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Michael Davenport replied to Rob Neufeld's discussion Q&A about Asheville water system and the current state initiative
"Nicely done, and informative. I look forward to part 2."
Friday
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Thursday
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Jul 12
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo

Life among the poorest is eye-openerby Rob Neufeld             Enlightened and sobered by Katherine Boo’s account of political amorality and human behavior in “Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity,” I was also amazed by her narrative achievement.            The book is…See More
Jul 7
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Jul 5
Dave Turner posted a blog post

Does anyone need a good proofreader?

My company, Dave Turner Creative, has just Dave Turner Creative has formed a new partnership with expert proofreader Rebecca Lang. Here are her credentials, experience and specialties:http://daveturnercreative.com/proofreadingAll the best,Dave Turner, author of Billy Ray's…See More
Jul 2
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Book discussions in WNC, July 2014

WNC BOOK DISCUSSION CALENDAR, JULY 2014Tuesday, July 1WILD BOOK CLUB: The WILD Book Club discusses “The Interestings” by Meg Wolitzer at the Battery Park Book Exchange, 1 Page Ave., Asheville, 7 p.m. Call 254-6734.BOOK DISCUSSION: “A Tale for the Time Being” by Ruth Ozeki is the subject of a book discussion at the Weaverville…See More
Jun 28
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Jun 28
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Jun 21
Kathryn Hall posted a blog post

Summer issue of GreenPrints is out!

The summer issue of GreenPrints is out! You probably know it's published right there in Fairview by Pat Stone, former longtime gardening editor of Mother Earth News! He's graciously included an excerpt of one of my favorite stories from my book Plant Whatever Brings You Joy: Blessed Wisdom from the Garden, which I do hope you will enjoy! He's also going to be making the book available on his site, soon! Thank you, Pat Stone! …See More
Jun 20
Sharon Gruber posted an event

Screening of "Stark Love" filmed in NC in 1929 at A-B Tech Ferguson Auditorium

June 21, 2014 from 2pm to 4pm
The movie, filmed in 1929 in Graham County NC, accompanies the Asheville History Center's "Hillbilly Land" exhibition.See More
Jun 19
Jerald Pope left a comment for Rob Neufeld
"Hey Rob, Can you make it to the reading tonight? If not, where can I send you a copy of the book? Best to email me at <jerry@harebrandideas.com>"
Jun 19
Jerald Pope posted an event

Jerry Pope reads New novel at Monte Visa Hotel

June 19, 2014 from 6pm to 7pm
Local artist and Swannanoa Valley historian Jerald Pope is releasing his first novel, “The Elvis Tooth.” Pope describes the book as “a comic, historical, action-packed beach book, about Black Mountain that combines real history and stories with a time travel flair,” The titular tooth, the key McGuffin in the story, was an actual tooth pulled from Elvis Presley’s mouth in Black Mountain by Dr. Love in 1975. Pope is best known locally for the “Way Back When” series of plays that ran at the Black…See More
Jun 19
Caralyn Davis posted a blog post

My Short Story "Belong" Published at Word Riot

May entertain, but it is a little edgy, NSFW (not safe for work) as the kids say, so consider yourself warned: http://www.wordriot.org/archives/7026See More
Jun 18
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Historic photo--Bent Field trestle wreck, 1928

HISTORIC PHOTO Bent Field trestle wreck “We have many train wreck pictures,” says Marcy Thompson, Local History Librarian at Transylvania County Library.  Railroad and logging work were dangerous occupations; and Joe Wilde, a logging crew foreman and photographer had been on site for a number of them.  The wreck…See More
Jun 17
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Spruce Pine and North Toe, part 3

Spruce Pine and North Toe: The History and the Vision Part 3 of 4: Entering the 20th centuryby Rob Neufeld(See Part 1.  See Part 2.)             Susanna “Aunt Susie” Wiseman Phillips was 72 years old when the 20th century arrived in the…See More
Jun 16

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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