Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Virginia Dare by Fielding Dawson

I first heard of Fielding Dawson in an article about him in The Believer a few years ago, which definitely got me interested. A beat-era writer and painter, he studied at Black Mountain College and hung around with Franz Kline and Philip Guston. (A favorite detail about him is that he pitched for the Max's Kansas City softball team. I especially love that there was a Max's Kansas City softball team at all.)

I came across this book when I wasn't looking for it, at Robin's Books in Philadelphia. (A signed copy by a dead author on a now defunct* legendary press...for $8.50. Go figure.) In the book's introduction, Dawson announces that "this book draws to a close my involvement with the first person and autobiography" and that it marks his "entrance into third person fiction, and open endings through transitions," as well as his intent "to undo the corset concepts of beginning, middle and end, as well as lucid description and dialogue in 123-ABC type progressions, and the mistaken dogma that novelistic completion brings, or ties, all loose ends together." Many of the stories are extremely short, a page or two, or even just a paragraph.

I remember feeling disappointed as I read it, but less disappointed in the book than I was with myself for not "getting it." Flipping through it now, the stories kind of remind me of a more beat-like Raymond Carver. I'd like to give it another try, or at least check out another of his books.

Dawson was also a painter and collagist, and there are many photographs and collages scattered throughout the pages of this book, as well as on the front cover.

*I've just learned that though John Martin did retire in 2002 and sold the rights to the works of Charles Bukowski, Paul Bowles, and John Fante to HarperCollins, he then sold the rest of his inventory to David Godine for $1, and Godine now not only distributes the remaining Black Sparrow stock but also publishes new titles under it as an imprint of his own publishing house. But for all intents and purposes, Black Sparrow is, in the classic sense, still defunct in my eyes.

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