Designed by Danish furniture maker, Finn Juhl. That is all for today.
I do not join in the universal adulation that Merwin receives, not because I don’t enjoy him, but because I feel that he published two amazing, near perfect collections and everything that has followed merely repeats those successes to diminishing returns.
Both tackle his most prominent themes: environmental destruction (which becomes tied up with our own mortality) and opposition to war.
There’s not much to say that hasn’t already been said about this book. Now that it’s no longer nearly impossible to find, please look for it.
And I included an image of The Asians Dying because, while it’s unusually direct, is also perfectly devastating.
A battle of wills and stratagems betwixt Ru, the cunning and enslaving fungal sentience from Mars and Zaro, the last man not conditioned to avoid violence and war. And a secret tribe of Anarctican survivialists. And three or four deus ex machinas.
But you know what? It’s a brisk, snappily paced read, pleasantly and constantly propelled forward.
Also, these awesome ads at the end.
I also get Foreign Affairs and the weekend Washington Post.
Leaving the WaPo aside for the moment, I often don’t feel sure what to do with my other periodicals after I’ve read them. They all have wonderful staying power. Who would object to going back and reading some of the great articles published in the New York Review of Books down the road? But, conversely, who does want to risk being that person whose home is stacked with piles of moldering newspapers, becoming the subject of a sad human interest story after the fire department has to bust down the door once your sad, lonely, and malodorous corpse becomes decayed enough to alert the neighbors?
I have kept the Poetry issues because they are small and fit easily on bookshelves. Sadly, I have decided that Brooklyn Rail, for example, is more likely to become a testament to my own cluttered nature than a source of continued enlightenment through the years. So I toss them in the recycling.
I’m one of many people who started mourning too early. But even after it became clear that the reports were premature, it felt like a bad episode of a medical drama. People around me crying, Wait, wait! He’s not dead! We can save him. And me thinking, he’s gone, but you just can’t see it yet. On a practical level, it was because, it wasn’t a hoax that he had been found unconscious following cardiac arrest. That’s not something you come back from. As Christopher Hitchens said after being asked about his prospects after being diagnosed with stage 4 esophageal cancer, there’s not a stage 5. Miracles happen, but the world doesn’t feel very miraculous right now. We have inched closed to nuclear because of the rage tweets of a thin-skinned man child; another angry white man with a guy massacred dozens of people and we won’t do anything about gun control; and more, but I’m just not up to it, right now.
Tom Petty’s death affected me more than the horror in Las Vegas. It’s attributed to Stalin, but who knows if he ever said: one death is a tragedy, but a millions deaths are a statistic. And mass shootings feel like a statistic now. It’s just one of the costs of living of America, like toxic drinking water and institutional racism. We are just supposed to be grateful, right?
I felt like I knew Tom Petty. He was from Florida. He was the greatest songwriter of the last thirty-five or forty years. Every song on Damn the Torpedoes is amazing. No isn’t reassured by Don’t Back Down. Which is probably the song we need right now.
But I feel like backing down. I’ve been feeling that way for a while.
My child will never know Tom Petty. I try to make my child appreciate American Girl, but I’m not sure it will work. My child will be an American Girl, but also not. But mostly, my child will be from a place where Tom Petty, in a sense, does not exist. Which is a reminder of my own mortality. Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities wrote about the moment where the number of dead, a person know, outnumbers the living. I’m not close to that yet. Not by decades. But I can see the balance shifting. Tom Petty has shifted to the other balance.
Lately, in honor of the 80th anniversary of The Hobbit, there have been some defenses of Tolkien’s works as more morally nuanced than they are given credit for.
It is this truth which makes The Children of Hurin so difficult to read. The book is mostly about Hurin’s son, Turin. A great warrior and a charismatic figure, he inspires great love from most of those he meets. As the reader, I kept waiting for his revelation. For him to grow up and stop being petulant, impetuous, pointlessly wrathful. It never happened.
A few other characters realized that, beneath his good intentions and ability to kill evil monsters, he was kind of a jerk.
And everything, felt in vain, in the end.
Stylistically, it is more like the Silmarillion than the Lord of the Rings or the Hobbit. It’s affect is less naturalistic and more in the style of northern European sagas (think Beowulf or Njal’s Saga).