Friday, June 18, 2004

More or less refreshed. I'm going to table the fiction idea for the time being—lord knows I've got enough on my plate. Like the Pisan Cantos, which I'll probably start reading at the Bookery this evening. Curious that Ron has brought up those Cantos today in the context of The Godfather, because I've been thinking myself how my experience of getting into Pound reminds me of my interest (and the interest of lots of other people) in the great HBO dramas (chiefly The Sopranos and Deadwood—have you seen Deadwood? It's something to see) and even the comedies (Curb Your Enthusiasm). These are marvelously written shows featuring characters who range from the flawed to the utterly despicable, yet the quality of the writing and acting makes you sympathize with them. (Six Feet Under is more conventional but still impressive in the way it gets you to care about people who in life you'd find deeply annoying.) Reading Pound is like that: he's mad, bad, dangerous to know, often pathetic, often infuriating. You read those radio speeches or the second Salo Canto or any of the Fascist apologia/homage in The Cantos, even the Pisans, especially at their beginning ("Thus Ben[ito Mussolini] and Clara a Milano / by the heels at Milano / That maggots shd/ eat the dead bullock") and their end (according to Richard Sieburth, Canto 84 is an angry postscript triggered by the death of his friend the translator John Penrose Angold while serving in the R.A.F.), and you just want to kick him in the teeth. But of course he's already been kicked in the teeth. Pound's sufferings in Pisa were real and acute (though not of course comparable to what Jews were suffering and had suffered): kept in an iron cage exposed to extreme heat and rain (there's a photo of the cages on the cover of the new edition and they're starkly terrifying, evocative these days of Camp X-Ray at Guantanomo Bay), not permitted to speak to anyone except the R.C. chaplin, and completely ignorant of his fate (would he be shot? would he simply be left there?). And the poetry does, as Ron says, rise to great heights of beauty. Is there genuine contrition in the Pisan Cantos? That's one of the things I'll be on the look-out for. I don't expect to forgive Pound, but reading him, listening to him—isn't that more than forgiveness? It's a kind of acceptance. On the other hand, I've learned to care about the angst of Tony Soprano, and I've been moved by the stifled aspirations of Christopher. But that doesn't mean I don't want to see the bastards pay for their crimes, especially the murder of Adriana. I'm a little surprised that Ron didn't address the moral complexity a comparison of the Pisan Cantos to The Godfather implies. A well-meaning, talented, patriotic young man becomes a ruthless, paranoid, morally blindered thug—that's the arc of the Godfather films. That he offers us spectacular entertainment doesn't mean we should forget his crimes.

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