Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Existing in New York City: Reading Erskine Caldwell Rather Than These Journalistic Know-Nothing Pundits

Foto by tgw, New York City, 2006
Erskine Caldwell and White Truth

While the political bullshit is piling up to enormous levels, I'm losing myself in an old book of the Complete Short Stories of Erskine Caldwell (The New American Library (NAL), 1955) that I bought recently on a trip to Allentown, Pennsylvania. These are wide-open stories. Very White stories. Stories I'm sure it would be hard for a Black American to read, though Erskine Caldwell, born in Georgia back around 1908, is a very honest White writer. A good writer. A writer who engraves his stories on you no matter which side of the American tracks you find yourself on. Some of his stories are very scary even for a White thinker to read, like Saturday Afternoon. This is a story about a White trash butcher lazing around on a Saturday afternoon, sleeping on his butcherin' table using a side of beef for a pillow--with flies lightin' on him--I mean it shows you how filthy and low these sorry-ass White trash bastards are--when suddenly his partner in the butcher shop comes in and wakes him up to tell him about a big event that is taking place--that event it turns out is the chasing of a Black man with the intent of catching him, chaining him up to a tree, packing some brush around him and setting him on fire. What's the Black man done to deserve this, why he's made a success of himself on his farm and he's acting snooty about it around his White trash neighbors. It's a horrible story but one full of truth and made so real by Erskine Caldwell's storytelling.

Caldwell lived up and down the East Coast of the USA from Maine on down into the deepest asscrack of the Old South. Yes, he writes about the commonest of men and women, writing that made him famous with the publication of God's Little Acre in the 1930s, a book that was so notorious for its sexual innuendos that my grandmother the librarian kept it locked up in a special closet in her library. It was a book that my mother found among my brother's possessions one time while she was snooping around looking for sinful items that had been sneaked into her sanctified home and threatened to burn it alive in the garbage against my brother's strong protesting that it was literature; in fact, a masterpiece of literature. William Faulkner declared God's Little Acre and Caldwell's short stories as the first things anyone with an inclination to be a good writer should read.

Here's a concise biography of Erskine Caldwell as a literary personality:

Erskine Caldwell Photo
Erskine Caldwell Biography

"All I wanted to do was tell a story, to tell it to the best of my ability." - - Erskine Caldwell

Erskine Caldwell is one of the most widely read authors of the Twentieth Century, with eighty million books sold to readers in forty-three different languages. His novel God's Little Acre alone has sold over fourteen million copies. His books have been made into three movies, and the stage adaptation of Tobacco Road made American theatre history when it ran for seven-and-a-half years on Broadway. Caldwell is the author of 25 novels, 150 short stories and 12 nonfiction books.

His themes were centered around social injustice in terms of class, race, and gender - - remarkably, the very same issues we still wrestle with today. His method varied from the fantastically grotesque to the perversely comic, to the grimly realistic. In the early 1930's, he became the most controversial - - and one of the most censored - - American writers of his time. When the New York Society for the Prevention of Vice tried to ban God's Little Acre, Caldwell took the case to court. With help from the testimony of H.L. Mencken and Sherwood Anderson, he won his case - - a landmark in First Amendment litigation.

As one of the first authors to be published in mass-market paperback editions, he is a key figure in the history of American publishing. Sales of his books in Signet and Gold Medal editions established NAL (the New American Library) as one of the dominant paperback houses in the world. By the late 1940's, Caldwell had sold more books than any writer in the nation's history. For many years, however, his popularity with readers worked against his standing within the literary establishment. In 1984, Caldwell was elected, along with Norman Mailer, to the fifty-chair body of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. (Caldwell took the chair of playwright Lillian Hellman.)

He died in Paradise Valley, Arizona on April 11, 1987

"The first book, God's Little Acre and the short stories, that's enough for any man, he should be content with that." - - William Faulkner

From: id.mind.net/~fletch/biography.html
How Truly Wonderful
How truly wonderful that the Greeks voted against the strict austerity measures put on their asses by the pirate banking assholes of Goldman-Sachs (who caused the collapse of the Greek economy in the first place) and the pompous Germans--"Fuck you," the Greeks said to these draconian bastards, especially to their unelected ex-Goldman-Sachs executive president (also Italy, soon to crash, has an unelected ex-Goldman-Sachs exec as its president).

And how truly wonderful that the French threw out that prig Nicolas Sarkozy (how many millions of francs did that pompous asshole rip off the French people?) for the Socialist Francois Hollande. And one of Hollande's first acts is to bring the French troops home from Afghanistan.

We can only hope that President Obama is getting some kind of word from this action taking place in Europe. He has already, I'm reading, contacted Hollande, though the US commercial-corporate-controlled press is already trashing the man accusing him of being caught in the bureaucracy of the Socialist Party. Remember here in the ill-informed USA, we duncebuckets associate Socialism with Communism; not so in Europe.

Bring the Euro down; revolt is happening also in Ireland, Spain, and Italy--they are waking up to the pillage done to their economies by these huge corporate banks that We the People of the USA believe are too big to fail. I'm insulted by the current advertising on television and in our press by the most crooked and failing of our banks, the Bank of America, and that being hyped on us by one of the most crooked of these bail-out banks, this one still foreclosing like mad on We the People, the Wells-Fargo Bank of Bandits. Advertisements that are claiming these two crooked banks are helping restore our economy; Wells-Fargo actually saying they are helping We the Stupid People of the USA deal with foreclosings and credit debt. Such bullshit; bullshit also spread by the likes of Mormon idiot Mitt "the Mormon" Romney and our President. Needing billions of dollars to run their stupid off-the-mark campaigns, both these two-faced persons are still kissing the asses (with their noses deep into those nasty cracks) of these Wall Street predators. Isn't it ironic that all those bailout trillions we laid on these crooked bastards are now filling the coffers of these men running for president? How can we expect any kind of economic reform from men so dependent on these corporations that are the reason our economy is tanking in the first place?

In the meantime, I'm going back to reading Erskine Caldwell's short stories.

for The Daily Growler

We still have not received our new computer--it is amazing since it's coming via USPS delivery to Midtown Manhattan from the borough of Queens...only a forty-five-minute subway ride away.
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Winslow Homer: A Summer Night

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