Semiotext(e) at Mountain Bar last night proved both promising and a little flat. Promising in that some adults were in the room, including Bookworm's Michael Silverblatt and the French Consulate's Yann Perreau: flat in that headliner Ariana Reines, even while taking on a twenty- and thirty-something crowd largely hip to anti-Oedipal matters, nonetheless stuck to mommy-daddy-me material that betrayed her as chronically ensnared by the beartraps laid by Freud. (A friend noted to me privately that her disdainful bitchy habit of tossing papers on the floor, some of which were barely used, was certainly not ecological and certainly not Berkeley). Sarah Wang was a little better, but her novel in progress is enormously devoid of narrative agency and even fleshed-out scenes; it is all interior recollection, as though a memoir (nearly all early novels are really memoirs by people not really old enough to write memoirs). The narrative dad, whom she doesn't know, is a dumpster diver and a JPL engineer---I know, you're thinking suburbs and Sandra Tsing-Loh already---but Sarah reads far better than Sandra, the Valley's best publicist. I must say that at a reading or in a fiction workshop either, nobody should read more than about 750 words at a time, but on and on and on she went, covering a full and fully self-indulgent 20 pages.
But when a group of five or six men, one dressed as a sun-god, took the stage to read a trance-inducing litany by Reines, things picked up from bottled anger to honest if stilted expression. A grumbling electronic murmur emitted from the soundboard. (Silverblatt was in this mix and maybe regretted it when handed a twenty-page manuscript, but mercifully it was triple-spaced and he brought his best Foucault-subaltern game to it.) By the time the oratio (inevitably) got around to discussing the narrator's mother's pussy (Freudian beartrap, see?), an enormous squelch emitted by sound system blew the audience out of their catatonic trance and into a State of Hilarious Fear. A Mountain barista rushed down from the gallery and adjusted the noise down to the threshold of pain and the good group with the two Brians resumed their chanting. We were out on Gin Lin Way with cigarettes just after that, but appreciative of this new direction; it reminded me of seeing Ginsberg at Barnard in 1976 when he was plunking weird instruments to underscore the Buddha nature of his poetry from that time.
Still, it was all more interesting than anything at all appearing in local mainstream media. For a clue as to what goes on there---I know it's been months since you last checked---try, just try to read this saccharine fluffy bunny column from February 12 and tell me if you think Mariel Garza could tell a good opinion column if one bit her in the ass. No wonder they think Doug McIntyre is our David Brooks over there.