Posted by Tobias Carroll
Blake Butler opened the night with two sections of his forthcoming novel There Is No Year. The first of the two, taking one character (“the son”) on a walk through a shifting landscape, at times echoed Butler’s recent piece on Biblical use of language. The other, a moment shared by the parents of the son in question, was in theory a more traditionally domestic scene than anything that appeared in EVER or Scorch Atlas, but was deconstructed in other ways: honing in on specific details, bursts of random speech, unexplainable behavior. I should also mention that the two selections were utterly arresting, Butler reading them forcefully and seemingly without pauses for breath. The word, I think, is “stunning.”
Up next were Jon Cotner and Andy Fitch, reading from their Ten Walks/Two Talks. As they explained it, the book consists of observational poems kept to a rigid structure, and a selection of dialogues. (For the one read tonight, Fitch read Cotner’s parts, and vice versa.) The poems zeroed in on specific details observed on a walk through the city: articles of garbage, the attire of joggers, the interactions between employees glimpsed from the opposite side of a soundproof glass window. Occasionally, Fitch and Cotner would comment on the work as it was read, expanding on details or poking fun at one another for a specific reminiscence.
Timothy Donnelly read next, specifically selections from his collection of poetry titled The Cloud Corporation. Titles evoked childhood reading material and Attila the Hun alike, with several of his works touching an implied violence or tragedy. (Besides the aforementioned Attila, his imagery also included Atlantis and vampires.) And before one poem, he stopped to offer a definition for the word “soporose,” itself critical for the work that was to follow.
Closing out the evening was Rachel B. Glaser, here representing her collection Pee On Water. What began as a selection of surreal encounters, with the concept of childhood present both in the setting and through some of the narrators, evolved into a series of linked pieces, each one revealed as the work of a character in the next. This ultimately led to an absurdist take on Louisa May Alcott, an accidental death by shooting, and a reference to The Great Gatsby. It made for an odd mixture of textual games, surrealism, and irreverence, but it was enough to get me to buy a copy of her book before I left the store.