Who Are You?

Could this book be called The Importance of Being Peter Cherches, or maybe 90 Ways of Looking at Peter Cherches?

Back cover calls it an episodic novel. I get the episodic—the book has 90 sections/chapters, running tween 1 and 8 pages. But a novel? Does novel imply change and development, plot twists? Isn’t a bit passé to be worried about genre?

So here I am, a reader of novels, almost never of short stories, reading this collection of short shorts revolving around the themes of identity and day-to-day existence. Publishers Weekly called Peter Cherches “one of the innovators of the short short story.” Cherches is very funny, in a stand-up, east coast way. Many of the 90 pieces in this book are basically a set-up with a punch line, like p. 156, “Phone Sex.” But there’s not the feeling, that you often get in a stand-up act, of one piece connecting with the next. To some extent the novel could be shuffled and read, one card/chapter at a time. The last piece, however, is definitely the one to close on: “Side by side, the neighbor joined me in the Dance.”

Peter—the character, who may or may not be author—is multi-faceted. I felt compelled to google Cherches, just to see if there wasn’t a further level of identity complexity; he seems to be who he says he is. Which brings up the question as to how much of this is memoir and how much fiction—another irrelevant question

Ego-bound and exploratory (the book is titled Everything Happens to Me (Pelekinesis, 2024.) Peter encounters a variety of doppelgangers in the book, viewing them with varying degrees of surprise, confusion or frustration. But then he moves on to the next chapter, the next encounter. For example when he goes to a reading by 3 people pretending to be other actual authors—including Peter himself—he admires the man’s accuracy in imitating him: “He was right, It’s not a bad life, my life. I just wish I had it.” (p. 125.)

While Peter encounters random folks in the present and from the past, “the neighbor” appears several times, often in a doppelganger role. Given the on-going theme of identity—seen from different angles, through different lenses—I can wonder if the neighbor actually exists. This fits in with the various relationships between author and character. In “Your Virtual Neighbor,” after Peter argues with AI which refuses to write a story in his style, his doorbell rings.

“I opened the door. “The weirdest thing happened,” the neighbor said. “All of a sudden my Wi-Fi printer turned on and started printing this.” He handed me a piece of paper. “It appears to be yours,”

In another chapter Peter is riding the elevator with his neighbor who “looked like he was on death’s doorstep.”. . .But instead of unlocking his door, the neighbor rang the bell. It was opened by the neighbor, fit as a fiddle. ‘Brother!’ the neighbor said.” (p. 200).

Along with being very funny, Cheches is very inventive and also writes with great economy. He has the skill of a magician, surprising and amusing the reader with his verbal sleight-of-hand and crisp wit. Obviously, no one bats 90 for 90, but Cherches hits to a high average. Ted Berrigan wrote “The true test of a man is a bunt.” Cherches seldom hits it out of the park, but he rarely strikes out, and usually gets on base.



dan raphael

dan raphael's most recent books are In the Wordshed, from Last Word Press, and Maps Menus Emanations, from cyberwit. More recent poems appear in Impspired, Mad Swirl, Lothlorien, Otoliths and A Too Powerful Word. Most Wednesdays dan writes & records a currents event poem for The KBOO Evening News in Portland, Oregon.


Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Saturday, May 4, 2024 - 20:14