Tuesday, June 22, 2010

On Yoon, dinosaurs, other bits

Some interesting moments in the Yoon book (Naming Nature), though the writing could have been a lot tighter. The editor should have stopped her at the 300th use of the word umwelt. Less of the conversational tone would have helped considerably, as would sections within the chapters to keep them more narratively focused.

At one point, Yoon brings up dinosaurs as an example of how young children love to find diverse life-forms to organize (or, in terms of the book's subject, to fit into a taxonomy); she sees it too in the Pokémon craze. Something struck me as off in this. Yoon says a child in the wild would bring into its natural ordering tendency the various wildlife of that place. City-dwelling children have only dinosaurs. I grew up in a rural area. I suppose I could have organized birds. I had a book of natural history that I loved looking at, and, in addition to living organisms, I was interested in rocks and minerals, which I collected. Like a lot of children engaged in creative play, I systematized my toys. But dinosaurs' pull is unique, I think. They're extinct, so playing with little dinos--even just thinking about them--makes them live, and gives a child some control over these monstrous things which, because they're not truly present, become non-monstrous. Playing with dinos is a lot like talking about comic books. Mastery of dinosaurs and superheroes gives one a kind of outsized power. And the species names possess a kind of magic, don't they?

Reading some Skrulls-taking-over-the-world comics from Marvel's "Secret Invasion." Fun. Last week I read a Red Hulk comic sequence. Much Hulk-smashery.

Enjoyed some Billy Collins poetry from Picnic, Lightning, but he gets thin after a while. What's most effective are his poems that focus on the quotidian, and self-conscious about the nature of poetry writing, and then turn in some way to probe something in Collins or the reader. When he leaves this sly (it's always surprising) formula, the work isn't as strong. Reading him did push me to draft a few poems, my first in a while.

No writing on my latest short story today, though it's on my mind most of the time. Even some ideas from Yoon have crept in.

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