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Interview with Gail Godwin about Grief Cottage

Started by Rob Neufeld in AC-T Book Reviews Aug 3, 2017.

Ellington in Asheville--a survey

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Dave Minneman, heroic portrait

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Connie Regan-Blake posted events
Thursday
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Intermission

IntermissionHear audio by clicking mp3 attachment!(Part of poem, "Coalescence") I thought I might take a break at this point to look around,Now that I’m in the business of making things resound.It’s so nice to have the luxury of being carefree. If you stop and sit back and try to take in everything,It stuns you and you can’t focus on anythingUntil something crops up, and what…See More
Wednesday
Joan Henehan replied to Rob Neufeld's discussion Coalescence
"It's an odyssey..."
Jan 8
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Coalescence

Coalescence (part of  Living Poem)by Rob Neufeld Intro Don’t listen, children, and do not hear.(A monster is coming and there’s no escapeWithin this story, and no good way to tell it, Except to gaze at the horror as at a flower,A disaster streaming off extremes it breedsEverywhere and in our minds, disabling our power.) Distractions are good, puzzles that teaseAnd please and fill the main scene,…See More
Dec 11, 2018
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

The Sultan's Dream

The Sultan’s Dream (Part of Living Poem) When it comes to walking, the jig’s up.No more fit lad sitting at the pub.No more flim-flam smiling with a limp. See how the legs totter and the torso leans.Do you know what a lame sultan dreams?Of reclining on a divan wearing pantaloons, Comparing his plight to a mountaineer’sNegotiating an icy bluff in a fierce wind,And then lounging in a tent to unwind. Which…See More
Nov 15, 2018
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

The Tale of Ononis

The Tale of Ononis by Rob Neufeld Part 1: The Making of a Celebrity ❧  Hare Begins His Tale  Ononis was my region’s name.People now call it Never-the-same.I’ll start with the day a delivery came. The package I got was a devil’s dare,Swaddled and knotted in Swamp Bloat hairAnd bearing, in red, one word: “Beware!” Bloats are creatures from the Land of Mud Pies,Wallowing in waste with tightly closed eyesUntil fears bring tears and the bleary bloats rise.   ❧  Hare’s Colleagues  I asked my boss,…See More
Nov 9, 2018
Connie Regan-Blake posted an event

Drop Your Troubles: A Solo Storytelling Performance with Connie Regan-Blake at Black Mountain Center for the Arts

December 1, 2018 from 7:30pm to 9pm
Join this internationally renowned storyteller, Connie Regan-Blake, as she transforms a packed theater into an intimate circle of friends with old-timey charm, wisdom, and humor. We’ll also welcome the Singer of  Stories, Donna Marie Todd, who will perform her original story, “The Amazing Zicafoose Sisters.” Connie’s last two shows at BMCA have sold…See More
Nov 6, 2018
Connie Regan-Blake updated an event
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Explore the Landscapes of Story and Telling at Lenoir-Rhyne Center for Graduate Studies

January 23, 2019 at 10am to February 27, 2019 at 12pm
A Storytelling Offering in Asheville, NCWednesday Mornings 10am-12pmJanuary 23 – February 27, 2019 This winter Connie is excited to offer a learning opportunity to warm-up your storytelling voice and creativity!  Join her in Asheville, NC at Lenoir-Rhyne University for six story-work sessions with a weekly format that allows for skills to grow over time while encouraging a consistency in discovering, revisiting and refining your stories. During these weekly sessions participants are invited…See More
Nov 6, 2018
Connie Regan-Blake posted an event
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Explore the Landscapes of Story & Telling at Lenoir-Rhyne Center for Graduate Studies

January 23, 2019 at 10am to February 27, 2019 at 12pm
A Storytelling Offering in Asheville, NCWednesday Mornings 10am-12pmJanuary 23 – February 27, 2019 This winter Connie is excited to offer a learning opportunity to warm-up your storytelling voice and creativity!  Join her in Asheville, NC at Lenoir-Rhyne University for six story-work sessions with a weekly format that allows for skills to grow over time while encouraging a consistency in discovering, revisiting and refining your stories. During these weekly sessions participants are invited…See More
Oct 28, 2018
Connie Regan-Blake updated an event
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Connie Regan-Blake presents A Slice of Life: An Evening of Stories at Black Mountain Center for the Arts

April 6, 2019 from 7:30pm to 9pm
Join nationally celebrated storyteller, Connie Regan-Blake, as she hosts her workshop participants in an enchanting evening of storytelling in “A Slice of Life: An Evening of Stories.” The event will be hosted by the Black Mountain Center for the Arts, just a short drive from Asheville nestled in the picturesque mountains surrounding the area. Call the Center for advance tickets (828) 669-0930 or order…See More
Oct 28, 2018
Connie Regan-Blake updated an event
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Connie Regan-Blake's Taking Your Story to the Stage Workshop at StoryWindow Productions

April 5, 2019 to April 7, 2019
The focus of this “Taking Your Story to the Stage” 3-day workshop is on storytelling performance. Each participant is asked to come with a story that is almost “stage-ready.” Set in Connie’s home tucked in the beautiful mountains surrounding Asheville, NC, this workshop provides a supportive, affirming…See More
Oct 28, 2018
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Let’s say every word is precious

Let’s say every word is precious (Part of Living Poem) Let’s say every word is precious.Say every word is precious.Every word is precious.Every word precious.Every word.Word.--Rob Neufeld, Oct. 16, 2018See More
Oct 17, 2018
Rob Neufeld posted discussions
Oct 12, 2018
Nancy Sutton replied to Rob Neufeld's discussion Metamorphoses
"Poignant in so many ways!   "
Oct 3, 2018
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Metamorphoses

Metamorphoses (Part of Living Poem)Hear audio: Metamorphoses%20181004_0192.MP3 So Apollo committed the first rape.He’d come back from exterminating Python,The Bane of Humanity, now his arrow-victim,And stopped to mock…See More
Oct 2, 2018
Joan Henehan replied to Joan Henehan's discussion on Reading Living Poem
"Fantastic, that will be very helpful."
Sep 22, 2018

Atheist believes in genies, novel reveals

by Rob Neufeld

 

            Salman Rushdie’s latest novel—“Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights” (1,001 nights)—has permitted me to come up with a headline as wild as the one above because the book is so exuberantly and infectiously surreal.

            The novel, set in the future, looks back at the present time, when a worldwide cataclysm has opened a barrier that has existed between humans and spirits for a millennium; and all kinds of genies are popping up with their own agendas.

            In one scene, Dunia, a female genie, or jinnia, as Rushdie spells it, comes to Mr. Geronimo, an inexplicably levitated man floating above his bed, and informs him, “The fairy world is real...but it does not follow that God exists.  On that subject I am as skeptical as you.”

            Meanwhile, outside the bedroom, malicious jinn (that’s the plural form of the Arabic word) are making monstrous war on humans at the behest of Ghazali, a millennium-dead radical fundamentalist.  Religion has suddenly become wildly popular.

            “Just as I suspected,” Ghazali says.  “Fear drives men to God.”

 

Check out the no-earlobe guys

 

            The above subhead was another attention-getter I considered for the main headline because I found it hard to get over the fact that the descendants of Dunia and her 12th century human lover, the philosopher, Ibn Rushd, are genetically marked by earlobe-lessness

            Ibn Rushd, by the way, is a real historical figure, otherwise known as Averroes, who sought to reconcile the Muslim religion with reason—in opposition to Ghazali, who sought to demonstrate the failings of reason.

            You’ve got to love the way Rushdie loves up his namesake—flabby old body and all—totally in line with his main theme.  But the no-earlobe thing, it seems forced, like the sticking-out pinky-fingers that aliens couldn’t hide in the 1960s TV show, “The Invaders.”

            Rushdie doesn’t reference “The Invaders,” but his fertile mind introduces dozens of other cultural icons, both scholarly and pop, into the narrative.  If you’re going to go through the looking glass like Alice (who is referenced), you might as well have the time of your life seeing familiar names in odd contexts.

            During “The War of the Worlds”—the apocalyptic battle between dark jinn and Dunia’s humanized brood—absurdity reigns.  Not just Geronimo’s feet-off-the-ground problem, but also a baby that causes skin rot on knaves, a giant that bites off a man’s head like Saturn in the Goya painting, and many other jaw-dropping unrealities.

            “In a French town the citizenry began turning into rhinoceroses.” (That’s a Eugene Ionesco reference.)  “A Russian official lost his nose and then saw it walking around St. Petersburg by itself.” (That’s from a Nicolai Gogol story.)  A Spanish lady has her eyeball sliced while gazing at the moon; and ants crawl out of a hole in a man’s palm. (Both of those things occur in Luis Buñuel’s film, “Un Chien Andalou.”)

            These impossibilities are the result of jinnterferrence.  (I am allowed to use such wordplay because Rushdie does, too, as in his adjective describing people who have lost their homeland and identity: “Lebanonymous.”)

            You have to admire all the tools that Rushdie puts at his disposal, including humor.

            Hugo Casterbridge, a composer and essayist who has gone from being an atheist to a believer in divine retribution, publishes an article that reinterprets the Bible.

            “On the day that Adam and Eve invented god,” Casterbridge writes, “they at once lost control of him.”  God was furious.  “‘How did you come up with the idea of me,” (God) demanded, “who asked you to do that?’ and he threw them out of the garden, into, of all places, Iraq.”

            Rushdie’s style—some call it postmodernism; some, magical realism—is right for the times.  We are inundated with information, stunned by how history is going, and needing to capture people’s attention, so we better come up with a form that clicks.

            “These are days of miracle and wonder,” Paul Simon sings—and we might add, Instagram and Tinder, which means I better make every sentence of this review a humdinger or a come-on, or else I’ll lose audience.

 

Atheist believes in genies

 

            I return to the headline because I have to explain such a blatant statement.

            Why would a non-believer in what he sees as destructive self-delusion employ fairy tales and genies in his parable?  The answer is: How else are we to defeat unreason and fanaticism?

            You can see the solution that Rushdie is heading toward.  “When you’re fighting monsters, it’s good to have a few monsters on your side,” Rosa Fast, the mayor of New York tells Jimmy Kapoor, the earlobe-less graphic artist who has become her magic-zapping body guard.

            The monster v. monster formula is akin to the two dinosaurs destroying each other in “Jurassic Park.”  Rushdie knows there’s a problem with this plot resolution because he covers his bases.

            When Teresa Saca Cuartos, one of Dunia’s descendants and deputies, can’t control her otherwise useful murderousness, Rushdie writes, “Rage, no matter how profoundly justified, destroys the enraged.” 

            So, if you’re a jinni named Dunia, leading the war against the four jinn of the Apocalypse, and you’re fueled by vengeance, you may be resorting to the only way to defeat evil, but how can you expect a good society to come out of it?

            Rushdie does expect that, at least in this novel.   He needs to hold up the lamp and show that reason can triumph.  I have a few problems with that.

 

Three reasons

 

            First of all, the opposition of reason and faith is a false one, I think.  It may make sense when it takes the form of scientists and democracies vying to eradicate barbarous religious zealots.  But the issue is more complex in non-extreme cases.

            Fanatics’ appropriation of religious faith for war-mongering does not invalidate faith in the same way that the use of nuclear power and the Internet for bombs and spying does not invalidate science.

            The problem is not in religion or science, but in how they’re used.  Eugenics: enough said.

            Second of all, Rushdie's clash-of-titans ending is a metaphysical and not a psychological resolution.  No matter how humanized the figures in a metaphysical novel are, the book is going to be intellectual and symbolic.

            The most psychological episode in “Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights” occurs when Dunia opens up a story box that is layered like an onion and which had already poisoned her father.

            She is soon flooded with self-doubts, most devastatingly about her father, who had never shown her love and who was disgusted by her half-human children. 

            “In my unhappiness,” Dunia thinks, “I persuaded myself that my father’s disdain for his daughter was the natural state of affairs, the healthy state, and my female nature was the plague.  But here we are at the truth, and it is he who is sick and I who am well.  What is the poison in his body?  Maybe it is himself.”

            Geronimo, who is by Dunia’s side at the moment, also plunges into despair, thinking about his late wife, who, he realizes loved her father more than she ever could love him.

            A lot of the psychological crises in the novel involve father issues, and you begin to wonder if this is good symbolic writing, for it is God our Father who is being overthrown in the larger sense.

            Third of all, we can’t root out what we call evil nature from good nature.  Carl Jung is not referenced in the novel, but he would say that our shadow selves work with our loving selves to create our hope for humanity, and that is, integrated selves.

            Rushdie is a brilliant person.  He knows this; and because he does, he adds a twist at the very end that makes his 1,000-year hence Utopia look a little less utopian.  Though it seems a little like an oops-I-got-carried-away-with-amazing-storytelling, one thing you can conclude is that the new novel is very thought-provoking.

AUTHOR EVENT

Sir Salman Rushdie gives a free public talk at UNC Asheville’s Kimmel Arena, 7 p.m., Thurs., Feb. 18.  His lecture is titled “Public Events, Private Lives: Literature + Politics in the Modern World.”  UNC Asheville will also present four companion events the week of Rushdie’s talk.  Call 251-6674.

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