A. B. C. of Reading Paperback – 31 Dec 1961
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Incredibly alive and intelligent and rst-rate.
Incredibly alive and intelligent and rst-rate. "
Full of original and suggestive ideas on the meaning and operation of the poetic art. The comments ring with Pound s early wit and vigor. " --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
About the Author
New Directions has been the primary publisher of Ezra Pound in the U.S. since the founding of the press when James Laughlin published New Directions in Prose and Poetry 1936. That year Pound was fifty-one. In Laughlin s first letter to Pound, he wrote: Expect, please, no fireworks. I am bourgeois-born (Pittsburgh); have never missed a meal. . . . But full of noble caring for something as inconceivable as the future of decent letters in the US. Little did Pound know that into the twenty-first century the fireworks would keep exploding as readers continue to find his books relevant and meaningful.
Michael Dirda is a Pulitzer Prize winning critic and longtime book columnist for the "Washington Post". He is the author of four collections of essays, "Readings", "Bound to Please", "Book by Book", and "Classics for Pleasure", as well as the memoir "An Open Book". A lifelong Sherlock Holmes and Conan Doyle fan, he was inducted into The Baker Street Irregulars in 2002. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
Top Customer Reviews
Ezra Pound's comments on language, poetry, drama and music are very astute and actual.
There are two kinds of written language, one based on sound (English), the other based on sight (Chinese).
Three chief means charge language with meaning: visual imagination, emotional correlations by sound and speech, and stimulation of associations remained in consciousness in relation to the actual word groups. Most human perceptions date from long time ago, before we were born.
Poetry atrophies when it gets too far from music. Music rots when it gets too far from dance.
The medium of poetry is words; the medium of drama is people, using words.
Cinema supersedes a great deal of second-rate narrative and a great deal of theatre.
On writing and writers, Ezra Pound is very severe.
An author should write in order to teach, to move, to delight (R. Agricola). He should use an efficient, accurate and clear language. He should not use words that contribute nothing to the meaning or that distort from the most important factor of the meaning.
The dirtiest book is a manual telling people how to earn money by writing.
This book contains excellent comments on his preferred authors: Homer, Chaucer, Villon, Dante, Shakespeare, but also G. Crabbe or W.S. Landor.
Some of his examples however, should have been translated (`Ne maeg werigmod wyrde widhstondan').
He stresses rightly the importance of art: `A nation which neglects the perceptions of its artists declines.'
A very worth-while read.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
You may use this quote as a meter for predicting your enjoyment of the book. If you find it amusing and arguable, Pound's ABC of Reading will delight you with its erudite gems. If you are repulsed by the presumption, then give the book a wide berth.
Pound sets a standard for basic literacy that few literature scholars can hope to achieve (including mastery of several languages as a pre-requisite to study). Nonetheless, the book is a treasure trove of brilliant and piquant observations, and is itself an exemplar of the crystaline prose Pound extolled. You would be hard-pressed to find an ostentatious or superflous word in the book's entire 200 briskly-moving pages.
This book will astonish and anger a thoughtful reader. It is not a coherent essay that moves logically from point to point - it is a jarring, manic kaleidoscope.
Since I am a typical American and only understand one language (English, modern) some of this volume was lost to me - but this book is well worth the time you will spend reading it. Highly recommended for all striving writers and people who would like to read more earnestly.
He's dead & that's not going to happen. But we can still get the brash truth about literature, in easy-to-remember pithy comments such as "Literature is news that STAYS news" or comparisons of writing to making a table (don't matter which leg you start with so long as it stands upright when you're done) or to writing a check (the writing of a bad check is a criminal act). He also tells us why, say, Milton was a lousy poet & Homer a great one.
The all-embracing, subjective, if-someone-likes-it-then-it's-good parts of us will reel against some of Pound's fascistic judgements, but the arbiter of taste in each of us, the madman or woman who fumes at how ad. copy is deadening our linguistic nerves, will stand proud at owning, reading, & quoting--often--The ABC of Reading.
The book is full of these unconventional observations, and challenges the reader to look more critically at the classics, let alone at the junk with which we are inundated today.
We're all duly welcomed to Mr. Pound's class. However, once the door is shut, he throws harsh (and gut-bucket funny) criticism at snobbishness, poor preparation, and laziness -- especially targeting the teacher who, by any of these vices, would lead any student away from the very personal road of discovery, i.e. away from critical thought that is no respecter of persons, even great persons. Too many jabs to count, but here are a couple of his friendliest (and well-placed) shots:
1. Anybody who is too lazy to master the comparatively small glossary necessary to understand Chaucer deserves to be shut out from the reading of good books for ever.
2. It would take a bile specialist to discover why the Oxford Book of Verses includes the first five strophes (of John Donne's "The Ecstasy") and then truncates the poem with no indication that anything has been omitted.
On this "no slackers" context he elaborates a simple core message: Look at a work for what it is and for what the author intends; then, learn by comparing it to worthy counterexamples. One example of Pound's guidance on this point: "The way to study Shakespeare is to study it side by side with something different and of equal extent. The proper antagonist is Dante who is of equal size and DIFFERENT. ...You can't judge any chemical's reaction merely by putting it with more of itself."
Pound also dares you to either study languages or remain ignorant to the weight of timeless literature. "There is no use...in my publisher asking me to make English literature as prominent as possible. I mean, not if I am to play fair with the student. You cannot learn to write by reading English." (Also, Read p. 35, par. 2 for the MOST telling and eloquent statement on this fact.)
In sum, Mr. Pound is far from dogmatic. No man who issues a fair challenge can be considered so. He told you as much: "My lists (of poems) are a starting-point and a challenge. This challenge has been open for a number of years and no one has yet taken it up. There have been general complaints, but no one has offered a rival list." Calling him dogmatic thus becomes a wimp-out on an invitation to hard study and thought.
That said, it should not be lost on anyone that Pound's invitation is nearly the equivalent of the boxing critic being challenged to a round by Muhammad Ali in his prime.
Nevertheless, as students of literature and life, we should be willing to run Pound's gauntlet long before offering up any dogma on Pound himself or the work in question. Our only recourse, though, is it's own reward since we are free to fearlessly question even Mr. Pound along the way.
As a bonus, I believe any reader will gain even more by taking up the opening invitation to read the book "for pleasure as well as for profit". Do this times over and with a lens much wider than the literary. ABC of Reading then reads as a solid treatise on living and learning.
*NAS, Stillmatic 2001-2. "You want beef? I hope you got yourself a gun." Pound says no less. Come ready.