Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Karen Finley: More than Just Reading

Finley, Karen. George and Martha. Hammer Museum. Los Angeles, CA. 4/30/06.

Karen Finley kicks ass. She's an amazing author, artist, and perfomer, and it was a pleasure to see her in person. She perfomed what was supposedly a reading from her new novel, George and Martha, but this was much more than just a reading. She took the text and put it on screen so that we could see her illustrations as she read, and we could also read along with her. Which meant that we could tell when she inserted the repetition characteristic of her solo performance. Rather than merely reading the text, she performed excerpts as spoken word pieces, modulating her voice dramatically for character and emphasis. It was beautiful and quite effective.

George and Martha is a novel that originated as a performance and it's about a fictional 30-year affair between George W. Bush and Martha Stewart. She talked about the mythical and psychological resonances of these two characters, talking about war and loss and relationships between parents and children. It seems like a fascinating, edgy, challenging book and I can't wait to read it.

I was impressed with Finley as an author and a performer, so it suprised me to hear that she had such a disasterous panel at the LA Times Festival of Books the day before, as Susie Bright relates on her blog. Apparently, brilliant, challenging writers Bright, Finley, and Dennis Cooper were placed on a panel with Late, Late Night Host Craig Ferguson, who turned out to be a jerk who tried to hijack the panel. From all reports, Finley kicked ass there too. Pretty awesome.