Archive | October, 2007

Twilight by William Gay

Willaim Gay - TwilightI wrote this very short review awhile ago for an some publication on domesticity. Odd. Nothing came of it. So here it is: In William Gay’s recent novel Twilight, another nearly pitch-perfect Southern Gothic tale by the author of The Long Home and Provinces of Night, set in the piney woods, hollers, and decaying small towns of a 1950s Tennessee abutting a feral wilderness named the Harrikin. The home is the most dangerous place in rural America. Nearly everyone dies with a few yards of their front porch.

Kenneth Tyler, the son of a bootlegger, is working at gaining a degree of respectability in the small town of Center when his sister discovers that something is amiss with their recently buried father. The town undertaker has been molesting the town’s dead. When Tyler and his sister attempt to extort money from the necrophiliac, the undertaker enlists the local thug to silence them. The thug, Granville Sutter, is also the son of bootlegger. Sutter has made himself invulnerable in his willingness to do anything. He even lives in a neat and tidy home. His “room [was] neat and austere. Yesterday’s dishes washed and put away on the drainboard. Cot carefully made.”

After Sutter menaces Tyler, Tyler burns down Sutter’s home and seeks safety in the feral wilderness. What ensues is a long chase through a mythic landscape filled with backwoods homes. Tyler sits on an old goatherd’s rickety porch, travels through the ruins of a plantation-era mansion, visits the parlor of a senile witch, and finally finds solace in the remote farmhouse of born-again bootleggers. But the house in the wilderness proves the most dangerous place of all culminating in a grisly mass murder. Like a great old-time song, Twilight is an artful arrangement of southern tropes revealing the domestic Goth of the American household.

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Selling Poetry in Seattle on Jim Lehrer NewsHour

JEFFREY BROWN: Marshall and Deavel had run a general bookstore for seven years until a Barnes & Noble opened not far away.

JOHN MARSHALL: And I know I just saw it.

JEFFREY BROWN: The two then did something that does sounds nuts: Rather than fold their tent and find a new business, they went into an even smaller niche, all poetry, all the time.

For the streaming video or the transcript visit: PBS.org

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Water May Be Bad For You

When she was hungry she would come outside and have something to say to me. It went something like this, “Have you been waiting for me?”

“I haven’t been waiting for you. I’ve been sitting here minding my own business,” I said. “Why do you ask?

“I am interested in knowing if you have been waiting for me because I need three dollars for a hot dog and a coke.”

“Do you buy the coke from the fountain machine?”

“Where the Big Gulps come out?” she asked me.

“Next to where the Big Gulps come out,” I said.

Continue Reading →

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Death of Charlotte Bronte and Flight by Sherman Alexie

Clackamas Literary ReviewMy short story, “The Death of Charlotte Bronte,” appears in this year’s Clackamas Literary Review. The story is about the repeated appropriations of the Bronte’s by first Charlotte (who acquired Anne, Emily, and Branwell after their deaths), and then Elizabeth Gaskell who wrote the biography of Charlotte Bronte after Charlotte’s death, and then writers since then. I wrote the story in 1999 as part of Rebecca Brown’s Brontesaurus, a day long celebration of the Bronte’s and closet writers.

A review of Flight by Sherman Alexie appears in the the WaterBridge Review.

Zits, the narrator of Sherman Alexie’s seventeenth book, is a teenager who is tough in the long tradition of American angry young men, such as Huckleberry Finn, Holden Caulfield, and Russell Banks’s Bone. In this tradition the narrator is self-damning, self-hating, and comic. “I’m ashamed that I look like a bag of zits tied to a broomstick,” Zits says. These stories tell the American myth of self-determination: anyone, in America, these stories say, can become anything.

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