Stealing History

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Overview

In the tradition of essayists like Montaigne and Emerson, Gerald Stern reflects with wit, pathos, rage, and tenderness on 85 years of life. In 70 short, intermingling essays Stern moves nimbly between the past and the present, the personal and the philosophical. Creating the immediacy of dailiness, he writes with entertaining engagement about what he’s reading, be it Spinoza, Maimonides, John Cage, Etheridge Knight, James Schuyler, or Lucille Clifton, and then he seamlessly turns to memories of his student years ...

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Stealing History

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Overview

In the tradition of essayists like Montaigne and Emerson, Gerald Stern reflects with wit, pathos, rage, and tenderness on 85 years of life. In 70 short, intermingling essays Stern moves nimbly between the past and the present, the personal and the philosophical. Creating the immediacy of dailiness, he writes with entertaining engagement about what he’s reading, be it Spinoza, Maimonides, John Cage, Etheridge Knight, James Schuyler, or Lucille Clifton, and then he seamlessly turns to memories of his student years in Europe on the GI Bill, or his political and social action. Interwoven with his formidable recollections are passionate discussions of lifelong obsessions: his conflicted identity as a secular Jew opposed to Israel’s Palestine policy; the idea of neighbors in various forms, from the women of Gee’s Bend, who together made beautiful quilts, to the inhabitants of Jedwabne, who on a single day in 1941 slaughtered 300 Jews; and issues of justice.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781595341419
  • Publisher: Trinity University Press
  • Publication date: 11/6/2012
  • Edition description: First Trade Paper Edition
  • Pages: 314
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Gerald Stern’s recent books of poetry are Early Collected Poems: 1965–1992, Save the Last Dance, This Time: New and Selected Poems, which won the National Book Award, Odd Mercy, and Bread without Sugar. His collection of essays What I Can't Bear Losing was published by Trinity University Press in trade paper in 2009. His honors include the Award of Merit Medal from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Paris Review’s Bernard F. Conners Award, the Bess Hokin Award from Poetry, the Ruth Lilly Prize, four National Endowment for the Arts grants, the Pennsylvania Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts, the Jerome J. Shestack Poetry Prize from the American Poetry Review, and fellowships from the Academy of American Poets, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. In 2005 Stern was selected to receive the Wallace Stevens Award for mastery in the art of poetry. For many years a teacher at the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Stern now lives in Lambertville, New Jersey.

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Table of Contents

1 Park Bench 1

2 Dragonfly, Famous Deaths 7

3 Chance Writing, Saints 16

4 The Lamb 19

5 Christ 27

6 Diary of the Mind 34

7 Dogs 35

8 Tyler School of Art 40

9 Rome and the Jews 44

10 The Living Presence 47

11 "Christians" in Haiti 49

12 Education of the Poet 51

13 Straddling 53

14 My Mother and Father 55

15 The Train Station 57

16 Athletes 59

17 Jack Gilbert 64

18 Haiti, the Long History 64

19 Exploitation 66

20 The Comic 70

21 Sports and Business 85

22 Deicide 87

23 War Work 90

24 Learning Poetry, Living Cheap 94

25 Dragonflies and Being 99

26 Uncle Harry and the Robin 100

27 Lucille's Death 103

28 Four Crises 106

29 Fifty More Pages 112

30 Alana Rose 118

31 26 Vandam 119

32 Signs over Gates 127

33 Dragonflies 128

34 My Big Mouth 130

35 Trip to New York with Poet-Potter 133

36 James Schuyler 136

37 Dog Eat Dog 138

38 Academy of Arts Medal 141

39 Meister Eckhart 144

40 Larry Levis, Caravaggio 147

41 Angela Hazley's Death 155

42 Playing Jacks 160

43 New Zealand Broadsides 166

44 Demystification 167

45 Remorse, Gilgamesh 173

46 Etheridge Knight 178

47 Pruning Hooks 187

48 Charlie I 196

49 Israel 197

50 Nut Death 199

51 Anti-Semitic Cartoons 205

52 Marie Ponsot 206

53 Again Haiti 207

54 Charlie and Elvira 207

55 McChrystal 208

56 Bob Bernat 210

57 Montpellier 213

58 The Steel Pier 219

59 Charlie III 219

60 Libby 221

61 Bialystock, 1906 225

62 Poland I 227

63 Poland II 229

64 Neighbors I 232

65 Lev Going 238

66 Lev Not There 239

67 Neighbors II 243

68 Neighbors III 246

69 Neighbors IV 253

70 Saltwater Pools 259

71 Childhood in New York 262

72 Henry James in New York 264

73 Air-Conditioned Nightmare 267

74 Henry Miller's New York 270

75 Simone de Beauvoir's New York 273

76 Atlantic City 278

77 Turkish Restaurant in Paris 279

78 Paul McCartney 280

79 Yom Kippur Pear 282

80 The Engineers Club 285

81 Betty Kray 288

82 Hole in Forehead 289

83 The Stages of Life 298

84 Port Authority 300

Permissions 305

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  • Posted February 16, 2012

    An enlightening book of essays

    Stern takes us through his poetic life in Stealing History, a book filled to bursting with wisdom and wit. Unlike your usual book of essays, the contents of the book intermingle with one another, referencing and remembering each bit that’s come before. The result is a potent exposition on matters important to Stern: his identity as a Jew with controversial political beliefs, his thoughts on what it means to be a neighbor, and his stance on matters concerning justice. Coming from this unique background, he presents material in an equally intriguing manner:

    “I am lying now on my back in my dark bedroom and my left hand is caressing the smooth, cool cover of the book that’s been there for several years, John Cage’s X, a collection of prose and poetry, brought out by Wesleyan in 1983. It’s full of chance writing, but not much silence, since you can’t have that in either prose or poetry, at least as you can in music. Even a book of empty pages is not the same as absent musical notes,” (p. 253).

    In every paragraph Stern’s writing reflects an uncommon mastery, from his musings of childhood to his violent memories of pogroms and the affect such events had on his way of thinking. Fans of poetry and personal essays alike will be able to take a great deal away from Stealing History.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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