Thursday, September 28, 2006

Lore O' The Cult O' The Fugitive Kind-part 1


In order t' abscond into the myserious,nocturnal Zones
o' the Fugitive Kind Cult,
one must first cast aside irrevocably all notions o'
rationality,logic,societal conceptions
o' psychic processes...
y'll find n' point o' departure,'n' obviously,there
can be n'fixed destination,there's instead absolutely
'n' inevitably nothin' more nor less than a huge
Question-there be n'final fixed
answers latent,rather,enigmatic 'n' fanatically
paradoxical tidbits scattered as if debris
upon a sterile lily-white slaughtered skin o' a
T'be a human animal in this world as it now ekyists is
t' be incarcerated not only in one's flesh:condemned
t' a lifelong sentence t' solitary confinement in
one's own lonely skin for as long as one be alive upon
this earth, 'n' simuletaneously,condemned t' be free
as an individual:free t' bury oneself in
o' one's every precious bit o' creativity,'n' jes as
free t' brave alienation,the harsh beauty o'
Self's evolution,the marvelous act o' creation at
every moment,in everything one does.
'N' one be incarcerated in that s'called "human
condition"-perhaps one hates one's debilitatin'
dead-end marginal job,yet one turns t' jelly at the
thought o' havin' n'income,
n'shelter,nothin' but oneself out there on that
Street,in that City,hungry guts,n'phoney
womb o' security t' bullshit oneself wi'...
question at this point being,would you,could you
deliberately 'n' wi'out qualms,actually cut oneself
loose t' become one o' them sociological
entities-"fringe citizens","street
people","the homeless", the indigent "po' trash","the
deviants", the FUGITIVE KIND?
There be n'question o' the reality o' such subcultural
characters out there in this
"land of the free and home of the brave". But for one
t' choose t' join those ranks?
Has it ever occurred t' you,that y'jes might be a
seminal prophet,anonymous 'n'
suppressed,overflowin' wi' magnificent aesthetic
masterpieces,'n' it be that goddam dog-eat-dog world
that prevents recognition 'n' heightened self-esteem
'n' spiritual
metamorphosis? yet in fact one can achieve notoriety
as a creative individual
in spite o' societus if one acts upon one's desires,if
they be authentically those incendiary desires o' the
true artist. One need not be a helpless,hopeless
victim o' anything.
The most vitle 'n' pertinent first step is for one t'
acknowledge the mere fact that one ekyists, as that
entity one be at this MOMENT,'cause o' what one has
chosen for oneself up t' this point,'n' t' not allow
oneself t' become strung out if one is not what one
wants t' be,rather,do whatever it takes t' be that
Self which one must be! Exorcise them demons
o' fear 'n' cowardice! Chances are one'll be
ravenously hungry at times,'n' be forced t' sleep on
rooftops or in a ditch,'n' be free o' burden o'
possessions 'n' duty. What be o'
utmost significance be this liberated Zone o' one's
body,fecund soil o' one's mind,
the priceless mergence wi' one's Soul,the creation o'
one's unique individualistic
One is never a representative or epitome o'
humanity,one has made the choice t' become a mutant,a
member o' a whole other breed o' evolutionary species.
One be one
being,alive for whatever absurd folly o' fate,'n' it
be one's Self one must face in the
Magick Mirror o' Ekyisyence.
Be this a philosophy? Let us contemplate for a moment
the phenomenon o' a wild manchild from a totally
isolate bayou environ,who emerged forth into the world
'n' in fifteen years o' painful nomadic ekyisyence
created this seminal cult,
the Fugitive Kind,o' which he was the ultimate
epitome-what he created o' those fifteen years o'
eksperyenchul knowledge livin' Blues,be a strange rare
breed o' what be conceptualized here as Folk
It be a n'end enigmatic,isolate phenomenon that an
individual born o' a Native American 'n' AfroAmerican
mother who happened t' be a practicin' root doctor 'n'
Witch,'n' a po' trash Cajun father, could,neath the
streetbred facade,be androgynously 'n' marvelously
'n' attuned t' the infinite ramifications o' emergin'
Fugitive Kind philosophy,woven o' wild natural
materials o' Blues Culture,'n' Hipster breed o'
authentic Bohemianism that
emerged in 1940s,'n' although never having once been
in any kind o' school,would
go on t' not only live this philosophy,but write a
book about it,'n' t' create a body o' Blues
music 'n' poetry overwhelmin' in its originality 'n'
profound Folk wisdom.
Inspired by his Legacy,how could one not choose t'
live,by whatever means it takes in the terminal
struggle for survival,t' accept one's horrendous 'n'
crushin' freedom,
t' flee the nowhere situation that be societus,t'
merge wi' Shadows o' Great Unknown,
t' don Wild Skins o' the Fugitive Kind's Night,t'
brave the thorough lack o' material
security,in order t' cultivate one's true Self,merely
t' be a Self at all!
(end o'
part 1)
GypsyMan AKA:Gypsy James O'Toole

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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

1950s Literature: The Lost World

It wasn't a golden-age, except for lovers of American-made cars, Abstract Expressionism, film noir, and rock and roll. It was marked by hipocrisy on a grand scale in the matters of race, sex, gender and personal freedom. It witnessed the genesis of two of our worst American ills: (chilling music here) the suburbs; and what has now become an ecologically unsustainable addiction to highway-connected sprawl. It was also the last decade in which a certain venerable art form often called "the novel" was actually held in the same kind of high regard as other popular, powerful arts.

Given the fact that movies, music and design from the era is woven tightly into our culture today, it is peculiar that literature of the 1950s, except for certain Beat Generation classics, is largely forgotten. I don't mean disdained or denigrated. I mean unstudied, undiscussed, ignored. I'd like to see it resurrected for the purposes of literary study. I think we'd learn much about where we've come from by doing so.

Culturally, what is conveniently known as The Fifties actually began in about 1947 (when Russia got the bomb) and ended in Dallas in the early afternoon on November 22, 1963. My main thesis here is that in the literature of this period we find a singular phenomenon, almost a cultural fossil, not likely to be found in any other literary strata available to us.

I would describe the fossilized artifact as follows:

If we accept the assumption (and I do) that with the advent of civil rights, youthful radicalism, feminism and post-Dylan pop music the cultural landscape changed entirely and irrevocably (though that is lately challenged in the Bush era), then we'd have to submit the following as corollary: that the 1950s represents the very last rear guard of that two-thousand year-old, pre-liberated Western culture--in which racism, sexism, suppression, open hipocrisy and religious piety were all taken as bedrock facts immutable and more or less unquestioned.

For that fact alone--that we can examine these cultural artifacts in their final, most advanced and also most corrupt state--I think the literature of the period is worth studying. Perhaps unsurprisingly it is in the literature of the period--as opposed to film and in the plastic arts--where we find these notions most thoroughly explored; where we can find them manifested in characters we might recognize from the inside. I would say it were true even if allowing that some of the authors would not have been aware of their contribution to this particular lode.

We find this rear guard populated by writers of various talents and tendencies. By reciting the following list I make no assertions about quality or self-awareness; only their fitness for study as literary fossils. I am talkiing about authors like James Jones, John O'Hara, Robert Penn Warren, James Gould Cozzens and Joyce Cary. We can place early Mailer there before he smoked pot and deconstructed himself and ran for mayor. Saul Bellow's early works fit: his Augie March without a doubt, in any case. And does anyone remember that John P. Marquand was often on the best seller lists then? We might even put some of Hemingway's later works there for they qualify temporally and culturally. And John Knowles' middle-school classic "A Separate Peace" is copyrighted 1959. There are many others too numerous to mention.

The cut begins after Faulkner and ends before Kesey. It disincludes Kerouac, Burroughs, Algren, Barth and Pynchon for what I think are the fairly obvious tendencies of these writers to have utterly rejected what was then convention. They staked out new, ironic territories on the left bank of the river. It disincludes James Baldwin too because his work is essentially part of what I would call liberation literature, and presages much that would come later. Nor does it include so-called pulp fiction because pulp ficition authors rarely found consideration as "serious novelists."

No doubt the list will include largely (if not entirely) white males. Its possible this fact may deterr some from being intrigued. So would the acknowledged suspicion that the literary family mentioned above found extinction with remarkable (and perhaps justifed) speed once the Beatles showed up. History had to make room for moptops making wisecracks by day and by night, summoning Dionysian screams from their audiences. By 1964, the last rear guard of traditional Western culture had been heaved over the side--and as the New York Times noted on the day the Beatles hit the tarmac at a newly-renamed Kennedy Airport: "Yeah, yeah, yeah."

But the signature works of the 1950s represent a paradigm worth review. I would say that, turned to the light in a certain way, the works of this period, of this group of men, in their proud, often unwitting, occasionally plodding doggedness, reveal glimpses we had not expected to see; facets of ourselves today often enough in ways we had perhaps hoped to avoid; examples of what was left behind and why; cautions; and often enough to make it interesting, some pretty good writing too.


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Thursday, September 21, 2006

Can You Please Just Leave Us Alone (on 9/11) From Now On?

Five years on and for at least some of us who live near Ground Zero, 9/11 brings not only memories of the fire that rained on our sidewalks then but of the faux-patriotic simpletons that have trod our sidewalks every anniversary since then.

They come on loud-piped Harleys festooned with stars and stripes; they parade in kilts and play bagpipes in front of our Korean market as if we had only just been wishing we'd hear those lilting strains. They come in uniform from parts unknown to pay homage (that's fine), but they also come in dressy ensembles and attend fancy dinners wearing nametags as if on a junket to Cap d'Antibes. And they also come, by the busload, in flip-flops and dumb t-shirts to snap pictures of allegedly hallowed, inauthentic graffitti on Liberty Street and sometimes to scrawl earnest inanities of their own.

The police, heavy into overtime and only slightly drunk on authority, shout into loudspeakers and blithely prevent folks from crossing streets that would otherwise allow them to execute quotidian duties--buying stamps at the post office, for instance. The cops aren't trying to bother the folks that live down here, just to manage the crowds that have morbidly assembled.

Predictably the parade of elected officials descends. Then we are in a state of near lock-down. In Lower Manhattan, if they block street A and the island is too narrow to provide another means of getting to street B, then you are out of luck: you can't get there from here. Isn't that soothing?

Perhaps most troubling is that at year five, the balance has begun to tip from where the 9/11 mood is somber to one where the 9/11 mood has a discernable flavor of celebration. Many I am sure must have felt this way when Memorial Day slipped from being associated with sacrifice to being associated with grilled kielbasa.

Humans have a way of incorporating all events good or ill to suit them and eventually what suits them is to have a good time. I am fine with that. But if we are going to start getting all relaxed about it, can we please drop the "additional security measures" that drive locals to distraction? And here's an idea for all potential 9/11 observants come '07 (present readership excepted of course): instead of coming down to share in the half-somber, half-celebratory atmosphere, how about staying home? We've really had enough, thanks.


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