on Dave Awl

by Kurt Heintz


Dave Awl
Dave Awl at the Avebury Stone Circle, England
(photo: Heintz)

It's 1999 and we are in England, and on a bit of a mission. After a couple literary expeditions of my own, I've piqued Dave's imagination about Europe, England in particular, and we find ourselves in London. I've told Dave that writers are everywhere to be met, but he has a headstart on that already.

On a previous trip to London, I got a rather urgent e-mail from Dave, asking if I could find any books by Russell Hoban. Amazon.com was still very new then, and Americans couldn't necessarily buy books released in the UK. I return to Chicago laden with paperbacks, some I did not know would change my own life.

On this English trip, Dave and I visit the essential sightseeing destinations. At Stonehenge, he reminds me that I need to walk a particular direction around the circle, lest I impart improper energy to the environment. Dave is conscious of ritual in such places, and fascinated by stone circles in particular. We find that the best cuisine in London seems to be Italian, so we hang out at pasta restaurants a lot. We meander over Bloomsbury, the neighborhood that has become our home base, and imagine ourselves walking in the footsteps of generations of writers who adopted the neighborhood as their own decades before us.

A major objective of this trip, though, is to pay a visit to Russell Hoban, an American ex-pat' author who has lived and worked in England since the 1970s. In the year just prior to this trip, I enlisted Dave to help me with some commercial web work. He learned HTML as a result, and turned his interests immediately into building The Head of Orpheus, the leading compendium on Hoban.

We visit Russ in his home, where he and his wife serve us a delicious dinner, and the conversation is bright and lively, long into the evening. Russ is clearly charmed by Dave, delighted to have someone willing to advance the study of his fiction. Dave is similarly in awe of Russ, a writer who is a living inspiration to his own plays, monologues, and fiction. We pay another visit for interviews, and all this amplifies the Head of Orpheus even more.

Back at home, I see the effect that Awl has upon Hoban, and that Hoban has upon Awl: admiration and elevation. There is a kind of dialogue, an economy of aesthetics that sets up as the Head of Orpheus gathers Hoban's readers around the planet. The Kraken discussion group inspires more critique on Hoban, and the writer (sometimes a ghost spectator to the critique) is inspired to create more fiction. Creative ideas erupt. Culture emerges. Community grows. And Dave made it happen.

Continue to Dave Awl's poems & recordings.