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Oh Give Me A Noose I Can Hang From The Tree November 30, 2009

Posted by Mark Folse in Toulouse Street.
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Yes, well, this one has been done before but I’m going to try to maintain a modicum of, um, class. Or culture. Or something. Hell, I just like it and it’s Tom Waits.

If you’re just wandered in here looking for something else: Happy Hostilidays.

The Gift November 28, 2009

Posted by Mark Folse in cryptic envelopment, Dancing Bear, oddities, Odds&Sods, Toulouse Street.
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OK, not exactly a holiday video for the increasingly infamous NOLA Bloggers War On Christmas, (aka The Hostilidays) but also because this is the piece I suggested Lou For A Day should stand up on the bar and declaim at Mimi’s if I can scrape off the right-channel music track. And hey, it’s all about the gifts, right? That and the food and the booze. In fact, I think I should make and give everyone bourbon balls this year, which seems the perfect expression of the holiday season.

Odd Words November 27, 2009

Posted by Mark Folse in books, literature, Odd Words, Toulouse Street.
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So, it’s Thanksgiving Weekend and everyone is probably exhausted from the horrible Mimosa-Sazerac-wine-Belgian Ale-absinthe hangover we try to blame on the triptophan and that fourth helping of oyster dressing. (What, you don’t serve absinthe after dinner?) So of course there’s not much going on for this column. Sure, I could send you off to go see Angus Lind and Peggy Scott Laborde but really, we have to watch the Detroit Lions after dinner and isn’t that suffering enough?

So, what to do while my wife crawls all through the house on ladders preparing for Southern Living Christmas On Steroids award judging? I am hiding in my office (where either my CPU has developed an unpleasant hum or I severely damaged my head last night in some way I don’t recall), I go read the snarkalicious litdrift.com. This week’s Free Book Friday contest offers a work titled Floodmarkers, by Nic Brown, described as “a fictional town full of very real people who survive the attack of Hurricane Hugo and then find their bearings in the aftermath—often in wild and hilarious ways.”

Ok, I’m ready for a funny book about a hurricane’s aftermath. How about you? That, and a Bloody Mary.

And if you noticed that this week’s Thursday column came out on Friday morning, you win–um, well–this lovely turkey carcass. No, wait: I need that for gumbo. How about this lovely half bottle (gently drunk) of Red Truck Unoaked Chardonnay. Don’t let the screw cap fool you.

§ Fair Grinds Poetry Event – Jenna Mae hosts poets and spoken word readers on the second, fourth and fifth Sunday of each month. 8 p.m. Fair Grinds Coffeehouse, 3133 Ponce de Leon Ave., (Mid-City), 913-9073, http://www.fairgrinds.com.

§ Next Wednesday Barb Johnson and Niyi Osundare – The author and poet read from recent and past works. 7 p.m. Wednesday. NOCCA|Riverfront, 2800 Chartres St., (Bywater), 940-2787, http://www.nocca.com.

So you see, things are a little thin (in terms of what I might actually want to do) unless you want to get into cookbooks. And I don’t. So see you next week.

Thankful November 25, 2009

Posted by Mark Folse in New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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You have to love a holiday that is primarily about eating and drinking whatever sort of civics class fatherland malarkey They have tried to drape the table with. Thanksgiving is the holiday (I will bet you a bottle of wine) at which you will find yourself trying to remember the grape-and-grain rule and will as well at some point change your clothes not because you’ve spilled the gravy but because you have eaten like a Roman Senator on holiday in Pompey.

My wife takes the whole thing a bit more seriously, will brook no discussion of the Pilgrims as a American proto-Taliban and insist someone Say Grace. It will likely fall to me, who has no use for modern Christianity in any flavor and who is hosting an old friend who is a devout Pagan, to come up with some suitable words. As I sit in a bank all day juggling project schedules I should be thankful that most of a degree in English Literature and a houseful of books is of some small use, not to mention twelve years of Catholic education (we coasted through our pre-Cana interview on the strength of all that catechism, and by my early discovery that Monsignor Murphy was Archbishop Phillip Hannan’s roommate in seminary turning the entire hour into a comparative discussion of New Orleans’ better restaurants), but I digress. Consider it rehearsal for conversation at the table.

At some point my wife, dear girl, will also insist we go around the table and enumerate that for which we are thankful, a prospect that to me is like passing around that canned green bean-mushroom gloop-friend onion casserole your Aunt Martha always brings. I shouldn’t be such a Scrooge so soon before Xmas, but it seems a distraction from the critical business of passing around a dozen bowls and platters and getting down to the real reason for the season: eating. Finding things to give thanks is not so hard, given I will be sitting with my family in a dry house in the only place I’ve ever wanted to live, that my mother of 87 will be with us and an old friend as well, that I will be looking at enough food prepared with enough petro-chemical energy to sustain an entire Andean village for a week. It will be a much easier task than a suitably ecumenical prayer (thinking I had best work Jesus or some other suitable father figure into it, who probably should not be Odin or Ganesha, and that a Native invocation of the directions will likely not go over terribly well.)

Reading the paper lately makes the entire idea of thankful a bit challenging until I remember those ne’er-do-well Protestants–sitting in their little stockade, in a place as alien as any distant planet, starving their way into winter–managed to have themselves a good time, after their fashion. Still, the challenges of living in New Orleans gives me pause when I stop to rehearse my thankful list. I will be grateful for the home my wife found and furnished for us here in a city where vast areas are full of gutted houses (and some untouched for over four years). I will be thankful my children are in good schools in spite of the city’s school system devolving into a charter nightmare of Ayn Rand: The Board Game. I will be suitable obliged we all well and have health insurance, after a fashion (no, maybe I’ll skip that. An hour of politics is not good for the digestion).

As I finally pull out the Christmas music my wife will insist we start playing as we wash the china, I put my foot down and point out that it’s too damn early for Charlotte Church and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. I will put on Xmas In New Orleans instead. This will remind me that I am most thankful to be home, that my children who were not raised here never say home when they mean Fargo, that there were both oyster and merliton dressing on the table, that to entertain our visitors there is every possibility of heading out to hear the Rebirth Brass Band Thursday night if we can overcome the post-holiday lethargy.

And here maybe is a bit that will work at least as a launching point for grace. The whole song is sufficiently ecumenical (notice references to your Maker and the Wheel) but will only a little bit of imagination on the past of the listener you should clearly be able to pick out the obvious Xian references. If you don’t then I’m sending your back down for another year of Catechism and Eng. Lit. with the Sisters.

Now be thankful
To your Maker
For the rose
The red ose
Blooms for all
To know.

Is It Supersonic? November 21, 2009

Posted by Mark Folse in cryptic envelopment, Dancing Bear, music.
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I’m a big fan of Rahsaan Roland Kirk, but I wasn’t aware of this odd film featuring Kirk and John Cage, with Cage providing the libretto and some of the mix and overdubs to Kirk’s music. Some people think Kirk is just a freak show, the man who can blow three horns and play a 23 minute saxophone concerto without stopping to take a breath. He is all that, and a whole lot more. Playing multiple horns produced a rich chordal texture, a one man horn section not precisely that of a big band but slightly discordant because the horns were often blowing in different keys while the idle horns served as do drones do in a bagpipe. His talking flute technique, humming or singing or whistling into the instrument takes it to an entirely new dimension of sound. And that’s what Kirk was about, the sound and taking it (and the listeners) to new places.

Just count me among the Freaks for the Festival.

The full film is on Ubu or you can just skip to Part 2 and Part 3 on YouTube.

Prisoners November 21, 2009

Posted by Mark Folse in Toulouse Street.
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This week I watched cable channel AMC’s television series The Prisoner, a very loose remake of the famous 1960s series staring Patrick McGoohan about a government agent who, on attempting to resign, is kidnapped and taken to a dystopic resort/retirement home called The Village. The 21st century version, based on a graphic novel of the same title, takes a different approach, transforming government agents into employees of the shadowy private surveillance corporation SUMMAKOR, and taking the story of The Village and its numerically named occupants into much deeper territory, exploring the psychological underpinnings of The Village and how to manipulate thousands of people into believing there is only The Village and nothing else in the universe, into being happy in such a world.

At the end of McGhoohan’s show his Six escapes, driving a trailer full of capering inmates down the road to freedom. The new ending (and I’m sorry to reveal it if you haven’t watched the show or read the graphic novel but I must; stop here if you don’t want to know) at first seemed a complete betrayal of the original and its upbeat resolution. For Six to betray 313, the woman he loves and become the new No. Two dreaming of the future of a prefect, happy village of enforced conformity seemed so wrong I was seething with anger.

My friend Sam beeped me on instant messaging as I sat at my computer after the show and I just ranted, suggested I would rather watch The Sorrow and The Pity over and over again strapped to a chair on bad acid than see The (New) Prisoner again. To think an entire generation would remember this ending, would remember the failure of hope at any triumph against The Village, made me envious of the character No. 2 who commits suicide at the end by placing the grenade (with which he teased prisoners he was psychologically torturing) in his own mouth and this time actually pulling the pin.

It wasn’t until I lay in bed much later that I realized how perfect an ending it was. We are no longer the flower children and dreamy eyed revolutionaries of the 1960s. For my generation McGoohan’s victory over No. 2 and the Village, his final escape simply reflected everything around us in 1967 and 1968, was of a piece with a world that believed in McGoohan’s rebellion and the possiblity of escape. My teenage son (with whom I watched the first two nights) and all the twenty somethings whose knowledge of The Prisoner will be only this show are a different sort of people living in a very different world.

I realized that the ending was a perfect manipulation of the viewerl, that anger at the triumph of SUMMAKOR and The Village is precisely what the author wanted, a perfect catharsis intended to disrupt the illusory freedom of I-Pod and on-demand everything, the delusion of free information the Internet produces. The real SUMMAKORs of our age produce through hundreds of television channels and millions of Internet destinations an illusion of freedom, allow us all to chose what we will see and do and who we will pretend to be in our shrinking free time, give us something to talk about around the coffee pot in our uniformly beige and gray cube farms, separate us not be class and race but by team and genre but by the characters we choose on a thousand reality show contests.

The ending divides us as well (just as The Village does) into the conformists and the dreamers. Is the ending for you just a clever plot twist before you resume channel surfing or an epiphany? The new story reminds us that if we do not own our dreams and let SUMMAKOR control them then we are no better than the inmates of the mythical Village. There is, for those of us who railed at the ending of the show, a powerful reminder to control our own dreams and to act as the character of the old Six did, as the new Six does before he is broken, to question and to challenge and not to accept The Village that is all around us.

Odd Words November 18, 2009

Posted by Mark Folse in books, literature, New Orleans, NOLA, Odd Words, Toulouse Street.
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On the road for business so no real time for a column this week. There is no Susan Larson listing (the rumor is she took the T-P buyout) so you might want to check the listings on Nordette Adams’s Examiner list.

§ Update I missed this while on the road, and may miss it today but will be there if I can: Lament and Katrina — A Dialogue Between Biblical Scholars and Poet. Hear Niyi Osundare ,Mona Lisa Saloy , Jerry Ward, Bill Lavender, Megan Burns, Dave Brinks and several biblical scholars discuss “why poetry has a capacity for deep lament but scholarship does not. Five distinguished and prolific poets and writers of New Orleans will be presenting their poems composed from their experiences of Hurricane Katrina. ” I will have to try to get down to the Waterbury room of the Sheraton on Canal Street Saturday Nov. 21 from 1-3:e0 pm.

§ What I’m reading: Lana Wiggin’s Notes from Refuge is a tremendous collections of poems. She read last week at 17 Poets. I’m too beat for a mini review so I’ll just tell you its fabulous and send you to this review ,and offer two of her own lines in summation: ” she falls from grace/with such madness”. All I would add to that (for now) is: out of madness, such grace. Get yourself some.

§ I know exactly where my Ulysses map of Dublin is (if only because I stumbled across it the other day in my files). If you are as fascinated by maps and literature as I am, you will love looking at some of the maps on the atlas(t) blog. I rather hope they do up an On The Road map.

Crunk Before Halftime November 13, 2009

Posted by Mark Folse in New Orleans, New Orleans Saints, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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How improbable is a New Orleans Saints Superbowl? The Yellow Blog tests the limits of Infinite Improbability, probes Life, The Universe and Everything to give us this answer:

If the creation of [the] Higgs boson particle is so catastrophically unlikely that it is capable of extra-temporally preventing its own occurrence, couldn’t it at least be theoretically possible to conceive of the cosmic fallout brought about by a Saints Superbowl as a comparable phenomenon?

I have to admit I had not considered that, in all the years since I went to my first game at Tulane Stadium, wearing the matching gold berets with fleur de lis my Dad had brought my brother and I, back when Chin Guy was the only mascot we had ever had.

I haven’t year heard all of Halftime by the Ying Yang Twins only because ITunes is being petulant, but last night spoken word artist/rapper Page1NE (that’s spoken as Page One) performed this piece at 17 Poets and I had to plop down $5 to get a copy. Now granted 17 Poets is held in a bar (the Goldmine Saloon, owned by poet Dave Brinks) and not in some staid coffee house or library auditorium, but I’ve never seen a poetry crowd yelling and pumping their fists to chant along before. Some strange force is abroad in the universe that may finally lay to rest the curse of Girod Cemetery.

Voodoo Chile November 13, 2009

Posted by Mark Folse in cryptic envelopment, Dancing Bear, Odds&Sods, Toulouse Street.
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Driving down Veterans Highway through Metairie after two beers at lunch, on the uncertain foundation of Vietnamese soup, Electric Ladyland seemed an odd choice to pop into the CD player. Its something we would have listened to cruising after lunch with a joint back at De La Salle. Once it started I found my hand uncontrollably snaking out to the volume knob until I finally cranked up the windows so people would stop staring, but I couldn’t help myself. There was something in Hendrix’s magic hands that demanded I raise the volume, and with every added decibel the euphoria of the moment was greater, a bad feedback loop of the sort that latches like crack onto the soft and susceptible parts of our brain. Rolling through the river of cars towards Lakeside Shopping Center I felt this incredible buzz, more than two beers could explain, the music awakening some hardwired residual psilocybin ecstasy left over from the Seventies. I seemed to hover somewhere over the traffic as if I were driving a monster truck and maybe a monster truck is the perfect analogy, my drive to crank the music louder and louder no different from the equally adolescent desire for a stupendous vehicle with a thundering mufflers but this was not some muddy hunter’s monster truck but a Voodoo Chile monster truck, riding those risers and tremendous tires out into the heart of the swamp to gather straw from alligator’s nests in the dark of the moon.

to

Odd Words November 12, 2009

Posted by Mark Folse in books, literature, Odd Words, Toulouse Street.
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Welcome back to my weekly grab bag of mostly literary events around New Orleans, a short list of what appeals to me, and some links to Internet articles on writing and literature, and some other Odd Bits.

§ First off is this weekend’s Fringe Festival. There are frankly too many wonderful sounding performances (45 groups presenting 100 shows) to try to list them all. A few jumped off the long list at me and I hope I can make at least one:

  • Curiouser: An Historical Inaccuracy — Curiouser entwines the disparate histories of Sylvia Plath, a suicidal poet plagued by the threat of domesticity; Lewis Carroll, a lonely writer in love with the fantasy of childhood; and his muse, Alice Liddell, confronting the pain of growing up. This encounter challenges their views of the wondrous and mundane
  • A reprise for the Fringe Fest of Moose Jackson’s Loup Garou presented by Mondo Bizarro about which I’ve written before (see prior Odd Words below.) Don’t miss this now if you missed the first run.
  • The Danger Angels, another Moose Jackson work, presents the tale of a down-and-out punk who finds rock and roll salvation on the dark carnival streets of New Orleans. A home-brewed rock cabaret. My own addition to the list: Moose is a masterful spoken word poet, and his power is equally in his writing and his presentation of it. If you haven’t caught him around town don’t miss your chance this weekend.
  • Bang the Law is a comic opera buffa about New Orleans lawyers perusing local bars. They expose their vestigial class conflicts from a crumbling society and expose more in the women at the receiving end of their litigious leers. Come be exposed!- to hilarious theater/dance/opera delivered by notable artists in three interwoven forms.

Remember there are 45 performances of 20 juried works and a dozen more “Bring Your Own Venue” independent efforts so follow the link and make you own list.

§ A big thank you to Crystal Kile for posting a podcast of C.D. Wright’s reading at Newcomb on Monday. I completely spaced this event (it didn’t make the column, and by the time I remembered it I couldn’t make it myself) You can hear it here.

§ Last night I watched Franco Zeffirelli’s The Taming of the Shrew and I have to wonder if you grabbed a dozen kids off the street in Marigny and had them watch this film: would think Petruchio an archetype of Western Man as Pig, Katherina as such a creature’s caricature and the ending an abomination? Or might I convince them to see both Petruchio and Katherina as both pure clowns of two distinct types taken to comedic extremes in a clever plot, and the last speech just the necessary window dressing to save William from lynching (which is what I’ve always thought, being a child of the modern age). The politically correct will have to pry my Shakespeare, Shylock and all, out of my cold dead hands, after which they need to start to consider what he was about as a poor, patron-dependent writer instead of casting him as some Mythic Oracle of the Patriarchy

§ Pure gossip here, but I notice there is no comprehensive listing of book events around town in Wednesday’s online NOLA.Com/Times-Picayune Books section, and I heard a rumor that Book Editor Susan Larson was among those taking a buyout offered by Newhouse to join the national trend of flaying the newsroom in search of profitability. I hope not, but still have enough friends in journalism to understand the temptation to bail while the parachute is available. Still, I think we’re a big enough town to deserve a Book Editor.

§ OK, this peaks my fancy, but I have a sad feeling that at 52 I would be the youngest and most ill-dressed person in the room. It will probably take more liquid courage to show up in some City Park fronting living room salon than to drag myself up at open mike: Wallace Stevens Group – The group meets every other Sunday to discuss the poet’s works. Call 460-9049 for details. 10 a.m. New Orleans Lyceum, 618 City Park Ave., (Mid-City), 460-9049, http://www.lyceumproject.com.

§ Checking the local listings (again: notably absent from the TP) there really isn’t a lot else going on but we’re slipping into the holidays. In lieu of the Picayune listing (or as a compliment as it returns), follow writer, poet and bloggerNordette Adams’s New Orleans Examiner listings. You’re not liable to stumble over Peggy Scott Laborde here (unless she shows up at a party at my house dead drunk and passes out on my floor) or cookbook signings or children’s book readings, so if you need everything in one convenient place Adams does a good job of keeping the list.

§ Here’s a piece on one of my new favorite lit sites, TheRumpus.Net, titled American Short Story Writers Are Taught To Do It Wrong, which links through to an article in the Baltimore City Paper arguing that modern, M.F.A. program writers are being taught to do things all wrong. I have picked up a number of short story collections, mostly by people who have come out of one program or another, and have been reading as well a fair bit of flash fiction at online sites, all at the same time I’ve been trying to work on short fictions of my own.

I read their well crafted stories and go back and look at what I’m going and think that I’m clearly just writing sketches, that my own stuff lacks narrative thrust and relies too heavily on interior monologue, that the world seems to revolve around the stationaty characters (its just that narrative thrust that gonna drive you insay-yay-yayay-ane…). Still, it occurs to me that I have no other model than what I read, no guidance other than what sounds and feels true. What I’m writing now grows out of my own highly autobiographical blogging on Wet Bank Guide and in Carry Me Home, is really just a development of where I’ve been going for a couple of years. But to take another model from film, how much action is there, really in say Woody Allen’s Interiors?

Much of what I write would qualify as flash fiction, but even then it’s not necessarily what I find in flash fiction zines. Those also tend to take the model of story as cinema, characters in action and interaction through space, and sometimes I feel like someone has tried to stuff The Collected Works of John Cheever into a medicine bottle with predictable results.

In the end perhaps its a good thing that between my family and mortgage and the job that keeps it all together I can’t try to run away by applying for a Stegner Fellowship or something else of that sort. I think I’ll just keep going where I am and see where it leads. If the rejects pile up high enough, I’ll just have to recalibrate and move on, or just keep writing as I do because that interior monologist lives in my head and has an irrepressible urge to get out, and there is a beautiful world he moves through that begs to be written about.

§ One last bit, lifted from Facebook, where Louis Maistros author of the first-rank New Orleans novel The Sound of Building Coffins writes:”Some writing advice that Don Harington gave me, regarding synopses and outlines, that I thought I should share: “If the frustrating, futile synopsis is like a crudely drawn-from-memory sketch of a gorgeous landscape one has just driven through, then the outline is like a stupid roadmap that one tries to draw in advance of going into uncharted territory.”

Odd Words Addendum November 9, 2009

Posted by Mark Folse in books, literature, Odd Words, poem, Toulouse Street.
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I don’t know how this slipped by mind last Thursday (or all week, really, and now I’m pretty sure I can’t go) but poet C.D. Wright will be reading at Newcomb College at 730 pm this evening (Monday, Nov. 9) in the Freeman Auditorium, Woldenberg Art Center. Wright is the 11th Florie Gale Arons Poet and will be teaching and giving workshops as well.

I had not heard of her until this was announced a few months back and I started Googling up some of her work online and damn but I am pissed that I am not going to be there.

Here’s a taste found online as an inducement to you to go:

Bent Tones

There was a dance at the black school.
In the shot houses people were busy.

A woman washed her boy in a basin, sucking
a cube of ice to get the cool.

The sun drove a man in the ground like a stake.
Before his short breath climbed the kitchen’s steps

She skipped down the walk in a clean dress.
Bad meat on the counter. In the sky, broken glass.

When the local hit the trestle everything trembled —
The trees she blew out of, the shiver owl,

Lights next door — With her fast eye
She could see Floyd Little
Changing his shirt for the umpteenth time.

Copyright © C. D. Wright. From Ploughshares (Fall 1983)

Yeah, I think anybody down here should get that immediately. There’s more here.

I’m Not Bukowski November 6, 2009

Posted by Mark Folse in Dancing Bear, New Orleans, NOLA, The Narrative, Toulouse Street, Writing.
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“I’m not Bukowski,” Ray said the other day and, no, he’s not. He’s sober, for one thing, and certainly a better writer for it. We are both about as unlike Bukowski as possible: worrying about raising the kids, shuffling the litter of bills on the counter, lumbering into work when we’d rather be reading or writing. Bukowski is an idol but not for his life. Perhaps he had to live the way he did–the booze, the whores in cheap rooms–to get to those poems and stories but what is important is not if he was fond of slutty redheads or the brand of cheap drug store cigar he smoked but the words.

We envy those words and I think we envy his freedom if not his choices, the freedom to do what he damn well pleased and to chose above all to write. The rest of his life is just background and material, no more important than the polite coughing and murmurs on an old recording just before the conductor strikes his baton. I know I envy that freedom, a willingness to ignore the landlord pounding at the door demanding his greenbacks and focus on what matters, the sheet of paper in front of you. Perhaps more importantly I envy his decision at age 49 to walk away from his job and just write: “I have one of two choices — stay in the post office and go crazy … or stay out here and play at writer and starve. I have decided to starve.”

I’ve been reading a wonderful book of stories by a woman I found on the Internet who happens to live just a dozen blocks away. She’s a graduate of the local university’s writing program and I wonder how to structure my life so I could mostly write, how I could get into a writing program with only most of a degree in Eng. Lit. but there’s kids on the cusp of college, a newly refinanced mortgage, a job that pays for it all but demands monkish devotion. Reading and seeing Stephen Elliot got me thinking about Stegner Fellowships and then I picked up a book of stories the other day by a former lawyer from Baton Rouge, himself a midlife Stegner Fellow. But I don’t see how to do that. Ray and Sam and I were having a merry time in a string of emails the other day, discussing applying together for the local school’s summer fellowship: one of us each in fiction, creative non-fiction and poetry, and escaping to Italy for the summer to write but it won’t happen. Ray and I at least have obligations to our families and to the mortgage bank that keep us planted.

We’re not in the M.F.A. program but in our own class. In our forties and fifties, with a few things published, struggling to get to the next level of writing and recognition. We are at the point a lot of writers are in their twenties in terms of trajectory but we’re not twenty-two anymore. We’re on our own with day jobs and busy lives trying to swim upstream against the flood of writing program graduates. If you try to mine your own life there are things that would come out easily as thinly veiled roman à clef at twenty that we have to hide inside carefully constructed fictions, or simply scribble on manuscripts that never see the light of day. I think we’re more critical of ourselves because we’re older, and because we know we don’t have the M.F.A. staff and colleagues hovering over us to help us along. And somewhere in the background is a noisy dime store windup clock furiously ticking, shiny pot metal bells poised to ring. Ask not and all that rot; keep typing.

Rereading Ray’s recently revived blog, and the old post’s he is pulling out of storage, I consider that someday, some kid writer will look at the book jacket photo of this guy astride a motorcycle covered with tats and say, “Damn, I’m not Shea.” It’s not impossible; merely difficult, but we’re driven to do it and so it’s possible. I spent last night trying to pick some things off the blog to supplement my book reading Saturday and there’s some decent stuff here, better I think than some of what’s in the book. People occasionally tell me this, and so even though I haven’t earned enough off of Google referrals from these sites to buy a used paperback copy of Post Office and the book over there on your right should break even about the time I die, I keep going.

People who write, even cockroach bloggers like me lurking under the kick boards of literature, mostly don’t do it for the money. My wife asks when I’m going to write her a best seller we can retire on and I have to remind her the kids shooting hoops at the school up the street have a better chance at the NBA than I have at that, and that’s not what I want to do anyway. I just have a story I have to tell, something banging on my skull demanding to come out, something that arrives most easily in small autobiographical bits and not at novel length. And so I write it down here on the blog or on manuscripts with no clear path forward, at least none that takes me past this paragraph, but it beats the hell out of sitting alone in bars telling it to people who are only as attentive as they are drunk.

Odd Words November 5, 2009

Posted by Mark Folse in books, literature, New Orleans, NOLA, Odd Words, Toulouse Street.
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Two big events this week: first the NOLA Bookfair and the second the new store grand opening and anniversary celebration of Maple Street Books.

§ The NOLA Bookfair is “an annual celebration of independent publishing and alternative media featuring small presses, zinesters, book artists, anarchists, rabblerousers, and more!”. I will be reading from Carry Me Home and other work at the Apple Barrel Bar, 609 Frenchman St. around 1:30 pm (fourth in a series that starts as 12 but, hey, it’s New Orleans), and parked the rest of the day at a table in Cafe Negril, 606 Frenchman St. (from 10 a.m. until around 6) selling and signing Carry Me Home A Journey Back to New Orleans. Stop by for a free chapbook while they last.

The featured guest is John Berendt, author of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and The City of Falling Angels, who will speak at Snug Harbor at 2 p.m. on Censorship. Two of New Orleans finest writers, Louis Maistros of The Sound of Building Coffins and Ethan Brown of Shake the Devil Off will be reading (and in Louis’ case, playing his guitar) at the kick-off party at Sound Cafe on Friday at 6 p.m.

Update: Here’s the list of readers at the Apple Barrel on Saturday. I’ve also corrected some times above (Berendt, mine, Friday night’s party!):

  • 12:00—12:20 Myrma L. Enamorado
  • 12:30—12:50 J. Bradley
  • 1:00—1:20 Avah LaReaux
  • 1:30—1:50 Mark Folse
  • 2:00—2:20 Bud Faust
  • 2:30—2:50 Tara Jill Ciccarone
  • 3:00—3:20 The Nose Knows
  • 3:30—3:50 Kevin Brown
  • 4:00—4:20 Celeste Mcarty
  • 4:30—4:50 Andrea Boll
  • 5:00—5:20 Jeff Markowitz
  • 5:30—5:50 Michael Aro

§ The Maple Street Bookstores will celebrate their 45th anniversary and our grand re-opening of the “new” book shop at 7529 Maple and our 9000 plus volume used & rare book shop at 7523 Maple. Festivities will begin at 4:30 Friday, November 6 with Dave Eggers. On Saturday, November 7, the store will feature author readings and signings, door prizes, food, and live music throughout the day. For specific times please see our website. Thank you New Orleans for allowing us to “Fight the Stupids” since 1964! http://www.maplestreetbookshop.com/pages/view/279/279/Events

§ Does your writing suck? How about mine? Here’s a few thoughts from the interesting Lit Drift blog for people who are participating in writing workshops (or online writing workshops, which is all I’ve ever done).

§ A Salon.com piece titled Late Bloomers starts with the anecdote of a writer notified they were being included in an anthology of best young writers, then having that yanked back when they figured out the author was over 40. A review of “late debuts” by two poets, it says, “Collections like [these] couldn’t have accrued any faster than they did without irreparable damage to their wisdom.” As someone who’s first publications of anything [excluding early journalism] came after 50, this immediately set me off wondering about other people late to the dance and their experience with writing (family, workshops, etc.). This piece is really just a review of the two books (which sound quite interesting), but there’s something more in this idea I think I will have to explore myself. Watch this space.

§ So here I am cribbing from Maud Newton, but I’ll just try to pass this off as homage: if you have read this far down, you really should be reading her blog. A few weeks back I wrote about Hank Williams voice as a singer, and just this morning (at Oh Dark:WTF-am-I-doing-up:30) came across this great piece on William’s voice as a writer.

When I asked Rogert Miller what it was about Williams’s songwriting that touched him, he said, “Meticulous. They’re meticulous and all hooked up.” When I asked him what this meant, he sang me two lines from one of his songs.

The moon is high and so am I.
The stars are out and so will I be pretty soon.

“That’s maybe a little too hooked-up,” Miller said, and sang half a verse of “Me and Bobby McGee” a song by Kris Kristofferson and Fred Foster that Miller had discovered and recorded first.

Busted flat in Baton Rouge
Headed for the trains.
Feeling nearly faded as my jeans.

“That’s hooked up,” Miller said. “I love the ‘as’ that picks up ‘flat’ and bat.’”

I know I try for effects of sound and sense just like this and damn but “hooked up” sure sounds finer than prosody.

§ Lee Sheldon, Fuckmook. “When people asked about the writing craft, he offered a lot of advice, including,”Be somewhere where other writers hang out. Hollywood or New York, not Louisiana’.” Join me at the NOLA Bookfair where we can celebrate by offering Sheldon a big fat raspberry by the assembled writers, publishers and artists here in New Orleans.

Dancing Madly Backwards November 4, 2009

Posted by Mark Folse in je me souviens, New Orleans, NOLA, Remember, Toulouse Street.
2 comments

The old bricks of the Lafitte Housing Project are gone, leaving just a scar of tall grass and piles of dirt, a thin stump forest of new pilings naked and brown rising up like the dead cypress trees in Bienvenue and St. Bernard, like the gray leafless forest that lines the I-10 West. The good red brick, laid half a century ago by the hands of craftsmen from the Seventh Ward, is gone. The buildings that crouched on their stoops like museum lions watching the traffic on Orleans Avenue roll by are just another fading Polaroid in a city of long memory

Soon the Tyvek-wrapped sticks will rise up overnight like toadstools to replace them; trading sheetrock for plaster, vinyl siding for masonry, cement steps for a blue-roofed porch, and the street will never be the same. The place will smell of fresh plastic like a new car, will smell like Houston or Atlanta or Charlotte instead of coffee or beans or sweet olive and something deep inside us will vanish as the old buildings vanished, replaced with a vague sadness; not just those who raised families and grew old in those bricks but all of us who have traveled Orleans Avenue as the short route from Mid-City and the Lake to downtown.

The landscape changes gradually down here, houses slowly settling and sagging between the shoulder joints like old men collapsing in a chair for a nap; swallowed by vines with old Creole roots that once strangled trees before the woods back of town were cut for lumber, before that wood turned into the rows of houses that stand in their place; the roads crumbling bit by bit as if the asphalt were trying to turn to back to oil and work its way down into the ground from whence it came.

Not much else is really changed on Orleans. From the old can factory out by my house converted to shops and condos, across the bayou to the rows of shotguns that still line the street in various states of repair and habitation. Up at the busy corner of Broad the old Ruth’s Chris building still stands across from the Zulu Social Aid & Pleasure Club. The abandoned neighborhood clinic still hoists the Carver movie house sign, the marquee with old pre-flood messages that once listed Blackula and Super Fly still stands, an old mural of a street car carrying children into their check ups slowly fading, the small frame chapels and big brick churches still advertise services. So little is different.

As you roll up to Galvez, where the other day I saw a flock of domestic ducks escaped from someone’s yard, you reach the corner where the chain-link wrapped fields begin, not an inviting field of the sort that makes people drive slow through the park even when they’re supposed to be in a hurry but a vast absence where Lafitte once stood. Soon there will be bright new buildings in cheerful colors with carefully chosen factory accents to try to blend in but it won’t work. I hope the new tenants are happy. No more fighting the Housing Authority or the shotgun slumlords. Lights that light and water that runs and stoves that cook, no asbestos or lead but instead that new car smell to match the aroma of that new sofa on easy terms from the place on St. Claude where the guy on TV says, “let ‘em have it.”

They’re going to redo Orleans Avenue as well, strip it down to the bones and pour it new, smooth and level, but I think once the oil-spill-sheen blue and green siding starts to go on the new apartment blocks I’ll begin driving up Bienville to work. I want to be happy for the lucky few who get new homes in the old neighborhood, who can still walk to church or Willie Mae’s or up to some old, familiar bar for a beer with friends. I am happy for them, but I won’t want to look at the place. I’ve spent my time in the east and north, in towns where the settlers cabin at the county museum is not as old as bathtubs I’ve sat in here in New Orleans, places where the local natives haven’t been on that particular land as long as my family’s been in Lafourche. If I wanted Houston or Atlanta, or even the raw suburbs of the Northshore or Baton Rogue, I could move there in a minute and save a pile of money and trouble, but I don’t.

Maybe it’s just me. I know my wife would love to move out to the lake, to a nice stick built brick box plopped onto a broad green lawn but the idea repels me just as the thought of the yolk yellow and slime green apartments rising up on Orleans repels me. I think the plot of The Curious Case of Benjamin Buttons is just a clever device of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s, something to catch an editor’s eye back when selling stories meant money. Still, it resonates here (where the story is partly set) in a peculiar way. Remember Fitzgerald spent a month on Prytania, looking out over Lafayette Cemetery and walking those broken sidewalks of slick brick. Perhaps something planted itself in his mind over those weeks, this feeling I have that some of us are drawn here not to live out our futures but are instead arebpulled backwards by the undertow of history all around us, into a life the rest of the world has been shedding like last year’s styles since the Jazz Age, until we are those old men from my analogy sagging in our chairs, the last view through our fluttering eyelids before we nap old, comfortable and familiar, the landscape of memory spread out before us in the afternoon sun.

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