Book Supplement

Deconstruc-tion for the Masses

We Are Hungering for Something Else

Celebrity Is Never an Art

The Anatomy of Difficulty

Reviewers Who Love Too Much

New Pornographers' Manifesto

Record Label Turns to publishing

What Poetry is For

THE THRILL OF GRIEF

Charles Mudede on His Sister-In-Law

Plastiques

A Moment in the Park with Galaxy Craze

NO END TO TRYING

The World From Inside a Tiny Writing Group

Sex: Fiction's Hamburger Helper

Fame! I'm Going to live Forever!

What You Might at First Hate

MEET THE NARRATEMES

Bruce à la Bruce

Gary Lutz, Anaesthete

To Get Famous, Punch Somebody

Rifficult Deading

LIGHTNING ON PAPER

J'Accuse!: An Argument About the Value of Conflict of Interest in Books Criticism

Scandinavian Sex

Bret Easton Ellis

The Year of Reading about Proust

THE JIMINY CRICKET INSIDE ME

Reviews

The Ether Sex

In poems, I love the lavishly articulated moment, the barreling yawp that slaps boats upon the sea or opens a forgotten door into a wide, sunny field. In life, I love the glory of the inarticulated moment. I love the space that exists before there are words to put to it -- the open dalliance of the abstract, right while you are living in it: the great "um."

Any poet has difficulty putting words around a large cultural ache while using private witnessings for fodder. Somewhere in the warp between seeing something to be shaped and shaping it -- that's the place of artistic exploration. It's an exciting time for poets writing into that space (Anne Carson, Joan Fiset), and Jessica Greenbaum is one of our best.

In her first book, Inventing Difficulty, Greenbaum is "inventing both path/and obstacle toward a reunion with happiness." She knows how people invent difficulty to bring them closer to each other (ah, the pathology!), and she combines that with the poet's desire to innovate until the truth pops clean from some tangle of worry. About writing itself, she contemplates, "I want relief from printed matter, because in these proportions/It's nauseating, the rate of obsolescence so dizzying/It feels like we're constantly being hurtled but toward what?/I need a break from the endless, daily attempt/To feel a working part of satisfaction, from the mind bender/Of how to make these gracious, given parts add up." She's observing the same obsolescence (the more writing that is made in the culture, the more it all disappears) that she invents, just like Wallace Stevens -- the great poetic inventor of difficulty -- who wrote, "After the final no there comes a yes/And on that yes the future world depends." Greenbaum longs for difficulty, that engagement for which Stevens wrote, "It can never be satisfied, the mind, never."

But this writer doesn't bow to the pathetic difficulty many writers might seek -- the "oh-good-my-uncle-died-so-now-I-have-pain-to-write-about" kind of difficulty. Rather, she inquires about the good, heady complexity of why things are as they are, how might we re-imagine them, and how we might create work that is heightened by the world -- a gluey mix of fantasy and intellect.