I got really into John Ashbery this summer, and stumbled across this translation he did of Pierre Reverdy’s Haunted House. After reading the brief seventy pages, I came across one truth: Pierre Reverdy is out of his mind. The book has very little to do with a haunted house in any physical way, and the prose-poem twists and turns about busy French street corners, homes of power-hungry bureaucrats, and the sad-eyes of the less-than-well-off — all in one sentence. Around the fiftieth page, he changes gears completely, and draws this connection between a haunted house and the interior of anybody brave (or crazy) enough to live, day-to-day, alongside modernity. He writes, “There are better ways, certainly, to know men and to learn what is happening in their souls — we have only not to look at them”. He doesn’t really seem to give a damn about what an author is, or what one ought to be, and never makes the distinction between inventive word-play or conscious self-criticism. It is an immensely fun read, if you don’t mind having a dictionary in one hand and a bottle of caffeine pills in the other. Of course, I only really guessed as to what it is all about. Andre Breton said this is one of ten books he would take with him on a desert island, but he also said that ‘the man that cannot visualize a horse galloping on a tomato is an idiot’. Do with that what you will.