Yesterday evening I co-hosted with Jessica Wickens the Small Press Traffic’s Experimental Fiction reading, which meant that yesterday afternoon I was scrambling for online material and dredging my blog to write some lovely introductions for R. Zamora Linmark and Sesshu Foster, both of whom I’ve admired for various reasons and therefore was very happy to be introducing. Of course, months ago, I found Foster’s City Terrace Field Manual quite belatedly, more than a decade after it was first published, and then it subsequently blew my mind (previous blog post is here), as I have been invested in finding API authors (primarily poets or cross-genre authors who do poetry) whose work subverts the expectations for ethnic writers and our handling of artifact, language, and narrative. In case you haven’t noticed, I am writing from a position of fan-girl-ism for a couple of my (Flip/API) literary role models.
That said, Zack Linmark’s work has always been there for me to comb through finely, emulate and build upon. Because I know his work almost really very well, seeing him read/perform in SF again is like seeing an old friend again. So the vocabulary test and book report chapters from Rolling the R’s which he read last night were very lively; he jumped straight into personae, which was the pidgin speaking middle school students. Certainly, part of what’s “entertaining” about his performance is that we find hilarious (or at least humorous) those misuses of proper English, whether they are deliberate or not. I think on the part of his characters, the misuse is deliberate, as they are constantly told by their teachers that pidgin is not allowed; it is not the language of academic work. By extension, what the teachers mean to say is that pidgin is not the language that will enable you to succeed in life, with success being defined by their teachers (not their families and loved ones). This reminds me of a section of Lee A. Tonouchi’s Living Pidgin: a litany of “If you speak pidgin, you no can _____.”
In the meantime, back to Linmark, in his characters’ families, and with their loved ones and social networks, they have fathers beating the shit out of their mothers, they are coming into sexual knowledge and learning about love. Even a middle school girl who’s coming to enjoy intercourse with her boyfriend knows that not even love is forever, which we learn about her through her book report of Judy Blume’s Forever. She’s written this book report in pidgin.
Sesshu Foster’s reading, his work, I am still trying to figure out what to do about it in my head. He briefly discussed how working on different writing projects differs, and regarding his very soon forthcoming World Ball Notebook, he’s gathered fragments, postcards, etc. and I can only imagine he’s crafted them into some kind of overarching narrative involving literal and figurative ball game. Still, with some of his fragments, I’d think I was starting to get the image, then what follows is some non sequitur that maybe isn’t so non sequitur. One of his fragments I keep thinking of: the man on the phone with this woman, who is also in the next room, and the miscommunication here is that it seems neither know they are in adjacent rooms. So as he tells her on the phone to hold on, because he has to respond to the woman next door, she is on the phone, indignant at being put aside by him. The end image: biting into a hotdog, that salt and hot and (maybe) wet. Yo, what did I miss there?
Also very much of note for the evening was Jaime Cortez‘s Neo-Benshi performance with Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, which Cortez has recast with Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama, visiting the White House together.
So I had a blast yesterday evening, for apart from their readings was all of the nice social time, shop talk, and some future event planning (!) Oscar and I got to have with Zack and Sesshu. Lysley Tenorio was also in attendance, so it was nice to catch up with him as well. I’d hoped to see more of the Fil Am’s and API community folks in attendance, but a couple of things: first, Zack had a number of events in the area, including YBCA on 9/27 and SFSU on 9/29, both events I understand were well attended. As well, Stephen Hong Sohn down at Stanford hosted an event for him. And as well, Joël Barraquiel Tan had a performance with Kularts at the Bayanihan Center yesterday evening.
So there goes that. Finally, here’s this lovely fan girl picture with Sesshu Foster (L) and R. Zamora Linmark (R) and their latest books, ATOMIK AZTEX and The Evolution of a Sigh: