept riddled with the myriad anxieties; we are desperate for choice, grateful for choice, and terrified of it. take the recurrence of astrological sensationalism as an indication of how much young individuals are desperate for anything—aside from their own innate, active ability—to indicate their character, thereby their path, thereby some predetermined opportunity and excuse. I haven’t discussed the overarching theme of this book, which is of course religious fanaticism, but it seems to me that what kwon writes of with a greater insistence is the indomitable fear of choosing, and a love of fate that succumbs to its darkest impulses, in allowing oneself to become an object in the ways of the world.

CYNTHIA OZICK《METAPHOR & MEMORY》

the stylistic tendencies of ozick’s criticism is one that is exclusive to her time. the peaks and canyons of personal emotion, the accounts of memory and experience, the occasional address to the reader. it’s dated in the way it speaks to a time in which the individual critic was deemed worthy as a pathway towards the elitism of the intelligentsia, and presumed to be an unavoidable requisite for navigating the cartography of culture. we no longer think this way, to an extent. our compasses are just as often algorithms or self-initiated curiosity than it is the canonized mentorship of a critic. all this by no means undermines ozick’s ability to speak profoundly and with proud authority in the various directions of her knowledge: primo levi, religious texts, communality, and the oral tradition, to name a few. her writing is intimate and unmistakably animate, precise and perceptive, and circuitously concerned with spiritual identity and its manifestations throughout art.

shelly shan

hi, my name is shelly. I do a thing where I make words into unnecessarily emotional composites. I don't know why I'm allowed on the internet, but I like it here.