31 January 2010

Lord Byron, and Sir Walter Scott: Newark–on–Trent, Nottinghamshire, England

Sometimes you can do things in far-off places – as I did a few months ago when searching around for literary landmarks in seven Southern states (see 2009 below) – and still miss things on your own doorstep. Like this plaque that remembers the first works of the young George Gordon (1788–1824), the sixth Lord Byron (who of course never grew old anyway), printed by S. and J. Ridge in the Market Place, Newark–on–Trent, Nottinghamshire, England, which records:

'Here were published Lord Byron's first poems "Fugitive Pieces" Nov. 1806 [and] "Hours of Idleness" July 1807'.

The printing press is on exhibit in Newark and Sherwood District Council’s Millgate Museum, Newark–on–Trent.

Also in the Market Place stood the imposing inn, the Saracens Head, which is now just retail outlets. Below the bust representing a saracen are the words:

'"Saracens Head" Hotel

'Licensed in the reign of Edward III. This is the 18th cent. building at which "Jeannie [sic] Deans" ("Heart of Midlothian" by [Sir Walter] Scott [1771–1832]) stayed on her way to London about 1733. An important posting inn during coaching days.'

Below is the relevant passage from The Heart of Midlothian (1818):

'At noon the hundred-armed Trent, and the blackened ruins of Newark Castle, demolished in the great civil war, lay before her. It may easily be supposed, that Jeanie had no curiosity to make antiquarian researches, but, entering the town, went straight to the inn to which she had been directed at Ferrybridge. While she procured some refreshment, she observed the girl who brought it to her, looked at her several times with fixed and peculiar interest, and at last, to her infinite surprise, inquired if her name was not Deans, and if she was not a Scotchwoman, going to London upon justice business. Jeanie, with all her simplicity of character, had some of the caution of her country, and, according to Scottish universal custom, she answered the question by another, requesting the girl would tell her why she asked these questions?

'The Maritornes of the Saracen's Head, Newark, replied, "Two women had passed that morning, who had made inquiries after one Jeanie Deans, travelling to London on such an errand, and could scarce be persuaded that she had not passed on."

'Much surprised and somewhat alarmed (for what is inexplicable is usually alarming), Jeanie questioned the wench about the particular appearance of these two women, but could only learn that the one was aged, and the other young; that the latter was the taller, and that the former spoke most, and seemed to maintain an authority over her companion, and that both spoke with the Scottish accent.

'This conveyed no information whatever, and with an indescribable presentiment of evil designed towards her, Jeanie adopted the resolution of taking post-horses for the next stage. In this, however, she could not be gratified; some accidental circumstances had occasioned what is called a run upon the road, and the landlord could not accommodate her with a guide and horses. After waiting some time, in hopes that a pair of horses that had gone southward would return in time for her use, she at length, feeling ashamed at her own pusillanimity, resolved to prosecute her journey in her usual manner.

'"It was all plain road," she was assured, "except a high mountain called Gunnerby Hill, about three miles from Grantham, which was her stage for the night.

'"I'm glad to hear there's a hill," said Jeanie, "for baith my sight and my very feet are weary o' sic tracts o' level ground – it looks a' the way between this and York as if a' the land had been trenched and levelled, whilk is very wearisome to my Scotch een. When I lost sight of a muckle blue hill they ca' Ingleboro', I thought I hadna a friend left in this strange land."

'"As for the matter of that, young woman," said mine host, "an you be so fond o' hill, I carena an thou couldst carry Gunnerby away with thee in thy lap, for it's a murder to post-horses. But here's to thy journey, and mayst thou win well through it, for thou is a bold and a canny lass."

'So saying, he took a powerful pull at a solemn tankard of home-brewed ale.

'"I hope there is nae bad company on the road, sir?" said Jeanie.

'"Why, when it's clean without them I'll thatch Groby pool wi' pancakes. But there arena sae mony now; and since they hae lost Jim the Rat, they hold together no better than the men of Marsham when they lost their common. Take a drop ere thou goest," he concluded, offering her the tankard; "thou wilt get naething at night save Grantham gruel, nine grots and a gallon of water."

'Jeanie courteously declined the tankard, and inquired what was her "lawing?"

'"Thy lawing! Heaven help thee, wench! what ca'st thou that?"

'"It is – I was wanting to ken what was to pay," replied Jeanie.

'"Pay? Lord help thee! – why nought, woman – we hae drawn no liquor but a gill o' beer, and the Saracen's Head can spare a mouthful o' meat to a stranger like o' thee, that cannot speak Christian language. So here's to thee once more. The same again, quoth Mark of Bellgrave," and he took another profound pull at the tankard.

'The travellers who have visited Newark more lately, will not fail to remember the remarkably civil and gentlemanly manners of the person who now keeps the principal inn there, and may find some amusement in contrasting them with those of his more rough predecessor. But we believe it will be found that the polish has worn off none of the real worth of the metal.'

King Street, Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, England

It's sometimes odd, what can greet you when you turn a corner – either metaphorically or physically – but I was pleasantly surprised to find the artwork of Ben Coode–Adams in King Street, Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, which depicts various elements of the town.

30 January 2010

Mike Leigh: Happy-Go-Lucky (2008)

The film director Mike Leigh was perhaps originally best known for his BBC Plays for Today Nuts in May (1976) and, perhaps above all, Abigail's Party (1977). I had the privilege of seeing Mike Leigh answer questions about his first feature film, Bleak Moments (1971), at Broadway, Nottingham, which in those days was called the Nottingham Film Theatre. I was greatly impressed by Bleak Moments as it is a study in almost pathological shyness, and I can't think of anyone (apart from Jean Rhys in the world of fiction) who had previously dealt with such a subject, although there must, I imagine, be many – yes, hello, Kafka.

But – long after Morrissey of The Smiths had turned shyness and other odd traits into a badge of outsiderdom – Leigh continues to portray not necessarily shy characters, but those who are somehow out of kilter with what many automatically perceive as consensus reality. Leigh's Life Is Sweet (1991) mainly concerns an unemployed man who buys a clapped-out mobile fast food van in any attempt to make a living, and his friend, a non-family man with visions of becoming a celebrity chef by opening a restaurant called 'The Regrette Rien' after his idol Edith Piaf. These ventures are of course doomed to failure, as were the ventures of so many victims of Thatcher's insane ideas about people getting rich quick on the proceeds of their redundancy money - often by establishing businesses built on their own obsessions - from the industries that her government had in effect terminated.

Wendy (Alison Steadman), in Life Is Sweet , comments towards the end of the film that her husband Andy (Jim Broadbent) has not given up. I understand that what Jim has not given up is life, which their anarchist and probably anorexic daughter Nicola (Jane Horrocks) appears to treat with almost suicidal disdain.

Happy-Go-Lucky was seen by some reviewers as a somewhat more optimistic Leigh, although Poppy (Sally Hawkins) still seems, to me at least, to be deferring thinking by side-lining it, evading it, pretending it doesn't exist. But then, isn't that what so many people do all the time? How many of us have seen – in other people's houses – the ever-present TV set that acts as wallpaper to prevent any thinking from taking place? Mike Leigh remains a major figure of British cinema.

29 January 2010

The Genius of Steve Bell

It seems like many years that Steve Bell has been keeping many of us sane, in an insane world, with his particular brand of literate humour. Here, Tony Blair, due at the Chilcot enquiry today, is seen as Richard III, the monster many associate with killing two children, as the monster Blair is seen by many of us as responsible for killing many more in Iraq. Nice how Shakespeare's 'son of York' becomes 'pie of pork', indicating that Blair, as always, will inevitably continue to lie and lie. We can only hope that Blair, the consummate actor, will not escape this time. Justice is badly needed to redress this crime against humanity.

Cartoon from yesterday's Guardian (g2).

27 January 2010

Haitian Literature: Frankétienne

Toussaint L'Ouverture, the leader of the Haitian revolution. The Haitian writer and artist Frankétienne, dubbed ’Monsieur Haiti’ by none other than Aimé Césaire, lost his house completely in the earthquake, but survived, saying: ‘I don’t believe in reincarnation, but if offered a return ticket, I’ll certainly ask to come back to this shithole’: This link is to a French inteview with him: Frankétienne

25 January 2010

Caroline Herring and Si Kahn

Only very rarely is it almost an epiphanic moment when I discover a writer or singer I'd never heard of before, but I felt such a moment when I received this quarter's edition of Oxford American, a journal originally published by Ole Miss, but now produced by the University of Central Arkansas. This issue is the 11th Southern music one, and contains two CDs with a wealth of singers I was totally unaware of. I was particularly impressed by Caroline Herring's 'The Dozens' from her Golden Apples of the Sun (2009) album. Herring comes from the small town of Canton just north of Vicksburg, Mississippi. She wrote this song in memory of her friend Larry Levine, author of Black Culture and Black Consciousness (1977). The Dozens is a toughening game in which blacks take turns to insult others playing the game, and frequently insult the mothers of the others. The winner is the person who keeps his cool. The full words from the album are available on Herring's website.

The Austin Chronicle called Lantana (2008), her previous album, 'the best modern Southern Gothic album since Lucinda Williams’ Sweet Old World', although her style has now changed from country-influenced to folk. Her website mentions Judy Collins as a major influence, but I frequently hear Joan Baez in there, and Joni Mitchell too very occasionally. She doesn't write all her own songs, but those she does often have a definite literary background, as with 'The Dozens', and she also makes references on her current album to Wendell Berry, Pablo Neruda, and - more obviously, of course - W. B. Yeats. But you'll have a hard time finding any mention of her MA in Southern Literature from Old Miss, or her PhD in American Studies from Austin, Texas.

Another song on Golden Apples of the Sun is
'Tales of the Islander', which she wrote about the startling artist and writer Walter Anderson (1903-65), of the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Beautiful stuff.

And another singer who impressed me on one of the CDs is Si Kahn, who lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, and who is also a folk singer, but more in the left-wing protest style of Pete Seeger or Phil Ochs. Much concerned with civil rights, picket line songs, etc, Kahn is well known for such anthemic songs as 'Gone, Gonna Rise Again', 'Aragon Mill', and 'Wild Rose'.

Other songs I really like include:
'Hutto', about T. Don Hutto's detention centre in Taylor, Texas, where the young children of illegal immigrants are detained with their parents.'Clarence Kailin'
, a tribute to the then 95-year-old veteran left-winger, and a sample of which is:

'Ask Clarence how to lead a life of purpose and direction
He simply says you have to make a left at every intersection.'

Nottingham Contemporary – David Hockney and Frances Stark

The widely advertised art gallery Notingham Contemporary opened its doors on 14 November 2009, but due to a mixture of circumstances - the enormous initial queues and the recent bad weather being just two of them - I was unable to visit the David Hockney and Frances Stark exhibitions until last Saturday, the day before they closed. Entry was free, and we were greatly impressed by what we saw. The above 88-page book, David Hockney 1960-1968: A Marriage of Styles, is linked to the Hockney exhibition, and although it was far from free, it serves as a good introduction to his early work for those unfamiliar with it. And the reproductions of the paintings and sketches are excellent. The strong argument I have with it concerns the text: red print on red paper and blue print on blue paper just do not blend well, and I find it very strange indeed that anyone should so much have entertained the idea of using them, let alone actually have done so.

Reviews of the Hockney exhibition have suggested that it is rather odd to launch a significant new 'contemporary' art gallery with a 1960s retrospective of Hockney's work, and in the above book, Alex Farquharson, the director of the Nottingham Contemporary, tries to explain this apparent oddness by suggesting that Hockney's work of this period 'resonates with significant aspects of art in the 1990s.' Perhaps so, but in reality the choice of the main opening exhibition has much more to do with crowd pulling: Hockney, in spite of the length of his (continuing) artistic career, is still associated with the 'Swinging Sixties' in the popular eye (particularly with his LA swimming pool paintings) like an umbilical cord that's never been severed, and therefore is likely to attract a large number of viewers.

The other exhibition - 'But what of Frances Stark, standing by itself, a naked name, bare as a ghost to whom one would like to lend a sheet?', introduced me to a more, er, contemporary artist. Frances Stark was born in 1967 in Newport Beach, California, and now lives in LA (as Hockney of course once did, but now finds Bridlington(!) more comfortable). As Hockney's numerous literary references here tend to the gay poets Walt Whitman and C. P. Cavafy, Emily Dickinson is Stark's primary literary reference. And as for music, Hockney's references to Cliff Richard probably made many people wince even in the sixities, but Stark's references to Mark E. Smith of The Fall seem very much healthier.

Great. What's next?

21 January 2010

Stanley Middleton (revisited)

lastingtribute.co.uk, a website where people leave tributes to the dead, states 'We offer a trusted brand which is part of the Daily Mail group, and run in partnership with the regional press publisher Northcliffe Media.' The Nottingham Evening Post belongs to Northcliffe Media, and on the death of the novelist Stanley Middleton encouraged its readers to leave a tribute there. Which I did, although I'm rather surprised that only two other people did. A few days ago, a former student of his at High Pavement Grammar School, as it was then called, contacted me to share his impressions of Stan with me. I'm glad he did, and take this opportunity to share these words on my blog.

The words below are John McGregor's and I thank him very much for this information, as there are certainly several snippets here that I either never knew of, or perhaps, simply, had forgotten.

'Many moons ago when I was at secondary school, my English teacher for two separate years was called Stanley Middleton. "Stan" as we called him behind his back was a quirky character who always walked to school, a considerable distance as he lived not far from me at the time. We passed him on bus or bike, and often saw him turn down lifts from fellow teachers. The reason for this I later found out was that Stanley Middleton was a prolific author, and used the walking time to write his novels in his head. He wrote over 40 books in his time and in 1974 he won the Booker prize for his novel Holiday.

'I watched David Tennant in Hamlet over Christmas, and recalled the time when Stan got us to do the final climatic scene at the school Speech Day in 1964. I played Osric, the page who opens the scene with a 42 word explanation of what is to come, and I loved every second of the rehearsals and the play itself on the day. Our school was very scientifically-based, I wasn’t and revelled in the poorly-supported arts. Stan was a great teacher whose gift was to make you think. I now wish I’d gone in the arts direction from school. But that’s another story, no complaints about how my life worked out.

'Stan’s odd way of dealing with you always sticks in my memory, on a one-to-one he would put his head on one side as he asked you a question in a friendly manner. One day he gazed at one long-haired youth (in 1964 hair was becoming very important, but not officially at our school), and offered the wonderful observation.

"You’re looking particularly hirsute today, Jackson". When we asked him what it meant he told us to look it up. We did. The fashion at that time to lug your school books around in was not satchels, they were very uncool, but ex-army haversacks were all the rage. The large covering flap gave you a platform, an easel on which to paint your message to the world, usually carried out in Fat Smith’s art class. For months afterwards their were suitably hairy portraits on various haversacks entitled "An hirsute youth" or "Phil the hirsute" displayed to the world. The word has stuck with me through the years.'

John McGregor

20 January 2010

Edwidge Danticat

Edwidge Danticat (1969- ) was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and was twelve years old when she left with her family for New York. She writes in English and her first novel was Breath, Eyes, Memory (1994), which in part concerns the young Haitian girl Sophie's relationship with her mother, who is speaking here about the 'testing', a degrading old custom to which she subjects Sophie:

'When I was a girl, my mother used to test us to see if we were virgins. She would put her finger in our very private parts and see if it would go inside. Your Tante Atie hated it. She used to scream like a pig in a slaugherhouse. The way my mother was raised, a mother was supposed to do that to her daughter until the daughter is married. It is her responsibilty to keep her pure.'*

Her mother describes her rape and the conception of Sophie rather more laconically, but no less dramatically for that: 'A man grabbed me from the side of the road, pulled me into a cane field, and put you in my body.'

Krik? Krak! (1996) refers to a storyteller asking if he can tell a story, and the enthusiastic reply. It is a book of stories of the myths of Haiti, the family, the horrors of the tontons macoutes, the contrasts between the poorest country in the western hemisphere and the riches of north-east America, but most of all it is a series of stories about stories. In the longest story, 'Caroline's Wedding', the narrator Grace remembers a story told by her father about the Haitian dictator Papa Doc:

'God once called a conference of world leaders. He invited the president of France, the president of the United States, the president of Russia, Italy, Germany, and China, as well as our own president, His Excellency, the President for Life Papa Doc Duvalier. When the president of France reached the gates of Heaven, God got up from his throne to greet him. When the president of the United States reached the gates of Heaven, God got up to greet him as well. So, too, with the presidents of Russia, Italy, Germany, and China.

'When it was our president's turn, His Excellency, the president for Life Papa Doc Duvalier, God did not get up from his throne to greet him. All the angels were stunned and puzzled. They did not understand God's rude behavior. So they elected a representative to go up to God and question Him.

'"God", said the representative, "you have been so cordial to all the other presidents. You have gotten up from your throne to greet them at the gates of heaven as soon as they have entered. Why do you not get up for Papa Doc Duvalier? Is it because he is a black president? You have always told us to overlook the color of men. Why have you chosen to treat the black president, Papa Doc Duvalier, in this fashion?"

'God looked at the representative angel as though He was about to admit something He did not want to.

'"Look, he said. "I am not getting up for Papa Doc Duvalier because I am afraid that if I get up, he will take my throne and will never give it back."'

Edwidge Danticat is a great storyteller. Only a fool would read this 'joke' as a racist statement, and only a fool would fail to see that this story illustrates just as much the tragedy that is Haiti as the hell that Haiti is now undergoing.

*The structure of the title Breath, Eyes, Memory, written by a 24-year-old Danticat, invokes another very powerful book about Haiti, the suppressed Amour, colère et folie (1968) by Marie Chauvet, who died when Danticat was seven. Simone de Beauvoir was greatly impressed by that strong criticism of the Duvalier regime, but as a result of its publication, Chauvet was forced to flee to New York.

10 January 2010

Listen Here: Women Writing in Appalachia (2003), ed. by Sandra L. Ballard and Patricia L. Hudson

Ballard and Hudson's Listen Here: Women Writing in Appalachia is a wonderful, nearly 700-page feast of a book, containing writings of 105 women with strong Appalachian connections, and is an important stand against the cultural hegemony of the American north-east. They define 'Appalachian' as the south-east mountains and their foothills, and include parts of Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama.

Ballard and Hudson searched The Oxford Companion to Women's Writing in the United States (1995), and found only eight of these 105 women listed in it. It would have been interesting to know how many male Appalachian authors are listed in that book, as I strongly suspect that it would be far greater than eight.

But why is Appalachia neglected so much? The editors quote from Lee Smith's 'White Columns and Marble Generals' (2002):

'Appalachia is to the South what the South is to the rest of the country.* That is: lesser than, backward, marginal. Other. Look at the stereotypes: "Hee Haw", "Deliverance", "Dogpatch", and "The Dukes of Hazzard". A bunch of hillbillies sitting on a rickety old porch drinking moonshine and living on welfare, right? Wrong.'

When I think of Appalachian writing I'm reminded of the study I made into the working-class literature of the UK in the interwar years, of how it has just been airbrushed from literary history. This is the full list of the Appalachian writers Ballard Hudson include in their anthology, many of whom are contemporary, but many others who have been part of the airbrushing process:

[Under construction.]

Short stories:
Come Go Home with Me (1995)

Cavedweller (1998)
Bastard Out of Carolina (1992)

LISA ALTHER (1944- )
Five Minutes in Heaven (1995)
Bedrock (1990)
Other Women (1984)
Original Sins (1981)
Kinflicks (1975)

Windfall: New and Selected Poems (2000)
A space Filled with Moving (1992)
Cold Comfort (1986)
Years That Answer (1980)

ANNE W. ARMSTRONG (1872-1958)
This Day and Time (1930)
The Seas of God (1915)

Between the Flowers (1999)
The Kentucky Trace (1974)
Weedkiller's Daughter (1970)
The Dollmaker (1954)
Hunter's Horn (1949)
Mountain Path (1936)

With thorn and Stone: New and Selected Poems (1968)
No Stranger to the Earth (1957)
The grace of the Bough (1957)
Love-Vine (1954)
Meadow-Rue (1948)

Rising Fawn and the Fire Mystery (1984)

Poetry and Prose:
Selu: Seeking the Corn-Mother's Wisdom (1993)
Abiding Appalachia: Where Mountain and Atom Meet (1978)

Ragsdale (1995)

The Ladder of Fortune (1900)
Miss Nina Barrow (1897)
Claudia Hyde (1894)
Juan and Juanita (1888)
Behind the Blue Ridge: A Homely Narrative (1887)
On Both Sides (1885)

Short stories:
A Shocking Example and Other Sketches (1889)

All We Know of Heaven (1996)
Keeping Christina (1993)
Permanent Connections (1987)
Sara Will (1985)
Notes for Another Life (1981)
All Together Now (1979)
Home Before Dark (1976)

Dorie: Woman of the Mountains (1992)
If Life Gives You Scraps, Make a Quilt (1992)
Ocona Lufta Baptist: Pioneer Church of the Smokies, 1836-1939 (1990)

Catching Light (2002)
Evelyn (1999)
Black Shawl (1998)
Wildwood Flower (1992)
The Girl in the Midst of the Harvest (1986)
Alma (1983)
Search Party (1979)

Sing for Freedom: The Story of the Civil Rights Movement Through Its Songs (1990)
Freedom Is a Constant Struggle: Songs of the Freedom Movement (1968)
Ain't You Got a right to the Tree of Life?: The People of John's Island, South Carolina, Their Faces, Their Words, and Their Songs (1966)

JO CARSON (1946- )
Short stories:
The Last of the 'Waltz Across Texas'and Other Stories (1993)

Stories I Ain't Told Nobody Yet (1989)

Whispering to Horses (1996-97)
The Bear Facts (1993)
Daytrips (1991)
Preacher with a Horse to Ride (1990)

The Great Shaking: An Account of the Earthquakes in 1811 and 1812 (1994)
You Hold Me and I'll Hold You (1992)
Pulling My Leg (1990)

Children's: numerous

My Appalachia: A Reminiscence (1966)

LILLIE D. CHAFFIN (1925-1993)
8th Day, 13th Moon (1974)
Star following (1976)
Lines and Points (1966)
A Stone for Sisyphus (1967)
First Notes (1969)

Wilder (1990)

ANN COBB (1885-1960)
Kinfolks: Kentucky Mountain Rhymes (1922)

An English Christmas (1978)

Likely (1996)

The Hillbilly Vampire (1990)

LOU V. D. CRABTREE (1913- )
Short stories:
Sweet Hollow (1984)

The River Hills & Beyond (1998)

Calling on Lou (1984)

Highland Annals (1925)
Call Home the Heart (1932)
A Stone Came Rolling (1935)
From My Highest Hill (1941)
Sons of the Stranger (1947)

Short stories:
Innocent Bigamy and Other Stories (1962)

Path Flower and Other Verses (1914)
The Cycle's Rim (1916)
The Spotted Hawk (1958)

The Mortal Gods and Other Plays (1912)
The Flutter of the Goldleaf, and Other Plays (1922)

it's like this (1980)
eat thunder & drink rain (1982)
voodoo chile: slight return (1991)
Soque Street Poems (1991)
madness like morning glory: poems (2004)

Margaret Howth: A Story of To-day (1862)
Dallas Galbraith (1868)
Pro Aris et Foci: A Plea for Our Altars and Hearths (1870)
John Andross (1874)
Kitty's Choice: A Story of Berrytown (1874)
A Law unto Herself (1878)
Natasqua (1887)
Kent Hampden (1892)
Silhouettes of American Life (1892)
Doctor Warwick's Daughters (1896)
Frances Waldeaux (1897)

Life in the Iron Mills (1861)

Bits of Gossip (1904)

ANN DEAGON (1930- )
The Diver's Tomb (1984)

Short stories:
Habitats (1982)

Carbon 14 (1974)
Poetics South (1974)
Indian Summer (1975)
Women and Children First (1976)
There Is No Balm in Birmingham (1978)
The Polo Poems (1990)

Praise House (1990)
Stubborn Memories (1993)
Homemade Tales: Songs and sayings of Florida Slone (1993)
Lessons on Becoming a Woman (1996)

The Living (1992)

Tickets for a Prayer Wheel (1974)
Mornings Like This: found Poems (1995)

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (1974)
Holy the Firm (1977)
Living by Fiction (1982)
Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters (1982)
Encounters with Chinese Writers (1984)
An American Childhood (1987)
The Writing Life (1989)
The Annie Dillard Reader (1994)
For the Time Being (1999)

Bandana Creek (1979)
Down to the Wire (200?)

Appalachia, My Land (1973)
Appalachia (1977)

The Sunny Side of Cumberland (as Will Allen) (1886)
The Malungeons (1891)
The Heart of Old Hickory and Other Stories of Tennessee (1895)
The Valley Path (1898)
Rare Old Chums (1898)
A Moonshiner's Son (1898)
Hero-Chums (1898)
Cinch, And Other Stories: Tales of Tenessee (1898)
Harum-Scarum Joe (1899)
The Island of Beautiful Things: A Romance of the South (1912)
Short Stories (1970)

The Tall Woman (1962)
The Far Family (1964)
Return to the Innocent Earth (1973)

Non-Fiction: numerous

The Felmeres (1879)
A Simple Heart (1887)
Jerry (1891)
John Paget (1893)
The Durket Sperret (1898)
The Making of Jane (1901)

Short stories:
An Incident and Other Happenings (1899)

Headwaters (1995)

More than Moonshine: Appalachian Recipes and Recollections (1983)

Short stories:
Heartwood (1997)

On Wings Made of Gauze (1985)
Rice (1995)

LUCY FURMAN (1870-1958)
Sight to the Blind (1914)
The Quare Women (1923)
The Glass Window (1925)
The Lonesome Road (1927)

Short stories:
Stories of a Sanctified Town (1897)
Mothering on Perilous (1913)

Good King Harry (1984)
Storming Heaven (1987)
The Unquiet Earth (1992)
Saints and Villains (1998)
Fallam's Secret (2003)

The Enduring Hills (1950)
Tara's Healing (1951)
The Kentuckians (1953)
The Plum Thicket (1954)
Hill Man (1954)
Hannah Fowler (1956)
The Land Beyond the Mountains (1958)
Johnny Osage (1960)
Savannah (1961)
voyage to Santa Fe (1962)
Run Me a River (1964)
The Great Adventure: A Novel (1966)
Six-Horse Hitch (1971)
Miss Willie (1971)
The Kinta Years (1973)
Well-spring (1975)
The Believers (1976)
Shady Grove (1978)
Act of Contrition (2001)

Black Feeling, Black Talk (1967)
Black Judgement (1968)
Re: Creation (1970)
My House (1972)
The Women and The Men (1975)
Cotton Candy on a Rainy Day (1978)
Those Who Ride The Night Winds (1983)
The Selected Poems of Nikki Giovanni (1996)
Love Poems (1997)
Blues: For All the Changes (1999)
Quilting the Black-Eyed Pea: Poems and Not Quite Poems (2002)
The Prosaic Soul of Nikki Giovanni (2003)
The Collected Poetry of Nikki Giovanni (2003)
Acolytes (2007)
Bicycles: Love Poems (2009)

Children's: numerous

GAIL GODWIN (1937- )
A Sorrowful Woman (1971)
Glass People (1972)
The Odd Woman (1974)
Violet Clay (1978)
A Mother and Two Daughters (1982)
The Finishing School (1984)
A Southern Family (1987)
Father Melancholy’s Daughter (1991)
The Good Husband
Evensong (1999)
Evenings at Five (2003)
Queen of the Underworld (2006)

Short stories:
Dream Children (1976)
Mr. Bedford and the Muses (1983)

Heart (2001)

The War at Home (1989)
Emmy (1992)

Zeely (1967)
The Planet of Junior Brown (1971)
M.C. Higgins the Great (1975)
Justice And Her Brothers (1978)
Sweet Whispers, Brother Rush (1983)
Willie Bea and the Time the Martians Landed (1983)
The People Could Fly: American Black Folktales (1985)
A White Romance (1987)
Anthony Burnes (1988)
Cousins (1990)
Drylongso (1992)
Plain City (1998)
Second Cousins (1998)
Bluish: A Novel (1999)
The Girl Who Spun Gold (2000)

Divining (2001)

CORRA HARRIS (1869-1935)
The Jessica Letters (1904), with Paul Elmer More.
A Circuit Rider's Wife (1910)
Eve's Second Husband (1910)
The Recording Angel (1912)
In Search of a Husband (1913)
The Co-Citizens (1915)
Justice (1915)
A Circuit Rider's Widow (1916)
Making Her His Wife (1918)
From Sunup to Sundown (1919)
In Search of a Husband (1919)
Happily Married (1920)
My Son (1921)
The Eyes of Love (1922)
A Daughter of Adam (1923)
The House of Helen (1923)
My Book and My Heart (1924)
As a Woman Thinks (1925)
The Happy Pilgrimage (1926)

MILDRED HAUN (1911-66)
Short stories:
The Hawk's Done Gone (1940)
The Hawk's done Gone and Other Stories (1968)

Past Titan rock: Journeys into an Appalachian Valley (1984)

Short stories:
Tough Customers and Other Stories (1999)

Bright Freedom's Song: A Story of the Underground Railroad (1998)
Littlejim's Dreams (1997)
Littlejim's gift: An Appalachian Christmas Story (1994)
Mountain Valor (1994)
My Great-Aunt Arizona (1992)
But No Candy (1992)
Littlejim (1990)
The Year of the perfect Christmas Tree (1988)
My Brother Joey Died (1982)

The Last Unmined Vein (1980)

MARY JOHNSTON (1870-1936)
Prisoners of Hope (1898)
To Have and to Hold (1900)
Audrey (1902)
Pioneers of the Old South (1903)
Sir Mortimer (1904)
The Goddess of Reason (1907)
Lewis Rand (1908)
The Long Roll (1911)
Cease Firing (1912)
Hagar (1913)
The Witch (1914)
The Fortunes of Garin (1915)
The Wanderers (1917)
Foes (1918)
Michael Forth (1919)
Sweet Rocket (1920)
Silver Cross (1921)
1492 (1922)
The Great Valley (1926)
The Exile (1927)
Miss Delicia Allen (1932)

The Autobiography of Mother Jones (1995)
The Speeches and Writings of Mother Jones (1988)
The Correspondence of Mother Jones (1985)

Beyond the Blue Mountains (1992)

MAY JUSTUS (1898-1989)
Children's: numerous

The Devil's Hand (1974)
Weeds (1923)

Second Opinion (2008)
Heart Cake (2000)

The Lacuna (2009)
Prodigal Summer (2000)
The Poisonwood Bible (1998)
High Tide in Tucson (1995)
Pigs in Heaven (1993)
Another America (1992)
Animal Dreams (1990)
The Bean Trees (1988)

Short stories:
Homeland and Other Stories (1989)

Small Wonder: Essays (2002)

LISA KOGER (1953- )
Short stories:
Farlanburg Stories (1990)

Some Days There's Pie (2002)
Harvest (2004)

Coon Creek Girl (1980)

GRACE LUMPKIN (1891-1980)
Full Circle (1962)
The Wedding (1939)
A Sign for Cain (1935)
To Make My Bread (1932)

With a Hammer for My Heart (1996)
Here and Then (1994)
Catalpa (1993)
Red Rover (1989) (published as The Stranger I Left behind Me, 1997)
Borrowed Children (1988)

Growing Light (1987)
Mountain (1983)

Home Fires (1997)

Julie (1984)
Christy (1967)

Gifts of the Spirit (1988)

KATHY L. MAY (1952- )
Door to the River (1992)

Till the Frost (1962)
The Tempter's Harvest (1954)

The McCoys: Their Story as Told to the Author by Eye Witnesses and Descendants (1976)

Novels (Ballad Series):
Ghost Riders (2003)
The Songcatcher (2001)
The Ballad of Frankie Silver (1998)
The Rosewood Casket (1996)
She Walks These Hills (1994)
The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter (1992)
If every I return, Pretty Peggie-O (1990)

2 January 2010

Selah Saterstrom's The Pink Institution (2004)

In the world of Southern literature, Southern Gothic is by no means rare, and indeed continues to be strong, but although Southern Gothic is stange and disorienting, it isn't 'experimental', by which I mean that the form and the style don't challenge existing literary norms. But unfortunately many people simply don't see Southern literature in the same serious way that they see other literatures in the U.S., and I've banged on about north-eastern literary hegemony for some years.

And the general misconception of Southern literature as 'realist' is as wrong-headed as the conception of working-class literature as 'realist' is, and in the case of Southern literature this label neglects, for example, such writers as William Faulkner, Frances Newman, Barry Hannah, and Padgett Powell.

And Selah Saterstrom. Saterstrom's first novel, The Pink Institution, is a short book that must be read very slowly, as its revelations aren't digested easily.

The novel is divided into five main parts. The first is extremely fragmented in that it contains four sections introduced by what appear to be (partly obliterated) thoughts on 'The Confederate Ball Program Guide 1938': these sections all contain large white spaces between the words, and there is frequent incoherence. The second part is as long as the first and divided into three sections: 'Childhood Objects', 'Maidenhood Objects', and 'Motherhood Objects', which are in regular prose but each contain information about the family. The third part is very brief, but the only titled one - PSALTER: (Birth Interim). Part four takes us up to the present day. The final part five is a kind of coda.

The novel, in effect, is a very short four-generation saga - from post-bellum decay and the attendant social problems of (self)-abuse, through to trailer park hell. Via any route you can think of. This is a very powerful, and very disturbing, novel.

I'll comment on Selah Saterstrom's second novel, The Meat and Spirit Plan, in due course, but I hope it's as accomplished as this is.