Monday, January 30, 2006

Meeting Garbage Head at the Gladstone Hotel

The other night I went to a reading at the Gladstone Hotel. The place is looking very swish now that the renovations are complete. Lovely as it is, I can't help but miss the seediness of the old, run-down Gladstone. The two writers on the bill were Richard Truhlar and Christopher Willard.

I was there to see Truhlar. A couple of people have been talking him up to me lately, so when I saw his name in the events listing in the paper I decided to investigate. Alas, I arrived late and he read first. I only caught the tail end of his reading from The Hollow and other fictions (Mercury Press, 2005), and I couldn’t pick up the thread of it sufficiently to form an impression. So, I'll be checking out his work on the page without benefit of a live preview.

Happily, I did get to hear the whole of Christopher Willard’s reading. I didn’t know anything about his work beforehand, but I was immediately taken with his novel Garbage Head (Vehicule Press, 2005). Here’s an excerpt from the back cover that conveys the gist of it, insofar as that's possible:

As technology erases the lines between reality and virtual reality, a boy nicknamed Garbage Head develops the ability to say what those on TV and radio will say before they say it. An appearance on The Fabulous Gigi Fandone Show rockets him to fame, but his troubles begin when he uses his ability to predict the numbers of a multi-million dollar lotto. The FBI deems him to be a national threat and Garbage Head is arrested and taken to a president more consumed with watching reruns and learning street slang than in leading a nation.

It’s a full-length novel that is composed of mostly one-line paragraphs. These staccato paragraphs mirror the relentlessness of media sound bites and simultaneously lampoon the celebrity-obsessed culture that breeds them. In the passages that Willard read, the novel came off as bitingly funny and very smart. I snapped up a copy at the book table and I look forward to reading Garbage Head in its entirety.

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