Sunday Afternoon Potpourri: Next Stop, Gradeapalooza!

It’s been a pretty quiet weekend, but that’s the calm before the storm of incoming research papers — from the Freshpeeps tomorrow, and my upper-levels on Tuesday. Meanwhile, it’s a cool, lovely autumn afternoon here in Mondoville, so why not check in?

***

As is my frequent custom on calm weekends, I made the short trek to campus to watch the college’s basketball teams in action. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a great day for the home teams, as both the women’s and men’s teams fell to the visitors from Limestone College. On the upside, however, our football team scored a fairly shocking upset win in the first round of the Division II playoffs, knocking off the defending national champs on their home field in Pensacola. Having traveled about 8 hours to the southwest this weekend, their win means that they now get to travel about 8 hours to the north-northeast, as they face Bowie State U, about a half-hour from the Spawn’s place in Terpville.

I told the Spawn last night that the entire Mondoville football team was coming to visit her neighborhood for Thanksgiving. Alas, she and the Main Squeeze will be too busy wrapping up the semester to go show the colors, but she said it was nice to think that there would be so many Newberrians close by. Here’s hoping they can snag another victory.

One of the reasons this football season has been fun is that it’s been rather unexpected. While we’ve made the playoffs before, it hasn’t happened often enough for us to become spoiled, and over the course of Newberry’s 100+ years of football, we’ve had many more losing seasons than winning ones. Essentially, I got here at the beginning of the Golden Age of Newberry Football, though correlation clearly does not equal causation. Even by Division II standards, we’re a small school — with 1,200 students, we have about one-tenth the enrollment of West Florida, and are about a quarter the size of Bowie State (a fifth if we count grad students.) When I arrived, we were the smallest scholarship football school in the nation. That’s probably no longer the case because we’ve grown over the past 18 years, but as our broadcast team observed, we’re still seen as “little old Newberry.” Even our alma mater tends to what my mother called “poormouthing.”

It begins, “Though small, nor rich in worldly goods, our alma mater dear.” But for at least another week, we can focus more on the song’s final line: “Hail, Scarlet and the Gray.”

***

As has become tradition, the girls will be spending Turkey Day up North with Main Squeeze’s family, while Mrs. M and I get them for Christmas. This works out well, and the Spawn and I are already talking about movies we want to watch. I think a Peter O’Toole-as-Henry II fest may be in order — the Spawn has been reading about Plantagenet-era history lately, so it shouldn’t be too hard a sell.

In the meantime, Mrs. M and I will be receiving a frozen turkey from the college (another Mondoville tradition), but on the day itself, we’ll probably hit an area restaurant and save our turkey a little longer. And of course, I’ll be doing my share of grading over the long weekend. Still, we have much for which to be thankful.

***

As I mentioned recently, I’m pleased to announce that my story “The Jacket” will appear in Black is the Night, an anthology inspired by the work of Cornell Woolrich. Maxim Jakubowski is the editor, and it’ll be coming out from Titan Books next year in the US and UK, probably in summer or autumn. My story was influenced by Woolrich’s earlier short fiction, rather than the novels that brought him fame, and by Woolrich’s own life. The story is set in Depression-era Cincinnati, and it involves. . . but that would be telling, wouldn’t it?

Meanwhile, the antho contains a veritable wrecking crew of crime and mystery writers, some of whom I’ve appeared with in the past (Joe R. Lansdale, Charles Ardai, Kristine Kathryn Rusch) and others whose own work has inspired me over the years (Bill Pronzini and James Sallis, f’rinstance.) And in fact, the book will include an appreciation of Woolrich’s work by none other than Neil Gaiman, a point that scored me some cred with a couple of my colleagues, as well as the Spawn.

I’ll be sure to let you know when it’s available for order. I’m also hoping to have even more fictioneering news to share before too long — that’s a good feeling.

***

Speaking of Neil Gaiman, he’s one of the folks who appears in The Sparks Brothers, a documentary I watched last night after the basketball games. Sparks are a band with a really high nerd factor, and as one of the commentators observes, there are lots of bands who are influenced by them without ever knowing it. The film covers the five decades of the band’s (really, titular brothers Ron and Russell Mael and assorted backing musicians) career, calling attention both to the generally high quality of their work and their almost perverse determination to make the music they want to make. Sometimes that music is in sync with the era’s tastes; other times, it isn’t. But through a certain core of the abovementioned nerds (music and otherwise) and sheer bloodymindedness, they have amassed a remarkably interesting and diverse body of work.

I’ve mentioned before that there have been personalities who helped me learn that it was okay to be odd, a lesson that has served me well over my life (and one that suits me well in my academic and creative worlds.) While I was aware of Sparks even in my teens, I hadn’t paid the same sort of attention to their work that I did to the folks like Zappa, Jim Bouton, Harlan Ellison, or Devo, all folks who became something like touchstones for me. Had this movie existed back then, I’m pretty sure my canon of weirdos would have been a bit larger. It’s worth your time.

***

I mentioned last time that I had begun reading Angel’s Inferno, William Hjortsberg’s sequel to Falling Angel. Having finished it, I think it’s an interesting book, if not up to the standards of the first novel. I mentioned that Angel’s Inferno borders on mannerism — I think I was right. The hard-boiled voice of Johnny Favorite/Harry Angel (it’s complicated) is well into 25-minute-egg territory, making Mike Hammer seem fey. But there’s a reason we associate mannerism with decadence, and the book seems to be trying too hard to achieve what Hjortsberg did naturally the first time. The first book was at the intersection of noir and horror; this one mixes Gothic conspiracism with Grand Guignol. Because of that, the final scene, which I think was supposed to be the crowning horror, actually winds up feeling a bit anticlimactic — and the fact that I figured it out shortly before it happened didn’t help much.

Having said all that, I do think it’s a pretty readable book, and it raises a question for me. Apart from Falling Angel, Hjortsberg’s work often seems to operate in a realm of black satire. If we think of Angel’s Inferno not so much as self-parody, but as a satire of its own genre, pushing itself over the Reichenbach, then the things I mentioned in the previous paragraph make more sense, to me, anyway. The fact that the book was his last, and appears to have been concluded as he was dying (it was published posthumously) also suggests to me that he may have been trying to set the sequel in a sort of opposition to the original.

To sum up, I think Angel’s Inferno is an interesting book, with a strange attraction-repulsion factor. Having said that, I don’t think I’d recommend it to readers other than hardcore fans of the crime/horror genres, or beyond the realm of the completist. Caveat lector.

***

And I think that’ll empty out much of my word stock for the day, so I’ll leave you with some music, From garage revivalists The Urges, here’s a track that I think sums up most professors’ offices this time of the semester. Hope you like it.

See you soon, I hope!

About profmondo

Dad, husband, mostly free individual, medievalist, writer, and drummer. "Gladly wolde he lerne and gladly teche."
This entry was posted in Culture, Education, Family, Literature, Music. Bookmark the permalink.

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