All the latest news, ideas, and opinions from Denver's Independent Literary Center: lighthousewriters.org
by Nick Arvin
Antoine Wilson’s recent novel Panorama City earned terrific reviews from the New York Times (“A bracingly humane story whose narrator’s wisdom and forbearance make you see the world afresh”), Vanity Fair, LA Review of Books, and lots of other places. Panorama City is narrated by a young man, Oppen Porter, into a series of cassette tapes as he lies in a hospital bed, where he believes he will soon die. Into the tapes he speaks to his unborn child, and he tells of his travels in Panorama City (a neighborhood of Los Angeles) and his quest to become a “man of the world.” It’s a wonderful book.
Wilson is also a gifted photographer, with a book of photographs to his credit (The Slow Paparazzo, Ice Plant Press), which made him the perfect writer to ask to try an experiment I’m calling (until I think of a better name) the Imagistic Interviews.
The interview is three questions long, and each question is intended to be answerable with a photograph or other image, and a brief explanation. Rights to all images below belong to Antoine Wilson.
Nick: Panorama City is a book of many delights, but I felt that the most delightful delight was the voice of Oppen Porter. The voice arises partly from the peculiar nature of Oppen’s mind, his openness, his logic, and his curiosity, as well as the fact that he’s speaking to his unborn child. It’s genuinely unique and original, and I wondered if there is an image that captures your idea of that voice?
A couple of years into writing the book, my father died. My aunt (not-Liz-like) posted this image on his memorial page. It’s c. 1930, probably Hull, Quebec. My father and his father, looking an awful lot like myself and my son. The moment I saw it, it unlocked a whole lot of emotion inside me, vis-a-vis my father. I had never truly imagined him possessing the innocence of a child. This image ended up becoming an enormous inspiration for the grandfather-father-son dynamic in the book. Never before had I felt so much like a link in the human chain.
Nick: Is there a picture that captures your vision of the curious quest that Oppen sets himself, to become “a man of the world”?
This image encapsulates for me the sort of vision Oppen has of himself when he sets out from Madera for the wide world of Panorama City. He’s a puzzle piece in search of his puzzle.
Nick: Panorama City is an actual place. It is the place where Oppen goes to learn to be a “man of the world,” his words. You have to give us a picture of the Panorama City of Panorama City.
I love the way the reflection of the sun off the Merc’s wheel creates an old-school nimbus you’d expect to find above Jesus’ head in a painting. I call it a rimbus. To me, this image resides at the intersection of the sacred and profane–exactly where you’ll find the Panorama City of PANORAMA CITY.
Nick: (Btw, Antoine’s Twitter feed is one of the one of the cleverest and funniest around. If you’re over there, check it out.)