Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Mathias Svalina has a GREAT write-up of the festival here. I'm glad there is beginning to be statements made regarding the import of Stanford's work, and claims staked on it's place in history and within the literary canon. Also, I think it's cute how Svalina is a little torn up over the building wave of Stanford enthusiasts...it reminds me of when your favorite band becomes everybody's favorite band, or perhaps more fitting to the situation, when your parents give birth to more kids after you. Many writers credit Stanford as a major influence, and as more and more people do so, the influence feels less and less extraordinary, and more and more safe, which is the last thing anyone wants to feel about the artists who affect their art.

The one thing I'm most glad about, though, is that Frank Stanford realized the importance of self-created mythology, and that his actual life seems willing to let that mythology dominate what we "know" about him. A few years ago I wrote a paper on bluesman Robert Johnson. The point of which was to emphasize that American mythology isn't set in stone like Greek or Roman mythology, but that it fluctuates: is liquid, but still tangible. American mythology is always open enough in structure to allow, not only the storyteller's place within the text, but also the audiences', thereby, each telling becomes uniquely ours. When I tell somebody the story of Robert Johnson I'm also telling my own story, letting the listener in on the things that are important to me.

I think the same can be said of Frank Stanford...and maybe Mathias Svalina, who is always crafting new mythologies.


Matthew Henriksen said...

Robert Johnson is as apt a comparison as I have heard yet, better than my own (Daniel Johnston).

The good thing about a wave, for the dedicated few, is that eventually it washes over, and we lose the phonies but gain more able members for the crew.

B.J. said...

I almost have to assume a purposefulness to the aptness of that comparison. It seems most likely that Stanford would have known of Johnson (in terms of Stanford's time in the Delta, and the fact that the 60's represented the first wave of RJ renaissance, "King of the Delta Blues Singers" coming out in '61 and vol. 2 in '66). It seems quite likely, then, that Stanford would have been heavily influenced by Johnson, both in myth and in life.