Friday, June 17, 2005

Following up on yesterday's post . . . .Yau does a wonderful job of contending with the meta-reviewer's claims that Ashbery isn't really all that exciting as a prose writer. I must admit to having felt the same myself, even as much as reading Ashb.'s poems can make it difficult for me think of him as belonging to the same species as me. A few of the pieces in Selected Prose do have a workmanly quality or exude the odor of loveless labor. But there are other pieces--on Stein, on Roussel, on Mapplethorpe--that are as good reviews come. When Ashbery's on, he shies away almost completely from evaluation or comparison, and instead pursues his difficult, personal and ambivalent perceptions onto a far promontory (premonitory?) from which I can consider, say, Mapplethorpe, and by extension, art and writing in general. Perhaps because he shies away from intense, singular affect I might initially get the impression of the ho-hum. But if I read on, I'll find myself somewhere strangely familiar and yet also strangely unmapped. He's a great model, for me, of what a review can and should do. Also: the bidirectional interview between Ashbery and Koch is one of funniest, most vertiginous moveable feasts I've ever encountered. What a perfect portrait of two minds germane enough to weather confict, irony and multiple levels of play and teasing! It reminds me, as I'm sure it reminds others, of those best conversations with good friends, those late nights of talk and wit the residue of which is just plain old poetry.

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