FEATURED POET: AARON PECKPresented by PAOLO JAVIER who says
AARON PECK loves Flaubert, the color green, building model cities, & idling. In between, or perhaps through each, he likes to write art criticism, poetry, and prose (though not necessarily in that order). In his prose, he writes passages I like to be inside of, sentences brimming with intellect, luminosity, & warmth. They are also radiant, like a golden afternoon. In his recent chapbook, Crepuscule on Mission Street (Nomados, 2005), the writing is equally a pleasure to hear as to read:
We tried on reading glasses and purchased ashtrays. Everything fit just right. The bridges of Richmond are not the most beautiful in the world. Countless other cities, such as Paris or Budapest, have far more spectacular bridges. But all three entering Richmond—from Oak Street, Knight Street, and over the Arthur Laing—have the directness of a familiar caress. They are naked bridges, and they expose what all bridges do: provide momentary vistas and connections between two sconnected landmasses. They offer direct perspectives and an exhilarating candour.
“The bridges of Richmond are not the most beautiful in the world.” Listen to it, phrased so beautifully, you may find its sentiment quite beside the point.
Moments like this abound in Crepuscule On Mission Street, as well as in the novel-length work it’s excerpted from, the soon-to-be-published The Bewilderments of Bernard Willis (Pedlar Press, 2008), and you will warm to the two because of it. Both are written with a seeming effortlessness, possibly influenced by the author’s love for Flaubert, but also simpatico with Lisa Robertson’s wandering subject/ivity (to borrow Joshua Clover’s term), and the affecting languor of Jim Jarmusch and Pen-Ek Ratanaruang’s narratives.
So check out Crepuscule on Mission Street, which is available right now through Vancouver's Nomados Press. Then, in the next year-and-a-half, look for the publication of The Bewilderments of Bernard Willis. Trust me on both. You will be moved by their exhilarating candor, their naked bridges. By the directness of their familiar caress
Crepuscule on Mission Street
By Aaron Peck
I PULLED THE LAPTOP INTO BED. It was one of our daily habits, writes Bernard, waking up in the morning and reading the news. We would alternate who got the coffee, and it was my turn so I slipped out of the covers and walked toward the kitchen. Morning light reflected off a framed photograph, and the sunlight of False Creek momentarily blinded me. I prepared the coffee, Lily read the news, and when the coffee was ready I joined her. Listen to this, she said. I got back into bed. “The Tokyo Stock Exchange has admitted a system fault prevented an attempt to cancel a giant 27bn-yen share-sale error. The mistake took place last week when a trader at Mizuho Securities mistyped a sale of shares in a firm called J-Com.” And, Lily said, it continues: “Instead of selling one share for 610,000 yen, he or she mistakenly sold 610,000 shares for 1 yen.” I wish we could come into money like that. I’m tired of working. I put my coffee on the bed-stand. Have you ever met my friend Jonathan, I asked? I don’t think so, she said. I don’t see him much, but here’s the story: Jonathan gave up curatorial studies in his mid-twenties to become a real-estate investor. He owns property in Seattle and Vancouver, and he has plans, as he says, “to step up his game.” He wants to purchase property in London or New York, but I suspect he hasn’t really done his homework. He’s done well for himself, but had it not been for what seemed like an act of providence, a sudden windfall of $5,000,000 from his estranged father, which Jonathan slowly invested, and which has accrued a small fortune over the course of five years, Jonathan would still be struggling as the director of an artist-run center in Vancouver, hardly making $30,000 CND a year. He had since become an avid art collector. We met up in the Bay Area once. It was coincidental that he and I were there at the same time. He was there to visit friends in Oakland, and I was there, of course, to visit my sister. When we met at Pier 41, I remember he shook my hand, saying: “I’ve come to expect such things as I get older, running into friends in various places.” We were waiting there for some mutual friends. We had plans to go to Alcatraz. We could hear sea lions barking in the distance; a few days later the fog rolled in. At the time, Jonathan and I hardly knew each other. We had met in Strathcona at a party thrown in the first house he’d owned. He had sold it a couple of years earlier, a church converted into an open-concept loft on Keefer Street, for a handsome profit to a fellow art collector, an heiress. “Nobody likes her,” he hissed through his wine; “they tolerate her for the parties.” It was mid-June. The patio was strung with Christmas lights; people crowded around an open bar. Tony, that portly architecture critic, pontificated to young uninterested artists. I think Jonathan and I gravitated towards each other out of a sympathetic irritation. It was a strange way to meet a person. We talked about Flaubert’s sense of indignation, and at one point in the evening, Jonathan blurted: “This party reminds me of Flaubert’s disbelief in progress, that people, in fact, are becoming stupider!” So that’s where you got that line from, Lily interrupted. I raised an eyebrow, and continued as if she had said nothing. So afterwards we felt certain affinity to each other, we liked each other, and although we remained only casual friends, running into each other here and there over the next couple of years, whenever we saw each other it was obvious that we both felt a sense of excitement. Our nervous ticks were similar enough that we could riff off each other, gesticulating in a similar manner and making the same caustic jokes, like a pair of sweating jazz musicians schooled in the same style. Can I blame the metaphors on him too? Lily razzed. Hey—are you listening? And so, I continued, other than these intermittent meetings at openings and parties I didn’t know him very well. It took me a couple of years to figure out whether he liked boys or girls, but it didn’t matter anyway. Oh really, Lily rolled her r with a smirk. Have a crush on‘m? she nudged me. Maybe, I looked at her smugly, but he likes girls—and, anyway, I like you. Are you sure, she added jokingly? Yeah, but I guess you’ll just have to trust me. So we were waiting for our friends to arrive along the Embarcadero. Jonathan had arrived in a cab a few minutes after me. Have you been waiting long, he says? No, just got here, I said—took a long walk from Nob Hill through Chinatown and North Beach, stopped for a coffee along the way. It was a really nice walk, I added. Fisherman’s Market was reasonably quiet, a strange occurrence for June. Behind us we could see the Transamerica building and Coit Tower as traffic rushed along the Embarcadero towards the Bay Bridge. Our friends were late that afternoon. We waited. Jonathan is not the kind of person who gets bored, and I’ve always equated that with a confidence in the world. So, he says, I was reading the newspaper before I took the cab here. Hong Kong's richest woman, who was accused of forging her late husband's will to inherit his fortune, has won an eight-year battle to clear her name. Prosecutors dropped charges that this woman, Nina Kung is her name, had falsified the will and attempted to pervert the course of justice, but—and here’s where it gets interesting, he insisted—her father-in-law had claimed that he was in fact his son's legal heir and had documents to prove it. The case dominated Hong Kong's front pages and gossip columns. So it all starts with the kidnapping of businessman Teddy Wang 15 years ago. He was never seen again and nine years later he was declared dead. His estate was valued at around $5bn. Now Mrs. Kung is Wang’s legal heir, involved in a scandal few people would dream of, and ridiculously rich. Jonathan lit a cigarette. He had a smile on his face that hinted at something, but I wasn’t sure what. We stared at each other for a moment. So, Jonathan, I said breaking the silence, forgive me for asking, but how did you come into so much money? I received an inheritance, invested it well, he said blankly, and he took a long drag of his cigarette. He smiled as he exhaled. It’s a matter of faith, he said, looking at me as if he knew I wasn’t getting some kind of inside joke. Then he walked over to a panhandler who had sat down a few feet in front of us. Pulling two coins from his pocket, he examined both in detail and, finally, threw one into the man’s filthy cap. The cloth of the cap muted the sound the coin would have made as it hit the ground.
Aaron Peck recently had, or has forthcoming, criticism and fiction appear in Canadian Art, Fillip, Golden Handcuffs, and W. He is the author of the chapbook, Crepuscule on Mission Street (Nomados, 2006; to order, email email@example.com). He currently resides in New York City and edits the Vancouver-based online magazine, Doppelganger.
Paolo Javier is the author of 60 lv bo(e)mbs (O Books), & the time at the end of this writing (Ahadada), which received a Small Press Traffic Book Award. He recently completed a full-length play, Lunatic, & has presented his short dramatic works at Poet's Theater Jamboree in San Francisco. He edits 2nd Ave Poetry, & lives in New York.