Excavation

by Gail Louise Siegel


Microsoft Word - Excavation.doc

Gail Louise Siegel’s work has appeared across the web and in print, from Ascent and FRiGG to StoryQuarterly and Wigleaf. She has an MFA from Bennington College and lives in Evanston, Illinois.

What fascinating, surprising things can you tell us about the origin, writing, revision of this piece?

    I’ve always admired triptychs—those painting trios that inspire as much awe for ambition as the dramas they depict. Writing a narrative triptych seemed daunting when I thought of Bosch or Bacon.

    But then, I remembered that when I first began writing on a computer, long before e-books were a glint in Jeff Bezos’ eye, I was intrigued with the idea of embedding tangents into text. Here, a reader might hover their cursor over a name and the character’s back-story would appear in a blue bubble. Hovering over the title of a song would play it. The mention of a monument or artist or city could conjure a photo or painting or map. I never considered intermediary links or apps or loading time. I thought it would be of a piece, tangential overlays, constellational story-telling. The written triptych let me lure all those tangents and parallels onto the same page, rather than scurry around the internet to hunt them down.

    Back in the mid-twentieth century, that was the beauty of a stack of transparencies on an overhead projector.

    It was also the beauty of some of my earliest reading: the breakfast cereal box. They are three-dimensional amalgams of art, fact, myth and marketing. Those Rice Krispies, Corn Flakes and Cheerios boxes had (and have) jokes, cartoons, an ingredient list, a nutritional label and special offers for colorful sea creatures (with a quarter and enough box-tops). I would meditate on every surface, like the facets of a diamond. Like the triptych, a cereal box is an intersection of narratives.

    And in the spirit of free association I ask this: Did the AAA marketer who designed “TripTiks”, the custom paper map books that American families used to plot their cross-country trips back in 1930’s America, know he was alluding to triptychs? I really hope so.

This entry was posted in Siegel, Gail and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.