On Jeremy Richards
The enlightenment of a lurking menace
In a recent re-post on
Killing the Buddha, Jeremy Richards imagines the most
transcendent of summer jobs: trolling the shores of the Pacific
Ocean in order to catch monks unawares. If he is noticed, the monks
pass peacefully by. If not, 'Woosh,' out into the waves they go,
only to 'surface facing up, smiling.' The monks remain unfazed.
One, it is told, even learned to converse with shrimp while tangled
in a fishing net. The verdict: 'They talk about sex.'
Richards -- a
writer, actor, and improviser currently working for KUOW radio in
Seattle -- seems to understand the pathos that comedy can bring,
using the absurdist notion of pushing monks into the sea as a
gateway to exploring the intangible. He accomplishes a similar
sleight of hand in
At)tempt at Elegy: In Memoriam, Jacques Derrida, 1930-2004.'
His attempts at eulogizing the postmodern avatar are repeatedly
thwarted in this short piece by an interlocutor who is preoccupied
with finding a cup of coffee. The eulogist circles round-abouts of
Derrida-like thought, exiting only when his companion expresses his
Richards excels at witty and piercing turns of phrase, and while
this skill has made him a respected writer, he is also known for
his spoken-word ability. He was a member of Seattle's 2002 and 2003
National Poetry Slam teams and is a frequent contributor to
National Public Radio's 'This American Life.' His penchant for the
spoken word serves him well in his writing, which is as much about
the words as it is about the sounds the words make. Both pieces
cited here -- 'Pushing Monks' and '(An At)tempt at Elegy' --
culminate in a kind of call-and-response sound. It feels like he's
in the room with you, speaking his story, illuminating the
enlightenment of a lurking menace.