Helping Out

I love Numéro Cinq. That’s why I’ve decided to pitch in and help out where I can. I’ll be doing some production editing for the magazine and, in the longer term, I hope to publish some work over there. If you’re not familiar with Numéro Cinq, now is a good time to take a look — and be sure to check out its Holy Book of Literary Craft, probably the single most intelligent and most valuable resource for writers available on the web.

Silence, True and Pure

Me and Ivy

Silence has shrouded this space for much of the last few months because, in my life offline, most of my recent thoughts have been bent around a different kind of silence, a silence true and pure. In April 2014, my wife and I became parents to a healthy and happy little girl named Ivy. Not quite six months later, however, Ivy underwent behavioural tests that showed some signs of hearing loss, and then, when she was exactly six months, specialised tests revealed that she is in fact profoundly deaf. She can’t hear sounds of any kind, not even at the volume of a close-range aircraft engine, and she suffers hearing loss so extreme that she may never be able to hear at all.

In coping with the failure of hearing aids, in anticipating the insertion of a cochlear implant, in working full-time and parenting while also learning how to respond to deafness in children and how to adjust our lives to meet the needs of a child with a severe disability, the stresses of the period following Ivy’s diagnosis have been monumental. But some of the most monumental stresses of all have come less from practical difficulties than from daily wrestling with a sense of long-term loss and the grief that attends it. To know that our daughter has no access to sound is to know that we may never be able to share with her so much of what we most appreciate in the world. For my wife, the greatest loss to Ivy is music in all its varieties. Coming from a family for whom music is the lingua franca of shared experience, it has been terrible for her to begin processing the knowledge that Ivy will in some sense be forever cut off, kept at a distance, from that part of her heritage.1 For me, of course, what seems to be lost is Ivy’s access to what I believe is the greatest of the pleasures of literature. Continue reading

Still Trying to Make Sense of the Trauma

The texts’ narrative amorphousness and mixed media — what Randall calls “hybrid forms” (3) and what Daniel Davis Wood calls a revival of the avant-garde nouveau Roman post WWII European postmodernism — clearly represent the unsure approach to new ways to make sense of the trauma. The canon of such experimental 9/11 fiction is continually being set by cultural and literary critics.

My remarks on the rebirth of the nouveau roman cited in an MA thesis by Brian J. Phelps.

Unchanging

The Captain America narrative has never changed.

Sure, there were some slightly different nuances here and there, but for the most part, he was the same man. I knew who he was, I knew he was going to win at the end of the day and I knew he wasn’t going to be dead forever. That’s not how comics work. In comics the hero never changes. He is predictable, unchanging and static in time. There is no ageing, no permanent dying, they are never losing for long and all comics end with the showdown of good verses evil and good will eventually, even if it takes some time, win. The superhero is someone we deeply trust.

The superhero narratives are the modern American mythology.

Over at Policy Mic, Adam Hogue uses my review of the work of Robert Jewett and John Shelton Lawrence to explore the cultural mythology surrounding the figure of the comic-book superhero.

Towards Understanding

First published in 1940, Walter van Tilburg Clark’s The Oxbow Incident is an example of a literary western novel — that is, not a mass-market work. Clark’s novel presented the American West and the western hero in a very different light. The novel focuses on the violence inherent in the history and mythology of the West. Clark tells the story of a lynching and the subsequent guilt and regret exhibited by Art Croft who participated in it. Croft, the narrator of the novel, and the reader both undergo the same epiphany, which involves ultimately coming to terms with the violence and vigilante nature of the lynching, seeing it not as heroic but as something to be overcome. Daniel Davis Wood sums it up in his review of this book, saying that only “when the human being inside the narrator overpowers the animal whose instincts led him to join the pack” can one begin to understand how violence dehumanizes us. Only with this understanding, can the narrator (and the reader) begin the “journey toward apology and feeble restitution.”

Dee Bakker adopts my view of The Ox-Bow Incident in order to situate the novel within the broader context of the literature of the American West.