Gary Singh is an expert at creating ambience. A San Jose fixture and regular Play On Words contributor, we have always noticed how well his turns of phrase translate to the stage. That’s why we’re thrilled to perform his flash fiction piece, “Voodoo,” next week at Play On Words: Live in San Francisco, our return to LitCrawl.
Gary is a journalist and creative writer with over 1100 articles in numerous trade and consumer publications, including feature stories, travel essays, music and arts criticism, sports writing, business journalism, poetry and short fiction. For 14 straight years, his newspaper columns have appeared in Metro, the alternative weekly newspaper of San Jose and Silicon Valley. His poems have been published in The Pedestal Magazine, Maudlin House and several other publications. He is the author of The San Jose Earthquakes: A Seismic Soccer Legacy (2015, The History Press) and was recently a Steinbeck Fellow in Creative Writing at San Jose State University. His photography was included in a 2014 statewide exhibition at the Triton Museum. He received a bronze medal from the Society of American Travel Writer’s Western Chapter Awards in 2013.
Gary answered a few questions for us in advance of next week’s show. The piece we’ll be performing, “Voodoo,” will be published by Digging Through the Fat.
What inspired you to participate in Play On Words?
Having your own work performed, read, or interpreted by someone else, on stage, is a fantastic experience. You get to see how each person brings his or herself into the performance. One often discovers new inflections or degrees of meaning that were not apparent beforehand.
Which writers inspire you?
Over the last year, I seem to be reading: immigrant fiction about the Asian-American diaspora in any shape or form, authored by women or men; rereading travel literature by Pico Iyer and Henry Miller; blowing through classic spy novels; and a few rock and punk memoirs here and there.
Name a book that fundamentally affected you.
This would depend on the moment and often changes daily, but as of right now, The Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell continues to swirl its way back into my consciousness. Written before and during WWII, each of the four books relates to the others in nonlinear space-time. The first three books reveal the same story — part-thriller, part-travel writing, part experimental love triangle—but from different perspectives. The fourth book can be understood as a sequel to the first three. All four, together, are designed to be experienced like a hall of mirrors, so to speak. That is, there is no overall beginning, middle or end in the conventional linear sense. Scenes from the past take place simultaneously with scenes in the present, each book is filled with references to the other three in a cross-connected 3D fashion, and it’s often up to you to decide if you’re reading a book written by one of the characters himself—still operating within the narrative you’re looking at—or if you’re reading something written in retrospect, after the describe events have taken place. It often switches.
Durrell would say it’s a stereoscopic interlinear novel in four parts. Some have said the city of Alexandria is the main character. His evocative depictions of the Greco-Arab atmospherics of the city during WWII are incomparable, if not floridly overwritten at times. Plus, there’s a trifecta of occultism, hermetic philosophy and quantum physics woven into the whole thing, underneath it all. It never gets old. I return to it to over and over again.