Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Among the Literati LIII

Saturday night, friend Katie and I grabbed a quick bit at a noodle shop on 28th Street before checking out a Soft Skull Press event at the Bowery Poetry Club to see David Rees and Ben Greenman read. We arrived to learn that David Rees, mastermind behind My New Fighting Technique Is Unstoppable and related projects, would -- in fact -- be singing. And playing the guitar.

While I didn't find his music distasteful, it wasn't really my bag. But I did enjoy one song in particular, a cover of a song taught him by a camp counselor, lo, those many years ago. That counselor had been in a training program for motivational speakers and personal coaches, and the final project was focused on the theme "the giant that I am to become." The resulting song, a cautionary tale about loneliness, isolation, and depression, got him booted from the program. Wonderfully impressive. But otherwise his two sets were basic singer-songwriter plaintiveness. Smart, but not critical.

Ben Greenman, then, read from his new "novel," Superworse, which is a reworking of his previous collection of short stories, Superbad. While I was initially interested in the story behind the book's move to Soft Skull, I'm not so sure it's as big a story as I thought. The editor of the first volume, one Laurence Onge, wasn't happy with the edit he did for McSweeney's, so he did another edit for Soft Skull. They took out some pieces, added some pieces -- most seemingly by Onge -- and took out what might have been one of the more interesting elements of the first edition. Who knows, but I think I might be getting tired of later editions of books having more and less than the first edition. I just want to buy one, kind sirs, not be hoodwinked into thinking I'm getting more... or new. Greenman's reading was relatively decent. He doesn't have the most presence, but he didn't get in the way of the words, and I appreciated most of those.

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