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City Lights Bookstore posted events
14 hours ago
Chris Goldman posted a blog post

Author Becca Stevens to Speak in Asheville

The Rev. Becca Stevens is the founder of Magdalene & Thistle Farms, a community for women who have survived prostitution and addiction. She was named one of 15 Champions of Change by the White House. The Reverend Becca Stevens is an Episcopal priest serving as Chaplain at St Augustine's at Vanderbilt University. Thistle Farms employs 40 residents and graduates of Magdalene, and houses a natural body care line, a paper and sewing studio and the Thistle Stop Café. Magdalene is the two-year…See More
18 hours ago
Chris Goldman posted an event

Ministry & Mission Conference Featuring Author Becca Stevens at First Baptist Church, Asheville

May 3, 2014 from 8:30am to 4pm
The Rev. Becca Stevens is the founder of Magdalene & Thistle Farms, a community for women who have survived prostitution and addiction. She was named one of 15 Champions of Change by the White House. The Reverend Becca Stevens is an Episcopal priest serving as Chaplain at St Augustine's at Vanderbilt University. Thistle Farms employs 40 residents and graduates of Magdalene, and houses a natural body care line, a paper and sewing studio and the Thistle Stop Café. Magdalene is the two-year…See More
18 hours ago
William Roy Pipes posted a blog post

Doodlebug, Doodlebug, Your House is on Fire

Doodlebug, Doodlebug, Your House is on Fire is an Appalachian novel. The author, William Roy Pipes, author of Darby, Hanging Dog, the sequel to Darby, and Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, puts his love and knowledge of the Appalachian Mountains and the people live there into an intriguing romantic murder mystery involving a three year old boy, the only witness to the murders of his family, murdered by a gang out of Mexico. This gang was searching for distant cousin suspected of stealing a large…See More
yesterday
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

Poets Patrick Bahls and Rick Chess at West Asheville Library, Apr. 22

Personal Meaning-Making:  The Poetry of Patrick Bahls  Tuesday, April 22, 7 p.m., West Asheville Branch Library, 942 Haywood Rd., 250-4750West Asheville resident Dr. Patrick Bahls, Associate Professor of Math and Honors Program Director at UNC Asheville, and his colleague, Dr. Rick Chess, Professor of Language and Literature and Director of the Center for Jewish Studies at UNC Asheville, present an evening of poetry. Dr. Bahls began writing poetry some years ago as “a means of reflection and…See More
yesterday
City Lights Bookstore posted events
yesterday
Rob Neufeld posted discussions
Tuesday
Rob Neufeld posted discussions
Saturday
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

Bobby Norfolk starts storytelling, June 28

Bobby Norfolk Throws First Pitch for Kaleidoscope: Celebrating Diversityat Stories on Asheville’s Front Porch 2014from press release June 28 eventBobby Norfolk, three-time Emmy Award-winner is the lead storyteller for the fifth season of Stories on Asheville’s Front Porch--Kaleidoscope: Celebrating Diversity, June 28 in the Rhino Courtyard of Pack Place.  The stories begin at 10:30 a.m., rain or shine, and are free to the public.  Entrances to the Rhino Courtyard are from Biltmore Avenue under…See More
Saturday
Evelyn Asher posted photos
Friday
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Inez and Annie Daugherty and African American history

The Daughertys of Black Mountain spanned racial historyby Rob Neufeld             “The children in Cragmont (an African American neighborhood in Black Mountain) and High Top Colony, where my family lived, walked to school in groups,” Daugherty recalled about her 1920s childhood in a talk she had with me in 2005.            “White children rode the bus,” she revealed.  “They sometimes threw things at us and called us ugly names, but my mother told me, ‘You know who you are.  Those names do not…See More
Apr 14
Sue Diehl posted an event

MONTREAT COLLEGE FRIENDS OF THE LIBRARY LUNCHEON at Montreat College, Gaither Fellowship Hall, Montreat, NC

June 21, 2014 from 12pm to 2:30pm
Pamela Duncan, author of Moon Women, Plant Life, and The Big Beautiful, will be the speaker at the Montreat College Friends of the Library Annual Luncheon on Saturday, June 21, 2014, in the Gaither Fellowship Hall.See More
Apr 14
Rose Senehi posted events
Apr 11
Jerald Pope posted an event

It ain’t for wimps: readings on aging at Monte Vista Hotel

April 17, 2014 from 6pm to 7pm
Increased life expectancy brings with it increased opportunities, problems, and responsibilities. Both the aged and the pre-aged will find much to ponder at the Black Mountain Authors Guild’s reading at the Monte Vista this Thursday at 6 pm. Four local writers will share their thinking on the subject: Danielle Laverty will read her essay on aging that won the Black Mt. Public Library contest, Nancy Werking Poling will read from her current and published fiction, and James and Cannan Hyde will…See More
Apr 9
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Asheville Wordfest May 2-4, 2014

Asheville Wordfest 2014(Photo top right, Laurey Masterton from Asheville Chamber of Commerce; 2nd photo, Laura Hope-Gill from www.thehealingseed.com) A webpage in progress!Asheville Wordfest, an annual…See More
Apr 8
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Fiddler of the Mountains by Eva Nell Mull Wike

Fiddler and His FamilyFiddler of the Mountains: Attuned to the Life and Times of Johnny Mull by Eva Nell Mull Wike (Donning Company hardcover, Nov. 2013, 96 pages, $25)See other new WNC books Wike, author of the…See More
Apr 7

Madden’s London Bridge re-creation sings of ruin

by Rob Neufeld

See interview.

 

            “David Madden has written his masterpiece,” Ron Rash advances on the jacket of Madden’s new novel, “London Bridge in Plague and Fire.”  I find myself stepping back from this frame to look at Madden’s life achievements, a fertile universe of imaginative adventures regarding which it’s hard to compare apples and pomegranates.

            “London Bridge” is not only the most liberated of Madden’s journeys, it is also a fetid commentary on the state of lust and sin in the world that had preceded our era of intellect and spirit.

            That it takes place in an otherworldly environment, a community of warrens perched above a rushing, commercial, odorous river in a time of violence, plague, disaster, and superstition, adds to the head trip.

            Many characters—including Daryl Braintree, the 17th century poet-chronicler of London Bridge; Peter de Colechurch, 12th century architect of the first stone bridge at the crossing; and Lucien Redd, the 17th century villain forged by rape by soldiers during Cromwell’s revolution—are riveted by the stances of their own as well as the bridge’s shafts.

            Madden’s fascination with the teeming life of the bridge before its demolition in 1831 flowers into a profusion of impressions, with plot taking a while to assert itself.

            Braintree, Madden’s alter ego, comments after one journal entry, “Just before I go to bed I will enter in this diary my own thoughts, feelings, imaginings about the Bridge.  No rules….My nocturnes are events.  Are they poetry?  Time will tell.  Or my mistress, Musetta.”

 

Reading David Madden

 

            Pausing on the landing of this paragraph in this review, I feel like John Cusack in “Being John Malkovich.”  Except that entering Madden’s mind through his fiction is like entering a portal to many different minds.

            In Madden’s previous novel, “Abducted by Circumstance,” we enter the mind of a woman in upstate New York as she witnesses what she thinks has been the abduction of a another woman, and, through an act of imagination, counsels the abductee on how to forestall and dissuade her attacker.

            In his 1996 novel, “Sharpshooter,” Madden enters the mind of a haunted man looking back twenty-plus years to his service in the Confederate Army under General Longstreet.

            “Cassandra Singing,” Madden’s 1969 novel, is a deeply Southern creation, featuring a restless young man and his sister, an over-imaginative, guitar-playing, 13-year-old, washed in the romance of literature as well as the blood of Christ; and confined by rheumatic fever.

The singing girl re-emerges in “London Bridge,” as Lucien has a supernatural vision of an altered version, “not just sad-sounding now, but distracted, mad, savage, almost screaming the song, like Csssandra in Troy.”

            Madden’s roots in Southern literature go back to an upbringing in a poor part of Knoxville, and a lifelong reading of Southern greats, including William Faulkner, Thomas Wolfe, and Knoxville author James Agee, about whom he wrote the book, “Remembering James Agee.” Faulkner’s “Absalom, Absalom!” is the greatest of novels, Madden proposes in his study, “Touching the Web of Southern Novelists.”

            A few years in the Merchant Marines and in the Army in the 1950s widened Madden’s scope, as did his growing library.  His hunger to encompass non-Southern imaginations resulted in books about such various figures as James Cain, Wright Morris, and Nathaniel West.

            We tumble through Madden’s productivity to end up at the door of Nonesuch House, the antiquarian bookstore on London Bridge in the garret of which Daryl creates “an echo chamber of communal voices.”

            The mind within a mind format of “London Bridge” makes it Madden’s masterpiece in one sense for it is his attempt to represent the prodigious activity of his imagination.  Madden’s background and type of imagination makes him a distinctive figure in literature.

 

Now, to the plot

 

            The dates, committee reports, poems, and journal entries that populate the first 75 pages set up, first, the story of de Colechurch’s safeguarding of Archbishop’s Thomas á Becket’s murdered body; and then the 17th century story, involving Lucien’s diabolical role and that of Morgan Wood, a London Bridge youth who went to sea to work off his father’s debt and became closely acquainted with Lucien.

            Lucien came on board in Surinam and occupied the hammock above Morgan’s.  Morgan relates his memories of the Bridge to Lucien; and Lucien reveals, “You do know, do you not, that only the sacrifice of a female virgin child can appease whatever pagan gods still exert influence over the fate of Bridges everywhere?”

            In Calcutta, a young seaman boards, speaking of plague spreading to Amsterdam.  He’s thrown overboard.

            Heads impaled on London Bridge’s gate remain there from pre-Restoration days.

            Blythe, a 13-year old secret whorer, and her friend, Gilda, a virgin, frequently leave their fathers’ shops to frolic on the bridge, the clocks of their victimhood ticking.  Doom is in the air.

            All of the action comes to a head at once, after the fire of 1666, and you come away wondering, “Have I experienced the real thing?  Do I now understand how people at the time of Puritanism and post-Renaissance excess could have become so horrible?”

            Briantree notes that diarist John Evelyn wrote that London resembled Sodom. 

            Madden, making the character analogy, writes about Lucien’s latest intentions, “Like plague, like fire visiting the City, Lucien Redd had visited the mind and body of Morgan Wood, to sicken it, to incinerate it.”

            Like Lucifer in John Milton’s 17th century classic, “Paradise Lost,” Lucien claims the spotlight.  Madden’s excavation of the body and soul of London Bridge reveals a roiling co-dependence of good and evil.

THE BOOK

London Bridge in Plague and Fire by David Madden (U. of Tenn. Press hardcover, 358 pages, 29.95)

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