Thursday, January 28, 2010

Small Island Republics – Max Apple



Max Apple - October 22, 1941

In a 1979 interview with Patrick D. Hundley he (Apple) said, "I labor very much at having a style that is accessible."

So, from a story that challenged my mind and opened new regions of awareness to a story that was, yes, quite accessible.

Side note follows –

Along with reading short stories, I have fallen into the habit of reading interviews with authors concerning their craft. The Believer published a wonder set of collected interviews, Glimmer Train press published two volumes on writing, and the Paris Review website has allowed me to burn through reams of paper after downloading PDFs of their interviews. Being a fan of JCO, I read plenty of her interviews, and her published Journal is wonderful – unlocking her genius mind. DFW and his passing caused his fans to place everything they have about him online which in turn opens doors to his thoughts and processes. Youtube clips, MP3s of interviews...all illuminate the author and makes what they write even more special to me.

As mentioned before, part of what I do when I read these stories is is a small bit of research into the author – for the above reasons.

Gass was the last author in the BASS that I really flipped over.

Back to Apple. I think what I enjoy about him – at least in this stage of his writing (late 70s-early 80s) is his general honesty to himself and his writing. There isn’t a lot of showmanship.

In a 1981 essay in the New York Times Book Review, Apple wrote, "I was in my late 20's before I got all the sentences right in a single story. I would still prefer to be the ventriloquist -- to let the words come from a smiling dummy -- but I'm not good enough at buttoning my lip. An awkward, hesitant, clumsy sentence emerges.... I write a second sentence, and then I cross that first one out as if it never existed. This infidelity is rhythm, voice, finally style itself. It is a truth more profound to me than meaning, which is always elusive and perhaps belongs more to the reader."

And then:

Apple told the interviewer for the Michigan Quarterly Review, "In the act of writing a novel or story, I'm dreaming. I'm daydreaming."

Calisher identifies Apple as a Satirist, and “one that should be watched”. Satire was defiantly evident in this story but I considered the satire secondary to the message that I preferred to get from it. And once again, that’s what makes these stories so special. The chance for the reader to interpret them the way they wish. Yes, I think the author sets out with a mission and a story to convey, but it is the reader that brings their own experiences and patterns of electrical mental firings into the meaning of the story (This is one of the many reasons why DFW was so great).

I took Small Island Republics as a story of hope and ambition.

To lock into a goal or an idea and make it yours no matter how lofty or silly others may view it.

It’s necessary in life, and for our mental health, as individuals and as a society to engage in this “crazy” behavior sometimes. We can’t lock ourselves into convention...no matter how comfortable it is.

Pushing boundaries – mental and physical – setting the bar high for ourselves and striving to achieve a set goal – silly, stupid, crazy or insane – making a name for ourselves-just for the benefit of our own stability or instability.

And that is how this story brought me around to my father and his socks. Black, blue or white – nope, not for him. He saw the importance of wearing, as he put it, “funky” socks. It was his way of showing the world that he wasn’t just a professor...there was an individual under that title willing to push the boundaries, take risks and wear red socks.

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