Wednesday, March 09, 2011

What I'm Reading Now

Books acquired along the way, on the recent roadtrip. This isn't all I acquired, just the highlights. I'm reading a couple of science fiction series, for example. I also picked up a lot of

The real finds here are the Complete Poems of DH Lawrence, and Kenneth Rexroth. These are both important collections. I had once owned a copy of a different edition of the Lawrence, but had to sell it when I was moving to New Mexico, some years ago. It's good to have it again, as a reference and source. Lawrence was in some ways a better poet than novelist; and even though many of his poems are didactic, in the same way that Walt Whitman's poems can be didactic, Lawrence's poetry contains a white-hot passion and intensity that are marvelous. His poems about natural forces, about animals (his memorable whale poems, for example), and about sex, are all necessary reading.

The Rexroth Collected, along with a couple of of other poetry books, I have already written about. It's an important collection by an important poet, who is only now starting to earn the reputation he long deserved.

The Marshall McLuhan book here, Culture Is Our Business, is a whimsical book that analyses American culture through its presentation in advertising. McLuhan looks at dozens of ads, arranged topically, with wit, irony, and intelligence. What we advertise not only tells us about ourselves, but the lacunae, what is missing, tells us much as well. McLuhan looks at the values presented by corporate commercialism, and finds them lacking in real humanity. This book from the 1970s is even more relevant now than when it was first published.

The Dashiell Hammett book, The Big Knockover, is a classic of noir mystery writing. This volume collects several short novels featuring Hammett's unnamed first-person detective, The Continental Op. So it's a classic of hardboiled detective fiction, alongside Raymond Chandler's novels. This was pulp fiction as its inception; it has become classic literature, still some of the best detective fiction ever written. It's fun to read most of these pieces again, and one or two for the first time. There are a lot of great character moments, and some fantastic dialogue, as one would expect from this writer.

Growing Up Gay in the South is an anthology of stories, interviews, essays, and psychological and anthropological studies. It's one of the many recent studies of regional gay life. I enjoy reading these sorts of regional studies, because I do believe that regional culture affects all of its constituents, including its LGBT members. Local culture is universal culture, and it's something that we absorb in childhood and carry all our lives. I haven't gotten that far into book; just far to realize, again, that some stories are universal stories, even though they are also particular and individual. Growing up gay and living openly gay in the Midwest is the subject of the new music commission I am writing now, both lyrics and music. So this book adds another source to my research, to my materials for the commission. (I have written reviews of similarly-themed books elsewhere. Consider this the list of books that are part of the research for the music commission, along with the stories of the men in the chorus.)

There are other books in this pile that I haven't read yet. I'm a fast reader, so I'm likely to get to them soon. As usual, my tastes are diverse and eclectic, even omnivorous. So when I get around to them, I'll have more to say.

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