Saturday, July 09, 2005

"The Hollow of the Three Hills" by Nathaniel Hawthorne

One of the author's earlier stories, set in the primitive highlands of New England, is hereby presented to you. A mischievous crone conjures up visions from the life of a sorrowing young women. Read by Jonathan Strong.

One of Nathaniel Hawthorne's ancestors had presided over the Salem Witch Trials, so it's no wonder he was enthralled by tales of Puritans pure and not-so-pure and the nature of good and evil. Hawthorne always called his often highly symbolic (so your high school English teacher will tell you) stories "tales" and collected them in several volumes between such novels as The Marble Faun and The Blithedale Romance (no need to mention the even more famous ones here). But Hawthorne wasn't all gloom and doom and black-cloaked colonialists. There must be a good example here somewhere--hmm... We love this aside from Wikipedia, from which we crib so many of our facts about authors: "Edgar Allan Poe wrote important, though largely unflattering, reviews of both Twice-Told Tales and Mosses from an Old Manse." We'll get to you, Mr. Poe...

When he is not busy with his own novels, Jonathan Strong is often to be found lost somewhere in the extensive works of Englishmen Gilbert and Sullivan, whether together or singly. He has redrafted the lost G&S opera, Thespis, which has been produced twice, as well as several other concoctions from the duo which time has left us incomplete. Opera and bel canto have been reoccurring elements throughout his dozen or so novels, so his interests are perhaps not so surprising to his readers.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

"A Golden Picture" by Dazai Osamu

A struggling writer remembers his entitled youth and the family servant who he most abused. Of course, he's changed, even reformed--but is his remorse alone enough? Read by Scoot.

Dazai Osamu died just short of his 39th birthday, in 1948: Now, don't you just hate biographical snippets that begin as dry as that? Actually, it's a bit more interesting than it sounds. Shuji Tsushima, as he is otherwise known, was a wealthy landowner's son whose attempts at committing suicide read a little like Dorothy Parker's poem "Résumé:" sleeping pills, sleeping pills again, hanging, and one might say indirect attempts through morphine and then alcohol. At last, drowning did the trick, and Shuji/Dazai took his latest paramour with him. One shouldn't be surprised to discover his stories are full of suicides and attempted suicides, although they were quite popular in Japan during his life. The novel that is supposed to explain it all is called No Longer Human.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Woes Gutenberg never dreamt of

Hello, all! We recently posted this reply to a kind would-be listener who is having problems downloading the mp3 files from this site. If you're having similar woes, please let us know--we're hoping to fix anything that needs fixed soon:

Kind Listener,

... We are very sorry to hear you're having problems downloading stories from the site. Other people have reported similar problems in the past, so you are probably not the only one still having problems. We really couldn't tell you why these problems have occurred; maybe it's our server's fault, or maybe something we've done wrong. Nevertheless, we'll look into the issue some more (last we tried, things were still working fine--for us) and give an update on the site itself. We've been considering a move to another provider (as long as it's cheap or free), and if we do so, we hope these problems will cease. In the meantime, try again maybe at another time of day or by another means and let us know if you've had any success. It's very important that we deliver the promised goods, such as they are!

One more idea: have you tried or are you presently using a podcast "aggregator"? Maybe this is either the cause or the solution to the problem. We'll try checking into this, too, although we're away from home for the summer and these things take time... Good luck with future downloads--and keep listening, if you can!

Scoot, Stories to Go

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

"The Monkey" by Robert Walser

For those fortunate enough to have read John Collier's absolutely stunning novel, His Monkey Wife, the territory may sound familiar: an intelligent simian in love with a homo sapiens, desperately trying to express that passion. In this case, a monkey woos an elegant woman who may--or may not--give in to his advances.

Like many other great writers, Robert Walser ended his life in an insane asylum, having given up on writing but not on long walks through the countryside. He had already written over a thousand short works of prose, several novels (half of which have been lost), and numerous poems--so we know what influenced Kafka and why Hesse was envious. Susan Sontag's introduction to his Selected Stories, translated chiefly by Christopher Middleton, calls the Swiss native "a Paul Klee in prose ... A cross between Stevie Smith and Beckett ... the missing link between Kleist and Kafka." He reminds us of another unique Swiss "outsider" artist, the painter and composer Adolf Wolfi, who also ended his life in an asylum. Maybe now you're beginning to sense that this is a very interesting writer, indeed.

Another very interesting writer is Patricia Powell, a native of Jamaica who now makes her home in the United States. Her novels to date are: Me Dying Trial, A Small Gathering of Bones, and The Pagoda; we are anxiously awaiting her fourth. She has won so many awards and received so many accolades it would be impossible to list them all here, but get to your local bookstore posthaste and start scanning the stacks--you will find her.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

"Black Boy" by Kay Boyle

Somewhere on the Atlantic seaboard, a young girl rides her horse in the foam and befriends the African-American teenager who pushes her petulant grandfather along the boardwalk in a wheeled chair. In stories of this vintage, you just know this is going to lead to trouble. Read by Scoot.

Kay Boyle thought she might become either an architect or a violinist before she fell into the disreputable life of a writer. Once she had relocated to Paris (a much better place to lead a disreputable life than Cincinatti, where she had spent the majority of her childhood), she became friends with Harry and Caresse Crosby, whose infamous Black Sun Press published her first collection of stories in a typically elegant edition. Soon she became associated with the avant-garde magazine transition, so it is perhaps a little surprising that eventually she became a regular New Yorker type of gal. But she remained controversial, getting herself blacklisted by Senator McCarthy and railing against America's dubious involvement in Southeast Asia (getting thrown into prison twice for doing so). Both the NAACP and Amnesty International claimed her as a member, and she was making noise all the way up to her death in 1992 at the age of 90. Somehow she got a lot of writing done, too, including poetry (such as This is Not a Letter and Other Poems), short fiction (including Nothing Ever Breaks Except the Heart), novels (Plagued by the Nightingale being representative), and nonfiction (Being Geniuses Together among them).