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Literature Guide for After the Fall

Randall Jarrell. “Death of the Ball Turret Gunner.”
This brief, haunting poem is about exactly what its title says. Jarrell’s experiences in the Army Air Corps in World War II are reflected in much of his poetry. Scott reads this one to Logan in Vermont and gets shivers when Logan nods in recognition, indicating his graphic memories of death during that war. Read the poem at http://www.poets.org/poems/poems.cfm?prmID=1088miss a dia humax 5400.

Robert Service. “Song of the Wage Slave.”
Canadian poet Robert Service wrote mostly about rugged men in northern climes. Working hard on the tunnel in Vermont, Scott thinks of a line from “Song of the Wage Slave”: “Resolute, dumb, uncomplaining – a man in a world of men”. Much of this poem (and, in fact, much of Service’s poetry) makes me think of Logan. Another line from this one: “I, with the strength of two men, savage and shy and wild –“ seems very evocative of Logan, or at least my version of him. Service’s poetry is very accessible. Read this one at http://eir.library.utoronto.ca/rpo/display/poem1843.html

Carl Sandburg. “Chicago.”
This is arguably Sandburg’s most famous poem. He describes the city in both brutally accurate and admiring tones, speaking of “the marks of wanton hunger” on the faces of women and children as well as a city “proud to be alive and coarse and strong and cunning.” Logan relates to the poem, saying it is the Chicago he remembers, suggesting that he was there at the time of the poem. It’s available many places, including http://www.cs.rice.edu/~ssiyer/minstrels/poems/5.html.

Oscar Wilde. “The Ballad of Reading Gaol.”
This is the poem that Scott is teaching when he breaks down during his poetry class. The line that causes his collapse is one of the most famous lines in the poem: “Each man kills the thing he loves, but each man does not die.” Scott makes reference in the class to Wilde’s imprisonment, which had prompted this poem. Oscar Wilde was a highly successful writer and popular in English literary/social circles until his trial for sodomy. His two years in Reading Gaol impoverished and embittered him. The Project Gutenberg version of the poem is available at http://www.gutenberg.net/etext95/rgaol10.txt.

William Shakespeare. Sonnet 58.
The Shakespearean sonnets show up a lot in my stories. Sonnet 58, in which Will is trying to come to terms with his lover's infidelity, appears in this series in the first story, when Scott is remembering the period when he was waiting to see whether Jean would leave him for Logan. Scott identifies with Will's feelings about his lover, known to Shakespearean scholars as the Fair Youth, saying that he was waiting, "though waiting so be hell." The poem, an agonizing portrayal of a man trying to force himself to accept something that is causing him great pain, can be read at http://www.shakespeare-online.com/sonnets/58.html.


William Shakespeare. A number of Shakespearean plays are referenced in this series. The plays are widely available but I like www.shakespeare-online.com for its clear layout and interesting commentary.

Scott paraphrases Polonius’s advice to his son (“to thine own self be true”) when he is deciding to try to live more honestly in the future. Perhaps the most famous of Shakespeare’s plays, Hamlet is full of phrases and sayings that are part of our everyday language. Read it at http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/hamletscenes.html.

Henry V.
In the first story in this series, Scott reflects on the likelihood that the current calm won’t last, and that war between mutants and normal humans will begin again, saying that they will need to “stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood” again, as King Henry exhorted the troops. See http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/henryvscenes.html to read the play.

King Lear.
Scott quotes a line from Lear a couple of times: “That way madness lies; let me shun that.” Lear is, in fact, driven mad by his own actions. A beautiful and tragic portrayal of descent into madness and misery, Lear can be found at http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/learscenes.html.

Twelfth Night.
The school play at Xavier’s will be Twelfth Night, one of the most popular of the Shakespearean comedies. It’s a story of gender confusion, cross-dressing and mistaken identity, but all turns out right in the end. The play was supposedly commissioned for the Twelfth Night (January 6 – twelfth night of Christmas) celebrations at Elizabeth’s court in 1601. Read it at http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/twnscenes.html.

Oscar Wilde. The Importance of Being Earnest.
Wilde’s Earnest is pretty much the quintessential drawing room comedy. Scott comments that the kids know the lighthearted Wilde from having seen this play last year, and that now they are seeing his darker side with “The Ballad of Reading Gaol.” A copy of the Project Gutenberg edition of the play is at


Charles Dickens. Tale of Two Cities.
Scott echoes Dickens's famous first line (“It was the best of times; it was the worst of times”) when he says that the post-war period of Xavier is not “the best of times, not by a long shot.” Dickens’s book is a story of the French Revolution and the two cities of the title are Paris and London. Romance, drama, and doppelgangers all infuse the plot. Read the Project Gutenberg edition at http://www.gutenberg.net/etext94/2city12.txt.

Henry James. The Turn of the Screw.
A long short story or novella, James’s nineteenth century ghost story still causes shivers and sleepless nights in its readers, but the students at Xavier’s have particular reason to be disturbed by it, as Scott belatedly realizes. It’s a horror story of two innocent children corrupted by evil spirits. Read a searchable online version of the story at http://www.online-literature.com/henry_james/turn_screw/.



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