Instant Enlightenment at Unnameable Books
If you enjoy reading Electric Literature, join our mailing list! We’ll send you the best of EL each week, and you’ll be the first to know about upcoming submissions periods and virtual events.
Lit event junkie and want to get involved? The Dish is looking for people to cover events for our blog. Send a brief bio and writing sample to email@example.com.
1. Hand-rendered flyer for the reading — when placed in my scanner, it made the top hinge burst off. No joke.
I’ll take any excuse to drool over the stacks at Unnameable Books, in fabled Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. Thursday night’s reading, featuring Monica Youn, Brian Dewan, Stacey Levine and organized by Benjamin Bush, required no excuses, however.
BOOKS ON THE UNNAMEABLE SHELF I BOUGHT:
Saw by Steve Katz: With section titles like “A Fly in the Leroy!” and “A Home-Cooked Meal For an Astronaut,” who wouldn’t?
BOOKS ON THE UNNAMEABLE SHELF I WISH I HAD BOUGHT:
Through The Valley of The Nest of Spiders by Samuel Delaney.
Fathomsuns and Benighted by Paul Celan.
In The Sky Over Nagasaki: An A-Bomb Reader For Children: Published 1984 by The Nagasaki Prefecture Hibakusha Teacher’s Association, complete with black and white photographs of ground zero, an indispensible pedagogical gem, no doubt.
After I set it down, this activist dude turned to me and said, “If you’re not taking that, I will. My wife is a huge anti-nuclear activist.” So I succumbed to his wife’s will. Activist dude won.
1. Monica Youn, author and lawyer. 2. Brian Dewan, writer and Dewanatron inventor, explaining the logistics behind mounting a public teddy bear in the town square. 3. The store named after the essential Samuel Beckett novel.
The first reader was Monica Youn, author of Ignatz and Barter and a voting rights lawyer at the Brennan Center For Justice. She graced us with prompts from her work framed around the “cat loves mouse, mouse hits cat with brick, cat falls in love” relationship of those quirky old Krazy Kat comic strips, and spoke with steady eye contact to the attentive audience.
Next, Brian Dewan, one of two brothers who invented the Swarmatron, a synthesizer of eight oscillators which produces different colors of the same tone, providing a swarm of insects effect, brought his accordion and lullabyed us with erudite, whimsically nostalgic pre-War esque songs that hearkened back to days of radio, Babe Ruth, and of course, prosthetic arms. Dewan sang gaily of The Boston Arm like an acid-sugar-coated Kurt Weill (in classic I-IV-V structure): “For it can grasp and swat and point and gesture / conduct and wave and lift things on demand / it can drum its fingers on a desk / or shake your hand / or shake your hand.”
Stacey Levine could (and probably) has set fire to many a writer’s lust for the distinct, unforgiving slapstick of her savory, honed laconicism. Last night, she induced many a smirk with remixes of children’s books, the first of which featured a philosophical rabbit who claims all the religious figures in history contain the syllable “ah.” Ghandi. Buddha. Ganesh. Avalokiteshvera, etc. The narrator quips back.
— Bunny, I just don’t agree, I said.
— There is no room for small argument, he said. Forget your thoughts, forget your mind and body.
— Shut up, bunny. You eat your own poop, I said. All bunnies do. Why do you do that? Stop that practice. Eat leaves, eat grass.
He turned his head silently.
After the reading, Stacey told me that the rabbit’s dialogue was lifted from “real” life experiences with a yoga teacher. I’d like to think she was telling the truth, but I’d rather forget my mind.
— David Moscovich writes flash fiction and performs his texts both live and on the radio, fragmenting, ricocheting, and refurnishing language until it meets its own devolution. He lives in New York City. Find him here and here.