LB No. 4
I barely get out, and I don’t go away. When I was younger, I would fantasize about getting on some bus, like Enid Coleslaw at the end of Ghostworld, and never looking back. I liked the idea of eloping with an ambiguous future; the only commitment I wanted to make was to something totally different from my past. I moved across the country to a city I’d never even visited, just a few thousand miles, to start a new life. I’ve been here almost a decade, and I’ve realized that, while the bus out of town was the end of Enid Coleslaw, the past, as The Natural History of Nonsense almost has it, ain’t through with me.
To wit: wherever you go, there you are. But then again, sometimes one gets a little holiday. When I’m not at home I wake up earlier, smoke fewer cigarettes. (Once, in Banff, I even got up just before the summer sunrise, to sign up for an im- promptu birding session. Incidentally, the birds weren’t out and the guide side-eyed me when I mistook a screeching squirrel for some promising kind of birdsong.) I drink finer wines and whiskies. I read every article in The New Yorker, even the listings and previews, even if I’m not in New York. I am probably better when I am away, but I am happiest being wretched at home.
Travel is an undignified series of headaches—lodging logistics, itineraries, maps, currency. Rather than offering an escape, travel amplifies the tedious planning and accounting of daily life. A holiday, however, is something else entirely. To go on holiday is to be taken to another place—to be taken away and turned into something, someone, else. Once you’ve been, you don’t come back, or at least not the same way. The act of transportation is also one of transformation. The ground shifts, and you with it. Lucky for hermits like me, one doesn’t have to get out to get outside one’s self. That’s what art is for.
My reading life takes me further away than the all-inclusive tour or resort—I’ve been to other worlds. I came of age in North West London, along with Irie Jones and the Iqbal boys, during one languid summer in a Calgarian suburb. Before then, I routinely explored the Salinas Valley just East of Eden. I’ve been through the darkest night an American could ever have in Ireland, so dark Renata Adler had to call it pitch. My early twenties took me swimming through every pool in the gleaming New Hampshire suburbs, though I was still too young to have a truly Cheeverian hangover.
Don’t mistake me: it’s not the settings of these stories that took me away. I got outside myself by going in, going deep and experimenting with other rhythms of language and thought; I went in and away, and, like the holiest of holidays, the process re-patterned my mind. Or was it my soul? Even at home, I’ve always been able to find the trouble I’ve been looking for.
I hope you’ll see the pages of Little Brother No. 4 as a kind of passport. There are adventures waiting. Visit the tawny surf of Cian Cruise’s beguiling detective diary, and take in the intoxicating cellulose vistas of Jay Shuster’s houseplant portfolio, made all the more phenomenal by Jesjit Gill’s Risograph prints. You’ll find something else there. Dip your toes in the water with Jessica Bebenek’s imaginative big chill of a story. Get lost in Szilvia Molnar’s episodic portrait of longing. Cross the continent in a van with Alexander Hamlyn and the Ketamines. If you get hungry on the way, Kelli Korducki’s “Tiny Triumphs,” a beautiful, winding travelogue that mixes consumer history, science writing, and even labour reporting into a definitive personal essay on hot dogs, should satisfy your craving, and your wanderlust. Get away from getting away from it all in the fractured familiarity of Las Vegas; the mirage wilts through Elissa Pearl Matthew’s lens, and is rusted over by Bardia Sinaee’s singularly displaced captions. And come back this way with Stephen Thomas; you’ll see what they mean when they say you can’t go home again.
Emily M. Keeler