Sunday, May 28, 2006

Reading. Milosz.

The books I read can be divided strictly into two categories: those I am looking for, and those I have stumbled upon, accidentally, attracted by a title or a beautifully designed cover. (I am a sucker for a beautifully designed cover). In such a way I absent-mindedly came home with Milosz's ABC's, by the poet Czeslaw Milosz. I had not read his work before, and my attention had been attracted by the charming woodblock print on the front, the bold font of the title with its curly flourishes, black against the pale yellowy-green of the paper cover.

It is my perverse nature that brings me to prefer non-fiction written by famous novelists, or novels written by poets, or books of essays by either. I don't know why that happens. Perhaps I feel that their own soul, their true thoughts come through to me more clearly. So here I am, going through all the people central to Milosz's life, places, things, ideas, all organized alphabetically, a seemingly endless series of short essays, some too short to even be essays. Memories. He moves between Poland and America, across Europe, commenting on everything and everyone imaginable. In alphabetical order. It breaks up the continuity, the context of things, in a way that is almost disorienting. His writing is so clear and pure and sharply piercing that I wonder what his poetry must be like. I think I will come back to this book again and again, as I look for some writers he mentions and reread others that I have long loved or loathed, reviewing and reflecting and re-seeing them through his eyes, the lens of his words. Sometimes one work of literature has the kaleidescopic ability to alter your view on another one, a certain idea, so you see a pattern, a truth, that was never revealed to you before and will never be the same again.

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