"Thanks All Around" is the title of the opening section of Jaimy Gordon's novel, Shamp of the City-Solo (published in 1974). Here is the opening passage:
From Shipoff I learned to move in the world: how to solo, to fit where the foot falls, and always to keep an eye on the exit; where you cannot rule, to serve; and to talk unceasingly, for no word is wasted, nor can a word be empty, but even popped off in vain, lights up the point that popped in the lector's brain.
He taught me to covet the life of a lector, to crave to orate the most timely topos from a lectern in Big Yolk, the city-solo. And when I was sixteen, and felled by my old foe Brakeknot along with the gravey and horse chestnut tree, I went with Shipoff.
Many consider Shamp a modern classic; I am among them. The book's language and style is totally unique and magical, a dazzling display of linguistic snake dance and tango.
Jaimy lived in Providence for many years, taught at Brown, and also worked for the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts. She was my upstairs neighbor for a few years, starting in 1975, and we were good friends, playing softball together, drinking tea, and laughing a lot. In 2010, Jaimy was awarded the National Book Award in fiction for her stunning novel, Lord of Misrule. If you love to read, get it immediately.
The author was here last week to participate in Brown University's salute to another great writer, Keith Waldrop (who won the National Book Award for poetry in 2009). Also on the reading program at Brown's Salomon Center was Vo Dilun's C.D. Wright (who was named Rhode Island's poet laureate in 1994 and won many national poetry honors) and X.J. Kennedy, a wonderful poet, colleague, and collaborator of Keith's, who brought the house down with a hilarious and touching reading. Keith read quite a few of his own visionary poems.
Keith also creates visual art: collages. Keith and Rosemary Waldrop's home on the East Side has long been a hive of art activity and an inspirational shrine for young writers. As I sat in the audience and listened to the word wiffle balls whizzing past my head, I thought, "This is really Rhode Island at its best."
EYE OF NEWT
An Associated Press report in Tuesday's BeloJo sported the headline "Gingrich enters the race." Great! If you haven't been paying attention, the GOP appears to be gearing up to have one of the most exciting presidential primaries this side of Barnum & Bailey. Newt! Donald Trump! Rick Santorum! Sarah Palin! Who's next, Michelle (rhymes with Hell) Bachmann? Will Mark Sanford return from the Appalachian Trail in time to run? Will Larry Craig leave the bathroom stall in time to toss his prophylactic into the ring?
Obviously, politics has now morphed into one of the elite branches of show business. Perhaps I should deal with it on its own terms in handicapping the 2012 smackdown. Perhaps I should morph into Army Archerd in order to truly capture the flavor.