For the first of our Reading List series, we asked artist Adam Crosson what he is reading or has read recently—
I read Heart of Darkness while studying abroad in London and found that it was pertinent in a couple of ways. For one, it is situated in London with the narrator orating his story to his comrades on a vessel anchored in the Thames, a river that I crossed daily. I am a huge fan of Apocalypse Now, the film adaptation of Conrad’s literary piece.
As the story goes, Francis Ford Coppola eventually tossed the script and just trudged through the jungle with a copy of Heart of Darkness with notes scrawled in the margins. So my obsessive viewing of Apocalypse Now really converged with the book in the final pages as we are introduced to Kurtz.
Secondly, when I was eighteen, I moved to Kauai where I eventually became a caretaker for an older man. As I read Heart of Darkness, I began to realize that this man was my Kurtz. The realization was uncanny in several ways. From the physical description of Kurtz matching this man’s appearance to the fact that they both met a rather untimely death somewhat clouded in mystery… The book hit me in ways that I did not see coming.
I reread All the Kings Men while in London this past fall. It takes place in an unnamed state but you know that the story derives from classic Louisiana political corruption and specifically that of Huey Long. None of that is really too important in the overall read. It is a difficult book to write about. There are incredibly dark moments. There is the early 20th century Southern parlance that is unapologetic and at times difficult to swallow. There is an unending and incessant nature to the book that is physically exhausting.
But the beauty for me (as someone who spent two years in New Orleans aligning with a time in the narrator’s own life when existential issues were approaching head-on) is where the characters meet the landscape. The landscape in south Louisiana is unlike anywhere else and the specificity of this book comes from a sensitivity toward the emotions that are saturated within that landscape.
“The Ultimate City”, a short story in Low Flying Aircraft, J.G. Ballard
Post-oil existence meets Escape from New York meets the Watts Towers.
Robert Smithson, Learning from New Jersey and Elsewhere, Ann Reynolds