Friday, September 30, 2011

gone by kris dresen

Book:  gone
Author:  kris dresen
Publisher:  Outlines Press

I’m starting off with a bit of a history lesson – go with it, I promise there’s a point to it.

Situated at the southernmost point of Indiana is a small, sleepy town called New Harmony.  In the early 1800s, a group of radical Separatists from the German Lutheran Church (aren’t they all) moved to this spot in the lower Wabash Valley, and created a so-called Utopian community.

It was a move seemingly ripped from today’s headlines - their literal interpretation of biblical text, and their interpretation of current world events led them to believe that a Second Coming of Jesus Christ was imminent and this was the happening place to be for the Rapture.

The Harmonists, as the settlers were called, combined the Swabian work ethic (Work, work, work! Save, save, save!) with the Benedictine rule (Pray and work!).  This resulted in an amazing period of economic self-sufficiency that was recognized as "the wonder of the west."

Of course, they were also staunch believers in celibacy, and the society eventually died out . . .

But, before that could happen, the Harmonists’ charismatic leader was given Divine guidance that the time of the Sunwoman of Revelation (Revelations 12:1-18, for the curious) was upon them, so they moved again.  New Harmony was quickly sold to a wealthy Scot named Robert Owen, who had a different vision for a Utopian society.   His “Community of Equality” attracted some of the most notable (and flamboyant) scholars, writers, artists, and philosophers of the early 19th Century.  And, while the Owen experiment at a Utopian community failed miserably after only three years, the contribution to literature, art, scientific, and educational theory, study, and practice resounds today.

Wondering when I’m going to get around to talking about gone by kris dresen, eh?

Wait for it . . .

When I think about New Harmony, I don’t think about the early settlers and their quest for the elusive Rapture, I think about the writers, artists, and architects; the geologists, scientists, and mathematicians; the educators, reformers and philosophers.  I think about the people who weren’t afraid to think outside the box, challenge conventional thinking, or ask ‘why not’.  I think about the people who said, ‘what if’.

gone is the second offering from Outlines Press, and the first by artist, publisher, and serial non-capitalist, kris dresen.  It’s sixteen pages of edgy art, inner conflict, and revelation painstakingly folded into a tale about birds, telephone poles, kick-ass boots, and a really big dose of gravity.

It’s classic kris dresen art, with a lemon twist.  The same, yet different.   A little to the left, no, no, right there.  Ah.

My first reaction is to call it something pithy like ‘graphic poetry’, but that tends to cheapen the overall accomplishment.  gone is the kind of publication that you read a thousand times, and catch something different each time through.  Perhaps, once you focus on the eyes and everything they might portend.  Maybe the next time, you see hair and feathers.  Then the next, the spread of arms and wings. 

You see a deliberate rise and tentative fall, and shadows that lay ahead then behind.  You wonder why the boots go on and off. What it means to stand, sit, climb, jump, kneel, lay, listen, and leave.  At times, you argue or rationalize, then others you move to compromise.  Within gone, each picture tells a story, but each word evokes a thousand pictures. 

And no matter what secrets you uncover, one message rings loud and clear:  The first step is a bitch.

kris dresen’s art style is her calling card, and what gives gone its biker babe swagger.

It’s all about straight lines like telephone poles, stripes, laces, and shadows, but tempered with waves like hair, feathers, clouds, boot soles, and eyes.  The patterns are strong, and the textures are rich and evocative.  A woman can be tough, lost and sexy all at the same time, and the crows can be angry, curious, protective, and knowing.

Similarly, kris dresen uses words as art - bold and italic, no capitalization, very little punctuation.  Some are strong, demanding, and almost harsh.  Others a whisper, a sigh, a quiet invocation.  The clever use of words and images creates a mood, and transports the reader into the story – you are not just reading or witnessing, so much as participating.

Like the Harmonists, the women of Outlines Press aren't afraid to think outside the box, challenge conventional thinking, or ask ‘why not’.  Their logo could very well proclaim ‘what if’.  While that spirit is not necessarily new, it’s not so common or easily mastered as one would expect. 

I have read gone at least thirty times in the last month, and each time I’ve flipped forward, flipped backward, sat it down, picked it back up, turned it sideways, turned it back, started all over again. 

Much like it’s sister publication, CORE, gone gets its juice from being different, and the possibilities for future kris dresen publications are endless and exciting.  

It’s a heady mix of words, art, imagination, and that possibility - if they'd throw in some dark chocolate and a frisky little Beaujolais, I'd consider asking it to spend the night.

I said it last week, but it bears repeating:

The rules of the game are changing, and authors and publishers need to push the envelope a little more.  Admittedly, some readers don’t like change and aren't attracted to publications like those coming out of Outlines Press.  That's fine, but over time, reader demographics and likes and dislikes will shift.  The audience with a taste for gone is out there, but there are a lot of other evolving tastes that have yet to be discovered.

I’m giving gone a 5.0 out of 6 on the Rainbow Scale – it’s fun, fresh, and different, and that makes it a keeper for the top row of my bookshelf.


  1. Intriguing. I agree that times are a changing and a new paradigm is awakening.

  2. I always love getting notes from the Divine Ms. M - thanks for swinging by. I really do believe we will always have the bread and butter romances and mysteries in Lesfic - that market will probably never dry up (for good reason - sometimes a girl just needs that). However, people are writing and reading books that (may) have elements of romance or mystery, but are more rightly considered 'contemporary literature'. And, we're seeing a groundswell of lesbian comic book characters, and other edgy mashups of prose. drawings, poetry, satire, comedy, potitics, intrigue, and even photography. It is a trend toward greater depth and variety, and an important element in the long-term health and welfare of the Lefic genre'. At least that is my $0.02 worth.