Gloria Frym Illuminates City LIghts Bookstore

CCA MFA Program in Writing and Writing and Literature Program faculty member Gloria Frym recently was invited to read at the historic City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco, a landmark independent bookstore and publisher that specializes in world literature, the arts, and progressive politics.

Frym read from Sadegh Hedayat's The Blind Owl as part of the bookstore's month-long homage to the American Library Association's designated "banned books week", which took place September 30 to October 6.

City Lights Bookstore has always been at the front of anti-censorship issues. The store/publisher was begun by Peter Martin and Lawrence Ferlinghetti to publish Bay Area writers, including Allen Ginsburg’s controversial Howl and Other Poems (1956), which sparked a famous obscenity trial.

About "The Blind Owl"

The Blind Owl (1937) is Hedayat's most enduring work of prose and a major literary work of 20th century Iran. Written in Persian, it tells the story of an unnamed pen case painter, the narrator, who sees in his macabre, feverish nightmares that "the presence of death annihilates all that is imaginary. We are the offspring of death and death delivers us from the tantalizing, fraudulent attractions of life; it is death that beckons us from the depths of life. If at times we come to a halt, we do so to hear the call of death . . . throughout our lives, the finger of death points at us."

The narrator addresses his murderous confessions to the shadow on his wall resembling an owl. His confessions do not follow a linear progression of events and often repeat and layer themselves thematically, thus lending to the open-ended nature of interpretation of the story.

The Blind Owl was written during the oppressive latter years of Reza Shah's rule (1925-41). It was originally published in a limited edition in Bombay, during Hedayat's year-long stay there in 1937, stamped with "Not for sale or publication in Iran." It first appeared in Tehran in 1941 (as a serial in the daily Iran), after Shah's abdication, and had an immediate and forceful effect.

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About Gloria Frym

Gloria Frym is a poet and fiction writer. Her most recent book is Mind Over Matter (BlazeVOX books, 2011) and prior to that she published the chapbook Any Time Soon (Little Red Leaves, 2010). Other works by Frym include The Lost Poems of Sappho (Effing Press, 2007) and Solution Simulacra (United Artists Books, 2006). A previous book of poems, Homeless at Home, won an American Book Award.

She is twice a recipient of The Fund for Poetry Award, the Walter & Elise Haas Creative Work Fund Grant, the San Francisco State University Poetry Center Book Award, and several California Arts Council grants to teach poetry writing to jail inmates.

Read Gloria Frym's faculty bio »

Watch the Video

Watch Gloria Frym's reading at City Lights Bookstore »