Review: Beyond Katrina

Beyond Katrina by Natasha Trethewey


And that’s it—that’s the last book for my “Old South, New South, No South” class. I think it’s really just hitting me that this is it—college is over. Knowing anything about my life for sure beyond a year out is over. Wearing chucks and band t-shirts every day is over. Not cooking for myself is over. (Thank you, Jesus.) But enough about me and my “problems”, which fade away in the face of what Beyond Katrina covers. Our professor has been talking up the book since day one of the class, and I’ve been looking forward to it because of that. Well, that and its slim size. That’s always appreciated when finals are posed to attack…

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The Literary Horizon: The Aeneid, Paradise Lost

Over this past semester in my Introduction to Creative Writing class, I struggled a lot with poetry. I just have the hardest time trying to piece out the impulse to poeticize from the impulse to write, and I think the class just confused me further. So I’m much more comfortable with epic poetry, so easy to define away from prose and so delightfully old-fashioned, and that’s why, even though I shy away from poetry, two examples have ended up on my reading list.

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Giveaway: The Day the World Ends

From one of the most inventive and celebrated filmmakers of the twentieth century, and co-creator of such classics as Fargo, No Country for Old Men, and True Grit, a collection of poems that offers humor and insight into an artist who has always pushed the boundaries of his craft.

Ethan Coen’s screenplays have surprised and delighted international audiences with their hilarious vision and bizarrely profound understanding of human nature. This eccentric genius is revealed again in The Day the World Ends, a remarkable range of poems that are as funny, ribald, provocative, raw, and often touching as the brilliant films that have made the Coen brothers cult legends.

It’s National Poetry Month, and the end of my birthday week besides, so it’s time for another giveaway! This month, with the help of the kind folks at Crown Publishing Group, I’m giving away two copies of filmmaker Ethan Coen’s new book of poetry, The Day the World Ends.

Here are the rules:

  • Comment to enter–don’t forget to include an e-mail address I can reach you at!
  • US residents only, sorry!
  • Winners will need to respond within two days or another winner will be chosen.

This giveaway will end on April 27th.

Good luck!

The Sunday Salon: The 41st Agnes Scott Writers’ Festival

Every March, my frankly awesome institution hosts a Writers’ Festival, boasting three writers (one of whom is usually an alumna), three readings, three workshops (for finalists who made it into the magazine), and one question and answer session. The invited writers this year were writer Benjamin Percy, poet Joy Harjo, and playwright Jacqueline Goldfinger, who graduated from Agnes Scott in 2000. This year, I was a bit more involved than wandering into events; I was a volunteer, which especially meant carrying luggage and trying to find our guests to get them from Point A to Point B. It was nice, but it does complicate this year’s post, as I went to so many events that I didn’t know which one to cover for the blog! But I think Thursday’s question and answer session will give you a good overview of the Festival as a whole.

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The Sunday Salon: Literary Ireland

On December 29th, after a semester learning about Irish film, literature, and history, I set off on a two and a half week tour of Ireland and Northern Ireland. I have a lot of issues with travel, so I was delighted to find that I actually enjoyed myself (besides the stomach cramps and Martian death flu, of course) and I spent a lot of time thinking, as well as rushing about from site to site with my tour group. Because we covered so much ground, my coverage of my trip will take up a few posts—three, most likely, but perhaps more if more comes back to me.

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Booking Through Thursday: Interactive?

With the advent (and growing popularity) of eBooks, I’m seeing more and more articles about how much “better” they can be, because they have the option to be interactive … videos, music, glossaries … all sorts of little extra goodies to help “enhance” your reading experience, rather like listening to the Director’s commentary on a DVD of your favorite movie.

How do you feel about that possibility? Does it excite you in a cutting-edge kind of way? Or does it chill you to the bone because that’s not what reading is ABOUT?

To be totally honest, I don’t think listening to a commentary track enhances a film. When you say enhance, I think about things like improving video quality and the like, which improves the overall experience of watching that story unfold—commentaries are a behind-the-scenes thing. You’d never watch a film for the first time with the director’s commentary track on!

In any case, I like extras. I really enjoy the bonus material in the 2006 edition of Good Omens, which consisted of a foreword, pieces written by each author on the other author, and discussion of the creation of the book. I love stuff like that, and as long as it doesn’t get into the main text (although I would certainly accept something equivalent to a Director’s Cut!), I’m completely fine with it.

In fact, Laura Miller recently wrote about this very subject for Salon, focusing on the use of digital books for poetry—towards the end, she imagines a version of “The Canterbury Tales” where the audio track is in Middle English but the text on the page is a modern English translation. I think that’s well worth exploring.

Review: Beowulf

Beowulf translated by Seamus Heaney

How does one exactly review Beowulf, the epic poem that kicks off so many an English curriculum? It’s poetry instead of a novel or a short story, and it was written to be sung to an audience vastly different than myself. (There’s a reason I don’t review poetry!) I can’t review it as I would review a novel written after, well, the invention of the form in the Middle East and Asia. However, I can talk about why I personally like the poem, its construction and the characteristics of its verse, and J. R. R. Tolkien’s landmark 1936 essay, “Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics”. (Because if there’s a way to tie it back to Tolkien, I will do everything in my power to do so.) This isn’t a traditional review, but a sort of casual overview about what I’ve been learning about the text.

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