Styron’s Confessions of Nat Turner

William Styron’s historical novel The Confessions of Nat Turner won the Pulitzer Prize in 1968. The novel made the world conscious of the slave revolt in Virginia led by Turner in 1831. Styron was a white writer from Virginia. In response to the success of Styron’s novel, an anthology of African-American criticism was published by Beacon Press featuring the work 10 different critics. In addition to the criticism of Styron there were a number of African-American writers who were encouraged and praised Styron for his work, most notably James Baldwin. Baldwin predicted that the history of the rebellion would continue to be written for years. This remains true today.

This May, our Thursday literature group will read Styron’s novel, the Beacon Press anthology, William Styron’s Nat Turner: Ten Black Writers Respond, as well as the essay Baldwin wrote in defense of Styron. Many profound questions concerning race, class, the rendering of historical presentation, claims on sectors of our shared history, etc. are raised in the novel and in the anthology. We will discuss as many of these questions as possible including having a careful read of Baldwin’s essay on the work. This class is also part of The MEP noting this being a half-century since the pivotal year of 1968.

THE INDIGENOUS PEOPLES READING GROUP which has grown from the enthusiastic call for the need of greater understanding of the long history of the peoples of North America and other continents of the world who were of those continents before and remain after the European colonists came to settle and bring this capitalist relations to every corner of the globe. Our group began following a stirring presentation by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz September of 2014 where she introduced An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States.

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Fridays As In Murder: Women, Violence & Genre Formulas

Convened by Jacqueline Cantwell
Fridays, 6:00 to 8:00
10 meetings, November 10 through February 2
No session on Friday, November 24, December 29 or January 19

In traditional hard-boiled and crime novels, women either provoke violence as femme fatales or need protection as paying clients or wandering daughters. Some authors were dissatisfied with this pulp convention and worked in an extension of pulp, film noir, writing scripts with more complicated women. Drawing upon the potentials of film noir’s formula of restlessness, dread, and discontent within social corruption, women novelists wrote of threats to the domestic sphere and American society emerging as the global hegemon. As women’s opportunities improved and the conventions of the detective novel changed, women writers explored crime and violence resulting from the racism and class exploitation while some male authors began writing of more complicated women.

Our Friday readings will consist of the following:

Attica Locke, The Cutting Season
The body of a migrant worker is found on the grounds of a former plantation turned into an historical amusement park, complete with slave quarters. Outside the plantation, the hard-pressed owners of sugar cane fields are selling their land to a corporation that relies upon undocumented migrants. A mystery from the time of slavery parallels the modern murder.

Dorothy B. Hughes, The Expendable Man
Driving toward Phoenix, Densmore sees a young white woman hitchhiking. Even though he knows that a black man should not offer a white girl a ride, he fears for her safety. Then, he gets charged with her murder. Complicating his lackluster defense is that the woman has died from complications of an illegal abortion and he is a medical student.

Jean-Patrick Manchette, Fatale
Can a man portray a woman with a gun differently? Maybe when by Manchette. A woman comes to town to kill the corrupt. Stripped down language. Bloodier than Red Harvest. Manchette brought politics back to French thrillers.

Nina Revoyr, Lost Canyon
Four hikers whose ethnic and cultural backgrounds represent a diverse Los Angeles get lost in the mountains and find a murder. Moving effortlessly between city and wilderness, Lost Canyon explores the ways that race, class, and culture shape experience and perception while examining the choices good people must face in desperate situations.

Jacqueline Cantwell has explored the depths of crime fiction along with the heights the desperate will often want to throw themselves from. These fictions will lay bare many of the facts of the cold as ice killings and cover-ups present in a modern world where we are expected to behave better—but very often do not. What better night than Fridays in Autumn for murder and mayhem.

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Fridays As In Murder: Women, Violence & Genre Formulas

Convened by Jacqueline Cantwell
Fridays, 6:00 to 8:00
10 meetings, November 10 through January 26
No session on Friday, November 24 or December 29

In traditional hard-boiled and crime novels, women either provoke violence as femme fatales or need protection as paying clients or wandering daughters. Some authors were dissatisfied with this pulp convention and worked in an extension of pulp, film noir, writing scripts with more complicated women. Drawing upon the potentials of film noir’s formula of restlessness, dread, and discontent within social corruption, women novelists wrote of threats to the domestic sphere and American society emerging as the global hegemon. As women’s opportunities improved and the conventions of the detective novel changed, women writers explored crime and violence resulting from the racism and class exploitation while some male authors began writing of more complicated women.

Our Friday readings will consist of the following:

Attica Locke, The Cutting Season
The body of a migrant worker is found on the grounds of a former plantation turned into an historical amusement park, complete with slave quarters. Outside the plantation, the hard-pressed owners of sugar cane fields are selling their land to a corporation that relies upon undocumented migrants. A mystery from the time of slavery parallels the modern murder.

Dorothy B. Hughes, The Expendable Man
Driving toward Phoenix, Densmore sees a young white woman hitchhiking. Even though he knows that a black man should not offer a white girl a ride, he fears for her safety. Then, he gets charged with her murder. Complicating his lackluster defense is that the woman has died from complications of an illegal abortion and he is a medical student.

Jean-Patrick Manchette, Fatale
Can a man portray a woman with a gun differently? Maybe when by Manchette. A woman comes to town to kill the corrupt. Stripped down language. Bloodier than Red Harvest. Manchette brought politics back to French thrillers.

Nina Revoyr, Lost Canyon
Four hikers whose ethnic and cultural backgrounds represent a diverse Los Angeles get lost in the mountains and find a murder. Moving effortlessly between city and wilderness, Lost Canyon explores the ways that race, class, and culture shape experience and perception while examining the choices good people must face in desperate situations.

Jacqueline Cantwell has explored the depths of crime fiction along with the heights the desperate will often want to throw themselves from. These fictions will lay bare many of the facts of the cold as ice killings and cover-ups present in a modern world where we are expected to behave better—but very often do not. What better night than Fridays in Autumn for murder and mayhem.

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Fiction from The Busted Boom

Summer Reading Series
America Between The Wars: Fiction From The Busted Boom
10 sessions with Craig Chisholm and Michael Lardner
Thursdays, July 14 to September 8, 7:30 PM
Fascism has overtaken Europe and the desperate, reeling Americans are being sold a dream through the New Deal in a broad attempt to mitigate empty dinner plates and joblessness for more than one in four. Nearly a million farms are foreclosed. Schools close, kids separate from their parents, migrating in all directions doing whatever it takes just to get by. The 30s were a time of turmoil for most and a decade shaping the terrain of the way life was to be lived on the edge—in shadow or in light. There is no shortage of literature that can provide insight into that era. This summer’s reading group will look at the following five works of fiction: The Ways of White Folks by Langston Hughes, Double Indemnity by James M. Cain, The Unpossessed by Tess Slesinger, In Dubious Battle by John Steinbeck, and It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis. Poems and vignettes of the period will be shared, each participant is welcome to be part of the sharing.

Craig Chisholm is a writer and editor at Gigantic Sequins. For much of the past year Craig has been active with the Indigenous Peoples’ History Reading Group. Michael Lardner has spent years doing typography and during the summers help coordinate these literature sessions.

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