Saturday, November 25, 2017

Five notable forgotten classics worth revisiting

In 2013 Parul Sehgal tagged (for NPR) five forgotten classics worth revisiting, including:
I Await the Devil's Coming by Mary Maclane and Jessa Crispin

In 1902, a moody young woman living in Montana published her diary. It sold 100,000 copies in its first month, and its 19-year-old author, Mary MacLane, become notorious. She left her small town immediately, lived hard, and died young. Her book went out of print shortly after. Recently republished, it's a small masterpiece, full of camp and swagger — aspects her reviewers miss, but her readers never do. Instead of aligning her ecstatic paranoia with Poe and Thomas Bernhard, she's been lumped in with other white women who write a confessional vein, which does her a disservice. MacLane never confesses — not even to her diary. She's prophesying. She can sound like an off-kilter Whitman with odes to her "red blood," her "sound, sensitive liver" that "rests gently with its thin yellow bile in sweet content," the "poetry" of her "fine feminine body."

Isolated by her oddness (so she says) and consigned to life in "a place of sand and barrenness," MacLane seems to have spent most of her time taking long, angry walks, proclaiming her genius, chatting with the devil, and fantasizing about her English teacher whom she calls "the anemone lady." Bored to tears in Butte, Mont., she may have been, but out of a desire to mine her mind and celebrate her body, she produced this sour little torch song — to herself, to fiery ambition, and above all, to her will. "Today I walked far away over the sand in the teeth of a bitter wind. The wind was determined that I should turn and come back, and equally I was determined I would go on. I went on."
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue