Saturday, October 18, 2008

Two specimens of awesomeness

I was impressed by two things this week, one a novel, the other a poem. The novel is the late Stieg Larsson's thriller The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. This book is a bestseller and hardly needs my recommendation, but it is a superb example of the genre, and kept me distracted from everything else in my life for a couple of knuckle-biting days. Larsson was a Swedish journalist who died in 2004 at the age of 50; he left behind this novel and two sequels, complete but unpublished. That Wikipedia page also calls Larsson a photographer, and I'm not surprised to learn this. Cameras play a role in this book, and the protagonist knows a little too much about them. He can identify a Hasselblad, for instance, at 200 yards.

The protagonist in question is a middle-aged financial reporter named Mikael Blomkvist, who stumbles into a murder mystery wrapped in a family conundrum rolled into a financial puzzle; his co-protagonist is a 25-year-old borderline-autistic punk girl named Lisbeth Salander (the girl in the title), an emotionally disturbed ward of the state, hacker extraordinaire, and crack private investigator. I know--it sounds hopelessly corny, doesn't it? It really isn't, in spite of the occasional (and necessary) run of expository dialogue. Indeed, the book flirts with literariness now and then--not too much, luckily. The point of reading it is the absorbing plot and the wonderful Lisabeth, who is, in spite of her outre, overdetermined persona, a truly original creation, even within the very impressive Scandanavian crime scene. A wonderful book.

The poem is by Frederick Seidel, and is in this week's New Yorker. It is called "Poem By The Bridge At Ten-Shin," is quite long, and is just extraordinary. I am a real sucker for the way Seidel lurches from erudition to crassness, from the lyric to the nursery rhyme, from the wise to the puerile, often inside the same line; here, he seems to achieve some outrageous apotheosis of self, with line after line of mad juxtaposition and loopy rhyme. The poem is rude and childish and brilliant; please give it a look. Here's the ending:

The Earth keeps turning, night and day, spit-roasting all the tanned
Tired icebergs and the polar bears, which makes white almost contraband.
The biosphere on a rotisserie emits a certain sound
That tells the stars that Earth was moaning pleasure while it drowned.
The amorous white icebergs flash their brown teeth, hissing.
They're watching old porn videos of melting icebergs pissing.
The icebergs still in panty hose are lesbians and kissing.
The rotting ocean swallows the bombed airliner that's missing.

Jesus Christ. Those last four lines, with their catatonic rhyme scheme and cracked-up rhythm, somehow just scare the shit out of me. Happy Halloween.


ed said...

Seidel scares me.

rmellis said...

He's the scariest poet ever!

Anonymous said...

Perhaps we should all write Horror Poems for Halloween, and post them here on the blog


rmellis said...

Dare ma?

I don think so.

Readers: please submit horror poems to W6 for our special edition.

steve said...

Poem by the bridge at Ten-Shin
Ezra Pound

March has come to the bridge head,
Peach boughs and apricot boughs hang over a thousand gates,
At morning there are flowers to cut the heart,

Anonymous said...

Good catch, Steve, we should have known that!