This book contains page after page of sensationally written fluid prose charging the mind through idea after image after idea after...
—Jem Rolls, poet
Jem Rolls has a great line in his bio: "Performance poet. Makes a living
solely by shouting. Sells nothing. No books, CDs, merchandise of any
But he does regularly sell out shows at the Winnipeg
Fringe Festival and he's set up camp this year again at The King's Head
Pub with nightly shows through July 27th.
SCENE got to wondering what a performance poet reads in his spare time. When asked, Rolls recommended You Can't Go Home Again by Thomas Wolfe, and told us a little bit about why:
I never went for Samuel Beckett's idea of "taking everything out". Of
the wallowing negatives of "I'm down in a trench the centuries have
Read: CBC's review of jem rolls ATTACKS THE SILENCE
I much prefer Joyce's of idea of "wanting to put everything in". Of "I'm trying to wake up from the nightmare of history".
Thomas Wolfe isn`t just trying to wake up from the nightmare of
history. He is bursting out of it with a wildly energetic hunger for
life and ideas. With a gallivanting prose motoring for the heart of his
So the book I'm pushing on everyone right now is Thomas Wolfe's You Can't Go Home Again
, which i first read in March on Ai Banda, a remote island in the Banda Sea.
novel was published posthumously after Wolfe died young in 1938, and
he's strangely forgotten for such a fabulous writer. If anyone is
Kerouac's stylistic precursor, or energiser, surely its Wolfe?
reminds me of Salman Rushdie, whereafter you get to know how he works,
you often turn a page and it's as if you're sitting on a toboggan at the
top of a high snowy slope and you are, once again, about to race down
on a lyrical surge of near-feverish linguistic energy.
It's like "Oh no, it's Salman and he's off again". Except it's also, "Hurrah, it's Salman, and he's off again".
everything goes up to 11with Salman. He doesn't know the meaning of
mediocre. Or moderate. Everything is cranked up to the max and you are
already racing away on another long flight of lyrical fancy.
for me, Thomas Wolfe is very like that. Very. Everything is
superlatives and hyperbole: wonderful or terrible: not just dull but
utterly utterly dull. This book contains page after page of
sensationally written fluid prose charging the mind through idea after
image after idea after...
Passage after passage of a dextrous
mind firing on every cylinder. And keen to surf the reader's mind on a
fast current of fired neurons.
And, for an American, Wolfe was
ultra-prescient. In the mid-30s he understands the Germans and sees
their war coming. And it's the best description I ever found of the
vainglorious causes of the Depression.
Its tragic he only wrote
four books. Anyone should count themselves lucky to read one. Life,
culture, art, do not get this good too often.
Jem Rolls performs at Venue 14 as part of the Winnipeg Fringe Festival through July 27.