Sunday, November 29, 2009

"Sonny's Blues" by James Baldwin

Because alongside the narrator here, we stare at it "in the swinging lights of the subway car, and in the faces and bodies of the people, and in my own face, trapped in the darkness which roar[s] outside."

Because Sonny writes from jail: "I wish I could be like Mama and say the Lord's will be done, but I don't know it seems to me that trouble is the one thing that never does get stopped and I don't know what good it does to blame it on the Lord."

Because the mother says to her less sensitive son: "You may not be able to stop nothing from happening. But you got to let him know you's there."

Because Sonny says to his brother: "I hear you. But you never hear anything I say."

Because Baldwin writes, "All I know about music is that not many people ever really hear it. And even then, on the rare occasions when something opens within, and the music enters, what we mainly hear, or hear corroborated, are personal, private, vanishing evocations. But the man who creates the music is hearing something else, is dealing with the roar rising from the void and imposing order on it as it hits the air. What is evoked in him, then, is of another order, more terrible because it has no words, and triumphant, too, for that same reason. And his triumph, when he triumphs, is ours."

Finally, because: "He and his boys up there were keeping it new, at the risk of ruin, destruction, madness, and death, in order to find new ways to make us listen. For, while the tale of how we suffer, and how we are delighted, and how we may triumph is never new, it always must be heard. There isn't any other tale to tell, it's the only light we've got in all this darkness."

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

"The Apocalypse Commentary of Bob Paisner" by Rick Moody

Are you young? Are you under a lot of pressure? Do you occasionally addle your mind with drugs? The Book of Relevations is the place for you. Bob Paisner lays it out. Take notes.

We play with form. We formally play.
This is our story for Friday.

P.S. "So: youth is apocalypse."

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

"Xuela" by Jamaica Kincaid

"Xuela" is a novel excerpt and reads like one. The pacing is quite different than that of a short story. We will discuss this, but we'll also look at the voice of the narrator, which is fairly unusual. We'll touch on distance vs. intimacy. And absence of dialogue. And preponderance of summary. And, and, I dunno. Up to you.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

"Jealous Husband Returns in Form of Parrot" by Robert Olen Butler

This story is great--gimmicky maybe, full of double meanings--but great. The voice, plaintive and dumb and profound, gets me.

Let's focus somewhat on point of view. Think about unreliable narrators. Think about form and distance. Butler brings us in close. How?

For your own writing, reread the section on consistency: Burroway insists that "you make your own rules, but having made them, you must stick to them" (310-311) (ignore the dang chart on page 310).