Episode 136: Walter Mosley and Petra Mason!

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Episode 136 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

In this week’s episode, I talk to Walter Mosley about crime fiction, characterization, the subconscious work of the writer, and the radical aesthetics of Amiri Baraka,

Walter Mosley

Photo by David-Burnett.

and I also talk to Petra Mason about Bettie Page, Bunny Yeager, and the legacy of pin up culture.

Photo by Janette Valentine at Terribly Girly.

Plus, Rose Tran reads her personal essay, “Intermission.”

Rose Tran

Photo by Jon Findell.

TEXTS DISCUSSED

Rose GoldQueen of Curves

Bunn Yeager's DarkroomNOTES

For more information about the Terribly Girly studio, check out their website.

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In England, the ban on books being sent to prisoners is being lifted, according to The Guardian.

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Episode 136 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

Shakespearing #27: Measure for Measure

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Shakespearing #27 by David Foley

Measure for Measure

27 Measure of Measure

When I was in college, I was robbed at gunpoint coming home from buying a pint of ice cream. They took my coat, they took my watch, they took the ice cream, and when they discovered I had only a few dollars on me, one of them pressed the gun to my temple and threatened to blow my brains out. But they let me go.

A policewoman came by our apartment to take a report. She drawled, “You were lucky. We found a guy last night with half his head blown away. Needless to say, his family’s making funeral arrangements.”

It so happened that, for someone’s directing class project, I was acting in the Isabel/Claudio scene from Measure for Measure.

Ay, but to die, and go we know not where,

To lie in cold obstruction and to rot,

This sensible warm motion to become

A kneaded clod…

 It was probably the best performance of my brief acting career.

It helps that it’s a great scene, as are Isabel’s scenes with Angelo. You remember what Shakespeare can teach you about writing a scene which pulses with shift and counter-shift, discovery and response. Angelo and Isabel make a great matched set of opponents, and the Duke is charmingly beneficent, and there are unexpected plot twists, and all this makes Measure for Measure play better than it reads.

When you read it, you really notice how weird it is.

For one thing, the Duke seems much less beneficent when you slow him down. His reasons for leaving Angelo in charge are pretty bad (essentially, he wants Angelo to be the meanie). He never seriously questions the justice of Claudio’s sentence, only its mercy. And he lets Isabel believe that Claudio’s dead because it’s better for her soul or something. He makes a shaky moral center for the play.

All this could just be the strangeness of a moral world four centuries removed from ours, but when you read Measure for Measure in presumed sequence with Troilus and All’s Well, it’s hard not to feel that Shakespeare himself is thrashing about morally. After Hamlet and Twelfth Night, he seems to have plunged into a moral wilderness. Perhaps we can’t get a handle on the moral world of these plays because Shakespeare can’t. The sense you sometimes get in Shakespeare—that he’s spouting the party line but feels deep down that something’s wrong with it—here produces what feel like painful fractures.

Or perhaps we can’t get a handle on it because Shakespeare himself is, of necessity, disguising his own meanings. At the beginning, the Duke hints that the play intends “[o]f government the properties to unfold,” and it’s possible to trace a steady critique of authority throughout the play. It’s no accident that the executioner, representing the power of the state at its most brutal, is named Abhorson (ab-whoreson), or that he’s put on the same level as a brothel-keeper. Moreover, this is the third play in a row which has a character who provides a comic counter-narrative to the poses of authority. Like Parolles in All’s Well, Lucio unwittingly slanders a noble character to his face, burlesquing the illusions of nobility. Lucio may be the moral center of the play: genial, mendacious, venal, and for all that well-intentioned. He’s the one who fetches Isabel to plead for Claudio and urges her on when she does. He becomes a real-world corrective to the Duke’s complacent platitudes. As he says to him, “Nay, friar, I am a kind of burr; I shall stick.”

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David Foley

David Foley is a playwright and fiction writer living in Brooklyn. His plays include Cressida Among the GreeksParadiseNance O’NeilThe Murders at ArgosA Hole in the Fence, and Sad Hotel, among others. His novel The Traveler’s Companion is available on Amazon. He teaches at New York University.

Heroes Never Rust #77: “Down” Time

Heroes Never Rust #77 by Sean Ironman

“Down” Time

The war in Europe winds down. Germans surrender. U.S. soldiers wait on the decision of whether they are heading home or heading to the war in the Pacific. Sergeant Brewer should be happy. He survived. As a soldier in the Hundred and First Airborne Division, he parachuted in the night before D-Day. He fought his way through the whole western front of the war and came out on the other side. But, he’s haunted, not by what he has done to survive but by the deaths of the soldiers around him. His last mission is to take three others who were with him on the night before D-Day, the last three left alive and uninjured, and check out a nearby mansion for when the general comes the next week. Brewer takes the opportunity, destroys his radio equipment, and allows his men a few days of relaxation (and enjoying the company of a few female locals happy to have the Americans arrive). But, he can’t relax, not completely. He’s tired, not physically—mentally. As he tells one of his men, “I ain’t stupid. I know men have to die. It’s the goddamn waste of it that pisses me off.”

He hates the army. He hates regulations. He hates how no one knows what they are doing and soldiers die because of it. And he remembers every man who died under his command.

screamingeaglesMost of the comic is laid out like one thinks a comic should be laid out—multiple panels with a thin, white gutter between them. A small amount of time passes between panels so that whole conversations take place in a page and characters interact with one another. But, between scenes, are one-page shots of an earlier moment in war, a moment of destruction and death. The reader is in the middle of a conversation and when he or she turns the page, there is an image of a soldier being blown apart with his intestines hanging out. No dialogue or sound effects are used on these pages. Silent images of soldiers, who were once under Brewer’s command, dying awful deaths. This is something that only comics can do.

I think it’s important for a writer (or in this case a writer and an artist) to use everything at his or her disposal for the genre or medium they are working in. A good comic should be a good comic, not a good screenplay that was drawn. A good short story should be a good short story, not a smaller section of a novel. Because comics are a visual medium, a strong image can create a faster impact than a paragraph of text. The reader doesn’t get a section break, and then a paragraph describing a soldier being blown apart or being crushed by a tank. The single comic book page can show it, can show the horrified faces of the soldiers left standing.

warstory8The images come quick, sporadically. Sometimes, the reader has a few pages of the storyline’s present day before being shocked back to death. Sometimes it’s only a page. The present-day story is light and fun. A German soldier hangs himself, but it’s not shown, only briefly mentioned. Even in Eden—a mansion, wine, women—Brewer can’t escape what he has seen, what he has been apart of. Men gunned down. Dismembered. Shot through the head. Impaled by a piece of a building while parachuting. Bleeding out and reaching for help as a city explodes around them.

By having these images appear out of nowhere with no dialogue or sound, the comic recreates the experience for the reader. The reader is placed in Brewer’s mind. This is how he experiences these memories, these flashes. He’s taking a bath and getting a blowjob from a local beauty, and when he closes his eyes he sees Doyle, Fisher, Marks, Linehan, and man whose name is long forgotten being shot to death by enemy planes, not standing a change out in the open. He opens the doors to the mansion and tells his men to check the place out, and then he flashes to Normandy and Little Benny, Murtagh, Grier, and a few others being stabbed and shot in close combat with Nazis.

deathNothing happens to stop these images. Nothing can stop them. Brewer will live with them forever. He gives his men a few days of fun, perhaps in an effort to give them something good about the war to remember. But to him, he lives with it. Of course, in the end, the general arrives, sees Brewer and his men and the fun they have been having. And in a repeat of the first panel of the comic, we are given a close-up of Brewer’s face as he responds to the general’s complaints. Unlike the beginning, his face is no longer presented in shadow. We can see every detail of his face, of his tired eyes, of his stubble. And he tells the general, “So why don’t you stick your authority up your ass?” What else is he going to do? He’s damned for the rest of his life. At least, he doesn’t back down from his superior officer. He’s done with the army, at least as done as one can be. He’ll be stuck with the past, but he won’t be creating any new memories, won’t be watching any more men die for nothing.

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Photo by John King

Photo by John King

Sean Ironman (Episode 102earned his MFA at the University of Central Florida. Currently, he teaches creative nonfiction and digital media at the University of Central Arkansas as a visiting professor. His work can be read in The Writer’s ChronicleRedivider, and Breakers: A Comics Anthology, among others.

Areas of Fog #42: Outro

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Areas of Fog #42 by Will Dowd

Outro

Dear Loyal Readers,

This is the final area of fog. It’s been a joy to wrestle each week with the god of New England weather, that artful trickster, but I’m tired now.

I think I’ll buy one of those dilapidated lighthouses crumbling on the coastline of Maine and stay up all night sending Morse messages to the lonely and storm-tossed.

In the meantime, I have one more weather report in me.

It’s January 1st and it’s absurdly cold—the bitter wind on my face is like novocaine wearing off.

I’m not the only one who’s brought their hangover to the ocean, that church for the churchless, that substitute for pistol and ball. There are plenty of joggers making the first and last strides of their New Year’s resolutions. I think about running, but my hip is an unsalvageable shipwreck and anyway I feel a cold coming on.

Instead I walk along water, staring down at the sea-wrack Rorschach. I spot a shattered shell (severed ear), a strand of seaweed (mermaid bra), a washed-up horseshoe crab (death mask of a great poet).

Maybe that’s what New England weather is—an inkblot of sun and clouds. Shadows on snow. Stars on a pond. A pile of bright leaves.

Maybe that’s why we talk about it, perennially, inanely—for the simple pleasure of feeling our inner worlds, however briefly and superficially, overlap.

image(11)There’s a seam of what looks like snow running the length of the beach. When I scoop some up, I find it’s frozen sea foam.

Sophocles said that love is like ice in the hands of children.

I have no idea what he meant.

“We are full of ghosts and spirits…” Melville wrote. “Every thought’s a soul of some past poet…”

Melville daydreamed that one day he and Shakespeare would run into each other on the street and get drunk together on rum punch, but it never happened.

It’s entirely possible that one day you and I will run into each other on the street and get drunk together on rum punch.

For now, all I can say is thank you.

Thank you for being my reader, my Third Man.

I only wish I had something to give you on this New Year’s Day. Something besides the cold in my head.

I think I’ll leave you with this—a haiku by Issa to carry in the pocket of your winter coat along with your lozenges and your lighter.

New Year’s Day.

Spring is coming!

I feel about average.

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Will Dowd WinterWill Dowd (episode 91episode 104) is a freelance writer based outside Boston. He received an MFA from New York University and an MS from MIT. His writing has appeared in Barrow Street, Post Road, Skeptic Magazine, and NPR.org.

Shakespearing #26: All’s Well That Ends Well

Shakespearing #26 by David Foley

All’s Well That Ends Well

26 Alls Well That Ends Well

In the Riverside chronology, All’s Well That Ends Well sits uneasily between Troilus and Cressida and Measure for Measure. More problematic than even those plays, there’s nevertheless something chrysalis-like about All’s Well, as if something were stickily emerging, wings still wrinkled and folded.

One thing that’s emerging is a fairy tale element that blooms in the late romances, but is even present in Lear. This element is not the fairy mischief of A Midsummer Night’s Dream but more what I described in my Lears posting: the way the simplicity of the tale points to wells of hidden knowing. It occurs to me only as I’m writing this that a central flaw of Into the Woods may be the assumption that you can make fairy tales darker than they are. You don’t even need the grimmer aspects of the Grimms—birds pecking out the stepsisters’ eyes—to get at the way that a fairy tale, by its very simplicity, by its sparseness of explanation, places us in relation with elemental things. Or as Lafew puts it in All’s Well, “Hence is it that we make trifles of terrors, ensconcing ourselves into seeming knowledge when we should submit ourselves to an unknown fear.” Fairy tales submit us to the unknown fears.

The most obvious fairy-tale aspect of All’s Well is Helen’s healing of the King and her bargain for Bertram. All of the scenes surrounding Helen’s dealings with the King have the formal, direct rhetoric of a fairy tale, plunked out in rhyming couplets: “Then thou shalt give me with thy kingly hand/What husband in thy power I will command.” This is striking because elsewhere the play continues Troilus’s movement towards more complex and difficult language, as if Shakespeare were pushing to make language do more or as if he could count on a company of actors who knew how to ride the caprices of his lines. The Folger notes are full of perhapses, where scholars are still guessing at Shakespeare’s meaning. Try this: “The reasons of our state I cannot yield/But like a common and an outward man/That the great figure of a council frames/By self-unable motion.”

So we have the simplicity of a fairy tale combined with something else. But what? The most obvious answer is Bertram. If All’s Well is a problem play, Bertram is the problem. He’s awful! Shakespeare can’t even figure out a way to redeem him at the end. He just brings Helen back and rushes everyone off stage, hoping we won’t notice that Bertram remains every bit as much of an asshole as he was at the start of the play.

What’s going on here? The hero is a villain, and the villain—the comic Parolles—ends up being far more likable. Or as one characters says, “He has out-villained villainy so far that the rarity redeems him.” Parolles’ scene with his fake captors has echoes of Thersites in Troilus. His accusations against the lords are meant (I think) to be lies, but they provide a counter-narrative to noble pretensions. As does Bertram. This sequence of plays seems infused with bitterness about human nature, particularly in men, and even more particularly in men in power.

It’s left to women to redeem them. As if in apology, Shakespeare gives the name of Troilus’s “whore” to his heroine, and then gives her the strangest line in the play: Bertram “is too good and fair for death and me.” As if she had the magic to redeem him not just from his own nature, but from death itself. Just like a fairy tale.

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David FoleyDavid Foley is a playwright and fiction writer living in Brooklyn. His plays include Cressida Among the Greeks, ParadiseNance O’NeilThe Murders at ArgosA Hole in the Fence, and Sad Hotel, among others. His novel The Traveler’s Companion is available on Amazon. He teaches at New York University.

Episode 135: A Craft Discussion About James Wood’s How Fiction Works, with Vanessa Blakeslee!

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Episode 135 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

In this week’s episode, I talk about James Wood’s How Fiction Works with Vanessa Blakeslee,

Vanessa BlakesleePlus Amy Penne writes about how David Foster Wallace’s Consider the Lobster and Other Essays changed her life.

Photo on 11-12-14 at 6.34 PMTEXTS DISCUSSED

How Fiction WorksConsider the Lobster

The Prime

NOTES

On Tuesday, January 20th, 7 P.M., Leslie Salas will lead a workshop on imagery at the Orlando Public Library, Herndon Branch.

On Saturday, January 24th, 11 A.M., J. Bradley will host a love poem workshop at the Orlando Public Library.

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Episode 135 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

The Curator of Schlock #73: Scanners 3

The Curator of Schlock #73 by Jeff Shuster

Scanners III: The Takeover

Everybody wants to rule the world,

but only Liliana Komorowska deserves to!

Scanners IIIIf Scanners 3: The Takeover isn’t schlock then I don’t know what schlock is. I know what you want to know. Does this movie feature exploding heads? Yes, it does, but it’s so much more than that, Mainly because of actress Liliana Komorowska and her absurd performance of a super villainess bent on world domination.

The movie starts out at a Christmas party where there are some Scanner deniers.

Scanners 3How dare they? Some doof in a Santa Claus suit wants his friend Alex, a Scanner, to prove to the naysayers that scanning is a real thing.

Scanners 3.2.Alex wants nothing to do with this until one of the naysayers calls him a party pooper. Alex then telekinetically pats her butt before using his scanning powers to make his Santa Claus friend glide slowly across the rug. Some jerk grabs Alex’s shoulder and he loses control, hurling Doofus McSanta Claus out the window of the fortieth floor. Alex’s friend becomes a splat on the pavement, ruining the Christmases of the children looking at the grisly scene. Alex then, predictably, moves to a monastery in Thailand.

Still, this movie isn’t really about Alex. It’s about his sister, Helena Monet (Liliana Komorowska) and her quest to take over the world and be as evil as she can be.

scanners 3.1She doesn’t start out that way.  She’s just a boring Scanner who has violent headaches due to the voices swirling in her head. Her adoptive father is trying to find a cure to keep the scanning at bay. This cure comes in the form of tiny electrodes you stick behind the ear. Unfortunately, this cure comes with some side effects. The electrodes turn you evil!

Evil Helena has a Polish accent and perfectly groomed eyebrows, which makes her perfect for world domination. When a bird craps on her at breakfast time, she explodes it with her mind. When her jerk boss at the satellite company refuses to give her a promotion, she makes him dance around in his underwear in front of the clientele of a five star restaurant. She later makes him dive head first into an empty swimming pool.

Evil Helena goes back to some mental institution where this old scientist did horrible experiments on her when she was little. She explodes his index finger with her mind.

scanners 3.5Evil Helena then grabs a Polaroid camera, making the doctor say cheese right before exploding his head.

scanners 3.4She complains about how the eyes always come out red in Polaroid photos. Ha! An orderly comes after and she telekinetically makes him pee his pants. Ha! She then sets the captive Scanners free, telling them that they don’t have to be at the bottom of the dung heap. They can be at the top.

Of course, it’s not all business for Evil Helena. She also likes to have fun, if by fun you mean sipping champagne in a Jacuzzi naked while you drown your adoptive father so you can take over his drug company. She then forces the board to declare her president, makes her new personal assistant ditch his girlfriend, has her way with him while discovering she can use her Scanner abilities to control people through television air waves. With her Scanning abilities allowing her to take over all the world’s television stations and pharmaceutical companies, Evil Helena is poised to takeover the entire world. And why not? If we’re going to have a world dictator, at least we can sleep easy knowing she has perfect eyebrows.

Five Things I Learned from Scanners 3: The Takeover

  1. Don’t bring a gun to a Scanner fight.
  2. One world dictatorship isn’t so bad.
  3. Scanners can blow up heads underwater with relative ease.
  4. Nimbo Bimbo is Canadian for Nurse Practitioner.
  5.  Never invite a Scanner to your Christmas party!

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Photo by Leslie Salas.

Photo by Leslie Salas.

Jeffrey Shuster (episode 47episode 102, episode 124, and episode 131) is an MFA candidate at the University of Central Florida.

 

The Lists #15: The Worst of the ’80s

The Lists #14 by Scott Hoffman

The Worst of the ’80s

“Kyrie Eleison” – Mr. Mister

kyrie45This bloated, pretentious mess reaches for great inspirational heights and falls far, far short of its goal. “Kyrie Eleison” is Greek for “Lord, have mercy.” Mr. Mister chose the phrase supposedly because they liked the way the words sounded. The title of this song should be “Lord, what were we thinking?”

“A View to a Kill” – Duran Duran

Duran DuranJames Bond themes are by nature hit and miss (except, of course, for Monty Norman’s classic jazz riff). When they are good, they are very very good and when they are bad they are horrid. Sort of like Bond’s puns. Perhaps then, D2 shouldn’t be blamed for this disappointing effort. But Bond’s babes, bombs and fashion formula seems to be the inspiration of D2’s own image and ethos…consider, for example, their video for “Hungry Like the Wolf.” You’d think they would’ve put more into this.

“God Bless the U.S.A.” – Lee Greenwood

Greenwood is a DoucheNativist, jingoist Reagan-era tripe meant to make us feel good about gutting social programs, recklessly building up our already bloated nuclear arsenal, and invading small Caribbean islands for self-aggrandizement and profit. Oh, don’t get me started….

“Goonies ‘R Good Enough” – Cyndi Lauper

GooniesNot good enough, really. Lauper made this for Steven Spielberg’s forgettable mid-80s summer flick Goonies. The song is as about as good as the movie. Which isn’t saying much. Not everything Spielberg touches is gold. But we all know that.

“(I Just) Died in Your Arms Tonight” – Cutting Crew

Cutting CrewPlease, stay dead.

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NOTE: This list originally appeared on High Bias

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Scott Hoffman

Scott Hoffman (Episode 66, essay) is an independent scholar and native Austinite living and working in his hometown. He earned his Ph.D. in American Studies from Purdue University in 2005 and is currently revising his manuscript Haloed by the Nation: Popular Martyrdom in Contemporary America. In 2008, he was nominated for a Lone Star Emmy for researching and writing The World, the War and Texas, a public television documentary about Texans during the Second World War. His publications include “How Do You Solve a Problem like Maria? St. Maria Goretti in the Post-Counter-Cultural World” in The CRITIC and “Holy Martin: The Overlooked Canonization of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.” and “‘Last Night I Prayed to Matthew:’ Matthew Shepard, Homosexuality and Popular Martyrdom in Contemporary America,” both in Religion and American CultureThis year he completed compiling an LBGT Resource Guide for the Austin History Center. In his spare time Scott likes to sing like nobody’s listenin’ and dance like nobody’s watchin’, which means he tends to wail and flail his arms a lot…

Heroes Never Rust #76: Dodgin’ D-Day

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Heroes Never Rust #76 by Sean Ironman

Dodgin’ D-Day

Garth Ennis’s and John Higgins’s War Story: D-Day Dodgers follows Second Lieutenant Ross, a British soldier joining up with B Company in Italy. The Western Front has begun with Normandy and the Allied Forces are gaining ground in France. The Russians are driving Germans back to Germany. But, the war in Italy is slow and tedious. They are the forgotten soldiers. Newspaper headlines back home talk about the Western Front, and most of the supplies and soldiers are given to that effort. The leaders in the Italy campaign need men, need supplies, so they come up with a dangerous mission to earn headlines, a suicide mission. The men know the mission is a suicide run, but they do it anyway. This being a Garth Ennis comic, the brutality of war is on full display as everyone is killed. The target is barely discussed, only that it’s a daylight attack. The target doesn’t matter. The army wants the headlines back home, so, impatiently, they make a crazy move.

D Day Dodgers

These soldiers are called D-Day Dodgers because public perception at home is that the war in Italy is a cake walk and that the war in France is the tough front. Lady Astor, the first woman to sit as a Member of Parliament in the House of Commons, supposedly called the men in Italy D-Day Dodgers because they were avoiding the “real war.” A song called “The Ballad of the D-Day Dodgers” was composed as a response to Lady Astor’s remarks. This song is given in the comic in the final section as the corpses of the men readers have grown attached to are shown.

How much of our actions are controlled by what we want versus what others think?

These soldiers know they are marching toward their death. They discuss it. The idea isn’t buried deep down and they are trying to fool themselves. In the mission’s planning meeting, the lieutenant is told after the mission he will be promoted to Major. When Ross congratulates him, he says, “I’m going to be a corpse.” The lieutenant explains to Ross that everyone will die because they have to advance across open ground in broad daylight. They’ll be killed before they’ve gone ten yards. On the day of battle, they arm themselves and they set out. The lieutenant gives Ross his Thompson because Ross forgot to request one. When Ross goes to say what will he do without his Thompson, the lieutenant responds, “For Christ’s sake, David, it doesn’t matter now! It doesn’t matter, can’t you see that?” On one hand, I want to say that these men are brave. They are given an impossible job, and they still try. They still go out there knowing it will be the last thing they ever do. Another part of me thinks they are cowards. They know it’s not the right thing to do, but they stay within the confines of their job duties and they march. Sometimes, when a person breaks orders and defies the institution, that person is considered brave, considered a hero. Yet, sometimes, when someone understands their responsibilities and goes to their death, that act is considered brave. Where’s the line?

DodgersChurch

Is it suicide? They know this act will kill them and they still perform the act. Or do they need to pull the trigger on their own gun, their own bullet needing to tear through their brain? And if it is suicide, is it wrong? Suicide can be a heroic act, can it not? Or do they have a responsibility to live? Do they have a responsibility to fight back against an institution trying to control them, an institution that thinks so little of them?

They are men caught between larger forces. The British military cares little for their lives. The Italian and German forces want their blood to soak into soil. The public back home, their neighbors, coworkers, friends, think they are sitting out the war in paradise. Like the lieutenant said, it doesn’t matter now. Nothing matters. Perhaps there’s a comfort they find in marching toward their death. At least, they know when they will die, how they will die. It’s the easy battle. They know what they have to do. Maybe it doesn’t matter if the British military is wrong, or that the public is wrong, or that the soldiers should stand up for their lives. Perhaps the soldiers marching to Hell is their fuck you to the public back home. They fought the hard fight and they lost. They didn’t have it easy. They had a job to do and they put their lives on the line. What could the public say then?

Dodgers

That brings me back to my earlier question: How much of our actions are controlled by what we want versus what others think? How much of me is me and how much of me is what you think of me? The older I get the less I think of the idea of individualism. I don’t think it exists. I am what society has made me. I am not independent or self-reliant. Perhaps some people would say that of course I am because I moved out to Arkansas from Florida alone, that I live alone. But, that’s not really independent, isn’t it? I moved from one community to another. The community affects me, shapes me. And the community of these men, these soldiers, these D-Day Dodgers, shaped them. Would they have died without the actions and thoughts of their community? Well, yes, just not there in Italy. As I revise what I hope to be my first book, I keep coming back to a line I wrote, that sometimes it seems that we are affected more by what we don’t have control over than by what we do. That life is a series of reactions, instead of actions. The more I read, the more I live, the more I come to believe what I wrote.

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Photo by John King

Photo by John King

Sean Ironman (Episode 102earned his MFA at the University of Central Florida. Currently, he teaches creative nonfiction and digital media at the University of Central Arkansas as a visiting professor. His work can be read in The Writer’s ChronicleRedivider, and Breakers: A Comics Anthology, among others.

Buzzed Books #18: Betty Page, Queen of Curves

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Buzzed Books #18 by Madison Strake Bernath

Bettie Page: Queen of Curves

Queen of CurvesDo not mistake Bettie Page: Queen of Curves by Petra Mason as simply a coffee table book of sexy photographs. Not that these aren’t seductive pictures—there’s plenty of gorgeous skin lining the pages. Queen of Curves is about more than just the model, focusing much of its text on the photographer Bunny Yeager, who was at the time the Page photos were taken, all of 25 years old. Yeager had never even sold a picture before, and Page was her first nude shoot. Despite her inexperience, Yeager managed to photograph a softness in Page, which is absent in the famous S&M photographs of Page’s earlier career.

BettiePage_p019 btm(1)Perhaps it was because Yeager was a woman, or perhaps it was because she had been a model herself, but these photos capture something unique in this iconic model’s story. The photographs in Queen of Curves (which portray a 32-year-old Page at the end of her modeling work) depict a story of two women, one budding and one in her prime, working together to create beauty.

Bettie and BunnyYeager and Page are at their best, in my opinion, when they shoot photo-stories. These give us a chance to see Page in motion.

BettiePage_p172Yeager loved to shoot her models as they engaged in activities. She liked movement, and Page was athletic and hard-working. She, according to Yeager, could hit and hold poses that other models of the day couldn’t.

The most famous of these photo-stories is probably the safari shoot in Boca Raton’s Africa USA. In that series, Page is seen straddling a cheetah, hanging from a branch with a knife in her mouth, and spearing a fish, all in a self-made cheetah print “jungle girl” costume. She looks sexy, fierce, fun, sultry, and, at the same time, surprisingly innocent. It’s this innocence of the female form that Yeager is so talented at capturing.

BettiePage_p142Interestingly, the book ends with Yeager’s and Page’s first photo shoot together. It’s a glamorous nude sequence filled with pinup shots of Page looking alluringly at the camera. What makes these photos so fascinating? According to Yeager, “Certainly the beauty of the model and the composition and the lines of the pose have a great deal to do with it, but it takes a bit more to enhance it with the hypnotic quality that keeps the viewer wanting to return and take a second and a third look.”

That bit more is Bunny Yeager herself. Bettie Page: Queen of Curves will draw you back again and again. Its beauty, sex appeal, and playfulness are too intoxicating for just one look.

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Madison BernathMadison Strake Bernath (Episode 46 and 75) is a writer of both creative nonfiction and fiction. She graduated with an MFA from the University of Central Florida with a thesis of travel essays. She is currently an assistant nonfiction editor at Pithead Chapel. In her free time she sucks the life out of cats and berates herself for failing to write/read something.

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