Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Reading Report on Meredith and Peter Quartermain by Henry Gould

Attended Meredith & Peter Quartermain reading on Saturday at Bowery Poetry Club (yes, friends, occasionally I do leave the library. It's about an 8-yr cycle). Glad I went. Well-organized, sparsely attended. Charles Bernstein was there, along with Nada Gordon & Gary Sullivan, the emcees. Some NYU students.

M. Q. read from Vancouver Walking, a book she said was influenced by Pound's Cantos historical grab-bag, which she was reading at the time. Also Charles Olson's passion for local news, & Zukofsky-Niedecker word precision. (She is a very good reader. Every word spoken clearly & distinctly, yet without a lot of mannerism. Perfectly matching her style.) Now I'd like to read this book, though the poems were almost too dry and world-ironic for my taste. A long satire on the subliminal influence of Queen Elizabeth II on Canadian culture - seemed a subject not worth attacking, exactly. But that's just me. Overall it was fascinating to hear someone contemporary carrying on a certain vein of 20th-century poetry in an honest, authentic way. (Plus I was in Vancouver once. Can't think of a better city for walking.)

P.Q. read a chapter from work-in-progress, a memoir. An early passage, relating adventures as the youngest boy (age 7) in parochial British boarding school. Very charming, entertaining. I spoke with him briefly after - asked whether he simply had good recall for those days, or whether it came back to him during the writing. He said the project started when he & a friend decided, as a joke, to write some of each others' autobiography (sounds like a Brit schoolboy thing, to me). Soon after, he was flooded with childhood memories, & started writing it in earnest.

He told me he set some firm rules of style beforehand (in order to avoid memoir-boredom) : ie., no subordinate clauses. I said "the Hemingway approach?" He said he hated Hemingway, but, yes. It worked – became fast-moving, a "page-turner", in his words.


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