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James B(yron) Hall Biography - James B. Hall Comments:

short stories literary poetry

Although the novels are interesting, the central significance of the work resides largely in the short stories; the poetry is various, and by intention ancillary to the prose.

The novels, short stories, and poetry are thematically interrelated. The reccurring motifs are the effects of competition on individuals in a system of modified capitalism such as obtains in the United States. Thus acquisitive, frustrated, evasive protagonists reccur, some of them mad or nearly so. Extreme conduct in a hostile world is not infrequent; the adjustments which protagonists make vary from callous acceptance or the exploitation of others to withdrawal, revenge, and self-destruction. In general, the work shows the difficulty of remaining human in a competitive, non-Darwinian world fashioned in large part by a democratic society. Specifically, Racers to the Sun traces the "rise" and fall of a motorcycle racer who builds his own machine; the hero is injured (used up), and then is dropped by those who exploited his talent for machinery and speed. Likewise, in the typical short stories, "Us He Devours" and "The Claims Artist," the protagonists are in some ways laudable, but in the end are victims of their own and of society's demands. A typical poem, "Pay Day Night," treats the counterproductive nature of experience in another bureaucracy, the Army.

The short stories are experimental, highly compressed, and exploit language poetically for artistic effect. They are condensed statements that very often extend the possibilities of the genre. Many of the stories are anthologized; because they are complex they apparently "teach well" in classrooms.

(1995) Increasingly the short forms of imaginative writing claim most of my attention: the short story, poetry, nonfiction articles. This comes as no surprise for increasingly the literary artist under (finance) capitalism has the obligation to justify corporate investment, and the long forms, such as the novel, presently require greater sponsorship by the publisher and more author-time dedicated to promotion(s) of the work. This drift has evident impact on modernist (and post-modernist) work and is suggested merely as ways the writer's "work place" has changed in the past twenty years. No practicing writer may claim exemption therefrom; nevertheless, work of high literary quality does get written, published, and read. The new writer, I think, faces the greatest challenges for, among other things, the institutions which once offered some order of literary apprenticeship now offer too early specialization from which there seems no rise and no return.

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