William Michaelian

Poems, Notes, and Drawings

Tag Archive for ‘Reading’

Canvas 380 — Wild Out, Wild In

You’re reading about a storm during a storm, and then, shivering, you look up. Much to your surprise, you find the trees calm, the street quiet, and the lamplight unwavering. You look back at your book: a mute brick: ink: paper: binding. You decide to rest your eyes. You close them. Here it is again! Here comes the wind! It’s wild out. It’s wild in. And it only ends when […]

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Reading Weather

The reading ebbs and flows. Lately it has slowed to a crawl. Or maybe it goes on by itself while the reader is otherwise occupied — except that the reader often is not occupied at all. In fact, the reader’s presence should not be assumed, although his body may be, for it serves as a kind of bookmark in the story that is the reader’s life. A great many stories […]

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Religio Medici

In the latter pages of his Religio Medici, Sir Thomas Browne mentions in passing that in addition to several regional dialects, he knows six languages. He does not write so to impress; it strikes me more as an expression of his generous, liberal nature: he sees himself not as the center of the universe as it was then known and understood, but as a fortunate participant in everything it has […]

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James Joyce Singing

James Joyce is an experience. I’ve read him in English. I’ve read him in Gibberish. I’ve even read him in Armenian. In Finnegans Wake he made use of sixty languages. I read the entire work aloud. I did the same with Ulysses. I’ve been in Jerusalem. I’ve been in Paris. But my tongue has really been around. . James Joyce Singing Like his wife, I can only understand him when […]

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In Lieu Of

Ralph Waldo Emerson and William Wells Brown are both in Europe now, seeing the sights, meeting people, writing their observations and travel notes. One is a free man, wondering what freedom really is. The other is a fugitive, who knows what freedom is, or thinks he does. This leaves us to ask the reader of these two books if he knows. And he replies by saying that whatever he knows, […]

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Knowing and Not Knowing

While reading Emerson’s journal this morning, I came to a one-line entry of such a painful, personal nature that even now, almost two hundred years after it was written, I feel I have invaded the poor man’s privacy. Yet I am glad I read it. Had I been the editor, I would have thought long and hard about including it, but I am sure I would have done so — […]

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William Wells Brown

The Library of America volume devoted to the writings of William Wells Brown begins with his 1847 Narrative of William W. Brown, a Fugitive Slave. I’ve read twenty-eight of its forty-five pages thus far. And while it has revealed no general detail about slavery that I haven’t already encountered, the simple, stark clarity of Brown’s writing, coupled with his frank honesty in terms of his personal regrets and easily forgiven […]

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Their Eyes Were Watching God

Saturn and Jupiter have become intimate with the horizon. They are lights glowing in a cabin in the woods, one in the loft, the other on the table beside an open book. Reading Their Eyes Were Watching God is like living through a hurricane. In Zora Neale Hurston’s novel, God is a hurricane. And fate is a rabid dog. Life, though, is a song on the lips of love. What […]

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Two Hundred or Two Thousand

Having finished today the two-volume set of Harlem Renaissance novels, I’ve decided to add one more voice from the time to this phase of reading — that of Zora Neale Hurston. One novel of hers will suffice for now: Their Eyes Were Watching God. It’s her best known, and one of several included in Library of America’s two-volume edition of her writing.* Then I will move on to William Wells […]

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