My father reads this column each week. He enjoys it, though he’d probably read even if he found it boring. He’s proud, sure, but he says that he learns things about me and my life that he wouldn’t otherwise know. I suppose that’s a solid, 21st Century definition of irony, as the two of us live in the same town.
He mentioned the other day that he likes the style I’ve slowly adopted. A few paragraphs that initially seem random, or perhaps self-absorbed, then a sexy segue, and finally an actual review of an actual book. My first thought was to burn the house down, if my tropes were so obvious, but he advocated for stability. People, he felt, appreciate the mix of repetition and renewal. Perhaps that’s true.
But I don’t mention my father simply to conduct one more meta-riff on the absurdity of writing about myself and photo-books at the same time. He’s in a tough spot right now, my old man, currently battling the triple-whammy of tooth infection, shredded-knee, and ruined back. He can’t have surgery on the knee until the infection clears, and then needs an operation on his back, but not until the knee heals. He’s gritting his teeth (Sorry, horrible pun,) and dealing the best he can. Not-quite-stoic-suffering runs in the family, a genetic chain back to ever-miserable relatives in the ghettos of Eastern Europe.
Humans, incredibly resilient, have adapted different solutions to the problem of terminal misery. Heaven. Meade. Weed. Video Games. All share the common denominator of distraction. Look at the pretty red cloth, Mr. Bull, and ignore the sword heading right into your neck. Whatever the coping strategy, people keep pro-creating, and suffering persists.
Donald Weber seems to know a thing or two about suffering, and its lack of inherent nobility. People eat shit everywhere, every day, and do the best they can to aid in its digestion. With dignity. When possible. His new book, “Interrogations,” was just released by Schilt Publishing in Amsterdam. Pop it out of its intentionally generic cardboard shell, and its pink cover will surprise you immediately. As does its calender-like vertical orientation. (And its “poor”, or at least “not-slick” publication quality. Proletarian sensibilities and all.)
The photographs inside, along with a truly well-written essay by Larry Frolick, (In the Epilogue) were made in Russia and the Ukraine earlier in the decade. After a slew of establishment photos in the Prologue, bleak snow, junkyard dogs and the like, the main meal consists of a series of photographs of sad, terrified, and forlorn men and women in generic rooms. Given the title, they seem to be reliving or recounting tales of beatings, bitch-slaps and bedlam. One imagines the emotions to be real, regenerated upon reflection. But I suppose it’s never totally explained. Not necessary. Point taken.
I’ve reviewed several books already, and one MOMA exhibition, detailing life in former Iron Curtain. I think I even mentioned, last time, that it seemed to be one seriously ubiquitous subject, of late. No matter. Whether it’s mindless horror movies at the Mega-plex, dramatic dragon paintings in a British Museum (more on that later), or bleakly violent Eastern European photo-books, people will always, always be fascinated by the dark.
Bottom Line: Creatively made, striking publication
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