Book!

I’ve just started reading a new book by John Barth called The Last Voyage of Somebody the Sailor.  As the title might employ, it’s a book full of frame stories, ridiculous and unreliable narrators, fantastic events, and clever revalations.  So far, I thouroughly enjoy it, though it’s not a style that’s for everyone.  If you like linear narrative, or realism, beware.  but beyond the merits of the book itself, I felt highly moved to share a selection of the contents of the back cover, entitled “Praise for John Barth”:

“Barth can pick literature apart in a narrative, play with it, and finally make restoration just in time for it to accomplish its ancient purpose of amusement and revalation.”

The New Republic

” There is no one writing today who has the resources of Barth’s imagination or his depth of understanding about the nature of narrative.”

Los Angeles Times Book Review

“Barth’s cunning is to turn daily life into mythology while turning mythology into domestic comedy.”

Time

“There’s every chance in the world that John Barth is a genius.”

Playboy

Where reality meets the worst theater ever.

Ok, maybe not ever. There’s tons of theater I haven’t seen, and I’m not really a critic, so perhaps it’s not within my rights to be completely judgmental.  However, as my work-study job in college was as part of the backstage crew at the Edison theater, I did manage to see a fair number of performances while working.  I also managed to earn meager wages, but that’s really beside the point at the moment.

Now, these performances were widely varied.  We had song, we had dance.  We had children’s shows including some of the most sophisticated puppets I’ve ever seen.  We had performing toy pianists.  We had ballet and a modern hip-hop/breakdance version of Romeo and Juliet.  We had comedy and history, and even a little bit of drama.  We had student shows and professional traveling companies.  But possibly the worst show we ever had (which I can’t recall the name for ) was a series of vignettes played by one or two actors in which voices and music were pre-recorded and then replayed.  I happened to be working the spotlight for this show, and when Fate was kind, fell asleep on a sharp-edged bucket up in the catwalks.

One of the acts which I was required to spotlight, and therefore was awake for through what seemed like endless numbers of shows, illustrated a woman going crazy.  Her recorded voice wandered in topic from her love life, to sex, to her role in life, all illustrated by the actress, silent, up on stage making funny little gestures with her hands.   As she slowly lost it, she seemingly comes back to herself at some moments, saying ‘what am I doing with this chicken’ with increasing alarm.  We never see the chicken – the actress on stage never indicates that she is holding a real or imagined chicken.  We don’t even know if this is a live bird, or a plucked corpse.

While the scenario seems one that has great potential, its effects were less than might be expected.  The lone figure on stage failed to evoke a sense of reality, also failing to garner the audience’s sympathy in the process.  As a result, my fellow employees and I used the line about the chicken to make a mockery of- well, just about anything in our lives.  Social life becoming overbooked?-what am I doing with this chicken.  Professor too demanding?-what am I doing with this chicken.  Administration making stupid decisions or not paying you enough?-what am I doing with this chicken.  Too many term papers due at once?  Headless chicken.

I was completely surprised to learn what I considered an inside joke was not so ‘inside’ after all.  Mike sent me the link for a Panasonic camcorder he was possibly interested in (he later discovered some not-so-positive reviews, and canned the idea).  I was stunned to find the description referred to MY CHICKEN JOKE:  “Whether you’re monkeying around on the rock gardens or recording a performance art piece (what are they doing with that chicken?), this 0.40 lb. SD Palmcorder® camcorder makes a perfect companion for pretty much any occasion.”  Ok, so the show I worked oh-so-long ago was a traveling show, and it might even still be in existence.  Also, this chicken could easily not be the same chicken – note the use of ‘they’ in place of ‘she’.  Still, the correspondence is unnerving.  I’ve lost my chicken.