The Freedom to Offend

The Freedom to Offend

“Censorship is to art as lynching is to justice.” ― Henry Louis Gates Jr.

“[. . .] and above it the mouthing of orators,
the arse-belching of preachers.” – Ezra Pound, “Canto XIV”

Okay, so we don’t want to ban AK-47s because that would be unbarring the door of tyranny. On the other hand, we don’t want our precious, delicate children exposed to depressing historical events like the Native American genocide, slavery, the Holocaust – perhaps even Sandy Hook – because the truth might make them feel uncomfortable.

I’ll tell you what made me feel uncomfortable when I was teaching: crouching under a Harkness table stifling a fart with my AP Lit students during a live shooter drill.

And, O, my Brothers and Sisters, we read many a bannable book in those AP classes.

Oedipus Rex – parricide, incest, sacrilege

The Canterbury Tales – vulgarity, profanity, nudity, plagues

Hamlet – fratricide, adultery, vulgarity, a corpse-strewn stage

Crime and Punishment – murder, prostitution, crushing poverty, alcoholism

Madame Bovary – serial adultery, suicide, insanity

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man – atheism, masturbation, prostitution, adolescent rebellion

The Sound and the Fury – promiscuity, suicide, racial epithets, abject cruelty

The Song of Solomon – premarital sex, vulgar language, murder

The Hand Maid’s Tale – dystopia, sexism, theocratic cruelty

And that’s not even considering the poetry we read.

Crazy Jane Talks to the Bishop

I met the Bishop on the road
And much said he and I.
`Those breasts are flat and fallen now
Those veins must soon be dry;
Live in a heavenly mansion,
Not in some foul sty.’

`Fair and foul are near of kin,
And fair needs foul,’ I cried.
‘My friends are gone, but that’s a truth
Nor grave nor bed denied,
Learned in bodily lowliness
And in the heart’s pride.

`A woman can be proud and stiff
When on love intent;
But Love has pitched his mansion in
The place of excrement;
For nothing can be sole or whole
That has not been rent.’

~WB Yeats

That’s it.

Thanks for listening to my Ted Rant.

“The Best Bad Dylan I Ever Saw”

In a not so shocking development, Bob Dylan’s coming to Charleston, South Carolina, in his Never Ending Tour.[1]

The cat’s indefatigable: March 16, Austin, March 18 Shreveport, March 19 New Orleans, March 21 Montgomery, March 23 Nashville, March 24 Atlanta, March 26 Savannah, March 27 Charleston . . . [2]

And the beat goes on, as they say.

I just checked the last set list from December of 2021, and if you’re planning to attend a show, I strongly suggest purchasing the album Rough and Rowdy Ways because a majority of the songs performed (at least in December of 2021) come from the album, his first album of original songs since 2012.

Here’s the first paragraph of Jon Parleles’ review in the Times:

Latter-day Bob Dylan is for die-hards. His voice is tattered and scratchy, not always bothering to trace a melody. His lyrics can be cryptic or throwaway when they’re not downright bleak. His music is adamantly old-fashioned, and he’s not aiming to ingratiate himself with anyone.

And the last:

And in “Black Rider,” a string-band ballad that tiptoes along, pausing each time Dylan takes a breath, he addresses a mysterious figure — Death, perhaps — with alternating sympathy and aggression. “Don’t turn on the charm,” he warns. “I’ll take a sword and hack off your arm.” For all he has seen and sung, on “Rough and Rowdy Ways” Dylan refuses to settle down, or to be anything like an elder statesman. He sees death looming, but he’s still in the fray.

I should add, perhaps, that his shows are for die-hards as well. Sometimes, because he has changed the melodies and his voice is indistinct, you might not recognize a song, even an iconic one like “Blowing in the Wind,” until it’s almost done.

Obviously, I’m one of the die-hards, and I’ve seen some fantastic concerts, one in Columbia, SC, in 1988, one at the North Charleston Coliseum in which he played a killer electric guitar, and my favorite, at the Orange Peel, a bar in Asheville, during the 2004 election campaign.

I’ve also seen some less than stellar shows, the worst outside at the Joe with Willie Nelson as the opening act.

But I’ve never seen one quite as bad as my pal, fellow die-harder, Jeremy Jones described to me last night at Low Life, one of Folly’s coolest spots. Anyway, I’ll let Jeremy tell it.

“The best bad Dylan I ever say was at the Saegner Theater in New Orleans. He was as drunk as a skunk. The band went into the Hendrix version of “All Along the Watch Tower,” and he stumbled to the mike and started singing “Like a Rolling Stone,” and the band was like, what the? I mean it was absolutely fantastic.”

This occurred in the Aughts, so I suspect we’ll not witness something so conjunctificated, but if we do, I’ll be smack dab in the middle of Row A in the orchestra, if Dylan and I are still among the quick, that is.

illegal photo by my son Ned Moore

[1] It began 2 June 1988 and has featured 3,066 shows and counting. Of course, one day it will end, when ol’ Bob succumbs to something or another. Certainly, Keith Richards will be named one of the pallbearers.

[2] No wonder is voice is raspy.

Wintry Mix

I’m not a fan of the wan light of winter, the weakening light of day, the marrow-penetrating wind off the river, the fallen leaves’ decay. 

I’m not a fan of hypocrisy, the politician’s flipflop, the post hoc ergo propter hoc array of fallacious thinking I hear every day.

I’m not a fan of fantasy, ogres, princesses, dragons, flying carpets defying gravity, flagons containing elixirs, mages with conical caps, sages holed up in caves.

I am a fan of poetry, though, even the darkest of wintery verse, Dylan Thomas’s father’s curse, John Keats’s death lament – that shiny black hearse in reverse.

The Gentrification of Folly Beach

In the halcyon days of the early century, when people asked me how long I’d lived on Folly, and I’d reply ten or fifteen – depending on the year –they’d inevitably respond, “Wow, you must have seen lots of changes.”

“Actually, not all that much on the East Side where I live,” I’d say. “There’s no sewage, so you can’t build a beach McMansion on a lot that doesn’t perk, or barely perks.”

Alas, however, that assessment predated the proliferation of Airbnbs that are popping up all over the island like irritating internet ads, infiltrating not only the commercial district but residential neighborhoods as well. The unpaved lane where our home stands, once the site of an idyllic neighborhood of mostly unmarried senior citizens, has been transformed into Little Fort Lauderdale. Houses that were zoned for one or two bedrooms now hold as many as fifteen to twenty defecators straining the unseen septic tanks over which they park their vehicles on lawns of well-tended rye. 

And, when night/ Darkens the streets, then wander forth the sons /Of Belial, flown with insolence and wine.[1]

Why rent your quaint beach cottage to a struggling musician or food and beverage worker when you can make more in three days than you would in a month by renting to bachelor party attendants or untanned wanna-be beachcombers rolling up in their exhaust-spewing Pathfinders?

I walk to the post office every weekday morning, and I’d guess seventy percent of the traffic consists of the white pick-up trucks of subcontractors, the plastic surgeons of construction, engaged in the soul-crushing transformation of gentrification.

However, it’s not really the funky real estate that makes Folly Folly; rather, it’s the long-term renters, the bartenders, cooks, and waitresses, the painters, the musicians, eking out their livings in a soulful setting.

The population of residents of Folly is in decline. Leave it to Springsteen to nail it:

Because there’s just different people coming down here now and they see things in different ways
And soon everything we’ve known will just be swept away.[2]

But look, there’s a conga line of bachelorette party weekenders! Hubbub-hubbub-bubba, swish boom Bah!


art by Wesley Moore III


[1] Paradise Lost, 1.500-3. Perhaps I should have titled this piece “Paradise Lost.”

[2] “Independence Day

Whatchamacallit

. . . either for tragedy, comedy, 
history, pastoral, pastoral-comical, historical-pastoral, 
tragical-historical, tragical-comical-historical-pastoral . . . 

Polonius, Hamlet, 2.2

First, as cliché demands, the good news: my novel Today, Oh Boy has been accepted for publication, which, of course, delights me. Already my mind is running riot with unreasonable aspirations. No, I’m not dreaming of PEN awards or Pulitzers. We’re talking commercial fiction here, a narrative devoid of deeper meanings, a plot concocted to distract, not to enlighten. No, I’m not rehearsing acceptance speeches but wondering who is going to play the protagonist Rusty in the Hula Netflix TNT USA Network Apple TV adaptation. 

You know of any skinny redheaded sixteen-year-old actors with acne?

And now the potentially bad news. The publisher (who shall remain anonymous for now) has classified the novel as Young Adult. Here’s a quote from the acceptance letter:

“The characters fit nicely into their setting, embodying the south of the past and making the story stand out against a typical high school drama. The Board was keen to comment on the dynamic writing style and believes the story has the potential to excel within its genre.”

But the thing is, I wrote Today, Oh Boy for literate adults, not for tweens. Here’s a sentence from the novel describing one of the characters, AJ, who has cut school in the middle of the day and just finished smoking a joint with his dropout friend Will Waring:

“While Will has been daydreaming and tuning out his mother, Weeza has been quizzing AJ about his dismissal from school, essentially perp-walking his thoughts right out of lotus land into the dingy confines of a Raskolnikovian closet.”

Of course, I know whoever the editor might be will definitely ax “Raskolnikovian closet” because no tween or teen (or typical adult for that matter) has read Crime and Punishment and therefore won’t recognize the allusion to its agoraphobic protagonist pent up in his impoverished toilet stall of a rented room.  But, hey, I like the way it sounds.[1]Read it aloud: Rask-KOL-ni-KOV-ian closet.

And to add insult to injury, I don’t dig YA novels, have only read a handful because I taught 7th and 8th grades in my earlier teaching career. Although well-crafted, The House on Mango Street and The Giver aren’t up my alley. I’m not an admirer of To Kill a Mockingbird for that matter.

I’ll admit, though, that Today is difficult to classify. In one sense, it’s historical fiction because it takes place in a real place, Summerville, SC, in the year 1970, which in the Hula Netflix TNT USA Network Apple TV adaptation will require period clothing and vintage automobiles.

In another sense, it’s a souped-up Greek comedy sans chorus: it takes place in one day and essentially in one setting with continuous action.

It’s got a gruesome death, stolen goods, drug use, kung-fu fighting, and a highspeed chase.

So, what are we dealing with here? A historical-romance-Greek Comedy-Mystery-Action Adventure?

If it were up to me, and I was forced to ram into a sub-genre, I’d call it Pulp YA.

If I had self-published, I could have had full autonomy, but now my brainchild is under the authority of others. They say they’ll work with me, but the contract also makes it clear that they have the final say-so. Chances are Today, Oh Boywon’t be sporting the cover below when you buy it from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or better yet, from your local independent bookstore.


[1] I did read the Classic Illustrated version of C&P when I was ten or so and didn’t enjoy it.

The Joys of Sneezing

. . . weeds, in wheels shoot long and lovely and lush 



                      		Hot springs’ vented vapors spew skyward 
                   		in cloudy swirling images to be carved in wood
								chiseled in stone, 
			personified.

                                 		
				First Gaia, 
				then Maia,

Oh God, 
	Zeus is on the loose,
		Isis is in crisis, 
                                						Noah drunk and Jonah swallowed, 								
				Jesus, Vishnu, Jah-Jah 

								
				JAH-CHOO! 

				Gesundheit!