16 December 2005

Rediscovering an ancient text

I don't think I'd read The Mud Game since maybe 1996. So it was a very strange experience reading this challenging, fragmented, hallucinatory text aloud last in the gallery about This Ain't the Rosedale Library.

It was a small gathering of really interesting people: Dana Samuel, Jacob Wren, Paul Bouissac, Bev Daurio, John Farrah, Camille Martin, and Gregory Betts. Poets, playwrights, actors, publishers, musicians, composers, academics, new media artists. Outside, the snows came down, though not as nastily as predicted. Gary, my co-author in The Mud Game, couldn't make the trip from Hamilton because of road conditions.

It felt very awkward being both the host and the sole reader. I wasn't pleased with the first half of the reading, Chapters One through Ten. I stumbled, I was confused, I was concerned that everyone was bored. I felt bad that they had to listen exclusively to my voice, instead of hearing both me and Gary read the text.

I had thought of the possibility of having everyone read a chapter and "going around the circle," so to speak, but decided I should read the whole damn thing. Maybe that was a mistake.

The second half of the evening, Chapters Eleven through Twenty, went much better. I felt more confident, perhaps because I was kicking off with a chapter I had entirely written. And because the book was coming together, beginning to make more sense within its hallucinatory confines. The repetition and gradual mutation of imagery is just as important as storyline in this novella, and it seems it's not till the second half that things begin to gel at the same time they fragment.

Afterward the reading, we all sat and chatted about surrealism and collaboration for 15 or 20 minutes. Paul talked about Breton, Soupault, and Automatic Writing, and wondered if Gary and I had employed this method for the book's composition. But it wasn't exactly that: though Gary and I were "duelling" as we wrote, and not discussing the book with each other, we wrote slowly, for the most part, and with conscious thought.

Anyway, of the many, many hundreds of readings I've given, this was one of the strangest, at least for me. There's a feeling when you embark on reading on a long poem or short story that you're committed — you can't turn back, so you have to hope it goes over well. You maybe panic a little, internally, as you're reading. But in this case, I was reading about seventy pages, and seventy pages of very weird, dense prose, and there was no turning back.

Somewhere in Hamilton, Barwin was huddled in his home, hoping I'd do us proud.

Over and out.


At December 16, 2005 1:54 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

It was a strange feeling knowing that the Mud Game was unfolding in a city around the lake as the snows came down. It was a phantom reading, like a limb.

I was sitting at home wishing I could have made it to the reading, but the ominous "Police have advised motorists to stay off the roads" persuaded me. Though in the end, I think I could have made it there and back without a problem, though it would have taken hours in the snow.

I reread the book again only very recently. It is strange to read a text that one wrote a long time ago. It's yours but not yours. And compounding this was the fact that Stu & I wrote this thing together, then revised it together. It's also odd not exactly remembering anymore who wrote what. When Stu and I did the bank heist, did I drive the get-away car? did I hold the gun to the telle's head? Did Stu really spend all the money on Mervyn Peake original editions -- or was that me?



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