Friday, September 19, 2014

Windows on the World by Matteo Pericoli

When I was young, I used to love looking at architectural drawings.  Yes, even blueprints.  There was something magical, in my eyes, about how these simple line drawings could communicate so much.  When the Metropolitan Museum of Art opened up a wing that featured some of Frank Lloyd Wright’s drawings, I was enchanted.

Which is why, when I heard about Windows on the World:  50 Writers, 50 Views by Matticeo Pericoli, I wanted to read it.  The concept is simple enough.  Pericoli, an artist, architect, illustrator, draws images from photographs given to him by various writers.  The writers also provide descriptions of the view they see from where they write.  The book, as a result, works as a unified anthology.

The illustrations especially serve as an anchor with Pericoli doing an elegant job of interpreting what each writer sees.  Even the drawings, which are so looking out onto a variety of places, are also connected with one another because each window pane and frame is drawn with hashtag lines.  This is a subtle choice on the artist’s part, reinforcing the how these short essays, although written far apart and by different people are, themselves, interconnected.

As with any anthology, I enjoyed some of the pieces more than others.  This is one of the reasons I recommend people read anthologies.  You can discover writers you enjoy without the risk of being halfway through a novel you find insufferable.  These essays are all exceptionally short, most only a few paragraphs long, a few lasting longer than a single page.  My favorite pieces are by the following writers:
Joumana Haddad
Rotimi Babatunde
John McGregor
Andri Snœr Magnason
Rana Dasgupta
Xi Chuan
Sheila Heti
Lesley Tenono
Francisco Goldman
Daniel Galera
Maria Kodama
The essays themselves have unique tones, some pragmatically describing the view, detailing the flora and fauna or the absence thereof, while others are more poetic, seeking metaphors in what is seen and not seen.  Common to almost all of the authors is the absence of distractions, something commented upon time and time again, whether the author was writing in a wide open space, a more compact suburb, or even in a highly populated city.  The rooms themselves are left to the imagination of the reader because we only see what the writer sees from a single window.  But each essay is a reminder that, with an eye open to perceiving as much as possible, there is a wealth of wonders to be seen even from a seemingly narrow view.

Have you read any of the authors listed above?  Can you recommend anything specific by any of them?

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