What is A/S Reading? – No. 23

What is A/S Reading? Why serious things of course. (When we aren’t preparing for the Geek Love Lit Party coming up on April 1st, that is.)

Managing Editor Laura McMillan is reading The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco:

I think eventually this turns into a murder mystery, but so far it’s mostly the main character describing the spiritual acid trips that church decor sends him on. To wit:

And as I withdrew my fascinated eye from that enigmatic polyphony of sainted limbs and infernal sinews, I saw beside the door, under the deep arches, sometimes depicted on the embrasures in the space between the slender columns….a voluptuous woman, naked and fleshless, gnawed by foul toads…I saw a miser, stiff in the stiffness of death on his sumptuously columned bed, now helpless prey to a cohort of demons, one of whom tore from the dying man’s mouth his soul in the form of an infant….brutes with six-fingered hands, sirens, hippocentaurs…chimeras, cynophales who darted fire from their nostrils, crocodiles…two-headed creatures whose backs were armed with teeth, hyenas, otters…and sea turtles. The whole population…facing Him who will come at last to separate the quick from the dead.

The actual passage goes on for a solid six pages.

Editor-at-Large Diana Clarke is reading What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank by Nathan Englander:

The other night on the subway I got stuck standing directly in front of a guy with white supremacist hand tattoos who was using his phone to play a first-person shooter game called Heil Wars, and then realized I was reading a book with Anne Frank in the title! But I just kept reading because the book is so good–and because the absurdity and personal-historical anxiety of the whole situation was exactly the kind of thing that might be in one of Englander’s stories. Plus it’s really rare to find a book of fiction (short stories, especially) that grapples so elegantly yet angrily with the legacy of cultural memory, and that’s also totally accessible and sexy and funny and weird and political.

Editor-at-Large Chris Timmins is reading De/Compositions: 101 good poems gone wrong by W.D. Snodgrass

My MFA professor told me to “get the Snodgrass.” I did, and I am forever grateful for that badass advice, because he (Snodgrass) reminds you exactly what bad writing (especially poetry) is–something that’s good to remember, even for the slush pile slaves. The real value, however, is in demonstrating what makes great poems great–their subtlety, their specificity, their undercurrents, and their musical grace. The opening stanza from the de/composed version if Yeats’ “Sailing to Byzantium” is a fantastic example:

Old Ireland’s not a place the old should go.
The young make love, birds mate in all the trees–
Live generations sing the songs they know
Of salmon streams and mackeral-crowded seas
While birds and beasts commend their whole lives long
Whatever’s full of passion till it dies.
Entrapped in sensuous music all neglect
The old with their maturing intellect.

Or the first lines, de/composed into anapests from Blake’s “Tyger”:

O tyger, you creature that’s burning so bright
In the threatening, darkening forests of night…

Publicist Vicki Lame provided the above photo of her latest read.

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