Earlier tonight we went to hear Eileen Myles do a reading from her recent novel, Inferno. I haven't finished the novel, but read a few chapters and have thoroughly enjoyed it so far. The book itself is beautiful, even as a paperback.
Our house is full of books that I should read, that I want to read, and this one is a new addition which wouldn't have been able to demand my attention normally. Not because I didn't want to read it, but because I didn't really know too much about it and have other things which I've been promising myself i would indulge in first. But the cover was pretty and it had managed to maintain a prominent position on the side-table beside the rocking chair in the reading corner. Taunting me daily and knowing that this reading was coming up, I was finally unable to ignore it the other day when the unseasonably warm weather begged me to sit on the porch and read. A light book with stylized flames on the cover, written by a poet, seemed appropriate. So I sat in the sun on the steps of the porch and dove in.
I zipped through a few short chapters and found myself thoroughly charmed. 'Zipped' might be a bit misleading. I moved quickly through it because I felt pulled along, not because it wasn't substantial. The writing is lovely and also witty, but not in a self-conscious, show-off kind of way. It bounces around and cuts jarringly from one moment to another and from detailed descriptive moments to stream of consciousness inner dialogues, but it is so far exceptionably readable. Oh, that such could be said of all books...
It made me want to write, which I consider high praise for a book. Why was I sitting on the porch reading when I should be writing? Because I was and for no other reason. Actually that isn't true; there were lot's of reasons. Until it is profitable and at a time when I'm not doing anything else which is profitable, writing seems somehow luxurious, a waste of time that could be spent looking for a real job or doing something productive like cleaning the house to reaffirm that I am useful. Sitting in the sunshine, inspired and feeling like I should write more, reading about a narrator whose economic situation has her considering a proposition from another girl to prostitute herself as the second half of a double date with a couple of Italian handbag salesmen, thinking about how direly I need to find work. All in all a fine afternoon.
As we sat down in Athica, I realized I had to pee terribly and that it would be a long time before I possibly could. Before Eileen Myles got up to speak tonight, there were two women who did introductions. They both spoke well and gave nice introductions that went on forever. While they were talking, I had a clear view of Ms. Myles in the front row. I recognized her from a picture on the poster announcing the event, but in that photo she seemed rather gruff and unfriendly. In person she was quite beautiful, in a more handsome than pretty way (kind of like Jaime Lee Curtis, but dressed like Sleater-Kinney). Instead of the stand-offish person I imagined from the photo, she seemed to like being there and open and pleased to connect with the crowd.
Before she began reading, she spoke rather quickly and seemed to jump around trying to decide where to start with her reading. She spoke clearly and without the slightest hint of any accent, but the second she opened her book and started to read... the Boston fell out. The accent became stronger at moments and disappeared at others.
When she read a poem as an encore, the accent again retreated except for occasional flashes where it peeked through.
While reading from the novel, she explained some backstory for a section she was going to read where she had met the female partner (who was an artist) of a very famous male artist and ended up living on their 70-acre farm for a while and writing. We speculated amongst ourselves whether perhaps this could have been Lee Krasner and Jackson Pollock, but wasn't their farm on Long Island? This one was in Pennsylvania.
Afterwards, Ben was getting his copy of Inferno signed and forgot to ask her who this couple was because he accidentally kicked over her water. I had been outside and when I came in and asked him if he got the book signed, he replied, "Yes, she signed one of the poems in the book for me, but I think she hates me." I think he is mistaken. Her open water bottle was sitting on the floor beside a stool; I watched someone else kick it over again and then wipe up water with paper towels.
Now I have to finish the novel. I'll read a chapter a day, on the porch, only on warm, sunny days. I would probably finish it in one night if I read it in bed, but that somehow doesn't appeal to me.