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Il regalo del mandrogno
Il regalo del mandrogno
by Ettore Erizzo
Edition: Perfect Paperback
Price: £27.44

5.0 out of 5 stars No Banks Prior to te Risorgimento--no public ed, eiter, 25 April 2015
I'm on page 530 of 832 of Il regalo del mandrogno: Caro zio Polycleto a detto, "E quelle carogne dei Baventore, non sono ancora morti tutti?" (My in-laws, those carcasses, aren't they all dead yet?) Then he leaves his whole fortune and villa to them. By page 530, Uncle Polycleto is a baby, twirling a world globe in the library, a former store-room, built up from the library of Uncle Canonico's mentor priest in Genova. This library has the very learned volumes, and the very scabrous.

My Milanese daughter gave me this for my birthday, after I had read Bassanio's Giardino dei Finzi-Contini, though she forgot that and told the Milan bookstore I liked novels of families. I dreaded the 800 pp because even in English I prefer Jane Austen at 340pp to most anyone at 700.
But I have been very pleasantly surprised; I am enjoying the irony, the characters, and the narrative.
Although I am only 70pp into it, this is where I usu give up on long books I cannot stand, including some Thomas Pynchon. (No comparison to Joyce, for me.)
Astonishing that this book was written by brothers; I think of Some Experiences of an Irish R.M., by two women masquerading as one country gentleman. The funeral of a distant, unloved uncle begins the book, and his astonishing will is a joke and an attack. He would routinely ask 8 year old kids, "E quelle carogne dei Baventore, non sono ancora morti tutti?" This, about the child's other relatives--those carcasses. Aren't they dead yet? This, to a kid.
And his every word to or about his son is a criticism and a dismissal. Of his daughters and grandkids, "Children and dogs should be seen and not heard. And not seen too much."

Now more than 500 pp, I have really enjoyed the account of Risorgimento Italy in rural Piedmont: how the movement for reform (from Austrian-supported monarchs) was fueled partly by need for education and primary care, not to mention BANKS. There were none prior to the Risorgimento. You need money/ Go to the local gentry or aristocrats. That's it. Now I'm in the late 1840s, or mid, 1846, when gas is the big innovation, but also Science conventions--held in Pisa, then Genova. NO, we can't have those radicals, those RE-PuBLICANS (viz, Napoleon) coming here. Visas were denied, costs were imposed to stifle scientific discussion involving furriners, esp the French. Who knew?


Ovid Amores, Medicamina Faciei Femineae, Ars Amatoria, Remedia Amoris 2/e (Oxford Classical Texts)
Ovid Amores, Medicamina Faciei Femineae, Ars Amatoria, Remedia Amoris 2/e (Oxford Classical Texts)
by E. J. Kenney
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £13.50

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars We lovers are just like you soldiers,/ We stand out in the cold all night on watch..., 9 Mar. 2015
Since I began these in my graduate school Ovid course, they have been my standard for poetry (along with 17C English poets), witty
and urbane--mostly in "elegiac" verse form, though far from the requiems previously in that verse form. ( Shakespeare learned
much from Ovid, from Plautus, and from Publilius Syrus.) True, Ovid was banished to the outskirts of the empire partly because of the poems here
that compare lovers and soldiers: they both stand outside all night under windows, they both are dedicated, they both...you get the picture.*
Then Ovid adds: So, You go off to war, I'll soldier along at home with the girls. I read this during wartime, and it seemed like a good plan for me,
two millennia later. But Ovid's plan completely undermined the hypocritical Augustus's military policies. (Gibbon says Augustus was so hypocritical that "Even his vices were pretended." Ovid also had something to do with Augustus's alienation from a young female relative.)
It's a sad result of great poetry; Ovid spent his last years amongst barbarians--literally, bearded peoples who did not know Latin,
rather like my generation of grad school Americans. He wrote plaintive verse requests to return to Rome from what's now Constanta, Romania.
Perhaps I should revise my own saying on my Google author page, "Good teachers are fired, great teachers are killed: Socrates, Christ, and Giordano Bruno. Good poets are censored, great poets are banished, unpublished, or shot: Dickinson, Ovid and Pushkin."

*Amores I.IX, shows how risky and wonderful Ovid's poems are. The equivalent today would be:
You guys are great, go to Afghanistan, fight;
I'll stay home with the girls you left behind.
For we lovers are just like you soldiers,
We stand out in the cold all night on watch,
And it's a long hard road to victory
For us both; we both play the lowly part
To come out on top. War is doubtful,
But believe me, Love's no sure thing.

It goes on with great imagination, and leaves you thinking,
You know, he's right. Soldiers and lovers both suffer, but
which has the better reason? You can see why Augustus was pissed, though it's more likely something personal, his daughter's rebellion, he blamed on Ovid. Out at Tomi on the Black Sea, where nobody even spoke Latin, Ovid wrote a whole book of laments trying to get back in Augustus's good graces, Tristia, and then his letters, Epistulae ex Ponto


W. B. Yeats: Collected Poems (Picador Books)
W. B. Yeats: Collected Poems (Picador Books)
by W B Yeats
Edition: Paperback

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Yet they...the great stage curtain about to drop, would not break up their lines to weep, 7 Mar. 2015
I have given hourlong recitations of Yeats's poems, among the easiest to recall in English; for example, his tetrameters in the late "Under Ben Bulben" which contains his epitaph. I defy you to say this aloud three times without knowing most of it by heart: "Whether man die in his bed,/ Or the rifle knocks him dead,/ A brief parting from those dear/ Is the worst man has to fear." Ad his own epitaph is memorable, "Cast a cold eye/ On life, on death/ Horseman, pass by!" It is anti-conventional, since most epitaphs were written by clergy to scare the readers back to church, like this one in Pittsfield, MA: "Corruption, earth and worms/ Shall but refine this flesh..." etc. I seriously doubt the interred was consulted about that one. Yeats counters, look at this grave, and fogggetaboutit, Pass by!
By memory I still have "When you are old," his adaptation of Ronsard, "Lake Isle of Innisfree," so imitative of the water lapping the shores, in its medial caesuras, "I hear lake water lapping...Though I stand on the roadway..I shall arise and go now..." And so interesting that WBY first had a truism, "There noon is all a glimmer, and midnight a purple glow," which he reversed to the memorable, "There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon has a purple glow..." Ahh... a useful trick for writers. (My Ph.D. advisor Leonard Unger noted the influence of Meredith on Innisfree.) "The Second Coming," whose opening I said in my flight fears of landing. The problem in reciting that poem is "The worst are full of passionate intensity." I had to reduce the intensity of my aloudreading. "Sailing to Byzantium," and others.
I have also set to music seven of Yeats' poems, including "Brown Penny," "Lullaby," "Her Anxiety," and even "Crazy Jane talks to the Bishop." Some of these tunes, played decades ago, can be heard on my google+ page, no middle initial.
Yeats's son Michael, fathered in his late fifties, toured the US in the 70s. A friend in the Berkshires heard him recall his father mainly shooing him from the room to write or recite. Sounds accurate. (Maybe that's why Shakespeare lived in London, his kids in Stratford!)
I mentioned learning Yeats at Leonard Unger's knee, but also from Chester Anderson, Joycean and Irish specialist.


A Child's History of England
A Child's History of England
by Charles Dickens
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

5.0 out of 5 stars No objective history, written for the child Trevelyan, 4 Mar. 2015
I'd like to meet the child that this is written for--the young William Thackeray? The young William James? The young Trevelyan, most likely. Or Macaulay. I have read in English history for decades, but especially social history--the Canons of 1604 and how they enlighten a reading of Shakespeare's Measure for Measure, or Judge Henry Swinburne's Spousals. And I must say, Dickens' account is intricate and intriguing. Like the novelist he is, he imbues the kings and their favorites with character and individuality. He also avoids the historian's supposed objectivity, intruding of a certain king, "The plain truth is, that he was a most intolerable ruffian, a disgrace to human nature, and a blot of blood and grease upon the History of England." Guess who. Henry VIII.
Though most of my professional literary studies started after this king, I have followed 16C heresy a bit--in Williams' Radical Reformation, and in regard to my books on G Bruno--but I never realized this: "He (H.VIII) defied the Pope and his Bull...; but he burned innumerable people whose only offense was that they differed from the Pope's religious opinions."(Ch.XXVIII)
Dickens' account of the murder in the cathedral familiar to students of TS Eliot (whom my dissertation advisor Leonard Unger wrote many books about) struck me as clearer than Eliot's play, which is pretty clear.
Okay, maybe Dickens' story here is simpler, a child's story. (But it is still intricate, with Beckett avoiding all the escapes he was offered.)


The Anthologist
The Anthologist
by Nicholson Baker
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Then Elizabeth Bishop didn't give another reading for twenty-six years.., 23 Feb. 2015
This review is from: The Anthologist (Hardcover)
"I was good at what I did. And what I did was drive to poetry readings." Can you beat that for the ironic curve of a voice, flat-out convincing, accurate and yet a ringing subversion of one sentence by the following sentence. The narrator, Mr Chowder, has a fear of teaching similar to Elizabeth Bishop's: "No, no, no, no, no. I can't teach. It killeth me. Those nice kids stunned my brain. I'll never recover from that year... My own dear students were destroying 'I' for me."

And then, the taste, so many fine critiques, say, "Walt Whitman's preacherly ampersands.." or of Mark Strand, "exceedingly good-looking. A real Charlton Hestonian face, one of those hellishly handsome poets. James Merrill was another...J. Crew models before there were J. Crew models." Of Ashberry's "Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror," award studded: "I'd tried to read it a few times and failed. It's arbitrary. It reads as if it's written by a cleverly programmed random-phrase generator." Or as Alan Powers puts it in his forthcoming "Parodies Lost,"

something jaunty, uncapitalized,
asyntactic at the least, the best.
For this, he knew just the voice, urbane
With insouciance, juicy and wasted,
not to be believed, a street-wise guy,
the Voice of the Village. He tried this,

“Had you noticed the primavera
as you came through the loggia? Go
back and look I say, seated. Many
have missed the cotillion. But I wish
them well from the alley or first floor.
It is never too late for the opera.
It is always too late for the Big Bang.”

His verse grew vast, urban, Ash-buried,
soot-footed, exhaustive and converted,


Our America - A Hispanic History of the United States
Our America - A Hispanic History of the United States
by Felipe FernŠndez-armes
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.68

5.0 out of 5 stars Nails into his feet, 7 Feb. 2015
While this book will evoke much resonance for its contemporaneity, its good sense, it is an historical provocation
of the first order; it is the wealth of historical detail which appeals to this reader. For instance, when the Jesuits were expelled from Spanish lands in 1767, "The Baja was virtually a Jesuit republic. The expulsion...deprived the monarchy of its most determined frontiersmen"(112). The ways in which accommodation were reached between brothers and indios are multiple; for instance, while the brothers were strict enough on sexaul matters, locking up Indian girls, they were more indulgent on indifferent traditions like dancing and traditional healing" (115). The towns around the missions grew little in the late 18C, partly because of the indios' desire for their former hunting life, partly because farming brought better diet, fattening and sickening. (Hmm.. Is that an historical or a 21st C point?)
And the internecine struggles between secular administrators and the monasteries provide fruitful accounts of
human individualities and differences. For instance, it must have proven difficult to impress Fray Jose Maria Zalvidea, who "constantly flogged himself, wore hairshirt, and drove nails into his feet." Others had spasms of drunkenness and lunacy, perhaps indistinguishable.
Meanwhile, some administrators threatened to take away the mission lands (which they had by royal grant) and authority, including their right to confirm baptized indios. Seems like England's Henry VIII was not alone in considering the acquisition of institutions built by the enticements and amalgamations of the religious.


The Shipping News
The Shipping News
by Annie Proulx
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.83

5.0 out of 5 stars The best satire on life in the US, and a welcome criique of journalism, 7 Feb. 2015
This review is from: The Shipping News (Paperback)
This is the best satire on life in the US, which is portrayed entirely by omission. I wonder if I am the only reader who regrets the author's changing from a coastal ironist to a desert pot-boiler? I err to start by editorializing on life and writing beyond the book; but when I read this, on its first appearance, I was bowled over. I assigned it to a couple of my community college adult-student classes. Who knew that Newfoundland was in fact a literary center in the 90s, with this and Wayne Johnston's Colony of Unrequited Dreams. (I've often said that Johnston should change both his title and his own name, for a pseudonym. Neither sounds as witty as his book is. Would many 19C Englishmen have read Middlemarch if it were by Mary Ann Evans?)
Both Proulx's and Johnston's books take on an added wonder, and gravity, now that journalism is in serious decline. Both consider what is "news." Both create the world of print journalism--the title organ of Proulx's, and the alternate chapters in Johnston's, by a satiric genius female editorialist. (My major reflection on the death of newsprint is: Who shall replace the titans, the local newspaper editors or owners whose moral judgement spiced and reflected given cites--the Millers of Pittsfield, the Jim Ragsdale of New Bedford? The truth is, no-one replaces them. We simply do not come to moral grips--no need. Much easier for our politicos, and our banks and munitions businesses without moral doubters in print.
Shipping News is filled with dramatic irony, colloquial zingers, and juxtaposition like: "' Be Back for you...after I washes me pots and pans...
'My father..." bawled Quoyle," is dead."
'I know that,' said Tert Card, 'that's not news."
Quoyle sentimentalizes his father, while the reader knows where his ashes are--or are not--buried. "Should they put up a marker" becomes a hilarious question.
The book blossoms with tricks of style like children's profound questions at unexpected moments, linked sentence fragments, staccato catalogs like "the smell of coffee, little kid hubbub, the aunt...," satire on life in the US, natural descriptions using unusual, simple words ("scurf," "screel"). And humor.
Contrarian view of character: the cuckold Quoyle is bigger than his rivals--in several senses--and Bill Pretty is a brilliant gossiper.
I recall this book, much of it aloudread in classes, elicited wonderful papers from my students: On the Interior Life of Children; or, the ingredients of "news," what Inquiring Minds Want to Know (now, acc to TV, mostly about actors, not Africa or Iran or Syria or even Russia). Or they could write themselves into a chapter, by choosing an unusual, Proulx-like name to start.
Those characters' names testify to great inventiveness: Partridge, Petal Bear, Tert Card, Bill Pretty, Diddy Shovel, Mavis Bangs, Wavey Prowse, Jack Buggit.
When I read this novel, I had just crewed on a 38' yacht sailing from Jacksonville to SE Massachusetts. Last two weeks in May, best of the year. I was on the Midnight Watch, could tell where we were by Scorpio Rising--I had been a nightwatchman on a coastal island during college. During the day you could tell we were in the Gulf Stream by the color of the water. But not at night; this was before GPS. I had learned some knots over the years, but I learned more reading Proulx. A friend--and the Introducer of my Birdtalk--is a world-class kayaker who traveled the Newfoundland coast in memory of the Great Auk (see the Nova Special on Richard Wheeler). I had also joined a postdoc NEH seminar on Maritime History, so I brought much to bear on this book, and it did not fail me.


The Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas, 1934-1952
The Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas, 1934-1952
by Dylan Thomas
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Imitate Dylan Thomas to learn writing, 27 Jan. 2015
Where I began writing, during a fine undergrad English major. "Days of daisies, swaying lazily,/ Light and easy, breeze-blown days" and
"Love-burst firth, froth on the sluicing sea/ Foams on the rolling, beating surf..." The first I submitted to enter a poetry writing class, and I was admitted--by Archibald MacLeish. Later, in grad school at Minnesota, I set Dylan Thomas's "Death Shall Have No Dominion" to music,
SATB, organ, fleugel horn, cello and trombone. (It's on google+, linked to "Blues for AJ Take One" on Youtube.) I memorized a half hour of DT,
not that easy, for Fern Hill has half lines where the mind can skip forward to a similar half-line.
Later still we toured Wales four times, and stopped in Laugharne at a B&B which was previously a bar where the poet hung out. I was shocked to see Fern Hill the farm in town, on a knoll a wo hundred yards above the old square. I volunteered to recite some DT at his cottage, now a teahouse. For some tea. No go, "But you can recite some of his poems." I,"No, like Dylan Thomas, I only recite when remunerated--if only by tea."


The Swerve: How the World Became Modern
The Swerve: How the World Became Modern
by Stephen Greenblatt
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

3.0 out of 5 stars National Aeronautics and Space Agency hunts for G Bruno's worlds, not Lucretius's, so who began our modern universe?, 2 Dec. 2014
Excellent account of Poggio Bracciolini's discovery of the Lucretius MS, but an inflation of Lucretius's "modernity." * I say this as a scholar of Giordano Bruno, who also wrote Lucretius-like long poems on natural philosophy (what we call "science"). And Bruno really did invent one main aspect of the modern; he was even burned at the stake for it. This is the idea that National Aeronautics and Space Agengy, NASA, spends $20 Billion per year to prove. Other habitable worlds. Bruno said, an "Infinite number" of them in his 400pp Latin poem, 1592: De Innumerabilibus, immenso & infigurabilis; seu de universo et mundis. Bruno took the modern idea that stood Aristotle on his head, Copernicus's idea of the sun as center, not the Earth, and simply applied it to other stars. Bruno read Copernicus in the mid 1570s, and with his mathematical talent (wrote 5 books on math) he understood Copernicus's spherical geometry--something I have trouble doing, despite excellent HS math with Miss Parkman of Classical HS, Springfield MA (a course in which I beat the guys going to MIT--though not in calculus the next year). And I received a National Merit Scholarship on the basis of my Math and Verbal scores--but Copernicus's spherical geometry is very difficult for me. Not for Giordano Bruno.
*Compare: Lucretius, "necesse confiteare/ esse alios aliis terrarum in partibus orbis/ et varias hominum gentis et saecla ferrarum" (II.1077-76) [since the seeds are thrown together in every place] one must confess other lands, worlds in other regions,/different kinds of men and centuries of beasts.
And Bruno,"Eia age conscendas, statuam te in corpore Lunae,/ Aptato sensus, aptem rationis ut alas.."
Quick now, come up with me, I'll stand you on the Moon./Fly on reason, stand on your understanding..(IV.iii.1) "Iam tibi non Tellus sed vere Luna videtur," Already the Moon seems another Earth. (IV.iii.23-4)
In sum, Bruno ends his intro to Book IV (on Copernicus),
The true heavens I uphold with vast strength...
I uphold the Sun, and by such a star I am upheld,
And I hold Heaven, as I am by Heaven held in turn:
Thus I alone support the weight of an Atlas.

"Stellam ego substento, a stella substentor et idem,/ Et coelum teneo, a coelo tneorque vicissim:/ Ergo
se nostris submittant pondera Athlantis." (IV.i.41-43)


Odes and Epodes (Loeb Classical Library)
Odes and Epodes (Loeb Classical Library)
by Horace
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.95

0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What's to be tomorrow, just forget it, 6 Nov. 2014
Not salacious enough for my Latin taste: I prefer Ovid (esp Ars Amatoria and Remedia Amoris) as did Shakepseare, I believe, and Martial as did Byron but not his mother. But undeniably great, especially his use of meters no longer used, meters which make his verse easy enough to memorize that FErmor and the German general they captiured on Crete (?) knew the Horace, Vides ut alta stet nive candidum, I.9:

You see how high piled the white mountain
stands snowed in; no longer even trying,
branches yield their burdens, icy
rivers harden, freezing wicked.
Burn up this freeze, these logs above the fire
piled high; and yet more liberally, my friend,
uncork that fine provincial wine
I've saved for four years bottled.
Leave all else to gods, who once
they still the brawling winds and waves,
maybe then the old cypress
and mountain ash no longer shake.
What's to be tomorrow, just forget it.
Whatever Fate gives you for days,
chalk 'em up for gain, nor spurn
sweet loves and dances, boy,
while ice-white hair neglects to snow,
and roots are green. No go and seek
the park and square and whispers low
below the night, late hide and seek--
Now too, the squealer on the hidden girl,
her pleasing squeal itself, from private nook,
and something snatched from her...say, arm,
or finger, which resists so fiercely.

my trans, 1968


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