Monday, June 28, 2010
Crowds of men and women attired in the usual costumes, how curious
you are to me!
On the ferry-boats the hundreds and hundreds that cross, returning
home, are more curious to me than you suppose,
And you that shall cross from shore to shore years hence are more to
me, and more in my mediations, than you might
Oh, Walt, you clever dog. Nothing extends the shelflife of a poem like a shout-out to your future readers. Your poem has outlived the ferry itself, replaced by the bridge of Moore's lesser-known poem "Granite and Steel," which now has a fancy bike lane and a new pedestrian park, in the construction of which no workers gave their lives -- a fact that doesn't detract from the appeal of the thing one bit, its equal parts rationality and romance intact:
Untried expedient, untried; then tried;
way out; way in; romantic passageway
first seen by the eye of the mind,
then by the eye. O steel! O stone!
More recently, my little corner of the borough has housed and homed the likes of Colson Whitehead, Jhumpa Lahiri, Jennifer Egan, Nelson George and Amitav Ghosh. While I can't say I've met these people personally, I probably wouldn't recognize them if I had, and besides, I prefer to read writers' work than see their faces. (For those who prefer the latter, there are some stalkerish Google maps that pinpoint the addresses of Brooklyn literati like the Foers, Lethems, Krausses et al, but you won't find a link to it here.)
To that end, I have been frequenting my local indie bookstore, Greenlight, and have left with goodies made in Fort Greene like Whitehead's The Colossus of New York (which, to those sensitive to cadence, is alternately waves and elephants crashing on the beach) and Sag Harbor, Egan's Look at Me, poet Laureate Tina Chang's Half-Lit Houses, Lorrie Moore's Birds of America and Anagrams (I know, I'm slow) as well as some other thematic curiosities like Ferlinghetti's A Coney Island of the Mind.
Pop quid pro quo: Who are your favourite Brooklyn writers, or favourite novels/poems/stories of New York? I really have nothing better to do than to read them.
*My pretty 1960 paperback Rinehart & Co. edition of Leaves of Grass is marked New York - Toronto, further proof of Whitman's foresight.