I’ve been treading water for almost 10 minutes and my limbs are starting to ache. It’s 5:28 on a humid evening in late July, and there are only two minutes left in the private swimming lesson I’m giving in my family’s backyard pool. Ever since Jacob, who is 7, took his first tentative steps onto the diving board, he has inched towards the end with all the enthusiasm of a death row inmate approaching sentencing. Three feet below, I wait in the center of the deep end, my arms in a wide, welcoming posture. My legs thrash underneath me, working to keep my body afloat.
Today is a big day for Jacob. We both agreed before the lesson started that by the end, he would jump into the deep end. We’ve discussed it for weeks so that he could mentally prepare himself. But it’s clear to me now, as he creeps closer to the rim and stares into the depths below, that he never actually thought I was serious. “It’s too deep,” he says. I can see the fear wracking his body.
“Everything has its testing point in the eye, and the eye is an organ that eventually involves the whole personality, and as much of the world as can be got into it.” Flannery O’Connor.
O’Connor gave this advice to writers, but she could have given it to painters just as easily. What O’Connor knew was that writers are painters with words.
The new media artist, Jeremy Hight, described this method of storytelling as “narrative archaeology,” where the fictional narrative became told through the space it occupied and as a story at least partially defined by the way we navigate it. Each section of the station, from the administration quarters to the engineering bay, triggers a 3-D recording of that space. While the crew appears only as colored outlines, they move and talk in the same space as you. We follow them, pause them, and rewind their moments as each of the six crew members intersect the others from their own narratives.
The Futilitarians tackles hopelessness, but it never succumbs to it. Gisleson writes with wit, warmth, and a spiritual devotion to books that never comes across as preachy.