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The Waste Land The text of Eliot'smasterpiece is accompanied by thorough explanatory annotations as well as by Eliot's own knotty notes, some of which require annotation themselvesFor ease of reading, this Norton Critical Edition presents The Waste Land as it first appeared in the American edition Boni amp; Liveright, with Eliot's notes at the end Contexts provides readers with invaluable materials on The Waste Land's sources, composition, and publication history Criticism traces the poem's reception with twentyfive reviews and essays, from first reactions through the end of the twentieth century Included are reviews published in the Times Literary Supplement, along with selections by Virginia Woolf, Gilbert Seldes, Edmund Wilson, Elinor Wylie, Conrad Aiken, Charles Powell, Gorham Munson, Malcolm Cowley, Ralph Ellison, John Crowe Ransom, I A Richards, F R Leavis, Cleanth Brooks, Del Schwartz, Denis Donoghue, Robert Langbaum, Marianne Thormählen, A D Moody, Ronald Bush, Maud Ellman, and Tim Armstrong A Chronology and Selected Bibliography are included This Pisses Me Off and Makes Me Feel Like a Moron I've had to read this twice in the course of my education, and I don't like it one bit, though I thoroughly appreciate its status and importance Sort of like my attitude to atomic weapons You wouldn't dismiss atomic weapons as 'crap', but you could legitimately say 'I appreciate their significance but I don't like them at all.'I don't think there has ever beenliterary masturbation about any other piece of writing than The Wasteland, and I personally found it charmless, aloof and with nothing to engage my wish to push through that first impression Yes, it's all the pieces of the 'shattered' classical world, thrown together in a different and hideous mixture to reflect the modernists' belief that the world as they knew it, and all previous literary forms, weren't up to the task of reflecting their contemporary world but I really don't like the result It doesn't engage me and it doesn't illuminate me Maybe that was the point Still don't like it, and I'm not in university any, so I don't have to try to keep up with the intellectual dickswinging which surrounds this piece Thanks but no thanks.Anything this determinedly difficult just puts my back up, and theI learn of Eliot himself the less I feel like tackling it Okay, Eliot, you're a misogynistic, antiSemitic elitist who doesn't think anyone without a classical education is worthy of reading your work.Well, fine Fuck you I'll take my comprehensiveeducated Jewish arse elsewhere. I'm trying to write a term paper on this poem (key word is trying) and then I realized, hey, I should waste some time by writing a review of the poem on Goodreads! So here we are Here's my thing about T.S Eliot: the man is ungodly brilliant and I love almost everything he's written Does this mean I understand a single goddamn word of it? Of course not But (and this is the great part) that doesn't matter Eliot has been quoted as saying he's perfectly aware that no one has any idea what his poems are about, and he's perfectly cool with that Understanding Eliot's poems is not the point; the point is to recognize that he writes with incredible skill and to just lose yourself in the words My Lit book, How to Read a Poem, said it best:Eliot is often see as an intellectually difficult, fearfully elitist writer, and so in some ways he was But he was also the kind of poet who put little store by erudite allusions, and professed himself quite content to have his poetry read by those who had little idea what it meant It was form the material stuff of language itself, its archaic resonances and tentacular roots which mattered most to him In fact, he once claimed to have enjoyed reading Dante in the original even before he could understand ItalianIn some ways a semiliterate would have been Eliot's ideal reader He wasof a primitivist than a sophisticate He was interested in what a poem did, not what it said in the resonances of the signifier, the lures of its music, the hauntings of its grains and textures, the subterranean workings of what one can only call the poem's unconscious Translation: in Eliot's eyes, we are all uncultured idiots, and he wouldn't have it any other way So, for those of you struggling to get through the wordy, allusiontastic, multiplelanguage maze that is The Waste Land, I can only tell you this: Relax and just enjoy the ride You have nothing to fear T.S Eliot loves you Read for: Perspectives on Literature You know, one of the greatest poems of the 20th century and that kind of thing I must know a fair amount of it by heart Here's a story about The Waste Land that some people may find amusing Many years ago, when I was an undergraduate in Cambridge, a friend of mine asked me for advice on how to impress female Eng Lit majors Well, I said, you could do worse than use The Waste Land Just memorise a few lines, and you'll probably be able to bluff successfully.We did some rehearsals, and eventually agreed on the following script He would start off by quoting the first few lines:April is the cruellest month, breeding Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing Memory and desire, stirring Dull roots with spring rain.And then he would say, But that's not my favourite bit! and quote the following:What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man, You cannot say, or guess.He tried it out a couple of times, and it worked! Female Eng Lit majors, I apologise for assisting with this deception It wasn't very nice of me. I would not presume to offer anything approaching a definitive judgment of this unique and influential poem, a poem which presents us—in early modernist fashion—with a provocative collage of voices and scenes, fragments which Eliot has collected from the “heap of broken images” that litter the desert of our culture, but which he presents in a way that grants them new terror and new poignancy, in a way that shows us “fear in a handful of dust” and hintsif only by its absenceat the possibility of a greener world to come.First off, let me say I was disappointed in this little edition I picked it up initially because it contained an introduction by Paul Maldoon, an Irish poet with a reputation for allusiveness and obscurity—just the sort to illuminate this fragmentary and cryptic masterpiece But his introduction is brief and not terribly helpful, and his enthusiasm for Irish literature leads him to see literary connections where they do not exist For example, although I believe he is correct when he says the “Nighttown” episode of Ulysses is a major influence on the poem, he is mistaken when he speculates that Eliot’s working title for it,”He Do the Police in Different Voices” is also derived from this episode (It is actually a quotation from a character in Dicken’s A Mutual Friend, who is describing the oral reading technique of her precocious foster child, how he brings to life the crime stories published in the sensational magazine, The Police Gazette.)I was also disappointed in the lack of notes I was looking forextensive annotations, because I need them to help me unmask many references in this often obscure poem But when they said “notes,” I guess the editors just meant Eliot’s original notes, which are almost invariably appended to the poem anyway, whatever the edition.I’ll end by reproducing a few passages which illustrate something I noticed for the first time this reading: the large number of gothic and decadent images in this poem In spite of its classical allusions, modernist structure and tone, we are still not that far from the decadent ‘90’s here: “That corpse you planted last year in your garden, “Has it begun to sprout? Will it bloom this year? “Or has the sudden frost disturbed its bed? “Oh keep the Dog far hence, that’s friend to men, “Or with his nails he’ll dig it up again! “You! hypocrite lecteur!—mon semblable,—mon frère!”* * * * * * * * *In vials of ivory and coloured glass Unstoppered, lurked her strange synthetic perfumes, Unguent, powdered, or liquid—troubled, confused And drowned the sense in odours…* * * * * * * * *Above the antique mantel was displayed As though a window gave upon the sylvan scene The change of Philomel, by the barbarous king So rudely forced And other withered stumps of time Were told upon the walls; staring forms Leaned out, leaning, hushing the room enclosed * * * * * * * * *A rat crept softly through the vegetation Dragging its slimy belly on the bank White bodies naked on the low damp ground And bones cast in a little low dry garret, Rattled by the rat’s foot only, year to year * * * * * * * * *Who is the third who walks always beside you? When I count, there are only you and I together But when I look ahead up the white road There is always another one walking beside you Gliding wrapt in a brown mantle, hooded I do not know whether a man or a woman —But who is that on the other side of you? * * * * * * * *A woman drew her long black hair out tight And fiddled whisper music on those strings And bats with baby faces in the violet light Whistled, and beat their wings And crawled head downward down a blackened wall And upside down in air were towers Tolling reminiscent bells, that kept the hours And voices singing out of empty cisterns and exhausted wells In this decayed hole among the mountains In the faint moonlight, the grass is singing Over the tumbled graves, about the chapel There is the empty chapel, only the wind’s home It has no windows, and the door swings, Dry bones can harm no one Only a cock stood on the rooftree Co co rico co co rico In a flash of lightning Then a damp gust Bringing rain

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