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, but 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.
“Men may dyen of ymaginacioun.”
Geoffrey Chaucer, The Miller’s Tale
Sorting through the stack of mail, Odessa found a fat grey envelope among the fliers and ads. Must be another wedding invitation, she thought. No one else uses fine paper anymore and very few bother to use snail mail. She ran her finger over the visible water mark of overlapping rectangles – probably custom made, definitely rag paper, sized just enough to prevent any feathering of the ink used to pen their names and address. Whoever sent this must be expecting a mighty expensive wedding present.
Opening it up revealed a gossamer silver lining and an engraved card inviting them to attend a party. Formal attire. RSVP. The whole shebang.
“I wonder what Rina wants this time,” Odessa said as she tossed the invitation over to her husband taking one of his rare days off. He was spending it watching the tail end of a golf tournament underway in Scotland.
“You’re a hot item, sweet pea. Three shows reviewed in a row and one of those in a New York magazine. You are part of the A list now.”
“Oh, Dennis. I wish. I surely do wish. But don’t you think it’s more likely that her sister needs something from me for another benefit auction?”
“Rina’s never invited you over before when she needed you to donate. And doesn’t what’s-her-name contact you directly now?”
“You’re right. She does. This must be a different kind of favor. Rina never does anything without an ulterior motive.”
“Well, Ms. Crabby Cakes, we can decline.”
“Heavens no. There’s no way on earth I’ll turn down a chance to see Roger’s tour de force in person. That would be plain stupid.”
The night of the party Odessa put on the liveliest of her cocktail dresses, a row of which normally just collected dust in her closet. In the LA art world, formal attire wasn’t all that necessary except for an occasional event at a museum. She didn’t even own a full-length dress unless her beach robe counted. For a second she considered wearing it with her mother’s pearls, but no. This was a business opportunity; and besides, this cocktail dress, designed and hand sewn by an artist fixated on sequins and thin nylon cord, was a fine conversation starter. As she discovered when she first started the gallery and they had next to no money, the only sensible way to compete in fashion against unlimited resources was with outlandish verve.
She and Dennis rode together up into the gated community in his eight year old BMW and found themselves in line between a brand spanking new silver Lamborghini and a series of Rolls Royce Phantoms with chauffeurs. When he handed the key over to the valet in the tux, the young man sneered ever so slightly.
“We should have come over in my poor old Honda. Even I sneer at it,” she whispered loudly to her husband, winking as the valet glanced her way.
Before they could walk up the wide cement sidewalk past the arms of a giant aloe, two conspicuously armed guards diverted them over to a young woman wearing ping pong sized pearls who requested picture ID. She smiled at them with impressively even white teeth which must have cost her parents a small fortune. Once she found their names on her baby computer, a guard motioned them to the door.
Somehow Roger’s “landmark of urban architecture” wasn’t what Odessa expected. She could see why none of the photos of the place were taken from the street. His famous house had all of the curb appeal of a military fortification. Windowless, squat, grey: the ideal habitat for the half dozen guards standing around looking intimidating. “These guys look like Marines, not rent-a-cops. Who’s coming that they need this level of security?” Dennis asked her. She had no idea. Maybe it was normal for those in Rina’s economic tier.
Once she took one step inside the bunker, she had to admit that the building deserved every bit of praise it had garnered. The walls and ceiling were coated concrete, every inch polished almost into mirrors. The staircase at the end of the foyer led down into a great hall which seemed nearly as tall as heaven. The very recessed clerestory windows at the tip top of the wall facing away from the street made the shiny ceiling glow with the last vestiges of evening light. Impressive, the word which came up in every article about the place, wasn’t quite strong enough. Whatever the favor Rina expected, it was worth every bit of it to see this in person.
All the glistening surfaces reflecting the lights and brightly colored clothes of the guests were simply sumptuous, but, you know, the further she walked into the hall, the colder it felt, like stepping inside of a monumental ice cube. She had had the same sensation walking through the ornate rooms of mirrors and gilt at Versailles. Completely awe inspiring and just as completely frigid. What did Mme. de Maintenon say about her royal lover’s palace? “Symmetry, symmetry, symmetry, we shall perish in symmetry.” Substitute “cement” for “symmetry” and it was an equally accurate sentiment.