I have spent most of my year in Rome working on a draft of my second novel, but in these eleven months, I also took part in my first collaboration with visual artists. Along with fellows Catie Newell and Thomas Kelley, I helped transform the Casa Rustica into the lab of a fictional archeologist named Ignatz Von Eckhart. The exhibit titled “Found Realities” included field notes from this character along with sculpted “relics,” found objects, and detailed drawings of his work. The following is a selection from the notes I wrote for the exhibit.
Object 4557 “Cloven Pocket Spoon”
As the Great Caving commenced, the move to limestone elongate chambers brought forth a sea change in shamanic cuisine accessories. This is illustrated perfectly with the invention of the Cloven Pocket Spoon. The C.P.S. was used to assist in the consumption of the ceremonial Fleacurrie, a decomposed semi-firm cave cheese inhabited by fly larva, and given its flavor by the digestive enzymes of the insects within. The cheese itself is eaten with the right hand, but the cloven spoon is thought to be integral in the capture of leaping maggots, some of which can jump over a foot high (and have a tendency to latch onto the retina). To catch one in the slot of the cloven spoon and allow it to leap into your mouth is to guarantee virility in the regeneration efforts for the coming winter.
Object 0094 “Three-Pronged Spicule”
Carnivore remains in the cave structure come mostly from small furry species, but there are a few notable exceptions. One is the presence of decapod crustaceans from the nearby rising sea due to thermal expansion. Foragers concerned with energy return rates could harvest these from the toxified sea then place them immediately in a strong liquor to rid them of bacteria. The Three-Pronged Spicule was then used to skewer the living prawns, still paddling their swimmerets as they were swallowed whole. Later, when crustaceans began to die off, the T.P.S was often used to scrape the marrow out of human bones in instances of cannibalism.
Object 8010 “Bipod Libation Husk”
Who among us has not fallen into the occasional fugue state generated by a day of staring in the mythic navel of the universe? The Mighty Ompalos, the supposed meeting place of Zeus’s two eagles, was thought to allow direct communication with the Gods. Many is the evening I have expatiated my thoughts into the navel of this B.L.H. Similar to the Phiales of the Ancient Greeks, the Bipod Libation Husk was held in the uplifted right arm while in prayer in an act of piety. But if you impart a confession, completely honest, into its hollows, your vapors will be absorbed and the two flagellum at the base will vibrate with an answer. It was this act that led me to my current decision, which I hope I will not regret. If you whisper, now, and there is no accompanying vibration, than you have not spoken honestly enough, my friend. No you haven’t. You haven’t. You haven’t.
Peter Bognanni’s first novel, The House of Tomorrow (Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam, 2010) won the L.A. Times Book Award for First Fiction, The Emerging Author Prize at the Iowa Author Awards, and an American Library Association Alex Award. It was also a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers pick and an Indiebound Next selection. Peter’s short fiction, essays, and humor pieces have appeared in the New York Times Book Blog, The Huffington Post, Large-Hearted Boy, Five Chapters, Gulf Coast, The Bellingham Review, and McSweeney's Internet Tendency. He is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and currently teaches at Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minnesota.