Greg Gerke, 3:AM‘s Fiction Editor:
I tend to read many books at the same time. Whether a good or bad practice, it is what is. I’ve returned to a poet who haunts me in all the right ways, Wallace Stevens. His fourth book, Parts of a World, has mostly received scant notice from critics and scholars, but it is just as much a major part of the bedrock that made the man as was Harmonium. Without Parts of a World, there is no “Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction.” I’m going through every poem and then tracking back to Eleanor Cook’s wonderful A Reader’s Guide to Wallace Stevens. Since there are so many references to the letters of Stevens, I am also reading through The Letters of Wallace Stevens and am currently in 1938, when Stevens started writing Parts of a World. Then those letters pointed me toward Secretaries of the Moon, The Letters of Wallace Stevens and José Rodríguez Feo — a young Cuban poet-critic at the time. This book should be more popular than Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet because you have both sides of the correspondence, the drama of the age difference (40 years), and the poker game of Rodríguez Feo trying to pull literary opinions out of Stevens when Stevens was more interested in hearing of Cuba and the travails of Rodríguez Feo’s mother’s mental health. Imagine someone writing to Stevens, “My dear Wallachio.” Well, it happened.
Also, buoyed by Hugh Kenner and his fantastic A Homemade World, I’ve began re-reading Ulysses by Jimmy Joyce. Kenner might have been his best explicator with three and a third books devoted to him, and so I’m reading Kenner’s Ulysses as I mount Sandymount strand again. What can be said about Ulysses? Well, Stevens had a copy sent to him from France while it was banned in the U.S. And speaking of Stevens, Joyce, and many other artists under the sun, The Guy Davenport Reader has just been released from Counterpoint (review forthcoming). Inside is a spattering of his fiction, non-fiction, translations, and journals. A treasure. What else? T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets, some of his essays, Pound’s Cantos. Virginia Woolf’s Moments of Being and Plato’s Phaedrus. And speaking of philosophy, The Critique of Pure Reason by Gabriel Blackwell, which is fiction but is a philosophy of dealing with our hours on earth (review forthcoming).
First posted: Tuesday, July 9th, 2013.