Five Personal Lit’ry Pleasures and Tools

by a contributor

from Nick D’Annunzio Jones, author of Aphorisms and Epigrams:

  1. “Twenty Lines A Day” by Harry Mathews – Oulipian novelist and poet Harry Mathews, enamored of Stendahl’s personal dictum to write 20 lines a day in a notebook, does so for a year. The random entries make for surprisingly addictive reading — and a puzzling reply for when fans and students ask, “What’s your favorite book?”
  2. “The Oxford English Dictionary” – I read reference books for pleasure; hey, I’m, primarily, a poet. They are also useful tools when looking for an obscure subject for a poem; I actually once published — and was paid $50! — a 22-word ditty on “zyxt”, the last word in the voluminous work. And forget the online version of the O.E.D. — too clumsy. Save up $2,000 or so for the full shelf-filling set. You’ll look like Malcom Muggeridge or Anthony Powell ensconced bookishly in your study. It’s tax-deductible, too. Rich? Get it in leather.
  3. Text-Anz – I once wrote a 115,000-word comic novel, which no agent, much less a publisher, would touch. But, that’s another story. Anyway, in editing this failed novel, which now has the working title “A Piece of Shit”, I strove for Flaubertian meticulousness: I didn’t want to use the same word twice in any chapter, and special words, obscure words, I wanted to use only once in the entire 515 pages of typescript. The fastest way to check for duplicates in tome as massive as “A Piece of Shit” was with Text-Anz, an inexpensive download that zips through your text and notes how frequently every word or selected words appears. Unfortunately, the software only runs (adequately) on Windows.
  4. “Tom & Viv”  – You probably didn’t see this moving starring Willem deFoe about T. S. Eliot’s disastrous first marriage. It is a gem, though, and deFoe is a credible twenty- and thirty-something Tom. If you think Eliot is a shit, for whatever reason,you probably will be pleased by this film. Women, in particular, might like it, as it is certainly sympathetic — perhaps unduly so — to the poet’s unpleasant wife Vivian.
  5. My wife’s Lexus SUV – Yes, it is terribly suburban and bourgeois, but so I am. (I call it being post-cool.) Anyway, the Lexus is where I write when I am blocked. Nice and roomy, reclining seats, rich Corinthian leather, satellite radio, if I want it. Hey’s it’s a post-modern VW microbus – at least in my mind. It’s great for driving around with the dogs and dreaming up lines. (Keep a dictaphone app on your cell phone.) Every poet should have one. Or, more likely, a spouse who has one.