Wednesday, October 30, 2013

AIMLESS LOVE by Billy Collins & THE HUNTER

Billy Collins is a former U.S. Poet Laureate whose latest collection is AIMLESS LOVE, wry and occasionally witty observations on various subjects that are typically the realm of window sitters on trains or in cars at parks. One of the short poems, (which could also be described as verbal essays,) is titled "The Trouble with Poetry," and may explain why this is Collins first compilation in twelve years. It points to the dilemma of being a poet---of always seeking to find a new poem everywhere, and to struggle to make the new comparisons between things, which constitutes a poet's reason for being. What happens after all comparisons have been made, and you become unemployed? Of course it's not possible to run out of observations until you're dead, but the point is valid. What Collins tries to do in each poem is to state the obvious, and then put a twist on it. The twist can be subtle, or it can surprise. The best thing about his poems, though, is that they know when to stop. He doesn't overwrite them, like many poets I've heard reciting their work as is they were reading the Ten Commandments or some other holy text, trying to wow us with their importance. Another poetic writer is Dashiell Hammett, whose unpublished mystery stories have been collected for the first time in THE HUNTER and OTHER STORIES, read on audio by four narrators, and with the editing help of Richard Layman and Julie M. Rivett. There is no doubt that Hammett was a excellent craftsman, playing on words within phrases designed to expand the range of his skills. But the magic is largely gone from these experiments and fragments, leaving it more of a behind-the-scenes curiosity for Hammett fans to lovingly ponder. Commentary on the stories here is as interesting (or more so) than the stories themselves, as non-fiction interweaves the dramatised fiction. There is a reason many of these pieces weren't collected previously, which isn't to say they aren't worth reading, just that the market may not extend past rabid fans of The Maltese Falcon.

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