amongst books

amongst books

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Steven Price at Tree

Last night the place was packed. Dunno if it was the spring weather or if Mr. Price has many fans; either way it was squeezing room only.

Open mic was hosted by rob mclennan since Rhonda is in Egypt and Dean was in his creative writing workshop. (Dean, fellow classmates Betty, Janice and Lindsay and Prof. Seymour Mayne dropped by in time for Price’s reading after their class).

Open mics are always an adventure. What more is there to say? I ran into some of the editors of the Ottawa Arts Review and took an early break, missing Michelle Desbarats read, much to my complete displeasure. I need more chatting time at these things.

Price’s book, Anatomy of Keys is about Harry Houdini. At the same time, he explained that it is also somewhat autobiographical, but that he felt as a young man it wouldn’t do to write about himself directly. He comes from a family of locksmiths, so he was surrounded by locks and keys in childhood, making Houdini a fascination for him.

What was interesting is the little stories he told about the poems. He referred to Houdini by his real first name, Erich and talked about little known facts like Houdini’s mother fixation.

The language was precise and the work felt like a mesmerizing story of a life. Knowing that Price combined his own world with that of Houdini’s makes it more interesting. The book itself is a series of poems with numbers instead of titles because Price felt it made the collection hold together better.

What is it about men’s fascination with Houdini? Not that long ago, I read Leo Brent Robillard’s excellent novel about him, called Houdini’s Shadow. I’ve known at least two more men with an interest in HH. I’ve never heard a woman express similar interest in the man. All I remember is this movie years ago about him with Starsky from Starsky and Hutch. I remember he looked cute, and that was about it.

I’m always happy to go to Tree and hear the feature, especially when he’s from out of town. It was great to see the room so busy. One very attractive tall blond stranger in particular, but then I vanished into the night. Must have been a magic trick.

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