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today 6/2/16 on aobibliosphere™ [aobibliospotlight™: A Boy Made of Blocks by Keith Stuart]

Thursday, December 6, 2012

01 First Rule Publicity excerpt: Vine: An Urban Legend by Michael Williams

Vine: An Urban Legend
by Michael Williams
genre: mythic fiction
192 pages
   

Amateur theatre director Stephen Thorne plots a sensational production of a Greek tragedy in order to ruffle feathers in the small city where he lives. Accompanied by an eccentric and fly-by-night cast and crew, he prepares for opening night, unaware that as he unleashes the play, he has drawn the attention of ancient and powerful forces.
  
Michael Williams’ Vine weds Greek Tragedy and urban legend with dangerous intoxication, as the drama rushes to its dark and inevitable conclusion.

excerpt:
Parodos: Strophe: Polymnia and the Muses

Clio:  Stephen Thorne still calls it dope, though doob for a while in the ‘70s.  He saw the revival of reefer, was too white for spliff and blunt, too old for chronic. Almost too old for the smoke, stronger than he could have imagined in his college days, stronger also than in the paraquat-infested 70s.  

Polymnia: Thunder grass: dope that creeps up on you, rumbles at your horizons, then climbs the back of your neck, sending warm consolation from your jaw to your ears and occipital, displacing you and paling the light by the courtside fountain until it becomes a summons to false bravery, a walk in the park in the dead of night when a man of 63 is subject to all dangers, from muggery to buggery to drowsing satyrs to coiled dragons guarding unspeakable treasure.
He has cast and read the yarrow stalks.  The fourth hexagram, about teaching the ignorant in infancy, when the game begins.  Something in the commentary eludes the translator—slippage in the alphabet, perhaps a tremor in the Tao.
He takes a long hit of transforming smoke and readies himself for the walk.  

Clio: The court where he lives is pricey beyond his means, but close to schools and stages.  His job is piecemeal, cobbled roles in local dramatic productions, directing dinner theatre.  Enough to get by, for rent and for bourbon and the occasional dime bags, so that lulled by substances, he can almost believe that some turn in his life forty years ago has led to a place calm and passable.

Polymnia: Pleasantly buzzed tonight, he plugs in his old Walkman, older Zeppelin in his ears as he walks the court, the fountain at its center spotlit and glittering, the statue of the girl framed by a brace of cherubs, flourishing a bronze scarf in a cascade of water.  

Kleio:  Galatea, they think.  Who began as a statue, carved and loved into life by Pygmalion, her story receding back into bronze.  Commemoration of the city’s Southern Exposition of the 1880’s, that celebration of a South rising out of Reconstruction.  Now she stands guard as her surroundings lapse into litter and crack and property crimes, a tempest slowly compassing her affluence-protected little cove.

Polymnia: It is easy for three of us to condense from river-valley air and soak through the tight seams of the statue,  Melpomene wrestling to the hollow center of the bronze girl, filling the form with divinity insubstantial, looking out through her eyes, following Stephen’s gaze as it trails up and down the perfected bronze breasts and thighs like the wayward hands of museum guards.  
Pygmalion himself.  Rubbing bronze declivities in his thoughts, lurid to the tune of Led Zeppelin’s “Houses of the Holy”:
There's an angel on my shoulder, in my hand a sword of gold 
Let me wander in your garden. And the seeds of love I'll sow. 

Thaleia and I slip into the crouching cherubs, understudies to our more theatrical sister.  Early on you learn your part.

Clio: This theatre is a tradition in this city. Ground zero and omphalos, venue for a free, uneven Shakespeare festival.  Promising directors and actors make first appearances here over the years, and their promise strips away, carried off by mosquitoes and the heat of July, by an audience so inattentive that only the free seats draw them.  For ten years Stephen has prowled the margins, directing and producing a play each June—amateur productions, 20th century popular fare, warm-up for the Shakespeare that people will pretend to watch.  

Polymnia: No Lear, no Macbeth for our boy.  Even his modestly proposal of Henry V dismissed: he is, after all, from Louisville, and his city eats its young.  So he offers instead The Fantasticks and Our Town and The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds, all of which he has come to loathe in the long Junes of the new millennium.  

Thalia: Oh, don’t we all, girl?  But this year will be different.

Clio:  Or so he says. Last December he decided to direct a huge, preposterous Faust for the summer season.  His old friend George Castille in the title role.  Devils and apes, a romance and conjury, impossible to stage much less to cast.  He pitched it disastrously to the powers, who thought it was too fragmentary and hard to follow, and well, yes.
So now a Bacchae, kindled in stealth and beginning to flourish in his vengeful imagining. It will be fresh, he tells himself, and most of all disturbing.  

Melpomene: The story, after all, is hard. King Pentheus of Thebes tries to put down the new worship of Dionysus, a cult that is turning the heads of his female subjects. Pentheus imprisons the Great God, dismisses him.  For such disrespect, of course the divinity exacts revenge.  Dionysus persuades the poor king to dress himself in the garb of the Maenads—the female devotees of the god.  Dressed in regal drag, he may witness the sacred mysteries. or so the god tells him as he leads the tressed and fabulous king into the mountains, handing him over to the Maenads, who tear him limb from limb.

Polýmnia: The moral is this:  Imprison the god, and he returns on you with heavy duty.  Push him down and press him back, stand up for wholesomeness and family values until you can’t help it and the photos emerge of your meth-sotted overtures to a twelve-year-old boy in an airport restroom.  So it goes, sisters, when you can’t match what you want to be with what you are.  And Stephen claims no such paradox though he has some of his own, his life contracted to bathos and mild substance abuse.  Because his life is disappointing, he has concluded it is therefore authentic.

Clio: Now he takes a hit from the joint, passes the gingko tree and the landmark stone at the park entrance, and heads for the covered promenade, the slope of maples and taxus, the graveled amphitheatre and the ruinous stage.
Plodding past dogwalks and picnic tables, past the upper tiers of the amphitheatre, where a coterie of drunks lie sprawled and dozing, Stephen is buoyed by ambition, by lazy inspiration and THC.  He waxes paunchy and prophetic as the landscape hums and receives him.

Thalia: Time to fill clothes with people, to cast the play.
George Castille his usual choice, an actor ready and willing to go completely over the top in our service, tuned to our drama and happy-sad masks.  He’s played everyone except Godot and Lady Macbeth, even debuted a critically savaged Hamlet the previous summer.   What the critics had not said was that Hamlet didn’t play well as a fat-ass pushing seventy.  So of course long toothedness rules George out as the teenaged king and the even younger god, but Stephen will ply him with praise and merlot, wedge him into the role of Tireisias, the blind androgynous prophet twining the thyrsoi, wearing the fawn-skins, and crowning his head with ivy branches.
For the god and the tragic Pentheus, Stephen will go afield, casting his nets for youth in the high schools and community colleges, steering away from the university’s drama department, where production is underway on a Noh version of La Cage aux Folles.  There are youngsters abundant who dream of celebrity, and even if it means conversation with Dolores Starr at the high school, Stephen will brave years and resentment to reel in actors.  

Polymnia: The pathway winds and silvers in front of him, like the track of a huge hunting snake.  I see it all from my perch cherubic in the statue.  I have a good idea where this is headed. 
I slip through the seams of the putti, the Valentine Cupid, and followed the piriform figure as he wades the shadows of the park.  A warm wind lofts me, upon it the whiff of blood and wine and madness.  I catch him by the topmost row of the amphitheatre, commingle with the cannabis and drift into his lungs, from where I might stir his speculations.
Inspiration, they call it.  When they inhale the smoke of muses, O kapnós tou moúsa.  For the gods stalk the premises where the actors wait like statues of hollow bronze, for immortal insufflations.
And ours are not the only eyes on Stephen Thorne. He knows by primal reliance on touch and smell. I prod his imaginations, grafting him to the tremors in the air, to the spoiled smell from the wings of the stage.  In the shadows his sight is useless, but he does catch the glint of moonlight on the tomfoolery of mirrors left over from Castille’s Hamlet.  Nothing there but watery coronas spreading across the stage, tidal and bearing a feral smell, as though an animal is trapped back there, is threatened by his approach.
He marks off the feeling to the drug, backs away wisely.  The lights from the court beckon across a wide and deceptively tranquil bay, so he climbs back up the tiers toward the road and the fountain and the brightness.  He remembers ascending the stairs from the cellar of the old house he and Muriel had rented in the South End back in the ‘50s, how he took the topmost steps with a long stride, a runner’s gait, imagining the darkness rushing behind him like an entangling current …
Yes, I know what he remembers, inveigled as I am in his lungs and motherwit.  For who but Memory is my mother, when all is said and done?
Stephen breathes much more easily under the first streetlamps, his heart rising as his lungs prickle in the humid spring night, and exhaled I slide free of definition, swallowed by a darkness in which my senses recovered clarity and focus, in which I join my masked sisters, intent on the stage and its attendant derelicts.
Back in the park, the Boss lies snoring on the topmost tier, covered in a dismantled cardboard box and pages of the Sunday Courier, stinking of Richards and stale piss.  

Melpomene: You should have let me at the actor.  I would have permeated his heaviness, sent him home gibbering with visions of the infernal Styx…

Polymnia: Girl, you are eat up.  Practice on the Boss.

Thalia: And so the aethereal leavening begins.  Melpomene hovers above the hulking, lamé-clad T. Tommy Briscoe, the park’s resident pervert and flaneur, self-appointed Boss of the Midnight Choir. She slides down his throat, lamenting the malodor of his breath as she draws him toward wakening.  T. Tommy stirs, then, his lamé refulgent, sitting upright and speaking in no tongue this Muse has heard as his entourage approaches from the shadows, gathering substance from the clammy air.  
where to purchase the book:
about the author:

Michael Williams
Michael Williams was born in Louisville, Kentucky. Much of his childhood was spent in the south central part of the state, amid red dirt, tobacco farms, and murky legends of Confederate guerillas. he has spent a dozen years in various parts of the world, Vermont, New York, New Jersey, Wisconsin, with stopovers in Ireland and England, and emerged from the experience surprisingly unscathed.
upon returning to the Ohio River Valley, he has published a series of novels of increasing oddness,combinations of what he characterizes as “gothic/historical fiction/fantasy/sf/redneck magical realism” beginning with Weasel’s Luck (1988) and Galen Beknighted (1990), the critically acclaimed Arcady (1996) and Allamanda (1997), and, most recently, Trajan’s Arch (2010). his new novel Vine is now available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
he lives in Corydon, Indiana with his wife, Rhonda, and a clowder of cats.

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1 comment:

sgzimmer said...

Thanks for having Michael aboard today! :)

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