Peter Cherches’ second book for Bamboo Dart Press is a series of reflections about the slog of the spring and summer of 2020. Built with slivers of fantasy and meditation for good measure, the book is a refreshing discourse on the subject injected with humor and of concerns about real world and dream life problems. The book is available at finer independent bookstores as well as Etailers everywhere. You can also order it direct from Mark and I here.
Peter and I met waiting for a bus and had to keep our yacking to the quick as his line was different than mine. Here is that conversation we had about his book.
Did you lean on humor during the pandemic in your life outside of writing at the time?
No more or less than usual.
Progress and On The Street are well constructed pieces that could nearly land in a stand up set by a comedian.
I don’t really follow stand-up, but I’m very influenced by funny storytellers. Jean Shepherd was a childhood favorite. I aim for a conversational form of narrative.
The piece Forgetful replaces the fever dream of being naked in public with being maskless in a crowded public area. I am assuming this was a dream of yours during the pandemic?
No, I used to write about dreams, now I write dreams. I learned how to write dreamlike pieces by learning to write about real dreams, to convey the quotidian weirdness. In 1987 I published a chapbook of dream stories, and they were all reprinted in Autobiography Without Words (Pelekinesis, 2016).
There is a bridge between your first book on Bamboo Dart Press that was music driven and this, your second one as musical references abound (Miles Davis, The Rolling Stones, Jimmy Scott, The Flamingos). Both in your musical performance and your readings at bookstores, you fully engage with the audience. This book captures as much of that as I have yet to read in a collection of yours. Were you consciously writing with this in mind?
I try always to have that “live” feel to my prose, so thanks for noticing.
You make an interesting observation in the coda of the book about how the pandemic is not dissimilar to an imagined retirement. Is this your voice or the voice of the character you are writing?
So many people have retired due to the pandemic that would have never anticipated doing such were it not for the virus. In all of these pieces the character is a version of me. I was already retired by the time I wrote that, having been laid off in July of 2020. I was planning to retire in 2021, so with severance and unemployment I got a paid early retirement.