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Literary Event at Athens State: Dr. Randy Cross [Nov. 1]

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  • Amos J Wright
     Fyi.. ajwright@uab.edu   ... From: smedina@ACHE.STATE.AL.US To: NAAL-L@BAMA.UA.EDU Sent: Fri, 7 Oct 2005 09:35:59 -0500 Subject: Literary Events: Friends of
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 10, 2005
       Fyi.. ajwright@...

      -----Original Message-----
      From: smedina@...
      To: NAAL-L@...
      Sent: Fri, 7 Oct 2005 09:35:59 -0500
      Subject: Literary Events: Friends of the Library Present Dr. Randy Cross

      Friends of the Athens State University Library Present:
      Dr. Randy Cross
      Southern Author and Humorist
      Author:   Laughing Stock:  The Autobiography of T.S. Stribling and
      Introductions for three of Stribling's novels, The Forge, The Store, and
      Unfinished Cathedral, all reprinted by the University of Alabama Press.

      Tuesday, November 1, 2005
      12:00 Noon
      Emmanuel Baptist Church
      Christian Life Center
      Hwy. 72 West Athens, Alabama
      Ticket:  $10.00

      You are encouraged to bring a brown bag lunch.  Beverage and dessert
      will be provided.

      For additional information about this event call:
      Office of External Affairs
      Athens State University

      All proceeds from this event will benefit the Athens State University
      Event Chair, Penne J. Laubenthal, Emeritus Professor of English.

      Modus Operandi:  An Interview with Professor Randy Cross
      By Bebe Gish Shaw
      Guest Writer

      Bebe Gish Shaw, Ph.D., is an Assistant Prof essor of English at Athens
      State University

            September 28th was a crisp autumn day, the smell of cotton
      defoliant thick in the air.  Lib Brett, president of Friends of Athens
      State University Library, was to introduce me to Calhoun English
      professor Randy Cross, whom I'd never met, even though he has been
      sending English students to me at Athens State University for 10 years.
       His reputation preceded him, and, quite frankly, I was excited.  The
      purpose of this meeting was so that I could interview Dr. Cross, who is
      to be the guest speaker at the library's fundraising luncheon on
      November 1st.
           Cross began, "Over the past 2 or 3 or 4 years, I've been doing a
      good bit of speaking, but not to scholarly groups, just to groups, and
      my goal is to make them laugh.  I'm not a storyteller in the traditional
      sense.  I don't d! o that.  But what I envision is laughter.  
           "So I tell funny stories.  I talk about my travels.  I tell a lot
      of stories about my mother.  And I just sort of do observations because
      I have a happy spirit, and isn't the world a funny place if you just
      look around and observe?
           "And in these little talks that I've been doing lately, a lot of
      the material I get at Lucky Supermarket there in Decatur, my favorite
      place to shop.  It is rather my continuing education.
           "And I was telling a group of northerners about going into Lucky's,
      and that I had my buggy, and they just fell into an uproar.  They were
      laughing and laughing.
           "And a woman asked, 'You had a what?'
           "And I said, 'a buggy.'
           "And I asked, 'What do you have?'
           "And she said, 'a cart.'
           "And I explained, 'the problem is?you can look it up?a cart has 2
      wheels.  A buggy has 4 wheels.'
           "They thought that was the funniest thing, but that's cultural.
           "The point is, and I'm trying to give you a sense of it, is I'm
      just going to tell some stories.  I try to make people laugh."
           And so began the interview.    
      Shaw:  Okay, are you ready for this?
      Cross:  Shoot.
      Shaw:  Who is your favorite author and why?  I know it's tough?.
      Cross:  No.  It's easy.  Mark Twain, for all the reasons that all of us
      know, because he was so good at it, and he could always use the right
      word in the right place and say so much in so few words.
      Shaw:  One of my favorite Twain quotes is, "The difference between the
      right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning
      and the lightning bug."
      Cross:   I know that quote, and he went on to say after that, "When
      you're writing, always use the right word."  Nobody could do that better
      than he could.
      Shaw:  What is your favorite novel and why?
      Cross:  The most moving novel I've ever read is How! Green Was My Valley
      by Richard Llewellyn.  I know I'm always supposed to say Huckleberry
      Finn, but today I say How Green Was My Valley.
      Shaw:  Short story?
      Cross:  Truman Capote's "A Christmas Memory."
      Shaw:  Oh, wow, I love that story.
      Cross:  If that story doesn't get to you, you can't get "got."
      Shaw:  What is your favorite poem?
      Cross: "Fern Hill" by Dylan Thomas.  But, you know, all you can do is
      give today's answer.
      Shaw:  Sure.  Now you tell me what my next question will be?.  What is
      your favorite play?
      Cross:  Boy.  Well, it's easy to say what my favorite Shakespeare play
      is:  ! ;Othello.
      And if it is your favorite Shakespeare play, it has to be your favorite
      play because nobody did it better.  But I do love Tennessee Williams.
      Shaw:  Yes.  I adore Streetcar.
      Cross:  I do, too.  But again, I'd have to say Othello because he just
      showed out in that play.  But if I couldn't say that, I would have to
      agree:  A Streetcar Named Desire.  It was just so sad.  There is nothing
      more moving to me, so sad, as Blanche's depending on "the kindness of
      strangers."  And, speaking of which, right after Katrina hit, I sent an
      e-mail to my friend who lives in Gulfport, Mississippi.  Anyway, he
      replied weeks later that he went out to one of the supply ports in
      search of a desperately needed bag of ice.  And there on the truck were
      bags of ice ! sent from Providence, Rhode Island.  That was so moving to
      him. & nbsp;They didn't send money.  They sent the ice!  And I was
      thinking, "Yes, there's 'the kindness of strangers' that touches your
      Shaw:  So what's your favorite genre?
      Cross:  Poetry.
      Shaw:  That surprises me.  I like fiction.  I enjoy reading novels, but
      I prefer teaching short stories.
      Cross:  Me too.
      Shaw:  They're so encapsulated.
      Cross:  I had a professor when I was an undergraduate, and he was
      talking about the short story:  "A short story is like a mother cat
      moving the kittens from one nest to the other."  It is so immediate.
       The action is right there.  But the best part of any short story always
      comes after the ! end.  Even with "A Christmas Memory," remember the
      beautiful line at the end about "a lost pair of kites hurrying toward
      heaven?"  And your heart breaks for that boy.  What is he going to do
      without her?
      Shaw:  Well, you know, an interviewer once said to Eudora Welty, "I
      worried so much about Phoenix Jackson in 'A Worn Path.'"  And Welty
      replied, "I still do."
      Cross:  I love that.  I'll use that.
      Shaw:  Okay.  This is a fun one.  If you could have a dinner party and
      invite any living author, whom would you invite?
      Cross:  Oh, that's a good question.  You know, the name that won't quit
      coming is Rick Bragg.  I think he writes such wonderful sentences.  I
      know he didn't have much training.  Nor did Mark Twain, William!
      Faulkner.  But Rick Bragg, you know, was supposed to go to work down at
      the sawmill.  Think about it.  I also think he's really funny.  I'd
      really like to be around him.
      Shaw:  You know he's teaching a course at Tuscaloosa this semester.  But
      back to part two of that question:  if you could have a dinner party and
      invite any dead authors?and of course I don't mean zombies?who would
      they be?
      Cross:  T.S. Stribling, Mark Twain, Richard Llewellyn, William Faulkner.

      Shaw:  Aren't you going to invite any women to this party?
      Cross:  Oh, yes, Emily Dickinson.
      Shaw:  If you could get her out of the house!  Anyway, if you could be
      any author, who would you be?
      Cross:  I don't know if I'd want the lives of any ! of those people.
       They pay so dearly, you know.
      Shaw:  How they do.
      Cross:  I guess if I could have the life, Mark Twain because he was so
      brilliant, and he got to talk.  He also got to lecture and travel and
      curse and smoke and drink and tell funny stories.  You know, these are
      really hard questions, Bebe.
      Shaw:  Well, as with James Joyce, this is not THE Portrait of the Artist
      as a Young Man.  This is A portrait.  Okay, next question.  You know how
      Nathaniel Hawthorne liked to write standing.  And Charlotte Bronte liked
      to write with her eyes closed.  And Ernest Hemingway said that he always
      wrote better when he was in love.
      Cross:  Twain liked to write in bed, as you know.
      S! haw:  So what is your modus operandi, pun intended?
      Cross:  I like to be in bed when I write and when I'm in love.
      Shaw:  But seriously, what is your mode of operation?
      Cross:  What little I write, I write in long hand with a pencil.  I like
      to hear the sound of the lead on the paper.  I do like that sound.
       Nothing can replicate it.
      Shaw:  So who is your favorite character in literature?
      Cross:  Huckleberry Finn.
      Shaw:  Because he does the right thing?
      Cross:  Because he is unwashed and unfettered and unlettered, not
      required to go to school or to church, and he is the envy of every boy
      in town.  He does the right thing.  He does more than the right! thing.
      Shaw:  He bucks conventional morality, and that takes courage.
      Cross:  When Huck says, "I'll go to hell anyway" for refusing to turn in
      escaped slave Jim, he doesn't mean a metaphorical hell.  He means a fire
      and brimstone hell.  And the Bible says, "Greater love hath no man than
      this, that a man may lay down his life for his friends."  Well, Twain
      takes that and kicks it up a notch and has that boy lay down his SOUL.
      Shaw:  And your favorite line in literature?
      Cross:  The last line of How Green Was My Valley:  "How green was my
      Valley, then, and the Valley of them that have gone."  [At this point
      Cross's eyes had begun to fill with tears.]  I don't know why I'm so
      emotional.  It just kills me.  Did you hear A P! rairie Home Companion
      on NPR last week?  Garrison Keil lor did this wonderful skit about a
      professional organization of English majors, and someone asked, "What do
      English majors do?"  And Keillor said, "We just walk around waiting for
      something beautiful to move us."
      Shaw:  That's good.
      Cross:  Like the piece I did for public radio, "Looking for Richard
      Llewellyn," after his death.  My wife and I went to Wales, rented a car,
      got the flowers, had the book on the back seat, and drove on every
      little sheep trail for five days, but no one knew where his grave was,
      not even the academics.  And I said, "Professor, you come to America and
      we'll take you to William Faulkner's grave or Mark Twain's grave or
      Emily Dickinson's grave.  We keep up with our dead writers."  And the
      next day she said, "Professor Cross, after we spoke, I found out that,
      yes, indeed Richard Llewellyn died in New York, and his body was !
      brought here, and he was cremated, and his ashes were strewn throughout
      the mining district of Wales.  You've driven through him several times."
       That's what she said!  So we went to an old mine and pulled over on the
      side of the road, took those wilted flowers out of the back seat, lay
      them on the side of the road, and read that last line.  And we said,
      "God bless you Richard Llewellyn."
      Shaw:  Would you care to try to articulate why it is that you teach?
      Cross:  Because I hate a job.  I've had jobs in the past.  I've driven a
      truck, been in the army, worked in a mobile home plant.  Teaching allows
      me to be on stage every day.  When I am up there, and I have the people
      out there, I just love that.  And I say to my students, "Choose a job
      that you love."  
      Shaw:  Obviousl! y, you have.
      Here is his Dr. Cross' biography:

      Dr. Randy Cross holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of
      Mississippi.  He is the co-editor of Laughing Stock:  The Autobiography
      of T.S. Stribling and the author of Introductions for three of
      Stribling's novels, The Forge, The Store, and Unfinished Cathedral, all
      reprinted by the University of Alabama Press.  In addition, he has
      published scholarly articles and reviews in professional journals
      including American Literature, The South Atlantic Review, Resources for
      American Literary Biography, and The Mark Twain Journal.  He has served
      as a scholar for the Alabama Shakespeare Festival and delivered over 200
      programs on Southern literature and history for Auburn University's Arts
      and Humanities Center.  In 1986 he was named a Fulbright Scholar and
      taught American literature at ! the University of Rio de Janeiro,
      Brazil.  In 1990-91, he taught American literature as a Senior Fulbright
      Scholar at the University of Lisbon, Portugal.  A retired lieutenant
      colonel from the Tennessee Army National Guard, Dr. Cross currently
      teaches English at Calhoun community College in Decatur.
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