March 30th, 2007

More on Softspoken

Excerpts fromm Nick Gevers on Softspoken:

"...Shepard's new short novel, Softspoken, is one of his most desolating works yet,
the portrait of a woman trapped by her own indecisiveness-and in a location,
rural/small town South Carolina, where to be trapped in oneself is to become
something inhuman, something less than human, or, like most of the residents
in the crumbling mansion depicted, dead and thus no longer human at all.
Examples of all three conditions are amply and ably presented, in a ghost
story of tremendous force and existential compass. This is Shepard in his
full, fuliginous glory..."

"Shepard is very skillful at correlating outer surroundings with
inner turmoil, and the Bullard house, with its not-quite visible and audible
hauntings, is a perfect mirror for Sadie's in-between state of mind. To
resolve her perceptions of the place and of her life, Sanie steals some of
Will's peyote, and under its influence can see rooms and corridors crowded
with phantoms, most of them Bullard ancestors, and many of those tattered,
optically incomplete. Strangely, though, some of the apparitions reflect
future events, and this ties in with Will's description of a supernatural
vortex co-extant with the house, something greater and more temporally
extensive than any ordinary haunting. Shepard's descriptions of the
multitudinous ghosts are mesmerizingly evocative; he captures the pervading
aura of menace with chilling brilliance; and his final passages, in which
Sanie confronts the consequences of her vacillation and the true measure of
the corrupted vortex, are brutal, challenging, superbly, if ruthlessly,
done. Softspoken is Southern Gothic of a high order, a meditation on the
uncertainty of life and the certainty of death that leaves Poe in the dust."
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Presidential Scarring

Oh, sure, we all claim to be traumatized by our U.S. Presidents. Conservatives frothed at Clinton and blamed their sleepless nights on him. Liberals react the same way to G.W. Bush.

But in reality, few of us can trace actual neuroses to our leaders. A general malaise and sense of discomfort, perhaps. But not genuine psychic scars.

Not so with Dr. Seuss.

I'm currently reading THE SEUSS, THE WHOLE SEUSS, AND NOTHING BUT THE SEUSS, a very entertaining and gorgeously illustrated biography by Charles D. Cohen. Check it out here:

In Chapter 12, Cohen reveals why Seuss--born Theodor Seuss Geisel, natch--suffered all his adult life from stagefright, after being a moderately extroverted youth, able, for instance, to play his mandolin solo onstage before his peers. Let's go to Cohen for the scoop. (The secondary quote is from another study of Dr. Seuss by Judith and Neil Morgan.)

"His fear is said to have started during his sophomore year of high school. The story that has been related is that Ted was the last of ten Scouts in line to receive a medal from Colonel Theodore Roosevelt, who was only given nine medals to distribute, leaving Ted stranded on the stage of Springfield's Municipal Auditorium with a perturbed former president in front of thousands of spectators. 'In that pulverizing moment, Ted's wounded pride, his chagrin, and, above all, his sense of injustice overwhelmed him. He had no memory of stage fright before that hour, but within a few years, his fear of public platforms bordered on the neurotic.'"

So, there you have it: the Tale of Two Teds, One Terrifying, One Timorous.

Imagine that bellicose, purpling, mustachioed Rough Rider face just inches from yours the next time you grouse about our present pusillanimous President coming at you on TV.

PS: I am somehow also reminded of this incident from Walt Whitman's biography, a positive corollary to Seuss's bad trip. From this site:

"One of Walt's favorite stories about his childhood concerned the time General Lafayette visited New York and, selecting the six-year-old Walt from the crowd, lifted him up and carried him. Whitman later came to view this event as a kind of laying on of hands, the French hero of the American Revolution anointing the future poet of democracy in the energetic city of immigrants, where the new nation was being invented day by day."

PPS: And it just now occurs to me that perhaps Matt Groening intended a tribute to Seuss's birthplace of Springfield, Massachusetts, in the creation of the SIMPSONS town of Springfield. I don't believe I've ever seen this theory mentioned.

Hugo Kudos

Yes, it's that time of year again, when the Cherry  Blossoms bloom in DC, the swallows return to Capistrano, and the nominations for the Hugo Awards are announced.

As all know, our own Mr. Shepard is a once and no doubt future winner of the Hugo (in 1993, for "Barnacle Bill the Spacer").

And Paul Di Filippo has been a nominee, for such mind-bending works as <i>A Year in the Linear City.</i>

This year, alas, there no Hugo nominations for any of the inferior 4, but that won't stop me from sending out congratulations to all the nominees, with some special kudos:

William Shunn is up in the novella category for "Inclination," which appeared in Asimov's.  This terrific novella is also up for a Nebula!  Good on ya, Bill!

Sheila Williams and Gordon Van Gelder in the short-form editor category.  

David Hartwell and Lou Anders in the long-form editor category.  

And the ever-awesome John Picacio in the pro artist category.

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Silver Age Kink

Did Ed Wood script this? Well may you ask....

But I'll never tell!

Especially since I don't have the source readily to hand anymore.

Extra points to anyone who can provide the title and issue number for this.