The Fleming Foundation Cultural Commentary

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Born Out of Due Time, Chapter Seventeen

“Believe me, for some of these people—and I don’t think I have to spell it out—the two words “government contract” make the sound of a ringing cash register.  That’s why there is more concrete poured per capita in Sicily than anywhere in the world.  At this point, they don’t know how they’ll do it, but they do know they will.”

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Born Out of Due Time, Chapter 16 Expanded, Revised, Cut

This chapter has been cut in two and considerably expanded, filling in crucial details of Smith’s visit to the Icehole     The beauty of a flock of white doves is better enhanced by a black crow than by a pure white swan.    Boccaccio As Anterus Smith slowly made his way to the surface, he wondered how much of the Sleepdown dream was recovered memory and how much was an implant concocted for the sole purpose of leading  him astray.  The invented story the doctor had told him about Jane rang a bell, and so did his plan to...

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The Other Handel by David Wihowski, Part One 

George Frideric Handel; say the name and Messiah immediately comes to mind–it is as if Messiah were synonymous with its composer; and there is hardly a city large enough to have a community chorus that does not perform Messiah in some shape or form annually during the Christmas “season.”  But Handel was approximately as prolific in total output as his contemporary JS Bach. Messiah is perhaps Handel’s single greatest composition, but he wrote many other fine, worthy works.

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Interview With Anthony V. Bukoski, Part One

TJF: You are a fictional chronicler of the Polish-American experience, but you have chosen to localize your stories, most of which either take place in Superior, Wisconsin, or have a character from Superior’s East End. Tell me a little about the Superior you grew up in. AVB: I was born in a port city at the western terminus of the Great Lakes. When I was in grade school and high school in the 1950’s and early ’60s, Superior had the world’s largest ore docks, huge grain terminals, shipyards, mills, railroad yards, and a stinking oil refinery, still the only one...

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Is the Pope Catholic?

Once upon a time, the Yankees “always” won the American League pennant.  Halfway through the season, if someone foolishly asked if the Yankees were going to do it again, some wise guy would answer the foolish question by asking another, “Is the Pope Italian?”  In later years, during the unending pontificate of John Paul II, the Yankees were no longer dominating the American League, and, if anyone asked some foolish question such as, “You think Sammy Sosa is taking steroids?,”  the responding question was, “Is the Pope Catholic?”  Today, I wonder how the wise guy would respond to a question...

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Wednesday’s Child: The Truman Show of Mtsensk

Some fields of cultural endeavor are divided between two gurus, who spring to mind together like Abbott and Costello.  Freud and Jung are a classic example, and when the charlatan who is taking a friend’s money isn’t a Freudian, then in all likelihood he’s a Jungian. Another such pair are the Russian directors Stanislavsky and Meyerhold, who divided twentieth-century theater between them as if it were an inherited set of silver spoons. Stanislavsky worked by induction, holding that if a certain reality is in the actor’s brain, then it will duly materialize on stage.  Meyerhold held an opposite, deductive view,...

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An Interview with Anthony Bukoski, Introduction

Anthony Bukoski is one of the finest living fiction writers in America.  Born and reared in Superior (Wisconsin)—a town often considered the cultural nadir of the Upper Midwest—he is the opposite of the mouse, which in the Latin tale emerged from a mountain:  He is the lion that came out of the molehill of rusting grain elevators and abandoned trainyards, the city with the greatest number of bars per capita probably in the world and a house of ill fame known across the world. He attended Superior State University (which is what everyone called it before they started putting on...

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Jerry Brown’s Eve of Destruction

Don’t you understand, what I’m trying to say? And can’t you feel the fears I’m feeling today? If the button is pushed, there’s no running away, There’ll be no one to save with the world in a grave, Take a look around you, boy, it’s bound to scare you, boy, And you tell me over and over and over again my friend, Ah, you don’t believe we’re on the eve of destruction.  – Barry McGuire, Eve of Destruction It’s too bad Jerry Brown didn’t come out with a guitar and belt out that old anti-war protest song from 1965. After...

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The Life of an Autodidact, Conclusion

Every significant literary or intellectual movement is really a little community of friends, who encourage each others’ talents and correct each others’ faults until they are thinking thoughts and writing poems they might otherwise never have attempted.  I think of the influence of Belloc on Chesterton or, better still, of the Fugitive poets whose most creative period were their years at Vanderbilt and in the few following years before the group was shattered by ambition, mistrust, and the influence of more important friends out in the Great World. The absence of such a community of colleagues and disciples is the...