Dear St. Louis: Anonymous Notes of Encouragement and Love for 2015

Robert Rohe/courtesy Henry Goldkamp
Henry Goldcamp installing one of his typewriters and drop boxes for What the Hell Is St. Louis Thinking?
A few weeks back, poet Henry Goldkamp sent Riverfront Times an SOS of sorts. The publishing deal for his crowdsourced book What the Hell Is St. Louis Thinking? had fallen through. Goldkamp wanted to know, would the RFT be interested in publishing the entire collection (or parts of it) in the newspaper?

More »

Review: Ann Leckie's Ancillary Sword Takes Up Where Her Acclaimed Debut Novel Left Off

For all its corpse-soldiers and intergalactic assassination attempts, Ann Leckie's Hugo/Nebula-winning 2013 novel Ancillary Justice proved most memorable as a love story -- albeit a platonic one, narrated by a spaceship who, like most readers, doesn't even recognize that this a love story until the end. Justice, Leckie's first book, spanned decades and star-systems and consciousnesses: Its chapters alternate between past and present, told by Justice of Toren, a 1,000-year-old troop-carrying vessel of the ever-expanding space empire of the Radch.

Its basics are a mouthful but well worth your time and attention. The ship relates a tale of insurgency and betrayal on one of the systems the Radch have conquered; this material, tense and surprising, feels of our global moment even as it concerns what is, in Ancillary Justice, a tragic past. Meanwhile, in the book's urgent now, a sliver of the hive-mind that once constituted that ship's full A.I. recounts a desperate errand to obtain an alien super-weapon. Leckie excels at page-turning mysteries: what that weapon is, what is to be done with it, and how a stray scrap of ship-intelligence is now independent of its greater host -- and demonstrating what appears to be humanlike willfulness.

More »

Maya Angelou, St. Louis Native and World-Renowned Author, Dies at 86

York College via Flickr
Maya Angelou.
Eighty-six years and one month after she was born in St. Louis, author, poet and overall inspiration Maya Angelou has died.

Angelou recently canceled several public appearances citing health reasons. She announced last week that she could not attend the Major League Baseball Beacon Awards, where she was to be honored with the Beacon of Life award for her lifetime of civil-rights work.

Angelou is best known for her powerful 1969 memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, one of the most widely admired pieces of modern literature. Angelou made literary history when her memoir became the first nonfiction bestseller by an African American woman.

Angelou made history all her life. At the age of fourteen, she became San Francisco's first African American female cable-car conductor, according to CNN.

More »

William S. Burroughs: Cemetery Lays Wreath And Serves Cake For Author's 100th "Birthday"

Danny Wicentowski
Sadly, someone forgot to lace William S. Burroughs' birthday cake with Moroccan heroin.
This week's print edition contains a fantastically illustrated account of the life of St. Louis-author William S. Burroughs. He's the Beat writer, counterculture icon and heroin junkie whose wild life produced some of literature's most transgressive and innovative works, including the novels Naked Lunch and The Soft Machine.

Burroughs died in 1997, and yesterday marked one-hundred years since the writer's birth. So, the Bellefontaine Cemetery arranged a memorial service and reception (with cake) for arguably its most famous resident.

More »

St. Louis Authors Share Their Kinks in Anthology of Local Erotica

show me book.jpg
At $4.99, "Show Me" offers a lot of bangs for the buck.
A live reading of St. Louis erotica started down an appropriately dirty path Friday night when author Jade Melisande took the stage at Shameless Grounds coffee shop to share a story about hiking au naturel at Castlewood Park.

"I leaned over to tie my hiking boots, making sure to bend far enough that my panties-less butt was exposed as he rounded the end of the car and came up behind me," began Melisande. "'Molly,'" he said again, grabbing my skirt and tugging it down over my bare ass. He could be so very tight-laced. But his hand lingered there a moment and I glanced over to see that look that he got when he was thinking about sex."

Melisande's romp in the woods is one of ten stories in the new anthology Show Me that aims to showcase -- and promote -- sex in the Midwest.

More »

Former St. Louisan T.S. Eliot's Non-St. Louisan Wife Dies; Responsible for Existence of Cats

image via
Valerie Eliot and her husband at a theater in Chicago in 1959. She once wrote, "I sat next to TSE, my darling, and that makes any play endurable." Also, is it possible she actually saw St. Louis?
Valerie Fletcher Eliot, who was married to the poet T.S. Eliot, who grew up in St. Louis and then moved permanently to England although he occasionally mustered enough nostalgic feeling to write poems about the Mississippi (which he described as "strong brown god--sullen, untamed and intractable"), died Friday after what her family described as a long illness.

She has been described as the one person capable of making him happy.

More »

Happy Birthday, Charles Dickens, From a City You Hated!

Happy birthday, Chuck, from the rough, intolerably conceited inhabitants of a hot, humid, insalubrious city.
Today's your 200th birthday, and we salute you. It's true you died way back in 1870, so you're probably not aware that we are saluting you. But how amazing is it that people actually remember your birthday -- nay, make a thing of it -- even without friendly reminders from Facebook, because you're not on it?

(We think you would luuuurve Facebook, though. All those interlocking storylines! All that voyeurism!)

We salute you even though you slandered our city and its environs pretty badly in your 1842 book American Notes, which describes your tour of the U.S. earlier that year.

More »

Tennessee Williams' College Buddy Tells All

Ever wonder what it was like to hang out with the young Thomas Lanier Williams before he started calling himself "Tennessee"? (And ever wonder why he started calling himself Tennessee in the first place?) Well, that's where old college buddies come in handy, particularly college buddies like William Jay Smith, who has the advantage of being a good writer (he served a two-year term as the U.S. Poet Laureate) and blessed with a long life (he's currently 93) and a solid memory. It really minimizes the potential for embarrassment.

Smith just released a new memoir, My Friend Tom: The Poet-Playwright Tennessee Williams, that looks back on their student days at Washington University in the 1930s. Williams and Smith bonded early on not only because of their shared ambition to become great writers, but also because of their families' Southern heritage and because of their alcoholic fathers. Smith was a frequent visitor to Williams' house in University City.

More »

"More Clewell Than Anyone Needs in One Place": Poet Laureate Releases New CD

Jennifer Silverberg
Let's just have David Clewell, Webster University professor and Missouri poet laureate, talk about the newest development in his professional life, There's Going to Be Trouble, a CD of him reading some of his poems. His laureate duties had taken him on a tour around the state and he had just returned to his office when he talked to Daily RFT.

"What day is it? What city is it? OK, Wednesday. I'm a day ahead. Yeah, the dean said he was hearing from so many people wishing they could hear me that they decided to do a CD. I think that's way more Clewell than anyone needs in one place. It's two-and-a-half hours. It was fun to do, it wasn't make-work. The sound engineer who did it, Gary Gottlieb, is a good guy. It was a fun couple of days. I think it was in December, yeah, before the new year.

More »

For Sale: Childhood Home of William S. Burroughs

image via
For sale: One fine-looking house with an impeccable literary pedigree.
If you can imagine it, William S. Burroughs was once a child right here in St. Louis. His grandfather, also named William S. Burroughs, founded the Burroughs Adding Machine Company which presumably did pretty well if the Burroughs house at 4664 Pershing Place is any indication. And now it can be yours! (Actually, it's been on the market since November. Daily RFT is not as punctilious about checking Central West End real estate listings as we maybe should be.)

"Oh, my God, it just exudes charm," gushes Vicki Armor, the listing agent. "All the houses in the Central West End have something special. This one has a wood-paneled living room and leaded glass windows, and the backyard has beautiful brick. It's a perfect house for entertaining." In addition, the house has five bedrooms, four bathrooms and three working fireplaces. (And no, Armor doesn't know which bedroom was Burroughs'.)

So what's the problem? Are potential buyers put off by the $587,900 asking price? Or that it's nearly 100 years old? Are they afraid the place is haunted by the spirit of the boy who would grow up to write Junkie and Naked Lunch, become a guiding spirit of the Beat and hippie generations and have all sorts of exotic adventures, including accidentally killing his wife during a drunken game of "William Tell"?

More »