Carter Beats the Devil
Selected Poems of Ezra Pound
When I went into hospital I took 'Kisscut' by Karen Slaughter, which I had picked up at the Supermarket the day before: because I was very tired and uncomfortable I couldn't concentrate on anything that wasn't featherweight. Kisscut was quite a poor choice though. It is shallow, and quite nasty, a bit like the Patricia Cornwall forensic books, but if anything more so. There is a lot of nasty gruesome stuff in it, and the plot centres on the sexual abuse of teenagers. But it was all I had with me for the first few hours lying on the hospital trolley. Interestingly several nurses saw me reading it and said 'Oh, I loved that', 'I thought that was great'. More inured to the gruesome I suppose.
After that I found that what with the morphine and infection and so on I couldn't read any novels at all, I just couldn't concentrate. I read some film magazines. And then I read Ezra Pound and re-read 'The Rattlebag' (poetry anthology ed. Hughes and Heaney). I find poems quite satisfying when I am convalescing, because you can read for just a few minutes and then lie back and think aimlessly.
And then the first novel that I read was 'Carter Beats the Devil'. I found this quite hard to get into, which might have been because my brain wasn't quite in gear yet. Or it might be because it concerns a period of US history I know nothing about (Warren Harding?) But, once I got started, it rattles along with a good plot, intelligent writing, likeable characters. It's a story about a stage magician, which never quite floats off into fantasy. It explicitly draws a parallel between the novel and the stage act. The apparent magic is grounded in the mundane, but it is nevertheless magical, if that makes sense. Recommended.
What I am now reading:
- Some anthology of essays on Ezra Pound, plus 'Personae', to put what I read already in context
- Collected poems of Pablo Neruda
- The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch (by Philip K Dick)