Thursday, October 31, 2013

Our Halloween Tradition: “The Palmstone” Radio Play

By Lars Trodson

In recent years, the internet has provided us an opportunity to see pictures that showed us how Halloween was celebrated years ago. We have these treasures, black and white photos of kids in homemade costumes, and they have proved to be genuinely unsettling. The costumes were borne out of the fears and crude materials of nightmares. I think of Scout and Jem running home after the Halloween party through the woods.

I am old enough to remember that kind of Halloween — especially some of the ones we spent in Vermont when we were kids and we walked those dark country streets on our way to pick up some candy. When we were young there were always rumors that someone had slipped a razor blade into a candied apple. There was nothing creepier then seeing a big kid, some kind of punk, in a bloodied tee shirt carrying a pillowcase sagging under the weight of the candy he had collected. It looked more like extortion than anything else. It was a nightmare and not much fun. I’m told that on one of my first Halloweens I went walking with my friend Linda who was wearing a mask and I kept turning toward her and asking, “Linda? Linda? Linda?” and it’s true to this day that I don’t like masks. I can’t stand them.

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Glory of Love

By Lars Trodson

When I read about Lou Reed the past day or so all I hear is that he sold no records, that he was more influential than he was popular and that he was dark dark dark. We hear these names that he was often associated with, Hubert Selby, Jr. and Nelson Algren and the others, particularly out of the New York scene, and one soon gets the impression that Reed was unpopular because he was so dark. And then everybody brings up “Metal Machine Music” to sort of seal the argument as to how weird he was.

Now, it would be useless to deny any of that. But that is not the whole story.

Listen to “Rock and Roll” — the Velvet Underground version — or “Waiting on My Man” and you hear at least two songs with undoubtedly strange lyrics (what is this business about amputations?) but also two songs that are some of the most joyous in the rock and roll pantheon. They’re street smart and funny. It’s like listening to two guys sitting behind you at Yankee Stadium. Those cats were both profane and hilarious, and that was Lou Reed.

And about that other song, the one song that everyone knows and the one song that everybody quoted when they found out he died (“Lou’s taking his final walk on the wild side…”), it’s also full of love and compassion and, in that old weird Lou Reed way, hope. So, you know, that old trope, that he was so dark was a comfortable fit only for those people who wanted to see Reed in that light. But by the time he was on the cover of Rolling Stone in 1989, Reed had distanced himself from that persona. (He had even put out a poppy record, “New Sensations,” about five years before.)

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

J.D. Salinger and the Glass Stories: How The Four Noble Truths Paved The Way In His Life and Art

By Lars Trodson

"Rarely if ever in literary history has a handful of stories aroused so much discussion, controversy, praise, denunciation, mystification and interpretation. There will be more Glass stories, Mr. Salinger says. Perhaps, when there are, a more coherent pattern will be apparent and certain mysteries and ambiguities will be explained."

This is what Orville Prescott wrote in his 1963 New York Times review of J.D. Salinger's "Raise High the Roofbeam, Carpenters and Seymour an Introduction."

The Prescott quote is instructional because a coherent pattern was being executed by Salinger by the time "Raise High The Roofbeam" was published. Those “certain mysteries and ambiguities,” as Prescott put it, were already being explained. It's just that no one was paying attention. When Salinger published "Hapworth 16, 1924" in June of 1965, the set of clues was complete.

With three short story collections ("Nine Stories," "Franny and Zooey," and "Raise High The Roofbeam, Carpenters") and one novella (the "Hapworth" story), Salinger had presented a body of work that distinctly reflects, embodies, and celebrates the Four Noble Truths, the philosophical core of Vedanta Buddhism, which Salinger had been following since the late 1940s. 

Vedanta Buddhism, put across in a bold stroke, is a faith that embraces all paths to oneness with God, whether that path be Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, or Christian — or anything else. Salinger's stories invoke each of these religions (and certainly secular matters) at certain times, and his attempt to reach a oneness with God becomes more and more explicit with each Glass story. "Hapworth 16 1924" is a culmination of all these paths.

It is essential to note, but not to elaborate on here, Salinger's experiences as a soldier during World War II, which by all accounts were horrific. He was going to rectify the atrocities he saw in his mind, and through his writing.