Sunday, September 21, 2008

Jane Mayer, The Dark Side


Or maybe it's more properly, "Ugh!"

At last, though, I'm finished reading Jane Mayer's, The Dark Side. And I say that not because it was a bad book -- not at all -- but rather because it is such a good book. So thoroughly and unremittingly effective in what it sets out to do: detail how we, the United States, has become a state that uses torture.

That's it.

That's bad enough. For me. And difficult enough to wrap my head around -- and impossible to accept in any real terms. That's my failing.

There is a point in the book that Mayer discusses the sense in which on paper many of the techniques described -- stress positions, extremes of hot and cold, sensory deprivation (or overload), humiliation, etc -- don't seem like much, don't seem to rise to the level of torture individually. And yet the cumulative effect, stacking one such practice on top of another, can brutalize.

And it dawned on me then why this was proving so hard for me to read: Mayer never stops. It's one case after another, one brutalization following the last, in all its gory detail of pulverized flesh and furtive masturbation and hooded beatings and... Despite reservations within the government and military, despite court rulings, the apparatus keeps pushing on, removing players, revisiting and revising legal rulings so that our agents can continue. At some point I just wanted her to stop. To spare me the details.

She never does. Because there's been no end to it. Still.



Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Hummingbird: Magazine of the Short Poem 19.1 (September 2008)

Almost without fail, I tear into a Hummingbird when it arrives.

Okay, perhaps that's an unfortunate choice of words. A little gruesome that, and perhaps a little too... active? passionate? frenetic? a description of my relationship with the journal. It's much more like I curl up and read through. Usually once but sometimes twice (perhaps at some remove).

It's a quiet, sometimes far too earnest, but always pleasant time. The best issues have a few short pieces that strike just the right chord -- with me, with the season. with... something.

Art Stein's "The Poet" is just such a piece:
to plagiarise
have not
gone well

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Charles Bukowski, Dangling in the Tournefortia

Bukowski or Chiasson? Chiasson or Bukowski? Dangling in the Tournefortia or Natural History?

I went with the safe pick. The known. What felt easy, for the last weekend of summer. Bukowski.

Perhaps known too well. I won't say that I was bored by Dangling, but... There was nothing gripping here. Nothing new. Of course, it could be argued that there's little "new" in Bukowski as we step from collection to collection -- I'm willing to own that as much as the fact that it might have been... well... just me that failed in the reading. Wrong time. Bored with the prospect of heading off to the track, hammering away at the typer, hammering away at my liver and my lungs.

First published in 1981, it sits roughly in the middle of his living production (the sheer volume of posthumous collections makes his oeuvre exceptionally top-heavy; the Tupac of the poetry world). So maybe he was tired. Maybe he was bored.

Or maybe it's all just a crap-shoot and we can't analyze these things too much. I'll stop trying. And I know I'll read more Bukowski. When he does grab me, he's an awful lot of fun...