Monday, July 16, 2007

We’re in Collage: Divisadero, Socrates Fortlow, Wolfgang Tillman

Many things have come together recently to turn my life into the obvious pastiche it is, or perhaps they’ve fallen out, or shaken out – regardless, I lie in pieces. In both sense of the word lie.

First has been travel – the displacement of going to DC, Chicago, and then more locally and recently Winthrop and Twisp. Driving up state highway 20 toward Rainy and Washington Pass listening to the Dead’s Europe Tour ’72 version of Jack Straw made a direct connection to the Dorn character in Michael Ondaatje’s newest novel Divisadero, particularly that sense of western space, that electric, cosmic distance the Dead, the poet Ed Dorn (who is captured a bit in Ondaatje’s character), and Kesey, Cassidy, Brautigan, McClanahan, Stegner et al captured, and that is currently exposed, explored and fractured by Richard Ford or Tom McGuane, or in this case, Ondaatje himself. So this cosmic space, and the electrical storms shattering lightning against the blackened sky and mammoth peaks objects of thought, desire, perception and consciousness drift, settling into transitory arrangements, only to break apart again.

Divisadero, a collage of sorts, a collection of stories connected primarily by place and character, but not moving towards any narrative conclusion, thwarting it even by plunging backward in time away from conclusion. And then collaged with that collage, the collections Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned and Walking the Dog by Walter Mosley which feature Socrates Fortlow, one of the more improbably protagonists in contemporary fiction. These “novels” are actually collections of vignettes, much the same as Louise Erdrich’s Love Medicine, that again intersect character and place, in the case of Mosley, Watts. There is a trajectory to these two books however, a trajectory of growth in fact, but it was probably not mapped in advance. And the underpinning of this foolish exploration that few if any will read, was the exhibit by Wolfgang Tillman at the Hirshhorn Museum, an exhibit of photographs that was deliberated arranged as an extensive collage or installation. Tillman himself comments on the aspect of his work that compels him to explore placing certain photographs next to others, a drive more artistic, but perhaps not notably different that placing photos next to each other in an album. And this impulse or recognition of placement is not unique to art or albums. We place things on a table in certain ways, and as my wife Joan said recently what she reads is always influenced in some way by what she just read. Texts interact with texts, moments with moments.

So three novels and an exhibit. I want to explore details of each in future posts.

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