Thursday, March 30, 2006

"A Far Cry" by Zona Gale

Scene: small-town America, probably somewhere in the midwest circa 1925. Main characters: Mr. and Mrs. Dasher, their 40-year-old unmarried daughter Jerry, and the little son of Mr. Dasher's gravely ill niece. Time: a hot summer night, with the card for the iceman's visit tomorrow morning already in the window. Ready, set--action! Read by Scoot. Time 17:13.

Sigh. Who even remembers Wisconsinite Zona Gale today aside from a few proud midwesterners and a few avid readers with a nostalgic bent? Maybe those readers would know that Gale was born in 1874, published her first novel in 1906 (Romance Island--probably had one of those beautiful Art Nouveau covers of the period), and won a Pulitzer Prize for drama in 1921 for her adaptation of her novel Miss Lulu Bett. And that she was active as a suffragette, spent most of her life in her hometown of Portage, and died in 1938 shortly before the publication of her last novel (Magna). Well, now you know, too.

Monday, March 27, 2006

"The Drowned Giant" by J. G. Ballard

As a medical student, J. G. Ballard would have had to perform dissection on a human cadaver, and this story shows the influence of that no doubt very formative experience. But here the giant--a colossus from another world? a Greek god? a nightmare?--is given a symbolist treatment which Kafka or Baudelaire would have had to brood long upon. Read by Scoot. Time 25:46.

The Shanghai-raised British author J. G. Ballard became known to most people outside science-fiction circles with the publication and subsequent filming of his childhood autobiography, Empire of the Sun. Those in the know were already familiar with Ballard's upending of sci-fi traditions and practical invention of the dystopian novel in such works as The Drowned World (no relation to this story or the Madonna tour). Things got weirder with Ballard by the late 1960's, with the auto-erotic novel Crash (no, not that movie, but the other movie), the very unsettling Atrocity Exhibition (no wonder Joy Division stole the title!), and our personal favorite, Why I Want to F#*k Ronald Reagan, which sent the 1980 Republican National Convention all atwitter. (Plan for the Assassination of Jacqueline Kennedy is pretty good, too.)