David Peak’s Recent Reading at Brown University

Here’s the introduction I delivered before David Peak’s reading at Brown University’s Literary Arts Department’s Demitasse on  April 18, 2013:

The first fiction I read from David Peak’s work was his chapbook Museum of Fucked, the curator-narrator of which has a thing for b-grade horror films, the narrator offering aching portraits of disturbed, hurting, and despairing people living in rundown Chicago neighborhoods, ne’er-do-wells, like crack addicts, homeless people, a blind man begging for change, a landlord who starves cats and dogs for pleasure, a woman with “burned out nostrils” with “rotten” teeth who claims her mother was Marilyn Monroe, and a desperate man swinging a baseball bat holding kids captive. Roaming Chicago’s “gray gentrified industrial neighborhoods,” its “people-packed, colorful shopping districts,” “hip neighborhoods filled with three-flats,” and the “dirty parts…with their broken glass and families,” these grotesques could easily be confused for the zombies of Dawn of the Dead and Night of the Living Dead (titles of two of Museum’s stories). The view of life here is encapsulated in the following lines from this brutal fiction: “God we’re all fucked, he says to someone on the other end of the line.”

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Michael Leong’s Recent Reading at Brown University

Here’s the introduction I delivered before Michael Leong’s reading at Brown University’s Literary Arts Department’s Demitasse on  April 3, 2013:

In e.s.p., Michael Leong drafts a kind of architectonics of the page. By architectonics, I mean devices that reveal an overt consciousness of language’s status as language, words as building blocks, in which their form and shape and how they sit on the page and divide the surface plane are integral to their meaning. Though Leong’s poems often revel in the tactile aspects of words and letters, how sentences can visually suggest various structures, e.s.p. is no cold blueprint. Leong’s angular phrases, spiky forms, and playful compositions cavort within their spaces, prick consciousness as much as jar us from our sluggish thinking, and more importantly, rouse great feeling.

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John Domini’s Recent Reading at Brown University

Here’s the introduction I delivered before John Domini’s reading at Brown University’s Literary Arts Department’s Demitasse on March 21, 2013:

Don DeLillo once characterized his work as a series of reflections about “men in small rooms.” Like those desperate men, vacillating between doubt and action, navigating between the elusive and the allusive, the characters in Domini’s Bedlam also find themselves in these selfsame rooms, like the cold anonymity of motel rooms found in “Over 4000 Square Miles,” a fiction positing representation as transgression, where a battle-fatigued soldier, fueled on cannabis and no small amount of hubris, if not outright fear, visits an in-progress reenactment-for-television of his famed escape from the enemy, and ends up entering the Everglades, intending to wrestle an alligator. There is also the “silent and empty kitchen” of “The Return,” a liminal space, where a recently murdered couple visit a surly former-stockbroker. Yes, the so-called barriers between so-called reality and so-called fantasy in this collection are porous. “Laugh Kookaberry, Laugh Kookaberry,” for instance, features a garrulous demon reflecting on twisted intimacies, and so Bedlam might as well have been called Pandæmonium, referring back to the name of the palace built in the middle of John Milton’s vision of Hell, viz., the “high capital of Satan and all his peers,” in Paradise Lost. “Special Instructions, Special Instructions” finds another man in a small room, this one an office, rejecting the ladder climb. He states: “Why should I weasel around after my own office, and then a larger office, and then another that’s still larger? After a certain point’s reached, they’re only rooms,” believing it more important to “know who you are and exist accordingly.” In “Thirty Spot, Fifteen Back on Either Side,” we find another business man, reflecting on a certain salacious episode in another small room, thinks the following: “he’d wanted to come by means of this experience to a more complete, more substantial idea of himself as an individual. Grissom alone, he’d wanted to see. Grissom as a separately defined person, as an intensely, separately defined person, something as unique and identifiable as a planet in a pale sky.” Domini’s Bedlam, with its ruined men, whether succumbing to PTSD-induced delusions or to their long-arrested imaginations, forced me, after reading it, to temporarily have difficulty distinguishing “suits” from ghosts and other spectralities.

I’m looking forward to reading the rest of Domini’s books, which include the novels Earthquake I.D. and A Tomb on the Periphery, the former of which, in its Italian translation, was runner-up for the Rea prize, the latter of which was cited in 2009 at the London Book Festival as among “the best of international publishing.”