Jealousy is a two-sided coin. The light side gleams with a shining muse, the face of godly jealousy that seeks only the best for the object of love. The dark side glowers with the tail of the rival, that one who would diminish, discredit or destroy the maker or object of desire. Predating the most ancient of myths, the coin of jealously is yet in motion today. This week in #litchat we’ll discuss jealousy and its appearance in literature through the years.
On Friday, February 18, Wesley Stace joins #litchat as guest host. Stace is author of three novels, Misfortune (2004), By George (2007), and his latest, Charles Jessold, Considered As A Murderer.
Getting past the rather klunky title of the latter, which reveals itself once the backstory unfolds, the novel sings with everything that is both beautiful in literature and dark in human nature. In the voice of a stuffy-but-lovable, post-Victorian-era music critic, we’re introduced to an orchestra of characters who play their parts in harmony and discord, revealing the public story surrounding the death of composer Charles Jessold, his wife and her supposed lover. After the curtain closes on Jessold’s life, the critic’s life takes a resounding twist, leading to the second act wherein we go behind the curtain and see what the public only imagines. Background harmonies of plot and character play beneath the surface, while Stace conducts sessions of musical rapture and teases with clever plays on words and phrases.
Wesley Stace is no stranger to music. Under the name John Wesley Harding, he has released 15 albums, ranging from traditional folk to full-on pop music. His most recent pop release, Who Was Changed And Who Was Dead (2009), recorded with the Minus Five, was a critical smash. John Wesley Harding has been joined onstage by Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, John Prine, Bruce Springsteen (with whom he recorded a duet on his album Awake), Joan Baez, Peter Buck, Evan Dando, David Baddiel, Rick Moody, Tanya Donelly, Josh Ritter, Rosanne Cash, Colin Meloy, Scott MacCaughey and Robyn Hitchcock. His series of “Cabinet of Wonders” variety shows was inaugurated in spring 2009 and can be seen at City Winery in Manhattan.
Stace/Harding is currently artist-in-residence at Fairleigh Dickinson University, NJ, where he curates the Words & Music Festival. On May 6, 2010, the second Festival ended with “Jersey Rain: Robert Pinsky and Bruce Springsteen in conversation with John Wesley Harding” at which the two NJ writers talked about their work. JWH and Springsteen performed a duet of “Wreck on the Highway.” The series also included a presentation by Harding and Paul Muldoon on their collaboration.
Stace reviews for the Times Literary Supplement and the New York Times. He has lived in America since 1991, and resides in Philadelphia with his wife Abbey, daughter Tilda, and son Wyn.
Follow Wesley Stace on Twitter at @WesleyStace.