We were not ignorant of perspective. We deliberately ignored it. A flat world was ours and everything in it had a name once and all the names were ours once. With perspective, names escape from the paper and scatter into the minds of men so they can never be held down again.
–William S. Burroughs, The Western Lands
At an exhibition of impressionist painters at DC, I was struck by an image of man standing by the bank of a river painting a landscape. It evoked so many images, the jubilant party with their easels and canvases, heading off to the river, everyone giggling at the man who instead of painting the river decided to paint his friend. I wonder if they scrutinized one another’s canvasses? Did they show one another new techniques. It was a moment of communication between artists, captured in paint, displayed for our eyes.
Ancient Evenings by Norman Mailer is not one of his more popular works. Don’t ask me why–it’s got a river of shit, sex, and a non-linear plotline, what more could a girl want? Perhaps it should rebrand itself as fantasy and find some love among that crowd. While the rest of the world was unimpressed with the work, William S. Burroughs felt quite differently. It inspired him to write The Western Lands, my favorite of his works. It’s Egypt done Gentleman Junkie style.
To share in the intimacy of a writer talking to another writer, I suggest these two works, Mailer followed by Burroughs.