As Sure As Kilimanjaro Rises Like Olympus Above the Serengeti

As sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti

—-Toto, Africa, the most awkward song lyrics

Yesterday, I wrote about three colossal, iconic works of art that I hope to see after they are finished. Today, I found out about a small work of art in a very remote location that I’m certain never to see.

 

German artist Max Siedentopf,  set up a sound installation in the remote Namib desert that will play Africa by Toto on a loop forever.

 

 

It seems pretty silly – but that oh-so-familiar music wafting around those dunes while the wind blows sand through the scene – it has a strange beauty.

My only complaint is the “forever” part. Those boxes, wiring, and speakers don’t look very indestructible. The first sandstorm roaring past will scatter everything.

If it were my installation I would put it in an armored canister buried in the sand with only the speakers and solar panels exposed. That might last at least a couple weeks, if not “forever.”

As a matter of fact, I would bury it, hide it, and add a sensitive motion detector that would turn off the sound if anyone approached. It would only make sound if nobody was there to hear it. I would call it “A Tree Falls In the Desert.

A Month of Short Stories 2015, Day eleven – Safari

The last two years, for the month of June, I wrote about a short story that was available online each day of the month… you can see the list for 2014 and 2015 in the comments for this page. It seemed like a good idea at the time. My blog readership fell precipitously and nobody seemed to give a damn about what I was doing – which was a surprising amount of work.

Because of this result, I’m going to do it again this year.

Today’s story, for day eleven – Safari, by Jennifer Egan

Read it online here:

Safari

I wasn’t very far into reading today’s story when I realized I had read it before. The story Safari is one section of Jennifer Egan’s novel A Visit From the Goon Squad. I read the book about three years ago and wrote a blog entry about it.

A Visit From the Goon Squad is as much a collection of linked short stories as it is a singular novel. I wanted to read the story in isolation – to see if it would work. The collection is very good but it is so complicated that it helps to have a timeline and a 3D interactive character map to get through it. Safari is pretty much one arm of that 3D map – the one gathered around Lou.

I have always enjoyed linked short stories and think it is a crackerjack way to structure a novel or longer work. The best of both worlds – so to speak.

And Safari works very well on its own. Even in this piece of the whole – Jennifer Egan throws a surprisingly complex and extensive batch of characters against the page. Most of them stick. The setting is unique, a kaleidoscope of Hollywood weirdos is transported to the African Wilderness, where their weaknesses are allowed to fester.

The Samburu warriors have arrived—four of them, two holding drums, and a child in the shadows minding a yellow long-horned cow. They came yesterday, too, after the morning game run, when Lou and Mindy were “napping.” That was when Charlie exchanged shy glances with the most beautiful warrior, who has scar-tissue designs coiled like railroad tracks over the rigorous architecture of his chest and shoulders and back.

Most short stories are told from a single point of view. In Safari the author jumps around and plays fast and loose – everything is told from almost everyone’s perspective. That adds a richness to the proceedings and reveals truths that would otherwise go hidden. The only characters that don’t take a turn are the two bird watching ladies. It’s interesting how that their motivations are never revealed, yet the ending… the last sentence… revolves around what their true motivations are.

And they might not even be aware of it.