Pics from Reading Châteaureynaud

December 3rd, 2013 § 0 comments

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In late September, I read from Georges-Olivier Châteaureynaud’s story “An Occasional Icarus” at The Booksmith in San Francisco. It was part of a promo event for Kate Bernheimer’s recent retold myths anthology, xo Orpheus, and included Karen Tei Yamashita, Zachary Mason, and Anthony Marra. Evan Karp of Litseen covered the merry event, which included yours truly waving around a large head of his author. Here as some pics, courtesy screencaps from Evan’s video and my wife, Nicole M. Taylor.

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I didn’t see anyone working harder than Evan that night. It was my first encounter with Litseen, and I was impressed. In the website’s own words, Litseen is

a resource for anyone interested in Bay Area literature. In addition to the daily calendar of events, which we update weekly using our Hub and daily as events come in, we go to events and film them and sometimes talk about them. We also give awayfree books in exchange for reviews and run a podcast, along with some other occasional features: Punk the Muse and Hello, Typewriter, for instance.

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I’d like to take this chance to thank (extremely belatedly) Sofia Samatar for her shrewd and wonderful review, at Strange Horizons, of Châteaureynaud’s Small Beer collection A Life on Paper—a reminder of why we should read the author:

The weirdness is never left to stand on its own. The tale always takes one more step, yielding powerful imagery or psychological insight… The startling moments and unexpected turns packed into these extremely spare stories, many of which are less than five pages long, make for a reading experience that is disorienting in the most rewarding way, subtly creepy, and often breathtaking…

I’d argue that the significance of Châteaureynaud’s comment lies in the slippery nature of the territory he claims for himself…

[T]here’s no taint here of weirdness for its own sake, of the sterile pursuit of untried ways to put harpies and abominable snowmen together just to make something sort of shiny. Rather, there’s a sense of a long career (the stories in the collection were originally published between 1976 and 2005) during which a writer has been consistently unafraid to use anything, new or old, that would serve his purposes. The results are almost uncategorizable, providing both the pleasure of curling up with a ripping good yarn, and the haunting disequilibrium of the best slipstream…

In every story, wait for the jolt: the moment when the steamboat stops chugging lazily up the river, and takes to the air.

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