Fiction: A Literary Wonderland
Alex Rose, (Hotel St. George Press, 2007)
A European city abandons all forms of timekeeping and is eventually forgotten by time. An entire island population, exposed to toxic waste, becomes so hypersensitive to light that a slight shock from a doorknob becomes “a splendid miniature lightning storm.” The amnesic DB, suffering from something called “intra-textual confabulation,” unknowingly patches the holes in her memory with snippets from the films and books she’s seen and read. The twist: that patients with this disorder who are asked to recall a novel they’ve read blindly fill in what they can’t remember with fragments of the memories they had lost and in this way are able to reconstruct their entire pasts.
In the title story, and the book’s most developed, the fictitious Phelix Lamark, a 19th century composer with polymathic tendencies, is obsessed with the intersections of musical instruments and sensorial systems, and by extension the endless permutations of science and art. He denounces the West’s tendency to atomize them into increasingly specialized fields and his theatrical performances, mystical fusions of music and mechanics, are attempts at subverting this. This is also one of the story collection’s central themes and Alex Rose, consciously or not, manages to create a similar effect with the book itself.
After gaining notoriety for his performances of “musical illusion,” Lamark’s ideas culminate in his masterpiece , which, in its ability to evade mass representation, sounds like an anthem for post-modernism:
“People recorded categorically incompatible accounts of the same event—trenchant marching drums, biting piccolo jabs, whispering string glissandos, hoarse choral moans, thundering trumpets. Many vowed they’d heard nothing like it, though a few wrote of its strange familiarity—‘a haunting convergence of forgotten lullabies,’[…] One woman, later revealed to be color-blind, claimed to have heard nothing at all, and was stunned to see those around her so transfixed. No two people seemed to have heard the same piece.”
Like Italo Calvino’s , these anecdotes could spawn a library of novels, though unlike the former’s more focused effort Rose seems to have packed into his book everything that has ever fascinated him, and reading it can feel as dazzling and exhausting as a day at the museum. Not surprisingly, the stories are housed in something called the Library of Tangents, a maze of subterranean “exhibition halls” that act as the book’s framing device. A subway shuttles us from one story to the next through “a network of unused tunnels lying like roots beneath the city,” bringing to mind Deleuze and Guattari’s manifesto for rhizomatic fiction.
Also relevant: The Museum of Jurassic Technology in Los Angeles whose bizarre exhibits are peppered with factual errors and assume the same ‘cabinet of curiosities’ aesthetic, and comics writer Alan Moore’s illustrated novel , which blends historical fact with large swaths of his imagination. Like Moore, Rose brings his visual acuity to Illusionist—he’s also a filmmaker—incorporating images of ancient maps, medical etchings and illuminations, such as work by Renaissance visionary Hildegard von Bingen and 16th century mystic philosopher Robert Fludd.
falls somewhere between Luis Borges and Milorad Pavić in its blurring of history and fiction. Like Borges, Rose creates miniature worlds that read like allegories, lost histories or, in Rose’s case, the dreams of a mad scientist. He constructs geographies, invents microscopic life forms and sews together neurological disorders to create more fantastical ones. It’s the kind of apocrypha that cloaks itself in the voice of the detached scholar; though the whimsy is that of the fall of Icarus onto Bruegel’s canvas. Rose vividly and ingeniously rewrites history, like a cartographer redrawing the lines of a city—and imbuing it with the force of his imagination.
Pamela Sneed: ABOUT timeBy Jillian McManemin
JUL-AUG 2022 | ArtSeen
If you have any interest in poetry, you probably know Pamela SneedBlack, lesbian, radical poet, and one of the infamous Grand Dames of the downtown scene. Her stage presence is formidable and her voice, revolutionary. Her 2020 book Funeral Diva published by City Lights Books looks back on her experiences during the AIDS Crisis while making correlations to COVID-19, and the ongoing layered impacts of racism, homophobia, and political brutality. In ABOUT time at Laurel Gitlen, Sneeds visual practice merges with her poetic one, creating an exhibition that is fiercely outspoken, experimental, and personal.
from City of BlowsBy Tim Blake Nelson
FEB 2023 | Fiction
Those familiar with Tim Blake Nelson's work in Coen brothers films, the Watchmen series, or last year's Old Henry, will immediately understand that this novel's depictions of Hollywood machinations are of a higher caliber than those in any other literary work that's attempted to depict that world. City of Blows abounds in the economy and fluidity that accompanies true authorityseen in this description of a producer: “One of the biggest pricks in LA. But he gets his movies made. Directors rarely work for him twice.” What's less expected is Nelson’s investigation of the relationship between insecurity and toxicity, seen in Weinstein-esque predators but also applicable to masculinity at large. The psychological motivations and character examinations develop City of Blows from a roman à clef to a work far more universal.
Rebecca Shore: Green LightBy Jared Quinton
APRIL 2021 | ArtSeen
Neither symbolic nor literal, Shores emerald forms seem to hover outside of time and space, occupying an elusive realm where illusionism and geometric abstraction merge in a dynamic but uneasy tension.
Glitching Time and Time-Based MediaBy Charlotte Kent
OCT 2022 | Art and Technology
Time is a socio-technological system with profound organizing qualities that feels, these days, exceedingly oppressive. Theres never enough time! For anything. Calendars are the earliest containing device with the purpose of determining a social order; the history of the Roman calendar reveals the role of international and national politics that play out across each new temporal infrastructure. Our temporal orders have been designed through the global proclamation of Greenwich Mean Time in 1884 by colonial empires, the apocalyptic anxiety provocations of the doomsday clock established in 1947, the insistent instant-ness of digital time since the 1970s exacerbated by strings of video chat meetings of the last couple years, and the frenetic branding of our social/professional lives demanded by transnational corporate technologys mediation of everyone and everything, all the time. Its a mess.