Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Hilary Plum, On Reading

"I read The Tunnel mornings at my kitchen table, all day had to sweat off the stench. Reading about Sacco and Vanzetti I rode a train across Germany; against the green countryside, red roofs, slim roads diving into fields and threading mountains, they must die. In bed as a girl I read Yeats and Dickinson and remember no more than a rhythm. I hope I am not alone in this, I read that passage from 'Orbit' aloud again and again. My vision descends the archaic torso of Apollo. For a series of nights I read the first page of Der Prozess, Jemand musste Josef K. verleumdet haben, I get no further. Sick I lay on the couch and heard 'Hymn to Life' in Jimmy’s thick tones, a half hour in tears. I sat reading 'The Morning of the Poem' in a library in Concord, Massachusetts, until a man interrupted me. He was from Ghana, was it, and trying to get into a business class, could I read his application? My publisher was the ocean: I read a poem and was almost angry, how much of myself I needed to offer in response, and what fool wouldn’t know this as love? There are days that won’t pass without a detective novel. The mornings in Tucson, some chair at some historic inn, agog at The Making of Americans. Child on each side of my father reading Treasure Island, our eyes on N.C. Wyeth’s men, their round muscled limbs. I lie in a park in Oregon and Bolaño would forgive me each interruption. It is winter, Blood Meridian. I still have some lover’s mother’s William Maxwell, never read. I read every Anne of Green Gables then read each one again and she did the same. Years later I went to the red clay and warm sea of that island; years later I bought books I didn’t want when she sold them. It is surprising, who might give you The Dubliners. I did skip one section of Les Misérables, never finished Portrait of a Lady nor Anna Karenina. Sat in a friend’s hammock before the exam reading Andrei Bely. To my lovers gave Nabokov and Beckett, why; from another borrowed Beckett back. She and I read all of Beckett then went to the ice cream shop where they microwave the cookies, listened to the town fool dictate a personals ad, to whom we couldn’t see. Manuscripts on my desktop that despite guilt I don’t reply to. The Qur’an, the rest of Sebald. I sat on the roof of the dorm reading Blake aloud and like a sophomore hoped someone could hear me. Sick I lay in bed and he read me the poems of Lawrence, which I do not care to read under other circumstances. Lost a manuscript he had given me; panicked; moved out. Skimmed everything on the internet. Stood in Penn Station, book propped open. Wrote a book."

Hilary Plum is the author of They Dragged Them Through the Streets (FC2, 2013). She’s co-director, with Pam Thompson, of Clockroot Books and is a consulting editor with the Kenyon Review. With Zach Savich she edits the Open Prose Series for Rescue+Press.}