sovay: (Rotwang)
sovay ([personal profile] sovay) wrote2017-03-23 05:41 pm

Your body is the road to where peace begins

Last night I dreamed that I dropped by the library to return a book and found [livejournal.com profile] ashlyme and their presumably fictitious writing group hanging out around a table near the science fiction section; I talked plot with people, read some scenes of stories (the young man with Gullah heritage was writing a kind of supernatural mystery inspired by the life of his grandmother the root doctor, please tell me this exists somewhere), and then left the library to meet up with my parents for dinner, at which point I discovered that I had lost an entire day. Twenty-four hours to the minute had passed between my entering and leaving the library. My internal clock thought about an hour, two hours tops. Nothing worse seemed to have happened to me than lost time, but no one remembered seeing me or the writing group, even when I could point to the very table which was now empty of writers, laptops, backpacks, and sodas, but otherwise unremarkable-looking. The only evidence of my presence was the no longer overdue book, which could have been dropped through the return slot after hours. I had neither eaten nor drunk anything during my time in the library and I remember very seriously establishing this fact with my parents, because it seemed likely to be the only reason that I had been able to leave. "Were they in a circle?" [livejournal.com profile] derspatchel asked after I related the dream to him. "It was a round table," I had to agree. Congratulations, Ashlyme! My brain interprets your mere presence as shorthand for Faerie.

Some things—

1. I am reading William Lindsay Gresham's Nightmare Alley (1946). I didn't realize until I saw the dedication "To Joy Davidman" that I knew him by reputation—and not as a writer—the part of Davidman's story that she left behind when she moved to England to live near C.S. Lewis in 1953. In which case he really was as much of a personal disaster area as the foreword by Nick Tosches suggests, but he could write. The epigraphs are taken from Eliot's The Waste Land (1922) and Petronius' Satyricon. The table of contents is a Tarot reading, each chapter a card of the Major Arcana introducing a particular character or signaling a significant event: "The Fool who walks in motley, with his eyes closed, over a precipice at the end of the world . . . The High Priestess. Queen of borrowed light who guards a shrine between the pillars Night and Day . . . The World. Within a circling garland a girl dances; the beasts of the Apocalypse look on." Tosches credits Gresham with introducing a number of carny terms into popular culture, including "geek," "cold reading," and "spook racket." I want to get my OED out of storage and double-check all of these assertions, but it is true that the novel's initial setting of a traveling ten-in-one show feels like a worthy successor to Tod Browning's Freaks (1932) and forerunner of Theodore Sturgeon's The Dreaming Jewels (1950), evocative, sympathetic, and unsentimental in its details of carny life. It gets all the slang right that I can see: talker, spiel, gaffed, "Hey, Rube!" I'm aware the whole thing will eventually turn to horror—the 1947 film adaptation starring Tyrone Power and Joan Blondell is supposed to rank among the sleaziest and bleakest of the first-generation noirs—but at the moment we are still getting passages like this:

Evansburg, Morristown, Linklater, Cooley Mills, Ocheketawney, Bale City, Boeotia, Sanders Falls, Newbridge.

Coming: Ackerman-Zorbaugh Monster Shows. Auspices Tall Cedars of Zion, Caldwell Community Chest, Pioneer Daughters of Clay County, Kallakie Volunteer Fire Department, Loyal Order of Bison.

Dust when it was dry. Mud when it was rainy. Swearing, steaming, sweating, scheming, bribing, bellowing, cheating, the carny went its way. It came like a pillar of fire by night, bringing excitement and new things into the drowsy towns—lights and noise and the chance to win an Indian blanket, to ride on the ferris wheel, to see the wild man who fondles those rep-tiles as a mother would fondle her babes. Then it vanished in the night, leaving the trodden grass of the field and the debris of popcorn boxes and rusting tin ice-cream spoons to show where it had been.


Among its descendants, then, perhaps include also Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes (1962).

2. Somehow despite falling in love (like most of the internet) with Miike Snow and Ninian Doff's "Genghis Khan" (2016) last spring, I had failed to realize that the same cast and crew had reunited later in the year for a second video: "My Trigger." Like its predecessor, it has a terrific poster. I am very fond of its disclaimer.

3. Please enjoy Emily Sernaker's "Lawrence Ferlinghetti Is Alive!" I had no idea that was true and this poem was a nice way to find out.
alexxkay: (Default)

[personal profile] alexxkay 2017-03-24 12:43 am (UTC)(link)
If you want more carny stories, I can recommend the Ed and Am novels of Fredric Brown. Most of them have a little carny content, but _The Dead Ringer_ is entirely set at a carny. The non-series mystery _Madball_ is also set at a carny.
alexxkay: (Default)

[personal profile] alexxkay 2017-03-24 05:10 am (UTC)(link)
Brown is one of those authors who sells slowly but steadily, in a way that the publishing industry has never known how to cope with. He was never a bestseller at publication time, but the print runs always sold out. Hence, you don't see his work often in used bookstores. Even with online resellers, his less-popular books are often prohibitively expensive.

That said, the two I recommended earlier are among his best-known, and cheapish copies likely exist.

(I have a lot of Brown in etext, if you want any of it, though ISTR you prefer print.)
alexxkay: (Default)

[personal profile] alexxkay 2017-03-29 10:17 pm (UTC)(link)
Did you get the party invitation message? It's (of course) OK if you can't come, I just wanted to make sure you got the message.
kore: (Default)

[personal profile] kore 2017-03-24 02:40 am (UTC)(link)
Wow, that prose is pretty neat. I think maybe I've seen him mentioned in a book on noir, but not much more than that.
davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)

[personal profile] davidgillon 2017-03-25 06:13 pm (UTC)(link)
(the young man with Gullah heritage was writing a kind of supernatural mystery inspired by the life of his grandmother the root doctor, please tell me this exists somewhere)

Two things pop to mind: Gloria Naylor's 'Mama Day' - I did a creative writing class with Gloria not long after it came out, so it sticks in the mind as I heard her reading extracts. And there's Anne Frasier's Elise Sandburg series, first book 'Play Dead', about Savannah PD Detective Elise Sandburg, found in a cemetery as an infant, reputedly the illegitimate daughter of a vanished root doctor.
davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)

[personal profile] davidgillon 2017-03-30 12:37 pm (UTC)(link)
*belatedly*

I've been no better this week! I've now got to go and dig through my email because I've just received one which is clearly the second half of something I should have been involved in!

[identity profile] shewhomust.livejournal.com 2017-03-23 10:23 pm (UTC)(link)
Thank you for Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Goodness!
Edited 2017-03-23 22:24 (UTC)

[identity profile] swan-tower.livejournal.com 2017-03-23 10:48 pm (UTC)(link)
The online OED doesn't have anything for "cold reading" or "spook racket," and it doesn't include Gresham among its quotations for "geek." But that doesn't rule out him having had a substantial effect on the popularization of the terms.

[identity profile] swan-tower.livejournal.com 2017-03-24 06:15 am (UTC)(link)
I get it through my sister's public library account -- some library systems include it.
gwynnega: (lordpeter mswyrr)

[personal profile] gwynnega 2017-03-24 12:04 am (UTC)(link)
the 1947 film adaptation starring Tyrone Power and Joan Blondell is supposed to rank among the sleaziest and bleakest of the first-generation noirs

The film is indeed sleazy and bleak. I wouldn't have expected the book to have such lush prose.

I did know Lawrence Ferlinghetti is alive, but I enjoyed celebrating that fact by reading that excellent poem.

[identity profile] ethelmay.livejournal.com 2017-03-24 01:36 am (UTC)(link)
Gresham wrote Sturgeon an enthusiastic fan letter about TS's story "Thunder and Roses." See also http://sacnoths.blogspot.com/2014/07/three-glimpses-of-gresham.html for other encounters with the SF world.

[identity profile] asakiyume.livejournal.com 2017-03-24 03:30 am (UTC)(link)
The disclaimer is excellent, and the dancing is once again wonderful. The my-nemisis dynamic between those guys is excellent.

I really like "Lawrence Ferlinghetti Is Alive," too.

Dogs run off their leashes.
The sun won’t go down
for hours.


--excellent.

[identity profile] desperance.livejournal.com 2017-03-24 05:00 am (UTC)(link)
A few years ago, Val was at an awards dinner in LA - I think she won, but the significant moment was when the old guy sat next to her turned and said, "Hullo, I'm Lawrence Ferlinghetti..."

[identity profile] wordsofastory.livejournal.com 2017-03-24 06:17 pm (UTC)(link)
the young man with Gullah heritage was writing a kind of supernatural mystery inspired by the life of his grandmother the root doctor, please tell me this exists somewhere

I would read this too! Alas, I don't know of any extant books that match the description.

Thank you for the link to the poem – it's wonderful.

[identity profile] handful-ofdust.livejournal.com 2017-03-25 01:16 am (UTC)(link)
Oh holy shit, "My Trigger." Miike Snow's big fetish is obviously getting those particular two dudes to dance around and act like they're in love, and I am down with it.

[identity profile] kenjari.livejournal.com 2017-03-25 02:51 pm (UTC)(link)
Among its descendants, then, perhaps include also Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes (1962).


And also Nick Cave's "The Carny".


rydra_wong: Lee Miller photo showing two women wearing metal fire masks in England during WWII. (Default)

[personal profile] rydra_wong 2017-09-07 07:48 pm (UTC)(link)
I talked plot with people, read some scenes of stories (the young man with Gullah heritage was writing a kind of supernatural mystery inspired by the life of his grandmother the root doctor, please tell me this exists somewhere)

I am reading this post because of reasons and just need to verify that you have seen Julie Dash's Daughters of the Dust.

rydra_wong: Lee Miller photo showing two women wearing metal fire masks in England during WWII. (Default)

[personal profile] rydra_wong 2017-09-08 07:51 am (UTC)(link)
You should and it's glorious and there's a restored print that came out last year (it is a very strong and visible influence on Beyonce's Lemonade, which revived some interest).

It's about a Gullah family circa 1902, and your young dream gentleman's grandmother the root doctor (okay, add several greats to the grandmother, but nonetheless) appears in it, pretty much ... and that's as far as I will go attempting to summarize it.

But my god, it's gorgeous, and stunning, and masterly, and doesn't for a second seem like the director's first feature -- I was saying to the friend I saw it with: it's not just that it seems like a completely mature work, it seems like a work out of a mature genre, like it's side-stepped in from an alternative history in which there's an entire genre of black historical drama and it's got to the point where it can play with non-linear storytelling and just revel in its control of structure and time.

ETA: Also I really want to read your review of it because I suspect it'll help me to see more things in it.

ETA2: not in any way implying that you would be obliged to review it or that I would expect you to! Just that if you did see it and were moved to write about it, I suspect you would have interesting things to say.
Edited 2017-09-08 16:25 (UTC)