Friday, July 15, 2005

"Common Prayer" by William Saroyan

One needn't believe in any sort of higher power to appreciate this prose-poem disguised as a story, although it might help to believe in the considerable clout of editors and publishers if one is a poor writer, as William Saroyan was when he penned this. The struggling young scribe from Clay, County, Iowa invokes the greatness of human history--and feels suddenly part of that long march himself. Read by Scoot.

Actually not from Iowa, but a product of Fresno, California, William Saroyan's star might shine a little less brightly than it did some decades ago, when his dazzling collection of short stories all written in one month, The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze, swung into the literary circus of the 1930's, to be followed up by the very popular My Name is Aram and The Human Comedy, among many others. The Armenian-American Saroyan then, and for several decades, personified the second-generation immigrant whose story desperately needed to be told. Notably profligate with his money and his women, Saroyan's prose was alternately good and bad, but his narratives are always bursting with life, poetry, and honesty. In the end, it might have been idealism which killed him, not just the cigarettes.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

"Nice Girl" by Sherwood Anderson

If you're wondering if the title is ironic, you've probably read Sherwood Anderson before. If you think that the relationships between Agnes and her married sister and Agnes and her brother-in-law, Tom, who wants a divorce, are complicated, then you must listen to this story that might have been too much even for little ol' Winesburg (this one is set, it appears, in downstate Illinois). Read by Prudence Carter.

For the second time American "modernist" writer Sherwood Anderson graces our pages. Did you know he died in 1941 after contracting peritonitis after swallowing a toothpick in Panama? The things one finds on a random meander through the interweb! Before he died, he was of course a writer who never lived up to the critical and popular success of Winesburg, Ohio, though he certainly kept on trying--in novels such as Death in the Woods and Kit Brandon. Maybe someday if we live long enough we'll read those, too.

A professor of sociology at Harvard, Prudence Carter specializes in the study of education across racial and class lines. Her forthcoming book is Keepin' It Real: School Success Beyond Black and White. She recently spent time studying classrooms in South Africa as well as America. Prudence also plays a mean game of tennis, so watch out.

Monday, July 11, 2005

"Chet" by Patrick Parks

Fat, awkward, and a lot less than charming, Chet is tired of being the Hardy Boys' hapless, foolish sidekick, never getting any credit for helping to solve the many mysteries which somehow center upon their home town, Bay City. However, only Chet knows the dark side of the Hardy Boys, even if he can't stop toadying to them--until he haplessly stumbles upon a mystery far too great for those Hardys to figure out. Read by Scoot.

How many authors born and raised in Iowa can you name? Well, Patrick Parks should be one of them--he's been writing stories and novels for many years now, as well as teaching throughout the Midwest. We hope to see more of his work in print some day, as it as fresh and witty and inventive as this story illustrates. Now a resident of St. Charles, Illinois, Pat is also an expert horseman; even now he is way out west, in the middle of a cattle roundup. Seriously!