Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Play It As It Lays

[If you're as sick of this subject--Maria Wyeth and the JFP--as I am (and you couldn't possibly be, since it has now surpassed the Continuing Saga of Britney Spears in things I never want to hear another word about), please skip the first three paragraphs. I mean, if a subject were the largest ball-bearing-producing city in the world, this subject would be, by this point, Dayton, Ohio.] See http://kingfish1935.blogspot.com/2007/11/paranoia-sets-in.html

Apparently Donna Ladd is one of the last people in Jackson to figure out that Maria Wyeth was me, but I must admit I find it mildly amusing to keep getting hammered on a site I am banned from posting to. For the record, I have never asked her paper for a favor; my publisher contacted the JFP when my third collection of poems, Dark Familiar, was published in 2006. (They also contacted the Clarion-Ledger and several other newspapers.) The book was well-reviewed by Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, The Courier-Journal, and many, many literary magazines and online sites. The reading/ signing I did at Lemuria (despite the fact that the JFP got the time wrong in their article) was attended by a hundred and fifty people.

My private emails to Ms. Ladd, while critical in some respects of her newspaper, were conciliatory in tone, and I had hoped to resolve this, since I am in agreement with so many of the goals she has for Mississippi, and think a strong alternative weekly is essential to making Jackson a viable place to live. While I don't regret anything I posted (or attempted to post) to her website, I might handle it differently if I had it to do all over again, since my intention was not to hurt Ms. Ladd, which it appears that I have done. I was expressing what I thought, about the topic in question, and my feelings about the ways in which I thought the JFP had not served Jackson as well it could. I am sorry to have caused her pain and what appears to be lingering anger.

And that, I hope, is the last I have to say on the subject.

Kingfish has invited me to blog on his site, an invitation I have gratefully accepted. I am a poet; I've published three books and edited a couple of others; I love to teach, but I'm not an academic. Fortunately, institutions of higher learning in Mississippi are familiar with the notion of a writer-in-residence. I've spent much of my adult life involved in getting poetry into places where it usually isn't (public schools, correctional facilities, nursing homes, literacy programs). I'm passionately interested in politics, but have no--ZERO, ZILCH, NADA--interest in writing about politics, so I plan to write about books and other cultural and even non-cultural stuff that interests me. (Jackson seems to have the political waterfront well-covered; I'm going to meander over to some other subjects that seem undercovered.)

In the last few years, usenet has grown rather anemic because people--including many of my close online friends--have abandoned it in favor of what I call blogatory (see Dante reference below). So I guess it's inevitable that I would eventually succumb to the siren song of the internet's preferred method of expression--the dreaded blog.

I always have several books I'm reading concurrently; right now I'm reading Janet Evanovitch's Eleven on Top; Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain; and Zero: The Biography of A Dangerous Idea by Charles Seife. I just started the Evanovitch, so I don't know if the prevailing view that it's not quite as good as earlier books in the series is true, but she does manage to combine a certain manageable level of violence with hilarity in her books, which I find seductive.

Whenever something serious happens in my life, I turn to great literature--not surprising for a poet or a lover of poetry--and I've re-read most of Shakespeare and many books about Shakespeare (some of them silly, some way too academic, and some enlightening) in the last couple of years. This past August I decided I needed to read The Divine Comedy, which I had never read all of, and I chose the fairly new Allen Mandelbaum translation, which is superb. This reading of Dante has reshaped my ideas about my fourth book of poems, which I am working on now. Dante's not light reading, and I would advise you to have a Robert Parker or something else going on the side if you take it on.

I was never a good student; I'm by temperament an introvert and an autodidact. I think I almost flunked out of college one semester because I decided to read all of Andre Gide, the more obscure French symbolistes, and a lot of Thomas Mann.

This tendency accounts for huge voids in my education, such as virtually all of nineteenth-century British fiction. Not to mention math. A big reason for my choosing the college I did was that it didn't demand one take a math class in order to graduate. Probably the most famous college textbook on poetry asked me, many years ago, if they could use some lines from a poem of mine that dealt with something called the asymptotic limit, which I had read about in one of those science-for-dummies magazines. The poetry textbook then goes on to comment that I am one of the few poets with an understanding of higher math. Long, long, long before bawhahahahahaha became an expression, people close to me were screaming it when they realized that anyone believed I had any understanding of higher math. (I do have an uncanny ability to calculate what an extra 35 per cent off of a garment already marked down 75 per cent is: my math skills begin and end there.)

But I had never read The Magic Mountain and I can't remember why; maybe because it is Very Long and also because I didn't think a novel about a bunch of people with tuberculosis in a posh sanitorium in the Alps would be all that interesting. Turns out I was wrong: it's an incredibly interesting book and I'm finding it not only stimulating in a great-literature kind of way, but also relevant to things going on today (war and HIV, for two).

Oh, one more book I highly recommend. James Lee Burke, who started out as a literary writer and then evidently decided he didn't want to remain poor and unknown his entire life, has a crime series, which features a New Iberia cop named Dave Robicheaux. The latest is called The Tin Roof Blowdown, and while it's a crime novel--and plenty violent--it also contains some of the very best writing I've read about Katrina and that other, largely forgotten, tragedy, Hurricane Rita. Very few books leave me in tears, and certainly not crime novels, but I was weeping when I finished this one. You don't need to have read all the novels in this series to read this one (although I'd highly recommend the first one, Neon Rain, because it lets you know some essential things about the character, as well as the circumstances under which he found his beloved adopted daughter, Alafair. Neon Rain deals with immigration issues: consider yourself warned.) (If I believed in emoticons, which I emphatically do not, I would now put one of those smiley face things here.)

For the record, I also have a distinctly non-literary side, and can talk fairly obsessively about shoes; college basketball; Joni Mitchell; Stephen Sondheim; (some of) MTV's tackier reality shows; cats (we have four); midcentury furniture; Kentucky history; Will Farrell movies; and painting, especially abstract expressionism. I have an insatiable interest in conspiracy theories (JFK, UFOs, contrails, the sorts of things Art Bell used to discuss on his radio show), but don't believe them, i.e. I think Oswald was the long gunman.

I love McDades because they always keep two extra flats of Tab (yes, Tab, the diet drink in the pink can, and YES, they DO still make it) in the back. Therefore, if something happens in the distribution process, McDades will be able to satisfy the Jackson Tab Addicts, who are so not in a good mood when Tab is unavailable. My husband claims he'd rather handle a rabid wolverine than deal with me when we run out of Tab. McDades has prevented this unfortunate transformation from occuring the entire sixteen years we've lived in Jackson.

Kingfish note: Here is a link to one of Aleda's poems.


Unknown said...

This place continues to impress me. Thanks for all your effort King.

Kingfish said...

thanks. how so? feedback always welcome.

Tom Head said...

Nicely done.

Re Aleda/Maria, I'm trying to figure out how anything she said could have been described as insulting the JFP's "young writers" (?!). She made a criticism of the way Donna had presented the Blount issue from where I sat. I didn't agree with everything Maria/Aleda said, I said so, and since we're both adults this sort of thing is to be expected from time to time.

Agreed re: the McDade's love. I've been shopping there since it was the Jitney 14, which has admittedly not been all that long, and the stuff they stock... Amazing. Where else in town can I get pitas, hummus, falafels, and mango juice for at-home preparation without spending an arm and a leg?

Kingfish said...

I think in one of her posts she said something about the JFP using younger writers. Knowing how defensive the owner gets about her reporters, I'm not suprised. If you remember, what started my tirade that got me banned was that that little punk of a reporter, Matt Saldana, lied about what I said. Flat out lied. Period. to this day Ladd has never apologized for it even though I have apologized in writing and to her face for cussing him out on her site. I guess that if its someone she looks down on, she doesn't owe that person an apology.

Tom Head said...

I don't think Matt lied. I think he read into it what he was supposed to read into it based on what his role in the immigration debate script is supposed to be. I say this only because I've played the same role myself.

I've always had a high opinion of Matt SaldaƱa. He might owe you an apology, certainly that was an inauspicious time for Donna to ban you, but I think he's learned more from his JFP experiences than might be readily apparent.

But in a way this kind of goes full circle: Why is the dynamic such that Donna is the one who protects Matt, apologizes or doesn't apologize for Matt, etc.? Why is this being positioned as "Donna Ladd and the young writers" rather than "Donna Ladd, Maggie Burks, Adam Lynch, et. al."? Why is the issue not one that you and Matt can resolve with no Donna involvement? That's what I mean when I say the paper has lost its community feel. It's no longer an ensemble cast; it's the Donna Ladd Show. And that may not be entirely her fault, but it's an unfortunate dynamic.

Poppy B. said...

Love The Magic Mountain. And Buddenbrooks.

For another great mystery writer, try Donna Leon. Her Guido Brunetti series takes place in Venice. For a not-Southern writer, she has an incredible sense of place.

Anonymous said...

Aleda is just pissed 'cause she's not a member of the "creative class".

Seriously, though, Aleda's writing is so entertaining. I'm very glad she's found a spot on the blogosphere to share her musings with us.

Thanks, Aleda. Looking forward to your posts.

Kingfish said...

Tom, he lied. We were debating illegal immigration. He said I thought people who did not speak English were stupid. That was nothing but a lie. I never wrote anything that could be remotely interpreted that way. I have had many friends, and even a few g/f's over the years who spoke English as a second language. I was seeing someone from Kiev a couple of years ago who barely spoke English. that was nothing but a smear by Saldana. He has been guilty of such things before. He wrote a headline saying the Supreme Court had overturned Brown v. Board and said later in the thread it wasn't true, he was just being flashy. He also said in the insults about me I was in favor of nation cleansing. That was a damn lie too. Period. I wore the damn uniform and sure as hell don't appreciate being put on the level of the Nazis or Serbs, especially from some snot nose punk ass interned who is just out of diapers and can't shave. You want to debate me fine. Start smearing or lying and I'm going to punch you in the mouth and make it bloody as hell (in a verbal fashion of course).

Enough of that. I enjoyed reading this post and learned a few things and some authors I am going to check out. I look forward to more from Aleda.

Anonymous said...

... but I think he's learned more from his JFP experiences than might be readily apparent.

Right. He left. Like all the others.

Anonymous said...

That's what I mean when I say the paper has lost its community feel. It's no longer an ensemble cast; it's the Donna Ladd Show.

It has always been the Donna Ladd show but in the beginning the supporting cast members were accomplished in their own rights. But like a good local band that never breaks out eventually players leave and the only people who show up to the watch the replacements rehash the same tired playlist are the groupies.

Tom Head said...

'Fish, for whatever it's worth, I think Matt owes you an apology. But I wouldn't be too hard on the guy--he read what he expected to read. I don't think he went "I'll make up these stories about Kingfish." I think he went "What your REAL motives are..." and argued from that basis, which is standard JFP. I did that many times myself. It wasn't pretty, but in my case it wasn't calculating, either; it was the way I had trained myself to see the situation, so I thought my characterizations of others were accurate.

Re the good local band that never breaks out, replacements, and groupies: Quite possibly the best summary of the dynamic I've read. Well put. Wasn't there one incarnation of Guns N' Roses where the only original member was Axl Rose?

At any rate, welcome, Aleda. :o) I look forward to reading more of your stuff!

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Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).

Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS.

Trollfest '07

Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS