Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Kim Gordon's GIRL IN A BAND & Paula Hawkins' GIRL ON THE TRAIN. Rock memoir & thriller--exceptional women in post Feminist wastelands





KIM GORDON'S GIRL IN A BAND AND PAULA HAWKINS' GIRL ON THE TRAIN ROCK MEMOIR AND THRILLER --EXCEPTIONAL WOMEN IN POST FEMINIST WASTELAND

plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. The more things change, the more they are the same.  
This proverb is an ironic subtext for the two exceptional women in these otherwise dissimilar books. Rock memoir and thriller both have soulful narrators, searching for truth buried in the wreckage of their marriages. Blindsided at huge emotional cost, they need to figure out what really happened to become whole again. The answers have much to do with the status of women and the status quo of male expectations.

GIRL IN THE BAND, Kim Gordon's memoir is a history of punk, post punk, wave, no wave 1970-80's rock music and her roles as iconic rocker, visual artist, wife and mother. She adds writer, after this entertaining and philosophically rich look at the life of an original, who says she became so almost by default. Gordon writes that whatever she became was because of her crazy older brother, a paranoid schizophrenic. Charismatic, brilliant and sadistic, Keller created the "self-annihilating world" of her childhood. Her famed self-containment onstage was habitual, a way to survive his onslaught. She learned to hide her sensitivity and express nothing. This daughter of a sociologist has great analytical ability. She well understands how her background propelled her to find transforming experiences-- good and bad.

Gordon says performing gave her tremendous release. By allowing herself "to be at the extremes of emotional risk," she experienced a "spiritual transcendence. What LSD promised, my psyche delivered." Compared to her childhood, the "on the edge, insecure, hallucinogenic world of alt punk music was stable in the instability of unceasing change." She was also a California girl used to scary waves, who grew up with Charlie Manson wandering the neighborhood. Gordon's glad she never got into that family's car.

In GIRL IN A BAND Gordon is generous in how she assesses the men in her life. Despite Keller's tyranny, she credits his brilliance as the stimulus for her to probe the meanings of life and develop herself as an artist. As Keller spiraled further into illness, she came to believe what she accomplished was for both of them. Her parents,exhausted by Keller, offered no objections to art school. As long as she wasn't crazy, she could be whatever she wanted. At 19, she had a"lucky break," when she heard Dan Graham's extraordinary lecture on art and culture. Gordon began a lifelong friendship with him and Mike Kelley. Graham mentored her in the burgeoning rock music scene of the 70's--garage bands like The Ramones and art rock bands, like The Talking Heads from Rhode Island School of Design.

Though Gordon had no formal training in playing an instrument or singing, she played for ecstatic release. Not knowing musically what she wanted to do, she learned in baby bands. She met Thurston, when he was 21 and she was five years older. Together they evolved the songs and layered sound that became Sonic Youth. Originally, they worked as a No-Wave band with an egalitarian structure. Gordon was so used to being the only woman in male bands, she didn't think of being a stand-out, until they signed with Geffen. Though Sonic Youth had critical acclaim, they didn't have big audiences. She had to become the "girl," who could sell the band. If an audience was put-off by their discordant sound or scruffy appearance, the good-looking girl up front meant the band was all right. .

Gordon learned to stand front center, a place she was less than comfortable, and to dress for the band, as well as for herself. Her style, which she thought awkward, was widely imitated and eventually she became co-designer of a popular clothing line.  When the band ended, after the break up of her marriage, Gordon returned to her first love--visual art. She created performance pieces and showed art in major galleries and museums. She is currently very engaged with visual art but Sonic Youth is perhaps her best known creation.

As you might expect in a celeb memoir, she includes her meetings with other celebs. But Gordon's insight goes beyond name dropping. Kurt Cobain was a friend and her equal in sensitivity. She talks about both the violent death wish he enacted in performance and the tender yearning of his music.When she describes Courtney Love's unhinged but calculating performances onstage and off, it's the annoyance of a professional, as well as the concern of a mother. After Kurt died, Gordon, who visited with him and his daughter Bean, was concerned about the girl.

The major thread through Gordon's memoir is recounting the trajectory of her marriage. Though they made decisions about Sonic Youth jointly, Thurston, the business head for the band, had sure instincts. He was also her artistic complement. Sonic Youth's songs encompassed personal emotion, politics in the U.S.A. and life on the planet. They were played like a hurricane. The band was a shared entity filled with decades of personal history, love and trust. When she learned about the affair, it was almost less shocking than the facts of his having a secret life and lied to her about it.

Gordon wryly notes that considering they were sophisticated artists, the reasons for the break-up were ridiculously pedestrian, She lost him to a predatory younger woman, a groupie. Gordon writes the woman first tried for her but would have had anyone in the band. Somehow Thurston could not resist. Gordon says she always chose to "turn a blind eye" to his dark "fascination." She also knows he had a mid-life crisis. Sadly, a look at their history shows conditions familiar to telenovas, "Lifetime" plots,the old soaps.

When the family moved from New York City to suburban Massachusetts to raise their daughter, they gained physical space but felt dislocated. While their daughter adjusted easily and Gordon found friends and community, Thurston used the house as a way station between New York and other places he traveled to on the business of Sonic Youth. Though they continued their tour schedule and, in the early years traveled with their daughter, Gordan shifted her focus to staying home with their daughter. Increasingly, she left decision-making for the band to Thurston. When she learned of the affair, she had to help her daughter through senior year and the college application process. Thurston vowed to end the affair but secretly continued. The marriage was over.

Exceptionaly accomplished woman, beautiful and bold, yet Gordon was blindsided by her husband's infidelity. She wasn't paying attention to the fact that while she had changed, men's expectations were the same. There have always been breakthrough women who by sheer force of character push their talent and meet success. But many men still want to be the main star with a back up woman. Gordon writes of how she always loved how men play guitars onstage; competitively, sexually. In her memoir, she became first the "girl" with the band, then the front woman. While they had equal billing, Thurston had to share the spotlight.

Many women struggle to balance kids and career and many husbands find themselves at once a lesser priority and relied on more. The facts of Sonic Youth's break-up are domestic drama--a mid-life man with an accomplished spouse, strays to a younger woman who gives him the adulation he craves. But Thurston, seeking to recapture his youth, chose to be free and unmarried. Gordon  had little patience with him acting the "rock star" onstage on their last tour. She was smart enough to understand and be angry.

Gordon pushed the feminist edge in Sonic Youth, Deborah Harry did some of that in Blondie. But today that seems less common in bands than with lone artists, like St. Vincent. In our post-feminist era, male rock stars artists have the usual prerogatives, while their talented female equals trail in pay and suffer more scrutiny. Only recently did pop princesses Beyonce and Swift admit they are feminists--now that they know it's not an anti-male label.

In GIRL ON THE TRAIN, the fictional Rachel is also obsessed with her "dark side." She has drunks that cause black-outs, leaving her with no memory of what she's done--except for her ex-husband's awful reminders Because of her drinking, the reader, like the cops that question her in a murder investigation, find her an "unreliable narrator." Her self-pity and failure to "move on" at first seem aberrant; her estrangement from the community somewhat deserved. But in the alternating viewpoints of those involved in the events of the murder, you learn from her husband's present wife, that Rachel was once curvy and "striking", successful in her job in public relations. You begin to wonder, as Rachel does, what happened?  Why did her once happy marriage fail?  Yes there's her failure to conceive, her shame at being barren and her sorrow, but that's only part of the story.

An outcast, a suburban village "madwoman," Rachel travels her old daily commute to London, though she lost her job. She's doing it so her flat-mate thinks she's still employed but there's more to it. As she travels past her old town, where she shared a house with her husband, Rachel deeply mourns her marriage and blames herself for what she's become--a depressed, fat, unemployable drunk. Though, at her core, she doesn't quite believe it. Rachel's authentic, no matter who doesn't believe her or in her--including herself.

So back and forth Rachel travels and tries to understand her life. Out the window of the train, she sees a young couple on their patio and fantasizes about their happy marriage, as a loving relationship with humor and trust. Their lives are imbued with all Rachel's longings. Along with husband, home and job, she's lost friends, self-respect and maybe her sanity. She fears she may have done terrible things in a drunken state. Yet drinking is what she does, the reason she was fired from her job, But how could a person do awful things drunk, they would not do sober?

The suburbs she travels are full of pretty young women with baby carriages, like her ex-husband's wife who lives in the same house Rachel once shared. She started her affair, while her husband was married to Rachel. Now she has a baby to protect from this drunken wraith, mooning around the neighborhood. Rachel is disturbing, a menace to her world centered around babies, nannies, play dates, keeping in shape, buying clothes and making perfect dinners for her working husband. She has no conscience about having contributed to their break up and only wants Rachel, to disappear.

Among the alternating chapters are also those of the murder victim, a beautiful blonde, who once owned an art gallery, Uninterested in children, she's the secret subversive. But in this landscape of guarded complacency, Rachel's the unwilling standout. Unable to get over both her inadequacy to conceive a child and blaming herself that her sorrow cost her a marriage, she's a pariah in the suburban town. Yet that status makes her the truth-teller, an exceptional woman underestimated.

As the story develops, what's real in Rachel's life, what happened or didn't, becomes crucial. And, as you read the perceptions of the other characters, you get a sense they are only as reliable as their limited perceptions. The truth behind the events of the murder is more elusive than the stray facts. Suspense lies less with the unmasking of the murderer than the undoing of the women in this town. In different ways they are self-hypnotized by the mythology of unending love and happy families, and themselves as objects of desire. There is an infinite sadness about how the women experience the gap between their emotional needs as people, and fulfilling the sexual desires of their lovers.

The men in THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN seem less traditional entitled males, than paralyzed actors circumscribed by their emotional drives and lack of introspection. Even the refugee psychologist, skilled and sympathetic, is unwilling to control his sexual appetite. These are underlying tensions in a brilliant thriller about a woman going nowhere on a train. One of the pleasures of the novel is to see Rachel unravel both the murder and the secret behind her transformation from a "stunning," successful woman to "Poor Rachel."You cheer, as she scrupulously straightens out reality and herself.

Only gradually, reading this book, did I think of "Gaslight" or The Stepford Wives. Paula Hawkins' storytelling is more subtle, as is the calcification of feminism in this time and place. Rachel finds a real path to recovery but happiness is more morphous. The real life Kim Gordon seems is have reached much the same conclusion. But she's a creative woman. I imagine whatever happiness she's found is of her own making.

S.W.

Friday, May 29, 2015

ARTIST SPACES: New Orleans, Tina Freeman's Bk & Exhibition. Studio as Oasis for Artistic Process


News- Foreword Reviews Award
https://indiefab.forewordreviews.com/winners/2014/photography/


This is the first study of artists in their working spaces with their work, as part of their process.  Katrina anniversary is 8/29, gives this story poignancy. Many of the artists recreated their studios with a new sense of the importance of place, 

The work is on view at THE OGDEN MUSEUM OF SOUTHERN ART. It's interesting to see the artists' work in their studios in the book and then to see it on the white walls of the Museum. It looks very different .




The book is published by University of Louisiana at Lafayette Press www.ULPRESS.org

Tina Freeman has been photographing artists and their interiors from the early years of her career in New York, when she photographed Diana Vreeland and Andy Warhol. Also an accomplished photographer of architecture, landscapes and portraits, her work has graced magazines, such as House and Garden, Connoisseur and The New York Times Magazine. Her fine art photographs have been exhibited in New Orleans, New York, Los Angeles and London.

For ARTIST SPACES NEW ORLEANS she joined co-author Morgan Molthrop, to show the diversity of art and artists that has exploded in New Orleans, since the devastation of Katrina. Freeman, says Molthrop, is enormously skilled at the use of natural light and demonstrates a rare sensitivity to both artists and their spaces. She was given unusual accessibility and the book grew from the collaborative nature of the project.

Tina and Morgan spent 2 and a half years choosing photos and laying out art, as Morgan conducted interviews  and the community grew with the book. It mirrors New Orleans natives and those new to town, environments that seem highly personal with totemic objects, others as controlled as industrial space. There's work that's fleeting, of the moment, or substantial as stone or metal.  Seen in its native environment it's revelatory.

What's universal is that these spaces are natural, part of  the personality of the artist  and  their intellectual  emotional process of their work. A studio is a safe oasis, says Malthrop, where artists can leave their bodies behind. What you see in ARTISTS SPACES is a profound sense of place. There are artists in this book who are going to the Venice Biennial, others  whose space no longer  exists. All are linked by community. The community of artists, who often live in their work spaces, are celebrated in this unusual book. 



Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Editing the Human Genome? Welcome to PARADISE GARDENS, http://maglomaniac.com/editing-the-human-genome-welcome-to-paradise-gardens/



Humans now have the possibility of editing our genome (NY Times
 (3/20). Ethicists are discussing the implications of being able to 
not just produce physically beautiful and intellectually superior people, 
but to pass down those traits forever. Of course scientists have
already edited the genomes of mice and other lesser mammals, 
though how that might change the planet doesn’t seem to be 
a concern. Superior mice simply exist to show the procedure will 
work on humans, the leap from mice to men is a small step.

This procedure, considered relatively easy, is sure to catch on.
Manipulating gender by aborting females is already a norm in
 some countries, so look out for a world of smart pretty people. 
Will this boon, the most coveted of human fantasies, be widely
available? Or will the process quickly disappear from public view, 
controlled by a group of mega corporations?

In the 1980’s, when I began my novel PARADISE GARDENS, I was
 reading an economics history about the passage of society from 
medievalism to capitalism. I was wondering under what conditions it 
might reverse and, for this fiction, it was fait a accompli in the
 2050’s on the Earth’s surface. In 3011 those futuristic medieval 
estates would flee to an underground feudal world.

The basis of those corporate business estates was the production
 of employees, whose individual genomes were a matter of 
inheritance based on family performance. They were determined 
by destiny lines planned by the “Psychologicians”, the keepers of 
the database that governed the UBS, United Business Estates. 
Beauty is a given, at higher levels for “average” employees than 
“superiors” with more intellectual decision-making capacity.

Admittedly, this is what used to be called “paranoid,” speculative 
fiction, rather than science fiction. But now the possibility is 
science fact. I believe it was Freud, who once said “paranoia is a
 sign of health in an insane world.” Perhaps, rather than ethicists 
wringing their hands, while licensing is already in the hands of 
big Pharma or other nongovernmental hands, scientists might 
consider a unified revolt–bite the hands that feed their research.
I ponder whether allegedly non-conformist, original thinkers could 
actually become worldly enough to seize control of a product that
 may be the zeitgeist of our time. Consider Wikipedia’s definition:

The German word Zeitgeist is often attributed to the philosopher
Georg Hegel but he never actually used the word. In his work 
Lectures on the philosophy of History he uses the phrase der Geist 
seiner Zeit (the spirit of his time)—for example, “no man can surpass
his own time, for the spirit of his time is also his own spirit.”

Are we doomed to a world, where beauty is not just commonplace
 but mandated by business? Where plastic surgery to banish aging
 is a requirement for continued employment? Where intelligence is 
only valued, when used to create wealth for the UBS? Where 
employees happily accept the advantages they receive for
 productivity, as they reach levels of their career?

Welcome to PARADISE GARDENS. Cautionary tales are just that.
 And even in the UBE, rebellion could not be bred out of a 
genome, just muted by other characteristics. Where the wild human
 soul is concerned, even psychologicians could not predict al
 outcomes. But, Cassandra that I am, I can see this one coming. 
Step aside, I think. Are we mice or men?

S.W

Friday, March 20, 2015

In the Reluctant MidWife by Patricia Harmon,The Great Depression Meets a Plucky RN

In THE RELUCTANT MIDWIFE (William Morrow, March), Becky Myers takes on The Great Depression and is almost bested but she makes it through with more than a little help from her friends. As the story opens she and Dr.Isaac Blum, a once brilliant surgeon now catatonic, owe months of rent and must sneak out in the night and trust they have enough gas to make it to Hope River in rural Virginia.

Patricia Harman's heroine is actually short on hope, fighting the edge of despair. Becky's almost glad survival is occupying her mind. Though she's been a respected nurse in a woman's clinic and Dr.Blum's practice, hard times have made inroads into her cheerful middle class respectability. When she learns Blum's house in Hope River has been sold, along with his belongings and tools from his practice, she knows they are not just broke but homeless.

Though Becky tries to find any kind of employment, she's told there are "able-bodied men out of work," and offered a humiliating hand-out. Yet plucky Becky fights desperation, until Blum wanders off lured by the smell of a soup kitchen. She' runs, desperate to retrieve him. Though harmless, Blum's complete silence and vacant eyes scare people. Becky is loyal but Blum's a 24 hour job, so incapacitated he can't go to the bathroom alone or brush his teeth. When his wife drove into a river, she took his mind with her. Then Blum's own brother turned him out, Becky, without family, has made him her charge, though she thinks, ironically, how he's dependent as any child.

They need help but who? Unexpectedly, Blum says "patience," and she knows he means find Patience, her old friend, the midwife of Hope River. She has about enough gas to reach the cottage with the blue door, which turns out to be empty. Patience must have left the area, Becky thinks but soon learns she  only moved a short distance with her Veterinarian husband and son. The family
welcomes Becky and Blum, gives them the cottage and food. There's a sense of family after her alienation and fear. Yet, Becky must earn their living. When Patience reveals she's pregnant and shows Becky a list of local women in need of her services, Becky quakes. She owes a lot to Patience, but is reluctant to become her assistant.

While enormously competent and hardworking, Becky aided Blum in deliveries but midwifery was different. Blood and mess aren't fun,but it's the unpredictability, as well as her own ineptitude that fills her with dread. Still, she prods herself to help Patience. Worse are cases, when she finds herself alone with women in jeopardy, as they all seem to be. There are supposedly easy deliveries, where everything goes wrong, complex situations, such as a blind mother-to-be, where it goes easy. Becky finds the work frightening. But over time she accepts that in midwifery, like life, all you can do is prepare. Yet she's thrilled to trade it for a nursing job at the camp of the Civilian Conservation Corps.

There's great characters there, among the injured and maimed. The dashing captain, who recruits Becky, and takes her to a dinner, where she even meets Eleanor Roosevelt. Becky proves heroic during a horrendous forest fire and when it comes to Patience's delivery, But it's the day in, day out caring for the lost Blum that shows a quiet courage--to carry on while grieving the man he used to be,faith. Then, almost under her nose, Blum returns,

THE RELUCTANT MIDWIFE is both heart warming and authentic.. The feeling you get for these people is earned. The story is realistic, nothing feels contrived. The Depression meant the end of possibility for many people. Living close to the land, nature is both beautiful and malevolent. How these people managed to just continue and thrive is about the human capacity to change and adapt. Becky is resourceful. She holds onto the idea of happiness. In this very gray winter, I felt cheered by her pluck.

S.W.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Sam Shaw's Lens was True. 100 Photos of Sam Shaw for Press Freedom by Reporters Without Borders


Reporters Without Borders is a non-profit organization headquartered in France and they do 3 or 4 of these photographer portfolios every year to raise money for the organization. 


Sam Shaw Book

Sam Shaw (with Marilyn above) was a photographer of films known for his iconic Hollywood shots. Remember the one where the heating grate sends Marilyn's dress upward? He also shot documentary films and John Cassavetes' cinema verite. But what I found stunning in this book were not the star turns but character portraits behind star poses. You actually get a sense of who they were. There's Liz the beauty looking goofy, Marlon in an altered state. Real people. He shot meaning beyond pretty people in pretty photos. His lens was true.

And he went after meanings in other forms. Here from an online bio:
In the 1960s, Shaw branched out into producing. He made the film Paris Blues (1961) starring Paul Newman and Sydney Poitier as American jazz musicians in the French city. The score for the film was composed by Shaw's friend Duke Ellington. Shaw later teamed up with filmmaker and actor John Cassavetes to produce such films as Husbands (1970), A Woman Under the Influence (1974), Opening Night (1977) and Gloria (1980). Cassavetes called Shaw a "renaissance man"; his multi-talented friend Shaw was the production designer for A Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976) and also photographed Cassavetes' films and designed their advertising campaigns.

Actress Gena Rowland


There is also a grey hardcover book with 200 images from the 1940's through the 1980's. It is the catalog to a retrospective exhibition tour launching this year in September. The book is here:

The Exhibition is opening on September 11th, 2015 at the Cultural Center of Caiscais, in Caiscais Portugal. The exhibition then continues to travel to various European countries through 2018. 

FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT SAM SHAW AND HIS WORK, HERE ARE SOME LINKS.

S.W.

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Author's Corner 6/25 week! tender relationships, early cinema surprises, iconic Montana artist, a curse on a city, building a cabin in Maine.


June 25th week onward!
Enjoy the readings from the week's new books: tender relationships; early cinema surprises; an iconic Montana artist; a curse on a city; building a cabin in Maine. Our new web site is up and getting there, please take a look: www.authorscorner.org ;   -Peter
 
Enjoy diverse readings 6/15/15 week: gay marriage, an Arctic Circle romance; the genocide a century ago in Turkey; a novel about an old hotel's secrets; and an early Rock reporter's adventures in the 60's. Our new site!  www.authorscorner.org

HEAR: A former President's daughter reads for us; then His former National Security Advisor does; also, a habit not to practice in the workplace, the tragedy of a star baseball player, and a legendary outlaw... of vast Brazil!

MEMORIAL DAY Special, week 5/25
Women Write About War

Dava Guerin (Bush Foundation board member): Unbreakable Bonds: The Mighty Moms and Wounded Warriors of Walter Reed
Kathleen M. Rodgers: Johnnie Come Lately
Roxana Robinson: Sparta
Alyson Richman: The Garden of Letters
Elizabeth Gaffney: When The World Was Young

Dava is nonfiction; rest are fiction --

Our "Memorial Day" week-long (M-F) Special, starting with the true story (Guerin) of a wounded female vet, then four novels explore, respectively, the traumas of physical (Rodgers)  and psychological (Robinson)  wounds, a woman rescued from the Nazis  (Richman) , and finally, a child's view of her mother during wartime (Gaffney) .

Greetings! One "classical music" novel, plus four titles loosely 

in the memoir category yet very eclectic in approach.

Monday -- Sean Prentiss: Finding Abbey
Tuesday -- Elena Delbanco: The Silver Swan
Wednesday -- Stephen Fife: The 13th Boy
Thursday -- Janis Heaphy Durham: The Hand on the Mirror
Friday -- Susan Ball: Voices in the Band


For this week, we offer fine readings by:
Patricia Morrisroe: 9-1/2 Narrow
George Bodenheimer: Every Town Is A Sports Town
Rita Gardner (2): The Coconut Latitudes
Bill Gifford: Spring Chicken

Hear them now (after the page loads; our new web site is coming soon) --


Today kicks off a whole week of lauded fiction, starting with

a popular master storyteller, Neil Gaiman.... 

Monday:  Neil Gaiman / Trigger Warning
Tuesday:  Mira Jacob / The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing
Wednesday:  Stephen Policoff / Come Away
Thursday:  Una LaMarche / Like No Other
Friday:  Shari Goldhagen  / In Some Other World, Maybe

https://www.authorscorner.org/

Greetings. This week, the challenges of motherhood (Monday and Friday), 

and of Free Speech issues in fiction and non- (Tuesday thru Thursday). 

Monday: Elisa Albert / After Birth: A Novel
Tuesday: Charles Slack / Liberty's First Crisis...
Wednesday: Burt Neuborne / Madison's Music...
Thursday: Jonah Kruvant / The Last Book Ever Written: A Novel
Friday: Rita Plush / Alterations: Stories

https://www.authorscorner.org/

Two memoirs, two novels, & raising a "wild child" --4/6


KIM GORDON -- autobiography of a female rock band pioneer 
KARA RICHARDSON WHITELY -- climbing Kilimanjaro at 300 pounds
DEEPAK CHOPRA -- his mystery about Christ's unknown disciple
EMILY GRAY TEDROWE -- a novel of the Iraq war touching families
SCOTT SAMPSON -- guiding your child to fall in love with nature

Listen now (after page loads) -- https://www.authorscorner.org/

Greetings!  Two novels and three memoirs this week --3/30


MARTIN SHORT -- from his autobiography: highs, lows, philosophy
ALICE EVE COHEN -- from a stormy year when her mother "returns"
JESSICA TREADWAY -- from her novel of murder and family doubts
BRUCE PIASECKI -- from his memoir of "past, present & future"
NORAH VINCENT -- from her novel based on Virginia Woolf

Listen now (after page loads) -- https://www.authorscorner.org/



Greetings!  Two memoirs, two novels, and a "science fraud" --

AMY POEHLER -- from her popular, amusing memoir
ALBERT PODELL -- from his odyssey visiting all the world's countries
ANDREA CHAPIN -- from her witty novel on Shakespeare's muse
STEVEN DRUKER -- from his account of "science fraud" in GMO foods
JEAN HANNF KORELITZ -- from her "modern Der Rosenkavalier"

Listen now -- https://www.authorscorner.org/

Two novels, a memoir, and two global themes --3/19


Stacey D'Erasmo -- a female rock star making a midlife comeback
Vincent Crapanzano -- a reflective memoir by an anthropologist
Betsy Teutsch -- 100 inspiring ways to lift impoverished women
Amanda Filipacchi -- encore reading from her modern surreal fairy tale
Kabir Sehgal -- probing the relationship between man and money

https://www.authorscorner.org/


Greetings! This week's topics: drugs, disability, fiction, memoirs, China. 3/9/15

Mon--Johann Hari: Chasing The Scream
Tue--Eileen Cronin: Mermaid: A Memoir of Resilience
Wed--Tom Phelan: Lies The Mushroom Pickers Told
Thurs--Eileen Flanagan: Renewable: One Woman's Search...
Fri--Michael Meyer: In Manchuria: A Village...

Hear these eclectic, authentic readings at:  www.authorscorner.org



Three novels are among another week of interesting readings.

Monday -- AMANDA FILIPACCHI: The Unfortunate Importance of Beauty
Tuesday -- HILARY KLEIN: Companeras: Zapatista Women's Stories
Wednesday -- MICHAEL KARDOS: Before He Finds Her
Thursday -- STEPHANIE FEUER: Drawing Amanda
Friday -- ROWLAND BRUCKEN: A Most Uncertain Crusade... [encore]

www.authorscorner.org

The Author's Corner on Public Radio

Monday, January 19, 2015

A BOWL FULL OF NAILS Mixes fact & Fiction to tell the story of a fiery idealist, who flees 1960's Berkeley for a mountain refuge, where the political becomes the personal



BERKELEY, May 15, 1969--Riot police carrying shotguns killed one bystander and wounded several protesters. When interviewed at the hospital, one protester observed, "getting shot in the ass has certain strategic connotations. One, it suggests that you had pissed somebody off. Two, that you are running away from that somebody. And three, that somebody has got the guns and you don't." All of those things were true at People's Park on Bloody Thursday.

This is the factual event that begins the fictional odyssey of Gus Bessemer, antiwar activist in Charles Degelman's new novel BOWL FULL OF NAILS (Feb, Harvard Square Editions). Gus, who goes to People's Park to protest w/guerrilla theater, is stopped in his tracks by the "Blue Meanies," riot police with shotguns and live ammunition. The next morning, while his girlfriend, Kate, is tweezing birdshot pellets out of his butt, Gus realizes it may be time to leave town. The "Man" is sure to come after him. Then Kate confirms he's on the list of protesters to be incarcerated in a new jail. He's strangely proud to have made that list.

In this fiction no stranger than the facts, Gus, a kind of '60's everyman, has vowed to end the Vietnam war. He is furious about General Westmoreland's call for the " slaughter of teenagers,"and the authorities' constant references to "fighting the war at home." Gus is indignant that antiwar group are treated as a threat to national security. "They mean us, the mobilization, the Panthers, the mess of hell-no, free city outlaws," he begins, but is cut off, when Kate observes that he's full of useless rage, since the powers that be have battleships and guns. She adds that he only wants to get back at them. "They're not your father," she points out, and later, she serves him a bowl full of nails--her view of where the rancor leads.

Gus leaves Berkeley for a carpentry job in a small Colorado town that comes with a cabin. He figures on R&R in nature, working with his hands. With Kate's two dogs, his guitar and some tools, he hits the road, not a minute too soon. The FBI and local police came looking for Gus, ransacking Kate's house. When she tells him not to return, her kids were freaked out, he feels unmoored in a strange town. But he enters the local bar, seeking help for his suffering dogs--filled with the quills of defensive porcupines. Surprisingly, he finds help.  Before that, setting up the cabin, a friendly neighbor with a chain saw, cut up the wood he "liberated."

Hard-edged survivors of the winters, crazy and kind, welcome Gus with his eccentricities. When Hazel, the old lady who's his boss, entrusts him with her "commercial property," a broken down storefront, he hires a couple helpers to salvage wood for a new structure. Gus decides to just do the work and  keep to himself. There are cops in the next  town asking too many questions. There's lovely Jewel, who gives him more than drink and sympathy but his heart's with Kate, So the company of the dogs seems the ticket. And he develops a strange relationship with an irascible old miner, who may or may not be a ghost.  He does have some mysterious connection with Gus' deceased dad.

Then a hippie bus with a peace/love group arrives with Georgia, who's origins are as elusive as Gus' own. Later, gathering wood, he discovers a corpse, who Georgia identifies as from the Weather Underground. When police try to pin the murder on peaceful activists, who they say are burning power lines, he and Georgia, along with their town's one lawman, look for the facts. One disastrous night they find the town's "snitch" but the orders come from on high.

Discrediting the antiwar movement was a national priority. Here's info from Wikipedia about a program, which too few people know existed:
COINTELPRO (an acronym for COunter INTELligence PROgram) was a series of covert, and at times illegal,[1][2] projects conducted by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) aimed at surveying, infiltrating, discrediting, and disrupting domestic political organizations.[3] National Security Agency operation Project MINARET targeted the personal communications of leading civil rights leaders, Americans who criticized the Vietnam War, including Senators (e.g., Frank Church and Howard Baker), journalists, and athletes.[4][5]
The official COINTELPRO label took place between 1956 and 1971.[6][7] The FBI's stated motivation was "protecting national security, preventing violence, and maintaining the existing social and political order."[8]

A BOWL FULL OF NAILS is a very funny re-creation of a deadly serious time. While many people think the era is the way it’s been depicted by Hollywood; a lot of self-indulgent hippies doing too many drugs and having promiscuous sex. It was more than that. The antiwar movement grew out of the civil rights and economic justice movements of the mid-sixties. 

Largely campus-based around the burgeoning Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), the antiwar movement can trace its roots as far back as the Ban the Bomb movement of the 1950s. SDS, at the core, made a decision in 1965 to shift focus from economic justice programs like JOIN (Jobs or Income Now) to the Vietnam War when the Johnson Administration began bombing the north and building up troop strength in-country. Over the next few years, the anti-war expanded to include labor unions, the black and Chicano liberation movements, religious groups, and the powerfully committed returning Vietnam vets.

The Vietnam Veterans Against the War, were influential in the grass roots antiwar movement. Rather than the myth of the spat upon veteran returning to no respect--and in fact there is not one case of that ever occurring--the truth is that veterans of many wars were active in the antiwar movement. For factual reading there's Jerry Lembcke's THE SPITTING IMAGE published by NYU Press. Lembcke, a vet, who became a professor, spent years tracking that myth.

The marches to end the war happened all over the country. Young people joined with older people, families and veterans. The generation of the 1960's at great personal cost, was the only one to join across class and race to end a war. This is Charles Degelman's second fiction about this too often discredited time. Gates of Eden, his other novel, looks at the fate of individuals, caught up in the upheavals of social and political change.

S.W.