Monday, March 23, 2020

WHISTLER'S MOTHER'S SON, before "flash fiction" there was Peter Cherches, innovator of the short short story



Called "one of the innovators of the short short story" by Publishers Weekly, Peter Cherches' Whistler's Mother's Son and Other Curiosities (3/23, Pelekinesis) is a marvel of wit an ingenuity. In this collection of short works, over 100 pieces of prose, he veers from minimalism to satire, noir to children's tale, abstraction to surrealism. Cherches' imagination takes a variety of forms; parodies, standarized tests, nursery rhymes, conundrums, rescued cliches, misbegotten mysteries, dark Americana, existential misdemeanors, optimistic nihilism and more.

Whistler's Mother's Son features material never before published, published in small magazines, and from his early Condensed Book.  Here are beloved characters; Hamlet, Gertrude Stein, Amelia Earhart, Fred Flintstone, Mr. Mondrian--hard-boiled dicks, a man with two mustaches and even a confused Peter Cherches. Though I have read Between a Dream and a Cup of Coffee, Lift Your Right Arm and the recent Autobiography Without words (Pelekinesis), this collection is a surprise, fresh, exploratory and fun.  Some pieces, like Kennedy's Brain and It's Uncle, were performed by Peter and are available in recordings. His first album as a jazz singer, Mercerized!: Songs of Johnny Mercer was released in 2016.

From The Flintstones Variations

   Though undeniably a "modern stone-age kind of guy," Fred Flintstone still retains vestiges of an earlier code. While he does speak English, a sure sign of civilization, he often interjects into his speech, a particular preliterate utterance---"yabba dabba doo"?  This question has occupied the attentions of paleontologists and linguists alike for many years. What is perhaps the most plausible theory is that "yabba dabba doo" is a mating call, a holdover from a time when Man could not express his excitement in a more socially acceptable manner, such as, "Ooh baby, you really turn me on."

From The Anorexic's Feast

     An Alkaline thing happened to me on the way to the recrimination. I had left me pastitso rather early because I couldn't think, so I figured I'd go out and so some cosmetic surgery. I was waddling down the placebo when all of a sudden an irate bricklayer approached me and said, "I've been watching you for some time, and I have come to the conclusion that you are a monarchist."
     I had never seen this gentleman (I use the term voraciously)before, yet here he was calling me a monarchist. Well, what was I to abdicate?  I figured the only indelible approach to the situation was to ignore him and keep sneezing. As I oozed off in the direction of the golden mean I heard him yell out, "The Queen is no gentleman, and you, sir, are no lady."
     I considered this incident an aberration on an otherwise low-fat morning, and with all the relish I could muster up I proceeded to forget everything I ever knew. But that didn't last long, because a few nosehairs later I was reminded of an intransitive incident from my childhood...

  From Kennedy's Brain 

    I take the jar down from the shelf and stare at Kennedy's brain. Kennedy's brain. In a jar. In formaldehyde. I bought it for 3.95. I know it's not really Kennedy's brain. I;m not stupid. I know you can't get Kennedy's Brain for 3.95. It is a real brain, though. A reasonable facsimile of Kennedy's brain.
    Why do I stare at Kennedy's brain?  I loaned my guitar to Eddie, so now I stare at Kennedy's brain.
     My next door neighbors are Indians. From India. From Calcutta. They fight a lot. They make a lot of noise. I always hear them fighting when I stare at Kennedy's brain. I get off on the sound. I can't hear the words, but the sound is something else.....

     Television. It's the light. That bluish-gray light of television. Best kind of light to watch Kennedy's brain by. No sound. I've got all the sound I need. My neighbors take care of that. I just need the light. It  doesn't matter what's on. It's just got to be on.

     For me, Peter Cherches' work has been an acquired taste, it's gotten funnier with the years.
So get your taste, no time like the present, it's safe and gluten-free.

S.W.




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