Saturday, December 17, 2016

Leon Rooke and Tony Calzetta's Fabulous Fictions

“First there was the Word ...” Even if not a Biblicist, most have heard this phrase (from John?). Flattering to literary types, when thought of as a collaboration between, say, poets and creators within a different artistic field, the words usually come first. Schubert composed lieder to Goethe’s poetry, for example. The relation of words to painting, however, has occasioned a reverse sequence. Ashbery, among other poets, often uses a particular painting or drawing as a starting point for excited speculation. That relationship continues with veteran short story maker Leon Rooke and painter Tony Calzetta, in this year’s Fabulous Fictions. The latter provided a set of typically vivid abstract objects floating from or over a simple background of night sky or amoeba-like flourishes which evoke a curious feeling of neutral pulsing with menacing foreboding. It’s a perfect fit for Rooke, whose stories, here and elsewhere, trick us with uproarious dialogue, monologue, and plot (such as it can be in these particular flash fictions), so that the underbelly of human-besotted action creates shock by contrast. “Bank President’s Address To Minions On The Eve Of The Release Of The Annual Financial Report Showing Profits Heretofore Unseen In The World” shows Rooke’s strength to best effect. At first, the story seems like it could travel down the typical path of simple political denunciation, but the president’s speech, without seeming to adjust its register, incorporates personal failure, and the two narratives are interwoven expertly without the speaker’s remorse for either experience. A more immediate justice is served in other stories. “Son Of Scroll”, in what must be less than two hundred words, proceeds by way of amoral (immoral?) interviewer probing the life of another outsider now part of the ‘backwards’ island community. But it’s the interrogator who proves backward during the witty ending (which I won’t spoil). Fabulous Fictions is a delightfully insouciant production from The Porcupine’s Quill.

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