Friday, February 12, 2010

Leafing through TNR's The Book

Berryman, friends, is interesting: John Berryman, drunk and in a hotel room in Dublin, recites his "Dream Song #29" (text here). Via The Book's video section.

The New Republic's online site has a new place for me to spend time, The Book. As its title suggests, it is a place where people offer up reviews of fiction, poetry and books on various other subjects. It's only been up for a couple of weeks, so it doesn't yet have a great deal of content; I'm also a bit disappointed that some of the reviews haven't been a bit more substantive. In something of an irony, The Book announced its arrival by noting that there's a lack of book-review sites on the Web and that it seeks to fill that particular niche, but some of the reviews I've read there--not just their brevity but also their lack of close examination of the texts--seem shaped by the medium (the Web does seem to favor, or create pressures forcing writing in the direction of, the miniature; perhaps reviewers, too, succumb to those dynamics). At any rate, the New York Review of Books, for better or for worse, this is not. And yes, yes, I see that this post is itself The Book in miniature . . .

That said, the range of books it promises to cover is indeed impressive; moreover, there's a feature called Lost and Found: New Looks at Old Books, which provide short visits to books long forgotten but perhaps worth our time. And the video feature is fun as well and, in the case of Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe announcing their pending marriage, a reminder that the world is stranger than anything most of us can imagine.

[To come: more substantive posts on the Irreproducible, Joyce and irony, etc.]


R. Sherman said...

I'm ashamed to say that Berryman was one of those poets I never "got." Further proof, I suppose, that my decision to flop over to the German department was a wise one. Perhaps, I would be well served to reevaluate him in my ever more more copious free time.


John B. said...

Randall, I can't say that I "get" him, either, on anything like a consistent basis. It's been a long time since I've read Berryman; my posting the video here was something of an indulgence in nostalgia for my college days, when I first encountered "The Ball Poem" and tried to write about it. The Dream Songs, many of them, might as well be written in a code. The more accessible ones, though, such as Dream Song #14 ("Life, friends, is boring") are quite good, I think; and "Homage to Mistress Bradstreet" is a strange sort of tribute to our first published poet.

You can't read Berryman fast. That is, his style is such that he won't allow you to breeze through his poems. I don't know just how drunk he is in this video, but I think his delivery is right for the poem--it's a clue to how to read his work, as many poets' styles of reading are not.