Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Peter Cherches’ LIFT YOUR RIGHT ARM, (March, Pelekenesis)

Peter Cherches is a master of the conundrum, a poet of the nuance that makes nonsense of logic and meaning where it wouldn’t be caught dead.  Imagine the love-child of Samuel Beckett and Gertrude Stein, or the uneasy marriage of Archibald MacLeish and Harold Pinter and you may have an idea of the singularity of his style.

Mr. Cherches' new book of minimalist prose, LIFT YOUR RIGHT ARM, is a novel with five movements or five novels--as you find it. Coincidentally, Cherches means to search for in French and his humor is found in unlikely places.

Take the opening section with the adventures of Mr.Deadman. Here's an excerpt:

“Life,” Mr.Deadman says, “is a death-defying stunt.” 

And with some chill and much amusement, you accompany Mr. Deadman to a sushi restaurant, a barbecue, keeping up with the Joneses, and on a holiday.  The punch line is, as always, as you knew it would be, that life's different because he is dead. And, in the process you get a chuckle about the farce of it.

Then there’s the metaphysics of love,  the permeable boundaries of identities between lovers. In "Bagatelles,"  it's the up and down of who's in charge and what do the orders signify? A favorite in this section is:

"You take a lot out of me," she said to me. 
"I know," I told her in her own voice.

There's also Cherches' clowns, One, Two, and Three. Again, hard to describe without showing.

Two: Where do you see yourself in five years?
One:  Here, five years older.
Three: What are your qualifications?
One: Time and immobility
Two & Three:  You're hired!

The last section of LIFT YOUR RIGHT ARM is "A Certain Clarence." I developed an Amelia Bedelia affection for this thinking man's fool.

     "Clarence decided to paint his room. It was a small room, and Clarence reasoned that he could create the illusion of more space if he were to paint his room the colors of outside. So he painted his ceiling blue like the sky, with a couple of white clouds for good measure. He painted his floor in patches of green and brown, like grass and earth. And his walls he painted no color at all."

    There are writers you can call prose poets, but Cherches is something else. He makes deadpan humor out of words you thought you knew. But then the meaning is not in the words but somehow cleverly hidden behind them. The joke is on you. The familiar become strange. This perilous reality is Cherches' territory. 

     An adult may want to read some of these twice but I suspect a teen will repeat for fun. The sensibility of LIFT YOUR RIGHT ARM is akin to the way they puzzle out the world with a well-honed hypocrisy meter. 
You finish wanting more of this conversation, this sense of something profound you feel and almost understand.