I didn’t expect to find a Chinese poem more ornate than Su Hui’s palindromic, pre-oulipan “Xuanji Tu,” but apparently I underestimated myself. Here’s “Lion-Eating Poet in the Stone Den,” a 92-character poem by Yuen Ren Chao which relies on the tonal variations of a single sound (shi) to tell the story of a “lion addict” with a taste for big cats. For a really crazy experience, I recommend listening to the poem being read aloud.
From the Ruins of Empire author Pankaj Mishra recently visited Japan and wrote about the experience for Caravan. In particular, he was struck by the ways “much of [the country] presents a spectacle of aged modernity,” and how “it is with some shock that you recall that Japan was where once the future lay, before its bubble burst in the early 1990s, and the country, pushed inward by adversity, became a strange absence in our lives.”
Recommended Reading: This fantastic essay by Lea Page at The Rumpus on memory, family, and a whole lot more than that: “There could be no argument, no defense. It was, in a literal sense, true. I had said that.Sure, she had left out a significant portion of the truth, but in doing so, she had revealed another. That was the one memory my mother cleaved to. That was the song she chose to sing of me. I was still losing at memory.”
Out this week: Fortune Smiles by Adam Johnson; Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh; A Manual for Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin; The Incarnations by Susan Barker; The Automobile Club of Egypt by Alaa Al Aswany; Darkness the Color of Snow by Thomas Cobb; The Investigation by J.M. Lee; and Browsings by the Washington Post critic Michael Dirda. For more on these and other new titles, check out our Great Second-Half 2015 Book Preview.
It’s time to clear out a little spot on that bookshelf because this one is sure to impress your literary friends. Among a few other incredible books up for sale by a London bookseller is this copy of T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land. It is one of the original 460 copies hand printed by Virginia and Leonard Woolf, and it is signed by Eliot to the doctor who treated him at the clinic in Laussane where the poem was written. Good thing you’ve been saving up.