M. Sarki is a GR friend, with whom I share a love of Walser and Sebald, among others. He's also a talented poet and writer, who sent me a copy of his latest work in return for an honest review. It's a pleasure to report that I am certain I would be captivated by [b:Shorter Prose|17735195|Shorter Prose|M. Sarki|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1365725257s/17735195.jpg|24812310] even if I didn't know Sarki at all.
There's something special about poets' approach to writing prose, and Sarki's Shorter Prose is no exception. I especially found that attention to sounds and rhythms, a delight in words, in the first and longest piece in this collection, "Ponzil, the Pistelero, and His Comedy of Combustion." In this prose piece, the narrator describes his childhood and adolescences in East Tawas, MI, a small town in which the Lutheran church cast a long shadow on his life, where he would be haunted by his being called "stupid" by the produce man at the A&P, where he came up against his father's disappointment in his not being a good Lutheran, not being smart, not fitting in better. The structure of this piece is beautifully crafted, with repetition of certain themes and people and stories from the narrator's past, all swirling together and carrying the reader on a sea of words and a perspective that could not be confined by the expectations of his neighbors in East Tawas. Faded family photographs, scans of childhood drawings, and ads from newspapers provide a visual accompaniment, but I was carried away by Sarki's writing -- insisting that white tissue paper is filmsy, not flimsy; reminding us of the magic of a plastic brontosaurus; considering the appropriateness of using the word avoirdupois. Later in this opening piece, he says, "In my case words become my playthings," for which I as his reader am thankful.
Highly recommended for lovers of language, appreciators of genre-breaking approaches to memoir and fiction and prose and poetry, and adventuresome readers willing to experience the frustration and limits of living in a small town, and the resilience of an imagination that refuses to see the world as everyone else does.