QT: Queer Readings at Dixon Place

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

It was a full night.

Report on the Robert Glück/Laurie Weeks reading, July 17, 2007

Dixon Place's cozy living room was stuffed last night; not everyone could sit down, even. Bob Glück read a poem compiled of his misreadings, 50 pages of skinny lines—he held it up and swiveled it, like a preschool teacher with a picture book, so we could all see just how skinny it was—where amid lots of incongruous "sperm"s, the bumps on the road of assembling legible meaning became the road itself, asking us either to attempt to misread them back into their original form (I kept wonder which words look like sperm) or to succumb to the force of the assembled errors and the alternate language they outlined. Then he read a long, knowing excerpt from his novel-in-progress, About Ed, which he sheepishly called his take on the AIDS memoir. “It’s like bringing coals to Newcastle,” he said, but as he read, it quickly became clear that it’s more like bringing an unforeseen alternative energy source there. The excerpt he read, about washing a deceased ex-lover’s body, is simultaneously tender and resisting sentimentality, tainted by neither the maudlin nor the vaudeville, a thoughtful encounter with how death takes its place in life.

Then, after an effusive and social break, there was Laurie Weeks’s set—a wryly hilarious Zipper Mouth excerpt that takes the form of a sullen teen’s letters to Sylvia Plath alternating with wretched, vortex-strewn adolescent poetry ("the
snapping bones of Madness? // Snapping Madness / Of bones? // Madness of snapping / Bones? // This poetry thing is hard!”) I haven’t heard a funnier reading in ages, maybe ever. After another novel excerpt, she treated us to her freshly written catalogue essay on Nicole Eisenman (who had her seat of honor, front and center) in which an ironic fantasy scenario of rare-vintage wines and genteel seaside terrace aperitifs provides the ground for a revolutionary celebration of Eisenman’s work plus all-encompassing critique of late capitalism done up as Socratic dialogue between Laurie Weeks and a helium-voiced—outgrowth?—protruding from her hip. A lovable five-toed pet frog chimes in from time to time. And this only gets you halfway there.

Enough people commented on the introductions that I’ve decided to post them and to continue doing this for future readings. Photos, too, perhaps: any volunteers for the post of official QT photographer? I don’t even have a digital camera. God, I can be so twentieth century sometimes.

Here’s the intro for Laurie Weeks:

People who chew betel leaves talk about the over-the-top salivation, the feeling of spit gushing out of the insides of your cheeks and your tongue’s underbelly, and Weeks’s work—you know, I’m going to say Laurie, maybe she’ll feel less afflicted by this intro that way—Laurie’s work has some of that profligacy about it. Which is not to say it’s untended. Listen to this bit:

Roland said something like, “photography, a new form of hallucination,” and that got me worked up. It wasn’t the meaning or anything—just that certain words were green and lavender beads released from a cold capsule, pinging off my neurons to spark sensation. “Roland Barthes is beautiful,” I thought. “I love this song.”

How viscerally but still economically the mind, perception and alterations of perception, the body and alterations of the body, are thrown into heavy rotation here. There’s a go-for-broke courage in Laurie’s work, in the ways her characters vie with their discipline-resistant appetites and pursue whatever they need, the conversations they have with their drives. These sentences perform the sensation of the blind leap with utter abandon. I feel my brain start to loosen when I read Laurie Weeks, it’s like how other people describe being in bikram yoga classes. The spigots are twisted all the way open, they’re almost falling out of the wall, the impression of freedom is infectious.

And here’s Bob’s:

I want to talk about Bob Glück’s practice of, and his talking about his practice of, seeking to elaborate a nest of fictions, cognizant of theory and of avant garde poetry, explicit and exploratory about politics in narration, the work he’s done to open up arenas for people to live out these considerations—through the journal Narrativity, the fabulous anthology Biting the Error, his work at Small Press Traffic and San Francisco State.

But I also want to talk about his range, his deliciously all-embracing work. The unpolished sexual, the deceptively domestic, the erotics of unlove or half-love, the mindstorms of longing and of distance—these narratives we may have thought we knew get rearranged, slyly flicked, to live acutely, newly, on his pages. And a loving awareness of the apparatus is never far off; he enacts, and comments on the enactments, in consecutive breaths, affably:

Isn’t plotless beauty rankling?
My experience may be allegorical, but of what?

He’s an inveterate communitarian; the sociality of how these concerns and processes live in the world is essential to him, and the way this plays out in his work is affecting and endearing, how he checks in with us like the party host who brings the most fantastic group of people together and then shows up at your elbow every so often wanting to make sure you’re having a good time. And we are.


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