Friday, March 26, 2010

Chang-Rae Lee on Tavis Smiley

Chang-Rae Lee talks about writing, the self, and the relationship between his father's experiences during the Korean War and the events of his harrowing new novel, The Surrendered (2010), on Tavis Smiley last week, March 18, 2010.

"In some ways, this book is a response to all the silence that I had met about the Korean War, both from my family and from a lot of people. Most people who are inside that kind of trauma, inside that kind of conflict, never want to talk about it. So for the purposes of the book, of course, I turn that inside-out. I take that silence and completely peel away every layer of anguish and scarring."

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Monday, March 15, 2010

Nobody Wanted Me Respectable

Jules Feiffer talks about his inability to become a mainstream hack in a 2009 interview with

"There was no way of doing what I was doing in the mainstream. The mainstream was not interested in anyone with my opinions and certainly anyone working in the form I did. No one was working in the form I was working in at that time except me. I made up that form to fit the direction I was moving in. "
"I didn’t know what I was doing. I knew what I had to do. I knew I needed an outlet for my political rage and I knew that in this time -- but it’s true of any time -- in this particular time of suppression, I had to be entertaining. I had to be funny. It couldn’t be a polemic. It couldn’t be, as one sees in alternative forms today, confessional moralizing. It had to in a sense be disguised as something else in order to make the point I wanted to make and also fit the talents that I had begun to learn at Will Eisner’s."
"So at the start -- and “Munro” was the start -- I started fooling with a form which was essentially narrative and long, and such things generally weren’t published. And it told what were considered subversive stories at the time if someone really got the point. And so I knew I was entering foolishly in terms of making a living, or in terms of a potential career, this field with no outlets at all. There was no books publisher, there were no comics publishers. There were no newspapers. And I tried all over. By the time I was trying this I had tried the more conventional routes. I had tried very hard to be a hack. I had tried very hard to have a traditional career. No one was interested in me doing that. When I went for broke I wasn’t risking anything. Nobody wanted me. Nobody wanted me respectable. "

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Thursday, March 4, 2010

Rediscovering Djuna Barnes (1892-1982)

A "rediscovered" short play by Djuna Barnes, Kurzy of the Sea (1920), will be featured as part of the upcoming Authors Theatre program, "Women Playwrights of the Early 20th Century," on March 11, 2010.

Barnes's work in general is currently a subject of rediscovery by readers, writers and scholars. New editions of Nightwood (1936), The Book of Repulsive Women (1915), The Antiphon (1958), and other works have appeared in recent years.

Here is an appreciation in the Guardian (UK) of Nightwood by major avant-gardist Jeanette Winterson, who wrote the foreword to the new 2006 edition of Nightwood (which also retains the original foreword by T. S. Eliot).

"Certain texts work in homeopathic dilutions; that is, nano-amounts effect significant change over long periods of time. Djuna Barnes's Nightwood is not much more than a couple of hundred pages long, and more people have heard about it than have read it. Reading it is mainly the preserve of academics and students. Others have a vague sense that it is a modernist text, that TS Eliot adored it, that Dylan Thomas called it "one of the three major prose works by a woman" (accept the compliment to Barnes, ignore the insult directed elsewhere), that the work is an important milestone on any map of gay literature - even though, like all the best books, its power makes a nonsense of any categorisation, especially of gender or sexuality."

"Nightwood is itself. It is its own created world, exotic and strange, and reading it is like drinking wine with a pearl dissolving in the glass. You have taken in more than you know, and it will go on doing its work. From now on, a part of you is pearl-lined." Read more....

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