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.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007


Doors at 7 PM / Reading at 7:30
Part of Dixon Place's HOT!: The NYC Celebration of Queer Culture
at Dixon Place: 258 Bowery, 2nd Fl, b/w Houston & Prince

Robert Glück is the author of nine books of poetry and fiction, including two novels, Margery Kempe and Jack the Modernist. His new book of stories, Denny Smith, appeared in 2004. Glück was co-director of Small Press Traffic, director of The Poetry Center at San Francisco State, and Associate Editor at Lapis Press. Glück’s poetry and fiction have been published in the New Directions Anthology, City Lights Anthologies, Best New Gay Fiction 1988 and 1996,The Norton Anthology of World Literature, Best American Erotica 1996 and 2005, and The Faber Book of Gay Short Fiction. His critical articles appeared in artforum international, The Review of Contemporary Fiction, and Nest: A Quarterly of Interiors, and he prefaced, Between Life and Death, a book of paintings by Frank Moore.Last year he and Dean Smith completed the film Aliengnosis. In 2005, Coach House Press published Biting The Error: Writers on Narrative, a juicy anthology edited by Glück, Camille Roy, Mary Berger and Gail Scott. Gluck lives high on a hill in San Francisco with Anthony Russell, his opera-singer boyfriend (he's a bass).

"The casual perversity of Robert Glück's Denny Smith stories has something of Genet's seemingly effortless grace about it. Glück makes disgusting things beautiful, or better still, makes them delectable in the same way one would, say, a garden hydrangea."—Gary Indiana, Artforum.

The work of New York writer and performer Laurie Weeks explores a world of girls snared in a matrix of cultural sociopathology and their own self-loathing. Emphasizing imagery and deadpan humor, her stories have a surreal overcast and combine gothic elements with science fiction. She is currently completing a book of short stories, Debbie's Barium Swallow or I Know I Am a Flower, and a novel, Zipper Mouth. A contributor to the screenplay for Boys Don't Cry, Weeks toured the country in 1999 with Sister Spit, a group of punk girl writers. Her fiction and essays have appeared in publications including The Baffler, Index, Nest, Art on Paper, Out, XXX Fruit, The LA Weekly, and Mirage/period[ical]. Her stories have been included in many anthologies, among them The New Fuck You: Adventures in Lesbian Reading and Fetish. Weeks writes regularly about art, including catalogue essays on the work of Nicole Eisenman and the videos of Cecilia Dougherty. She has appeared in many videos, most recently playing the role of Lance Loud in Cecilia Dougherty's feature Gone. Since 1993, Weeks has produced, written, directed, and performed in the collaborative one-act play series Summer of Bad Plays. Her play Young Skulls II, based on the true story of teenage lesbian thrill-killers in Indiana, was produced at the WOW Cafe in NYC and in San Francisco at The Lab. Weeks has taught at The New School, the University of California at San Diego, and Cal Arts in Valencia, CA. She received a New York Foundation for the Arts Fiction Fellowship, as well as a fellowship to the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, MA. She was a panelist and presenter at various conferences on marginalized writing and girl bodies at Columbia, Brown, Brandeis, and Kent State Universities.