What I’m Reading Now… by Alice Notley


I have a lot of books around that I’m supposedly reading, but at the moment I’m reading only a page here and there, plus a lot of newspapers and scraps and reread-for-the-umpteenth-time mysteries. This is because I’m having radiation treatments for breast cancer, so my concentration isn’t great and I go to a hospital a lot to get irradiated. Anyway, almost everything in the piles of books around me is in French. I see that I am reading the following five among others :

Eros energumène, by Denis Roche. This is a pretty great book of poems from the 60s, with very long lines, abrupt changes, and peculiar sources. It’s quite exhilarating.

Introduction au théâtre grec antique, by Paul Demont and Anne Lebeau. Introduction to ancient Greek theatre — this is a history, including a description of the actual amphitheaters, information about community participation and how the play competition worked, and a tracking of the differences between the major playwrights. This is the one I take to the hospital and read a bit of while I’m waiting for my treatments. I get one idea for a poem each time, forget it, but trust it’s lurking somewhere underneath in my mind.

PARIS Deux mille ans d’histoire, by Jean Favier. A history of the city of Paris that I’ve been reading for a long time, it’s over a thousand pages long, and I’m on page 696. It tells you things like the history of the police force, the history of lighting, heating etc., the history of the city’s administration. The major problem with it is that it weighs too much, and when I’m reading in bed it’s a terrible weight on my chest. But it’s a fascinating book.

Chroniques Livres I and II, by Jean Froissart. These are Froissart’s Chronicles, which I read a selection from in English a long time ago. They cover the years 1325-1400 in terms of royal goings-on and battles during the Hundred Years War. The French, the British, and the Scots are completely embroiled with each other, intermarrying and killing. In an older French.

Here’s one in English, In the Grip of Disease, Studies in the Greek Imagination, by G.E.R. LLoyd. I’m actually re-reading this, and not just because I’m in the grip of disease. I recently found it again in my shelves. It’s about how the ancient Greeks thought about, imagined, disease. What does it “mean” if you’re sick, and what about the Plague? I’m up to the chapter on Plato.

Meanwhile I reread Robert B. Parker, Ross Macdonald, Peter Lovesey, and Catherine Aird.