On Richard Wright's "Bright and Morning Star" Print E-mail
Essays and Memoirs

wright richard WD(Richard Wright: Myths & Realities edited by C. James Trotman. Garland Publishing, 1988)

"The Political Vision of Afro-American Culture: Richard Wright's 'Bright and Morning Star'"

Richard Wright wrote Uncle Tom's Children, a collection of essays, stories, and novellas, in the late 1930s when he was an active member of the Communist Party of the United States.

The rest of this essay can be read as a PDF here.

Review: The Flood by Carol Ascher Print E-mail

The Flood(Written January 1988)

Prejudice--ethnic, racial, cultural--exists in each of us; we parrot prejudices early on from parents' and neighbors' examples. Later in life, some of us cultivate it, and a few try to disregard or even unlearn it. For some adolescents, though, learning about and mimicking prejudice is most painful: Inculcated by the family they love, the young begin to sense their elders are unacceptably flawed by bigotry.

Carol Ascher's novel The Flood explores a child's initiation into the world of prejudice. Set in Topeka, Kansas during the flood-scarred summer of 1953, 9-year-old Eva Hoffman, daughter of a first-generation family of Jewish immigrants, learns about intolerance and fear, not only from the havoc caused by the rising waters but also from the political malaise of the times: Fears of communism and racial integration have covered the town's white power structure with dread.

The rest of the review is available here (opens a PDF).

Review: Inventing the Abbotts by Sue Miller Print E-mail

inventing(Written January 1988)

An Etherized Fiction for the 1980s

I will hazard a guess outright: Sue Miller’s Inventing the Abbotts should receive oodles of good press. Critics will be enthralled by these stories, recalling the praise they ladled on Miller’s novel, The Good Mother, a few years back, and here again they will be taken by the skillful weave of psychoanalysis, sex, and middle-class angst, not to mention the pithy dialogue and narrative clarity of the pieces.

Reviewers, I imagine, will applaud how authentic Miller portrays the world of relationships between men and women in the 1980s. Many will re-live turbulent scenes from our lives with divorced parents, the children we over-protected during our own break-ups, or the nights wasted, prowling bars blindly for love. Men will wince, women will nod, young readers (if any) may flip to the “good parts.” (There are few of those.)

Review: Leaning Forward by Grace Paley Print E-mail

leaning forward(UCSD Archive for New Poetry Newsletter September 1987)

Grace Paley's first book of poetry, Leaning Forward, collects poems written over the past twenty years. The subjects of hr poetry are much the same as those in her short stories, of which three volumes have been published since 1959. The pems are about Jews and Judaism, Paley's octogenarian, Russian-immigrant father, and a few neighborhoods she has lived in in New York City, Also, a number of poems concern the Vietnam war and her many (some celebrted protest activities.

The rest of this review can be read here.

Review: A Bird In Her Hair by Philip Bonofsky Print E-mail

A Bird in Her Hair(Left Curve June 1, 1987)

Not enough authors who write stories about working class people get it right. Typically they either overstuff the work with political rhetoric or they sketch workers' desires in some mock-simplistic style that really misses the point. The more authentic fiction about workers I think lies in the psychological depth the author brings to the subject: it isn't easy to shape the guilt, the stubbornness, the conceit, the competitiveness of workers; to tell a heroic generational tale about the burden of promise in America (once central to most immigrant novels), to recount the toil upward and outward toward "freedom," only to find some new harness which binds you in--all these tellings are difficult because of their psychological scope. One writer today who creates some of this texture within her characters is novelist Valerie Miner, focusing as she does on ''cross-class and cross-cultural movement" quite successfully. Another, more Old World proletarian, a lot like the embittered ex-preacher-boy narrator in John Sayles' magnificent film Matewan, is Phillip Bonosky.

The rest of the review is available here (opens a PDF).

Review: Americas: Essays on American Music and Culture, 1973-1980 by Peter Garland Print E-mail

garland(American Music Volume 4, Issue 3, Fall 1986; revised March 2013, 2022)

The Fist-Shaking Iconoclast

Fourteen essays comprise Americas. There are short pieces on “American Piano” and “American Percussion.” There are tracts about literary nomads Paul Bowles (whose Selected Songs Garland issued in 1983), Jamie de Angelo, and B.. Traven. There are lengthy discussions of Conlon Nancarrow, Silvestre Revueltas, Harry Partch, and Lou Harrison. And there are three travel journals written in Mexico, an autobiographical respite from his cause. In general, the book shakes its fist on behalf of the experimentalist radicals of American music and their attacks on American musical propriety as if the New World has rejected our best and brightest composers.

Unanswering the Question: Charles Ives Meets Charles Olson Print E-mail
Essays and Memoirs

cdeb024128a0546bfd209010.L(Perspectives of New Music. Double issue: Fall-Winter, Vol. 20, No. 1, 1981; Spring-Summer, Vol. 20, No. 2, 1982)

This essay started out of a desire to experience my own convergence with the music and writings of Charles Ives and the esthetics and poetry of Charles Olson. What began as a measure of my relationship with them became their relationship, in something larger, with each other. Furthermore, the same experience has always been counterpointed in my own work as a composer and writer. The legacy of the arts as being separable, by virtue of their expressive content, audience, differing perceptive modes, etc., has seemed to me to be an illusion propagated by some traditional casting of identity, of what art-forms "say."

How one form can say something, or one thing, better than another, the economic argument of the efficiency of art mediums. I feel that the genesis and experience of music and language are inseparable, if one can get beyond, if one can unanswer, the questions they supposedly address, to the exclusion of each other. They indeed converge in essence.

This essay, perhaps my first significantly original work, is available as a PDF download here.

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