Sunday, September 26, 2010

Jams and Omens for 100, Alex

If you go to a Belle Boggs reading, you will get jam. Maybe it will be blueberry mint or maybe hot pepper jelly or even strawberry preserves, but it will be named after one of the recurring characters in her short story collection, Mattaponi Queen.

At tonight's reading at Gallery 5, we were treated to part of a story involving the character Skinny, a divorced alcoholic druggie not long for this world. She ended the story by saying, "Sorry to read such a depressing story. They're not all that depressing."

All her stories are set in King and Queen County or King William County, the places she grew up and it is these places that inform all of her writing. Despite the diversity of the area, her writing never gives clues to a person's ethnicity, black, white or native American. Tellingly, race is never stated.

The way characters recur throughout the collection reminded me of John O'Hara's short story collections, where you never knew when a familiar name from Gibbsville was going to reappear in another story. It's a comforting device for short story collection lovers, a group in which I include myself.

After the reading, she offered up the jam she and her mother had made as a gift to the audience. Given the story we'd just heard, I couldn't resist Skinny's blueberry mint; I plan to have it on waffles tomorrow morning.

One of the attendees was part of the group I'd been with at Ipanema last night and she came up to say hello and tell me how much her visiting friend had said he'd enjoyed his extensive conversation with me last night. "She's so cool, " I was told he'd said.

Is there a better compliment than being told that someone raved about his enjoyment of a shared conversation, especially not knowing it would be passed on to me? Not sure that there is.

Conveniently for me, the reading was followed by the Silent Music Revival, an event that counts me as a regular attendee (except that time I was at the beach and I'll never hear the end of that).

We began with a short, Le Retour a la Raison, made by Man Ray, a brilliant man in so many ways. Favorite all-time Man Ray quote: "There is no progress in art, any more than there is progress in making love. There are simply different ways of doing it." True that.

Tonight's feature was 1947's Le Tempestaire, by Jean Epstein with music improvised by the Low Branches. The film was set in Brittany (the shoes and shore were a dead giveaway) about a girl who fears for her love's life when he sets out to fish for sardines right before a storm.

The Low Branches' music was the ideal sound for the endless shots of the surf crashing and the omens with which the girl was obsessed. At one point, lyrics about "saving them all" synched up so well with the unfolding story as to be uncanny.

The storm-tamer's black crystal ball eventually breaks, returning the man to his sweetheart and calming the sea, as the band's sound wound down and we were delivered from the French coast back to Jackson Ward.

It had apparently started raining some time after I'd arrived for the reading, so a friend offered me a ride, but we exited to find only puddles, so he instead walked me home, pointing out places of note.

A friend of his had had sex in one of the milk-bottles of the dairy building pre-renovation (and pre-marriage) and a bartender I knew had lived just around the corner from me.

And because he's a scientist-type, he somehow noticed in the dark that a passing tree branch had grown in a circle, doubling back on itself. "I don't know how I didn't notice that before," he said perfectly seriously.

I'm not the scientific type, but I could say the same here lately.


  1. there's a silent film Thing that goes in Richmond?!?!? Ugh! That's one thing I've never been able to share with anyone, my love of silent films--and yes, that Man Ray one too. The bulk of my blog's traffic comes from people searching for anything they can get their hands on about early silents. Sigh. off to weep some more about the colorful richmond life i've been missing.

  2. One of my very favorite monthly events. I've only missed one in three years.

    Do a search for 'silent music revival' on my blog and you can see all the amazing silent films and bands you've missed.

    Then you can go weep even longer.

    Are you a fan of poem films?

  3. i've never heard of poem films. sigh...

  4. And you call yourself a silent movie fan?


    So much work to be done.