Sunday, April 22, 2012
There are special cases where someone I revere not only remains marvelous, they continue to grow more wonderful over time; such is the case with my favorite fiction writer, Anne Rice. I know that some literary snobs never could forgive her the huge success and enormous worldwide popularity, much less selling over 100 million copies of her books. Only the plain truth is, she writes great literature.
My love for Anne and her work began in 1976 with the first novel of the then-unknown author. I’d never read anything so original, or so seductive, elegant and yet somehow believable despite elements potently fantastical. It was ingenious and curiously convincing—genuinely inspired writing.
With the publication of her latest novel, The Wolf Gift, on February 14th of this year, she herself noted she did not return to the supernatural; she never left it. Her books concerning Christ and those dealing with angels were every bit as concerned with supernatural beings as most of her other previous works. My copy arrived courtesy of Amazon on publication day. Somehow I made the reading last nearly a week!
Though I may be by no means objective, I was ready to try to be honest with myself if I felt the least bit disappointed by this new foray. She takes you into the realm of another kind of immortal, what we call a werewolf. In this story the creature is more often called a Man Wolf. I found myself totally drawn in by the author’s narrative skill, her passion and the white-hot inspiration.
As my partner Tom said when I began to read him Blackwood Farm aloud some years ago (and he doesn’t like vampires, finding them too creepy!), “This is already a movie in a real sense—it is so vivid, visual, and entrancing. You can see everything. This is not about monsters, but about real people.”
Another charm of The Wolf Gift for me personally is the setting in the Bay Area where I lived some rich and enchanting early years of my own in the 1960s and early ’70s as a teenager. Yet there’s nothing nostalgic about this new novel set very much in the present of iPads and texting and Facebook. In fact, Anne re-invents the werewolf tradition in her own plausible and inimitable style.
The protagonist Reuben Golding—who receives the gift—discovers a totally believable and realistic predatory nature within himself. In his Man Wolf form, though he chooses to kill only truly evil human evildoers, he also hunts animals, and like any actual natural predator feels absolutely no remorse about the kill. Rather he exults. It’s chillingly and thrillingly realistic this way. Plus the “origin myth” is truly excellent and quite surprising.
Plus without wanting to spoil anything, (spoiler warning?) I must say I really enjoyed the inclusion of a gay teenager who also receives the gift after being gay-bashed. All of the characters are dimensional, psychologically real and complex. Like any great artist, this writer gets better and better by dedicated practice of her art.
Let me say no more except that I sincerely feel grateful that this incredible woman is writing not only as well as ever, but that Anne Rice’s finest hour is now!
If you have not read it, check out this gorgeous, sexy, hypnotic tale of crisis, terror, love and self-acceptance.
Posted by Bruce P. Grether at 3:42 PM
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
We had just come outside on a glorious morning in Paradise Garden. The early sunshine slanted through the growth. Due to wonderful rains, it’s like a jungle now. Dozens of things are in bloom. The vegetation seems almost aggressive, like Mrs. Venable’s savage, primordial garden in SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER!
Tomás and I sat on the front steps enjoying. He was about to leave on some errand when his keen sight caught a tiny form on a railroad tie at the edge of the flowerbed. Just below the galactic mass of star jasmine vines on the side of the house, he’d spotted a baby mouse lying on its side, perfectly still.
He looked closer. “It’s alive,” Tomás said. “It’s breathing, but what’s wrong with it? I wonder if it fell from a nest in the jasmine? Maybe a raccoon got the nest…”
“Don’t know,” I said. “Only I know what to do.”
Three days later, Mik was alive and gaining strength. He had his own nest of soft cloth in a protected box in the garage (in the house he would not be safe from our little tiger Willy) with jar lids of food, goat milk and water. I fed him with an eyedropper at first, but he came to resist that somewhat and then clearly Mik was eating solid food. Thank goodness!
This precious baby (his body tail not included) was about twice the length of a quarter, or more so according to a great website, he could be around 17 or 18 days of age. Yet to be honest, each morning I prepared myself for the worst, as baby animals seem as fragile as they are adorable. I’d been through this with baby birds and all kinds of critters numerous times as a kid! Still, tiny Mik has some kind of true grit.
The whole thing reminded me of the famous “Schrödinger’s Cat” thought experiment in quantum physics which tells us that observer and observation are One—that we create the outcome of any experiment by our participation. It’s ALL co-creation!
At any rate, I decided that Mik was lively, alert and healthy enough to wing it on his own. Reluctantly, as an adoring parent by now, I decided he also needed the stimulus of his natural environs, being a wild field mouse by nature. Animals are truly wise because they are always present and mindful.
On a warm morning we released him. He scampered off near the Ravine Bench and we’ll never know exactly what became of Mik. Do I want to know? Not really. I’m a bleeding heart about animals.
Except I do know that however short or long his life for a wild mouse, we helped.
Posted by Bruce P. Grether at 1:18 AM
Tuesday, April 10, 2012
As a boy of perhaps 5 or 6 I recall seeing for the first time large illustrated books—something between a storybook and comic—with four beautiful colored panels per page: THE ADVENTURES OF RUPERT BEAR collected from the London Daily Express. Rupert is (still today!) a young bear, white in color, who wears a red sweater, plus a long yellow scarf that matches his checked trousers. A pure-hearted soul, he lives in a magickal version of England. He encounters baby dragons, pirates and gnomes and has nice friends.
Many years later as an adult in my late 20s, in the Rocky Mountain village of Estes Park, at a store called Noah’s Ark, I discovered a stuffed toy version of my beloved old friend! Rupert is really my inner child that never forgets that the world we live in is a truly magickal place!
Around the same time in Colorado I also learned about the English poet Rupert Brooke, an intriguing fellow who died at the age of 27 years during WW I. Brooke probably caught my attention initially as only the second personage I’d encountered with that engaging first name. Brooke, however, exerted a different sort of fascination as an extremely beautiful and gifted youth who died young to become immortal.
He loved to go barefoot in the country, wore his blond hair a bit long, and liked to bathe naked in the Granta River at a place called Byron’s Pool. To startle his friends, he would emerge from the water with a full erection! He was something of a free spirit early on. A genuine golden boy, the poet Yeats declared him “The Handsomest Man in England.” Both men and women fell in love with him, often on first sight.
Initially Brooke’s close friends were part of what became known as the Bloomsbury Group—a set of early bohemians in the UK around the turn of the previous century. These included such literary luminaries as Virginia Woolf, Lytton Strachey, and the painter Duncan Grant. Brooke later traveled to America and the South Seas. Unfortunately in his last few years as the Great War began, he grew apart from his largely socialist, pacifistic friends. Along with comrades in arms, he was sent to Gallipoli, though he never got there.
For some reason, he came to hate himself and may have even had a sort of death wish. He suffered a certain amount of conflict over his sexuality, and also the very existence of adult sexuality itself. In fact, his favorite play was the new hit PETER PAN and he saw it at least ten times!
He wrote several patriotic sonnets for which he gained sudden fame—and lost any chance of being taken seriously as a poet, for they were far from his best works. He died unexpectedly aboard a hospital ship (a premature demise perhaps caused by a mosquito bite on his lip at Port Said, Egypt, possibly complicated by lingering coral poisoning from diving in the South Seas) of “septicemia and pneumonia” near the Greek island of Skyros. There he was buried and the propaganda machine attempted to mint him into a new gilded saint. To set the record straight, his friend Virginia Woolf stated that he had been, “consciously and defiantly pagan.”
In a small used bookstore in Fort Collins, I happened upon a small, slim turquoise colored hardcover—an antique copy of THE COMPLETE POEMS of Rupert Brooke, (only 167 onionskin pages) which cemented my fascination… many of the poems are quite wonderful!
Thus my researches led me to write a play called DEFIANT PAGAN which I rediscovered not long ago in a trunk in my garage, some 20 years after I first wrote it. Now I’m studying Rupert Brooke further as I prep for a new draft. Recently I obtained the rare book LETTERS FROM AMERICA which contains much of his best writing. Many of his more revealing letters were not published until the late 1990s and I’m coming to know this remarkable, complex, imperfect fellow far better than ever before.
And yet for me, there will always be something in Brooke of that pure-hearted innocent—the little white bear named Rupert.
I now understand that there is something of both Ruperts in everyone.
Posted by Bruce P. Grether at 11:42 AM
Monday, April 2, 2012
The Secret Ministry of the Moon
Cool breeze from behind me whispers
From the dark, over my exposed ears
While frogs and bugs speak vespers
Of Mother Earth’s trickling tears…
These deepest and highest mysteries
Of the body zoom away
Upon every Merry Little Breeze
That escapes the day…
For the Moon’s ancient name: Soma—
Has 100 trillion rounded cells that all remember and each
Is complex and comes-and-goes
From bruised clouds your gentled hands can teach…
Each time you smile at me
The universal becomes specific
As moonlight sets us free
And living becomes terrific.
Poetry is a sacred calling
From void-to-void, souls lost
Recall the fires of Mr. Coleridge—
His breath made visible by
The secret ministry of frost.
Bugs dance to-and-from
The brilliance of my brow
And I wonder—must we sacrifice something alive
To make art? Or is it quite the opposite, in that
We defy death and create in that place
’Twixt love and fear
Where all stars blaze as meteors
And all that we know
Is breathing unaware
Of anything but the flow?
The gentle yet relentless wind
Picks up on the brow of the blind hill—
Then strokes invisible hands along forest tops
I’m breathing still at this end of the forest track;
And Brother Moon goes down in the west
Behind my back.
Posted by Bruce P. Grether at 9:52 AM