Book Review: Sonnets (R.D. Laing)

Sonnets, by R.D. Laing

This book is not quite as clever or engaging or original as the author thinks it is.  Indeed, this book, although short, is still padded considerably to reach its length, as if the author wanted to publish a book but only had enough actual poetic material present to make a chapbook and believed incorrectly that people were curious and interested in reading about his religious and philosophical views.  This is by no means the worst book ever, or even close to it, but the book is not an essential one unless you happen to be a fan of the author and want to read his writings to completion.  Why one would want to do that is a mystery to me, but some people set themselves to tasks that have no value or worth.  Not all of the sonnets here are by any means contemptible, and there are times where the author has seemingly accidentally stumbled upon some worthy questions and comments to make, although these sonnets are by no means traditional in terms of their structure, in that while they follow the rhymed iambic pentameter of the sonnet they are not focused and complete works but rather fragments that end up meeting the fourteen line form.

This book can really be divided into three parts that fill up about 70-odd pages of material.  The first part of the book consists of a lengthy introduction where the author discusses his thought process and his apparent surprise that he thought for a while in basic dialogue that fit into an iambic pentameter scheme, not realizing that this is a relatively common pattern of ordinary speech in English.  Anyway, after demonstrating himself not as creative as he thought and commenting that he kept on writing fragmentary lines until the inspiration vanished, the second section of the book consists of the author’s lines of dialogue.  There is no listing of whose voices they are and they do not always cohere well within the sonnet forms, but some of the lines at least present interesting questions or comments.  The last part of the book then contains various quotations of statements in the Bible, frequently with the author’s fragmentary commentary about said passages which the author thinks will fill out length of a small book and provide insightful material for the reader, which is generally not to be found, unfortunately.

Like many people who have some degree of literary skill and at least basic levels of educational attainment, the author seems to think that any idea that runs through his head is worth turning into a published book.  In his case, it appears that someone was willing to humor and indulge him in the hope of receiving an appreciative reading audience.  Since so few people read poetry anyway, though, it seems likely that the poet already had a recognized reputation and that this book was merely done to keep current as a writer and keep his fans and publisher engaged with his material while he searched for inspiration that would fill a longer work.  Like many books, this work is meant to be appreciated by those who already care about the author and what he thinks.  There is little impressive about the fragmentary nature of the work, his thoughts are mostly commonplace and not nearly as striking as he believes, and the book is totally inessential in terms of its contents and approach.  If you happen to be a fan of the author, though, this work is likely to be enjoyable in the sense that a conversation around a fireplace is enjoyable if we happen to appreciate someone’s company and don’t mind that they are not as clever or original as they may fancy themselves.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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