PEE ON WATER, reconsidered

by on May.31, 2011

Last summer, it was really hot in New York City, so I spent a lot of time reading in front of a window unit air conditioner during the midday. I had been given a free copy of Rachel B. Glaser’s Pee on Water with an apparently mis-registered cover (or some other imperfection that I still can’t locate), and I picked it up one afternoon without specific expectation. (I had met Rachel once and eaten Chinese food with her, and was impressed with the fact that she liked the NBA—which I don’t—and, moreover, made paintings of her favorite NBA stars). When I finished the book a week or so later, I believed that I had been given a vibrating and sloppy masterpiece of storytelling. Pee On Water is one of a few books that has recently rekindled this college-freshman warmth I had for “the short story.” These things are really “new” but not “new” like anti-short-stories that we’ve been writing for the last 40-45 years. Last summer, I couldn’t well describe what had impressed me particularly about Pee On Water and I actually felt better not identifying it for fear of dispelling the mystery.

So, it’s hot in New York again—and it’s still May—and I put my window unit in my bedroom yesterday, and used the cool air blowing on my forehead as occasion to take another look at Glaser’s book after a year. I don’t want to define too much about my experience, but this book is funny and singular and lacks precision; I can guarantee all of those things. I think the feeling I can most equate reading Pee on Water to is being about nine years old and hearing my brother listening to The Dead Milkmen and being intrigued and thrilled by these pop songs BECAUSE they didn’t play them right. The imperfections were quickly addictive.

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