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Don't Let Me Be Lonely: An American Lyric

par Claudia Rankine

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284771,666 (4.07)27
Here, available for the first time in the UK, is the book in which Claudia Rankine first developed the 'American Lyric' form which makes her Forward Prize-winning collection Citizenso distinctive- an original combination of poetry, lyric essay, photography and visual art, virtuosically deployed. Don't Let Me Be Lonelyis Rankine's meditation on the self bewildered by race riots, terrorism, medicated depression and television's ubiquitous influence. Written during George W. Bush's presidency in an America still reeling from the 9/11 attacks and charging headlong into war in Iraq, this is an early 21st-century work of great wit, intelligence and depth of feeling, with urgent lessons for the present.… (plus d'informations)
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Don't let me be lonely is a work that reminded me of the power of particularity in experience and the repetitive instances that can wear down one's soul, particularly from the perspective of a black woman routinely being exposed to racism and violence in public and private spheres. The role of medication, too, as this spine that runs through the book is a poignant reminder of the ways that people try to shore up or manage their pain.
  b.masonjudy | Sep 5, 2020 |
Here's a book that richly rewards re-reading. I'm just starting on this, my third time through, to see the complex unity of the entire work. Rankine clearly signals her place within vanguardist poetic traditions, referring to such poets as Paul Celan, Gertrude Stein, Myung Mi Kim, and Rosmarie Waldrop throughout the book. But this book's relationship to vanguard poetry is an uneasy one. It takes up some of the themes and practices of those poetry--Stein-ian repetition, especially, is a heavy influence on the entire work--but without discarding the power of the lyric to capture the aspiration toward subjectivity, if not exactly the achievement of authentic expression. Don't Let Me Be Lonely also powerfully meditates on what Guy Debord calls the Society of the Spectacle, and the way that television and other forms of mass media flatten out our relationships to one another. The voice of the poems both inhabits that flattening out and attempts to resist it, to hail the reader into a more morally demanding mode of relation. ( )
  jalbacutler | Jan 10, 2017 |
The rating is just for the use of images: I am researching the theory and history of books written with images. (writingwithimages.com)

"Citizen" raises different issues. (The review is elsewhere on this site.) In "Don't Let Me Be Lonely" the use of images seems mnemonic, evidentiary, decorative, offhanded, generic, unformatted, and therefore almost always uninteresting. In order:

1. Mnemonic: the many images of people Rankine describes, such as Abner Louima, Johnny Cochrane, Amadou Diallo (pp. 56-57), are given as reminders.

2. Evidentiary: those images are also evidentiary, in that they point toward the fact that Rankine's entire narrative is about real politics, real history, and -- by implication -- her real reactions. But "evidentiary" might be better applied to photographs that indicate the narrative is telling a true story, for example the mammogram with the lump on p. 8.

(The mismatch between the ferocity of the text and what I think of as the marginalized use of images is echoed, incidentally, in the mismatch between the book's very extensive "Notes" section, which describes most of the book's references at length, and the book's very short "Images" section, which is less than a full page. The cases of Louima, Diallo, and others are documented in "Notes," but often the "Images" file just says "(c) John Lucas," as if there is nothing more to be asked or known about the photographs.)

3. Decorative: this seems an adequate description of some illustrations, such as the still of "The Wild Bunch" on p. 25, which doesn't illustrate the points made in the text.

4. Offhanded: for example the drawings of lips speaking on p. 40, which looks tossed-off, as if Rankine had decided she wanted an image, but not what she wanted out of the image.

5. Generic: for example the Google search bar on p. 72: it accompanies a very specific idea of what might be searched, so its generic nature isn't pertinent -- it's not clear why a reader wants to be reminded of the general idea of a Google search.

6. Unformatted: most of the images in this book seem carelessly placed on the page. Why does the text wrap around the image on p. 82, but not on p. 83? Why are the images narrower than the margins in most cases, but not in all? Why not decide those issues, especially if they might be distracting?

This list could easily be extended. But there points are all symptoms: Rankine cares desperately for her subject matter, and for her images are ornaments, additions, extras, and bits of evidence. They are rarely objects of thought. The narrative rarely needs them, rarely knows what might be done with them. They never guide the narrative. They are almost, but not quite, outside the text's imagination.

(Still there are a few interesting uses of images in the book. I especially appreciate the repetition of the chalkboard marked "THIS IS THE MOST MISERABLE IN MY LIFE," repeated four ties on pp. 17-18, accompanying a narrative about a disastrous change in the person who wrote it.) ( )
  JimElkins | Mar 26, 2016 |
This was a reread for me, but I was wowed all over again by Don't Let Me Be Lonely, my favorite of the three books by Claudia Rankine that I've read thus far. I reviewed this book for American Book Review back in 2005. Here's a link to a copy of that review posted on my web page: http://sites.google.com/site/paulagraphpress2/don'tletmebelonely:anamericanlyric... ( )
  Paulagraph | May 25, 2014 |
This is a short but fascinating work of poetry and prose that works with issues of identity, depression, media and representation, and self-definition. Comical at times, heartbreaking at others, Rankine's work here is a cross-genre look at the individual as alienated from society by the absurdity of life, death, and media. Readers should be aware that the first few sections are extremely serious--perhaps to the extent of being off-putting--but that the issues that figure heavily in the beginning, including terminal illness, are less central as the text moves forward.

For anyone interested in cross-genre work, this is a must read, but it's also simply an interesting text filled with beautiful language that lingers somewhere between philosophy and narrative, poetry and prose, in a form that makes it both accessable and memorable for perhaps any reader. If you're in a contemplative mood, or looking for a short work to while away an afternoon with, I'd recommend this, though it's meditations on life and death are, in a way, desperately earnest, and at times difficult to take. Still, it's a worthwhile book, and beautiful when given enough time and consideration. ( )
1 voter whitewavedarling | Apr 22, 2010 |
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Here, available for the first time in the UK, is the book in which Claudia Rankine first developed the 'American Lyric' form which makes her Forward Prize-winning collection Citizenso distinctive- an original combination of poetry, lyric essay, photography and visual art, virtuosically deployed. Don't Let Me Be Lonelyis Rankine's meditation on the self bewildered by race riots, terrorism, medicated depression and television's ubiquitous influence. Written during George W. Bush's presidency in an America still reeling from the 9/11 attacks and charging headlong into war in Iraq, this is an early 21st-century work of great wit, intelligence and depth of feeling, with urgent lessons for the present.

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