Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Poetry Novels

Ever since starting my latest Parnassus piece on novels about poets--I'll always think of it as "Buffy the Poetry Slayer," even though I've had to change the title since--I've kept an eye out for such books. In addition to the ones I write about in the piece, I've come across two that look intriguing, although I haven't had the chance to read either of them yet.

The first is Passion: a Novel of the Romantic Poets, by one Jude Morgan. I picked this up a few weeks ago, started it, and had to stop when the deadline pressure got too hot. The first few chapters read very well, though, and took a promising approach to the times and the topic: namely, they start a generation back and a gender away from Byron, Keats, Shelley, et. al., with a focus on the women who will enter the poets' lives: Mary Shelley, Fanny Brawne, Lady Caroline Lamb, Augusta Leigh, etc. I've actually spent very little time with the British Romantics over the years--maybe this novel will be a good hook to reel me in. I'll keep you posted.

The "Book of the Day" this morning, over at Nextbook, is a Canadian novel by A. M. Klein: a name I don't know, although he was apparently a significant poet up there in the Great White North. Anyone out there ever read him, or her? (Note to self: one of my heteronyms in coming years should be E. M. Selinger, maybe, to provoke similar musings in others.) Anyway, the novel in question is:
A.M. Klein
The Second Scroll
New Canadian Library, $6.95

In the year following Israel's founding, a Montreal publisher asks a young local poet to travel through the fledgling country and return with "a volume of translations of the poems and songs of Israel's latest nest of singing birds." The poet, a stand-in for Klein, has a different journey in mind: He wants to find his Uncle Melech, who survived the Holocaust and is now presumed to be in the Holy Land.

Reminiscent of Nabokov and Joyce, this lyrical novel begins with five chapters that correspond with (and are named for) the five books of the Torah. The five sections that follow, meanwhile, take the form of scholarly glosses on the first five. Through his unusual structure and the precision of his language, Klein somehow manages to chronicle history's violent episodes while continually hitting notes of hope.
Sounds interesting enough, and when I get the chance (ha-ha) I may pick it up, although it sounds perhaps more like fodder for my Big Jewish Blog than this one.

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