Thursday, November 21, 2013

Watch Patti Smith Read from Virginia Woolf

In the video above, poet, artist, National Book Award winner, and “godmother of punk” Patti Smith reads a selection from Virginia Woolf’s 1931 experimental novel The Waves, accompanied on piano and guitar by her daughter Jesse and son Jackson. The “reading” marked the opening of “Land 250,” a 2008 exhibition of Smith’s photography and artwork from 1965 to 2007, at the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain in Paris.

I put the word “reading” in quotes above because Smith only reads a very short passage from Woolf’s novel. The rest of the dramatic performance is Smith in her own voice, possibly improvising, possibly reciting her homage to Woolf—occasioned by the fact that the start of the exhibition fell on the 67th anniversary of Woolf’s death by suicide. Of Woolf’s death, Smith says, “I do not think of this as sad. I just think that it’s the day that Virginia Woolf decided to say goodbye. So we are not celebrating the day, we are simply acknowledging that this is the day. If I had a title to call tonight, I would call it ‘Wave.’ We are waving to Virginia.”

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Romantic period in American fiction 1820 – 1860

Walt Whitman, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Edgar Allan Poe, Emily Dickinson, and the Transcendentalists represent the first great literary generation produced in the United States. In the case of the novelists, the Romantic vision tended to express itself in the form Hawthorne called the “Romance”, a heightened, emotional, and symbolic form of the novel. Romances were not love stories, but serious novels that used special techniques to communicate complex and subtle meaning. 

Instead of carefully defining realistic characters through a wealth of detail, as most English or continental novelists did, Hawthorne, Melville and Poe shaped heroic figures larger than life, burning with mythic significance. The typical protagonists of the American Romance are haunted, alienated individuals. Hawthorne’s Arthur Dimmesdale or Hester Prynne in The Scarlet Letter, Melville’s Ahab in Moby-Dick, and the many isolated and obsessed characters of Poe’s tales are lonely protagonists pitted against unknowable, dark fates that, in some mysterious way, grow out of their deepest unconscious selves. The symbolic plots reveal hidden actions of the anguished spirit. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Modern fiction: God's Grace by Bernard Malamud

Pulitzer Prize-winner Bernard Malamud is most renowned for his brilliant, lyrical short stories, often set in Jewish ghettoes and written in a pastiche of Yiddish-English. God's Grace is a full-length novel, and like all Malamud's work deals with immense issues in microcosm.

Cohn, the lone survivor of a nuclear holocaust, wakes adrift in a boat with only a trained chimpanzee, Buz, for company. Cohn and Buz make their way to a deserted, uninhabited Eden-like island. Buz has been modified by his previous owner, a scientist, and fitted with a voice box. Cohn reconnects the dangling wires and the chimp begins to speak fluently, and fortuitously, in English.

Soon other animals, all primates, begin to come to the island, and Cohn names them and tries to create a morally sustainable, peaceable society, but he is unable to control competition and jealousy. Eventually he mates with the female and she produces a half-ape-half-human child. Ultimately Cohn is unable to maintain the moral basis in his private life and since his 'creations' have free will, they rebel against his authority.  

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...