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

21st Century Dada: when logic is not enough

From Literary Kicks, here’s Claudia Moscovici on Barna Nemethi’s Fashionable 21st Century Dada:

“One of the most creative and irreverent art movements was Dada, founded by a Romanian poet, Tristan Tzara. Like Surrealism, which later sprung from it, Dada was a broad cultural movement, involving the visual arts, poetry, literature, theater, graphic design and–inevitably–even politics.

Born in the wake of the devastation caused by the First World War, Dada rejected “reason” and “logic,” which many of its artists associated with capitalist ideology and the war machine.”

Read entire article

Samuel Taylor Coleridge: Hallucination, Transgression, and Redemption

Credit: The middle part of the above collage is taken from the CD cover of Images of Kubla Khan, Copyright ©2009 Richard Hill, who tells us on his website that the “Copyright in the original mandala series of designs for ‘Images from Kubla Khan’ is held by Gabrielle Uncles. The designs were commissioned for the cd sleeve of the American release of the work, narrated by Oscar winning actor Sir Ben Kingsley. They also form the basis of set designs for the ballet concept of ‘Images from Kubla Khan’. The magical world of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s dream fantasy is perfectly reflected in these beautiful and mystical paintings, with their ancient and pagan symbolism.”


 Here are a couple of excerpts from the Samuel Taylor Coleridge piece I wrote for Literary Kicks, October 1, 2005:

In Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Coleridge demonstrates a perfect blend of reality and fantasy, subtly shifting from the known to the unknown, thereby enabling the reader to suspend disbelief. He carefully studied chronicles of actual sea voyages and used details which would be familiar to readers of that time period. This makes the story all the more convincing when a “skeleton ship” appears, with Death himself on deck, throwing dice for the souls of the 200 sailors, whose fall dead one by one while their spirits whoosh like arrows around the terrified narrator.

. . . Coleridge produced many other works which are not listed in this article, but one effort that cannot be overlooked is Christabel. A supernatural tale of witchery, mystery, dark forests, castles, and, some say, lesbianism, this poem was begun by Coleridge in 1797. Part Two was written in 1800, and the Conclusion to Part Two in 1801. Christabel may be the only work of poetry to undergo extensive analysis before being published, because Coleridge read versions of it aloud at literary gatherings and released limited copies of the unfinished product, which were circulated among his fans.

Author John Polidori (1795-1821) recounted that when Lord Byron read Christabel to him, along with Percy Shelley, and Mary Godwin, Percy Shelley literally screamed when he heard a particularly scary passage . . .Read entire article

Berlin: Lou Reed’s Dark Poetry

Via Literary KicksMichael Norris writes:

In 1973, as a follow up to his highly successful “Transformer” album, Lou Reed released the album “Berlin”. The ten-song concept album tells of the disintegration of a couple living in Germany. The couple, Caroline and Jim, follows a dark path that starts with drug addiction and descends into infidelity, spousal abuse, loss of children due to unfit parenting, and, ultimately, suicide. The album was a commercial flop upon release. Rock critic Lester Bangs, up until this point a huge Lou Reed supporter, called the record “a gargantuan slab of maggoty rancor that may well be the most depressed album ever made.” Reaction to the album was so negative that Reed did not perform the complete song cycle in concert for over thirty years.

And yet even when the album first came out, some critics called it a masterpiece. The record developed a cult following, and decades later Reed finally decided to perform the piece live.

 Read the full article

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, 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.