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Actual Air Paperback – July 1, 1999


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 93 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press, Open City Books; 1 edition (July 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1890447048
  • ISBN-13: 978-1890447045
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.5 x 0.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #82,541 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From The New Yorker

"David Berman is a young Virginian poet with a sly, intense regard for the past. He comes on like a prankster, restocking the imperial orations of Wallace Stevens and the byzantine monologues of John Ashbery with the pop-cultural bric-a-brac of a new generation: 'I am not a cub scout seduced by Iron Maiden's mirror worlds.' But his words have and easy, eloquent gait; each line needs to be a line. The landscapes are crisply American, and history, especially Southern history, casts a shadow. A poem about the death of Lincoln ends, 'The assassin was in mid-air/when the stagehands wheeled out the clouds.'"

Review

"Actual Air is actual poetry. Berman is on a mission to make the world strange, to find in the doo-dads of daily life a profound weirdness . . . which makes for a rarity in contemporary poetry." -- Spin, June 1999

"Actual Air is one of the funniest, smartest, and sweetest books of the year, a collection of snapshots colored ecstatically outiside the lines. This is the absurd American sublime, poetry that raises the stakes on the everyday and bluffs the blunders." -- GQ, July 1999

"Berman's debut announces the discovery of a great American poetic storytelling voice by a new generation." -- Publisher's Weekly, June 28, 1999

"In Berman's universe, time slips lazily on by, life thoroughly strange and perpetually interesting . . .Berman is very much alive to life's nuances, even in what many might think of as bland surroundings." -- Time Out New York, May 27, 1999

"When was the last time you picked up a volume of poetry and found yourself hanging on every word, reading it all the way through in a single sitting and then going back to the beginning? This first collection from Berman is that kind of book. Full of casually sharp observations about the most mundane subjects. Air is funny, weird, and profound, whether it's tackling the nature of hallways or the architecture of back pain." -- Entertainment Weekly, July 30, 1999

Berman's is a funny, smart, on-again, off-again poetry of great promise. -- The New York Times Book Review, David Kirby

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Customer Reviews

If you don't know either...try one!
sroach@ns.sympatico.ca
I'll have to check Bill Knott, Harrison Fisher, Jeff McDaniel and Ron Koertge-I may also enjoy reading their poetry.
Matthew Ames
He uses interesting language by allowing his words to speak in a different way.
Jeff Brainard

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By joshua Elrod on December 10, 1999
Format: Paperback
A copy of this book is bumping along the bottom of the Colorado River heading toward Lake Mead. But before it went overboard: One afternoon in camp, while someone was cooking dinner, I was reading the Lincoln poem out loud to another guy on the trip. By the time I read a third selection from the book (at my friend's request) five or six other people had gathered around and were listening. I don't think any of us read poetry for recreation, but this book resonates, we could all tell that; and it was written with the ambition of being human, and as Grand as the Canyon. It ticks me off that this review protocal forces me to assign a number of stars. You can't count stars.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By sroach@ns.sympatico.ca on September 6, 1999
Format: Paperback
I bought this because I love the Silver Jews and Berman's words are probably the best part of their music. Like his lyrics, this is brilliant, thought-provoking, and clever... not pretensious at all in my opinion (see guy below). The best description that keeps popping into my head is "full of revelations".. maybe *that* is pretensious but that's what i think. My favorite "revelation" (or "pretensious" moment, if you think): "As a way of getting in touch with my origins / every night I set the alarm clock / for the time I was born, so that waking up / becomes a historical reenactment". Simply a very enjoyable, funny read all the way through. If you like the Joos, get this. If you like this, get some Silver Jews. If you don't know either...try one!
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17 of 22 people found the following review helpful By J Daniel Smith on May 4, 2000
Format: Paperback
Actual Air is wonderful. when i read berman's poem about Asimov, the retired cosmonaut in me surfaced and every "wow" that i ever felt in my heart when i was a kid reading science fiction sort of reactivated at once. the tone of his work - - his poems feel very "virginia": it has a delayed wit, a quietude, and a non-pace that seems to validate the assemblage of words beyond the idea of writing poetry. whatever that means. i find that when i read this book for a while and then pick up something else, my mind attempts to read the new text by performing the same little equations that i'd be performing when reading berman's poetry. i guess that's a testimony to this book's uniqueness and the resonance of berman's logic. i gave it four transparent stars... they seem to be far more rare around here, and therefore probably more valuable. buy this book!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on February 4, 2003
Format: School & Library Binding
Is it negative to call David Berman's work "Actual Air" an immensely entertaining work? Would he, would any poet, prefer his or her work to be called important or profound? Should a reader sit and read each stanza aloud, let it reverberate, and allow its meaning to fall from the air like mist? Or should one tear through all forty poems with reckless abandon, like I did with "Actual Air".
Berman does have a healthy dollop of poetic pretensions, but it seems most modern poets can not avoid this problem. Perhaps it is due to the overwhelming self-centeredness the art form has grown into. Moments do shine, where, almost in a winking with the reader, Berman speaks plainly. In these moments the profundity emanates from the simplicity.
Right away, in the second poem, 'Classic Water':
and I remember how I would always refer to her boyfriends
as what's-his-face, which was wrong of me and I'd like
to apologize to those guys right now, wherever they are:
No one deserves to be called what's-his-face.
Simple and severe, humorous and sad. This mish-mash of emotional content written as humorous anecdotal lines is plentiful throughout the book.
From 'Self Portrait at 28':
We will travel to Mars
even as folks on Earth
are still ripping open potato chip
bags with their teeth.
The above mixes the complex with the simple, the future and the past become one.
In 'CORAL GABLES':
"I refuse to be the middleman in a relationship
between you and the florist."
A fittingly hilarious and sad remark. This book is recommended.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Adam Tetzloff on May 6, 2000
Format: Paperback
Saint David the prolific is once again saving our souls. The book carries an honesty and clarity rare in modern poetry, or modern life for that matter. The works here harken back to a time earlier this evening, as you sat at the table, staring at your glass of milk and wondering why your older brother never calls you. It's a simple choice for you, read it now or spend hours agonizing about the time you wasted without these words in your heart. When your heart swells you will understand. May the Silver Jew ride off into the sunset, in a chevy nova listening to steppenwolf. Berman, I salute you.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By joseph j williams (joew@unitech-ia.com) on November 2, 1999
Format: Paperback
bermans poems are delightfull, his wit is alive and relevant. he takes apart the regular inbetween moments we take for granted and lets us appreciate them. never before have a read another persons work and left it so sure that i knew what he had to say, as if his voice was an older, sharper version of our own. to ignore this book of poems is to close your ears to a powerfull voice of the american experiance.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 26, 1999
Format: Paperback
david berman's interrogation of the nostalgic is well - it's great because it makes me think of the old arrested frontier - i'm a cowboy. youre a cowboy. this is actual, not virtual.
this has to do with his capacity to hypostatize the corporeal in a reluctance to get hung up over cookie factories or sliding scale payment plans. the result? it makes you believe in me and me in you. that intersubjectivity that lies at the base of every american community is HERE, actual air - i salute people constantly.
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