Sunday, June 15, 2008


Summer reading is always the best, especially when you can tie it in with a visit to the beach. Right now I'm finishing up Steve Katz's Kissssss. Katz writes fiction in jazzstyle. He plays with trickster mana-language as source material to riff on at will. In one section of the new book entitled "Sawttore," Katz squeezes language poetry out of a tube of spam and devotes the riff to the jazz artist Steve Lacy:
sick juice blues   no clean greens   big bomb charm   
crush cups cupboard blow house sleep down dreams
monkey poison person chicken no more scratch
chicken sickens big beef eruption fluck the nurse
be killer mole meat me roll tanks on you
mosquito dreams blow truck nuck
Katz and I saw Lacy together in Denver one night many years ago (I write about it in META/DATA) and in 1997 while touring Sicily I had the pleasure of seeing and breifly meeting Lacy in Taormina as part of the town's awesome film festival. Lacy played live to a silent movie shot in Sicily, walking through the crowd as the movie rolled and talking with the crowd as if deploying sonic metacommentary to what unfurled on the screen, a kind of sax stand up routine to bring even more humor to the Chaplinesque flick we were all watching. When the movie was over and the lights went up, I realized that the person sitting directly in front of me and who had been laughing more heartily than most, was none other than Bernardo Bertolucci. I touch on the Taormina experience here.

Katz's Kissssss is as wry and hip-notic as all of his other books. Sometimes it's good to take your post-pomo fiction medicine in small doses and in this regard Kissssss really has that quick tonic effect. The group hallucination scene that comes as a result not of drugs but of an unusually fantastic evening of mysterious northern lights in Cape Breton, Canada, is classic Katz:
"Do you see them?" Tessa asks. She sees a stage backdrop with a whirl of ballerinas spinning past on point, or leaping into the arms of men with powerful thighs. "See what?" her mother asks. She really doesn't know how to talk about what she is seeing.
But even if you don't know how to talk about what you are seeing, this does not mean that you cannot, as artist-writer, project unconscious thoughts into the realm of the visionary:
Kevin stands up, his jaw slack. What he sees he has trouble believing. What he makes out is horses -- fine Belgians and Percherons, Norics, and Clysedales, each of them pulling a plow across an empyrean, striating the night sky into glowing furrows. "I would do that," says Kevin. "Do what?" Alice rises and sips her vodka and cranberry. She blinks. She can't believe how the sky is unfurling in a broad tartan of light. It stretches as far and as silent as her smile.
Do what? Do the unimaginable, especially when seeing is not believing. Visualizing is another story altogether. I still can't believe I am living in Hawaii. But I keep visualizing its effect every single day.

Reading Katz is ideal summer reading because summer is all about release. It's about liquifying. De-crabbing (and I say this as a Cancer/Moon-baby). It's about play, or unlearning the rote and rerouting the desire to play it as it lays.

Steve Lacy as quoted by Art Lange ...:
"I prefer the word “play”…it’s too long a word, improvisation, and there is no time – it’s gone already. What you do is gone. It goes back to the time you were a child playing with blocks. What we do is play with [musical] elements, given elements, and we play with them the way a child plays with a set of blocks. It’s no different really, except that we sort of know what we’re doing."
Play your Katz and soon you'll be riding a free form writing wave that gets your mind to places its never been and needs to know if you want to blow fiction out as far as it can go.

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