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Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

June 1926, Asheville

One week in 1926 reveals remarkable highs and lowsby Rob Neufeld             Bootleg whiskey and golf are undermining religion, B. Frank White, a traveling preacher, told a Charlotte audience on June 2, 1926.  The sermon was reported in the Asheville Citizen the next day.            “The trouble with your…See More
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Robert Beatty posted a photo

Robert Beatty

Author Robert Beatty from Asheville, NC
Tuesday
Rob Neufeld posted discussions
Apr 18
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Apr 18
Caralyn Davis posted an event
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Page to Podium Writers Workshop & Malaprop’s Reading With Author Mel Ryane at Unitarian Universalist Church

April 25, 2015 from 10am to 3pm
The Flatiron Writers are proud to announce an encore presentation of actor Mel Ryane’s popular Page to Podium Workshop, for writers interested in improving their public reading and self-editing skills. See testimonials from past participants here: http://www.melryane.com/p/from-page-to-podium.htmlWhen: 10:00am-3:00pm, Saturday, April 25, 2015Where: Unitarian Universalist Church, 1 Edwin Place, Asheville, NC 28801Cost: $65 per…See More
Apr 16
Caralyn Davis posted a blog post

Planet Reasonable: I'm officially an essayist at Killing the Buddha

I now have a blog, Planet Reasonable, at the lovely website Killing the Buddha. My first essay is a wee piece on religious freedom laws. Enjoy, or hate, but thanks for reading: http://killingthebuddha.com/ktblog/stop-casting-religious-freedom-stones/See More
Apr 14
Lockie Hunter posted an event
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West End Poetry and Prose Reading Series April Reading at West End Bakery

April 11, 2015 from 7pm to 9pm
4 fine writers tomorrow (Saturday April 11th) at 7pm at West End Bakery. I'll host and curate. Free event with a mix of prose and poetry and storytelling!http://www.thelaurelofasheville.com/editorial/west-end-poetry-and-prose-reading-series-invites-all-to-experience-local-voices photo credit Leah Shaipro for the LaurelSee More
Apr 10
Lockie Hunter posted a photo
Apr 10
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Interview with Ron Rash, October 28, 2014

Interview with Ron Rash, Oct. 28, 2014by Rob Neufeldon occasion of publication of Something Rich and Strangeedited version published in Asheville Citizen-Times, Nov. 2, 2014full version published on The Read on WNC, Apr. 9, 2015Photo of Ron Rash by Ulf Andersen RN:  My head is now so full of Ron…See More
Apr 9
Laura Hope-Gill posted an event

Asheville Wordfest 2015 at Asheville Lenoir-Rhyne University

May 1, 2015 at 6pm to May 2, 2015 at 9pm
Lenoir-Rhyne University presents Asheville Wordfest at its Asheville campus in downtown Asheville May 1 and 2. In its eighth year, Asheville Wordfest turns its eye on Asheville and invites community members to write about their city. Using the theme “The City Narrative / The Narrative City,” festival director and also director…See More
Apr 8
Rob Neufeld updated their profile
Apr 7
Rose Senehi posted an event

MEET THE CAST OF CHARACTER in DANCING ON ROCKS at LAKE LURE INN, LAKE LURE

April 16, 2015 from 11:30am to 2pm
Rose Senehi with be the guest speaker at a Books and Bites Luncheon about her novel, Dancing on Rocks, which takes place in Chimney Rock. Many of the characters in the book are actual residents of the town and will also be talking about how they contributed to the story. Cost: $25. Half of which goes to the Friends. Call 828-287-6392 for reservations. See More
Apr 7
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Dirty Love by Andre Dubus III

Visiting author Dubus reveals swamp of loveby Rob Neufeld             The title of Andre Dubus III’s book is “Dirty Love,” not “Dirty Sex,” so you have to rethink what is meant by the word, “dirty.”            To do that, you’ve got four novellas with which to explore the lives and hearts of several not-quite-right couples…See More
Apr 5
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Vance Monument and the honoring of African American history

What’s in a monument—a complex viewby Rob NeufeldPHOTO CAPTION: Vance Monument and 6th County Courthouse, c. 1900           History has become a subject of special interest with proposals surrounding the renovation of the Vance monument.           …See More
Apr 4
City Lights Bookstore posted an event

Greening Up The Mountains Poetry Contest Reception at City Lights Bookstore

April 25, 2015 from 1pm to 2pm
The reception for the 2nd annual Greening Up the Mountains Poetry Contest will be at City Lights Bookstore on Saturday, April 25th at 1 p.m. Join us as the winning poets share their poems and collect their prizes.  Students from Jackson County submitted poems that celebrate our mountains and our connection to them in our everyday lives.  The response was wonderful and our judges loved reading what our local students offered. Winners will be announced soon. For any questions please call City…See More
Apr 1
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Mar 31

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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