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Doug Holder

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Action/Thriller



xxxxx


 Mass Transit

Drawings by Joan Farber

Poems by Michael O’Brien

Pressed Wafer

375 Parkside Avenue

Brooklyn, New York 111226

www.pressedwafer.com

IBBN:978-1-940396-04-0

$12.50

 

by Wendell Smith

 

Mass Transit is a collection of some 25 graphite portraits by Joan Farber interspersed with 21 poems by Michael O’Brien. At 4 x 5 inches it may be the world's most petite coffee-table book, but it more than holds its own with larger examples of the genre. This is not a book to be read; that is, it is not a volume to be finished and stored on a shelf beside other books you've consumed. It needs to be left hanging around on an accessible surface, picked up and tasted, put down and picked up again—savored for its recurrent appeal to the appetite of your attention. Anyway, that is how my wife and I used it while it was on our kitchen table for a couple of weeks and how I came to appreciate its flavors

 

Although trim and dignified in its design, this little book has a casual structure. The design forgoes page numbers and places each drawing or poem on a right hand page with the facing page blank, so a reader encounters these statements, whether visual or verbal, individually without direct reference of one to another and is free to cross reference the drawings and poems at random so they form a mass of meaning not a linear narrative.  

 

The drawings need to be seen to appreciate how completely Ms. Farber has mastered her pencil. The drawings vary from quick gestures that capture expressions in a few dozen lines to complete renderings: the difference between one subject’s startled thought and another’s meditative consideration. The faces in these drawings trigger questions, "what was she thinking?" and other associations. When I first saw this drawing,

 

[put the drawing here], my mind reflexively said, "Rembrandt."

 

As the drawings vary from gestures to more complete portraits so the verses vary from notes:

 

kneeling bus

sighs, yields

 

to more complete descriptions:

 

A small, pot-bellied women in a bright green

dress speaks antiphonal, incomprehensible

sentences by the Seventh Avenue subway,

possessed, testifying, warning, rocking

in place with the voices, then repeating

decimal, ghosts that feed on speech. Nearby

a man, head raised, eyes closed, is drinking

the sunlight. He takes his time. His thirst

is great.

 

The poems are best read, as one would meditate upon a drawing, until the image blossoms in one's imagination as a character with a story:

 

opens her Times like

logical argument

shaking the pages as

if to be rid of the

worst of the news

 

The words honor trouble:

 

patience of the lost, going

through their ruins: ageless white-

haired high-browed black man in the

59th St. station, wild

eyes, nowhere, opening &

closing of filthy Bible

like a valve. like breath

 

and transience:

 

her smile detaches itself

from this girl's face

and from her benevolence

to hang in the

air for a moment

and then fade as

she boards the #11

bus one gray morning

 

I don’t think O’Brien’s poems should be subjected to the enhanced interrogation of a close reading. As I’ve said, I found them best when I absorbed them as I did Farber’s drawings, slowly letting my thoughts improvise along with them. When I did, the book became a celebration, an acknowledgment that we are, all of us, a mass in transit and the company we are keeping, as it is presented here, is a worthy one.

 

A note on Pressed Wafer

 

Pressed Wafer was founded in Boston by Daniel Bouchard, Joseph Torra and William Corbett and was originally 9 Columbus Square. It moved with Corbett to 375 Parkside, Brooklyn, New York in 2012. While you can order individual books from, Pressed Wafer subscriptions are available for $100 a year. In addition to the publications you receive for your subscription, you will also get all the backlist titles available. What a deal. I discovered Mass Transit because I became a subscriber this year. The backlist books I received for subscribing meant my investment came to less that $10 a book. So far those I’ve read have been as engaging as Mass Transit. As I said, what a deal!





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