what i’ve been reading lately: holiday 2008 edition

collected-poems-cp-cavafy1The Collected Poems of C.P. Cavafy

Cavafy’s language is beautiful, and his subject matter was initially of interest to me. But after a few poems, I ran into the same problem that I did with Rumi’s poetry: repetition. Cavafy basically only wrote about two things: Historical Greeks who lived throughout the Roman Empire (Cavafy himself was a Greek whose family had lived in Egypt for many generations), and homosexual love poems. I got no problem with either of those things, but a whole book of nothing but gets a little tiring.

C.P. Cavafy drinking game: Every time he uses the word “limbs”, do a shot!


1 Dead in Attic: After Katrina by Chris Rose

My mother bought this for me in Louisiana. It’s autographed, too! I’ve been wanting to read something about Hurricane Katrina, but was leery of getting something too exploitative or badly-written. Rose was the New Orleans Times-Picayune music critic; and although his family lived in Maryland for the first four months after Katrina, Rose himself stayed in the city pretty continously. 1 Dead in Attic is a collection of columns he wrote for his paper over the next year and a half, and as such reads like a memoir of war dispatches. Sometimes the writing is a shade corny in a Maya Angelou-esque WE WILL RISE! way, and sometimes it’s flat-out depressing, but overall it’s a worthwhile read.

the-satanic-versesThe Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie

I’ve been meaning to read this… shit, since it was published, practically. I was in high school at the time, and took a lot of interest in the fatwa controversy. I’m actually glad I didn’t read it earlier, because in the last few years I’ve learned more about Islam, and I think having that background knowledge made me enjoy it even more. But even without it, it’s still a sterling example of magical realism, a genre that rivals SF for the sheer amount of hackery that gets churned out in its name. So when a real gem comes along, it stands out.

By the way, I’ve heard all the stories about how Rushdie is allegedly a huge douche. Don’t care. Picasso was one of the biggest assholes who ever lived; that doesn’t mean we should burn Geurnica.

Is it possible that evil is never total, that its victory, no matter how overwhelming, is never absolute?

Consider this fallen man. He sought without remorse to shatter the mind of a fellow human being; and exploited, to do so, an entirely blameless woman, at least partly owing to his own impossible and voyeuristic desire for her. Yet this same man has risked death, with scarcely any hesitation, in a foolhardy rescue attempt.

What does this mean?


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