I’ve prepared this essay for the 4th Biennial &Now Festival of Innovative Writing & the Literary Arts, to be held this week in Buffalo, NY. I’ll be joining Anne-Laure Tissut, Dimitri Anastasopoulos, Dave Kress, and Christina Milletti for “Purple Brain: A Paul West Panel.” The essay recalls some of my fond memories of Paul, and touches on how he has influenced me as a writer.
The Paul West Experience: Liberating the Microcosms
I remember the puckish Derbyshire voluptuary of the word ever enthroned in the seat of honor at our seminar table, how his calm resonant wisdom and heavy-lidded vitality belied the little boy, still there within in him, scanning the Eckington horizon for a murky Luftwaffe formation of Dorniers or Heinkels and, hot on their tails, the RAF DeHavilland Mosquitoes who, inverting their pesky handle, put a resolute 20mm swatting to the Hun. On warm days, he welcomed us in tattered red gym shorts, perhaps a slapdash nod to his brief teenage jock career as the Eck cricketer infamous for bowling deadly beamers. To this he added untucked dress shirt (Oxford of course) and a well-worn pair of brown loafers–no socks. When the weather turned a bit cooler, velour sweat pants replaced the shorts. Looking back, I now wonder if he’d come to us so hastily dressed because only moments removed the writing desk where, he claimed, he liked to work nude. Hair raked over dome in a raucous, kinky tarp, it sparked more than once in the Allen Way Building–that bristling was the energy animating this iconoclast so on the outs with the English Department he made only rare forays onto campus and so sent word to us fictioneers to meet at the Allen Way, his home away from Ithaca home, in the fifth-floor conference room just down the hall from his apartment and adjacent to the laundry. To fortify our efforts, he always donated two bags of Pepperidge Farms cookies, Milanos the constant paired with an ever-changing mate.
Read the entire essay. [PDF]