Mary Ruefle Archive
Museums are filled with ghosts, if “ghost” is just another word for “longing.” Their collections typify our desire for possession, which, as poet and essayist Mary Ruefle would argue, is a “sickness”—the “world’s greatest sickness on earth,” in fact.
When we talk about sentimentality in literature, we talk about the “contemporary, pejorative sense of the word,” Zoe Heller writes for the New York Times. A word defined by Merriam-Webster as “the quality or state of being sentimental especially to excess or in affectation.” A word with synonyms such as
Katsushika Hokusai, contemporary of Goya and Turner and Ingres, artistic godfather of Monet and Van Gogh, was recently the subject of an exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts here in Boston. He’s been on my mind ever since. Most of us know Hokusai’s artwork from the image above,
It is fitting that the bowerbird roosts in the opening lines of Ted Hughes’s poem “A Literary Life,” for there is perhaps no better mascot for reader and writer both. The species is a known collector, spending the better part of the year building complicated huts from assorted novelties: