Most book review sections approach summer as if it were a time to turn off the brain and wallow in escapist plots and fantasy characters. Summer reading, we are told again and again, should focus on light, easy-to-digest genre fiction like mystery, sci-fi, gothic and romance. The assumption, I guess, is that when sitting on the beach or in an airport your brain wants to join your body in doing nothing.
And maybe it’s true that a lot of people like to turn off the brain when on vacation, but I think to a great degree, the mass media approach to promoting summer reading material reduces to more indoctrination in anti-intellectualism, one of the underlying ideological tenets of our consumerist society. We don’t think about it, we buy it.
I’m going to make a few recommendations for some books I’m reading this summer that I think offer a little more substantial fare; then do something self-serving and give you a list of poetry journals that have published my poems so far this year, in hopes that you will pick up a copy and delve into some interesting contemporary poetry as part of your summer reading.
First some books I’m looking at this summer:
Viet Nam: History of an Unwinnable War, John Prados: A masterful retelling of the Viet Nam war that pays special attention to narrating the sad litany of similarities between Viet Nam and Iraq-Afghanistan.
Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace: I haven’t started it yet, but the collective opinion of serious book reviewers is that it’s the literary masterpiece of the 90’s.
Poems of the Late T’ang, A. C. Graham, translator and editor: Some of the most interesting and beautiful sounding poetry I have ever read.
Populuxe, Thomas Hine: Okay I read this one last summer, but I thought this history of mass market product design and selling in the 1950’s was absolutely fabulous. “Populuxe” in Hine’s shortening of the idea of popular luxury, which was a common theme to autos, house, appliances and vacations in the 1950’s, our first era of mass consumption.
Now for a list of places that have published my poems so far this year, in alphabetical order, with the name of the poem, the date of the issue and a link if possible.
580 Split #12 (Spring 2010): “Forty Years Later”
Cortland Review #46 (Winter 2010): “Instead of Sex”
Evansville Review #20 (2010): “The World is Always with Us”
Jewish Currents (Summer 2010): “The Mad Bomber of New York”
Natural Language (Carnegie Library, 2010): “The Book of Littleman”
Slant #23 (Spring 2010): “A French Peasant before the Revolution”
Wilderness House Review Vol. 5, #1 (Spring 2010): “Remembering Darla”
From time to time, people ask how they can support my blog. My answer is: buy one or more of these issues of these journals; or buy my book Music from Words, which is available from the publisher, Bellday Books, Inc., www.belldaybooks.com or at most online or brick-and-mortar book stores.