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Martha King Prose Prose Pros series Readings Writing

Sheherezade

There are other spellings…this is the one Andrei Codrescu has embraced.  She, She Here, the iconic spinner of tales and excursions, of conversations long into the night.  Why is she our ever-fascinating icon?

Weak words can save lives?  Hers did.  A story to postpone annihilation?  Don’t we all tell that tale?  What, indeed, gets you through the night?

No one will be surprised by my confession that I’ve never read the Torah.  But I’ve sure stared fascinated at the pages perused by Orthodox seat mates on the F train: those small squares of text surrounded by littler and still littler frames of notes and commentary – hypertext ages before computers made layering possible. Take a look at a page or two of Whatever Gets You Through the Night.   Like Sheherezade herself, Codrescu weaves all available fact and fiction into a looping braid, connecting here, and breaking there, and spinning, spinning (don’t stop!) those old familiar dramas of empty jars, and unruly Djinns, cheating merchants, princes in transsexual disguise, lusty romps and titillations.  Wait!   Wait!!

No one should be surprised that ‘uprooted’ means one works with the roots.  Why do these stories persist? As so many scholars and translators and entertainers, whose works are cited in Andrei’s compulsive footnote wrap-around, have wondered, the question is immaterial.  We’re waiting for the dénouement, the grand revelation, the mega-orgasm – and she makes us WAIT.

No one should be surprised to recognize that Sheherezad’s great subject is death – or how she or we might put it off.   Are there only a thousand and one ways?  Does it truly end in a baby?  That’s far from sure.  Much more important, she and Andrei imply, did you have any fun?

Andrei moved to New York in 1967 after many previous moves and before many others.  Where was I that year?  In Manhattan, about to leave the Lower East Side, and move to Brooklyn into a former SRO row house, still stinking of dehydrated mice and desiccated cockroach shells.  Baz and I had our work cut out to make habitation for ourselves and our children!We’ve moved on since, though I am still living in Brooklyn.

Andrei Codrescu, in spite of a little remark he made on All Things Considered about the great good that The Rapture would accomplish, still does NPR commentaries. What else?  Film. Books. Poems.  His online Exquisite Corpse.  Songs too, they say.  I’ve yet to sample The CD of Storm Songs with the New Orleans Klezmer All Stars.  He doesn’t live in New Orleans now, he decamped ten minutes before Katrina, and resides in a cave with no zip code somewhere in Arkansas.   Enjoying the romps of free range chickens.  Or life among the post-humans. Or is he standing by in a pleasant ditch to let p-h’s pass by along the road?

Whatever, he’ll take you along on Sheherezad’s path.  Come to Side Walk Café at 6:30 pm on Thursday, December 8, 2011.  Andrei will be there reading stories at Prose Pros, along with Elinor Nauen. Don’t miss it!

*The book cover image is from the website of Princeton University Press http://press.princeton.edu/titles/9392.html  where the book is available in print & eformats. Or check a local bookstore.