I've decided to suspend my weekly New Yorker fiction reviews indefinitely. A few reasons for this. The main one is that I had hoped they would generate discussions about contemporary fiction. They haven't. Plus the magazine routinely puts out novel excerpts without giving a heads up about it. That's lame and wreaks havoc with any attempted analysis. Also, it's starting to feel like a chore, and if you've ever seen the doghair tumbleweeds gliding through our house, you know I don't like chores. And I reckon I miss the old workshop and thought it would be like that. And finally, Nate's comment in the "What did you read this summer?" post --
Why doesn't anyone read poetry? Is it so bad? So insular and unapproachable? I thought this was a literary blog... Call me crazy, but last time I looked, literature went well beyond New Yorker fiction.-- is still haunting me. Because he's right. Why don't I read poetry? I think because I don't feel up to understanding it properly. Because I never really learned to read it. Because it makes me impatient. It's like some exotic cheese meant to be savored morsel by small morsel, when all I've ever done is gobble up cheddar and monterrey jack and, it must be admitted, Velveeta.
Also, the world seems to be going to hell, and it feels indulgent to relentlessly keep on reading and writing about reading and writing no matter what or when.
Fiction's easy to read for pleasure. Right now I'm cruising through The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay and loving it. I look forward to picking it up, as if I'm picking up a remote control for a movie in my mind. That has never happened to me with poetry, and I think that's sad, and it means something is wrong, and I've decided to try and fix it.
So I'm starting with the Norton Anthology of Poetry. I'm up to Shakespeare right now. I'm nibbling the exotic cheese a bit at a time.
I loved when Chad was enlightening all of us with his witty responses to New Yorker poetry. But again, there is more to the literary scene than the New Yorker. I had merely thought it would be a good touchstone, something we might all have in common, a starting point to launch conversations about what is working in good writing today and why. But I'm finding you can't make a blog do what you want. Instead, it stubbornly goes about its business as it pleases, occasionally shining with brilliance, often sleeping, sometimes shuffling around grumpy or confused or angry or indignant. It just is what it is, and stays that way. Like a friend.
I'll probably still post story reviews when I get excited about something, or angry or grumpy or confused or indignant about something. I'm eyeing the Ann Beattie story in this week's with hope and anticipation. And last week's was really good, in case you missed it. But now I have to go have a plantar's wart on my heel looked at.
(See? I would never had thought of that word without the recent Shakespeare infusion.)