RECURSIVE VOYEURISM

Geist - - Endnotes - —Michael Hay­ward

The Man­hat­tan Project (Sylph Edi­tions), de­scribed as a “lit­er­ary di­ary,” is a slim hard­cover in which the Hun­gar­ian nov­el­ist Lás­zló Krasz­na­horkai (author of Sátán­tangó, and frequent col­lab­o­ra­tor with the Hun­gar­ian film­maker Béla Tarr) “chron­i­cles his at­tempts to fathom the life of Her­man Melville.” Dur­ing the pe­riod cov­ered by The Man­hat­tan Project Krasz­na­horkai was on a fel­low­ship at New York Pub­lic Li­brary’s Cull­man Cen­ter for Schol­ars and Writ­ers, os­ten­si­bly “work­ing on a novel about Melville af­ter the pub­li­ca­tion of Moby Dick.” Krasz­na­horkai’s at­tempts at re­search are reg­u­larly side-tracked by the ghosts of those who have walked ear­lier ver­sions of the same Man­hat­tan streets: the poet Allen Gins­berg, the vi­sion­ary ar­chi­tect Lebbeus Woods, and the author Mal­colm Lowry, who lived in Man­hat­tan for a while dur­ing the 1930s, and who was also ob­sessed with Melville’s time in that city (Lowry’s Man­hat­tan ex­pe­ri­ences later formed the ba­sis for his novella Lu­nar Caus­tic). The Man­hat­tan Project is il­lus­trated with black and white pho­to­graphs by Or­nan Rotem, who ob­serves in an after­word that “Ev­ery place you’ve ever been, some­one else has been be­fore you.” Read­ing The Man­hat­tan Project makes you feel a bit like a voyeur, or the lat­est in a long, recursive se­quence of noir lit­er­ary de­tec­tives, each fol­low­ing the faint traces of their pre­de­ces­sors.

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