Saturday, May 21, 2005

"The Garden" by Paul Bowles

A typical Paul Bowles story contains human folly, poison or magic or both, and brutality, told in the dispassionate voice of a folk tale--and this one is no exception. Here, a poor man who loves his garden is victimized needlessly because of that innocent love. Read by Scoot.

If you know anything at all about Paul Bowles, when you think of him, you'll think of Morocco, a mild eccentricity, and the culture clash between the ancient and modern worlds. He was also a composer of theatrical and "serious" music which is actually quite good, though usually far more conventional than his fiction or travel writing. His years of living in and traveling through Northern Africa led to the breakdown of his marriage to the writer Jane Bowles, the publication of such novels as The Sheltering Sky, and his collaboration with and translations of several Arab writers.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

"Another Holiday for the Prince" by Elizabeth Jolley

"In Pottery Class I'm making a jar with a lid. If it comes out all right I think I'll use it for a jewel box as we don't ever eat marmalade." That's how this story about disaffected youth in late 20th century Australia ends; listen and hear how it begins. Read by Sebastian Stuart.

Though she was born and raised in England, Elizabeth Jolley grew up in a German-speaking household. Before she was married she worked as a nurse; after her marriage she and her husband emigrated to Australia, though Jolley did not become well-known (as a writer of radio dramas) until 1975. She easily moved from plays to short stories and then to novels, and lastly, autobiography. Her work is known for its eccentric characters, daring plots, and gimlet-eyed social criticism. Foxybaby is one of her most famous novels, but she hasn't been published in America for quite some time now--shame on you, publishing world!

The last we heard of Sebastian Stuart he was completing a novel about New York society, polishing off a series of comic skits for a Boston charity organization, and working on several movie deals. It is rumored he may even be considering a run for vice-president (with his favorite female candidate at the top of the bill).

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

"The Rockpile" by James Baldwin

Stay away from the rockpile, the boys are warned, but the allure is overwhelming for these children of the inner city. Ultimately, one boy must suffer for his half-brother's sins. Read by Scoot.

Another Country, Giovanni's Room, Go Tell It on the Mountain, Notes of a Native Son, "Sonny's Blues," "Going to Meet the Man" .... these are a few of James Baldwin's more popular works. Raised in Harlem, he had to relocate to Europe to begin his career as a writer, a career which soared with scathing indictments of racism and poverty. Baldwin lived from 1924 to 1987.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

"The Lightning-Rod Man" by Herman Melville

In the middle of a raging thunderstorm, a salesman knocks at the door with fearsome warnings of what might happen without a you-guessed-what. This short story could shock you! Herman Melville was originally paid $18 for it, though you might agree that it's worth at least twenty (and here it is for you--free!). Read by Jonathan Strong.

Oh, dear--where to begin with Mr. Melville? Surely you know Moby Dick even if you haven't taken the time to read it, and you might have read "Barteby the Scrivener" or perhaps Billy Budd (or seen the play or movie or Benjamin Britten and E. M. Forster's opera). And the more astute among you may know his South Seas novels or even his poetry. Certainly one of the most interesting and complex writers America has ever produced, Melville was a former cabin boy who once lived among real cannibals and later hobnobbed with Boston Brahmins (we'll leave it to you to decide who ate their own with most vigor). He had enough sense later in life to become a farmer.

Jonathan Strong's recent revision of his second novel, Ourselves, is still available.