TPR Challenge #2 - William Carlos Williams and In The American Grain

Perhaps you are beginning to see how essential a part of reading it is to be perplexed and know it.  Wonder is the beginning of wisdom in learning from books as well as from nature.  (Adler/Van Doren, How to Read a Book, p. 123).

In preparing some class notes today, I was struck with how true this passage is - and how evident for me with William Carlos Williams' In the American Grain.  I have struggled mightily with this work, (am actually still struggling!) but I must admit to its edifying quality.  I have at times been perplexed, and knowing it has lead me to ask those questions that lead to greater insight.  Not always successfully, and not always with pleasure, but I have tried to engage myself with this prose-poetic version of American history.  So, while I will not claim wisdom, I have sat with my wonder for some time, and I continue to feel enriched by some of the things Williams has taught me in this book.

In brief, Williams is here trying to expose the understory of American history, and he hopes to accomplish this rather heroic task by channeling the voices of some of the contributors to that history-making.  From Eric the Red in the first section to Abraham Lincoln in the last, Williams relies upon primary sources to recreate, inhabit, or evoke those times and those people.  At times, he copies whole sections from those primary sources (and he does so without even a gesture at citation - a real frustration to this teacher), and in one instance, an entire chapter is just transcribed from the original source entirely.  Though I understand Williams' desire to capture an American voice (much of his life's work was preoccupied with the concept of American idiom), the blurred lines between his creation and that of the original author's did not always work for me. 

What did work for me was the language.  Williams is a poet, and his prose offers an experimental quality, a playfulness with word, form, and structure that are hallmarks of the poetic mind.  Again I will acknowledge the challenge of this type of writing.  It is not easily encountered; you do not read it breezily under a beach umbrella.  It forces you to be fully awake (one of the reasons reading it before bed has been such a problem) and fully engaged with the words.  But when you invest yourself in it, you are rewarded with stunning turns of phrase and evocative passages that are well worth the trouble. 

Here is this from "The Destruction of Tenochtitlan":
And bitter as the thought may be that Tenochtitlan, the barbaric city, its people, its genius wherever found should have been crushed out because of the awkward names men give their emptiness, yet it was no man's fault.  It was the force of the pack whom the dead drive. (27)

And this from "Pere Sebastian Rasles":
There is the Indian.  We are none.  Who are we?  Degraded whites riding our fears to market where everything is by accident and only one thing sure: the fatter we get the duller we grow; only a simpering disgust (like a chicken with a broken neck, that aims where it cannot peck and pecks only where it cannot aim, which a hog-plenty everywhere prevents from starving to death) reveals any contact with a possible freshness - and that only by inversion. (108)

In fact, this whole section has been one of the most provocative.  It occurs near the middle of the book, it is one of the longer sections, and it is the place where Williams inserts himself and his meeting with Valery Larbaud (occurring in the 20s in Paris while Williams was writing this book) into the awkward spot between Cotton Mather and Daniel Boone.  The chronology works because of the presumptive focus of the chapter, Rasles, a Jesuit missionary who lived among the Abnaki Indians.  The history of Rasles was new to me, and I appreciated the way Williams uses him as a foil to the much reviled Puritans.  Even though Williams was trying to inhabit the original voices and allow them to tell their own stories, here Williams could not restrain himself.  His capricious diatribe is thoroughly thought-provoking, but the intrusion of his voice is a distraction to the overall effort.  Despite the distraction, this section provides the thrust of what Williams believes about Americans, our relationship with history, and its relevance to our present.  And though he was writing about his contemporaries, his thoughts have a truthful ring still today.

Throughout, Williams has reminded me of Howard Zinn, another historian who had a particular version of history to tell and wasn't afraid to upend the apple cart in the process.  Williams actually provides a response to Larbaud's "cultural tolerance" that explains some of what I think both writers were trying to accomplish:

I grant you, I said, the stench of their narrowing beliefs has been made to cling too closely to the men of that time, but the more reason then to lift it out, to hold it apart, to sacrifice them if necessary, in order to disentangle this "thing" (115).

Interestingly enough, though, Williams finds himself trapped (as Zinn has been as well) in his own argument.  The stench of his beliefs clings too closely to himself, and only an astute reader will understand he, too, must be sacrificed.  Thus far, I haven't been that astute.  I've grappled with individual sections but haven't allowed my ideas to fully coalesce.  Emily at Evening All Afternoon has done a remarkable job of uncovering some of Williams' particular weaknesses, and besides admiring her analysis, I particularly appreciated her description of Williams' prose as "chewy." I encourage you to check it out.

I do not encourage you to "check out" The Paris Review interview with Williams.  Abstruse is really the best word for it.  And before you think I am condemning a writerly genius, I will explain.  Or rather, I will let the introduction to the interview explain:
In his last years, Dr. Williams's health suffered from a series of strokes that made it difficult for him to speak and impaired his physical vigor. (78)
The effort it took the poet to find and pronounce words can hardly be indicated here.  Many of the sentences ended in no more than a wave of the hand when Mrs. Williams was not present to finish them. (80)

These elements, combined with the habit of many minds to dwell upon things that aren't fully identifiable to the outside observer (Williams' preoccupation with the "measure" that makes the "idiom" fully possible), make the interview most difficult to digest.  But I did glean one passage that meant something to me.  Williams responds at one point with this:

I would gladly have traded what I have tried to say for what came off my tongue, naturally.  (84)

That struggle seems to me a lovely summation of what we all wrestle with: the tension between the created word, the attempt, and natural speech.  Williams wanted to get to that natural speech, he transcribed it into In the American Grain, but in trying, he left us with some beautifully crafted words, some irreplaceable efforts, and I, for one, am glad he tried.

By the way: thanks to Frances at Nonsuch Book for extending the invitation to join the nonstructured book group for August (whew - I just barely made it!).  I will look forward to another round soon!


Billy Creekmore by Tracey Porter

A few years ago, I would regularly come home from the library with a nice stack of books to read.  I haven't had that pleasure in awhile, and though I don't like this reality, there is a good reason.  The good reason is that I already own too many unread books.  Most avid readers (and book bloggers) talk about their beloved To-Be-Read (TBR) shelves as a permanent fixture in their homes.  I like having so many wonderful books, but I would really like to do away with my TBR shelves (and yes, that is plural!).  So, a few years ago, I stopped borrowing books from the library and ceased with PaperbackSwap and their ilk in an effort to reduce the numbers of TBRs lingering in my home.  Before we moved, I even took a few unread TBRs to the used bookstore.  Yet, I kept buying books.  The unbelievable used finds and the $4 table at the conference proved too difficult for me to resist.  So, I remain swamped with TBRs, and thus, I have a desire kindling in me to go on a book-buying fast, so watch for signs of such a decision.  For now, though, I will keep plugging away at my TBRs and look forward to the days when I can freely peruse the library stacks and come home with a fresh pile of borrowed TBRs.

All that neglect of the library went out the window a few weeks ago, though, when I was browsing the kids' section with my children and found Billy Creekmore by Tracey Porter.  I love YA novels.  Some of my favorite books of all time were written for young people.  I also have a particular interest in Appalachian literature and the coal mining industry.  So, Billy Creekmore was an automatic fit for me.  Billy is ostensibly an orphan, living at the Guardian Angels Home for Boys, at the novel's opening.  From there, he goes to WV where he gets folded into the coal mining community and the UMW struggle.  When he is run out of town by the mine operator's gun thugs, he joins up with the circus. There are the requisite struggles along the way, and the ending is appropriately feel-good without being too schmaltzy, so overall it was a successful read.

I can't say it moved or changed me much though some of that stasis could come from my existing familiarity with the subject matter.  I remember the first time I read a novel that exposed the realities of the coal mining industry and the United Mine Workers to me, and it did change me (thank you, Denise Giardina).  This book, while it doesn't focus exclusively on coal mining, provides a basic first taste of the inhumanities of the industry, especially during the time when the UMW was attempting to organize.  It remains an incredibly difficult way to live and work, but before unionization, miners and their families had literally no standing to demand better conditions.  For a YA novel, it handles some difficult subject matter, but everything does these days, and honestly, I'd rather my young people encounter such challenges as injustice and inequality than the more cliched sex and drugs. 

The parts about the circus were not as interesting to me, not as finely drawn.  They felt rather tacked on, a vehicle by which Billy could once again experience family.  But as a means to this end, it worked better for me than some unrealistic happy reunion with his long-absent father.  I appreciated the complexity of emotions that Billy experienced through the final chapters; it was in keeping with the rest of the novel.  And though I didn't always care for the dialect employed (isn't dialect usually more a distraction than a contribution to the novel?), Billy's character was a likable narrator with a unique story to tell. 

Now, enough with the kid stuff - I've got William Carlos Williams to finish tonight and unstructured book group tomorrow.  Plus, classes?  How's a girl expected to get it all done when pesky work gets in the way?


TPR Challenge #1 - Marilynne Robinson and Gilead

It has been weeks since I finished this book.  Why have I let it languish so long without formally commenting on it?  I have not completely neglected it; I've just been doing the face-to-face gushing about it to friends kind of commenting instead.

For some time now, I've had as a major criteria for my full enjoyment of a book to be that it changes me in some way.  It doesn't have to be a seismic shift, but it needs to ask something of me and simultaneously give something to me that lingers.  This is one of those books, and I'm so glad I gave Marilynne Robinson another chance.

Another chance?  That's right.  My first encounter with Robinson was not as pleasant an experience.  Here is an actual quote from my reading journal (a wrinkled-page little book where I actually used a pen to record my thoughts.  How quaint!):  I can't say I enjoyed this book at all.  The story was odd and slightly inconsistent, and the vocabulary she used was strange.  It's as if she chose words and even phrasings to AVOID clarity.

I was responding to Housekeeping, Robinson's first novel, and I was at the time a new mom again and dealing with all that comes with having a two-year-old and a four-month-old making claims upon your being.  So, perhaps it was just bad timing on my part.  That has definitely happened to me before, but I usually abandon the book before forming a full opinion of it.  For instance, about a month before diving into Housekeeping, I also tried Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel.  I know I will appreciate it when I get to it, but 2 am feedings are just not the time to grapple with Diamond.

But I digress.  Terrifically, in fact.  The Paris Review Interviews Volume IV concludes with Marilynne Robinson, and I chose Gilead to tackle first.  Gilead is the fascinating first-person narration (introspective narrative?) provided by Reverend John Ames in the form of an extended letter or journal to his young son.  Ames is much older and knows he is dying, so he wants to leave his son with some of the stories, lessons, and general musings that he might have provided more organically had he lived to just experience life with his son.  Ames' voice is true and strong and consistent (even when you get the sense of Robinson working something out, it sings), and you easily begin to anticipate what piece of history or general illumination Ames will provide next.  It is brilliant and everything I like a novel to be: thought-provoking, intellectual, engaging, and ultimately human.

I believe my favorite part - the part where I just got all slack-jawed at both the thought and the writing that went into it - is when Ames is elucidating his views on the Ten Commandments.  The explanation goes on for pages and is occasionally interrupted by other bits of personal story or narration relevant to the current events in Ames' life.  The particular focus he pays is on the Fifth Commandment - to honor your father and your mother - but his explanation of the division of the tablets and the beautiful progression the commandments make was such a treasure to me.  It took the all-too-familiar text and made it so new and engaging; it changed me and the way I consider these most ancient of laws.  I see them now - all - as instructing on the right worship and understanding of God, and to have such a clarity provided from a novel instead of a theoretical or spiritual treatise is unique.  Here is one of the (MANY) passages I underlined in this section:

There's a pattern in these Commandments of setting things apart so that their holiness will be perceived.  Every day is holy, but the Sabbath is set apart so that the holiness of time can be experienced.  Every human being is worthy of honor, but the conscious discipline of honor is learned from this setting apart of the mother and the father, who usually labor and are heavy-laden, and may be cranky or stingy or ignorant or overbearing.  Believe me, I know this can be a hard Commandment to keep.  But I believe also that the rewards of obedience are great, because at the root of real honor is always the sense of the sacredness of the person who is its object.  In the particular instance of your mother, I know that if you are attentive to her in this way, you will find a great loveliness in her.  When you love someone to the degree you love her, you see her as God sees her, and that is an instruction in the nature of God and humankind and of Being itself. (139)

I hope I will forever keep learning from that lesson.  Amazing.

And of course, as I've flipped through, I've found scads and heaps of other good words to throw your way, but I will not do that here.  Instead, I will just encourage you to read the book if you haven't.  And if you have, aren't you glad you did?  Or did you have a different experience from mine?  Feel free to join the discussion here.

As for the interview itself, it too was enlightening.  There were several bits I thought would be useful in my writing classes, so I'm going to start a log of those gems as I read these interviews and develop some teaching tool out of it.  In particular, I think it so important for students to hear this:

Interviewer: Does writing come easily to you?
Robinson: The difficulty of it cannot be overstated. (456)

So many of my kids think writing just comes "easily" to other people; they do not believe it is a craft that must be constantly reengaged and practiced every day of one's life.  Even when we come to the end of our days, we will produce writing that could be improved.  We just have to be willing to try to improve it.

The part of the interview that resonates most fully with Gilead is this thoughtful evaluation of the human condition:

The ancients are right: the dear old human experience is a singular, difficult, shadowed, brilliant experience that does not resolve into being comfortable in the world.  The valley of the shadow is part of that, and you are depriving yourself if you do not experience what humankind has experienced, including doubt and sorrow.  We experience pain and difficulty as failure instead of saying, I will pass through this, everyone I have ever admired has passed through this, music has come out of this, literature has come of it.  We should think of our humanity as a privilege. (460)

I think I shall leave you with that.  And one final exhortation: read. this. book.  And then, when you are finished, you can read Home, which is based on some of the characters in Gilead.  It is not a sequel, so you can read it first, but I'm glad to have known John Ames first.  I hope I'll be as glad to know his friends a little later.


Farewell, Poppleton.

My dog's name is Finn.  The pound we adopted him from named him Huckleberry.  He was this tiny thing, all white with gray spots and blue eyes.  And we just felt Huckleberry was too much name for him.  An albatross of a name, it was.  I'd always named my pets after literary characters, though, so we knew it was something we could work with.  We considered Huck but decided that might not make the best of impressions if ever we yelled it from the back porch.  Our neighbors might mishear, you see.  Finally, we decided he'd be one of those snooty kids with a fancy first name that goes by his middle name, and Huckleberry Finn Coffman came home with us that day.  He turns 11 this month.  He is my first-born and is strictly forbidden to die.

The fish we just brought home for the kids two days ago are a different story.  I explained on the way home from the fish store (what a killjoy, right?) that fish often die sooner than you want them to.  They knew Poppleton and Fillmore (thank you, Cynthia Rylant!) might not last too long.  The first day was all joy.  The fish were happy, if a little freaked out by the new environment.  Success!  They survived the first day.  Yesterday, though, Poppleton started listing.  It is not a hopeful thing for a fish to list.  Today, he fought hard to stay alive but finally succumbed right after dinner.  We flushed him, my girl cried just a bit, and then we resolved to let Fillmore enjoy the bowl by himself for a few days before getting a replacement Poppleton.

I have no idea why I felt the need to share that.  Except, actually, maybe I do.  See, with classes starting in a mere 10 days, I am in full-fledged planning mode: working on syllabi, reading old texts, trying new short stories, pondering first day ideas.  I work from The Best American Short Stories of the Century edited by Updike for one of my classes, but I started dipping into The Vintage Book of Contemporary American Short Stories edited by Tobias Wolff and thoroughly enjoyed his introduction.  Among other underlinable bits, he writes:

Jack Yeats described writing as "the social act of a solitary man."  The same is true of reading.  It requires isolation as the price of the best society.  Writers can never be sure, in the act of writing, if anyone will pay that price for the company of their words.  We proceed on faith but in doubt, dreaming uncertainly of readers who will justify this lonely work by passion equal to our own.  It's a gracious moment when you meet one.

And even though what we do here in our blogs is not the same as what Dorothy Allison or Raymond Carver or Andre Dubus (or Tobias Wolff!) does, this sentiment is true for us all the same.  We write and are never sure if anyone will pay that price.  And it is a lovely moment, full of grace, to hear from that reader who justifies this quiet work.  The book blogging world is not a lonely one; if anything, it can feel a bit too bustling and crowded for my solitary taste.  However, it is still a community of people performing a social act in isolation and dreaming of that ideal reader, "perfect stranger and perfect intimate" as Wolff goes on to describe it. 

So, what does this have to do with my fish?  (I mean, my kids' fish.  It's not like I just sit and watch him bat his little nose against the glass like he is an addict and the bowl his meth.  Or that I chose to stay in the living room while my husband and brave kids flushed Poppleton.  Really.  It's their fish.)  Well, I'm less sure now.  But there is the obvious fact: a fish in a bowl is a really interesting existence to observe.  He knows you're there.  He puts on quite a show at times, but he's just not sure if he likes you looking at him.  It's not unlike writing.  You put yourself out there all naked-like and hope no one is actually looking at you even though that might be exactly what you'd like them to do. 

So, here is my call to you.  If you are a reader, a follower, a lurker, or even if this is your first visit to the site, say hi.  Leave a comment.  Or choose to follow the blog publicly.  In the past, I've followed blogs anonymously, but I realized that it is somehow ridiculously important to know people are out there, watching you put on this crazy show.  So, I try to let people know I'm out there.  And I'm wondering if there's anyone else out there.  Wondering if anyone else is paying that price.


Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

Have you missed me?  I feel like I've been absent from this space for ages, when it's only been a week or so.  I have no good excuse, so I won't offer a poor one, but I will hope the fondness idea holds somewhat true in the blogosphere even though I know the opposite is much more likely.
Though I had sworn off McKay Used Books some months ago, the TPR Challenge is going to require some "new" purchases, and I insist upon used whenever possible.  The unfortunate reality is that McKay has such a monopoly on used books in town that to have any chance at getting specific books (as opposed to just browsing for unsuspected treasures), you have to use them.  It's like Wal-Mart in a small town.  Sometimes, you feel optionless.  So, away I went, and though it wasn't a very pleasant experience (again, like Wal-Mart), I did come home with this little stash.  And yes, the Mitchell is unrelated to TPR, but as a recent Man Booker longlist title, I had to bring it home, too.  I did have to buy new my copy of In the American Grain by William Carlos Williams, and I'm thinking of doing the Murakami as an audiobook.  So, I'm getting there.  I will have the first TPR post up later this week - Marilynne Robinson's Gilead.  What a treat!

I also finished this morning  The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.  Readers all over the place have been metaphorically thrusting copies of this book at me.  My mother-in-law's copy (that got dropped in the ocean) was the lucky one to actually make its way into my hands, however.  And I enjoyed it.  I did.  I'm not doing a full commentary on the book because it didn't really knock my socks off, but it was fun and enjoyable.  I do find it poses an interesting ethical question: is it primarily a marketing ploy or a natural outgrowth of a writer's interests to write a book about books and readers?  On the one hand, you know it will be a success - it's going to appeal to your readers if you write about reading.  On the other hand, the age-old advice to "write what you know" must include the awareness that a writer knows a thing or two about reading and loving books.  I'm not sure where I sit with this argument, but it is interesting all the same.  What about you?  Have a take on the issue?  Or an opinion on this book?

Finally, I must thank Natalie at Coffee and a Book Chick for the Versatile Blogger Award she passed my way last week.  What a fun idea!  I don't have time to follow the rules today, but I couldn't pass up the opportunity to say thanks!


The Long-Awaited TPR Challenge Post

The Paris ReviewYep.  That's the one.  And oh, yeah.  There's this little jewel box: the 4-volume box set of The Paris Review Interviews.  You know you want them.  Or perhaps you didn't know they existed.  Click here.  You'll want them, too.  Or perhaps you already own them.  Or perhaps you pined after them for quite some while but didn't want to plunk down the chunk of change and then you stumbled across them on a publisher's table at a conference for $3 a piece.  That's $12 for the set. Or was that just me?

What is it about this set?  Well, it offers candid insight into the minds of writers - something few of us can resist.  It captures these authors often in their prime - when they were making those important ideas come to life for the first time.  And it is funny and captivating and thought-provoking.  That last part I'm just kind of making up because even though I got these things for a song back in the spring, I have not yet laid them bare.  I read the first interview of Volume IV (with William Styron) as part of our Paris in July experience, but that's it.   And though it was funny and captivating and thought-provoking, I did not want to just sit down and read these interviews back-to-back.  They strike me as something to be savored slowly and, like certain food and drink, in an appropriate pairing.

What could be more appropriate than reading an interview in conjunction with a work (or works) by the interviewee?  Hence, the TPR (The Paris Review) Challenge.  I am challenging myself (and anyone else who wishes to join me) to read each of the 64 interviews alongside some work by the writer being interviewed.  I've made some guesses or assumptions about what and when I'd like to read each, and the only thing I've decided for sure is that I'm not going to go in any strict order.  Here's my list:

Vol. 1
Dorothy Parker - collected stories and poems
Truman Capote - Breakfast at Tiffany's and/or The Grass Harp
Ernest Hemingway - collected short stories or True at First Light (both already on my TBR shelf)
T. S. Eliot - rereading The Wasteland and 4 Quartets
Saul Bellow - Henderson the Rain King or  ...Augie March (both Modern Library Top-100)
Jorge Luis Borges - ??
Kurt Vonnegut - Deadeye Dick
James M. Cain - The Postman Always Rings Twice (ML Top100)
Rebecca West - The Fountain Overflows or ??
Elizabeth Bishop - collected poems
Robert Stone - Dog Soldiers
Robert Gottlieb - since he discovered and edited Heller's Catch-22, (another ML Top100 I haven't read), I'll probably read this, but he also has a non-fiction Forcing the Spring which sounds interesting
Richard Price - Clockers or ??
Billy Wilder - film - The Apartment
Jack Gilbert - Monolithos
Joan Didion - The Year of Magical Thinking

Vol. 2
Graham Greene - The Heart of the Matter (ML Top100)
James Thurber - The Wonderful O (children's) and collected works
William Faulkner - reread The Sound and the Fury
Robert Lowell - collected poems
Isaac Bashevis Singer - collected stories ??
Eudora Welty - reread The Robber Bridegroom or One Time, One Place (photography)
John Gardner - Nickel Mountain
Gabriel Garcia Marquez - Love in the Time of Cholera
Philip Larkin - collected poems
James Baldwin - Tell Me How Long the Train's Been Gone (already on my TBR shelf)
William Gaddis -  A Frolic of His Own (already on my TBR shelf)
Harold Bloom - Genius: A Mosaic of One Hundred Exemplary Creative Minds
Toni Morrison - A Mercy or Jazz
Alice Munro - Lives of Girls and Women or Friend of My Youth
Peter Carey - Parrot and Olivier in America (Booker longlist)
Stephen King - Under the Dome or ??

Vol. 3
Ralph Ellison - Going to the Territory
Georges Simenon - ??
Isak Dinesen - Out of Africa
Evelyn Waugh - A Handful of Dust or Scoop (ML Top100s)
William Carlos Williams - In the American Grain (August non-structured book group - see here for info)
Harold Pinter - ??
John Cheever - The Wapshot Chronicles (ML Top100)
Joyce Carol Oates - ??
Jean Rhys - Wide Sargasso Sea (ML Top 100)
Raymond Carver - A New Path to the Waterfall (poems)
Chinua Achebe - Anthills of the Savannah or No Longer at Ease
Ted Hughes - collected poems or children's books?
Jan Morris - Last Letters from Hav or essays
Martin Amis - Time's Arrow
Salman Rushdie - Luka and the Fire of Life (YA release Nov 2010)
Norman Mailer - The Naked and the Dead (ML Top100)

Vol. 4
William Styron - Lie Down in Darkness (on my TBR shelf - will return to Styron last)
Marianne Moore - selected poems
Ezra Pound - The Cantos
Jack Kerouac - Desolation Angels or Visions of Cody
E. B. White - essays or The Trumpet of the Swan
P. G. Wodehouse -??
John Ashbery - Notes from the Air or collected poems
Philip Roth - Portnoy's Complaint (ML Top100)
Maya Angelou - Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'Fore I Diiie (poems)
Stephen Sondheim - lyricist - Plautus farces with A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
V. S. Naipaul - A House for Mr. Biswas or A Bend in the River (ML Top100s)
Paul Auster - Sunset Park (Nov. 2010 release)
Haruki Murakami - What I Talk about when I Talk about Running (sometime before the 9/25 halfmarathon I'm registered for)
Orhan Pamuk - Snow or My Name is Red
David Grossman - To the End of the Land (Sept 2010 release)
Marilynne Robinson - Gilead (currently reading - 1st to fall!)

Sigh.  I'm exhausted just from typing it all.  But that's the "plan," and I encourage you to join me on this somewhat unguided tour.  Here's what I know will shape up in the near future: M. Robinson, W.C. Williams, H. Murakami, D. Parker, D. Grossman.  Beyond that remains to be seen.  I would love your advice or input on those spots where I haven't decided.  Some I'm just not familiar enough to know what I'd want; others have so many good ones that I want recommendations.  So hit me with your ideas or let me know if you'd like to join in.  It should be an interesting little frolic!