birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.


I got preoccupied with Georges Perec's Species of Spaces this spring, partly because the photo of him on the cover makes him look so expressive and lovable, with wild hair and deep eyes. He had so many projects to inventory the world, detail by detail, and it astonished me that his projects were not (as they should have been) interminably dull to read -- he would set out to attend closely to his own desk, and every object on his desk, exhaustively, and there I was reading enthralled as he described the ashtray he brought back from Lebanon and the stack of paper it was perched on and various other topographies of the clutter of his workroom. Surprisingly, it was worth it, it communicated something, for him to preserve that space -- that moment in that space with him occupying it. But my spaces are different. In addition to the fact that George Perec doesn't occupy them, and I am somehow just not as wild and lost and urban and adorable and French, even to say "An Attempt to Exhaust a Place in Paris" sounds more intriguing than "An Attempt to Exhaust a Place in Seattle." Anywhere is more easily exhausted than Paris, or less interestingly exhausted than Paris.

Unlike Perec, I have to keep my surfaces clean to be able to think. But over my desk (made in Indonesia for the American market, reddish-brown wood, two drawers, slightly ornate bronze drawer-pulls, much smaller than Perec's; no demitasse cups, no ashtrays), there are three photographs by my friend Reuben. He offered me a photograph in return for a favor, and when I chose one, he gave me three. The one I chose is a cloud of white smoke, undefined on the lower right side where it fades into shadow, but along the upper left, edged in that fluid-liquid way that smoke will shape itself, sharp against a featureless background tinged dark blue. The two he gave me to flank it are also of arbitrary, lovely shapes of lit smoke against the dark, but in both the flanking pictures sections of the billowing, visible air are glowing heavy red. I love the set; they are still images but always feel in motion to me, and like the best visualization possible of the idea of becoming.

Oh, Lovely Mule

Clutter, Clutter Everywhere