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Allen Mendenhall Interviews Joyce Corrington

In Art, Arts & Letters, Creativity, Fiction, Film, History, Humanities, Information Design, John William Corrington, Law, Literature, News and Current Events, Novels, Philosophy, Screenwriting, Television, Television Writing, Writing on September 22, 2011 at 8:31 am

Joyce Corrington is a writer who, with her late husband John William “Bill” Corrington, wrote several films, including The Omega Man (1970), Box Car Bertha (1971), and The Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973).  Also with Bill Corrington, she co-authored four novels: So Small a Carnival (1986), A Project Named Desire (1987), A Civil Death (1987), and The White Zone (1990).  She was head writer for such television series as Search for Tomorrow, Texas, General Hospital and Superior Court, and she has been a co-executive producer for MTV’s The Real World.  She holds a Ph.D. from Tulane University.  Her latest book, Fear of Dying, is available in both Kindle e-book and paperback format.  Formerly a Malibu resident, she now resides in New Orleans. 

Photo by Robert Corrington

Joyce, thank you so much for doing this interview.  I’m surprised we haven’t done one before.  You’ve been an enormous help to me over the years.  You even allowed me to stay at your home in New Orleans so that I could do research on your late husband, Bill.  During that time I learned that you hold a Ph.D. from Tulane University, and taught Chemistry at Xavier University for ten years.  Tell me, how did a person with that background become a writer?

I’m sure it would never have happened if I hadn’t met and married Bill when we were both at Rice University.  He was working on a doctorate so he could earn a living teaching, but he wanted to write.  Bill succeeded in publishing a number of well-received novels, which I typed and edited for him.  But we did not become co-writers until Roger Corman read one of Bill’s novels and invited him to write a movie script.  This was not something Bill especially wanted to do.  But it paid better than college teaching, so we evolved a film writing partnership, whereby I would create a detailed story structure and Bill would write a script following my outline.  After six films, we became involved in writing television series and continued our writing partnership there and in the four New Orleans mystery books we published.  Bill passed away as the fourth was being written, so I completed it.

Why did you choose to continue the series?

After Bill died I found it difficult to get the same kind of writing jobs we had been used to doing.  I think this was because all of my credits were as half of a writing team and producers felt uncertain whether I could do the job by myself.  Thus I had about two years where I had little to do and, while I read a lot during that time, I also began writing a sequel to our New Orleans mystery series.  I think I wanted to prove that I could do it by myself.  Just after finishing the manuscript for Fear of Dying, I was hired to help produce The Real World, a job which I held for eleven seasons.  I did not get around to publishing Fear of Dying until I retired from that job. Read the rest of this entry »

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Poetry by Troy Camplin

In Art, Artist, Arts & Letters, Creative Writing, Creativity, Humanities, Poetry, Writing on September 20, 2011 at 7:58 pm
Troy Camplin holds a Ph.D. in humanities from the University of Texas at Dallas. He has taught English in middle school, high school, and college, and is currently taking care of his children at home. He is the author of Diaphysics, an interdisciplinary work on systems philosophy; other projects include the application of F.A. Hayek’s spontaneous order theory to ethics, the arts, and literature. His play “Almost Ithacad” won the PIA Award from the Cyberfest at Dallas Hub Theater.
 

 

Introduction

In the unbelievable and unknown –
In the unrefined and those without thought –
In the unremarkable and unwise –
We find our leaders
We find our heroes
We find our artists
I see it – there is a sun on the horizon –
The rosy fingers of an ancient dawn –
A rebirth of everything from everything we have torn apart –
A world in fragments – no longer a world –
Fragments gathered up –
A world reborn from the fragments –
A world reborn from the past, the ancients –
Greeks, Romans, Chinese, Africans, Arabs, Indians, and aborigines –
Yet –
I am not a postmodernist
And I am not a classicist
And I am not a romantic
And I am not a modernist
And I am not a naturalist
No –
I am each of these – and none
I am the moon and the sun
I am the earth and the sea
I am woman and man
Seriousness and fun
Fragments and unity
Plurality and one

An Astrology

I stand, stare at the Cantor dust of stars,
Stand alone in the open field of grass
That glows in the silver of the moon brass
And dark emerald under a rising Mars.
I wage a silent war within my mind
As I wait in vain for a happiness
These stars cannot bring me. My loneliness
Soaks into the ground to be left behind.
I turn away from Mars and search the sky –
The false-star Venus must be out among
The stars and darkness, a beacon for me
To connect my life to, so I can fly
And leave this lonely-soaked ground a far-flung
Memory. I want to love and to be.

 

Etre Sartre

In France was an atheist, superb
At finding new ways to disturb –
A communist brand,
A Nazi’s friend, and
Philosophy based on a linking verb.

Foucault’s Nietzschean Genealogy

In Art, Arts & Letters, Historicism, History, Humanities, Literary Theory & Criticism, Philosophy, Politics, Rhetoric, Western Philosophy, Writing on September 17, 2011 at 10:02 am

Allen Mendenhall

“Genealogy […] requires patience and knowledge of details, and it depends on a vast accumulation of source material.  Its ‘cyclopean monuments’ are constructed from ‘discreet and apparently insignificant truths and according to a rigorous method’; they cannot be the product of ‘large and well-meaning errors.’  In short, genealogy demands relentless erudition.  Genealogy does not oppose itself to history as the lofty and profound gaze of the philosopher might compare to the molelike perspective of the scholar; on the contrary, it rejects the metahistorical deployment of ideal significations and indefinite teleologies.  It opposes itself to the search for ‘origins.’”

                                      —Michel Foucault, from “Nietzsche, Genealogy, History”

This brief passage by Foucault has three references to Nietzsche.  The essay from which the passage is drawn demonstrates Foucault’s immense debt to Nietzsche, citing as it does no other thinker but Nietzsche (save for a fleeting reference to Paul Ree, whose term “Ursprung,” or “origin,” Nietzsche adopts).  Of all Nietzsche’s ideas and practices, genealogy is the one that Foucault cultivates most impressively.  Genealogy is a methodology by and with which one documents or tracks the development of ideas and their relation to human organization.  In other words, genealogy traces knowledge to its systemic formations across various networks of discourse.  That is why genealogy “requires patience” and “depends on a vast accumulation of source material.”  It is a process, and processes take time to work out. 

Genealogy does not recover origins because origins are not recoverable.  Origins are fluid, not fixed; they are not, strictly speaking, origins at all—if, that is, “origins” is taken to mean single, absolute causes or definite, immutable sources.  Rather, for Foucault, “origins” is a term of convenience—perhaps strategically essentialized—referring to sets of beliefs and activities that constitute discursive structures mobilized by numerous truth claims.  That is why Foucault can employ the term “origins” in one sentence and then, in a subsequent sentence, seemingly reverse course by calling origins “chimeras.”  The point is not to define or explain origins; the point is to discredit the idea of origins as self-evident and immanently knowable. 

Origins themselves are inaccessible; the emergence and development of structures based on ideas, however, are not only accessible, but also edifying.  Foucault’s genealogy, therefore, seeks to collect data about numerous truth claims and then to explain how these data form and shape culture.  As Foucault says of genealogy, “It opposes itself to the search for ‘origins.’”  Note the quotation marks around “origins.”  Those marks suggest an intent to divest that term of its expressive purchase.  Origins are knowable only as points of loss or complication, only as intricate and multifaceted constructs that, when examined closely, signify multiple and heterogeneous phenomena and that thus enable and sustain further inquiry.     Read the rest of this entry »

Friedrich Nietzsche’s On the Genealogy of Morals: A Critical Précis

In Art, Artist, Arts & Letters, Ethics, Humanities, Law, Philosophy, Rhetoric, Western Civilization, Writing on September 1, 2011 at 11:44 pm

Allen Mendenhall

We remain unknown to ourselves, we seekers after knowledge, even to ourselves: and with good reason.  We have never sought after ourselves—so how should we one day find ourselves?  It has rightly been said that: ‘Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also’; our treasure is to be found in the beehives of knowledge.  As spiritual bees from birth, this is our eternal destination, our hearts are set on one thing only—‘bringing something home.’

                                             —    Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals

Nietzsche employs an aphorism to open the third essay of On the Genealogy of Morals (GM).  That approach seems fitting for this critical précis, the aphoristic epigram to which quotes none other than Nietzsche himself.

The opening declarative here—“We remain unknown to ourselves”—signals the ancient Greek imperative: “Know thyself.”  That Nietzsche converts the imperative to a declarative is suggestive.  The imperative expresses a command: the emphatic utterance of an authoritative demand (“do this”).  The declarative is a descriptive assertion: the positive utterance of fact or opinion.  The imperative, if issued by the right person and not meant as merely advisory, presupposes the power to enforce or induce the substance of the command.  A speaker that commands another to know himself assumes that the other will act, can act, or ought to act in accordance with what he, the speaker, orders.  The speaker of a declarative statement, on the other hand, conveys information; the transmission of data from the speaker to the listener does not necessarily signify a desire that the listener act, or refrain from acting, in accordance with the data or the speaker’s wishes. 

Nietzsche uses the declarative to describe our epistemic state or to posit an idea about our epistemic state.  His articulation necessarily undermines the idea that we already have answered the call to know ourselves.  Either we have ignored the command to know ourselves (“We have never sought after ourselves”), or we have failed to comply with it—or both.  To the extent that Western philosophy could, at Nietzsche’s moment, be reduced to these two words—“know thyself”—Western philosophy had, if we believe Nietzsche’s declaration, failed or decayed.  What Nietzsche seeks to posit, in more assertive or, one might say, more declarative terms, is a radical rewriting and reinterpretation of knowledge itself.  To know ourselves, we must know what we know and how we know it, or know what we think we know and how to overcome it.  We have blurred the distinction between knowledge and morals; we have internalized weak epistemic truth claims across time; a genealogy of morals is necessary to trace and thereby illuminate our understanding of ourselves. Read the rest of this entry »

Power Made Perfect in Weakness

In Art, Arts & Letters, Communication, Creative Writing, Emerson, Essays, Humanities, Law, Literature, Poetry, Shakespeare, Teaching on August 28, 2011 at 1:30 pm

Allen Mendenhall

I wrote the following piece about three weeks ago, while I was vacationing in Destin, Florida, with my family.

If we expect others to rely on our fairness and justice we must show that we rely on their fairness and justice.

Calvin Coolidge

My wife and I are on vacation in Florida.  Yesterday morning, over a cup of coffee and a doughnut, sitting on the balcony and reading the newspaper amid sounds of seagulls and the grating roll of morning waves, I noted that one Michael Stone—a blind man, XTERRA champion, and 10-time Ironman triathlete who recently published a book, Eye Envy—will speak at the University of North Florida on August 13.  I haven’t read Stone’s book, but it’s apparently a resource not only for those suffering from vision-loss any degenerative disease.

Stone began to lose his sight in 2004.  His blindness is a result of a rare disease called cone-rod dystrophy.  Despite his handicap, he has accomplished amazing things, but not without the help of others.  During races, he relies on guides, who shout directions and warnings to him.

I’ll never understand why God makes some people handicapped and others not, why some must rely on others, and some must be relied on.  Someday and for a time, everyone relies on someone or something and is relied on by someone or something.      Read the rest of this entry »

The Anthology of Appalachian Writers, Bobby Ann Mason Volume III

In Art, Arts & Letters, Book Reviews, Creative Writing, Creativity, Fiction, Humanities, News Release, Poetry, Writing on July 12, 2011 at 12:46 pm

Allen Mendenhall

Below is a news release for a volume that features my poem “Conversation on a Rail.”

News Release: The third volume of The Anthology of Appalachian Writers, Bobbie Ann Mason edition, is now for sale at the Shepherd University Book Store (see http://www.shepherdbook.com/).  This newest book in the collection  presents a selection of stories, essays, poetry, and photographic art, which provide readers with an extraordinary look at the language, storytelling, cultural traditions and heritage of Appalachians—Appalachians working and living in the region today and yesterday.         

As with each previous volume, a common center is provided by the literary art and talent of the 2010 Appalachian Heritage Writer-in-Residence at Shepherd University and recipient of the Heritage Writer’s Award—Kentucky writer Bobbie Ann Mason.  Mason’s work brings to literary life the common folk and the everyday working classes—living, learning, and trying to cope and survive in the complex world they find before them.  

The book also contains stories by two winners of the 2010 West Virginia Fiction Competition selected by Mason.  Mason wrote of Natalie Sypolt’s “Save the Lettuce”: “This is a tight, controlled, powerful story.  Nothing is overdone.”  Like Mason’s award-winning novel In Country, Sypolt’s short fiction piece is a powerful story about war without the war.  Read the rest of this entry »

Allen Mendenhall interviews Mary Jennings, Singer-Songwriter

In Art, Artist, Arts & Letters, Creativity, Humanities, Melody, Music, Singer, Singer-Songwriter, Song on June 1, 2011 at 6:52 am

The old adage “big things come in small packages” has perhaps never been more fitting for an artist than in the case of Jennings, the one-name moniker of New York based siren Mary Jennings.

Standing just a shade over five feet tall, Jennings delivers a robust and heartfelt sound that is anything but small-scale.  Her music reflects an enormous strength and drive that is uniquely hers, combining a deep range of rock and pop influences with an unabashed sense of vintage style that few, if any, could ever pull off. 

“I believe that the difference between an artist and the average person is a fearless and relentless willingness to expose their quarks, oddities, secrets, and passions for all of the world to see and hear,” says Mary.

Mary’s surge in musical expression started after the sudden death of her mother in 2001.  “This tragedy rocked me to the core, but there is so much beauty in what it allowed me to do,” she says.  “All of my emotions came pouring out in the form of melody.”

At the time, her father, a former musician himself, gave her the option to go through therapy or record an album.  He knew both would be equally helpful to her, but by recording her music, she would be able to have something to hold on to and share with others for a lifetime.

It was on that first album that Jennings established her creative foundation, crafting music that bonds her to the listener in a genuinely honest and relatable way.  That openness, and the raw emotion that she has shared on subsequent records, has attracted praise from fans and press alike.  “Jennings’ music is sweet, lush, powerful, full of great hooks, intelligent and meaningful to boot! I love it!” said Heather Miller-Rodriguez of 100.1FM KRUU.  Platinum award winning producer John Rowe agrees, calling Jennings’s music “creative and original… A breath of fresh air!”

Recent years have seen Mary’s musical aspirations starting to take shape.   She has worked with Billboard-charting songwriters, toured with national acts and has had a number of her songs placed on popular television shows.  While the professional growth and the accolades are nice, she values most the simple act of connecting with a live audience.  “Live performances give me such a rush,” she says.  “They are one of the best parts about being a musician.  To me, they are what really brings the music to life.  To know that you only have a few moments to capture an audience and keep them engaged long enough to fall in love with you and your music is a difficult task, but one that I wouldn’t trade for any other profession.”

Jennings’s growth continues with the release of her latest album, Collapse Collide.  It’s a project that reflects an artist, and a woman, who has confidently found her voice over the course of a long, and, at times, heart-breaking journey and the beginning of what many have already predicted: a bright and promising future for a truly one-of-a-kind talent.

Read the rest of this entry »

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