Friday, May 27, 2005

"A Late Encounter with the Enemy" by Flannery O'Connor

For quite a few decades in American history, it was custom to trot out surviving Civil War veterans every Memorial Day or Fourth of July or Armistice Day, whether or not the patriotism was Yankee or Confederate. Fortunately, they were doing this up through Flannery O'Connor's day, so she could write this typically hilarious, typically pathos-drenched story of a Southern "general" who, saber in hand, combats the enemy--whether it be within his own family or out there in the cruel, sensationalistic modern world. Read by Matt Kibbee.

A history of Flannery O'Connor should concentrate not on the tragic, despite her short life, but on triumph--her stories which are like no one else's and yet which everyone imitates even today, and her two novels, which still seem as fresh and strange as the days they fell from her typewriter. We're supposed to, of course, concentrate on her religious themes and Diane Arbus-like use of the grotesque, but it is really her wry, measured, always highly poised and polished voice that brings her characters and situations to life. So think not of her crippled by disease and love-loss, but happy amongst her peacocks in Georgia and winking at the so-so serious literary world.

Soon to be teaching English in Vietnam, newly minted summa cum laude Tufts University graduate Matt Kibbee is a faithful listener we are now proud to have among our contributors. He has also recently completed two novels--his own and War and Peace, quite an accomplishment no matter how you look at it. He comes to us from the lovely gorges and valleys of New York State.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

"The End of Robinson Crusoe" by Michel Tournier

"What did ever happen to Robinson Crusoe?" Perhaps this question has kept you awake at night, and so Michel Tournier obliges in this translation by Barbara Wright... The author takes it for granted that we are familiar with the DeFoe novel, which he had already rewritten, radically, in his 1967 novel, Friday or The Other Island. Read by Scoot.

Michel Tournier rewrote his own version of Crusoe for children as Friday and Robinson in 1971; before and since he has been tackling history and historical figures often in his philosophical fiction. "The most gifted and original novelist to emerge from France since the [second world] war" is what the book jackets proclaim, and we are not ones to argue. His second novel, a retelling of the Erl King fable set in Third Reich Germany and translated as The Ogre, is even more highly regarded than Friday--in Tournier's works legend, myth, and the modern world often intertwine. A novel based on the life of St. Sebastian is reportedly still in the works.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

On the Road

We're packing our bookbags and heading off down the lonesome highway for a few weeks, searching for new stories and new readers... but promise to try to keep posting new stories when and if we can. Don't be surprised if our descriptions will be short or sound quality even lower than usual, though we promise to try to polish things up as best we can... eventually.

We may not be able to post every other day, but we will post as often as we can. Please be patient and keep coming back! We always appreciate anyone who stumbles upon our humble site and lends a welcoming ear. Listen on!

Monday, May 23, 2005

"The Saint by Accident" by Mohammed Mrabet

Yesterday we offered you a story by latter-day Moroccan Paul Bowles; today we present a story by one of the young Arabs Bowles taped and then translated into English from the Moghrebi. The story Mr. Mrabet tells to Bowles's recorder is perhaps not that different from those told around North African campfires; however, it has a distinctive deadpan irony which is all Mrabet's. Are saints born or made? There may or may not be an answer here. Read by Gerrit Lansing.

It is hard to think of Mrabet, who comes from the Rif Mountains, as a "writer" in the conventional western sense, since he was essentially illiterate before meeting and being employed by Paul Bowles. In collaboration with Bowles, Mrabet produced many volumes of short stories, novels, autobiography, and even at least one play. Mrabet's method was to smoke a lot of kif and proceed to conjure up erratic yet very compelling narratives that are hard to put down if only because they never pause for a second.

Gerrit Lansing has hardly paused for a second throughout his life, either, and has been acquainted with Bowles's post-World War II theatrical world of playwrights and composers, then with many members of the so-called Beat Generation, the avant-garde poets and film-makers of the 1960's and '70s, and a loose-knit and far-flung legion of writers and musicians and artists still active today. In fact, there's scarcely an important man or woman involved in the arts who this product of Chagrin Falls, Ohio hasn't met or known in his decades as a poet and cherubic rabble-rouser. His latest collection is Heavenly Tree, Soluble Forest.