Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Bill Luoma

Read My Trip to New York City, because I heard it compared to Tambourine Life by Jordan Davis. Ok is that sycophantic? Well I didn't pay for it. Checked it out. And its pretty amazing. A series of paragraphs that connect but are self-contained by seperate ideas/observations/memories. People from Luoma's life (presumably) are in them: Douglass, Helena, Brian. Also Paul Molitor and Robin Yount. My favorite paragraph:

"There was a perfect cab ride from 13 th street to Brooklyn. It was at a late hour and I can say that the streets were as empty as they were going to get. The cab driver was a rasta, so he already knew the concept. After abouth the fifth time me and Douglass looked at each other every time we made a light. We noted that the speed was 32. The driver sang just my imagination in what was pretty close to a high falsetto. We didn't miss a light."

A brief passage in a much larger text, but so lovely. In prose that's terse enough to avoid becoming tedious, but not too terse to have "pretty close". It's speech but it's spot-on marvelous, all connected by the web that is one's social life and experience. Each sentence has a new detail-- cab ride from 13th to Brooklyn, late hour/streets empty, driver is a rasta, looking at each other, making every light, speed of 32, driver singing, almost a high falsetto voice, making every light. Does one go ahead and say that making every light is a metaphor? Its works more as a journal, evoked with such efficient vocabulary and description. The idea is that vernacular is modulated, sort of, to tell the story in a more streamlined and more vivid way. Its a driving prose. So OK, Kerouac wrote pretty famous driving prose. But the literal action here contains a trek from point A, Manhattan, to point B, Brooklyn. It went smoothly, though one might have said it went smoothly because there wasn't a flat tire or a mugging. This ride went so smoothly, it made the speaker and Douglass look at each other each they made a light. It was a brief spot when one felt like one glided through.

This whole work is pretty great example of what's become sort of a genre, which could be called Social Diary. A notable precursor is Ted Berrigan's letter to Ron Padgett from the Berkley Poetry Conference. One's documenting specific streets, places, people. The speech resembles them recounting it all to you, maybe over the telephone. A funny quote, the perfect cab ride, a taxi driver with a high falsetto voice.

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