Thursday, July 18, 2013

Recent reading

Read a lot of The Fry Chronicles by Stephen Fry today. He briefly alludes to the fact that, although he's gay, he remained (wisely) aloof from the hardcore sexual anarchy of England's gay scene in the early '80s, on the cusp of the AIDS outbreak. Of the club scenes, the leather scenes, and other unsavoury scenes, he writes, "I found it all about as arousing as a Tupperware party." He did, he writes, venture the clubs once or twice, but nobody found him appealing -- which, in retrospect, he deems fortunate, as there were "trillions of microscopic reasons" to balk at anonymous sex.

Almost romantically, even almost winsomely, he writes: "My dream partner was a friendly, dreamy, funny young man with whom I could walk, talk, laugh, cuddle, and play."  I say bravo Stephen Fry. I think the stirrings of conscience, or his guardian angel, or something, told him that something was very sickeningly amiss from the anarchically dangerous atmosphere of the clubs. Can't we applaud Stephen for recognizing that there are things in a relationship that are more important than carnality? Who wouldn't want a mate with whom one can "walk, talk, laugh, cuddle and play"?

At any rate. About the highest tribute I can pay to Mr Fry is that his prose still compels my sympathetic and compassionate attention, even when he writes about matters that ordinarily lie outside the scope of my interest. (After reading the first volume of his autobiography, Moab Is My Washpot, I came to identify with him intensely, as his schooldays were spent in the throes of an impossible infatuation -- much like my college days [although my unrequitable ardour was of a hetero nature!].)

Oh, yes -- Fry is an atheist and a lefty. And one of my very favourite personalities in the world.

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I should someday resume my reading of Fr Ciszek, the priest imprisoned by the Stalinists, and of course the Bergoglio book On Heaven and Earth. Perhaps tonight!

Last night -- or was it early this morning? -- I had a Dylan Thomas poetry craving! I read the last part of "Ballad of the Long-Legged Bait." Odd, sprawling, almost hallucinatory poem, like Rimbaud's "Drunken Boat."

Amazing, how Dylan Thomas with the equivalent of a 10th-grade education had better command of grammar (and poetic meter) than most of today's American college graduates.

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I recently reviewed John Hollander's neat little anthology Committed to Memory for Amazon. A recent acquisition, it struck me as rather enjoyable! -- although, as with any anthology, one can quibble about inclusions and exclusions. Some poems in it I hadn't given a serious reading to since Mr Waldron's English class! "To a Waterfowl" and "Dover Beach" and "Casey at the Bat."

The anthology has a formalist bias, as well it might. Formal poems are easier to memorize, I would submit, than poems in vers libre.