William Michaelian

Poems, Notes, and Drawings

Tag Archive for ‘Reading’

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 […]

Continue Reading →

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, […]

Continue Reading →

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 — […]

Continue Reading →

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 […]

Continue Reading →

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 […]

Continue Reading →

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 […]

Continue Reading →

Black Thunder

Halfway through, I am haunted by Arna Bontemps’ Black Thunder. Knee-deep in mud, I am shaken by the roar, the clouds, the lightning, the rising streams. The shadows are alive. The horses scare me. Everything is an omen. I want to be free — as free as a bird, as free as Thomas Jefferson — free from the lash, free from the trunk of a tree. I pick your crops. […]

Continue Reading →

The Conjure-Man Dies

Rudolph Fisher’s The Conjure-Man Dies is an interesting, entertaining, beautifully and concisely written detective novel set in 1930s Harlem. It’s spiced with psychology and suspense, humor, wit, and just the right amount of scientific, philosophical, and medical knowledge. Like his main character and sleuth, Dr. John Archer, it’s clear that Fisher — a physician himself in addition to being a gifted student and musician — was no mean observer. His […]

Continue Reading →

The Mist and This

If I had not walked in the mist before dawn, I would not have heard the owl calling from the fir tree on this side of the wetland. And the land is wet, as were we. I need to explore the backyard, which has been transformed by the recent storms into a forest floor strewn with branches, cones, and leaves. There are fir branches six to eight feet long on […]

Continue Reading →