I return to certain passages in my favorite reviews — and not only book reviews — as if they were poems: Manny Farber describing John Wayne as “focusing only on a tiny present area, nibbling at it with engaging professionalism and a hipster sense of how to sit in a chair leaned against the wall”; Robert Christgau asking of Mary Chapin Carpenter, “Why do I believe this Nashville liberal showers three times a day and doesn’t think sex is the right place to get your face wet?”
Janet Malcolm can write. Yes she can. She wrote about some artists & stuff. I reviewed what she wrote here. I quoted my sister’s email without telling her. I like art. It’s so much like snow.
I writ about language usage, its discontents, style manuals, & the fascist inside me here. Let us go then, you & I.
(Not paywalled. You just have to register. It’s free.)
Renata Adler! Speedboat! I review! Please subscribe to Printers Row so I can keep my job!
Reviewed Barthes’s Mythologies for the Chicago Tribune’s Printers Row.
And then I wrote about religion for the Tribune, link here, xoxo:
Speaking of which, while everyone’s being so clever about Ratzinger, let’s not forget that, whatever else he may be, he’s a first-rate intellect. His Introduction to Christianity is well worth reading, no matter yr beliefs:
Faith is located in the act of conversion, in the turn of one’s being from worship of the visible and practicable to trust in the invisible. The phrase “I believe” could here be literally translated by “I hand myself over to”, “I assent to”. In the sense of the Creed, and by origin, faith is not a recitation of doctrines, an acceptance of theories about things of which in themselves one knows nothing and therefore asserts something all the louder; it signifies an all-encompassing movement of human existence; to use Heidegger’s language, one could say that it signifies an “about-turn” by the whole person that from then on constantly structures one’s existence. In the procedure of the threefold renunciation and the threefold assent, linked as it is with the thrice-repeated symbolization of resurrection to new life, the true nature of faith or belief is clearly illustrated: it is a conversion, an about-turn, a shift of being.
Alien vs. Predator reviewed in this Sunday’s New York Times Book Review
Swoon. Swoon. Swan. Swan. Hummingbird. Hovercraft. Kraftwerk. Seals & Croft.
It’s in his rhymes — polysyllabic, serial, audacious — that Robbins most resembles an M.C., and most distinguishes himself from other poets. He seems at least as interested in arranging sequences of identical vowel sounds as he is in getting consonants to agree. When he pairs “Beckett” with “cricket,” he sounds like Paul Muldoon, but when he rhymes “Parkinson’s,” “Arkansas” and “dark clicks on,” he’s channeling Jay-Z.
Little Pogo Possum. I reviewed his antics for the Chicago Tribune.
Ups to Michael H. Miller for including my book on his year-end list at The New York Observer: “the most assured debut I’ve read in a long time.”
I’ve updated my links over there to the left (to the left) to include a little section compiling all the year-end lists on which Alien vs. Predator appears. Like, in case you are as grateful & happy about such thing as I. Which is unlikely. Mew.
Dwight Garner continues to make me blush in the pages of The New York Times today:
ALIEN VS. PREDATOR: POEMS by Michael Robbins (Penguin Poets). Big fun. This first book of poems, stuffed with wit and pagan grace, brainily dices high and low culture. Mr. Robbins is intimate with Philip Larkin yet can rhyme Axl with Paxil and Rorschach with Horshack. He is comfortable at high speeds and with swamp temperatures, which he refers to as “Eleventy thousand degrees outside/with a heat index of kablooey.” He feels like the real deal.
And be sure to check out the small-press titles I wrote about at the link below. They’re the real deal, too.
wild fox spirits & iconoclast bodhisattvas
I wrote about my favorite small-press poetry titles of 2012 for the Chicago Tribune.
(I didn’t write the headline, which has rightly occasioned minor protests from a couple of the authors under review.)
I reviewed “The Passion of Louise Glück, starring the grief & suffering of Louise Glück” for the Los Angeles Review of Books.
And Complex magazine was kind enough to choose my book as one of their “25 Books We Want This Year.”
Also, I saw Lincoln & it might have the worst score I’ve ever heard. Pretty good script, tho.
Read Edmund Wilson’s Patriotic Gore.
Alien vs. Predator is chosen by John Wilson, editor of Books & Culture, as one of Commonweal’s Books of 2012. Nice to get some hyperbolic love from the Catholics:
Every once in a while, a book appears as if out of nowhere, uncanny in its authority, combining the shock of the new with the shock of recognition. Michael Robbins’s Alien vs. Predator (Penguin, $18, 71 pp.) has given me a sense of what early readers of The Waste Land must have felt in 1922, what it must have been like to pick up a copy of Wise Blood at the bookstore in 1952.…
For such works, the usual terms don’t apply. You don’t necessarily “like” or “dislike” them; rather, you circle them warily, marveling, curious, seeking to understand.… If you had told me a year ago that I would be poring over poems by a swaggering, abrasive jerk named “Michael Robbins” (distinguishing the poet’s persona from the man behind the mask), with titles such as “Alien vs. Predator” and “My New Asshole,” I would have raised a very skeptical brow. But then I began reading: “Somehow I sidle, I kick-start, / I hot-wire my monkey heart. / I take my walking slow.” God has a strange sense of humor.
And I reviewed Peter Trachtenberg’s cat-&-marriage memoir Another Insane Devotion for the Chicago Tribune.
My review of Frederick Seidel’s new book is up at the Chicago Tribune
Seidel is also our most primitively primatial poet, roaring on the savanna with his rival’s brains dripping from his club. He’s a one-man abattoir, masturbating on poetry’s grave in his finest bespoke suit from Savile Row.