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Sunday, 11 December 2011

Books of 2011: The Chairs Are Where The People Go

My old friend, Misha Glouberman, from Montreal, was a wit and philosopher in his precocious teens, and he went off to Harvard quite young, and then we lost touch, more or less, until Facebook intervened, though I saw him fitfully across my twenties, at a few parties that my brother, or I, or our mutual friend, Adam Frank, would hold - these were strange mixes of Wittgenstein and Iggy Pop.

He is the first of my close teenage friends (as opposed to acquaintances, peers and colleagues - I suppose I should count Daljit Nagra or Wendy Cope here as the first, really) to be published by Faber & Faber (another is forthcoming but my lips are sealed for now), and his book, The Chairs Are Where The People Go, is infuriating, smart, useful, and often truly original, in a way that can almost be disquieting.  How did he think that?  It is in an odd form - a sort of Studs Terkel thing - another writer, Sheila Heti - interviews him and transcribes his monologues, into brief chapters.  These chapters are eccentric, and sometimes informative, dealing with how to run charades events, and, for instance, deal with noise pollution from local bars; but there are also mini-essays on class and Harvard, as in the link above; and a moving piece about his partner.

I don't think the book captures the essence of the loquacious genius I knew, who had a quip a second, but it comes close to celebrating a delightful character, and thinker.  Obviously, many people have smart, funny friends who think interesting thoughts, and they don't all have Faber books, so there may be some tendency to think WTF at some of the slighter moments, but overall, this is modest, and capacious, enough, at the same time, to reward a purchase as a holiday gift for the clever chatterbox in your life.
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