Arts preview: Author readings at Skylab will be most excellent

  • Photo courtesy of Chelsea Martin
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From the November 14, 2013 edition

“This is how you can enjoy the present while dreading the future, regretting the past, and not even honestly enjoying the present.”

Oakland-based artist/writer/poet/amazing person Chelsea Martin is bringing her gorgeously sad-yet-funny words to Skylab Gallery to promote the release of her new book, “even though I don’t miss you” (Short Flight/Long Drive Books).

Martin is the rare kind of writer who can get away with writing about sad relationships, because she refuses to collapse into boringly twee anecdotes.

In her stories and poems, nothing really happens but the happening itself, and this kind of restraint lends itself to a quiet desperation that is not ignored, but rendered in a very precise way: “Yesterday I saw a girl walking down the street, tears streaming down her entirely unexpressive face, mouth open, while emitting no noise and neglecting to wipe the tears from her face and neck, so now I know for sure I’m not the only person who does that.”

When so much verbal diarrhea comes out of people attempting to express the same pain felt by everyone else, it’s a revelation to find someone who can do it in one sentence and make it both beautiful and new.

Joining Martin will be Hobart Press co-editor Elizabeth Ellen (who published Martin’s book), Jordan Castro, Michael Clune, James Payne and Scott McClanahan.

If you’ve never heard of McClanahan, you either don’t have the internet, or you’re dead. And if you’ve never heard him read before, well, then, you’ve never been to church. The guy can knock a room flat just by opening his mouth, shaking his shoulders and even dancing.

His two latest books, “Crapalachia” (Two Dollar Radio), and “Hill William” (Tyrant Books) have received press coverage in The New York Times and Vice, and McClanahan was featured in a live reading on C-SPAN (!).

His stories are determined to eat you alive as they depict West Virginia freaks, insane family members, forest fires, ghosts and all kinds of mirrors reflecting your own twisted past. Oh, and he usually brings homemade fudge, too.

This promises to be the most bad-ass reading of the year.