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Words and delicious things

11 Oct

Reading is both indulgence and staple. If there were a life diagram akin to the food pyramid that has chocolate and milkshakes teetering on the apex and broccoli and sprout grumbling at the base, then books would be a kind of omni-watermark over it all.
The short of it is, if you don’t read, you’re a horrible person.

The pleasure of discovering new writers is particularly rewarding. It’s as if the universe has been gently listening and with a crinkle of its nose, drops an author in your lap like a warm mug. A reward perhaps, for persevering through all the mangled, cynical prose of social media and fearful rage of opinion columns. Blogs included.

So you nuzzle in to your new author, with their own strangely same but original cadence embracing you and you feel so terribly, awfully clever that the great and wise coil has honoured your commitment to looking at lots of words in order.
Cosmic reciprocity… a particularly masculine trait.

I have discovered four new writers in the last month or so, so you can imagine the glow of my ego. I am virtually a God. No. The God. The counter-punch to these discoveries is that three of these writers have been putting their thoughts into the world since way early in the 20th century. One of them, since late 19th.
Very impressive.

The newest of the writers is Etgar Keret, a short-story writer I found through This American Life, a podcast I can barely restrain myself in recommending. His story of a magical goldfish reminded me of Margo Lanagan’s sad beauty with her masterpiece, Singing my sister down. A wonderful short story is about the best thing in the world.

Two of the other guys I think will do okay for themselves. Anton Chekhov and Kurt Vonnegut. They capture the solitude and confusion of the masculine soul with a lightness that both depresses and thrills me. Depressing because I doubt if I will ever write something so fantastic and constant, and elation at the sheer…chocolatey broccoloiness of it all.

The last is an American essayist John McPhee. He popped out of a collection of essays I bought for six bucks at The Strand bookstore last time I was in New York. If Willy Wonka was a writer, his gold tickets would grant you access to The Strand.  I also got an old edition of Mark Twain short stories which I have little intention of reading cover to cover. It sits on my bookshelf simply because it just looks so pretty.
To McPhee, who has also been around since dot, I’ll rip his writing and let it speak for itself.  This is a passage describing his mother treating him on his twelfth birthday.

“At LaGuardia, she accompanied me to the observation deck and stood there in the icy wind for at least an hour, maybe two, while I, spellbound, watched the DC-3s coming in on final, their wings flapping in the gusts. When we at last left the observation deck, we went downstairs into the terminal, where she brought me what appeared to be a black rubber ball but on closer inspection was a pair of hollow hemispheres hinged on one side and folded together. They contained a silk parachute. Opposite the hinge, each hemisphere had a small nib. A piece of string wrapped round and round the two nibs kept the ball closed. If you threw it high into the air, the string unwound and the parachute blossomed. If you sent it up with a tennis racquet, you could put it into the clouds. Not until the development of the ten megabyte hard disk would the world know such a fabulous toy. Folded just so, the parachute never failed. Always, it floated back to you- silkily, beautifully-to start over and float back again. Even if you abused it, whacked it really hard- gracefully, lightly, it floated back to you.”

The best of a man describing the best of a boy that survives to be the best of the man.

Chocolate and broccoli.


Yes BUT: ouchy ouchy impro

4 Jul

Performing impro(v) can take you to such a level of joy that you literally have no sense of time or place other than the one of the world you are co-creating. It’s a comedic form mostly, but the trance is the juice of why I do it.  Yeah sure, there is ego and vanity and the need for validation in the form of laughter (Even though it’s the sighs we really desire), but lets just accept anyone who gets on stage is socially bulimic and move on shall we.Impro, at its heart, conjures the same absorptive play that children are so adept at. That is the addiction – being taken back to that  elegant, simple place.

Then there are the shows that make you want to put a barrel in your mouth. Where connection is missed, laughs come hard and hollow and you realise how fat and determined the censor you carry is, because suddenly his weight is not absent. And he’s whispering….

Run man! Run! Hide! For your very soul, run and hide!!

It’s a little over two hours from one such show.  People actually left during it. Now I’ve seen some godless improv. Misogynistic, base boom-tish, elbow nudging brick smashing a puppy’s head type stuff. But I ain’t ever left. Well, once in Chicago I discretely leapt out of the Improv Olympic second floor window during their Shakespeare long form, but that’s it. It’s a funny  feeling to know you have been part of the cause of people doing one of those glances before they dash to the exit. To be the cause of the gnashing I usually do when brooding my way home from crap-o-matic theatre.

Often, with impro, such grim retrospect is discouraged. The form is, by its nature, here and gone. Get over it. It’s just for laughs. But I don’t buy it.  As much as self punishment can be destructive to the work,  there is truth in the hurt. It matters. It does.

Cos there ain’t nothing disposable about the high of the joy that is possible. There ain’t nothing feeble about being reminded of simplicity.

What that is, is magical.