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Swann's Way
Marcel Proust, Lydia Davis
Norman Rush
The Unknown University
Roberto Bolaño, Laura Healy
Postmodern Belief: American Literature and Religion since 1960 (20/21)
Amy Hungerford
The Fun Stuff: And Other Essays
James Wood
Two American Scenes - Lydia Davis, Eliot Weinberger

Briefly. Very briefly, as the two poems which comprise this pamphlet total a mere 56 pages. Two contemporary, and by most standards, highly regarded American writers, Lydia Davis and Eliot Weinberger, consider two very different regions of the country during approximately the same time period—the mid-1800s.

In Davis’ poem Our Village, the author reconsiders, edits and expands, the journals of her great-great grandmother’s brother, Sydney Brooks, published by the Norwich Historical Society, and presents that version in what looks like a poem (lines of irregular length, stacked one upon another) which suffer not one iota when simply read slowly considering the words as they appear, as an extended piece on a different time and place. Very nice. I should warn, however, for those already perplexed by poetry and its various forms, what makes this a poem may simply be the contained within the parenthetical above. On the other hand, what do I know?

In Weinberger’s A Journey on the Colorado River [1869] an expedition travels by raft or canoe exploring the Grand Canyon and naming locations for their perceptions of or reaction to the various locations, in lines interspersed with lines from hymns and perhaps other unidentified sources. It took a little googling, but many of the locations identified are actually along the Green River and the hymnal excerpts, included for their beauty and appropriateness (never in apparent religious awe), aren’t identified as such, and only their appearance in italics suggest they’re part of some other works.

Each of the poems are interesting in their own ways, although what makes the one a poem isn’t apparent, to me, and the other seems blatantly a poem, as what else could it be?

For completist fans of the authors, although perhaps not the finest writing of either. A very tentative ‘perhaps’ as I’m well out of my element here. I liked and am glad to have read each, but I’ll take Davis’ prose or Weinberger’s essays any day.

3.5 stars rounded up, because I’m all too generous, and for the writer’s efforts.

From Weinberger’s A Journey on the Colorado River, in which the narrator describes a location where the expedition camped for a night:

A vast chamber carved out of the rock, a little grove of box-elder and cottonwoods at the entrance; a deep, clear pool of water, bordered with verdure at one end. A thousand feet above, a narrow, winding skylight. The rock at the ceiling is hard, the rock below soft and friable—thus the great chamber was excavated by a little stream that only runs when the rain falls, so rarely, in this arid country.

We camp in the chamber. The rock is full of sounds as though it were an academy of music deigned by an unknown architect and built by storms. We name it Music Temple.