Monday, December 14, 2015

Hold Still

Book 55 of my 2015 Reading Challenge
read from August 10 - 27

Hold Still: A Memoir with Photographs by Sally Mann

Summary (via Goodreads)
A revealing and beautifully written memoir and family history from acclaimed photographer Sally Mann. 
In this groundbreaking book, a unique interplay of narrative and image, Mann's preoccupation with family, race, mortality, and the storied landscape of the American South are revealed as almost genetically predetermined, written into her DNA by the family history that precedes her. 
Sorting through boxes of family papers and yellowed photographs she finds more than she bargained for: "deceit and scandal, alcohol, domestic abuse, car crashes, bogeymen, clandestine affairs, dearly loved and disputed family land . . . racial complications, vast sums of money made and lost, the return of the prodigal son, and maybe even bloody murder."
In lyrical prose and startlingly revealing photographs, she crafts a totally original form of personal history that has the page-turning drama of a great novel but is firmly rooted in the fertile soil of her own life.
My Opinion
I liked the format of having the pictures dispersed throughout the text very much.  It made them interact and enhance the story in a way that having an insert of all pictures in the middle wouldn't achieve.

I want to hear everyone's stories but if you're not like me, there won't be a purpose in this book.  This is one woman's take on her life and history.  

As a warning, there is nudity (male, female, and child), naked dead people (including a corpse with hands on his phallus), and descriptions and photos of a body farm.  As always, I think about the families; I wonder if anyone has ever just happened to be reading this and then Bam, they turn the page and there's a picture of their dead relative.  That would be a pretty unfortunate coincidence.  That didn't have anything to do with this specific author, just more of a random musing on my part.

I did give a lot of thought to her quote below about her ancestor.  It's crazy to think that small things (in her case, a rope) make all the difference in whether a person is born or not.  My children can thank the moment their dad gave me a simple pinecone for their existence... :)

A Few Quotes from the Book
"Maybe you've made something mediocre - there's plenty of that in any artist's cabinets - but something mediocre is better than nothing, and often the near-misses, as I call them, are the beckoning hands that bring you to perfection just around the blind corner."

"The Mayflower ancestor was John Howland, a "lustie yonge man" who, according to Bradford's Of Plymouth Plantation, was swept overboard but managed to hang on to a dangling line long enough to be pulled to safety. Reading about him, I marvel at the contingency of my own existence, dependent here on the strength of a seventeenth-century piece of woven rope."

"Down here, you can't throw a dead cat without hitting an older, well-off white person raised by a black woman, and every damn one of them will earnestly insist that a reciprocal and equal form of love was exchanged between them."

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