January 25th, 2011 / 6:24 am

Hill of Beans, Can of Words

These are some books I bought or otherwise acquired recently. A hill of words.

& that is a can of beans.

Ben Mirov
Ghost Machine
(not pictured)
Pittsburgh, PA — 2010

I read most of this book at the park that is in the book on a pretty much perfect day and it was a hell of a pairing I have to say. It has the kind of restraint my own work lacks a lot. Makes me jells but not bad way. Read the rest at my ex’s apartment who is no longer my ex while she made me dinner, which I could not believe was happening and yet there it was happening. I often felt breathless and thought maybe that’s not such a dumb name for a movie after all. So generally I have generally positive feelings towards this book, a lot of them. I bought it at Dog Eared Books and it is signed. Besides which fact it is great. The writing is like light as a feather touch as in duh, a ghost. Really it is: something else. “Ghost Drafts” is an epic burner of equal flirtation to the best Robert Fripp guitar solos. It has the best epigraph I’ve maybe read in that it actually conveyed some kind of insight into the work and was at the close of the book rather than the beginning, which when you think about it is a more logical place for an epigraph to be. After all, where is an epilogue? Anyway, I can’t say enough good things about this book so I will just have to stop. I think this is my favorite set of lines:

I want a relationship with noise. You people kill me with your blaah. Keep drinking water. We talk for five minutes. It’s shaped like sleep.

Kristina Born
One Hour of Television
Year of the Liquidator
Atlanta, GA — 2009

I haven’t had a chance to start in on this yet so I flipped through with my eyes closed and landed on this page:

In my depression my favorite movie was Erin Brockovich. When watching Erin Brockovich I would sit on the floor, very close to the television. I would wait for a scene in which Julia Roberts is speaking. Julia Roberts spoke and I would press my forehead against the image of her mouth and pray for her to eat me.

Mike Topp
Sasquatch Stories
Publishing Genius
Baltimore, MD — 2010

I read most of this while waiting a while for an Italian sausage calzone. I thought it was cheesy that I felt like I had déjà vu because that was the name of the place I was waiting. I realized oh it’s just that I’ve read some of this before. A lot actually. Oh well. I think I’m going to give it to someone I don’t know on the bus or maybe on the train. I took the calzone home and ate it on my roof. I watched the sun set. I went downstairs to my living room. I turned on a lamp and read the rest of the book. I felt pretty weird for a while, a little giggly. I felt like I had a bubble bath in my mouth and I was in my mouth being bubbly. Like I had been smoking salvia. The sun was not in my eyes. I went for a walk. I’m just kidding, it’s pretty funny though.

Today I saw a tanager talking to a stellar jay. Stupid birds!

Fernando Pessoa
The Book of Disquiet
Tr. Richard Zenith
Penguin Books
New York, NY — 2003

Nibbling on this thing a lot. I pick it up every now and again and I like it a lot. I think it’s about writing, mostly. I get this guy in my gut. I feel like it’s the kind of book that maybe will float around my head for years to come like a cold that doesn’t hurt. Pessoa, Joyce of Lisbon, from the age of 6 invented characters he called heteronyms, which he would later write as and into the number of seventy-two, according to translator and fanboy Richard Zenith. Seventy-two individualized characters with backstories and stuff, in which he wrote in the first person and which he used as pseudonyms: four of whom are named “Fernando Pessoa.” This book was found in a trunk after he died. It was written by “Bernardo Soares.”


The love of absurdity and paradox is the animal happiness of the sad. Just as the normal man talks nonsense and slaps others on the back out of zest and vitality, so those incapable of joy and enthusiasm do somersaults in their minds and perform, in their own cold way, the warm gestures of life.

Graham Foust
To Anacreon in Heaven
Minus A Press
Berkeley, CA — 2010

Carrying it with me, waiting for the right time with nothing to do and a little world to unglue.
A random something: “I think of me sinking with a submarine’s weird quiet.”
Another: “I’m every word; the depth’s no worse for it.”
“My throat’s a muscle.”

Danielle Collobert
It Then
Tr. Norma Cole
O Books
Oakland, CA — 1989

This book is INTENSE. I recommend it if you want to read some INTENSE poetry a little along the lines of like Lara Glenum but way more emotional or in a different way I’m talking too much, by which I mean something INTENSE is like a mild to medium level of INTENSITY.  Bring your gaume face for this opening hook:

It — flows — it bangs itself — slammed into walls — it picks itself up — stamps feet — it doesn’t go far — four steps to the left — new wall — it extends its arms — leans — leans hard — rubs its head — again — harder — forehead — there — the forehead — hurts — rubs harder — becomes inflamed — not the forehead — from within — cries

Muriel Cerf
Street Girl
Tr. Dominic di Bernardi
Dalkey Archive
Elmwood Park, IL — 1988

I bought this randomly. It’s an early first edition Dalkey Archive, which is like Criterion for books; I figured how bad could it be and after all it is beautiful. First sentences of a random section:

Aside from life science, we didn’t learn anything about life in school. We were told lies. We were treated like real jerks. They fractioned us, rationalized us, divided the world up into samples. ANALYSIS in all its horror ran rampant. The obsession with dissection, the rage to nitpick around poets’ hearts with a scalpel, a madness which has affected mankind from the fifth century in Greece to the present day, passing through the good old Cartesian eighteenth century. We, on the other hand, suspected that the truth was intuitive, something lived, and the world, activity and beckoning, in which there existed antimatter and the square root of minus one, utterly irreducible to thesis-antithesis-synthesis.

Tan Lin
Seven Controlled Vocabularies and Obituary 2004.
The Joy of Cooking [airport novel musical poem painting theory film photo landscape]
a book of meta data [standards] downloaded, recipes, with photographs from a flea market

Wesleyan University Press
Middletown, CT — 2010

One day I will spend some time on this. Smells like Gertrude Stein on designer drugs.


There are no machines of freedom, by definition.

W.H. Auden
Random House
New York, NY — 1950

Read the first few poems. “In Praise of Limestone” is like really good. This is easily the most pristine sixty year old book I have bought. It looks like someone put it in a box before reading it and then forgot where they put the box. Silly book-boxers. Let’s face it, Auden can be a little corny but what of it.

“Their Lonely Betters”

As I listened from a beach-chair in the shade
To all the noises that my garden made,
It seemed to me only proper that words
Should be withheld from vegetables and birds.

A robin with no Christian name ran through
The Robin-Anthem which was all it knew,
And rustling flowers for some third party waited
To say which pairs, if any, should get mated.

No one of them was capable of lying,
There was not one which knew that it was dying
Or could have with a rhythm or a rhyme
Assumed responsibility for time.

Let them leave language to their lonely betters
Who count some days and long for certain letters;
We, too, make noises when we laugh or weep,
Words are for those with promises to keep.

James Joyce
The Gabler Edition
Vintage Books
New York, NY — 1986

I’m on Episode 12: Cyclops. Want to go on a beer bust with this man. It seems as though the book itself is teaching me how to read the novel the right way, more than any book on reading I’ve ever read. Although I spied a rad looking one by Ezra Pound the other day called ABC of Reading that may well be a contender. Ezra was, after all, the reason Ulysses was serialized. I can’t even imagine reading the thing in 1918, it would have blown my head off as I’m sure it did so many. Obviously. It’s pretty easy I think for me to read now because I’ve read so much coming off of this flare in the dark.

I-2 364-372:

On the steps of the Paris stock exchange the goldskinned men quoting prices on their gemmed fingers. Gabble of geese. They swarmed loud, uncouth, about the temple, their heads thickplotting under maladroit silk hats. Not theirs: these clothes, this speech, these gestures. Their full slow eyes belied the words, the gestures eager and unoffending, but knew the rancours massed about them and knew their zeal was vain. Vain patience to heap and hoard. Time surely would scatter all. A hoard heaped by the roadside: plundered and passing on. Their eyes knew their years of wandering and, patient, knew the dishonours of their flesh.

Anne Carson
New Directions
New York, NY — 2010

This is a damned handsome book. It’s a box with folded paper in it. I’m not waxing metaphors here: it is a cardboard box which contains folded paper; a recreation, actually, of the epitaph she made for her brother: a messy collage of photographs, pieces of letters, stamps, and stories. It’s too bad I don’t know no Greek because there is some Greek and it is Greek to me. Going to get some help with some translation from a friend. A random page:

Prowling the meanings of a word, prowling the history of a person, no use expecting a flood of light. Human words have no main switch. But all those little kidnaps in the dark. And then the luminous, big, shivering, discandied, unrepentant, barking web of them that hangs in your mind when you turn back to the page you were trying to translate.

Stephen Moore
The Novel: An Alternative History
Beginnings to 1600
New York, NY — 2010

I’m reading this cake a chunk at a time. The breadth of knowledge in it really makes one realize how few books most have read. But that’s okay. Because we don’t have time to read all of these books, Moore, who used to be an editor at Dalkey Archive, explains his findings from the land of forgotten words, breaking down walls re: book length, prose v. poetry, surrealism v. realism, etc. In general Moore’s attitude is pretty tight and I like his concerns about style over content. Can’t wait to read the rest, and the forthcoming completion. This is typical of the book:


While some Vikings were terrorizing Ireland and destroying books, Vikings of the better sort settled in Iceland and eventually began writing books. Icelandic literature developed much as Irish literature did: oral tales circulated for the first 130 years, from around 870 when the first settlers arrived until around 1000, when they converted to Christianity. As in Ireland, Christianity brought histories, and legal codes. Beginning in the 13th century, certain innovators began giving literary form to the old stories about life in pre-Christian Iceland in the form of “sagas” (from the verb sagja, “say, tell”), narratives based on family histories but arranged like tales. In doing so, Icelandic writers basically invented the social realist novel, some 600 years before Balzac introduced the genre in continental Europe.

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  1. zusya

      the icelandic sagas are nuts. tales of baby kings leaping from their cribs to cleave heads in twain, then running off with hoards of ne’er-do-wells to find themselves wenches a plenty.

      also: nice beans.

  2. Adam Robinson

      Thanks for buying/mentioning the Topp book and getting a calzone — another good pairing.

  3. stephen

      i have that version of Ulysses. Fuck John Kidd! (jk)

  4. letters journal

      The other week I ate my first calzone in about 6 years. It was heavenly.

  5. deadgod

      Cyclops is very funny – “‘Your God was a jew.'” I think the citizen has a weakknightly show on foxgoebbels.

  6. Anonymous

      ghost machine is the shit.

  7. reynard

      —Who made those allegations? says Alf.
      —I, says Joe. I’m the alligator.

  8. reynard

      the other day i found a PG button on my living room floor, pretty sure mike young dropped it here, gonna rawk it

  9. reynard

      thanks! DL: books are beans because

  10. Trey


  11. Mike Young

      button thief!

  12. reynard

      i just laughed in a sort of sinister way, feeling sinister

  13. deadgod

      Concerning that Gabler edition of You Lie, Seas:

      Go to pp. 59-60 (in the 5th chapter, Lotus Eaters). The sentence over those two pages:

      His fingers drew forth the letter the letter and crumpled the envelope in his pocket.


      [Customer service on aisle J, please. Bring tree-frog darts, please.]

  14. Sean

      read Ghost Machine

  15. reynard

      i dunno it’s so hard to say what is a misprint with that thing, people really seem to hate it, mine is clearly a different printing from yours because the pages are different and it is in mine, so i would say that had some reason to believe it was intentional, certainly i don’t think there is logic behind it

  16. deadgod

      I checked the Gabler paperback and “the letter” is definitely printed twice over those two pages: “the letter the” [turn page] “letter”. I looked at another edition – only one; twice-stupidly, I neither wrote down nor remember which – and it didn’t have that redundancy. I’m pretty sure it’s just a small misprint – call it ‘the deadgod differance’.

      People “really hate” the Gabler? Do they say why? – because the thing was (over-)pushed as being such a great scholarly achievement when it was released? It seems perfectly useful to me, excepting only that world-historical ‘deadgod differance’.