Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Kathleen Rooney's "Live Nude Girl"

Kathleen Rooney is the author of Reading with Oprah: The Book Club that Changed America, now in its second edition, as well as the poetry collections Oneiromance (An Epithalamion), Something Really Wonderful, and That Tiny Insane Voluptuousness, the latter two written collaboratively with Elisa Gabbert. Her essay “Live Nude Girl” was selected for Twentysomething Essays by Twentysomething Writers.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Live Nude Girl: My Life as an Object, and reported the following:
Page 99 falls a little past the middle of chapter three, which is called “You Only Live Twice,” and which is about the connection between art modeling and mortality.

Bleeding over from 98, the page begins: “Suicide fascinates me, and always has, mostly because I could never imagine committing it myself. Part of why I pose is actually bound up in my irrational superstition that even if, heaven forefend, I meet an untimely end, I will be able to enjoy some kind of earthly immortality, if only in the surviving works for which I’ve posed.”

As luck would have it, my book passes Ford’s test. This page is fairly representative of the book as a whole since Live Nude Girl is an extended meditation on why I, or anyone else, would feel motivated to go into this profession—to take my clothes off and be a part of art—and also why artists feel motivated to work from the figure, or to work at all. I suppose that this death-fear or death-awareness is hugely compelling for them, just as it is for me.

As I mention earlier in the chapter, John Berger says that art is “an affirmation of the visible which surrounds us and which continually appears and disappears. Without the disappearing, there would perhaps be no impulse to paint.” Death is the ultimate disappearance, and painting and posing for paintings (or photographs or sculptures or drawings) seem like small ways to arrest the passage of lived moments and to remind ourselves of how fleeting they are.
Learn more about Live Nude Girl at the publisher's website.

Visit Kathleen Rooney's website.

--Marshal Zeringue