For your summer reading pleasure, BURNAWAY brings you Just Like Suicide, a novel by artist Mery Lynn McCorkle, set in the Los Angeles art world. She writes from experience, having lived for years in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, when it still was the art frontier, and then LA; she now resides in Rome, Georgia. She describes the book as “a compendium of interlocking tales cataloguing self demolition and success in the Los Angeles art scene, from the point of view of artists, dealers and family members.”
We’ll post sequential chapters from McCorkle’s book every Wednesday and Friday over the summer. Or click here to buy the book now.
Lori sat in the grass in front of the tar pit, leaning her forehead against the black plastic fence, waiting for the methane bubbles to appear. Her pants and t-shirt were crusted with the green paint she’d scraped off the painting still on her studio wall, making her match the grass rather well.
She’d scraped off all the color.
Each week she would try to put color onto the painting and by the end of the week she’d scrape it all down, leaving only a brownish stain on the gessoed canvas.
Without Alex around to encourage her, she didn’t seem to be able to move beyond this one canvas.
Self pity is such a waste of time, she told herself, but inspiration, well inspiration just wasn’t there.
The methane bubbles were yellow in the dark tar. They blurped and forced out rings, ever widening rings until the thickness of the tar consumed them. Monet had water lilies. Maybe these bubbles were her flowers. What she could cultivate on canvas.
“Doesn’t the smell bother you?” a male voice asked from behind her.
“What smell?” she replied.
“Maybe for a painter they don’t smell.”
“Oh, they do stink, I’m sure. I’ve just been living in my studio for a week and everything smells like turpentine.”
“You do carry a bit of that odor.”
“Well, you don’t have to stay around and smell it then.”
“Actually I like the smell.”
“Are you flirting with me?”
“I don’t know yet. Do you want me to flirt with you?”
She turned around and looked at him with her nose wrinkled, like he was the one with an odor. He wasn’t bad looking. Sort of bland actually. But his eyes were full of mischief.
“I’m not available.”
“Who said I was?”
He smiled at her and offered her his hand. “I can hear your stomach growling from over here. Let’s go get something to eat.”
“Well, I’m vegan. So there.”
She couldn’t help it. She laughed.
As they walked away from the park, he asked her if she spent much time at the tar pits.
“I thought I might find some inspiration in it.”
“I can see that the thickness of it would appeal to a painter. I find it kind of beautiful in a depressing way. The idea of all those animals starving to death as they slowly sank into the tar.”
“Yeah, there’s that. Here they were, thinking they were going to have a good slurp of water and a bath only to discover they were stuck and doomed.”
“There’s a metaphor in there somewhere.”
As they ate, she grew silent. He didn’t speak either. They sat together, neither one of them trying to entertain the other. It was companionable.
“So,” she asked after finishing the salad, “why are we so self destructive? We see the tar pit for what it is and still walk in.”
“We smoke and drink and take drugs. We engage in unprotected sex and gamble on the stock market and run red lights. Why are we so self destructive?”
“Well,” he told her in his soft voice, “the other popular option is to lead a safe life and take no risks at all. That’s not much of a life, is it?”
“Yeah, it’s a real dilemma.”
“You can think of it as a dilemma or as our peculiar manifestation of the continuum between energy and matter.”
“Yeah, energy and matter. That’s a better way of looking at it than success and failure.” She smiled at him. “I’m Lori. What’s your name?”