Monday, April 25, 2011

Golaski's 'Color Plates' are only in your mind's eye

Originally printed October 7, 2010.

If you like works of fiction that break all boundaries of genre, you might want to check out Adam Golaski's "Color Plates." Presented as musings on and reactions to a mental museum filled with 19th century art, "Color Plates" is neither a book of short stories nor a novel. There are recurring characters and themes running through the 63 fictional snippets, but Golaski doesn't slow down for readers who might be slow to catch all those connections by themselves.

Nor does the book include any of the colored plates promised in the title. And that means many readers might be tempted to read through "Color Plates" while sitting in front of their computers searching for images of Édouard Manet's "White Lilacs and Roses," Edgar Degas's "Café Concert: The Song of the Dog," Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec's "La Visite: Rue des Moulins" or Mary Cassatt's "Lydia Leaning on Her Arm, Seated in a Loge."

But such an anachronistic blend of 19th-century art and 21st-century technology isn't really necessary. Golaski isn't trying to gloss or to dramatize the paintings. He's more focused on describing the memories and fantasies that the paintings inspire.

As his narrator explains in the prologue, "Paintings are brushstroke upon brushstroke. With a pencil I lift each brushstroke and make lines. Finally. What I leave behind is my body -- a portrait."

Contact Press-Citizen Opinion Editor Jeff Charis-Carlson at

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