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Girls on the Run [Paperback]

John Ashbery
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
RRP: 8.95
Price: 6.93 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

30 Sep 1999
This work is a poem loosely based on the works of the "outsider" artist Henry Darger (1892-1972), a recluse who toiled for decades at an enormous illustrated novel about the adventures of a plucky band of little girls. The Vivians are threatened by human tormentors, supernatural demons and cataclysmic storms; their calmer moments are passed in Edenic landscapes. Darger traced the figures from comic strips, colouring books and other ephemeral sources, filling in the backgrounds with luscious watercolour. John Ashbery's "Girls on the Run" creates a similar childlike world of dreamy landscapes, lurking terror and veiled eroticism. Its fractured narrative mode almost (but never quite) coalesces into a surrealist adventure story.

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Girls on the Run + Quick Question + Nest of Ninnies, A (American Literature (Dalkey Archive)) (American Literature Series)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 72 pages
  • Publisher: Carcanet Press Ltd; 1st ed edition (30 Sep 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1857544358
  • ISBN-13: 978-1857544350
  • Product Dimensions: 20.8 x 13.2 x 0.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 110,282 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

'Praised as a magical genius, cursed as an obscure joker, John Ashbery writes poetry like no one else.' The Independent 'Great poetry, as T.S. Eliot said, can communicate before it is understood: Ashbery communicates in a way that both pays homage to language and transcends it at the same time.' The Guardian

About the Author

John Ashbery is the author of more than twenty books of poetry. He is the recipient of many honours, including the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and a MacArthur 'genius' award. Born in Rochester, New York, he was educated at Harvard and Columbia. In 1955 he went to France on a Fulbright Scholarship and spent much of the next decade there, including several years as art critic of the International Herald Tribune and Paris correspondent of ArtNews magazine. Ashbery's research on the life and works of Raymond Roussel (1877-1933) resulted in several groundbreaking articles, as well as the appearance in print of the first unpublished work of the writer to come to light after his death. His translations include works by Roussel, Max Jacob, Pierre Reverdy, Stephane Mallarme, Andre Breton, Paul Eluard and many others. His 2008 translation of Pierre Martory's The Landscapist was a Poetry Book Society Recommended Translation. The French government has appointed Ashbery as both Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres and Officier of the Legion d'Honneur.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars If the cap fits... 22 Dec 2000
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
There has always been something of the 'Emperor's New Clothes' about John Ashbery's writing. We coo and purr at his verse with almost reverend uniformity, worrying all the while that one day a little boy will point a finger and prove us fools and Ashbery a fraud. But such anxiety is common in the reception of art that is genuinely innovative and challenging and, though there is certainly plenty of nonsense in Ashbery's poems (and what's wrong with that?), there is meaning enough to warrant his adulation.
"Girls on the Run" is perfect example of Ashbery at his most maddeningly enigmatic. Based on "The Story of the Vivian Girls", the vast illustrated novel by American 'outsider' artist Henry Darger (itself pitched somewhere between Paula Rego and Edward Lear), "Girls on the Run" is a book length poem in twenty-one chapters. By turns it is gnomic, cartoonish and lyrical, as Ashbery propels Darger's characters - Tidbit, Dimples, Judy, Rags the Dog and others besides - down a rabbit hole of his own making. The story, such as it is, is something of an irrelevance ("The thread ended up on the floor,/where threads go") but the idea of the girls being constantly pursued gives the verse its momentum.
Ashbery mixes the various registers at his command with glee, spinning together fairytale, psychobabble, conversation and cliché. What emerges through the swirl is a refracted vision of our media-constructed world, an implicit sense of how we experience it - at once exhilarating and perplexing. And threats are lurking, despite the verse's zany tone. Financial catastrophe ("Yes, a majestic crash is heading our way") and actual conflict ("the climate is military") are clear and present dangers.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars if the cap fits 4 Jan 2001
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
There has always been something of the 'Emperor's New Clothes' about John Ashbery's writing. We coo and purr at his verse with almost reverend uniformity, worrying all the while that one day a little boy will point a finger and prove us fools and Ashbery a fraud. But such anxiety is common in the reception of art that is genuinely innovative and challenging and, though there is certainly plenty of nonsense in Ashbery's poems (and what's wrong with that?), there is meaning enough to warrant his adulation.
"Girls on the Run" is perfect example of Ashbery at his most maddeningly enigmatic. Based on "The Story of the Vivian Girls", the vast illustrated novel by American 'outsider' artist Henry Darger (itself pitched somewhere between Paula Rego and Edward Lear), "Girls on the Run" is a book length poem in twenty-one chapters. By turns it is gnomic, cartoonish and lyrical, as Ashbery propels Darger's characters - Tidbit, Dimples, Judy, Rags the Dog and others besides - down a rabbit-hole of his own making. The story, such as it is, is something of an irrelevance ("The thread ended up on the floor,/where threads go") but the idea of the girls being constantly pursued gives the verse its momentum.
Ashbery mixes the various registers at his command with glee, spinning together fairytale, psychobabble, conversation and cliché. What emerges through the swirl is a refracted vision of our media-constructed world, an implicit sense of how we experience it - at once exhilarating and perplexing. And threats are lurking, despite the verse's zany tone. Financial catastrophe ("Yes, a majestic crash is heading our way") and actual conflict ("the climate is military") are clear and present dangers.
Read more ›
Comment | 
Was this review helpful to you?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In my opinion, Ashbery's best 21 April 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I must say that I haven't always been a believer in Ashbery's aesthetic -- or rather his lack of much else beyond his aesthetic -- but this book is absolutely brilliant, especially for anyone who has a passing familiarity with Henry Darger's singularly bizarre and oddly moving work. What a brilliant move to incorporate Darger into a book-length poem. This book marks the first time I felt I moved fully into Ashbery's work, and those that may have felt intimidated or put-off by him before should read this book first if they're interested in taking another look at him. Now I'm a believer.
15 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good beach reading! 18 Jun 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This is the very favorite book that I read. It has an author by John Ashbery. It is real poetry. I wanted to read it 2x before I read it. It is good for the beach reading (date: June 18). Please bring a dictionary to look up the different words. Who are the girls (names)? I took this book to everywhere I was going one day and finished that book in 3 days after going 19 places. Please read this enjoyable imagination.
11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pastoral, apocalyptic fin-de-siecle masterpiece 12 Aug 1999
By M. E Mattson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I, too, have always admired but never been bowled over by John Ashberry's work. With this work I am convinced he is our greatest American poet. Since I am familiar with Henry Darger's pictures and style, Ashberry's imagery seems natural even as it is surreal. The two share an aesthetic of using common cultural artifacts and twisting them so that even though you're staring right at them, you no longer recognize what you're seeing. It is a dream language, and Ashberry has never been so adept at navigating that territory. The poetry, like Darger's paintings, mix the pastoral and the apocalyptic, the innocent and the decadent with such unsettling virtuostic ease that you're not sure which is which. If I had to pick a poetry to compare it to, I might pick Blake--both for the lyric sweetness and hinted threats of "Innocence and Experience," and the cultural commentary/prophecy of his later, longer work. If, like me, your experience with Ashberry's work has left you shrugging, this os the place to start. I don't read much poetry anymore--this will reaffirm your faith in it.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 3.75 stars : I, too, find him prepossessing 28 Feb 2001
By Thomas E. Defreitas - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Predictable surprises -- and a few unpredictable ones -- inhabit this volume, a single long poem loosely based on the illustrations of Henry Darger. There are chuckleworthy phrases that rattle about the brain with a happy insouciance for several days after one has read the thing. "The oxymoron gets his rocks off" and "pink shrouds fell on the pansy jamboree." And we like going for the ride, even if we get a little dizzy and a little seasick. The "androgynous truths" bubble perkily to the surface, in a verbal universe where what matters matters as much as what doesn't matter. We know a few of the magician's tricks, but there are always a few swerves and slides which we can't anticipate. The honey drips from a blighted bough -- or is it a bright and sprightly bough? -- and the housepets lap the gruel in their gaily-coloured bowls, and the narrator stands back and lets it all happen. As with anything by Ashbery, there are unwholesome things and things from which the reader runs away, but we marvel at the ingenuity nonetheless.
7 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Most great 28 Jun 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Words very good, yes. Ashbery writes best good book. Yes, buy it, good, yes.
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