I just started reading Six Nonlectures by E.E. Cummings and I love it. Each time I set down my book I fantasize about being a Harvard grad class of 1936 (or earlier) and I want to write in that canonical W.A.S.P.-y literary style. A style first introduced to me in middle school through The Great Gatsby and Catcher in the Rye, and later impressed upon me in college through Burroughs, Stevens, Kerouac, and other dudes. These frequently referenced stories are part of an American myth that I can’t seem to shake.
My friend Paul Cowan knows what I’m going through. He recently released a collection of short stories entitled The Music and the Wine that follow a series of unnamed protagonists through everyday scenarios. The vignettes are about “nothing,” meaning ideas that are hard to describe: why your favorite pants are your favorite or what it feels like when someone steals your jokes. Paul once told me that he thought reading fiction was indulgent and his writing is decidedly enjoyable.
The Music and the Wine is a bizarre homage to the great American novel. In Wilke Dairy Co. Cowan acknowledges his indirect nostalgia for a time that only really exists in retrospect. He celebrates the Midwest and the 1950s. In Wilke Dairy Co. the narrator recalls a perfect night making out with Ann Wilke, a dairy heir, in her parents’ basement. The narratives are funny, nearly satirical, and my favorite is about a divisive social butterfly. It begins, “It’s a thin line between love and hate. And I never walk that line.”
The Music and the Wine is available from Paul Cowan and Golden Age. On Saturday, March 27th 7-10pm please join us at Golden Age for Alla Prima, a show of new works by Paul Cowan. Visit www.shopgoldenage.com for more information.