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DISCOVERIES

Emblems of Desire

Selections From the Délie of Maurice Scève

Maurice Scève, edited and translated from the French by Richard Sieburth

Archipelago: 224 pp., $15 paper

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THE “Délie,” published in 1544, is a book-length series of love poems that also make fun of love -- the narcissism, need and desire that often masquerade as love. This selection is accompanied by 50 woodcuts that illustrated the first edition. Maurice Scève, born in Lyon, spent much of his life tortured by love. In middle age, he fell in love with a married woman 20 years his junior; this unrequited passion fueled the “Délie.” The poems convey such exquisite, self-absorbed anguish that we are reluctantly drawn into their orbit. They are, it must be said, almost funny: “You are my Cedar against the venom / Of this Snake forever coiled in me,

/ And when Love, by mutual effect, / Opens your mouth & heavenly human / Sweet nothings spill from your lips, /Cutting me to the quick, your breath / Sends forth (O Gods) a balm more fresh / Than all the Zephyrs of Araby the Bless’d.”

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The Last Resistance

Jacqueline Rose

Verso: 238 pp., $29.95

THESE essays, written in the era of war in Iraq and worsening Israeli-Palestinian relations, bridge the gap between individual identity and citizenship. Jacqueline Rose, a British literary critic and professor of English, uses psychoanalysis and literature as forms of resistance: psychoanalysis because it reveals hidden truths and rigid identities, literature because it provides ways to imagine ourselves in other lives, subverting the status quo (us vs. them). “To empathize

,” she writes, “is not, however, to condone. It is an attempt to grasp what, under intolerable historical circumstances, each and every one of us might be capable of.” Every now and then it’s important to step back and consider the act of reading (even if one reads solely for pleasure, even if only thrillers or self-help books) as a way to sort out who one is, amid the babble of fact and fiction, information and entertainment. Rose writes about the letters between Sigmund Freud and German author Arnold Zweig in the 1930s, about Nadine Gordimer’s willingness in her fiction to contemplate violence as an agent of change. The psyche, Rose writes, “is a social place

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We only exist through the others who make up the storehouse of the mind.”

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House of Happy Endings

A Memoir

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Leslie Garis

Farrar, Straus & Giroux: 340 pp., $25

“IN those years,” begins Leslie Garis’ tale of growing up in Amherst, Mass., with her brothers, parents and paternal grandparents, “I spent a lot of time in the dumbwaiter, moving up and down behind the walls, listening to voices.” Garis’ grandfather created the “Uncle Wiggily” series; together, he and his wife, often under various pseudonyms, wrote such acclaimed series as “The Bobbsey Twins” and “Tom Swift.” But life at “The Dell” was a far cry from the sweet innocence of those stories. Garis’ father was a depressive drug addict: “We were wrapped in a dream

refined in vivid detail by the collective imagination of my family.” Garis’ memories aren’t unusual: Every family has secrets, every child feels at best like a detective, at worst betrayed. But some memoirs, like this one, have a clarity others lack. Bitterness and blame have leached away. The apple-cheeked Bobbsey twins and good-natured Uncle Wiggily loom behind this story as a kind of perfection that humans were never meant to attain and children should not dare to dream of, much less confuse with reality.

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susan.reynolds@latimes.com


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