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Master of Disguises Hardcover – 6 Feb 2011


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH); 1 edition (6 Feb. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547397097
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547397092
  • Product Dimensions: 21.1 x 14 x 1.3 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,119,361 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"This 20th collection from the former U.S. poet laureate (My Noiseless Entourage) departs only by degrees from his poems of earlier decades--but it could just be his best book." Publishers Weekly, STARRED review --Publishers Weekly

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Amazon.com: 5 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Intriguing Poetry 5 Feb. 2012
By Hope Whitby - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Master of Disguises is Simic's first volume of poetry since he served as poet laureate of the United States in 2007-2008. Charles Simic is a literary artist. His poems paint images that walk a thin line between innocence and guilt, between what one struggles to remember and what he desperately wants to forget, and between what is truth and what is myth.
The opening poem, The Invisible One, tells of a child kept for years in a closet by his crazy parents on a street you walked often. In Nineteen Thirty-eight, a poem about the day Simic was born, we learn it was the year the Nazis marched into Vienna. And in Dead Season, you are transported to a landscape with somber skies that must have fallen in love with a story by Edgar Allan Poe.
Intrigued? I thought so. These 52 poems won't disappoint.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Lovelier, darker, deeper 9 Jun. 2012
By RWordplay - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It seems always twilight in Simic's poems, or night, or somewhere in between. Even if the sun is rising, or it is noon, it seems the poet is watching from the shadows, or entering the shadows. And, there is always the presence of death, but a weightless death, that doesn't bear down too heavily; more often welcomed than feared. The person of the undertaker, the barber, the man on a corner, has no more weight or dignity than the pigeon, or the sparrow, the dog in the front yard. Things are small and specific; images intact and real and clearly seen, yet everything remains a mystery that won't be solved, not in the poet's or the reader's lifetime.

At a time where everything is over lit, Simic reveals how little is actually illuminated, and where everything is over orchestrated, he suggests the best we can manage is noise. Simic's little poems challenge both our utopian daydreams and dystopian nightmares. The past, present and future condition is simply loneliness. Nothing grander or more tragic: loneliness is the natural state of things and not psychological in origin. Which is to say it is not treatable. If I had to put down the two ideas that align most closely in these poems it is isolation and passivity. There are no heroes, no great acts required. There is no volition, because all paths converge.

It all comes down to objects. Objects isolated as insects pinned on a page, or object aligned as carefully as Victorian family portraits. Objects and beings share space, each with its role: if there is a door, someone will knock, if there are a pair of eyes, they will look into a stranger's window. If there is a sky, it exists to reveal a crow, and on a sidewalk a pigeon or sparrow.

I am struck by the modesty of the language, by its concision, abruptness and how the whole described is so much greater than the sum of its nouns, adjectives and verbs. Often, when I read a piece, I experienced an overwhelming sense of loss. It is, however, a curious loss. Like loneliness, Simic's conception of loss is simply an existential fact, which is to say, one did not even need to possess a thing in order to experience the loss of it. Loss is simply a constant. It is just another one of life's cruel jokes, like the poet leaving us with the image of lovers walking off holding hands.

I've come to read Simic as a deeply religious poet and even his most eccentric or dark pieces as psalms. He notices small things, passing phenomena; catches life in glances, so that nothing is insignificant, or exists without meaning. To look so closely is to see, to listen so intensely is to hear, and to note is to praise. The God of Simic's world may be capricious at best, a sadist at heart, but He is the Creator, and his works deserve our praise. Even when Simic is tempted to damn with faint praise, he praises nonetheless. In this way he is like a man who was hungry as a child and so remains hungry all his life, a man who, when he believes no one is watching, licks his plate clean.
Book Review: Master of Disguises 24 July 2013
By J. Larrimore - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Charles Simic's 2010 book, Master of Disguises, was his first published after his 2007-2008 term as US Poet Laureate. In this his twentieth collection of poetry, his longtime followers will recognize the master's hand at work. His odd sense of rhythm and subtle work with sound are accompanied by a weight of meaning that is readily apparent even when his exact meaning is not. For those new to Simic, this is not to say that his work is obtuse or vague. No, his poems are easily accessible. There are few, if any, hidden messages to uncover. However, there are mysteries to solve in this volume of poetry.

At times reading Master of Disguises is akin to walking through a gallery of carefully crafted puzzles. The poems frequently investigate events and people of unknown or unclear origin. There are usually more than enough clues for the reader to find an identity for the subject, but Simic does not give them away. He asks his reader to carefully consider each subject in order to ascertain a meaning or identity.

As a whole it is meaning and identity that Simic seems to be working with in this fascinating volume. The book allows the reader to discover meaning in the poems for themselves. In fact, the reader may begin to ask questions for themselves. What does it mean to be homeless or a shut-in spinster? Who is that older man, you see twice a week coming out of the drycleaners? Who is behind the mask? What is beneath the disguise? All questions are left open for the reader to think over.

Occasionally the text will stray from presenting puzzles for the reader to solve. At those times the poems move into personal exploration. Two examples of this are found in the second of five sections, near the middle of the work. "Our Salvation" explores mid-winter as well as the narrator's inner gloom, but ends in a surprise reveal of an incongruent relationship. "Solitude" follows immediately and seems to recall the beginnings of that relationship. In these cases, as well as a few others, it is as if the narrator is asking, "who am I?" "Who does this make me?" These forays do not last long, but the book ends on one such deviation, bringing added emphasis to it and the other poems like it in the book. Perhaps unfortunately, any questions that may be raised are never answered. They are left for the reader to consider, to create meaning, or identity on their own. Though the book does not seem to culminate in any overt realization, this quest for identity and meaning subtly drive the reader along throughout the volume.

Whether you enjoy working on the puzzles Simic has left or contemplating the meaning of identity, this is a volume of poetry to be enjoyed. Witnessing a master at his craft is an experience all too rare.

M W Larrimore
It's Charlie, for godsake 16 Feb. 2013
By Kitty Eppard - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
What Simic is not a 5 Star!
How can he keep surprising us. Each book is the same only better. ha!
25 of 43 people found the following review helpful
I love these poems. Kindle edition: poor formatting of lines and stanzas 10 Oct. 2010
By Douglas Healy - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The poor formatting of lines and stanzas on the Kindle edition made the book for me unreadable. I returned the Kindle purchase. I wrote to Amazon.com to explain the problem. I love the poems. I just could not bear to read them on the Kindle, not knowing how the author had arranged the words on the page. Why does it matter so much how the words are arranged on the page? The same words, in the same sequence, what's the problem? The problem is, the line breaks and the stanza breaks are a part of the message, a part of the meaning. If you're reading the poem aloud to an audience, you will read the physical layout of the words on the page as clues, as cues, that suggest to you how to deliver the words. Like a jazz musician will use marks on the page to decide how to play those notes, what parts of the body, brain, heart, stomach are brought to together in the emerging sound.
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