Friday, January 25, 2008

the look of a shaven Chassid

The pithy above-described figuration did not refer to the man at right; the phrase was uttered by him.

I was pleased to read Dan Chiasson's positive review of Mark Scroggins's biography of Louis Zukofsky in the New York Times this past Sunday. It mentions Scroggins's work only briefly - but glowingly. That's good in itself. Better, it's a very good one-page summary of why Zukofsky should be read. One dear to me - a smart wide-ranging reader who loves modern art, the modern novel, modern design but keep a little distance from modern poetry - read Chiasson and pronounced herself excited by Zukofsky's project. What more could a review accomplish? If you know Zukofsky well, you might not have the same response, but give it a try.

Along the way we learn that Zukofsky admired Henry James - which both makes sense and doesn't. Here's Chiasson, drawing off information he found in Scroggins: "A poet needs a myth of origin: Zukofsky, born among James’s 'great swarming,' located his at the moment when Henry James stood on Rutgers Street with 'the look of a shaven Chassid.'"