Shooting Angels at the Dusty Owl
It's too bad it was dark, rainy, and miserable outside yesterday - it made for a very quiet Dusty Owl. It was also not our regular night, and I think not enough word had gotten out (partly my fault: it was Thursday before I had time to send out the announcement.) But the reading was warm and fun, and I think the small crowd and grey day made for a more laid-back atmosphere.
Interesting, though, having a large collection of the Sasquatch regulars coming out to the Owl. It's a whole different vibe- you could feel that they were expecting a pre-prepared introduction from Steve, and after the reading Mary Lee asked if there were any questions. (There were; one person asked if she ever had younger people ask about the political events in the book, since they happened ten years ago, and then the second question was from a fifteen-year-old asking about the political events in the book....)
The reading itself was entertaining. Mary Lee Bragg's novel, Shooting Angels
, was published last year, and I've heard sections of it before. Keep meaning to buy it and being broke when she has it for sale. She has a great ear for dialogue, coming out with snappy, funny, true-to-life conversations that sound familiar. (I also particularly admire her ability to deliberately write bad poetry - tougher than it appears.) The incidental descriptions, however, fall a little flat sometimes (I especially found myself caught out by whether a child's lips would "part slightly in a pout" - wouldn't they close
in a pout? It bothered me because it made the phrase sound . . . unconsidered.)
And there was a kind of ... slyness in the way she opened with a reading from her gardening journal - which I'm not really qualified to judge, since I know a lot of people write about gardening, and I really don't get it - long botanical lists of flower names don't really grip me, but as a meditative, localizing device I'm sure it can be effective. It would just have to take a really original tack on the theme to grab me. In this case, the bit where I started really listening was the section describing the provenance of a particular rhubarb plant, which had, by various complicated paths, made its way to Ottawa from Wyoming or somewhere, and involved a really quite dramatic real-life murder story.
But there seemed to be a point to the long descriptions of hostas and violets and snapdragons in this case - she seemed to be lulling us into thinking that she was just reading a puttering-in-the-garden meditation on the seasons, like a lot of others, and then sucker-punched us with the last entry, made on September 11, 2001, where the home-bound, local, complacent journal is suddenly derailed by world events, much like the main character of the novel.
Anyway. She got laughs with the down-to-earth tone of the novel, and its oddly-amused-and-yet-somehow-appalled take on the Language Issue, and the Quebec referendum, in the mid-90's. My favorite part of the whole book, so far, is when the protagonist, newly returned from Bosnia, rounds on his new tenant for saying that the exodus of Anglophones from Montreal is "ethnic cleansing."
The open mike afterwards was short - four readers - but sweet, with a couple of poems by Kevin Matthews, who I am always happy to hear read - I'm not even tired of "The Love Song of Roy G Biv" yet, and that's his most popular poem. Jim Larwill also brought out a couple of sonorous poems. Both of those guys are doing things with sound that I think people should pay attention to. They listen for assonances and internal rhymes, repetitions of sounds, and they both pay attention to the voice, and to the performance. Jim's old guard, Kevin's new guard. I was happy to see them both on the same stage. There was also a reading by Paul Leroux, from an online blog-novel, at http://thehandsIlove/blogspot.com
... I have yet to check that out. I've seen him around though - his T-shirt says "Meet The Author" and his website on it in prominent letters, and he wears it to all kinds of literary events. Which I think is pretty cool.
Yup, that and a magic trick pretty much rounded out the night...
Posted by Kathryn Hunt
at 7:12 PM EST