Monday, February 16, 2015

What Wred's Reading: The Sunny Spaces

New Castle, Pennsylvania USA has a bit of a literary bent.  Maybe most small towns do if one digs around enough, but I have always been a bit surprised at the amount of literature that the little place has produced, not that most people there notice, since they tend to be most interested in fireworks, food, and football (and if pharmaceuticals were spelled with an "f" at the beginning, then I would have thrown that on the list as well).

True, the town's most famous literary creation is the stretchable sleuth from the comic books known as Plastic Man, courtesy of hometown boy Jack Cole, and some literati would sniff about that, but I got a thrill as a kid reading that Plas hailed from the same town that I did (though the book that contained that fact, Secret Origins Of The Super Heroes, thought "New Castle" was one word like its English counterpart).

A little closer to mainstream literature, though still someone that snobby literati would scoff about, is Edmond Hamilton, a pulp science fiction writer who, like Cole, worked in comic books but, unlike Cole, also wrote for Weird Tales and whatnot.  As a teenager, I read his Starwolf novels and enjoyed them, but I never read anything else by him since I was gravitating out of science fiction and more into mystery.  Eventually, I would move through mystery into literature with a capital L.

A few years later, I would stumble upon a fantasy novel by a local named Susan Dexter.  It was enjoyable, but, having moved past fantasy about the same time I stopped reading science fiction regularly, I didn't read more.  Since then, one of my high school classmates, Diana Joseph, wrote two books, both of which I enjoyed.  She specializes in humorous memoir.

I am sure that there are also some fine local fiction writers, playwrights, and poets, whom I do not know of, since I do like to keep up with literature produced elsewhere as well, and it is a big world.  Still, I do have an interest in literature from that small town and, indeed, that general area of Western Pennsylvania.  New Castle is located in Lawrence County, so I also get a big kick out of Ellwood City poet Ron Androla's work, though he has lived in Erie for so long that it is probably more accurate to call him an Erie poet.  Or an eerie poet?  Androla would enjoy that description!

In any case, I was delighted to get a copy of Ann Antognoli's novel, The Sunny Spaces, for Christmas.  Not only is Antognoli from New Castle, but also her novel is partly set there.  It's a middleaged love story where two wounded souls find solace in one another.  It has lots of literary references as well, with the title coming from Moby Dick, for example. It is an enjoyable read, reminiscent of the work of Richard Russo.  It also reminds me of Lawrence Richette's work a bit.  All three writers tend to focus on straight-up storytelling in a realistic mode.  Ann is a retired high school English teacher, so she has clearly learned well from studying the great works of literature!  I believe that I had Antognoli as a substitute teacher a couple of times, but I know her husband better since he taught a great creative writing class that I took at the Hoyt Institute of Fine Arts.  Having met with both Antognolis recently, I know that Ann is thinking about another novel, so the literary heritage of New Castle should only continue to grow!       

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Christmas Wish Lists

Apparently, Ohio Governor John Kasich wants a balanced budget amendment in the U.S. Constitution.  Well, that may indeed be on his Christmas Wish List, but I suspect it's mainly just an opening gambit as he jockeys for position in the 2016 Republican primaries for President of the United States of America.  I found it a bit ironic.  Here's a dude who spends 25 grand of taxpayer money to stick his name on highway signs, and yet he tries to pretend to be a frugal public servant.  Well, if he were smart, then he'd ditch the names on the highway signs before some rival for the Republican nomination calls him on it.  Stopping that waste of taxpayer money would be grand.  I would love to not see those stupid overlay signs with the governor's and lieutenant governor's names on the "Welcome to Ohio" signs next year.  That's on my Christmas Wish List!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Wishing You A Cool Yule!


Sunday, December 21, 2014

People Still Believe Hemingway Wrote A Story He Didn't

Despite the efforts of myself and others, people still want to claim that Ernest Hemingway wrote a six-word short story that he probably didn't (credit should likely go to playwright John De Groot who has Hemingway say the "story" in a play, thus the confusion).  Quotation expert Ralph Keyes alerted me to the latest bit of nonsense, which unfortunately comes from The New York TimesThe Times does give a tad bit of a fig leaf of cover in relation to reality by writing that Hemingway is "said to have managed to tell" instead of writing "wrote" or "composed" in reference to the story, but the article is undoubtedly sure to spread this nonsense further.  At this point, this story, which isn't really a story and which Hemingway probably never wrote, is probably his most famous literary work.  Well, the Modernists did love irony, so maybe Papa would have gotten a kick out of it anyway, but it would be nice if people, especially when writing for The New York Times, did some research to avoid making false claims.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

New Crazy Carl Robinson Book!

For years, I've been waiting to read the third novel, My Parents' Medicine, by Crazy Carl Robinson.  Well, it's still not out, so don't get too excited, but, at least, some of it has now emerged in the form of a nicely-produced chapbook/zine.  Rogue Holler Blues is destined to be an underground classic, similar to CCR's first two books, Fat On The Vine and Bloodreal.  Only CCR's first novel has been published intact.  His second, Dead In The Head, was also excerpted and remixed into Bloodreal.  CCR is a writer similar to Thomas Wolfe in that he does benefit from a good editing job, but this trend of publishing mini-versions of the novels has probably gone too far.  At 48 pages or so, this is a skimpy read, especially given the price.  It would be nice if CCR's next novel came out more or less intact.  I guess to make that happen I may have to publish the thing myself. However, despite the brevity, RHB is a great read!  Even though I know CCR fairly well and thus have some bias, I am always amazed at the greatness of his writing and his ability to transmute the rawness of life into great literature in his own distinctive style of lowercase letters and ellipses.  He's seriously approaching Nobel class at this point, though what he tends to write about might make Alice Munro and the Swedish Academy faint.  Nevertheless, I enjoy it, sometimes too much (there were times reading this that I laughed so hard that I farted).  But it's not just a chucklefest.  He deals with some heavy and uncomfortable topics such as alcoholism, crime, drug abuse, economics, existential loneliness, racism, self-hatred, and sexism.  Underneath the party stories of small town drug dealers and college town rock and rollers is a deeply serious look at life in 21st Century America.  RHB begins with the narrator picking up where he left off at the end of Dead In The Head, trying to balance his duties to elderly parents with having a career and a lovelife.  If you've ever read a novel and wondered why none of the characters have to ever stop to use the bathroom, then you'll enjoy CCR's work.  For some readers, learning about the narrator's brown washcloth will fall into the realm of too much information, but others will enjoy a narrator who seems to relish sharing intimacy with his readers, even when it's not very pretty.  Some of the cast of characters from CCR's previous books, including a version of myself, return.  This novel finds them entering middleage (the narrator attends two weddings and wonders when his own will be) and settling down while still trying to hang onto their younger ambitions and amoral behavior.  Some such as The Big Handsome and Dale-The-Tail don't seem to want to leave the past, causing much mirth (The Big Handsome) and sadness (Dale-The-Tail) for the reader.  The narrator himself settles down into a regular job by the end, which is where the story presumably ends (some of the story is told out of sequence and there are references to events presumably described in the parts not published).  CCR has said that he has stopped writing, but I don't believe that for a minute and look forward to the next novel (which, one hopes, will be published more intact than this one was).  His novels seem to be turning into a hillbilly version of Proust's oeuvre.  He's also better than Proust, though readers with sticks up their posteriors will tend to disagree.  Any fan of Charles Bukowski or John Kennedy Toole will recognize that the river of true American literature flows right through CCR's Rapidan reflections.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

"Boiling Yellowjackets"

The Red Fez has published my poem "Boiling Yellowjackets" in issue 73.  I wrote the poem in 2013.  Sadly, it is still timely in 2014.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Monster Of Party Beach Is Out!

The comedy horror movie that I was in, Monster Of Party Beach, has been released.  It's available on DVD for $5 here.  I had fun hanging out with director Mark Justice and fellow actor Tim Hale at The Ghoulardi Fest the day after Halloween.  I think Mark has some screenings of the film coming up as well.