Cane, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, and The Lovers Set Down Their Spoons

Need caught up on my blog? I’m a gay 27 year old college student who has decided to completely read every page of The Norton Introduction to Literature (Shorter 11th Edition), by Kelly J. Mays, just because. I also read other stuff and watch movies and tv shows. Okay, now you’re caught up.

Yesterday was my only day off this week. I was going to go to a fiction reading featuring Heather Slomski, but my semester load has really hit me hard this past week and I needed to play catchup. That means I stayed home and wrote, watched Once Upon A Time, Resurrection, and Gotham, and then started to read Cane by Jean Toomer. I was supposed to read it weeks ago for my creative writing class, but I had so many other things to read I just couldn’t really fit it in. That was also the week that I was dying from not-Ebola and had to stay home, so I wasn’t exactly feeling like a million bucks when I did have some free time.

Cane by Jean Toomer

Cane is, well, interesting. My creative writing professor assigned it as a model for our short fiction section. It’s a series of moments, kind of like a collection of different pieces, but presented as one manuscript because, I don’t know, literature. We’ll probably not even talk about it in class anymore, but I’m reading it this week just to be able to say that I’ve read it. I really like the language that’s used in it. The professor talked about the importance of language when we did the poetry unit, and it’s nice to see an example of such beautiful language in this prose. It sounds like a writer thinks, and I would love to be able to emulate it in my own writing. This novel is almost like a rough draft that was never completely finished. It feels organic, like an open scene in an acting class that was completely “in the moment”. It changes formats like a free-writing exercise. I start my drafts in similar ways sometimes, starting in one form and moving into another, but of course they’re never as polished as the pieces in this book. When I edit things, I lose the “spontaneity” in my work, the vulnerable breath of my drafts. This hybrid text actually seems to thrive on its vulnerability, and that’s why I think I like it. I plan to be finished with it by the end of the week. I’d speed read it by tomorrow, but I have to also make some progress in The Norton Introduction to Literature, it being over 2,000 pages and all.

One of the assignments in my English 300 class was to read “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”, by T. S. Eliot from The Norton Introduction to Literature. It’s a poem, and I’ll be brutally honest here; poetry has never been my strong suit. I understand the value in it, and I don’t hate it anymore, but it’s still not exactly what I would call my thing. Poems that have a narrative to them are generally easier for me to read and enjoy. Luckily, this poem does have that. It’s from a character’s perspective, not necessarily the poet’s. According to my English 300 professor, it doesn’t even necessarily attribute this character’s feelings to the poet himself. It’s a poem about a guy who is shy and doesn’t know how to talk about women. He feels alone in the world, invisible. Taking what we talked about in class today regarding the “lyrical I” into account, I’m going to say that even if these feelings weren’t the poet’s, he still had to be saying something about certain feelings within himself. I think maybe he was justifying a choice to not talk to a particular person, that person either being a woman, a bunch of women, men, or maybe even himself.

The Lovers Set Down Their Spoons by Heather A. Slomski

This week at the University of Louisville, we had a guest author, Heather A. Slomski, do a fiction reading of her collection, The Lovers Set Down Their Spoons. I missed the reading at the university, but she’s also doing a master class this Friday that I really want to go to. I submitted a short story that I finished to the master class, but it wasn’t picked for the workshop. That either means it’s terrible, or that it was so flipping good that it doesn’t need workshopped. (Even though it’s probably the first one, I’m going to choose to believe the latter, if you don’t mind.) I’ll still go to the workshop, because I feel that submitting my work has somehow promised the univers(ity) that I’ll be in attendance. I wanted to be familiar with her work before I went, so I read a short story from her collection entitled “Before The Story Ends”. It was one of the best contemporary stories I have read since I started this blog. It was different for me, largely due to the fact that it was written in the second person. I don’t read too many second person stories, so it threw me for a little bit of a loop. It wasn’t difficult, it just required me to adjust my approach to understanding it a bit. If I wasn’t so tight on money, I’d grab a copy of her published collection.

It’s going to be a busy week for me, but I will do my best to keep reading the Norton book so that I have a story to blog about tomorrow. Later!

By Eric Shay Howard

Eric Shay Howard lives in Louisville, Kentucky. He's the author of the fiction collection, Crushes, and is a literary editor. He also works at a law firm and is writing his second book. He's a graduate student in the Bluegrass Writers Studio MFA in Creative Writing program at Eastern Kentucky University.

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