Newton, Burdon, Bergman

Congratulations to Maud Newton for winning the Narrative Magazine Annual Fiction Prize for her novel excerpt, When the Flock Changed.

Former Animal superstar Eric Burdon talks to Bradley Mason Hamlin about writing, filmmaking, shady record deals, and more at Mystery Island.

 On the House of the Rising Sun musical arrangement, Burdon says, “We didn’t have the time or the space to put the name of everyone on the credits. M.J., our inventive manager had a plan or maybe he and Mr. Price had a plan. ‘Lets put Alan’s name on the single for now and we will sort it out later, we’re all good friends here!’ Star-struck, drunk & stoned–we went for it in a hurry. There are many stories in the rock and roll business but this one takes the biscuit; it was the first of the great rip-offs and stands in history as that.”

 On writing, Burdon says, “Since the early days I used to write about my experiences while on the road and about life in general. I would dress them up with collages and photographs. When I met Nina Simone she took a look at one of my journals and she told me, ‘You are a music historian.’”

I recently reread Bergman on Bergman: Interviews With Ingmar Bergman by Stig Bjorkman, Torsten Manns, and Jonas Sima, translated by Paul Britten Austin.

In the February 24, 1969 interview, Swedish film director Bergman balks at questions that are more like statements, explaining, “Every time you’ve put concrete questions to me I’ve tried to express myself in my own way and give you an answer. But when Torsten delivers a little lecture – however interesting I find it in itself – and then leaves me a wide field to expatiate on, I feel depressed, because it isn’t a concrete question. For me my work, or whatever you like to call it – these thirty films – are something solid, something I’ve made. So I must have concrete questions if I’m to give you concrete answers.”

That sounds like something Jeff VanderMeer told me early on when I interviewed him for Literary Kicks (his statement didn’t make it into the interview. Maybe it should have – it’s actually kind of instructive).

Maud Newton Soars

Narrative Magazine has an excerpt from Maud Newton’s novel and it is top notch! A combination of light-hearted snark and Poe-like dark, which is exactly what most real childhoods consist of.

 When I say Poe, I’m thinking of The Black Cat. When the protagonist killed the cat, I simultaneously cringed and identified with him. Not that I ever killed a cat, but I know that feeling remorse after doing something in anger. I think most kids do.

 That one morbid thought aside, this is primarily a humorous and heartfelt hoot of a tale. I was cracking up over the daughter’s reactions to her mother’s weirdness. Again, just like real life.

 The name of the excerpt is When the Flock Changed. Check it out: 

My mother was a preacher until the cops shut her down. Well, okay, she kept at it halfheartedly in our living room for a while, but the fire had wiped out not just her warehouse church and the halfway house she ran out of it, but her passion, her commitment, and maybe even, deep down, her belief. All those years of serving the Lord, of taking to the streets to let the homeless and addicted and just plain lonely know what a friend they had in Jesus, and now she had no proper house of worship, no sea of folding chairs or repository of sermons on tape. She was practically a layperson. Worse, her flock knew it and was slipping away.

The church ladies saw the blaze as a sign of God’s disfavor. Mom had created a makeshift dorm in the sanctuary, a commercial space, and one of the guys had fallen asleep with a joint still burning. Maybe she shouldn’t have spent so much time ministering to the riffraff when there were perfectly normal people’s problems to attend to. Our Heavenly Father wouldn’t have let the church burn down if she’d been in tune with Him and His Word. So the flock was saying.

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