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Arcadio
by William Goyen

I'm taking the liberty of starting a new thread seeing as our discussion of ARCADIO seems to be starting (yay!) a bit ahead of the official July 15 date.

As Tina has mentioned, biographical info on Goyen is not exactly plentiful. But some good sources for those who want to know more about his background are (1) the author's preface to THE COLLECTED STORIES OF WILLIAM GOYEN (which is short enough for me to post here), and (2) a 1982 interview with Goyen which appears at the end of his posthumous short-story collection HAD I A HUNDRED MOUTHS. The interviewer is Reginald Gibbons, editor of TriQuarterly, a literary championer of Goyen and a longtime friend. If you're interested and your library can't track down the book, E-mail me and I'll send you a photocopy.

Goyen was born in 1915 in Trinity, eastern Texas, which he renames Charity in his first novel THE HOUSE OF BREATH (1950). The book is a virtual love song to the town, rendered in the same cadences of folk speech as most of his work, including ARCADIO. He died in 1983, having published five novels, four story collections, five plays, and three ""other"" including a book of poetry and a wonderfully fresh retelling of the Gospels titled A BOOK OF JESUS.

These lines from his preface to COLLECTED STORIES is as good an introduction to his work as any, I think:

""The landscape of my stories, generally East Texas, is pastoral, river-haunted, tree-shaded, mysterious, and bewitched. Spirits and ghosts inhabit it: the generations have not doubted their presence, their doings. Here there exists the local splendor of simple people who 'wonder' and 'imagine.' Some heartbreak is here, too; and something of doom. The landscape of these folk, and mine, is more like Poussin or Claude or Manet than Grant Wood or Norman Rockwell or Rosa Bonheur.

""Landscape and language and folk, I seized it all, early, as mine to work with and to make some manner of art out of. It truly was, early, my absolute life's work and my dedication. In Europe, in nearly a dozen states of the United States, this was my work. Living in Rome, it was never more urgent, this faraway haunting landscape, this ringing speech, this tender and yearning, rollicking people, this notion, this vision of 'home,' this ache of 'homesickness.' It seems to me that I was always homesick. Standing before great paintings in Venice or Paris, I saw my own people in Rembrandt's, my own countryside in Corot's...

""But no regionalism is offered here. The language and the landscape of East Texas are only foils to a fabric, in which vital and neighborly human beings talk and move about.""

>>Dale in Ala.

All: Here's a brief excerpt from the Goyen interview (less than a year before his death, and just after surviving a major illness) that I mentioned in my previous post...
***
Q: In the French interview [Masques, Summer 1982] you were asked if all your characters weren't either waiting for something or wounded. Is that waiting a kind of disablement, like the physical disablement that afflicts some of them?
WG: I think they're waiting for miracles, for wonderful visitations--they're waiting for the marvelous.
Q: Is the marvelous so important?
WG: I'm not didactic--it's just surprise, waiting for the wonderful surprise. It's probably waiting for the Second Coming, underneath. I'm sure that's all I've ever been writing about. Salvation, redemption, freedom from bondage, complete release. All those people from those little towns, that's what they were brought up to wait for: the end of the world, when the trumpets would sound, and they'd be free of all this daily labor. That's the whole dark southern thing. Rebirth, a new life, heaven--freedom from pain, bondage, travail.
Those characters in my stories are all waiting. They're really kind of hopeful people, expecting more. They're open to something. They're forerunners. They've lost place--a lot of them are displaced, that's their sorrow.
""But there's a better place, I know,"" don't you know that's what they say? ""I accept that I've lost my place, my home, my town, my river--a whole river is gone!"" When Jessy comes back to her mother, in my novel THE HOUSE OF BREATH, she says to her, ""Life is loss, Mama."" Her mother is just waiting, sitting in a chair. She's closed the blinds, and the wind plays memory through them. Jessy says, ""Life is loss, don't you know that? I know that, and I'm only ten years old""...
***
More soon,
>>Dale in Ala.

I've got this on order, Dale, and hope to join the discussion this time.

Ruth, with bad conscience over bailing on the Welty

Dale and Ruth,
I hope that this is the right thread for our discussion of ARCADIO. While I was reading, I was struck by how much this book reminded me of Samuel Beckett's works. And Dale's excerpts of the interview with Goyen just reinforces this impression. Arcadio reminds me of MOLLOY and of WAITING FOR GODOT in that the main character is searching, always searching for someone or something. I can't say that I liked this book, but I liked some parts. The prostitute who painted vocabulary words on the ceiling was wonderful, and I laughed at the exchange between Elthelreda and Arcadio. I could hear her saying ""Please!"" when Arcadio kept interrupting. Dale, why did you choose this book? Perhaps, it will be a book that grows on me!
Jane



It seems that I didnít merely read this book, I entered it. It was like seeing and feeling someone elseís private dream. One would think that a story about a hermaphrodite who works at a freak show and was loved by a dwarf (and many others) would be grotesque, but it isnít. Itís whimsical and a bit sad and almost innocent, even with all the sex in it. On the back of my copy, it says that Arcadio was completed while Goyen was dying. Dale, is his other work as other-worldly? He must have been half on the other side when he wrote this. There are so many things that this book could be about-- balance, innocence, faith, joy, acceptance, and the perpetual quest for....what? You guys help me fill in the blank.

Sherry


Sherry: This is a minimal answer to your question of what other books by Goyen might be like. I had to order a copy of ARCADIO from Borders so opted to buy their only copy of Goyen's COME,THE RESTORER while waiting for ARCADIO to come in. Now admittedly, I am not very far into this novel and can't offer an opinion on the entire story, but it can only get more strange as it wends its way on through the next 125 pages or so. As the situation is now, Mr. De Persia who was lying in his glass casket in a ""purple silken suit of Italian goods"" in a supposedly self induced trance with a ""massive hard-on"" now finds himself being held captive in a blue balloon floating over East Texas. Up, up and away in my beautiful balloon.
When I did my student teaching in East Texas underneath a giant picture of Jesus I always knew an undercurrent of strangeness existed because the supervising teacher who bore a strange resemblance to Ichabod Crane wanted an ambulance to take all 40 third graders off and one little girl kept drawing pictures of monsters drinking Pearl beer. This book is my proof. Well, I read on riveted to this story. Pamela

I finished Arcadio this morning, and while I never did enter it, as Sherry did, I must say it is a memorable book, with some memorable characters. I want to go right into two of the things that kept me from really entering the book.

First, almost the whole book was a daydream, so I stayed somewhat on edge, waiting for the return of the true narrator, and wondering what the lesson or reason for this elaborate fantasy was. There didn't seem to be any.

Second, I was continually annoyed by its madre being called ""Chupa"". This is not a name, Mexican or Texan. It is a word in Espanol, meaning, I think, 'to suck'. But so far as I know, you wouldn't call a person by any form of this word as you might in English-a sucker. It could be the point; Arcadio mentioned throughout the book all the phrases that you wouldn't hear in ""Mescan"", but I guess I was looking for an explanation or something. Perhaps it's just the fact that Arcadio and its life was just an extension of the narrator's imagination, and the narrator is Texan? I dunno.

Anyway, it's not something I'd have found on my own, so thanks for nominating this very unusual book, Dale.

Tonya


Jane: OK, so maybe Goyen is an acquired taste. =G=
As Tonya points out, ARCADIO certainly doesn't deliver what we expect from a typical narrative in terms of beginning/middle/end, or crisis/complication/resolution, or what-have-you. But while Arcadio's search and questing might be fruitless in the pragmatic sense, I don't think the pointlessness is the point, which strikes me as the case in Beckett's work.
What stays with me most about the novel, besides Goyen's writing style (which is not quite like anyone else I can think of), is that it seems to be a parable or allegory of the eternal conflict between spirit and flesh, sacred and profane, that we all deal with constantly in our daily lives, striving for some sort of redemption.
True, here it's writ very large and outrageous and blackly-humored, with supporting players like a ""tough atheist Dwarft"" and a ""little white jumpin Mescan dog,"" but at heart I think it's a very spiritual book.
To me the crux of the story is in the middle--Chapter 9, in which Arcadio ""reconciles"" the two warring halves of his body (sex being metaphor) with the help of what he views as God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit:
""I tease and seduce. I alone am a conversation of two, heard in parks and alleys and doorways and upon beds, the ancient beg, the ancient refusal, 'give it to me'; 'no, not now, not yet.' Always there, it is always available; my parts bargain; hot and bargaining they strive upon my body; I could go mad from the negotiation, be torn apart by the old negotiation...
""I have almost died in my knowledge of their workings, obsessed with myself, possessing myself long days on hidden beds, a tormented wheel, a howling acrobat, my body assailing my body, I have almost died; in the end I have known no knowledge I have almost been torn asunder in ignorance, degraded and abused and exhausted of myself but could not excape from my pursuer, lost in the most strangest love in all the world, the haunted love of myself...
""It would have damned me to the hell of feeling nailed to death on that wood, I know what I am talking about, you wan hear, I have come up living from those nails, the woman part has closed up like a flower closes and the man has given up its bitter sting on me. They are esplendido, at splendid rest. Reconciled, that is the word. I'm handiwork of God...""
Underneath the glorious writing, I think that section is about as head-on a description of the human condition as I've seen.
I hope to write more soon; deadlines beckon...
>>Dale in Ala.

Tonya: I wasn't aware of the literal meaning of ""Chupa,"" but maybe ""to suck(le)"" is a pretty fair (if a tad bitter) appraisal of Arcadio's mother's role in his life, considering her early abandonment of him--which, in her defense, she makes a pretty good case for, if you ask me.
As for the narrator who begins the story, he does reappear to frame it up at the end, though he doesn't claim to know its ""meaning"" either:
""Uncle Ben! I have today given you back your darling creature; Arcadio! your creator Ben has come to me through you. And I, both teller and listener, solitary maker, grand and absurd and homesick, who am I? What is life? Why are we all here where is God?
""Yet you, hearing me--who are you, where have you come from, why have you stayed so long to hear me? Oyente! who are we what is life why are we all here where is God?""
Though I can't say why, in context that ending doesn't seem bleak and existential in intent, as so many similar ones in literature do.
And I'd never noticed before the way he accentuates Uncle Ben as Arcadio's ""creator."" How do you interpret that? I suspect not literally, as in the conventional ""he made the story up."" And in what sense does Goyen's story ""give him back"" to Ben? Heavy stuff.
>>Dale in Ala.



Sherry: Glad to hear of the impact that ARCADIO had on you. This is definitely mystical stuff to me; it seems very different now than when I first read it, and I'm sure I'll keep seeing different things in it as I get older.
My previous note to you just got lost in the machinery (I'm still tiptoeing my way, here, learning how) but I'll try to recreate it soon.

>>Dale in Ala.

Sherry: Yes, Goyen had just survived a major illness when writing ARCADIO and knew that he was weakening physically. I'm sure his condition affected the many risks he took with the novel.
As Pamela says, much of his other writing is very strange also. Probably the most conventional (relatively speaking, of course =G=) is his first novel THE HOUSE OF BREATH, published when he was in his mid-30s. From there on, it seems a steady progression toward other realities, often in the form of fables and parables. (Two short stories I especially admire are ""Precious Door"" and ""The Figure Over the Town."")
Here are some thoughts on Goyen in an essay (title: ""So Holy and So Flesh"") by Dart Lindsley, a writer from Boulder, published in a special Goyen commemorative issue of Mid-American Review:
""Reading the great writers has always been, for me, a process of finding out that things I had previously thought impossible are possible, that the territory of literature is larger than I had imagined it could be, and that writers have built outposts, towns, cities in the new lands. Never have I found so large and so lonesome a territory as in reading William Goyen.
""No other writer seems to be so much at the mercy of his own writing, so naked before the reader, so vulnerable to the dangers of what arises in his own fiction. Goyen's characters often seem more powerful than Goyen himself; their voices seem at times to take the story out of Goyen's control and carry it off in their own direction, threatening always to turn on the writer and to harm him. And yet he tells us in his 1982 interview with Reginald Gibbons that the process he goes through in producing each story saves him...
""How proud we all are of believing in answers. Isn't Goyen's awe in the face of the vastness of human experience the appropriate response? It seems the only way to interpret a universe governed--or forgotten--by God, and driven, as Goyen so often refers to it, by demons and angels. If questions concerning God are necessarily unanswerable by man, then the only devout approach must be to illuminate His mystery...
""Other fiction seems to have a hard shell to protect it, a kind of armor that keeps the reader away from the story, and away from its author, but the unbounded nature of Goyen's work leaves each story defenseless. Constantly in Goyen's work we feel *too* close to the writer, uncomfortably so... Goyen's great virtue of allowing his heart to guide his work makes him seem too vulnerable. It is this feeling that Goyen needs to be *protected from something* that has in part created this desire in me, as a reader and as a writer, to put forth an essay that in no way explains his work--for to walk well in the great, growing thicket of Goyen's work is to be lost--but that can, perhaps, stand watch alongside Goyen's work, an essay that can at least declare an allegiance...
""But I know from experience that I am constantly wrong about his work: only in forgetting his fiction do I believe I comprehend it. Each time I return to him, Goyen grows out of all bounds, and I am lost in his universe once more. I so often recall the lyrical sections of his work, for instance, that I forget it also contains some of the least lyrical language I have ever read.
""Sometimes when I reread his work I find him so clearly healthy and kicking, so unassailable--robust, one might say--unfettered, acrobatic and contortionist even, that I wonder where the vulnerability is, where the fragility, and I ask, Why did I ever see him as being in danger?""
Food for thought.

>>Dale in Ala.

Ruth: I look forward to hearing your impressions of ARCADIO.

No guilt necessary for bailing out on LOSING BATTLES; I've bailed out on so many books lately I'm probably in danger of losing my reader's license. =G=

>>Dale in Ala.

Tut, tut, Mr. Short, remember our posting protocols. Your Arcadio topic is beginning to take on a distinctly snake-like character. And does Goyen's writing remind anyone else of The White Hotel (I believe that's the book I'm thinking of, unless it might be Perfume)?

Dick

Mr. Haggart: As you might surmise, I'm totally confused about our posting protocols. At one point I thought that replying to the *first* note was the route to avoiding undue snakiness, but then somehow got it in my head the *last* note is the one to reply to. Or, is there an altogether different strategy I need to know?

I think it may be Susskind's novel PERFUME that ARCADIO puts you in mind of. I hadn't thought of it before, but they do have in common the fact that they're full-bore, pedal-to-metal, first-person monologues so intense and singular that they seem to have their own weather, gravity, cosmology, theology, etc. No shabby achievement, and one that any spinner of tales would be proud to own up to, I think.

Yours against snakiness in all its snaking forms,

>>Dale in Ala.

(PS: What are your plans for D.C.?)


Dale: Actually, replying consistently to the initial post would do it too, provided everybody was consistent. I think it would be harder, since you'd have to return to 'top' before you could reply, and then go 'back' a few clicks to pick up where you left off, but it would sure work. Anyway, I see we're now back on track here with the last four notes perfectly aligned (and I am not volunteering for the job of cyber meter maid around here to hand out improper alignment citations, although in this case I couldn't resist).

As for D.C. it's a pure coin toss right now. I have a 3 week trial beginning the week after the scheduled do, which should settle but may well not given certain complexities and the unwillingness of the defendants to part with the last $250,000 needed to put together an appropriate settlement. If it settles in time, I maybe can show, if not, well, maybe next year. I would love to get to D.C., since I lived there for years and have many friends, over and above CR friends, in the area.

Your usually aligned friend,

Dick

Dale,
Thank you for defending ARCADIO. I wanted to hear you get passionate about this book, and you did. The more that you say about ARCADIO, the more I think about Beckett. I don't think that the waiting in GODOT is pointless at all. Or maybe it is and maybe it isn't. Beckett fills his works with strange clownlike characters (Didi, Gogo, Lucky) just as Goyen does.
I liked the part that you posted from Chapter 9. When I read it, I thought of the obvious point; the war between men and women or the male and female parts of everyone's personality.
Keep on posting!
Jane

All: Here are a few excerpts from an interview with Goyen's wife, Doris Roberts, an actress from L.A. whom he married fairly late in life...

William Goyen took my breath away. I was just stunned by his fabulous, incredible work. I rememer he gave me a book of his short stories after a party, and I read it the following morning. I was stunned by his brilliance and the deep, deep pain that he caused me from the sensitivity of his writing and the spirituality of it and his deep understanding of human nature. So I was very taken by him. I did a play of his called Christy at the American Place Theatre. I played a woman who came back to her family to put a wreath of flowers on her mother's grave because she had missed the funeral. She also drank excessively, and in the wreath of flowers (the wreath, of course, was the shape of a horseshoe with ""Good Luck"" on it; she bought it because it was cheap) was a hidden flask of liquor from which she constantly drank. It was a wonderful play, and an incredible part for me, and that really began our courtship...

I believe that Bill and I denied his approaching death for the longest time, thank God, because his life, after he knew about the leukemia, his creative life especially, was full-blown, and he just never stopped working and writing. He was, I think, at his best then. I guess if you think you have a limited time on this Earth, you try to forget about whether people will accept or not accept, and you just do the work that you want to do... So the next year he had was wonderful for him, because he was just at the peak of his career. He wrote two books that year, which was extraordinary for Bill. I think he was more productive in that last year than he had been in the previous seven or eight years...

We were holding each other and crying over the fact that he was so ill. He looked at me and said, ""I'm not afraid of death,"" and he wasn't. He didn't go to any particular church. He didn't follow religion in that way. But certainly he had a great spirituality about him. Then he looked at me again and said, ""I'm not afraid of dying, but I wonder about you. How will you--"" And he stopped in the middle of the sentence, and then he said, ""On second thought, I guess that's your problem."" We laughed, and that got us through a major moment in our lives.


***

>>Dale in Ala.
Dale,
Thank you for defending ARCADIO. I wanted to hear you get passionate about this book, and you did. The more that you say about ARCADIO, the more I think about Beckett. I don't think that the waiting in GODOT is pointless at all. Or maybe it is and maybe it isn't. Beckett fills his works with strange clownlike characters (Didi, Gogo, Lucky) just as Goyen does.
I liked the part that you posted from Chapter 9. When I read it, I thought of the obvious point; the war between men and women or the male and female parts of everyone's personality.
Keep on posting!
Jane
All: Here are a few excerpts from an interview with Goyen's wife, Doris Roberts, an actress from L.A. whom he married fairly late in life...

William Goyen took my breath away. I was just stunned by his fabulous, incredible work. I rememer he gave me a book of his short stories after a party, and I read it the following morning. I was stunned by his brilliance and the deep, deep pain that he caused me from the sensitivity of his writing and the spirituality of it and his deep understanding of human nature. So I was very taken by him. I did a play of his called Christy at the American Place Theatre. I played a woman who came back to her family to put a wreath of flowers on her mother's grave because she had missed the funeral. She also drank excessively, and in the wreath of flowers (the wreath, of course, was the shape of a horseshoe with ""Good Luck"" on it; she bought it because it was cheap) was a hidden flask of liquor from which she constantly drank. It was a wonderful play, and an incredible part for me, and that really began our courtship...

I believe that Bill and I denied his approaching death for the longest time, thank God, because his life, after he knew about the leukemia, his creative life especially, was full-blown, and he just never stopped working and writing. He was, I think, at his best then. I guess if you think you have a limited time on this Earth, you try to forget about whether people will accept or not accept, and you just do the work that you want to do... So the next year he had was wonderful for him, because he was just at the peak of his career. He wrote two books that year, which was extraordinary for Bill. I think he was more productive in that last year than he had been in the previous seven or eight years...

We were holding each other and crying over the fact that he was so ill. He looked at me and said, ""I'm not afraid of death,"" and he wasn't. He didn't go to any particular church. He didn't follow religion in that way. But certainly he had a great spirituality about him. Then he looked at me again and said, ""I'm not afraid of dying, but I wonder about you. How will you--"" And he stopped in the middle of the sentence, and then he said, ""On second thought, I guess that's your problem."" We laughed, and that got us through a major moment in our lives.


***

>>Dale in Ala.
Jane: It's been a while since I read Beckett but you're right, there are a lot more similarities to Goyen's work than might first meet the eye.

One more quick thought on Arcadio, particularly Chapter 9...While Goyen is certainly rendering the male/female ""problem"" here and elsewhere, I think the implications of Arcadio's two warring halves can be seen in a broader sense, too.

I'm reminded of the apostle Paul, who said that he had one basic problem in trying to live a good life: ""That which I would do, I do not. That which I would not do, that I do...""

A big amen to that, from

>>Dale in Ala.
Now, who would have suspected (except maybe Thom Hanser =G=) a Goyen/Capote connection? Here's a footnote from a collection of Goyen's letters:

""Goyen and Truman Capote had a long rivalry and difficult friendship, complicated by the facts they both ran with the same crowd, had huge critical successes with their first novels, and shared the same publisher, Random House.

""Goyen's unfavorable review of Capote's Breakfast at Tiffany's in the influential New York Times Book Review (Nov. 2, 1959) was cause for a rift ('If you see that Bill Goyen, you tell him I want to slap his face!') which only partially was closed in the late 1970s.

""Capote's revenge was to portray the young William Goyen as P.B. Jones, the opportunistic lover of a much older woman writer, in his last novel, Answered Prayers (Random House, 1987).""

>>Dale in Ala.
I finished ARCADIO two days ago and have been mulling over it ever since. I don't know what to make of it. Right off the bat, I fell in love with the voice and the cadence. The Mescan (that most beautiful of all beautiful languages) added to the effect. I can read Mescan, so I wasn't thrown by it at all, but even those who can't read it, couldn't miss the meaning as it was always worked in in English. They would, however, miss the singing sound of the language.

The whole tale is a song with a mythic quality. The repeated phrase ""you wan hear"", reminded me of (god help us) Rudyard Kipling's ""oh best beloved"", from the Just So Stories. That's not so surprising because those stories, too, have the quality of time-honored myths. I know there are better examples among the things I've read where a repeated phrase is used to address the listener, but right now I can't think of one.

A couple of you have wondered about the opening and closing chapters-the framing story. I had the feeling they were superfluous. I wonder if an editor or agent said, ""Sorry, Bill old boy, we just won't be able to sell this book unless you bring it down to earth a little, give us someone real in some real time and real place to tie it to.""

As for what it's about--there's where I run into my own personal stumbling block. I have a hard time with books that have fuzzy, amorphous, ""spiritual"" centers. If the pure music of the voice hadn't been so wonderful, I might have dropped this book. As it is, I rode with it to the end, enjoying the words and music so much I didn't much care what they said.

Ruth

BTW, Dale, if you'll hang your post onto the last post in line, then we can scroll straight down the right hand box. It sure beats waiting for the tree to expand each time.

Ruth, blaming her pickiness on the 100 degree temps
Hi Ruth,
I certainly agree with you about the narrator at the beginning and end of the book. It reminds me of the conventions that were used in 18th century novels, wherein the author often pretended that the story was being told to him by another person. The novel that comes to mind is MANON LESCAUT by Abbe Prevost.
I find myself being exceptionally cranky as well because of the heat and the lack of air conditioning.
Jane, who will be complaining about the cold in about six months
Hi, Ruth:

So, I should always reply to the last-dated post (in this case, Jane's) in order to keep the tree working right? I'm still wet behind the ears about how this great board works. I've tried different ways of replying and can't tell any difference on my end, except for the indenting of the note list in the left-hand window.

The way I've finagled to read messages is to click the ""New Messages"" notification in the right-hand window and go down reading 'em one by one, then mark all as read and sign off. Your reference to scrolling and tree-expanding is Greek (or Mescan =G=) to me, but I'd like to keep things easiest to read for everybody. Instruction welcomed.

As to the wonderful voice of Arcadio, I agree. One reviewer of the book quotes a comment by Reynolds Price, from his book about narrative called A Palpable God:

A need to tell and hear stories is essential to the species Homo sapiens--second in necessity apparently after nourishment and before love and shelter. Millions survive without love or home, almost none in silence; the opposite of silence leads quickly to narrative, and the sound of story is the dominant sound of our lives, from the small accounts of our days' events to the vast incommunicable constructs of psychopaths...

One reason for the story-within-story frame, I think--whether or not it ""works"" literarily--is that Goyen was apparently obsessed with the process of storytelling, and much of his work confronts it directly. The prime example that reviewers (and Goyen himself) point to is a short story with the intriguing title ""The Road-Runner in Woolworth's."" As I recall he dedicates it to Katherine Anne Porter, his mentor at the time. It's been ages since I read ""Road-Runner,"" but I'll try to look it up this weekend and see if sheds any light on the story-within-story question.

>>Dale in 95-degree Ala., who stays cranky despite air-conditioning. . . =G=
The Road Runner at Woolworth's, huh? What a wonderful title. But I still wonder about that framing story. If Goyen did it because he was obsessed with the idea of story-telling I still think it was superfluous. Arcadio is story-telling, or perhaps we should call it story-singing. He's calls this to our attention repeatedly with that refrain, ""you wan hear"".

BTW, I tried your method of reading new notes, but didn't like it because I never knew to what notes people were replying. If you expand the tree (it does take patience) and if all the notes are tacked on the the last preceding, you can just use the scroll bar in the right-hand window to roll through the whole line of notes.

Ruth, who finds anything over 100 degrees keeps her in the AC house all day and THAT is grouchy-making
Ruth & All:
One more thought on the story-in-story aspect of Arcadio, this one from a review of Reginald Gibbons' book, William Goyen: A Study of the Shorter Fiction:
***
...Gibbons goes on to discuss what he refers to as the ""teller-listener situation,"" of which he says, ""What sets Goyen's characteristic use of the situation of a teller and a listener apart from the narrative strategy of other writers is the illusion that the speaker is accompanied by a listener, and given the presence of that second person, the listener, the quality of the told story becomes that of a ritualized act answering both the listener's eager desire to know and the teller's expressive need to tell.

Gibbons explores how this teller-listener situation operates in various stories. In the process, he shows how Goyen used this fictional method to make the reader ""the next in the line of kin."" This is crucial to an understanding of Goyen's fiction, of his desire to have his characters ""careen into us, into readers, the way someone we used to know who has not been around for a while--strange to us now, and yet familiar--might suddenly show up in our midst."" (Gibbons)

For Goyen, the essential act of fiction is that of connection, of compassion, and ""the ritual of telling not as a way of enforcing close bonds within the family but of strengthening bonds among those who are not so intimately related, who in fact achieve another kind of intimate relation, perhaps as strong as close blood, when they participate together in telling and listening."" (Gibbons)
***

I'm not sure I completely grasp the implications of all this, but I certainly found it interesting.

>>Dale in Ala.
Wow, Dale!
That last paragraph that you quoted made me think immediately of our Constant Reader group. I am referring to the part that talks about telling and listening making a bond. Isn't that what we have done here?

Jane
Jane:

Woh! Major mind-expander for me, here. I hadn't connected that reference with CR before, but it's true: ""telling and listening...an intimate relation, perhaps as strong as close blood.""

And the fact that people online are ""reduced""--OK, bad term--to their telling and listening, not their appearances, etc., is one reason such a disparate community as ourselves has not only formed, against the odds, but thrived. Amazing. Long may it wave. Post. Whatever.

>>Dale in Ala.
Very perceptive of you two, Jane and Dale. On the same lines, I was reading somewhere about how the computer age is bringing back writing. People are learning to express themselves using the written word, long after the supposed death of the ""real"" letter. Too bad all this writing is ephemera, just little hunks of electricity.

Ruth
I've been meaning to get back into the Arcadio topic for a few days, this book's details are already starting to fade in light of the next book I took up.

Anyway, I thought it was (or should have been) important that the whole thing was a fantasy. That there wasn't really a ""Mescan"" anywhere but in a Texan's mind, and all the words and events were dreamt up by him. This is why I stayed one step removed; to whatever extent Arcadio ever did exist, this story would have had little to do with his/her real life. It's the first time I can think of that I read a book like this. In fact the only similar thing that comes to mind is Alice in Wonderland, but of course she is involved in the whole fantasy that she dreams.

Now, another thing I continue to wonder about is Tomasso's death. Why was it that he ate but got no nourishment? Was it because Arcadio removed him from the nurturing church environment he had found? I tell you, there was more death in this book than anything I've read in a long, long time, and much of it bizarre!

Tonya
Tonya,
That is a very interesting point about Tomasso's death. And I like your answer. When I was reading that part of the book, I thought that Tomasso died because he was too good to live in this world. I like your idea better.
Jane
Tonya & Jane:

I think you both make good points about Tomasso and his unusual death...he was too good to live in this world, but also Arcadio loved him so much that he wanted him all to himself, taking him away from the one environment where he was flourishing.

>>Dale in Ala.
Very sharp analysis, Dale.

Ruth
One reflection and one question, as we wrap up Arcadio and mosey on toward next month's selection...

Despite the fact that this is a dark story full of loneliness and violence and death, Goyen rarely goes more than a page or two without infusing it with a touch of offbeat, sometimes childlike humor. Examples that come to mind are Hondo's quest to apologize to the sister of the woman he killed...the who's-on-first argument that Arcadio and Tomasso and Hondo have over which direction to go next (""Listen, we are huntin for too much, I'm all mixed up"")...the sojourn in Bitter Town, with its trademark rats and rathawks.

As I remember, the humor thread is a constant in McCarthy's great Suttree too, a kind of doled sustenance that keeps the reader from being overwhelmed by the sadness. And though Blood Meridian is not without humor I don't remember it being such a constant presence. Anybody have thoughts on this?

And a question: When Arcadio prays for Hondo's redemption, he's told to steal the lock of Sweet Janine's hair that Hondo carries concealed at his breast--but apparently this takes away Hondo's strength and allows him to be killed by one blow from Ethelreda (deliverance for sure, after a fashion). Other than an odd gloss on the Samson story, what do you think the lock of hair represents in terms of Hondo's being a captive of ""not knowing his own strength""?

>>Dale in Ala.

Well, I almost asked the lock of hair/strength question myself, but decided against since I had absolutely zilch in the way of theories. There were other such things in this book, I think it was just over my head or something! Reminds me of something else I read, not too long ago, when I felt constantly outside of an inside joke. I'll have to think about what it was. I minded it only a little in Arcadio, maybe because it was just so entertaining anyway.

Tonya

 
Tonya,
I also felt this way about ARCADIO.
I did enjoy it immensely, but felt like I just wasn't getting something! Infact, perhaps it's better when a book forces you to do this kind of thing.
Hmm, the lock of hair theory. I HAD thought about it. I saw it as maybe removing from Hondo this obsession he had with Janine, or at least freeing HER from his obsession. Once this was done all that was left was Hondo himself, alone....and defenceless.
But hey, we all have our theories!

Dale, thanks again for the suggestion.
Does anyone know what the next book will be?

Tina
Tina,
Next up is The Real Life of Sebastian Knight, by V. Nabokov.

Tonya, who finished it this morning.
"

 

 
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