Friday, November 11, 2005

nov 7 new yorker: MacFarquhar's buried gem

The article on Ashbery was long, and only some parts of it held my interest. But I will always respect MacFarquhar for this:

On Ashbery's mother: "But she had, he says, 'the terrible strength of the weak' - a phrase he knows he read somewhere but can't place. (It's the way Scarlett describes Melanie in 'Gone with the Wind.')" (93)

She may have only had to google a few words to find this out, but it rocks. Ashbery's not so old that he can't place most of the allusions he makes - he remembers de Quincy on spring (92). But he forgets this one. He'd like to forget the very bad, very racist, very popular novels US literature has produced and canonized, just as it has produced him, lovely Mr. Ashbery. But they can stick . . . and Gone with the Wind will always be lurking in and around Ashbery's thoughts and feelings. Once it is written it is written, and if it is read it is read, and we are left to face the consequences.

Of course you could argue that it is a sentiment more broadly known and expressed and Margaret Mitchell picked it up somewhere else and so did Ashbery . . . and the way MacFarquhar phrases her aside allows for this. Smart, sneaky, great.

And I liked the all Ashbery poetry. Better than last month's "Fog Spirits/On Halloween" a poem about, of course, the poet's daughter on Halloween. I kid you not. I am categorically against poetry about one's own children. Would the NYer publish people's photos of their children? I would hope not. Get a blog, people!

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3 Comments:

Blogger sepoy said...

The David Remnick piece, Translation Wars, was a great read, I must say. Maybe cuz I was on a trans-great-plains flight, but...still. Best thing was Oprah writ cartoonish.

9:40 PM  
Blogger zp said...

Who knew that you'd comment on my blog before I commented on yours? There have been more than a few times when I've wanted to add my two cents . . .

The first time I tried to read War and Peace I tried to read a translation for 6th graders . . . and I was NOT in 6th grade. I didn't read this article, but I mean to, but what else is new?

3:15 PM  
Blogger zp said...

update. remnick's translation wars is a serious page turner. i love it and i'm part way through. love especially the descriptions of Garnett translating from the Russian as read aloud, and P/V's tag team translation process. there is something about this work that appeals to me. something about how language actually does work through consensus, now and then, however frustrating we might find it.

fyi, i totally hate translation snobs and still hold a grudge against a friend for some "words" we had over a translation of adorno. humph.

11:21 AM  

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