The Beat Goes On

My interview with musician/composer David Amram has been selected as one of the 18 pieces in this new book from Literary Kicks.  Read all about it at Amazon.com:

Literary Kicks, a website born in 1994, was there to witness it all, standing at the crossroads of emerging Internet culture and Beat inspiration.

Here’s the tale of Levi Asher’s audition for Francis Ford Coppola’s movie version of ‘On The Road’, and John Perry Barlow’s touching explanation of how Neal Cassady inspired the Grateful Dead song “Cassidy” . . . W. S. Merwin and Allen Ginsberg get into a heated argument over forced nakedness as Buddhist prayer, Patricia Elliot describes William S. Burroughs’s funeral in Kansas, and Michael McClure describes, on the fiftieth anniversary of the legendary Six Gallery poetry reading, what it all meant . . . 

Read More

 

Southern Gothic: Jamelah Earle on Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury

Left: One of the many book covers for Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury; Top: Photo of Jamelah Earle by Jamelah Earle; Bottom: Chamblin's Uptown on Laura Street in Jacksonville, FL; Right: Dackery Saig at Chamblin's, photo by Bill Ectric

On a recent Wednesday night at the Chamblin’s Uptown Poetry Reading, Dack Saig was explaining to me  that William Faulkner was one of the originators of Southern Gothic. It reminded me of an article by Jamelah Earle, about Faulkner’s novel The Sound and the Fury, which I read some time ago on Literary Kicks. I went back and read it again, and enjoyed it so much I thought I would share it here:

I understand why people give up on it and declare it unreadable, and think it is an impenetrable wall of modernist “Oooh, I’m in your thoughts” blabbity blah, but the truth is that it’s not as difficult as it seems and the stuff you think you’re not understanding at first starts to make sense as you move through the novel. Perhaps that’s cold comfort for anybody who has tried to make it through the first section with Benjy and his bright shapes and Caddy smelling like trees, but it gets easier as it moves along.

The novel consists of four sections, each written from a different perspective, yet all of them come together brilliantly to tell the story of the Compson family . . .

Read entire article at LitKicks

Three for “T” (Norris, Mcneill, & Agnelli on “V” Author Thomas Pynchon)

           Photo of Lauren Agnelli by Chion Wolf

I’m reading my first Thomas Pynchon novel, V.  and wondering if Pynchon created the urban legend about baby alligators being flushed down toilets and growing into big alligators in the sewers of New York, or did he simply take a pre-existing rumor and expand upon it. For that matter, is it only a myth, or is it true? 

Sometimes I think Pynchon is like Jack Kerouac with the added luxury of sleep, leisure time, and a global outlook. Other times, Pynchon reminds me of William Burroughs, with the hallucinatory traces of intrigue and skullduggery but without the homoerotic obsession. Then again, the humor is more Vonnegut. Of course, the rollicking debauchery of V.’s  “Whole Sick Gang” might evoke Bukowski, and/or circle back again to Kerouac’s crew of desolate angel outcasts.

I refer to these other writers because it’s an easy way to describe my initial reactions to V., which I am enjoying immensely. I get the impression from Pynchon fans that the comparisons should be reversed.

In a book review of Gravity’s Rainbow, on Amazon.com, William P. Mcneill says, “Read V.  first… Pynchon’s V.  is shorter and more accessible than Gravity’s Rainbow, but addresses the same themes in a similar style. If you enjoyed V. , you will have built up a reserve of goodwill for Pynchon that will carry you through the initial rough patches of Gravity’s Rainbow. This advice was given to me years ago, and I’m glad I took it.”

Michael Norris and I got into a side-discussion about Pynchon on one of Jamelah Earle’s Ulysses threads, then “stepped outside” the virtual room to continue our conversation by email:

BILL: Lately I’ve been reading (a Rudy Rucker essay) about the relative denseness of information in various novels. Someone suggested that I read Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon. I get the general feeling that Rainbow is similar to Ulysses in it’s layers of reference and meaning. Would anyone here agree with that? Comment by Bill Ectric June 27th, 2008 12:07 pm

MIKE:   Bill, you *must* read Gravity’s Rainbow. It is quite accessible compared to Ulysses, but yes the denseness of reference is there. To read Pynchon, you need to be versed in History, Literature, and Drugs. And have a sense of humor. Comment by Michael Norris – June 27th, 2008 2:57 pm

BILL: You’ve convinced me. I’m going to read Gravity’s Rainbow. Now, let me ask you this. Someone said it would be better to read “V” first. Have you read
V?  – email from billectric

MIKE: Yes, read V first. This will get you used to Pynchon’s style. Also, V is set
in a more contemporary period, whereas Gravity’s Rainbow takes place during
WWII. Also, some of the characters in V repeat in Gravity’s Rainbow. – email from Michael Norris

For some background on Thomas Pynchon, here’s a LitKicks article written by singer/musician/writer Lauren Agnelli. I once had the pleasure of seeing Lauren perform with the Washington Squares in New York City at the Bowery Poetry Club, a memory I will always cherish.