On Saturday January 31st, an intimate and attentive audience had the opportunity to witness a public reading of the first of six installments of Chiwan Choi’s new novel Ghost Makers. The reading, which can also be construed as more of a performance, was captivating. What Choi, a prolific poet and storyteller, has presented thus far proves to be just as powerful as anything we’ve come to expect of him in the past. For those who missed it, the story follows a narrator who is flawed yet good-hearted, trying to make his way in the world. There were some flashbacks to a few key moments in the narrator’s childhood, such as a night in the snow where the child discovers his dog laying dead, only to lay with his friend for the rest of the wintery night.
The initial offering spans three different countries and a number of years. The story, which is filled with beautifully poetic language, has an autobiographical air to it, giving the audience the feeling of peering into Choi’s soul – but who’s to say which moments are fact, and which are fiction? A scene between the narrator and his lover was especially poignant with its analysis of the troubles we often find ourselves in relationships and the beauty of the moments that just seem to work. The narrator is knocking on the door to his lover’s place. He gets no response and heads over to her bedroom window only to find her sound asleep. Slipping through the window he sets down two subway meal deals he had just purchased for the pair. Rather than wait for her to wake up, he goes back out the window and heads over to a bar. After about five drinks she calls him asking where he had been. The discussion leads him back to her place where he discovered she ate his sandwich. The conversation quickly evolves into talks of a wind-up elephant he once bought her. Even though he was drunk and she ate his prized sandwich, the level of care and intimacy the two shared made the situation feel comforting and right, like one of those few moments in life where you know that you are with someone who understands you, even if the rest of the time is a complete mess.
This project, which is in collaborative with Katz’s Deli, will continue through the entirety of 2015. Throughout the year Choi will spend one month working on the novel, and then presenting his progress by giving a reading at a different publicly accessible location until its completion. In addition to the performance aspect of reading a novel in progress, there is also the Buddhist-like quality of the “performance” as well. After every reading, Choi will destroy the chapter he had labored over tirelessly once he has finished sharing it. Per his contract with Katz’s Deli (which was also read prior to the start of the event), he must destroy the work in a different way each time. The inaugural chapter was destroyed via burning the typed pages in a barbeque. After the reading, audience members are asked to respond to the prompt “what do you remember” at a video, audio, or typewriter station. It is these anonymous documentations that will ultimately be published at the conclusion of the year. The next reading will occur at yet to be announced time and place sometime in the month of March. While every section makes for a larger part of a whole, the sheer nature of its inception will surely allow for each piece to work as a vignette as well.