Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Peter Cherches' entertaining AUTOBIOGRAPHY WITHOUT WORDS, metaphysical sleight of hand, slapstick and shtick

This "book will consist solely of blank pages in white and black and shades of gray..." begins an untitled page after the table of contents in Peter Cherches' AUTOBIOGRAPHY WITHOUT WORDS. Conceptual put-on or truth about a life? That's the knowing metaphysical sleight of hand of this book, along with slapstick and shtick. It is as though Borges worked with Monsieur Hulot, while smoking George Burns' cigar.

Cherches, called by Publishers Weekly "one of the innovators of the short short story," in just a few lines to a few pages entertains with stories from his life. Here are childhood perceptions, food and smells, as well as adult travels to India and Mars. In Cherches' progressive life, the real and surreal meld together, in a consciousness that sees around corners. There's a thin line between memoir and fiction and this book plays with it.

In Part I, Cherches, the adult, sees a group of kids, who look exactly like his childhood friends, talking of Sandy Koufax. One comes up and says he looks like their friend Peter, "If he was an old bald guy, that is." In another story, Martin Scorsese is making a film about young Peter Cherches and Peter objects to the actor playing his earlier self.  Another story, through the eyes of a two year old self, explains how he knew his father died, when his apartment shrunk. 

Part 2 finds the adult Peter investigating perplexing situations. More often than not these lead to new unanswered questions. There's the Chinese restaurant, which he lost on a trip to the restroom. When he recovers the place, his party of friends are in exactly the same continuum time and space. Cherches' dreams and waking life intersect in a the Mars story, a sly send-up of a classic Twilight Zone episode. They also intersect in one of my favorites:


I canceled my land line about four years ago, but for some reason I never removed my old phone from the jack in the wall. I had completely forgotten about the phone until the other morning, when it rang, How could this be? I wondered. I've canceled my service. I picked up the phone, "Hello?"

No voice on the other end, just silence. "Hello?" I asked again. Still nothing.
I hung up. Must be some crossed line or something, I figured.
I returned to what I was doing when the phone rang again. I picked it up. "Hello?"
Still nothing. "Anybody there?"  I asked. Nothing. I hung up.

It didn't ring again until about two years later. "Hello?"
Nothing. I hung up and unplugged the phone from the wall jack.

Then my cell phone rang. I picked it up.
"Your land line is dead," the voice said. I recognized the voice. It was a friend who had died three years ago in a car crash.

"Jim?" I said.
"Your land line is dead," Jim replied. Then he hung up.

Pelekinesis publishes this singular book in March.

(Borges, Argentinian writer, poet, essayist, known for contributions to philosophy and fantasy. Monsieur Hugo, comedian Jacques Tati's creation of an every man, whose adventures involved clashes w/technology and problems of living in an impersonal world. George Burns, comedian and vaudevillian.)