Yes, I realize that its 2019 but I told myself I was going to start reviewing two years ago. So here is me catching up.
The Trouble with Poetry by Billy Collins
Billy Collins is a great introduction to contemporary poetry. He uses plain language, and simple straightforward structure that treats a first time poetry reader nicely. It’s good training for the reader unaccustomed to how poetry communicates, transmitting some of the same rhetorical complexities of most poetry in a sleek, unimposing form. Collins’ writing is witty and often serene. And now and again he somehow ends up being profound. I find myself returning to him when my mind wants a lazy Sunday stroll.
Since my first reading I have heard some complaints about how Collins treats certain subjects. Only one of his poems comes to mind, one where he objectifies a woman/women in an image that works toward the greater point of the poem. Not all objectification is pornographic. It is often emotional or intellectual but objectification all the same. So I understand that some of these criticisms are warranted.
The Sonnets and Dreamtigers by Jorge Luis Borges
Borges is a profound Postmodern writer from Argentina. He is most famous for the short story collection “Labyrinths”, a book on my fiction shortlist. Although best know for his fiction he thought of himself first as a poet. As he became blind later in life he dedicated himself to the composition of his sonnets, as he could do that work in only his mind and then dictate the words to a typist later. His poems are cryptic but I remember enjoying them. Borges’ work was where I first discovered that artists could create their own language of symbols and images with an initially relative meaning that is gradually established and given to a reader through a whole body of work. I liked getting lost in Borges’ spinning dreams. There were a few of his stories at the back of “Dreamtigers”. They showed why he is so respected in that medium. He is definitely an author I will return to. I’ll probably understand him better next time.
The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
O’Brien is an excellent writer. This collection of short stories about the Vietnam War is uniquely powerful because of a question, a mystery presented to the reader right away but never answered. That is, are these stories true, biographical or purely fiction? O’Brien’s intimate narration and total immersion into the horror and wonder filled world he was thrown into as young man make these stories of fiction seem utterly real. This work creates a suspension of disbelief for the reader that is arguably incomparable.
Tim O’Brien visited my university while I was an undergrad and during his speech he portrayed himself and his writing with the same moral relativism and “neutrality” is all too common in contemporary America. But in the same breathe he spoke in utter disbelief of how once a High school student told him that this book was what inspired him to join the Marines. O’Brien broke down crying after that.
A good book to show your older children great writing and the horror of war.
The Hound of the Baskerville by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Doyle at his finest. I believe this book serves as a prophecy of doom coming to the 18th century British aristocracy and social order. Not to be missed.
Versification by James McAuley
The single best introduction to verse and meter. McAuley was Tasmanian Catholic poet and academic that was often mocked by the literary Modernist institution. He is a good poet whose work I’ll hopefully get to soon. But this short book is indispensable for the teaching of poetry. McAuley presents versification as a systematic whole that I believe only a Christian mind could bring to the subject, eliminating the many confusions that have been brought into the teaching of English meter. Although it’s a little hard to get through, once I understood, it was like someone turned on the lights
The Door Into Summer by Robert A. Heinlein
My fist Heinlein book. Not the most enthralling writing or story, but still a fun ride about invention, personal relationships, time-travel with a twist at the end. Many of Heinlein’s comments throughout the book are worth noting. This book showed me that sci-fi authors are just Postmillennialists chained to their naturalist worldview.
Red Rising by Pierce Brown
A fun sci-fi novel that follows the YA Dystopian bandwagon. It follows the quest of a young miner who must break from his social caste to infiltrate the tyranny that keeps his people enslaved. It reads fast and I enjoyed it. Not the best writing but good for YA. The worst issue was pacing but a great debut.