I’m sure no one will be surprised to learn that my major decorating theme around here is piles of books. I have bookshelves, and even a wee library in my basement office, but the books, they still seem to pile up.
So here are a few things I’ve been reading lately:
We had our first glimpse into Wallace’s creative process in 2005 with our acquisition of the papers of Don DeLillo. Unexpectedly, the archive included a small cache of letters between Wallace and DeLillo, a correspondence initiated by Wallace when he was struggling through his colossal novel, Infinite Jest. Wallace’s letters show a writer who was deliberate, funny, and often uncertain, but most clearly, they show a writer who took painstaking care with his art.
In particular I am concerned with her experience of outsiderhood, closely—though not exclusively—linked with the essential outsiderhood of a lesbian identity; and with how the outsider’s eye enables Bishop to perceive other kinds of outsiders and to identify, or try to identify, with them. I believe she deserves to be read and valued not only for her language and images, or for her personality within the poems, but for the way she locates herself in the world.
This most reclusive of poets, unmarried, virtually unpublished in her lifetime, knew who she was and fired that knowing through her poetry. Everyone had a stake in inventing her, including her brother, sister and sister-in-law. Her wild truthfulness was unsettling; it was easier to turn from the authenticity of the poetic blast towards a fictional person who could be offered up as a softer, simpler explanation.