Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Lisa Robertson's Office for Soft Architecture

Oh, you just have to love a book launch at Value Village. This event falls under the category of "where I wish I was right now" instead of enduring the smog and 90 degree temperatures of the northeast...but as readers of the Hound will know, Robertson is a favorite, and Soft Architecture--published first by Clear Cut Press in Oregon, and now released by Coach House in Canada--is a favorite of the favorite. The essays here read as beautifully as those perfectly fit Levis you can't throw out, simple and elegant. But the simplicity is deceptive. Layers of sartorial and philosophical references, and hours of casual and rigorous thinking make these texts seem light. Surface, colour, depth, historical analysis, and grand walks--not the flaneur we have become accustomed to, the sense of which has been diluted it seems to me, by our constant referencing. The Seven Walks included here reignite the possibility of walking in the tradition of Stein and Woolf who bring so much to the movement of the language, as well as the seeing itself.

Villages des Valeurs (as it is known in Quebec), was a preoccupation of yours truly in the 80s. Haunting the aisles for suits of a certain cut, felt hats, vintage crepe shirts, tiki ties--or wide stripes a la David Byrne. I once found an orange Sandra Dee permanent press blouse with the price tag still on. Worn with pedal pushers once before it shrunk three sizes, it was worth the half dozen years I carted it around before finding the right moment to unveil it. As Robertson says, "in the House of V we luxuriate in the unoriginality of our desires and identities," and we covet what we haven't had the foresight, or the wealth to store.

The lustre of headless Barbies and I Dream of Genie lunch kits has faded a little (okay, only a little...), but I still get very excited over a well-tailored suit, or a particularly sly leather coat. And while the days of filling a cart up with clothes for a crisp twenty dollar bill have gone, compared to the price of vintage on Queen Street, or the East Village, VV remains a bargain. As for Robertson's book, like The Weather, and Debbie, it's one of those texts you come back to again and again and find something more to delight in. Not a "read-once" and never feel compelled by it again. And as far as any object or text is concerned is their higher praise than that?

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