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Odd Words November 12, 2009

Posted by The Typist in books, literature, Odd Words, Toulouse Street.

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.”


1. dsb - November 26, 2009

Yeah, I heard from a friend Susan Larson took the buyout. It’s a shame. Probably kiss the book page good-bye. Bet T-P will try to get by with AP reviews. It’s bad news for local writers.


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