Don’t miss Joseph Young’s Book release, for his new book, Easter Rabbit at the Hexagon. Doors at 7. Performances at 8:30. At the release party, a team of actors will dramatize a dozen of the stories, while a group of painters and other artists will show work inspired by the book. Local band Sweatpants will be on hand to play music composed especially for the event. Artists included in the show are Lauren Boilini, Graham Coreil-Allen, Kathy Fahey, Luca DiPierro, Paul Jeanes, Magnolia Laurie, and Easter Rabbit cover artist Christine Sajecki. Actors are Linda Franklin and Caleb Stine, directed by Nancy Murray. verysmalldogs.blogspot.com 1825 N Charles St Baltimore, MD 21201
“When I love one of his stories, which is most of the time, it’s because it’s a small puddle reflecting a tall stand of trees, with complete and startling accuracy.”
I met Joe through his knees.
Long and lean and cradling the chair in front of him, they bucked and bounced their way through an entire Wye Oak set. When the music waned, the knees slowed and paced themselves through the marshy rhythm. I remember watching and waiting for the knees to launch him forward and marionette him along the crust of the crowd.
The cup moons beneath her eyes were in decline. You know the tsunami? She said. Except that all of it was ping-pong balls. It was evening again already, pushed fingernails against the palm.
Preparing to sit down and discuss the book with Joe, I read and examined and diagramed each piece with great detail. I had definitions and questions prepared to display as evidence until I realized…it’s all semantics. I was just projecting my idealism onto these weighty fragile structures. When I asked about his writing technique he referred to the “black box” – a space where our conscious meets our sub-conscious like the wall meeting the ceiling. Referencing Skinner’s “black box theory of consciousness”, which states we can never really understand the human mind, we can only see input and output. In reference to his own process Joe states, “I don’t know what’s in there and I don’t want to know what’s in there. I just sort of let it come out. I think it’s smarter than me.”
But, ultimately Joe is the chooser, the decider of what comes out of the black box and onto the page. We all have the capacity to dig deep in to our own black boxes, but how often do we dive in? It can be a scary place to realize fully and some things are best kept at arms length. Most artists relate to this working mentality, the ability to maintain a mystery with the work because it’s much more fun to surprise oneself.
Joe seems to surprise both himself and the reader with each fiction. Each character is revealed through the slightest of actions, providing context with just one word. And Joe may not even have it figured out. He builds holes for us to contextualize and re-contextualize over time with each reading. We begin to arrange our own stories from what he has provided.
Joe’s micro fictions are every myth and story whittled down to the barest of bones, to possibly one exaggeration, one lie, one meaningful, honest moment. They are so compactly intimate, absurd, and charismatic but also paradoxically vast and lonesome. Joe has so much faith in us, the reader, he invites us to peer into the scene and we become the ultimate voyeur into his constructed world. The relationship between text and reader becomes transactional, how much are we willing to give and how much do we want to take. The small texts draw us in and the white space requires us to go beyond the page, beyond the comfort of the words and to our own black box.
5 lines Baltimore
“A warehouse slid into the street, shuffle of yellow
brick beneath the stoplight, no cars, but in
the stone a man’s cane, a gull’s blood.
From the rich wood of the coffined attic the
bats decanted, circled the turrets, a mugger
with one eye rolled on the sky.
He walked beside the red pole, deep cut, black line.
A box of toys blew over, rain whipped the
porch rail, a boy skinny and wet fed his cat
through the window screen.
The steps were white cakes, green roses of beer
bottles and dead flowers, a woman feigning
sleep on the sidewalk.”