NAKEDNESS, DEATH AND THE NUMBER ZERO

Brooks Haxton, Author . Knopf $23 (96p) ISBN 978-0-375-41248-6

The overt themes of this book are fairly well laid out by the title: the body and its limitations, and what Haxton calls "displacement volumetrics," the space taken up by the self. This is familiar lyric territory: births, death, regrets—spaces where "a dark and an indifferent/ Cold came making themselves/ a place with room for us." For Haxton's speaker, though, the generic themes of middle age are spiked with the middle-class guilt of a protest-era child who suddenly finds that he is part of the status quo. In bygone days, the power of hallucinogenic drugs and the easy escape of the bayou were enough to bridge socioeconomic gaps, and brought together, for example, the Haxton's Eliot-quoting poet and his Dylan-singing friend. But the friend moved onto harder drugs and younger women, and Haxton, despite a false bio in which he gives up fame and fortune for the anonymity of blues composition, gave up a blue-collar life ("instead of tears…I could be selling men's clothes") for that of academia. Haxton's ideal is "Craig or Greg," the museum guard who, catching him in the midst of memorizing "Lycidas," takes over the recitation from him. Haxton's speaker recognizes that this scene is pure wish-fulfillment, and his vigilant self-consciousness throughout the book lends weight to his imagined returns to the tawdry South of his youth, and foreground a battle between a tendency towards lyricism and the desire to "make [his] part make sense." The anti-elitist ethos similar to that which drove much Greek drama seems to be what Haxton is shooting for (Haxton is a noted translator from Greek), but the necessary degree of depersonalization never quite happens. (Nov.)

Reviewed on: 09/24/2001
Release date: 10/01/2001
Open Ebook - 50 pages - 978-0-307-48856-5
Paperback - 96 pages - 978-0-375-70956-2
Show other formats
FORMATS
Discover what to read next
TIP SHEET
MORE BOOKS YOU'D LIKE
X
X