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11 March 2015

A few books I've enjoyed

I have family in town, and unlike the stereotypical disaster that proposition holds for some, I love having them here.  This is because they are not only good people and extremely funny, but because they are readers.  A few days ago I was asked what books and authors I've really enjoyed lately.  Here is my response:

Some favorites


Songbook by Umberto Saba
Canti by Leopardi
Love poems by Pablo Neruda


Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
My brilliant friend by Elena Ferrante
The Maias by Eça de Quieros
Club of Angels by Luis Fernando Verissimo
Maidenhair by Mikhail Shishkin
Ways of going home by Alejandro Zambra
My Struggle [vol.1] by Karl Ove Knausgaard
Nada by Carmen Laforet
Swann's Way by Marcel Proust 
Piano Stories by Felisberto Hernandez
The Insufferable Gaucho by Roberto Bolaño 
All Souls by Javier Marías


The consolations of philosophy by Alain de Botton
The architecture of happiness by Alain de Botton
A time of gifts by Patrick Leigh Fermor
Between the woods and the water by Patrick Leigh Fermor
Danube by Claudio Magris
The story of art by E. H. Gombrich
Soccer in Sun and Shadow by Eduardo Galeano
An intimate history of humanity by Theodore Zeldin
The art of happiness by Epicurus 
Wind, Sand, and Stars by Antoine de Saint-exupéry
Cosmopolitanism by Kwame Anthony Appiah
The art of travel by Alain de Botton

26 February 2015

Back in the saddle.

In the last five months, I have been battling cancer and neglecting this blog.  The cancer remains and I keep fighting, but I think it is time for me to start blogging again.  Out time is finite, and I can think of very few things I would rather do thank be with my family and talk about literature here with friends.

Posts are coming.  Cheers to all.

07 October 2014

And the Nobel will go to...

Thursday the Nobel Prize in Literature is announced, and so I continue my tradition of failing to pick the winner.  My record is 100 percent at not being even close to reality.  So, here we go again.  Play along at home.

First, five I feel deserve to win (the certain kiss of death to winning chances, sorry Javier):

  1. Javier Marías
  2. Cesar Aira
  3. Pascal Quignard
  4. Mikhail Shishkin
  5. Karl Ove Knausgaard

Next, three likely to win:

  1. Haruki Murakami
  2. Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o
  3. Adonis

And three who could win but should not:

  1. Haruki Murakami
  2. Peter Handke
  3. Philip Roth

And you? Who do you pick?

24 September 2014

a poem for September going into October

The little white death is coming.
Nothing existential or forever,
just the first snows

that blot out the tired grass
and the golden carpet of leaves
that have surrendered themselves

as messiah-like sacrifices to the future,
so that all might live and rise
again in the Spring.

26 August 2014

school is in session

My little princess is ready for her first day of second grade.

A historical poem of sorts

The Road to Rome

It's August 26, AD 79.

A young boy walks the road to Rome, his feet calloused and his ears now broken by the horrific blasts he has heard. Never again will he hear the sounds of birds or of other little boys or girls. He will never again hear his mother's voice, because he is now deaf, and she is now dead. His world is a pillar of smoke. Just a week before, he laughed as his father read him a dirty poem carved on a stone wall as they both went to the market. His strong father, a merchant, was building a future for the boy, a future of prosperity, a future undercut by total death.

Horses pass the boy, and he cannot hear the voices of the soldiers and engineers who have been sent from Rome to assess the scope of the catastrophe. “Boy,” they shout. “Boy!”

The boy shuffles on, emotions and awareness now as buried as his home. He has escaped with a few other stragglers.

“Forget him,” one soldier says. “He's like the others we've met. On to Pompeii.”

a poem for a Tuesday

My words are about you, about your taut skin
and the seaside blue of your eyes and the heat
pulsating from my cathedral, your body.

My words are about you, my greatest desire,
my poor words, impoverished and dependent
on adjectives, nouns, verbs...trifles.

My words are about you, they are calloused ropes
set to ensnare you, to halt time and rip space
and hold you steady and immortal.

My words are about you, and so about me
and my futile attempts to work base metals
into refined gold.

My words are about you, poor offerings from a poor beggar,
the only thing I can give you since you already
have my beating heart.

My words are about you, and I sing them like a bird
freed from the cage sings a song carried
aloft on white tufts of cloud.

My words are about you, and now I listen
as you cast forth the spell of your words,
and our words are about us.

RR Shea