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A dazzling story of obsessive love emerges in Cynthia Zarin's luminous new book inspired and inhabited by the title character of Nabokov's novel Ada, or Ardor: A Family Chronicle, who was the lifelong love of her half brother, Van.These electric poems are set in a Nabokovian landscape of memory in which real places, people, and things--the exploration of the Hudson River, Edwardian London, sunflowers, Chekhov, Harlem, decks of cards, the death of Solzhenitsyn, morpho butterflies--collide with the speaker's own protean tale of desire and loss. With a string of brilliant contemporary sonnets as its spine, the book is a headlong display of mastery and sorrow: in the opening poem, "Birch," the poet writes "Abide with me, arrive / at its skinned branches, its arms pulled / from the sapling . . . the birch all elbows, taking us in." But Zarin does not "Destroy and forget" as Nabokov's witty, tender Ada would have her do; rather, as she writes in "Fugue: Pilgrim Valley," "The past's / clear colors make the future dim, Lethe's / swale lined with willow twigs." Like all enduring love poetry, these poems are a gorgeous refusal to forget.A riveting, high-stakes performance by one of our major poets, The Ada Poemsextends the reach of American poetry.From the Hardcover edition.
An Enlarged Heart, the exquisitely written prose debut from prize-winning poet Cynthia Zarin, is a poignantly understated exploration of the author's experiences with love, work, and the surprise of time's passage. In these intertwined episodes from her New York world and beyond, she charts the shifting and complicated parameters of contemporary life and family in writing that feels nearly fictional in its richness of scene, dialogue, and mood. The writer herself is the marvelously rueful character at the center of these tales, at first a bewildered young woman, navigating the terrain of new jobs and borrowed apartments and the rapidly fading New York of people like Mr. Ferri, the Upper East Side tailor ("a wren of a man with pins flashing in his teeth"). By the end, whether Zarin is writing about vanished restaurants, her decades-long love affair with her collection of coats, a newlywed journey to Italy, a child's illness, Mary McCarthy's file cabinet, or the inner life of the New Yorker staff she knew as a young woman, this history of the heart shows us how persistent the past is in returning to us with entirely new lessons, and that there are some truths not even a tailor can alter.
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