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The literary history of Royal Street in New Orleans begins with the folktales of the flatboatmen, the songs of the enslaved trafficked through the city, and the Afro-Creole poets of the 1840s–1860s. It then continues in the late nineteenth century with major, national voices on the subject of the city (Cable, Hearn, King, Davis), and the arrival of O. Henry at the turn of the century. It then flowered again in the 1920s with the bohemian circle around Sherwood Anderson and William Faulkner, with the emergence of Truman Capote and Tennessee Williams in the 1940s, and then yet again with the various 1960s undergrounds of John Rechy, Robert Stone, The Outsider Magazine, and organized crime figures implicated in the Kennedy assassination. There then followed in the 1970s and 80s a series of important books rooted in a mythological vision of the area by Ishmael Reed, Tom Robbins, Anne Rice, Harry Crews, Dalt Wonk, and Paula Fox. The neighborhood’s most recent literary masterpiece appeared in 2003 in Valerie Martin’s Property. Much of the major writing of this neighborhood shares an interest in masks – identities concealed, divided, fabricated, transformed, or sustained against the odds in both stories and story-telling.
Mailer assumed the role of a sharp literary critic throughout his career. His criticisms ranged from such pieces as 1959’s “Quick Evaluations of the Talent in the Room,” in which he offered brief appraisals of a number of his contemporaries, to his infamous review of Waiting for Godot (which he published without having seen the play), to more extended and thoughtful reviews of works by Bret Easton Ellis, Jonathan Franzen, and others.
From the turn of the twentieth century forward, movie makers, fiction writers, and journalists have increasingly pushed into view bodies mangled by agricultural machinery, workers drowning in silos filled with grain, and lands laden with synthetic toxins. Farms have frequently appeared not only as ideal homesteads near picturesque villages but also as cogs in the brutality of corporate agribusiness, or as isolated and alien outposts struggling for economic survival in depopulated landscapes. The farm has even grown into a privileged setting for stories of supernatural horror bound to the rise of agriculture’s industrialization. Tangled with images of terror and mutilated bodies, Thomas Jefferson’s once idyllic “labor in the earth” now often takes place on a threatening, quasi-industrial, vast and lonely landscape of corn. Texts examined include Frank Norris' The Octopus, H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Picture in the House,” Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood and Stephen King’s “The Children of the Corn.”
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