Door to the River: Essays and Reviews from the 1960s Into the Digital Age

Overview

So begins Aram Saroyan's essay, “Occupation: Writer,” about his vocation, the sixties generation, and emerging from the shadow of his father, the American novelist and playwright, William Saroyan. In this essay and others, Saroyan's subject is America's cultural inheritance, not only the development of the American literary tradition, with additional forays into art and music, but also America's political landscape and the responsibilities attendant upon independent writers to speak out against injustice and the ...

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Overview

So begins Aram Saroyan's essay, “Occupation: Writer,” about his vocation, the sixties generation, and emerging from the shadow of his father, the American novelist and playwright, William Saroyan. In this essay and others, Saroyan's subject is America's cultural inheritance, not only the development of the American literary tradition, with additional forays into art and music, but also America's political landscape and the responsibilities attendant upon independent writers to speak out against injustice and the abuse of power. From astute assessments and appreciations of artists and writers such as Charles Mingus, Andy Warhol, and Joan Didion to op-ed pieces written in the wake of 9/11, Saroyan's essays are engaging and make for good companionship, as Jack Kerouac insisted good books must do.

The selected reviews from the late twentieth century, which make up the latter half of the book, provide a retrospective of the works of both major and alternative cultural figures from the generation of which Saroyan himself was a representative member. The beauty and power of this critical genre, now threatened by the regular cuts and closures of newspaper book review sections, is on full display here, arguing for the importance of, as Saroyan calls it, getting a thought or two out into the daily discourse. With Saroyan at the bully pulpit, the daily discourse is much richer for it.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Cobbled together from old reviews and essays, a 2000 lecture about writing, his post-9/11 journal, and some newer work, this short collection presents poet and biographer Saroyan's (Complete Minimal Poems) reflections on writing, politics, and poetics. Saroyan, who in 1965 created his self-described “notorious one-word poem,” “lighght,” proves prolix in his prose. He implies that the L.A. Times rejected his post-9/11 pieces because of his anti–Bush administration stance. His style is repetitive—for instance, he says three times in 10 pages that the “Star Wars” missile shield wouldn't have protected us on 9/11. Another piece, “Shifting Light,” is Saroyan's somewhat hazy attempt to tie the theory of relativity, infinity, the speed of light, and quantum mechanics to perception, death, and “self-dispossession.” Still, there are occasional gems. About a Giacometti work, Saroyan writes: “There is that sculpture of the dog, ravaged by [the light] as if about to disappear in it, and still just a dog, in the swing of his trot.” Readers well versed in poetry schools of the 20th century may enjoy his remarks; those less knowledgeable will want easy access to Google (for example, “H.D.” goes unexplained). (Apr.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781567923964
  • Publisher: Godine, David R. Publishers, Inc.
  • Publication date: 3/19/2010
  • Pages: 192
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction xi

Artists and Models

Inventing a Tradition 3

New American Pantheon 8

Amiri Baraka 15

Fielding Dawson, 1930–2002 22

The Bukowski Crown 25

Poets of the Realm 29

A Fine Romance 37

A Complicated Muse 43

Charles Mingus 51

Andy Warhol: I'll Be Your Mirror 56

Occupation: Writer 65

America: Meditations in an Emergency

After Tuesday

The Ghetto 79

By Friday 80

The weekend 82

Russian Lessons 85

After Two Weeks

After Two Weeks 88

Star Wars Rides Again 89

World War III 91

The Patriarchy 92

Our America: Meditations in an Emergency

Consumer Education 95

All the News That Fits 97

The Power Elite 101

The politics Circle 104

Notes and Comments

The Driver: Reflections on Jack Kerouac 109

A Letter to the New York School 113

Clark Coolidge and I 116

The Secret Diaries Gerard Malanga 119

Ten Favorite Books of Photography 122

Back East & Out West: Reviews

A New York Poet Frank O'Hara 129

Goodbye to the 1960s Ron Padgett Phillip Lopate 131

Performing Poet Anne Waldman 134

Golden Gate David Meltzer William Everson 137

Echo Chambers Edward Dorn 142

A Breath Michael McClure 146

Reedies Lew Welch Philip Whalen 149

Appendix: Beginnings, 1964–1969

Creeley's Novel 155

Sentences 157

Sentences II 158

Sentences III 159

“Today, May 6th, 1965…” 160

Finlay's Present 161

A Note on Giacometti 162

“Walking I am reading…” 163

Notes on American Prose (1965) 164

A Letter to the Village Voice (1966) 168

A Poem of a Life Louis Zukofsky 169

Afterword: Shifting Light 177

Index 183

Acknowledgments 191

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