& occasionally about other things, too...

Friday, March 20, 2009

Poe, Boccaccio and Langston Hughes

Last week I went to the Yorkdale Adult Learning Centre. It turned out to be a high school; predominated by African-Canadian children. On my way out, after my appointment, I glanced upon a sheet of poem that was probably meant for the school children, and though it must have been written in an altogether different social milieu, to me it was sort of a reflection of the matriarchy that the African-Canadian (or for that matter African-American or African-Caribbean society) has become.

The poem Mother to Son is by Langston Hughes

Well, son, I’ll tell you:
Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
It’s had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor –
But all the time
I’se been a-climbin’ on,
And reachin’ landin’s,
And turnin’ corners,
And sometimes goin’ in the dark
Where there ain’t been no light.
So boy, don’t’ you turn back.
Don’t you set down on the steps
‘Cause you finds it’s kinder hard. 
Don’t you fall now –
For I’se still goin’, honey,
I’se still climbin’,
And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.

It’s been a rather busy period lately and I haven’t really found time to do any originally writing for the blog. The piece on Margaret Atwood that’s been on for a week is actually a class assignment for Joyce Wayne

For sure, none of us who are in the Canadian journalism program would have found the time or taken the effort to read Canadian literature on our own. In a couple of months Joyce's made us not only aware of a whole new genre in English literature, she's made it mandatory we read and write about it rather extensively. It’s quite interesting.

I'm reading
Michael Ondaatji's Running in the family right now. It's lyrical. More about the book later.

But I began talking about being busy. The thing with being busy is that you lose track of what you had planned to do, and move on to doing other things. I had planned a long time ago to write about Edgar Allan Poe. His 200th birth anniversary was celerbated earlier this year in January, but unlike with Lincoln and Darwin – their bicentennial created quite a stir, what with New Yorker’s Adam Gopnik publishing a book of short biographies on them - Poe's remained largely unnoticed. 

I’d think Poe’s contribution to the development of modernism is as important as that of Lincoln and Darwin. Would it be wrong to attribute a large part of Dark Knight’s mind-numbing success to the fact that we began to love the genre created to a lrage extent by Poe?

During the last three months I’ve been trying to find on the net one of Poe’s short story that I had read many years ago in a collection of American short stories of the 19th century.  

The story was about a man who terrorized his family all his life. But as he grows old, a strange sort of disease afflicts him, as he begins to lose his hearing and goes stone deaf. 

In a role reversal, now the son-in-law and the daughter begin to ill-treat the old man as they assume that he’s going to die anytime soon. And then, he waxes his ears it is assumed that the old man is on his deathbed. 

Then one day he cleans the wax in his ears and is as good as new. He’s back to his old, imperious ways.

I think the story was called Wax. I’ve looked for it everywhere on the net and haven’t been able to find it. I even wrote to one of the innumerable Poe societies, but they must have been all busy with the bicentennial, and nobody responded.

Another story that I haven’t been able to locate on the net is Boccacio’s short story of a debauched priest who seduces a young virgin (almost too young and the priest seems a pedophile) for many years. As the girl grows up into a fine young woman and the priest grows old, he’s unable to satisfy her, and brings ruin upon himself.

If anyone of you can get hold of these stories, please do read them.

Image from http://thejosevilson.com/blog/tag/relationships/

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