Monday, June 4, 2012

Genre or Respectable?

Date: May 31, 2012
Authors: “Laughter in the Dark: The Comedy of Noir” with Brian Evenson, Tim Horvath and Bradford Morrow
Venue: McNally Jackson
Neighborhood: Soho
Free Drinks -- no
Q & A --  yes
Book signed -- yes, albeit a galley
UE Check Number -- benefits long gone, how you supposed to monetize these blog things?

While the extremely gracious Brian Evenson was signing my galley after this reading, I asked him and the other two authors as well because they were in earshot, whether their stuff, this comic noir category, was genre or was it respectable?
"Neither" answered Tim Horvath right away and I was happy to have amused the authors because, in a way, they are a key audience for my going to readings project.
I'll be breaking some new ground in this post because in addition to a review of the reading, I'm going to include a sample of a comic noir story. Hey, maybe I'm a comic noir writer and not as I've come to suspect, an editorial cartoonist who can't draw.
But, first, the trouble with this otherwise excellent reading was that it went on too long.
Evenson started off by reading a snippet from one of his older books and the title story of his new book "Windeye." I'd heard him read this story at KGB the previous Sunday night and it only got better the second time around. Everything in the piece is kind of spare and innocent on the surface with about 15 kinds of dread lurking underneath.
The second reader was Tim Horvath. He read the last half or two-thirds of  a story from his new collection “Understories.” He is an engaging reader, the story was compelling for most of its 20-minute or more length, though I thought it did bog down toward the end, but it lasted too long.
The beginning of the story mentioned riots in three cities, one of them, Hoboken. I seem to have missed that riot during the reading. But to be fair to Horvath, the fun and the limitation of hearing an author read his work is that you're probably going to miss some stuff, so while I think it's OK to review the reading as a reading, any final, critical pronouncement should include access to the text, which Row, Dole doesn't have. I am a big fan of riots in Hoboken.
By the time this comic noir evening's entertainment ended, I was squirming in my chair. And I loved these authors and their presentation and material were really good.
The night's third reader was Bradford Morrow. He read a duet story from his new book "The Uninnocents." Evenson helped out by reading the second voice in the story.
It is an excellent story and Row, Dole is mildly proud to be the only audience member to have sat through the thing twice, having heard Morrow read it a few months ago at 192 Books with novelist Benjamin Hale helping out with the second voice.
During the questions and answers period, Morrow and the other authors took turns saying things about who this second voice is and their comments were really illuminating as, along with those of us in the audience, they tried to describe Morrow's shifting, Trickster-like, second fiddle. 

Not Ready For It

I don’t know what kind of hair will have grown under my doormat until I check every morning. Most often, it is brown hair. That is the way of the world. But I don’t mean to not give brown hair, its due. There are so many different kinds of brown hair that it is almost like brown hair itself, without even getting any help from blonde hair, black hair and red hair, contains the entire, laughably broad spectrum of hair color, though, of course, some mornings these other colors can also be found on the underside of the mat.

I hope it doesn’t sound unenlightened to say that as far as the eyeballs that float to the surface of the pool every morning, swaying like a carpet in the breeze, I prefer those mornings when they are blue. Just as with the hair that grows under the doormat every evening, there can be so many varieties of brown eyeballs bobbing in the pool that if there were only brown eyeballs, I would never get tired of them. But to come upon a pool full of blue eyeballs, I don’t know, blue eyeballs just go better with the chlorine smell. Just as red hair and blonde hair are less common, so, too, is blue the rarest eye color.

If I were a man who preferred blonde hair having grown during the night on the underside of my doormat and who preferred to find only blue eyeballs bobbing in his pool, I might not have a leg to stand on.

But because only one of these things is true you must believe me when I say that my preference for blue eyeballs is only an aesthetic choice.

I have an old-fashioned milk box that sits just to the side of my doormat. I don’t know why there is a kidney in it every morning. The growth of the hair, the floating of the eyeballs, these are normal, organic things compared to the way the kidneys appear.

The hair grows each night. The eyeballs bob to the surface by morning. These are natural processes that I can somewhat understand, not that our science is can explain every part of how they appear.

The kidneys are something else. Someone puts them there. Milk boxes after the demise of milkmen or even when they were around, do not grow a kidney every night by themselves. I don’t know if these are starter kidneys meant to make sure there is a new kidney every morning until the milk box can grow its own. I’ve only lived in this house for four years. Maybe someone had to seed the underlining of the doormat or the bottom of the pool, or wherever the eyeballs germinate from, until the process became self-sustaining.

I hope that is what is going on with the kidneys I find every morning in the purely decorative milk box. I wish I knew where to lodge a request that if and when the kidney appearance program starts to run on its own, it produces kidneys that don’t come with the messy entry points for the renal vein and the renal artery. Even if I could get used to finding a kidney in my milk box every morning, these dripping openings would still gross me out.

The kidneys disturb me. I don’t get the kidneys the way I get the hair and the eyeballs. Maybe it’s a generational thing. The people from the World War II era didn’t like rock and roll. The rock and roll people don’t like hip-hop.

There’s no sense worrying about who will live in this house when I’m gone or what kind of body part they will have to adjust to the appearance of every morning.

Whatever organ or tissue it is, it will probably be difficult for them. To them, it will probably seem silly to be upset by living here in the early days of the kidney seeding project, if that is what it is going on in my milk box.

It does seem like the deeper in the body that the organ comes from, the harder it is to integrate it into my daily routine. Maybe this is wrong thinking on my part, although of a different sort than my preference for hair that isn‘t brown, maybe it is some other prejudice. But, for now, at least, the kidneys come from too far inside. I’m not ready for it.

I’m not ready for hearts and lungs either. But I’ll tell you one thing, I’d like to have some say in what part of the house or grounds they start appearing in if they come. Granted, it will be a difficult transition anyway, but shouldn’t I have some say in where I have to see them every morning? After all, they come from really far inside. I don’t like to even think my body is that thick. I’m not ready for it.