Charles Simic, born in Yugoslavia in 1938, believes that tragedy, comedy, and paradox are the commonplace experiences of an exile's life. In The Unemployed Fortune-Teller he continues to search in essays, memoirs, and journal entries for the sources of his poetry. The eighteen wonderfully eclectic pieces in this new collection deal with such subjects as contemporary American poetry, the surrealist concept of chance, the blues, erotic folk songs, nationalism and the dismemberment of Yugoslavia, painting, photography, movies, the relationship of food to happiness, and his formative experiences in New York and France, where he served in the U.S. Army.
The writing collected in The Unemployed Fortune-Teller reflects the poet's concern with the complex interplay of poetry, art, philosophy, and one's own biography. It is also a pleasure to read, with prose that is at once serious and playful. Those who appreciate Simic's poetry know that he enjoys odd juxtapositions that reveal hidden and unexpected connections. This collection of his memoirs and essays will similarly surprise and delight them.
Charles Simic's most recent poetry collection is Hotel Insomnia (1992). He has won a number of prizes for his poetry, including the Pulitzer Prize in 1990, Guggenheim and Macarthur Fellowships, and a P.E.N. Translation Prize. He is Professor of English, University of New Hampshire.
Praise / Awards
". . . Simic brings off a masterfully casual beauty, whether discussing the creation of poetry and the poet's social role, praising food and the blues, or relating the travails of youth."
"Simic's prose has taken on a new urgency in The Unemployed Fortune-Teller. Here are introductions to poets from the former Yugoslavia; meditations on food, music, film and photography; and witty essays on chance, the limitations of nature writing and "The Necessity of Poetry" His memoirs about his military service in Luneville, France, and years in New York are lyrical, aphoristic and stunning."
--Los Angeles Times Book Review
". . . might well be called a parade of memory. In these journals, notebooks, introductions, memoirs, and occasional pieces, Simic recalls the sights, sounds and smells of his native Yugoslavia. . . . He mixes the erotic with the poetic, the sensual pleasures of food and poetry and a love of language with a love of eating. The best pieces in this collection, however, are those full of wit and pithy pronouncements that come to the defense of poetry."
A noteworthy poet (e.g., Walking the Black Cat, LJ 11/1/96) who has won the Pulitzer Prize and both Guggenheim and MacArthur fellowships, Simic certainly shows in his writing the literal meaning of his essay "In Praise of Invective," whose subtitle (a quote from Cornelius Eady) reads, "the tongue we use when we don't want nuance to get in the way." That particular Simic tongue is alive and well, his vast store of maledictions liberally and winningly used in telling stories. But the Simic tongue is also full of nuance, as evidenced by his poetry, which offers much to ponder: Simic's early life in Belgrade, sneaking illegally into Austria with his mother in 1948, his feelings about Serbia and Croatia today, his beginning days in New York, sleepless nights, dreams, other poets, books he never completed. This one, thankfully, got finished. Read and feel encouraged.?Robert Kelly, Fort Wayne Community Schs., Ind.
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