Synopses & Reviews
Erin Hogan hit the road in her Volkswagen Jetta and headed west from Chicago in search ofand#160;the monuments of American land art: a salty coil of rocks, four hundred stainless steel poles, a gash in a mesa, four concrete tubes, and military sheds filled with cubes. Her journey took her through the states of Utah, Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas. It also took her through the states of anxiety, drunkenness, disorientation, and heat exhaustion. Spiral Jetta is a chronicle of this journey.
A lapsed art historian and devoted urbanite, Hogan initially sought firsthand experience of the monumental earthworks of the 1970s and the 1980sand#8212;Robert Smithsonand#8217;s Spiral Jetty, Nancy Holtand#8217;s Sun Tunnels, Walter De Mariaand#8217;s Lightning Field, James Turrelland#8217;s Roden Crater, Michael Heizerand#8217;s Double Negative, and the contemporary art mecca of Marfa, Texas. Armed with spotty directions, no compass, and less-than-desert-appropriate clothing, she found most of what she was looking for and then some.
and#8220;I was never quite sure what Hogan was looking for when she set out . . . or indeed whether she found it. But I loved the ride. In Spiral Jetta, an unashamedly honest, slyly uproarious, ever-probing book, art doesnand#8217;t magically have the power to change lives, but it can, perhaps no less powerfully, change ways of seeing.and#8221;and#8212;Tom Vanderbilt, New York Times Book Review
and#8220;The reader emerges enlightened and even delighted. . . . Casually scrutinizing the artistic works . . . while gamely playing up her fish-out-of-water status, Hogan delivers an ingeniously engaging travelogue-cum-art history.and#8221;and#8212;Atlantic
and#8220;Smart and unexpectedly hilarious.and#8221;and#8212;Kevin Nance, Chicago Sun-Times
and#8220;One of the funniest and most entertaining road trips to be published in quite some time.and#8221;and#8212;June Sawyers, Chicago Tribune
and#8220;Hogan ruminates on how the work affects our sense of time, space, size, and scale. She is at her best when she reexamines the precepts of modernism in the changing light of New Mexico, and shows how the human body is meant to be a participant in these grand constructions.and#8221;and#8212;New Yorker
and#8220;Across this marvelously unexpected little road saga, the stud muffin cowboys of late twentieth century American art at long last meet their sly gamine match.and#160; Pretty much doing for Land Art what Geoff Dyer did for D. H. Lawrence, Ms. Hogan, an urban fish decidedly out of water, flopping about in the high desert parch, makes for marvelously endearing company.and#160; An at times harrowingly (albeit comically) unreliable navigator (who doesn't bring a compass along on solo treks across such vast empty expanses?), Hogan nevertheless then manages to deploy an expertly modulated prose, tracking the heaviest of subjects with the lightest of touches, melding gravitas and whimsy (vodka and tonic), in a narrative that in the end, like the art it surveys, manages to be about what it is to be an individual aloneand#8212;pinprick-contingent, achingly vulnerable, gobsmacked enthralledand#8212;in the face of all that is.and#8221;
“Blending a humorous travelogue and serious musings, in Spiral Jetta
she winds her car and the reader through the complexities of 1970s earthworks and contemporary aesthetics via a varied landscape of people, places, and art. . . She is great at keeping the readers attention: two pages of art philosophy; ten pages of fun.”
Jenny Shank - New West
"Spiral Jetta is the perfect read for Publishers Weekly
and#8220;I was never quite sure what Hogan was looking for when she set out . . . or indeed whether she found it. But I loved the ride. In Spiral Jetta, an unashamedly honest, slyly uproarious, ever-probing book, art doesnand#8217;t magically have the power to change lives, but it can, perhaps no less powerfully, change ways of seeing.and#8221;
and#8220;The titleand#8217;s overly coy allusion to Robert Smithsonand#8217;s masterpiece doesnand#8217;t detract from a smart and winning book. Hogan, the public-affairs director at the Art Institute of Chicago, does her best to arrange an unhappy marriageand#8212;a land-art tour and#8216;through the states of Utah, Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona, and Texasand#8217; and and#8216;through the states of anxiety, drunkenness, disorientation, and heat exhaustionand#8217;and#8212;but the reader emerges enlightened and even delighted. After all, making critical theory fun is quite a feat. Casually scrutinizing the artistic works Sun Tunnels
, Double Negative
, Roden Crater
, and Lightning Field
while gamely playing up her fish-out-of-water status, Hogan delivers an ingeniously engaging travelogue-cum-art history.and#8221;
"Hoganand#8217;s pilgrimage, sparsely illustrated, is part well-informed art historical travelogue and part light foray into self-discovery; her prose is lucid, energetic and expressive, and she is an affable guide."
"[An] engaging and sometimes hilarious account of a recovering art historian facing an early midlife crisis. . . . Hogan eloquently discusses the sublime and the intimate . . . and she makes us feel as if were right down in the trench with her." Mary Parrish - Science
"Hogan is a fine guide, evolking the dry, mostly desolate, Western landscape, while skilfully shaping her sensory experience of the artworks and her reactions to them into a nicely flowing narrative." Marc Vincent - Plain Dealer
"Hogan is funny and intellectually stimulating in her amazing summer art journey." Chicago Artist's News
and#8220;Morales has made a moving, provocative pilgrimage through the complex cultureand#8212;mainly southernand#8212;that produces country music and some of its outsized performers. I found her very readable.and#8221;
and#8220;Part quirky travelogue, part study of celebrity culture, part autobiography, Pilgrimage to Dollywood is a witty and self-aware account of being transplanted into an alien culture and deciding to revel in its (and oneand#8217;s own) otherness.and#8221;
and#8220;The heart of the book is Moralesand#8217;s personal meditation on the Dollywood shrine itself, the theme park for feminism, Christianity, and the Old South, its mythical log-cabin home, its worshippers at the Dolly Dollar cash-tills, and the reputation of the whole (deserved or not: discuss) as and#8216;the redneck Disneyland.and#8217; This is cultural criticism on holiday . . . frank, self-revelatory, comic and clever, revealing greater identification with the heroine than her day job traditionally allows.and#8221;
and#8220;and#8217;This is not a book written from the Olympic heights of an objective observer,and#8217; writes Morales in the introduction to her funny, engaging and erudite book. and#8216;I confess up front that I love Dolly Parton and her music.and#8217;and#8221;
and#8220;Itand#8217;ll make you want to experience your own pilgrimage, with the windows down and and#8216;Joleneand#8217; blaring.and#8221;
"Suppose you could have for a traveling companion a changeling, someone who 'came to this planet as an already fully formed creature,' someone who’s looking for reasons to keep herself alive and is devoting every last particle of herself, body and soul, to this endeavor, who is willing to tell you every last thing that passes through her extraordinary mind as she takes you (for instance) to visit Berlin, Trieste, Sarajevo, Nora Barnacle, Rebecca West, Claude Cahun, who wants more than anything to make you 'take in the whole canvas without choosing, without discriminating'--wouldn’t you be beside yourself to have this fascinating creature beside you? I’d follow Jessa Crispin to the ends of the earth."
"Crispin is both smart enough to know there are no answers, and human enough to admit she needs them; her resulting travelogue is a phenomenal record of the mind in service (maybe) of the heart."
"Read with caution: midway through The Dead Ladies Project you’ll be wanting to pack a suitcase and give away your possessions. Crispin is funny, sexy, self-lacerating, and politically attuned, with unique slants on literary criticism, travel writing, and female journeys. No one crosses genres, borders, and proprieties with more panache."
"Jessa Crispin is trying to heal the rift between us regular people and the heroic age of art. The Dead Ladies Project, a dazzling literary travelogue, a series of un-bookish, wildly refined meditations on books and artists, is also the intimate record of a personal crisis. Art matters here in a way likely to scare Americans almost as much as they deserve. Crispin travels the Europe of the canon, of dead white men, studying its entrails. Both Viking and monk, she can write with a barbarian's romantic peremptoriness or with the withering self-containment of a philosopher. She rolls her eyes at the monotony of history's public face and throws everything in the story--including the put-upon mistresses forced to pinch pennies, the tampons, unwieldy suitcases, tedious dates and crying jags. But if these linked essays are written with a literary arsonist’s urgency, they are also full of a very rare reverence for art that matters. Interested in what the life of an artist really has to involve? Quit your MFA program and read this wonderful book!"
"Tracing a pilgrimage of sorts across Europe to places where artistic couples mostly came to grief, Jessa Crispin confronts in searing personal terms the problem not just of being but of being with someone else. It is an unsettling and unforgettable journey."--John Biguenet
"Unusual and absorbing. . . . Swift intelligence, fierce empathy, and dark humor."
"Mordant wit and a dash of bravado. . . . An eloquently thought-provoking memoir."
Erin Hogan hit the road in her Volkswagen Jetta and headed west from Chicago in search of the monuments of American land art: a salty coil of rocks, four hundred stainless-steel poles, a gash in a mesa, four concrete tubes, and military sheds filled with cubes. Her journey took her through the states of Utah, Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas. It also took her through the states of anxiety, drunkenness, disorientation, and heat exhaustion. Spiral Jetta is a chronicle of this journey.
A lapsed art historian and devoted urbanite, Hogan initially sought firsthand experience of the monumental earthworks of the 1970s and the 1980s--Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty, Nancy Holt's Sun Tunnels, Walter De Maria's Lightning Field, James Turrell's Roden Crater, Michael Heizer's Double Negative, and the contemporary art mecca of Marfa, Texas. Armed with spotty directions, no compass, and less-than-desert-appropriate clothing, she found most of what she was looking for and then some. Her encounters with these artworks are recorded here, personal observations lightly draped in art history and theory. But for Hogan this trip was also the most extended time she had spent alone, and her 3,000-mile circuit through the west became an experiment in solitude, with mixed results.
Spiral Jetta offers a view of a critical moment of twentieth-century American art. It also offers a view of the American landscape, seen through the windshield of a car streaming through the empty highways of the American West, piloted by a woman who had no real idea where she was going.
Cambridge don Helen Moralesand#151;recently transplanted to a new job in Californiaand#151;has written a rousing travel book centering on the life and legacy of Tennessee native Dolly Parton.and#160;and#160; Apart from being a distinguished philologist, Morales is an avid country-music fan.and#160; For years she has especially admired the great country singer, songwriter, actress, and all-round smart cookie Dolly Parton. The Dolly Parton trail she traces is set entirely in Tennessee.and#160; It takes in key sites of Dollyand#8217;s life, from the Grand Ole Opry, where Dolly became a star, to Sevierville, her birthplace, to various homes occupied by Dolly and her gigantic family, to schools she attended. Helen also visits the institutions that have helped immortalize the singer, including the Country Music Hall of Fame, where relics of Dollyand#8217;s life are displayed as those of a saint.and#160; If this is starting to sound like a sacred pilgrimage, well, in a sense it is.and#160; It culminates at the town of Pigeon Forge, where the Dolly Parton Annual Parade is held, featuring the star herself as Grand Marshall, enthroned on a float.and#160; Helen was accompanied on her trip by her husband and their pre-pubescent daughter, Athena, who operates as aand#160; matter-of-fact foil to the authorand#8217;s own romantic and sometimes misguided English notions about American popular culture.and#160; Itand#8217;s good chemistry and makes for a hilarious read.
A star par excellence, Dolly Parton is one of country musicand#8217;s most likable personalities. Even a hard-rocking punk or orchestral aesthete canand#8217;t help cracking a smile or singing along with songs like and#147;Joleneand#8221; and and#147;9 to 5.and#8221; More than a mere singer or actress, Parton is a true cultural phenomenon, immediately recognizable and beloved for her talent, tinkling laugh, and steel magnolia spirit. She is also the only female star to have her own themed amusement park: Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Every year thousands of fans flock to Dollywood to celebrate the icon, and Helen Morales is one of those fans.
In Pilgrimage to Dollywood, Morales sets out to discover Partonand#8217;s Tennessee. Her travels begin at the top celebrity pilgrimage site of Elvis Presleyand#8217;s Graceland, then take her to Loretta Lynnand#8217;s ranch in Hurricane Mills; the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville; to Sevierville, Gatlinburg, and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park; and finally to Pigeon Forge, home of the and#147;Dolly Homecoming Parade,and#8221; featuring the star herself as grand marshall. Moralesand#8217;s adventure allows her to compare the imaginary Tennessee of Partonand#8217;s lyrics with the real Tennessee where the singer grew up, looking at essential connections between country music, the land, and a way of life. Itand#8217;s also a personal pilgrimage for Morales. Accompanied by her partner, Tony, and their nine-year-old daughter, Athena (who respectively prefer Mozart and Miley Cyrus), Morales, a recent transplant from England, seeks to understand America and American values through the celebrity sites and attractions of Tennessee.
This celebration of Dolly and Americana is for anyone with an old country soul who relies on music to help understand the world, and it is guaranteed to make a Dolly Parton fan of anyone who has not yet fallen for her music or charisma.
Jessa Crispins first book--a work of literary nonfiction about drifters. Crispins own peregrinations and rootlessness are legendary to the bloggers many fans and readers. As Crispin sees it, the problem with most books about drifters is that they do not understand, or really get at, the longing of someone without a permanent address. Crispin investigates the energy created between person and place, using her own search for a new home and a string of fascinating personalities that have always captured her fancy. Together with her dead ladies Crispin visits the places that were important to them (Paris, Berlin, Trieste, London, Moscow, Sarajevo), and that become important to her, too. These chapters, each devoted to a single person, are filled with ghosts and literature and history, but they are equally alive with the sights and smells and sounds of today.
When Jessa Crispin was thirty, she burned her settled Chicago life to the ground and took off for Berlin with a pair of suitcases and no plan beyond leaving. Half a decade later, she’s still on the road, in search not so much of a home as of understanding, a way of being in the world that demands neither constant struggle nor complete surrender.
The Dead Ladies Project is an account of that journey—but it’s also much, much more. Fascinated by exile, Crispin travels an itinerary of key locations in its literary map, of places that have drawn writers who needed to break free from their origins and start afresh. As she reflects on William James struggling through despair in Berlin, Nora Barnacle dependant on and dependable for James Joyce in Trieste, Maud Gonne fomenting revolution and fostering myth in Dublin, or Igor Stravinsky starting over from nothing in Switzerland, Crispin interweaves biography, incisive literary analysis, and personal experience into a rich meditation on the complicated interactions of place, personality, and society that can make escape and reinvention such an attractive, even intoxicating proposition.
Personal and profane, funny and fervent, The Dead Ladies Project ranges from the nineteenth century to the present, from historical figures to brand-new hangovers, in search, ultimately, of an answer to a bedrock question: How does a person decide how to live their life?
About the Author
Jessa Crispin is the editor and founder of the magazines Bookslut and Spolia. She has written for the New York Times, Guardian, Washington Post, Los Angeles Review of Books, NPR.org, Chicago Sun-Times, Architect Magazine, and other publications. She has lived in Kansas, Texas, Ireland, Chicago, Berlin, and elsewhere.
Table of Contents
1and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160; Caviar and Fish Sticks
2and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160; A Series of Cravings
and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160; Graceland and Other Shrines, Memphis
3and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160; Country Is as Country Does
and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160; Loretta Lynnand#8217;s Ranch, Hurricane Mills
4and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160; Music City, USA
5and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160; Tennessee Mountain Homes
and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160; Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, Sevierville, and Locust Ridge
6and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160; Color Me America
and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160; Dixie Stampede, Pigeon Forge
7and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160; Sifting Specks of Gold
and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160; Dollywood Amusement Park, the Great Smoky Mountains
Doing the Pilgrimage