on Dave Awl

by Christopher Piatt

There are fewer people like Dave Awl in real life than there are in literature, which is why an initial encounter with him (and several subsequent encounters) might be a little confusing. An old-fashioned dandy with a taste for glam, a writer in the classical form whose Muppet influences are ever-present, Dave has the sometimes burdensome but always productive condition of contrasting human eras colliding in his soul.

When classical tragedy and sweaty-handkerchief Borscht belt humor collide, there's a colorful explosion that looks like Dave. When there's a tug-of-war operatic between romanticism and gritty 20th Century realism, the tension in the rope is the energy of Dave. And whenever art is both an earnest artifact and an ironic comment on itself at the exact same time, you can bet that Dave is somewhere nearby, sulking around in smart suit, a provocative gold broach (usually of some small creature with rhinestone eyes) and his unique shock of butter-yellow hair.

But don't be offput by it. He's actually very happy to meet you. And he'll gladly discuss it—whatever it is—with you over tea and scones until they start putting the coffee house chairs on the tables and turning out the lights.

There are some places he won't go, of course: anywhere even half a degree to the right of his splinter social agenda, for example. Or any club where the frat boys outnumber the scooter boys. Or a steak house.

Yet, every day is still an adventure for him, and it's always reflected in his writing and performance. Anyone with as many (legitimized) anxieties as Dave is stalked by has no choice but to meet them head on, and he does so with his weapon of choice: art. This gives him the home-court advantage, and it has made for a body of work in which wrestling with the simplest everyday choices—picking out a new shirt, deciding how to deal with superiors in a temp job—becomes a compelling, singular and (usually) hilarious odyssey.

No, there's no one quite like Dave Awl. But in a country that increasingly wants us all to think alike, shop and eat alike and even make art alike, that's a bit of a relief.

Continue to Diana Slickman's observations on Dave Awl.