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Monday, November 2, 2009

Nevada Temptation

The first issue of the Silverland Almanac has a short essay called Art: West, by Jennifer Bethke. Here's a brief quote:
As Europeans began arriving in North America, they encountered a place that seemed to them empty and untouched, and as such entirely devoid of history. In the 1700 and 1800s, this condition was an ongoing source of anxiety, as America tried to establish a sense of culture and nationhood. But when it came to the West, this misconception that the land was virgin, unwritten, and totally without historical associations, was often turned into a liberating, positive value: the West appeared to be the proverbial blank slate, onto which all sorts of desires could be written.

Becca was taken by this essay, and it was a short jump from the blank slate hungry for written desires, to the historical romance novels set in the West. On the covers, those transcribed desires vault the written word and go directly for the oilpaint eyeball splash, slapping torrid torsos and heaving cleavages directly onto the purple mountains majesty.

It's funny but not altogether inappropriate that Becca, a Vermont transplant, is finally coming to terms with the wide expansive Nevada skies through thriftstore reconnaissance. She's screwed several romance novels to the walls, secured either like taxidermy or windowshopper eyecandy behind plates of plexiglass, in the stairwell at David Hall. She had to point out to me that she paired the books together in such a way that the landscapes are continuous between the paired books. This doesn't seem to have been a plan -- the books have different cover artists -- it's more likely that those backgrounds share a kind of shorthand lingua franca, whose syllables are composed of waterfalls, treelines, and lakeshores, as inevitable in their appearance as snow on Mount Rose.

I like the idea that, if you were patient enough in your thriftstore excavations, you could probably form one endlessly continuous landscape, bridging dozens of books in a 360-degree panorama, a circular terrain populated by a crowd of couples, each so focused in their particular ecstacy, they remain oblivious to the half-naked pioneer damsels and renegade Indians just a few paces to their left.

Becca's written a bit about the romance novels on her blog.

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