When I reread these plays last summer, I thought to myself, "Someone needs to write a rhyming verse play about America's farcical election." I even skWhen I reread these plays last summer, I thought to myself, "Someone needs to write a rhyming verse play about America's farcical election." I even sketched it out: a vaguely Frenchish court abuzz over the news that the king intends to appoint a new minister of everything, various courtiers puffing themselves up with expectation, the surprise news that the court jester intends to put himself forward... That was back when it all still seemed so laughable....more
Another very beautiful book from Alice Munro. I'm struck by how full of uncertainty these stories are—motives are often unknowable; the narrator herseAnother very beautiful book from Alice Munro. I'm struck by how full of uncertainty these stories are—motives are often unknowable; the narrator herself admits she isn't in possession of all the facts. There are blurry edges around the stories that make them feel more real—more lifelike. I liked "Train" and "Leaving Maverly" a lot. The real gems of the collection, though, are the four autobiographical vignettes at the end. The most lifelike of all the stories, these reflect consciously on the border between life and fiction. "Night" is my favorite, but the title story is a close second: "Roly Grain, his name was, and he does not have any further part in what I'm writing now, in spite of his troll's name, because this is not a story, only life."...more
This book has haunted me since I first read it some fifteen years ago. A friend lent it to me then, and I returned it only reluctantly. I was excitedThis book has haunted me since I first read it some fifteen years ago. A friend lent it to me then, and I returned it only reluctantly. I was excited to find a copy recently in a box of books that a colleague was giving away as he retired. It turns out, this is the same copy I first read, lent to my colleague by the same friend. So I read it again and, with renewed reluctance, will return it later this week.
What you'll find here: a narrative poetry full of personal stories and adopted personae; accomplished work in four- and five-foot blank verse; as much sin as sainthood—passion, turpitude, violence, beauty, history, a smattering of Southern gothic, a refusal of sentimentality. ...more
I have long been haunted by a remark that one of my writing professors once made about my poems: “These are good, but it is not enough to be good; youI have long been haunted by a remark that one of my writing professors once made about my poems: “These are good, but it is not enough to be good; you have to be a little crazy.” He was speaking metaphorically, but John Olive’s play makes the metaphor literal. The protagonist, Catherine, is a schizophrenic poet who must choose between the peaceful, relatively “normal” life that daily doses of Thorazine offer her, and her art: the poems that come to her only at the edge of madness. The link between creative genius and mental illness is not a new theme. What I like about Standing on my Knees, though, is its willingness to explore the way this theme intersects with our cultural expectations of artists. Catherine’s closest friend is her publisher, Alice, a woman so weary with the sameness of her life and of the submissions in her slush pile that she is jealous that Catherine “get[s] to go lock horns with evil psychiatrists [and] commune with the supernatural.” Catherine’s new boyfriend, Robert, is a stockbroker who is at least as much in love with her bohemian apartment and edgy taste in music as he is with her. Both may care about her in some ways and may want to keep her safe, but both are also using her to live out their own romantic fantasies—to indulge their own appetite for danger while still holding fast to the stable life that they need Catherine not to have. This is not to say that Catherine isn’t making her own choices, isn’t tragically addicted to the rush of power that comes from creating art. But the supporting characters in her life are adding to that rush—and so worsening the vacuum that comes in the rush’s wake. A friend of mine commented recently on how unaware most of us are of the terrible psychic burden that “our” artists bear on our behalf. This play sheds light on that burden—an appalling, naked light....more