Edgy Australian-American novelist and Black Mountain Institute Fellow Kris Saknussemm broke tradition on March 13 at the UNLV Greenspun Hall Auditorium by introducing music (and a few short music videos) to the literary reading format. He brought along his good friend, the acclaimed Brooklyn-based tenor saxophonist (and godson of sax legend Sonny Rollins) Eric Wyatt, whose subtle yet noir-esque jazz skronking and blues runs added plenty of atmosphere.
Saknussemm made the wise decision to read one of the more humorous sections from his just-published Southern gothic novel Reverend America (Dark Coast Press, $17). In this section, the protagonist (an albino preacher nicknamed Casper) and his misfit pals attempt to rescue a pet ferret from a rabbit warren using C-4 plastic explosives. Imagine Flannery O’Connor on really good, mind-expanding drugs and you get the idea. While not contextualizing or even pushing along the novel’s central plot, the excerpt made it clear that Saknussemm and Wyatt share a cool chemistry, even if the aesthetic here was closer in spirit to Tom Waits/Nick Cave than anything the jazz-crazy Beats ever did.
The videos, which bookended the live performance and comprised the “mixed media” aspect of the event, seemed dull by comparison. Still, it’s exciting to see BMI, which strongly emphasizes The Written Word, tickle the senses. ★★★☆☆