“The Performance of Becoming Human” BathHouse Review – Daniel Borzutzky

Author: Jarrod Saum

This is definitely the weirdest bathhouse event I have been to since my tenure at Eastern Michigan University; and not weird with a negative connotation, or any connotation, just simply different. Immediately as Daniel Borzutzky took the stage on Wednesday the 27th for his reading, I realize that he’s not like other authors. He reads monotone, no passion in his voice that other authors will implement in their work: The type of implement that cannot be written, but has to be performed. It is almost as if Daniel Borzutzky is two different people. He is the author in his head, and a professor and scholar elsewhere. Confused? Let me explain. Watching Daniel Borzutzky on stage was like watching a random stranger come off the street and read his piece. There was no punctuation, no conversations—nothing. It felt like behind that author was not passion, but sadness, exhaustion, and possibly indecision at what he wanted to feel.

The only time I noticed something different was when he read aloud from The Performance of Becoming Human. This is when I really noticed a distinct difference from the work. Physically it is written as poetry, when you look at it, you cannot help but implement some sort of surrealist claim to it and it is a nonsensical world. There are line breaks every other sentence, it doesn’t seem to connect in my mind except for when Daniel read it aloud. This is when I realized perhaps there was some passion behind his voice and he was letting me hear it the way it supposed to be heard. The novel came across as more prose writing, he put periods here and there where he purposefully left them out in the poetry. He broke his stanza’s with human nature and his book became more of a novel, less surreal and I began to understand it more and more. You see that was my problem with it to begin with—I felt it was pompous and overwritten to the point it was supposed to make no sense. The words were so large that it was deemed great simply because of the merit and the “contemporary form.” But rather attending the reading, and attending the performance Daniel did on the 28th, when he covered up Speedy Gonzalez, gave me a keen insight on how this novel is supposed to viewed, and supposed to be read. Giving it a second read through it’s as if Daniel Borzutzky has showed me where the invisible quotation marks are, where the punctuation is—but more importantly—the sadness in his eyes and voice showed me why they mustn’t be there.