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reading tiger

Reading Wednesday

I finished "Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking," which remained remarkable down to the last sentence. The inevitable-after-all recipes were tucked in the back of the book, one per decade. Except for the 1940s, which von Bremzen represents with a reproduction of a ration card instead.

Now I am about 3/4 through Claudia Rankine's "Citizen: An American Lyric." Probably more than 3/4 through because I cheated and read ahead a bit (and to the final (prose) page, which, since tennis is a recurring subject matter here, is an ace). If you want a formal comment, here's one: best use of second person ever. Also: the sculpture on the cover, the hoodie? Was made in 1993. A fact which conveys well the sort of floating timeliness/timelessness of the book. "Before it happened, it had happened and happened." The specifics are timely. The patterns are not. But lest you get too abstract thinking about those patterns, Rankine is going to ground you in details. Specifics. This tension is the engine of the book. It's an incredible book. I mean, it's a book of poetry that's being talked about. That should clue you in.

One motif I particularly took note of: the conversations that stop before they start. "This exchange, in effect, ends your lunch. The salads arrive." "instinctively you take two steps back though all urgency leaves the possiblity of any kind of relationship as you realize nowhere is where you will get from here." "The transaction goes swiftly after that."

And since I mentioned tennis: the very best writing ever on Serena Williams is contained in these pages -- clearly an answer to Tony Hoagland's "The Change," particularly since Rankine called that poem out so eloquently a few years ago. (Here. The last two paragraphs, very slightly revised, reappear in the text of "Citizen.")

And finally: Judith Butler put to good, clear use.

(Slate (of all places) has a particularly nice and worthy-of-reading look at this much-discussed book here.)


I clearly don't pay enough attention to poetry. Thank you for turning me on to this. After sucking up all the Claudia Rankine I can find without leaving my house, she's become one of my favorites.
Second link is a repeat of the first, but I found the article through Google and it looks interesting, thanks.
Fixed. Thanks for the catch!
Seconding the thank you - I'm ordering her book now.