Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The long and the short

Here we are at the midpoint between winter solstice and spring equinox with Punxsutawney Phil predicting more snow and rain, which is fine with all of us drought-conscious Californians even if we’d prefer to be outdoors readying our gardens for spring planting. It’s good reading weather.

For some reason, partly to do with a desire to cultivate a longer attention span, I’m into longer books so far this year, following 2666 with Infinite Jest. The latter seems weirdly appropriate in view of the recent SCOTUS ruling. Now that corporations can pour as much money as they like into political races, maybe it’s only a matter of time before the years are named, as in Jest, for sponsors. Somehow, “The Year of Depend Adult Undergarments” doesn’t seem like much of a stretch. I rather like picturing Alito and Scalia in diapers—Thomas, too.

But, speaking of long works, the latest Poetry has a marvelous essay by Durs Gr├╝nbein that makes a case for the time-saving aspects of poetry. “A few clusters of words express what the lavish epic draws out over hundreds of pages. Or to put it another way: couldn’t it be that poems, as long as they are alert and open to impressions, are novels by other means—and therefore do sterling service to readers short of time and hungry for intensity? What they offer are lessons in accelerated consciousness, machete slashes through a tangled world.”

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