Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Askold Melnyczuk

How crabby have I been recently? So crabby my colleagues heaved sighs of relief when I mentioned I'm leaving town tomorrow morning and will be out of missile (or missive!) range for four full days. I'm sure the MANY offers to help me pack, snare a cab, and water my plants so I could stay a few more days were motivated by nothing other than normal helpfulness (suuuuure!)

In scrambling to get ready, I was clearing up old email and discovered my wonderful client Dan Tomasulo was going to be one of the readers for ParkLit this evening.

ParkLit is a reading series held in various parks around the city. I've known about it for years and never managed to get off my slacker ass to slither on over to one.

But tonight, duty called. Besides, I just love hearing Dan read. I didn't grouch too much and I coerced Godsend Joanna into coming with me (the better to have someone to run for coffee before the reading, naturally!)

And as I sat there in Washington Square Park, under the darkening sky, enjoying a faint breeze that hinted of cooler days ahead, I could feel the crabbiness fading.

The first reader of the evening was ASKOLD MELNYCZUK
From the very first line of his selection I was enchanted.
I knew I was in love forever when he said a woman's house "smelled like she washed her floor with cookie dough."

It made me feel better just to listen to him read. My crabbiness at the mundane and annoying parts of publishing fell away in the wash of his lovely elegant prose.

Of course, I had no idea how to spell his name, and I totally butchered the title when I went over to Shakespeare & Company to buy it. Bless their lovely helpful hearts, they looked it up for me based on "There's 'widows' in the title, it's an unusual name, and it's from Graywolf." I would have bought it if they'd had a copy but I guess other people got there more quickly, dammit.

It's always easy to get really serious and somber about The Importance of Literature, and to pontificate madly about The Importance of Books. Tonight though I really understood viscerally that simply listening to beautiful writing is important. I'm pretty sure The House of Widows will not save the world but tonight it did save me.


Sean Ferrell said...

He was one of my first teachers in grad school. Great writer and teacher.

Steve Stubbs said...

I was going to say, if you wanted a real hoot, listen to a poetry reading by Alan Ginsberg. Then I shambled over to wikipedia and discovered Ginsberg has been dead since 1997, so listening to him might be a bit of a bother. Of course, he was the founder of the School of Disembodied Poetics, so being disembodied might not present a problem for him in the way it would for other poets, or not to the same extent, anyway.

I thought his poetry was marvelous and hilarious (especially his metaphor about hors d'oeuvres that looked like dirty a**holes, but there were plenty of others just like it.) Then I realized I was the only one in the room who was irreverently amused. There were five hundred other people there who did not think there was anything funny about it. I am still trying to figure that one out.

After that I have never been to a reading that was in quite the same class. There were a couple of characters who read silently to themselves while the audience sat stone faced and I wondered what the hell we were all doing there. The last time that happened I thought I must have somehow wandered onto the set of a Woody Allen movie without realizing it. I was grateful when the reader finally closed the book and put it in his lap, allowing me to sneak out while the audience thanked him with thunderous applause. I never went to another reading after that. Thanks for putting us on to someone worth listening to post Ginsberg. I will try to catch his next performance.

k said...

glad I'm not the only one who's been obscenely cranky lately.

John said...

The book sounds excellent; thanks for mentioning it. And doing the legwork of researching the name and title. (Well, okay, YOU didn't do that legwork as such, but you did make it possible for somebody else to do, and then you gave us the info.)

Gotta love those little moments of epiphany when the craziness of the world one works in seems, however briefly, to make sense!

Haste yee back ;-) said...

House of Widows...

Reminds me of a time, several days after my Father died, it was somewhere past midnight and I heard my Mother in bed crying. She couldn't sleep.

I went to comfort her. We held hands as she sobbed. "I know this sounds silly," she said, "but I'd give anything to hear him snore just one more time!"

Then it hit me... He's gone. He's really gone. And try as we might, we won't see him again, ever!

Haste yee back ;-)

House 6 said...

Cranky happens. Feed the slush pile to the snake. Enjoy your trip!

dan said...

there is a book here. can you help me bring it out?

danny bloom
Tufts 1971