Winnipeg-based artist Kegan McFadden teamed up with New York City based artist Nick Kline to offer a non typical book exposing the “he” we all know, as “he” is potentially inside of us or is someone we once dated or is simply someone we know. The book is a collection of poems that read much more like short stories written in prose. Each story has a “he” as the central character and is a short revelation on his life, about his true self. McFadden successfully finds a succinct way of entering their worlds quickly enough to understand who they are, without the unnecessary background and without the unnecessary moralistic projections of where this revelation will lead them. Its a single segment, yet is richly complex. The elements revealed speak to larger themes. Each “he” is revealed through something that is very real. You might think it ugly, complex or disappointing, but it is undeniably very real. Something you can feel.
Maybe because you can recognize yourself, an ex or a friend. The stories are different, but it can be many side of the same person. The use of “he” leads you to believe McFadden wanted to confuse the him and the me, the him and the you. His/my insecurities, his/my habits, he has secrets that are revealed. Its an interesting litterary tool that allow you to explore an eclectic collection of stories. Stories that don’t feel like complete fiction, but have elements of it, as “he” is never fully defined.
The stories are interspersed with images from the series boys’ shirts by Nick Kline. The images are of various fabrics, typical of boys shirts. The patterns are varied in color, line width, line direction, and the fabric itself varies. Nonetheless, and particularly because they are presented in black and white, they feel interchangeable. As in each one of us could easily have worn any of these; at least some of these. At other times, we naturally shrug them off some, as something I/he would not have worn, not me, but someone. Additionally, you may remember that at a time you had no choice in what laid in your drawer. Essentially, Kline presents something that seems simple and straight forward, but touches on the complexities of boyhood.
By combining both, the reader runs through the stories with a faux nostalgia and a faux auto-reflection that he can either feel comfortable in or simply dismiss as not really his true inner “he.” Boys are boys…. but what does that mean for my current self, my future self. Faux-nostalgia works both ways. Rich lines like, “his legacy an inside joke: no matter how you pronouce it, a tomato is a fruit,” are direct enough that we know the intent, but without full context are left to us to interpret and react to the way we choose.
The images and the stories complement each other poeticaly; one is not an illustration of the other, and does not give clearer context. Both are tools that makes the reader feel something beyond the pages, something inside ourselves. Both allow a narrative to flow through the book. An achievement that might not have been as successful if each would have presented their works independently.
The official book launch was Saturday October 18th in Toronto. A Winnipeg release is set for Sunday November 30th at Normandy Shoppe (791 Corydon) from 4 to 7pm. he is a limited publication from As We Try & Sleep Press, and sells for $20. A unique book, that is non-typical, but always topical.
Eric Plamondon is a Winnipeg based free-lance writer and is the Executive Director of la Maison des artistes visuals francophones.