Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Aimless Reading: The S's, Part 52 (Suzanne Stein)

tout va bien
Stein, Suzanne
tout va bien

Purchased from SPD books for $0 plus $3.99 shipping.

I have been ordering more poetry books through the mail since I got here, partly because there isn't a good book store within 90 miles, partly because my new position is not as closely bound to contemporary poetry, thus the river of free books I used to get as part of my job has been diverted to my successor at Just Buffalo, Barbara Cole. It's an interesting adjustment to make. In Buffalo, if I became interested in a poet, I could just invite them for a reading. I'd get a free copy of their book, write an introduction, listen to them read, drive them around town, etc. This was how I connected to poetry.

Now I have to depend more on the poetry itself and less on the poetry scene, as it were. Poets will be coming through here in droves, thanks to the efforts of Richard Deming and Nancy Kuhl, who between them organize eight or ten events throughout the school year, but I definitely feel apart from something now that I am away from Buffalo. Community, perhaps. I miss it, on the one hand. On the other, I don't think it is a bad thing to change one's means of engaging with poetry. If for the next few years I mostly read and write poetry, that can't be all bad, even if it is a little lonely.

Anyhow (I have become aware of this tic I've developed of using "anyhow" to change the subject, but I haven't yet figured out how to rid my blog posts of it. Anyhow,), on a typical day at my new job I arrive at 8:30 and work until about 10, when I take a coffee break. No beverages are allowed in the Beinecke except in a lounge area, thus everyone takes a couple of coffee breaks per day, usually one in the morning and one in the afternoon. I do the same. I bring a book. At lunch I eat out, usually at one of the many food carts that surround the Yale campus.

When I bought Suzanne's book, I carried it to work with me every day for a week, reading it here and there as I had the opportunity. Even though I hate the Godard film from which it takes its name (with a deep, abiding hatred, I might add), I like Suzanne's book, and knowing her as I do, I even enjoy her re-use of said title, despite the deep abiding hatred I have for the film. Which is not to say I hate Godard. There is great Godard, good Godard, run-of-the-mill Godard, and then there is a handful of films or scenes in films that make me want to tear the seat out from under me and throw it through the screen. Tout va bien is such a film.

Suzanne's book made me very aware of not just what I was reading, but where I was reading it. For instance, I read the first piece over a so-so wrap at a so-so coffee place in New Haven called Koffee. I sat on a couch by the door, eating my sandwich, sipping a latte, and thinking about the fact that I was sitting there reading that particular book in that particular spot and how interesting it was because the first talk in the book is very much about giving a talk in a particular place at a particular time while simultaneously recalling another talk of a similar nature, given at another time and place.

I sent Suzanne a text message telling her I was reading her book. This took place on June 7. I wrote, "I am sitting in a cafe in New Haven reading tout va bien and loving it. Will email about this soon. Cheers, m." To which Suzanne replied, "This thrills me. Who is this? Xoxox." It took a while for me to answer back, but by the time I did, she had figured it out. I made a mental note to myself to take mental notes to myself about when and where I was reading the book.

I read the next several sections of the book while eating Ethiopian food from a food cart. The cart parks in front of the Yale hockey rink, known locally as "The Whale," because of the shape of the roof, which resembles a great fish. Across the street, the School of Management has a lovely, shaded, outdoor eating area with picnic tables whose chairs are chained to the concrete. While reading and thinking about how I was thinking about where I was while reading the book and where Suzanne was when she was writing or speaking the pieces in the book, I managed to get Ethiopian food on the cover. I wiped it off and it did not leave a stain.

That evening I remember reading on the couch in the living room. When I took the book out of my bag, I realized that my laptop had been pressing down on it and had creased the cover. tried to straighten it out, but to no avail. The cover now has a crease.

The next few times I read it I was sitting in the lounge at work, my experience of the particularity of my reading experience was growing vague and more generalized. I think I finished the book at night, in bed, and then turned off the light and went to sleep.

I never did send that email to Suzanne.

from tout va bien


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