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Winner of the 2002 Drue Heinz Literature Prize. It is difficult to see what lurks beneath the surface of a muddy river, an alligator-infested lake, or a John Blair short story. The deep currents that drive a demure, devout, church-going woman to shoot her husband; the ripple effect of a midnight rendezvous at church youth camp that goes slightly—then horribly—askew; the sinkholes that can swallow Porsche dealerships—or marriages; what is dredged up in American Standard cannot easily be forgotten. Set mostly in central Florida, Blair’s stories are filled with people living lives of disquieting longing and stubborn isolation. For them, this is the American standard, as ubiquitous and undistinguished as vitreous china bathroom fixtures.
The American Sun & Wind Moving Picture Company is an enchanting tale set in the silent film era. Beginning in 1915, in Fort Lee, New Jersey, where a Jewish family makes one and two reel silent films, the novel is composed of six chapters, each a discrete silent film in itself.
Joey, the too-beautiful-to-be-a-boy son of moviemaker, Simon, and his actress wife, Hannah, imagines stories that his uncle’s camera turns into scenes for their movies. Witness to and participant in the rapid technological advances in film, from the movies his family makes, to the advent of the talkies, Joey is cast in both male and female roles, onstage and off. When the woman Joey loves murders her abusive husband and sends Joey from his New Jersey family disguised as the mother of her own children, he embarks on a cross-country journey of adventure and hardship, crossing paths with the likes of D. W. Griffith, Lillian Gish, Mary Pickford, and “Roxy” Rothafel. Finally, reunited on the opposite coast with his uncle, and with the woman he has never stopped loving, Joey’s wild journey—and life!—arrive at a moment as unpredictable as it is magical.
In an outrageously original tale worthy of a studio whose moguls might have been Kafka, Garcia Marquez, and Isaac Bashevis Singer, reality and illusion merge and separate, leaving the audience spellbound even after the final curtain falls.
While reluctantly accompanying her husband and daughter to freshman orientation at Indiana University, Nora Quillen hears someone call her name, a name she has not heard in more than 25 years. Not even her husband knows that back in the '60s she was Jane Barth, a student deeply involved in the antiwar movement. An American Tune moves back and forth in time, telling the story of Jane, a girl from a working-class family who fled town after she was complicit in a deadly bombing, and Nora, the woman she became, a wife and mother living a quiet life in northern Michigan. An achingly poignant account of a family crushed under the weight of suppressed truths, An American Tune illuminates the irrevocability of our choices and how those choices come to compose the tune of our lives.
This study affords an entirely new view of the nature of modern popular entertainment. American vaudeville is here regarded as the carefully elaborated ritual serving the different and paradoxical myth of the new urban folk. It demonstrates that the compulsive myth-making faculty in man is not limited to primitive ethnic groups or to serious art, that vaudeville cannot be dismissed as meaningless and irrelevant simply because it fits neither the criteria of formal criticsm or the familiar patterns of anthropological study.
Using the methods for criticism developed by Susanne K. Langer and others, the author evaluates American vaudeville as a symbolic manifestation of basic values shared by the American people during the period 1885-1930. By examining vaudeville as folk ritual, the book reveals the unconscious symbolism basic to vaudeville-in its humor, magic, animal acts, music, and playlets, and also in the performers and the managers -- which gave form to the dominant American myth of success. This striking view of the new mass man as a folk and of his mythology rooted in the very empirical science devoted to dispelling myth has implications for the serious study of all forms of mass entertainment in America. The book is illustrated with a number of striking photographs.
The American Voice looks to find the vital edge of modern American writing. The journal, whose contributors come from the U.S., Canada, and Latin America, often publishes work by writers denied access to mainstream journals. Writings from its pages have been regularly reprinted in prize annuals such as The Pushcart Prize, Best American Poetry, and Best American Essays.
This fifteenth anniversary anthology collects eighty poems from some of the most original and daring writers of our time. The anthology's contributors range from the world famous Jorge Luis Borges, Marge Piercy, May Swenson to the newly emerging Marie Sheppard Williams, Suzanne Gardinier, Robyn Selman and from the nationally read Wendell Berry, Reynolds Price, Barbara Kingsolver to the distinctly regional George Ella Lyon, Jane Gentry, James Still.
This volume brings together some of the best selections from an award-winning journal, making clear why Small Press dubbed The American Voice one of the "most impressive journals in the country."
David Roderick’s second book, The Americans, pledges its allegiance to dirt. And to laptops. And to swimming pools, the Kennedys, a flower in a lapel, plastic stars hanging from the ceiling of a child’s room, churning locusts, a jar of blood, a gleam of sun on the wing of a plane. His poems swarm with life. They also ask an unanswerable question: What does it mean to be an American? Restless against the borders we build—between countries, between each other—Roderick roams from place to place in order to dig into the messy, political, idealistic and ultimately inexplicable idea of American-ness. His rangy, inquisitive lyrics stitch together a patchwork flag, which he stakes alongside all the noise of our construction, our obsessive building and making, while he imagines the fate of a nation built on desire.
The Collected Letters
From the end of the 1950s through the middle of the 1960s, Amiri Baraka (b. 1934) and Edward Dorn (1929–99), two self-consciously avant-garde poets, fostered an intense friendship primarily through correspondence. The early 1960s found both poets just beginning to publish and becoming public figures. Bonding around their commitment to new and radical forms of poetry and culture, Dorn and Baraka created an interracial friendship at precisely the moment when the Civil Rights Movement was becoming a powerful force in national politics. The major premise of the Dorn-Jones friendship as developed through their letters was artistic, but the range of subjects in the correspondence shows an incredible intersection between the personal and the public, providing a schematic map of what was so vital in postwar American culture to those living through it.
Their letters offer a vivid picture of American lives connecting around poetry during a tumultuous time of change and immense creativity. Reading through these correspondences allows access into personal biographies, and through these biographies, profound moments in American cultural history open themselves to us in a way not easily found in official channels of historical narrative and memory.