Monday, November 29, 2021

The Hollow

You may be disconcerted by some of the cutesy locutions at the beginning of Greg Jackson’s recent New Yorker story, “The Hollow” (11/29/91). Part of the action takes place in a town called Trevi where a group of college students “opened a lunch counter” they called the Trevi Fountain. The protagonist Jack Francis’ sometime girlfriend is Sophie. He “jokingly” refers to their house as “Sophie’s Choice.” Another character Jonah Valente a one-time college football player with a Van Gogh complex invokes the over used Picasso quote “art is a lie that makes us see the truth.” But here are some others you might not have heard. "When the Gestapo came to Picasso’s studio during the Occupation," Valente relates,"there was a photo of 'Guernica"lying around.They asked him, 'Did you do this?’ and he said, 'No, you did!'" Van Gogh’s last words, “the sadness shall last forever,” are also cited. But there’s a stunning description at the beginning which irradiates the entire story and is an antidote to the "hollowness." It also pertains to both the myopia of the characters and literally to the literal hollow core, an approximately 3'x6' cavity, right out of Poe or Shirley Jackson, at the heart of "Sophie’s choice." Eliot’s “The Hollow Men” (with its famous nod to Conrad's Kurtz), of course, comes to mind. But here is the passage: “A water tower bearing the town’s name and stilted up on arachnid legs, with water stains rusting its gray-blue paint, dwarfed the two-story houses and brick storefronts and shops.” It’s as if the author were saying, if you were doubting me, take this. It’s a stunning image that brings back the horror of great stories like “The Lottery” and Kafka’s “Metamorphosis.”

Read "The End of Genius and the Rise of the Compassionate Artist" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to "Vincent"by Don McLean


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