What's All This Then?
What's All This Then?
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A General Theory of Creative Relativity.
Jim's talk at 2008's SXSW.
Field-Tested by Elizabeth Crane
in Belchertown, Massachusetts and Chicago, Illinois
This week I got back from a mini-tour on the East coast, doing four readings in four cities in four days with a writer named Paul Fattaruso. I had never met him before and knew nothing of his work. In Belchertown, Massachusetts, I read all of his most recent, Bicycle. Its a lovely book about bicycles. Four times in Waltham, Massachusetts, on the Lower East Side of New York City, in Brooklyn and Washington, D.C., I heard him read a mini-book from Featherproof called All My Homes, which Im pretty sure I am going to rip off extensively for a future book. Then he gave me a copy of Travel in the Mouth of the Wolf, which I was finally able to crack open on the El ride back from OHare.
Look, Im not going to lie. I havent finished this book yet. Im only up to Chapter 23. And heres why: because what happens when I get a truly great book in my hands, is that I will go through a period afterward where no book seems good enough. I do not enjoy that period, and what I often do to try to stave it off is to read the great book as slowly as possible. (My success rate with this isnt terribly good on a few counts because, if its great, I tend to want to devour it and often do. But if I succeed, sometimes I read so slowly I forget about it, as I did with Nine Stories. I saved the last story for so long, years, actually, that I forgot I hadnt read "Teddy." But the good news was that I hadnt read "Teddy" yet!)
Okay, so, anyway. Fattaruso. Picture me on the Blue Line, alternating between these responses: loud gasps, very loud laughs, and then both even louder, and more than once, Oh my god! These are not responses I typically produce when reading. Not in a good way, anyway.
First of all, there are characters in this book named Iple and Zebedee. So, I dont really know what more you want than that, but if you must have a second, each of the chapters is maybe a page or two long. That is very desirable in a book. You surely have time for that, people who have no time for reading. Also, theres something a little bit Daniil Kharms-ish about the whole thing nothing not to love about that. Plus, its just fun. Third of all, in these short chapters, Iple loses his hearing and moves to Antarctica in the first few pages, and Zebedee, well, it doesnt go very well for him either. Somehow, this is still really funny. But also smart and sad. Also, there are some clouds. Clouds seem to appear regularly in the oeuvre of Paul Fattaruso. These are all things I enjoy very much in a book: funny, smart, sad, and clouds. Sometimes you have to go to separate books to get all these things. Here, you have it all in one.
This being officially on my short list of favorite books, I plan to either finish over the next few weeks, later today, or several years from now.
Elizabeth Crane is the author of three collections of short stories, When the Messenger is Hot, All this Heavenly Glory, and You Must Be This Happy to Enter. Her work has also been featured in many publications, including Nerve, Sycamore Review, Mississippi Review, The Believer, and numerous anthologies. Her stories have also been featured on NPRs “Selected Shorts” and her work has been adapted for the stage by Steppenwolf Theater company and has also been adapted for film. In 2003, she received the Chicago Public Library 21st Century Award. She teaches creative writing at The University of Chicago and The School of the Art Institute.
Read the next Field Test by Jessa Crispin