Read “Expelled” by clicking HERE.
A modernish fairy tale? What is the traditional role of the fairy tale in human life? According to Robert Bly, “The knowledge of how to build a nest in a bare tree, how to fly to the wintering place, how to perform the mating dance–all of this information is stored in the reservoirs of the bird’s instinctual brain. But human beings, sensing how much flexibility they might need in meeting new situations, decided to store this sort of knowledge outside the instinctual system; they stored it in stories. Stories, then–fairy tales, legends, myths, hearth stories–amount to a reservoir where we keep new ways of responding that we can adopt when the conventional and current ways wear out.” Reflecting on the importance, then, of this style of writing, it is hard to condemn Cheever for using it in “Expelled,” especially considering the seriousness of the context within which he deploys it. The only condemnation that could come is when one realizes not that Cheever was wrong, but that his warning failed to change anything.
Unlike stories like “Huck Finn,” “The Jungle,” and “The Yellow Wallpaper,” society seems to have shrugged off young Mr. Cheever’s dire warning bell of a story, and for that, we are all worse off.
0:05 Promo for INFINITE ENDING by Frank Marcopolos
0:40 Intro to the podcast about the publication history of “Expelled” by John Cheever
2:20 Group analysis of “Expelled” by John Cheever, including publishing history, the story as fairy tale or fable in genre, morales, themes, messages, evidence for the fairy tale theory, fairy tale techniques, juxtaposing the natural and the man-made, repitition, context of education, Sacco and Vanzetti, anarchists, Galleani, getting expelled from school, being outside of the system, conforming to the system, being eighteen years old, teaching to the test, the Battle of Hastings, analogies, gravy-colored curtains, plot summary, Round Rock school district football stadiums, Japanese students, James Joyce, different teaching styles, World War Two, World War One, the Depression, the Red Menace, discussion of history, Communism, the story as non-fiction, author observations, ADD, following the sheep, identifying with the story, personal recollections about college, imagery, not being impressed by the story, First Fictions, Raymond Carver, being subtle with metaphor and simile, unopened details, parallels with 1984 by George Orwell, flowery language, minimalism, Hemingway, Kundera, The Unbelievable Lightness of Being, story arc, Tao Lin, Haruki Murakami, hipsters in Williamsburg, fables, finger-wagging, Exeter, Harvard, Vonnegut, sci-fi, fantasy, and the celbration of iconoclasts in society.
43:30 Group analysis of Chapter 1 of the new novel by Frank Marcopolos, including that this is a re-write, loving details, winnowing down of details, leather seats in a diner, plot summary, first-person narrative techniques, team buses with athletes pictures, raindrop symbology, making characters real, knowing girls that are crazy, repetitive langauage throughout, David Foster Wallace, rating Frank’s work against itself, baseball stories, military stories, comparison to other stories and other drafts, narrative flow, throwing a baby out a window, improved details, telling and showing in the same paragraph, pacing, Raymond Carver, revealing dialogue, rounder characters, tricky song titles, Jackson Browne, Paul Simon, narrative flow, and symbolism throughout the story.
1:35:58 Promo for INFINITE ENDING by Frank Marcopolos
1:36:34 End of Podcast
Aaaaaand then there’s this…..