Tonight’s event is particularly special to me, because Open City is perhaps my favorite of the New York small presses. Their journals, which have been published for over 20 years now -- 10 years for the books -- have a staying power that is rare. The first two books they ever published -- David Berman’s Actual Air and Sam Lipsyte’s Venus Drive -- are both cult classics, and first works from writers who have gone on to great success and acclaim. I have read and re-read both dozens of times. I know that sounds hyperbolic and excessive, but it’s true, and if you read either of them and you’ll understand why. Other books -- Steve Tesich’s Karoo for example, a strange and beautiful novel about an alcoholic who suddenly loses the ability to get drunk and now must face his less-than-perfect life fully cognizant, or wonderful story collections by Rachel Sherman and Jason Brown and Jerry Stahl, or Megan Daum’s fantastic essay collection My Misspent Youth which could totally kick Sloane Crosley ass in a battle of female coming of age books if given the chance -- some of these books still haven’t been recognized as the masterpieces they clearly are, but hopefully will be in the future. Another of these books that we don’t need to wait for the future to celebrate because we’re here to celebrate tonight, Bryan Charles memoir There’s a Road to Everwhere Except where you Came from.
I normally I shudder when I hear the word memoir . It’s a degraded form, these days, intrinsically linked to turn-off terms like “confession” “rehabilitation” “recovery” and “sales figures.” But Charles memoir is different, so different in fact that if one didn’t know that the book was based on real life you would think it was a novel -- a great novel -- so literary in its subtleties and movements, so obviously written by a master of craft, a conjurer of perfectly placed pauses and punctuation marks. And yet, this book -- for all its literary craftsmanship -- comically perfect dialogue, characterization, pacing etc -- is a not a fictional account, but a memoir, and the fact that it is true -- that this book is not made up, but an honest, bravely transparent, heart-ful and haunting rendering of Bryan Charles’ actual life makes it all the more impressive. Ladies and gentlemen it is my honor to introduce Bryan Charles.