Thursday, May 23, 2013

Urban defense tool

Today at lunch I purchased a copy of Gargantua and Pantagruel by Francois Rabelais, in the 1982 Franklin Library edition, which means that it's a big, red, faux leather-bound book that weighs a couple of pounds. I'll be dragging it around for a couple of weeks while I read it and I expect to be either in much better shape or hunchbacked when I'm done. Yes, kindle schmindle sit on a spindle, you. I could beat a bear to death with this volume, if it came to that, so color me prepared.

I was pleased to see the book (a collection of five picaresque and allegedly scatological novels from the 16th century) because I've been wanting to read it for some time but I never remember to actually look for a copy when I'm in a book shop. This edition's size and color, with the gauche gilt trim on the spine, rather jumped off the shelf at me, and it was only $15 so how--how, I ask you--could I refuse to buy it? Lately I've been thinking that I needed something sprawling and goofy to read, something not written by a Russian, an Irishman or an American, and so there's this. And like I say, I'm prepared in case of a shirty bear.

Also, page 80 of Marly Youmans' excellent Thaliad scared the bejesus out of me today. Death as negation, as violent unmaking, humanity replaced by--by what? I don't know--beautifully and graphically observed, well done indeed.

12 comments:

  1. I have a terribly memory for my past books--I seem to jettison a good bit once they're stowed in print. Shall have to go and take a look... But it's always satisfying to get a response out of a reader, as you know very well!

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  2. As I read Thaliad, I kept going back and reading passages over again, half for the aesthetic experience and half to puzzle over how you did things (which is, I guess, a different aesthetic experience, innit?). My only complaint against this book is that it's too short. I'd have read another 200 pages, there being so many good ideas in pursuit of which I would have willingly followed you.

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  3. I have this same fat edition, picked up at a book sale last year. Prompted by your post, I may haul it down and have a look. An ambitious high school French teacher had us read significant portions of G&P, and I suspect that has made all the difference.

    [Exeunt, pursued by a bear].

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  4. Right now I'm trying to decide if I want to finish Finnegans Wake before I start G&P. How many great big books do I want to haul around town with me? I could finish the Joyce by the middle of June if I don't let myself get distracted the way I've been doing since February. It's a puzzler.

    The illustrations are really fine in the Franklin Library edition. I don't believe my copy has ever been read.

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  5. I assume that the Franklin Library edition is the Urquhart translation? I would not want to read it and FW at the same time. They are close cousins in some ways.

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  6. Translated by John M. Cohen, whose name means nothing to me at all. The introduction seems quite fine.

    I've decided to finish FW before I read this. But I'm reading this next, damn it.

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  7. J. M. Cohen, Mr. Penguin - he did lots of the Penguin Classics French and Spanish translations.

    Too bad it is not Urquhart. That is a book I would like other people to read and write about. It is from 1653. At some point you should take a favorite bit of Cohen and compare it to Urquhart. I bet they will be really different.

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  8. The Urquhart is all over the web, so that should be easy enough. But first there's Mr Joyce, who seems to hint at some kind of mutual blackmail between Mr and Mrs Earwicker. I think. He might actually be talking about Napoleon again instead. Like Pykk, I should start a running commentary comparing FW to a gangster film.

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  9. Wow, 200 more more pages?

    Most people would not think to pick up a long poem these days, however exciting, even with spectacular art by Clive. If I'd known that I had even a single reader who craved 300 pages instead of 100, I might well have been tempted! I really like blank verse...

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  10. I must have been quite impressed. Extra "more." XD

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  11. More more, yes! My favorite read from last year was Fitzgerald's translation of The Aeneid, and I'm a long-time Shakespeare reader, so I discovered your book at a perfect point in life, I suppose.

    I'm also trying, in general, to read more poetry. I think American fiction these days shows a distinct lack of poetry, and that's an awful weakness. American novelists are producing a lot of ugly prose. Which must explain why I don't read so many current American novels.

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  12. Hmm, interesting. Starting as a poet and then moving into the novel, I don't have that problem but have to be careful not to be too dratted "poetic" at times.

    I am not reading that much fiction at the moment (because I read 316 books for the nba, and now I am still behind in everything!), but I believe you.

    However, I would say that a lot of American poets are producing a lot of (sometimes-ugly) prose, too.

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