Let Go and Go On and On by Tim Kinsella
Review by Matt Pincus
Fame is a twisted muse, and continues to be as society ruminates on how glamour leads to deep sadness. One thinks of the coverage of Philip Seymour Hoffman's recent overdose, Michael Jackson's addiction to image and painkillers, Heath Ledger's depression and insomnia, River Phoenix's overdose outside an L.A. club. In Let Go and Go On and On, Tim Kinsella delves into a tragedy unbeknownst to many film connoisseurs, that of Laurie Bird. Her connections as made evident throughout the novel, at times most likely exaggerated, to James Taylor, Dennis Wilson of The Beach Boys, Warren Oates, Harry Dean Stanton, Paul Simon, and Art Garfunkel are significant. She died at age twenty-six of an overdose on Valium with alcohol, and as Kinsella puts it, "A cloud, breath, blew out into the mirror in a sudden puff."
Bird's depression is noted by emotional and physically abusive men, as Kinsella imagines, blurring the lines between fact and her fictional roles. James, Dennis, Warren, and Dean (as they are referred to in the novel) treat her body as a sexual object they can use as they please. Warren, who starred with her in The Cockfighter, a B-film directed by Monte Hellman, beats her at a cockfight in one scene after she smacks him with her purse. Kinsella's choice of second person point of view makes the novel, in some senses, an elegy and heartfelt remembrance to a victim of misogyny perpetrated by what many Americans consider musicians and actors of artistic distinction and merit.
The novel brims with violence, bubbles on the surface of the baths Laurie takes for tranquility, or, "...that same degree of chill, that same ratio of feeling internalized on downtown streets." Dennis Wilson's treatment of Laurie cannot help linking one with his connection to the house where Manson and his gang murdered Sharon Tate. Laurie committed suicide when engaged to Art in New York City. He was in Vienna shooting a psychological thriller directed by Nicholas Roeg titled Bad Timing, and as Kinsella says in his foreword, "a film which ironically mimics her own tragedy." A climactic scene where Art asks how many people Laurie has slept with appropriates the type of one-sided patriarchy Kinsella wishes to realistically depict in an attempt to viscerally reach a psychological, or political, understanding of how men govern her corporeal self.
Let Go On and Go On and On has multiple references to Plath's The Bell Jar, a novel of artistic originality stereotyped by culture as an archetype for depression and feminine hysterics. Kinsella, known most notably for his musical group, Cap'n Jazz, could've easily fallen into a cliché fictional depiction of "the tragic starlet." His text is quite the opposite, with incredible, refreshing descriptions of relationships and depression. In reference to an imagined relationship between Paul and Bird from her appearance as his girlfriend in Annie Hall, emotions swirl with metaphor: "And, yes, it might be a harsh comparison, but that was the attraction -- that attraction, the compulsion to help that one feels when passing someone being sucked down into quicksand, the earth swallowing them."
The image of the purple robe in the last section, the cockfighting and "beak cracked" in reference to the actress's last name, the refrain of, "your private island and your pet coyote" build an appropriated creative realism around a figure of cinema who never got to tell her own story. Kinsella humbles himself before the character and the person, allowing his words and the feeling transmuted through them to let the novel tell its own story, let readers find their own curiosity, and ruminate on who Laurie Bird really was.
Let Go and Go On and On by Tim Kinsella
Curbside Splendor Publishing
Matt Pincus was born and raised in San Diego, CA. He received a BA from Pitzer College in English and World Literature. He currently is an MFA candidate at Naropa University's Writing and Poetics program. His reviews have appeared in Bombay Gin, the Volta 365 Blog, Pank, and Rain Taxi.