Henry hates:

The Folding Cliffs: A narrative of 19th century Hawaii

by W. S. Merwin

Knopf: 2004


Henry hates Merwin’s gorgeous, gripping verse epic. This book is like a mouthful of shadow and earth and damp night air and leather and sorrow. It is a magnificent book, one that propels you while it keeps you close to its breast, a book that gives context and shockingly personal insight on the same page, sometimes in the same careful line. This book outdoes Matthiessen at his own game. This book is—I write with all confidence—a masterpiece.

At least, I thought so. Henry, not so much. He fell asleep after eight pages. Maybe unconsciousness was preferable to hearing me butcher the Hawaiian names. Maybe the rhythm of the thing lulled him, or maybe he simply got bored. Either way he conked out just as things were starting to get good, by which I mean our protagonist was about to reach the top of a mountain she’d been climbing for that entire eight pages. Henry has no tolerance for stage setting, I guess? The kid is a boor.

I tried picking up where we’d left off later that night/morning/time is meaningless with babies, but he immediately screamed and spat out his pacifier, which I’ve come to recognize means the equivalent of, I think, ‘Fuck you and your motherfucking books give me milk you horrible shit.” So let’s just agree that he hated it.

If you want to get a copy to shame my pronunciation in front of my screaming infant, you can grab it here.