The Unreliable Narrator loves movies (Notorious, Roman Holiday, Rashomon, Lawrence of Arabia, Harold and Maude, Carlito’s Way, Life Is Sweet, Naked, Heavenly Creatures, Much Ado About Nothing, The Big Lebowski, Out of Sight, Secretary, The English Patient, Lost in Translation, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Fear & Trembling, Capote), trashy books (Mating by Norman Rush; Weetzie Bat and Witch Baby by Francesca Lia Block; The Secret History by Donna Tartt; The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen; Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey; Possession by AS Byatt; A Soldier of the Great War and Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin; Birds of America by Lorrie Moore; Samuel Johnson Is Indignant and Story by Lydia Davis; Microserfs and Girlfriend in a Coma by Douglas Coupland; and alas, Nine Stories, Franny & Zooey, Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction by the redoubtable JD Salinger; to say nothing of anything by Marion Zimmer Bradley, the eidos of trashy lesbian scifi), slightly less trashy books (Art Objects by Jeanette Winterson; The Bone People by Keri Hulme; The End of Nature by Bill McKibben; Independent People by Haldór Laxness; Jane Eyre; Jude the Obscure; New Grub Street by George Gissing; My Emily Dickinson by Susan Howe; Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard; The Master Letters by Lucie Brock-Broido; Glass, Irony and God and Men In the Off Hours by Anne Carson; and a bunch of stuff by Nietzsche, Wittgenstein, Kierkegaard and other Sick Men, including Simone Weil, as well as the holy troika of female modernists: Woolf, Stein and Dickinson), and most of all des chanteuses (Joni Mitchell, Janis Ian, Judy Collins, Mimi Fariña, Joan Baez, Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, Patty Waters, Aretha Franklin, Meredith Monk, Yoko Ono, Dolly Parton, Patti Smith, Eva Cassidy, Lucinda Williams, Rickie Lee Jones, Sheryl Crow, Tori Amos, Ani DiFranco, Patty Griffin, Jonatha Brooke, Aimee Mann, Fiona Apple, Kristin Hersh, Lori Carson, Karen Peris, Maria McKee, Harriet Wheeler, Kate Bush, Shawn Colvin, Suzanne Vega, Sinéad O’Connor, Polly Harvey, Mimi Parker, Martha Wainwright, Vanessa Daou, Björk, Orenda Fink, Imogen Heap, Neko Case, Regina Spektor and Joanna Newsom, with places of manly honor reserved for Kurt Cobain, Jeff Buckley, Rufus Wainwright and Thom Yorke).
Mandarin. When Mandarin was tiny, she once, her mother recalls, made an equally tiny toaster folded out of paper. With little folded pieces of toast. Which actually went down and popped up. Her elven facility for, as she says, “pasting bits of paper to other bits of paper” and maneuvering in the world of color, line and form is only rivalled by her willingness to hurl herself head-first into other worlds (“traipsing”), which worlds have of recent days included cultures like Zen monasteries and clinical social work programs—and languages like Arabic and now Spanish, as she immerses herself in Salamanca and Granada for five months, takes breath-taking photographs and learns all the dirty words. A former anarchist and activist, she’s an aikido adept, a passionate, elegant cyclist, a ferocious yogini, a gluten-free gourmet, a voracious reader and, like the Brujo, of Alco-Celtic ancestry, native of Maine and long-term resident of San Francisco. She’s also the only chick we know who loves Charlie Haden, much less Fight Club and Shaun of the Dead. In March of this year she, as she puts it, woke up, and is now an endless source of wonder, inspiration and joy as she examines and releases, scrap by outworn scrap, all her old suffering, shame and anxiety, becoming her most liberated self. When she comes back from Spain, maybe she will be a therapist; or maybe not, but we can’t wait to see what she does next.
The Brujo. One day the Brujo’s young mother lost her mind, and tied her energetic little boy to a tree in the back garden of their home in Pennsylvania. (One can only imagine.) The wee B., not one to be easily repressed (“That’s what I’m on about! Did you see ‘im repressin’ me?”) could not undo the knots in the rope but handily devised a better solution: taking off all his clothes, the better to streak freely through the neighborhood. He’s a wily soul, gentle and too wise to woo peaceably, with his sun in Virgo, moon in Capricorn and Libra rising (which is about all the Libra yours truly can handle). He supports himself as a writer/reviewer and teacher of opera and percussion to small unruly children; he himself is a wild drumming pixie, and you will never meet another person who knows as much about cacti, tarot or polyrhythms as This One. He’s also pretty amazing on Blake, Joyce, Eliot, Faulkner and a freaky dude named Hugo Ball (and once read Riddley Walker aloud in its entirety to a delighted me). If we’re lucky, we’ll soon get to hear him play in another of his singular solo piano shows—in the jazz idiom, as they say, inflected with Cecil Taylor but revealing his own fluent stuttering percussive genius. He is the only person I know who can listen to the Art Ensemble of Chicago or Ornette Coleman and laugh, because he gets all the jokes. Finally but not least, Stochasticactus is, as he once warned an interloper in a dream, “Irish and sober,” so don’t tailgate him, or you will, as he says with satisfaction, get the full and not the rolling stop at the stop sign.