DATE: 3/4/2010 | BY THOMAS EVANS
For this fifth volume in the Four Corners Familiars series, in which artists respond to contemporary writings and literary classics, the young San Francisco artist Colter Jacobsen has chosen four real masterpieces of short fiction: the American writer Jane Bowles' “A Stick of Green Candy” and “Camp Cataract,” and the British writer Denton Welch's “The Trout Stream” and “Narcissus Bay.”
Bowles (1917–1973) and Welch (1915–1948) share a perceptiveness and surgical lucidity for moods and surfaces that William Burroughs, a fan of both authors, remarked upon: “both writers are masters of the unforgettable phrase that no one else could have written… each has a very special way of seeing things.”
Welch's ability to recreate the world's textures in equivalent language effects is exemplified in this magical description of a trout stream, from the eponymous story included here: "I now caught a glimpse of a dark shape fanning the water with its silky tail. It held its position under the far bank; then darted away in a flash, leaving me to search for others. I thought of their bodies, soft as moleskin and with a sort of filmy shimmer over them, perhaps a little like the bloom on untouched plums."
Here is an instance of Welch's knack for peeling apart the motives and atmospheres of everyday occasions, also from "The Trout Stream." The narrator is at a dinner party and his hostess has described, with somewhat smug authority, the suicide of a neighbor, a woman whom the narrator has known slightly.
"Something had mounted from my stomach to my heart, to my head. Perhaps I had turned very red. I looked at my hostess's bright chirpy smile and understood why her son thought her so silly. Now that she had told her story she was like a bird waiting for crumbs. Her head was cocked a little to one side; she seemed to be contemplating her own winsomeness, to be modestly disclaiming any credit for the suicide which had interested us so much."
Colter Jacobsen, who has previously collaborated with the writers Bill Berkson and Kevin Killian, and whose paired drawings—one drawn from life, the other from memory—demonstrate a flair and desire for response and collaboration, adds to these stories his marginalia, chapter headings and paired drawings, making of the whole an enticing mesh of sympathies. The paired drawings below are the book's front endpapers.
Occasionally Jacobson augments the stories with a single image such as the below, rendered from old photographs and postcards, which he suffuses with sensations of an irrevocable past.The below spread, from Bowles' "Camp Cataract," nicely conveys the balanced angle that Jacobsen's memory drawings occupy in relation to the stories:
A Stick of Green Candy
FOUR CORNERS BOOKSHbk, 6 x 9 in. / 154 pgs / 7 color / 39 b&w.