Got to Go by Rosalind Fox Solomon is a great book with a great cover. It's a picture of a lady in a bathtub, well-but-not-too-well coifurred with bling-ringed fingers reaching up to touch a face that has an expression of confusion, doubt and realisation all wrapped in one. Oh, and she's sitting in a bubble-filled bathtub. That's very evident, but the focus is so drawn to the face that it didn't really register the first few times I saw it.
So how much do I know if I can't even see that the woman in a picture of a woman in a bubble bath is in an actual bubble bath. Is there such a thing as bubble-bath blindness? Because if there is I have it.
Essentially, the picture is a realisation of Rosalind Fox Solomon herself because the book is an autobiography of sorts, both of her life (Is it though??) and of the history of women (again, is it though??), and the story of a mother's life and a relationship to a daughter (is it though??).
It has words that convey her sentiments as a woman, and the ideological bombardment that accompanies that status, combined with pictures that encompass her career and mirror the stages of her life in various ways. Or is it all about mother, in the more oppressive sense of the word?
It's a fluid kind of work where the words and the texts come together, move apart and are never quite pinned down. As it says in the Kurt Vonnegut quote at the back of the book.
'All persons living and dead are purely coincidental, and should not be construed.'
And you can link that to the statement on her website which goes like this:
“I GOT THE NERVE TO DREAM OF MAKING SOME GOOD PICTURES IN MY LIFETIME AFTER I LEARNED ABOUT EUGÈNE ATGET & JULIA MARGARET CAMERON. ATGET LAUNCHED HIS WORK ON THE STREETS OF PARIS WHEN HE WAS 40; CAMERON WAS 48 WHEN SHE FIRST PICKED UP A CAMERA TO MAKE HER EXTRAORDINARY PORTRAITS.
I STARTED TAKING PICTURES
WHEN I WAS 38.
MY FIRST PORTRAIT PROJECT WAS AT FIRST MONDAYS, A MARKET IN SCOTTSBORO, ALABAMA.
IT BEGAN WITH BATTERED DOLLS.
WHEN I COULD MOVE CLOSE TO THE DOLLS I BEGAN DOING THE SAME THING WITH PEOPLE.”
And then we're into the story of Solomon's life, or a 'construe' of Solomon's life.
It's the story of prescription drugs, neuroses and never being quite good enough in oh-so-many ways. It's the disappointment of being a daughter to a reactionary mother who judges in ways that are arbitrarily spiteful, passing judgements that are made in lines that accompany pictures that extend this vision of girlhood and womenhood beyond the immediate to the more universal. It's the life that Solomon has led, but it's also the world that we live in. Solomon is everywomen here.
The lines flick from Solomon to the people in the pictures and back again. When the lines stick, they bite and take you trailing into a world of neurosis, anger and a sharp, sharp wit. But you're never quite sure who the pictures are sticking to; is it Solomon, the people in the pictures, or the family. This is the line that goes with the cover picture:
'i never knew which I hated most; my breasts, my nose or my name.'
That's one that sticks and it leads into a series of body parts; a nose job, droopy breasts and buttocks being ironed flat. There's sarcasm (the lady who likes being taken care of):
the acme of a lady
will make life
i like chivalry
a man's arm helping
up and down a curb
i'm not independent
why should i be?
i'm spoiled rotten'
Or there's the naughty girl. With a picture of a naughty-looking girl. And a caption that says:
There's nakedness, bad dads, spanking, cancer, suicide, infidelity, old age and death. Does it all hang together perfectly? The text does. It tells a story of manipulation, control and delusion from within.
'mother says, i like male attentions of all kinds
because i'm female through and through'
Mother doesn't come out of it very well then, but nor does father, who loves and chastises and is something of a bit player in all this.
Who this archetypal mother is and what she symbolises is the heart of the book. And it does read like a mix between Solomon, her mother, and a symbol of defeat, but then maybe that's reading too much into it all. Maybe there isn't a story to construe?
Except of course there is, because the pictures, which are beautifully made and filled with nuances that link up to the text, direct us in very particular social and political directions. And there's a little bit of vengeance in there that has a cracking good taste to it, and not a little bite.
Buy Got to Go here.