On Sunday, September 26, New School Professor Joseph Salvatore gave an amazing and ardent reading at Googies Lounge. The room was filled with a community of readers and writers, former students, friends, and literary admirers sweating in the oppressive humid heat while anxiously waiting to hear the piece from his upcoming book of short stories, To Assume a Pleasing Shape. The story he chose to read “Whatever, Forever” kept the crowd rapt and dramatically raised the temperature of the room. The passion, torment, beat, and gothic sensibility mixed with just the right amount of pathos moved the crowd from gasps to laughs to audible sighs. Not often does one get to witness a master in peak form entertain and enthrall with such brilliant use of language.

Here’s an excerpt:

“… she wouldn’t mind a nice set of claws, claws like her winged friends have, claws that could hold onto ledges of dizzying height — like the stone belfry of Old Salem Church, from which foggy perch she could peer down upon her entire Witch City, peer down upon Salem Harbor with the hillside cemetery of Marblehead off across that dark water, peer down upon the old lighthouse overlooking the salty mouth of the Atlantic, down upon the dry-splintered eaves of the House of Seven Gables, down even to Swampscott, to the gallows there where, contrary to popular knowledge, were hanged the wise women of her township, the women who did not need men — claws that could act as protection, as weapons, while she flies through the night air, her outstretched wings a dark sail billowing behind, the moon above a flaming penumbra; claws that could scrape down a lover’s back, down even (yes, she wasn’t afraid to say the name) Angie’s back, Angie Kosinski’s freckled back …”

To Assume a Pleasing Shape, will be published in 2011, from BOA Editions.

Reviewed by Liz Axelrod