Saturday, February 02, 2008

small eyes cloud, turn dark

I was in the office of a colleague the other day, and she had a note to herself on the wall that read: "No new projects." I told her I needed a sign like that, too, but it should read: "Do new projects." Sometimes I feel like I have enough projects for three lifetimes - with more cropping up every week - and I will still spend hours at a time talking on the phone or watching old episodes of Deadwood and Six Feet Under on DVD. (I don't do cable at least.)

One of the projects I'm not working on is a search for Las Vegas literature that moves beyond the typical settings and characters you'd expect - the "strippers and pornographers, runaways and addicts" that are mentioned in this review of Charles Brock's new novel Beautiful Children. I'm encouraged, however, by the "parents and adolescents" and "comic book illustrators" also listed as well as Liesl Schillinger's "bravo." We shall see...

From the first chapter of Beautiful Children:

In a short amount of time that section of videotape would be transformed into a series of stills, frames scanned into a computer. A single frame would be enlarged, then Photoshopped, resulting in the image of a slouching, unexpressive child. This image would be circulated in e-mail attachments, faxes, and flyers; it would be posted in arcades and student unions and youth hostels; in post offices and convenience stores and drop-in centers for the homeless and indigent. And at some point fairly early on in this process, Lincoln Ewing would be reminded of the damndest piece of information. A drop of conventional wisdom that, honestly, Lincoln had no clue where he'd picked up. It concerned Native Americans. Supposedly, when photography was invented, they believed each picture from the white man's magic machine removed a piece of the subject's soul.

This was precisely the kind of thing Lincoln didn't need in his head. Yet, just as a tongue cannot resist probing the sensitive area of a cracked tooth, Lincoln would find himself returning to that god-awful piece of information: gnawing on it when a police officer misread his son's birth certificate, causing the boy's middle name to fall by the wayside, becoming as forgotten as the great-grandfather who had inspired it. And when mention of the boy's twelve years of age was replaced by his date of birth — this distinction small, but especially painful, however pragmatic; done, it was explained, as a matter of protocol, to acknowledge a grim reality: nobody can say how long a child will be missing.