Tuesday, August 31, 2004

I've just finished Nathaniel Bellow’s “The First Four Measures,” a short story in the Paris Review. That is the first short story I’ve read in a real long while, and it is really really deft at its own telling, at putting itself together as it goes, like a machine and inevitable, but feelingly feeling along. I’ve heard E.L. Doctorow say he hasn’t finished reading a novel through in however-long because he sees what’s happening after the first fifty to seventy pages. I admired him for that but I saw where this was going halfway through the second section and still read it (maybe this is because it is the first, and not the ten-thousandth, short story I’ve read in a few years) and felt/experienced the spring, what was the situational sadness and entrapment at the end. The story as inevitable in its revelation of the boy growing being the simultaneity of his being cast into shape—his paralysis, to take the keystone word from the story’s hope, Dubliners.

I wished I could have written it—not had written it, mine would have been different, but that I could have. It’s so cold in its calculation, its craft of introduction—oblique to take the hit of initial attention, the way our bodies, our skulls, are, crafted to deflect impact by grace of evolution. The first page-and-a-half especially. I admire this, it’s lizardy compared to the hot composition-feel I get from almost all poetry. I know this sounds facile, but I’ve been reading for a while and am going with my nerves on this, do poets compose not hot ever? Even feelingly so at the time (composedly composing, that is), looking back I’ve just been unselfconscious of what I’m feeling enough that there is no place cool for perspective. What is it like to . . . stretch out . . . your feeling, like that, to write fiction? I used to be praised for my fiction and not my poetry—that’s why I stuck at poetry and not fiction, and now here I am, reduced to the moment.

I should go get quotes and show what I mean when I’m speaking that way. I’m being lazy I suppose. But that’s why I’m a poet (to get all defined on you and all), all I have to do is tell you my soul and I can do anything else I want (not that I am telling my soul now, but). I can even be lazy if I want, and if I tell my soul (not necessarily now but ever) then it’s ok, inevitable even, for me to be so.

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