McFerron’s Authors of Revolution: Osamu Dazai, No Longer Human

Hello and welcome back, everyone! These past few weeks, since my blog about Milan Kundera, I’ve had difficulty finding the time to sit down and read a full-length novel that I wasn’t already reading for one of my classes. With stressors in mind, I started to scramble through my bookshelf for a lesser-known book that had an impact on my life and the lives of others. While doing so, I came across a book that I had completely disregarded from my mind halfway through my reading of it: No Longer Human by Osamu Dazai. If you’ve read it, you can probably guess why I chose to forget this book, a lot of the themes found in this novel are heavy to accept, and it didn’t help that I was visiting themes of suicide, depression, and alienation after my re-read of A Little Life. So, I put the book down some months ago and tucked it away until just yesterday when I decided to re-read and finish the novel. Luckily, I was able to finish it, but at some cost to my mental well-being. Before I delve into this, I’d like to offer a similar warning I gave with Hanya Yanagihara’s novel. If you aren’t in a good headspace, don’t be afraid to put the book down. Many who suffer have found Dazai’s work to be a comfort to them and even inspirational, but I’d argue it’s easier to read this and be put into a more negative headspace. All that being said, I’d like to introduce you to No Longer Human.

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McFerron’s Authors of Revolution: Milan Kundera

Milan Kundera is both widely praised and somehow overlooked in talks of influential postmodern authors and poets of the 20th and 21st centuries. Kundera was born in 1929 in Brno, Czechoslovakia, and came of age during the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia that started with the Munich agreement. From his early teenage years, Kundera was a devotee of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia. In 1950, he and his close friend Jan Trefulka were blacklisted from the party for “Anti-Communist activities,” since the party’s take-over in 1948. Kundera and Trefulka both criticized the movement’s deviation from Marxist principles and leniency toward totalitarianism. In response to his expulsion, Kundera wrote The Joke, a novel in which he pointed out the hypocrisy of the party, which was banned as soon as it reached bookshelves. This novel was published in 1968 and was Kundera’s foothold for his involvement with the Prague Spring. To understand Kundera, you first have to understand this history. The Prague Spring was a reformist movement led by groups of philosophers, writers, and artists who introduced enlightenment ideals like freedom of speech and religion, as well as a decentralized economy and democracy to what was then Czechoslovakia. You can probably see where this is going if you know your history. The Soviet Union didn’t take kindly to these “Western” ideals being implemented so close to home and used other nations of the Warsaw Pact to invade and take control of the country in a rapid display of violence that lasted only 2 days. Kundera, though certainly on a hit list for his influence in the reformist movement, remained hopeful throughout the occupation, but was eventually pressured to flee from Prague to France in 1975, where he now, at the age of 93, lives a quiet, isolated life.

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McFerron’s Authors of Revolution: Hanya Yanagihara

Welcome back, everyone! I hope you all had a great summer and are enjoying the weather as we transition into autumn. This summer I spent a lot of time, though not as much as I wish I could have, reading and re-reading some of my favorite texts. Some off-the-bat recommendations I have from my new reading list this summer include The Sun Also Rises by Hemmingway, The Stranger by Camus, Immortality by Milan Kundera, and Notes from the Underground by Dostoevsky. Again, I hope you all had a wonderful summer, thank you for joining me again as I delve back into this blog. Without further ado, I’d like to talk about one of the novels I re-read this summer, why I chose to re-read it, and why I think everyone ought to read it. 

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McFerron’s Authors of Revolution: David Foster Wallace’s response to Postmodernism.

David Foster Wallace was an American novelist, short story writer, and essayist. He’s best known for his novel Infinite Jest, which totals at 1,079 pages. He’s widely regarded as one of the best American writers of all time, and Time Magazine awarded Infinite Jest a spot among the top 100 English novels since 1923. Some of his other better-known works include his collection of short stories Brief Interviews With Hideous Men, his essay collections Consider the Lobster and A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, and his final, unfinished novel, The Pale King. His writing is perhaps the closest we’ve gotten to responding to the postmodernists, and I’m sure with time, Wallace will be officially considered to be in a category of his own, but for now, he’s often called a post-postmodernist. 

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McFerron’s Authors of Revolution: Fyodor Dostoevsky

Fyodor Dostoevsky is widely regarded as one of the best novelists to ever write, and the best Russian novelist of all time. All in all, Dostoevsky wrote 15 novels before his death in 1881. His first novel: Poor Folk immediately found critical acclaim in Russia and was deemed Russia’s first “social” novel as well as a major socialist work. Poor Folk was written in an entirely epistolary form, told through the letters of an impoverished clerk who wrote to a woman he was wildly in love with, but knew he could never be with. The story attacked classist systems in Russia and the rest of the world and urgently spurred Russia’s socialist movements which at the time sought the eradication of the feudal system. Unfortunately, Dostoevsky’s later works wouldn’t find critical acclaim for nearly 15 years after the release of his first novel. Finding such striking success pretty much right off the bat and immediately returning to obscurity surely tormented Dostoevsky, but this is only one instance of suffering that made him one of the greatest psychological and philosophical novelists of all time.

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McFerron’s Authors of Revolution: Henry Rollins

Welcome back, everyone. These past few weeks since my last blog, I’ve found myself incapable of focusing on anything other than the history of punk music and culture. For this rendition, I’d like to focus on one of the leading DIY punk bands in America, Black Flag, but more specifically on the life and times of Henry Rollins, their frontman from 1981 through 1986. Black Flag was formed in 1976 during what I would call the punk revival. This revival of punk in America saw multiple other leaders such as The Minutemen, Minor Threat, and Descendants, just to name a few. This era of punk can best be described as a response to leading sellout punk bands who were being warped by industry and ultimately losing the very essence of punk, turning it into more of a fashion than a movement of resistance.

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McFerron’s Authors of Revolution: Kimya Dawson

Kimya Dawson is a folk singer-songwriter best known for being one-half of The Moldy Peaches, a genre-breaking and genre-establishing anti-folk punk band from New York City. She’s often recognized as one of the soundtrack contributors for the 2007 film Juno, starring Eliot Page and Michael Cera, where alongside Adam Green, she performed “Anyone Else But You” and quickly climbed the billboard hot 100 after the film’s release. Some other of her most recognizable songs from Juno are “Tire Swing”, “So Nice So Smart”, and “Tree Hugger”. 

You’ll likely ask, as much of the music scene in NYC did at the time, why songs with titles and sounds like these would be considered punk at all. She was met with heavy criticism from punk scenes at the time (and still today) as Kimya Dawson’s songwriting certainly doesn’t feel “punk” in the way 80’s thrash-core bands like Crass, Black Flag, Discharge, and Wasted Youth did, and this is completely true. You’re unlikely to find mosh pits or have the cops called on you at an anti-folk show. That being said, it’s undeniable that artists like Dawson nearly single-handedly kept driving the founding punk spirit of “do it yourself” attitude and politically charged messages, saving the dying movement.

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McFerron’s Authors of Revolution: Irvine Welsh & Trainspotting

Irvine Welsh is a Scottish novelist, director, and playwright. He is perhaps best known for his novel Trainspotting and the film of the same name that it inspired. Welsh is known as the quintessential voice of The Chemical Generation, the youth of the 1990s coping with the world’s rapid technological advancement in pharmaceuticals and street drugs. Often compared to the Beat Generation, young people at the time were plagued by senses of nihilism and addiction (sound familiar?). In his Trainspotting trilogy, Welsh attempted to put Scotland’s opiate epidemic on the global map through fictitious storytelling blended with hints of autobiography. Welsh’s writing of these novels can best be described as a warning to the rest of the world; If heroin can reach the small country of Scotland, its consequences can be felt anywhere in the world. Furthermore, Welsh tried to reach his peers and the young adults around him and solidified that they weren’t alone in their debauchery or their pain.

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McFerron’s Authors of Revolution: Gil Scott-Heron

Hello everybody, my name is Samuel and as the title suggests I will be writing about authors of poetry, prose, music, essays, and novels who proved crucial to cultural and political revolution. I’m gonna walk a fine line between expressing authors’ viewpoints without affirming them, but rather provide a historical breakdown on their influence on the world around them. Without further ado:

Gil Scott-Heron was perhaps the most influential voice of The Last Poets; a supergroup of Black poets who organized in the late 1960s. Though an honorary member, Scott-Heron blended elements of blues, jazz, and funk in his music and combined melodies with politically charged poems to create the earliest instances of what would come to be known as Hip-Hop. 

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