Sunday, March 14, 2010

The reading so good they canceled it twice

Ryan Martin, before transforming into this horrible tin-foil faced creature

My certainty that my reading with Brian Evenson was really going to happen last night proved rash. For the second time, inclement weather prevented him from flying through the air. I joked with Brian that people here must think I'm just inventing appearances by famous writers to lure them to my readings. (By the way, I hope you'll come out to my reading with Thomas Pynchon next month.)

Brian Evenson wasn't the only person stranded in a distant airport. My friend Maggie Zurawski, the organizer of the Minor American series, was too. By this diabolical turn of fate did I become both entertainment and host for the evening. I get gregarious on red wine, so this was no problem. We'll give the Evenson event one more try at some point, but probably not until the next reading season, which will hopefully be less star-cross'd.

Despite our disappointment, we managed to pull together a really fun event. I got Chris Vitiello to step in for Mr. Evenson at the last minute. He just ran home and pulled some old forgotten manuscript out of a drawer that blew everyone away. I told the audience that it was always a bit humbling to read with Chris. It's like getting up to do a magic show, and then the next guy reveals all your tricks. Chris sees through the devices of language like lace. "No one ever calls sunlight starlight," is the line I keep remembering today.

Tony Tost had prepared an introduction for me, which saved me from the indignity of introducing myself. It was a really amazing and generous introduction. He was amazingly apt in his reading of my new work, which is just beginning to see the light of day, and which is so very different from the F7 stuff I'm "known for." (Scare quotes!) It made me think about how long I've known Tony now, and how insightful and valuable an observer of my writing's evolution he's been.

The new book I've been reading from recently is called Wolf Intervals. A wolf interval is impossible to describe with total accuracy without sounding baffling. But basically, it's a rogue interval in a musical tuning, which does not fit in, and beats or howls out of tune. They exist because a tuning is basically an elaborate series of compromises, where all this messy chaotic stuff gets swept under the rug to create an illusion of order. This is especially true of the tunings most common to Western popular music. And this seems almost ridiculously symbolic of Western life as it was taught to me. There is a lot of dismantling going on in these poems; a lot of two-way excoriation. I don't want to belabor this point, only to mention that the title, while admittedly cool-sounding, is more than cosmetic. I also read, for the first time, from an even newer book called It's Been This Way For So Long, which I began as soon as I finished Wolf Intervals.

We closed out the night with a powerful set by Ryan Martin, a.k.a. Secret Boyfriend. As I said last night, Ryan is someone who I like personally, and whom I appreciate for the energy he puts into this area. He was a founder of Nightlight, an indispensable out-music friendly club; he runs the Hot Releases record label; and is just generally a tireless creator and advocate in noise music, locally and beyond.

His set started off deceptively gentle-- new wave synth and indie guitar jams, swathed in friendly interference. But it finished with a punitive harsh noise workout, with a contact-miked tin foil mask that turned Ryan's shrieks into a symphony of distortion. Watching the transformation from sweetness to horror that guides Ryan's performances is riveting. You really get a sense of something coming unleashed, some fundamental heartbreak or vitality, something magnetic that you can't look away from and can barely stand. "You hear scribbles/ in the silence, oblivion/ in noise." I read a poem that said that because I was thinking of Ryan.

The next installment of the Minor American series takes place on Sat. March 20, at 715 Washington in Durham, at 8 p.m., and features Therese Bachand, Magus Magnus, and Joe Ashby Porter

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