Monday, March 29, 2010

Helicoptress: A Traveling Book About Traveling

by Drew Martin

I often tell people about my youthful travels through Europe, North Africa, Asia and up and down the west coast of America, which included a lot of hitchhiking, the kindness (and sometimes meanness) of strangers and an array of odd jobs, such as working in a zoo in northern Bohemia.

The typical response is "You should write a book!" The fact is, I did...almost a decade ago...but not the kind you will find in any book store.

For one thing, there are only two prints and I purposely (recently) destroyed the digital copy and all files associated with it. The book is called Helicoptress and it is a traveling book about traveling: it travels between readers. The "story" begins in my university garden in Santa Barbara and documents my five years abroad before my return to New Jersey. It includes a few drawings I made and photos I took during those years and the books are hand sewn.

One copy has been pulled from circulation and is with an author of a published book, which is also dedicated to a friend we unknowingly shared, who committed suicide. The original idea was to just have the other copy continously passed along but it occasionally returns to me, roughly once a year. It came back into my possession yesterday. Today, I am putting it in the mail to London, for someone who is in the book.

The book has no names of people, places, religions, etc. It is to say that Paris might as well be Paramus, NJ and to also dissociate all the connotations that come with names. That being said, the book's name, Helicoptress, was important for me to establish because I wanted to highlight the goddess-like appearance of a helicopter that air-lifted me out of the frozen Tatry, the mountain range between Slovakia and Poland. The cover design and the size of the book, reference pocket-size first aid/survival guides.

Helicoptress, is meant to be read in one sitting, preferably while waiting out a long delay in an airport, or better...a train station. There are no chapters and the narrative is a simple string of relatively detached observations. This is not fiction or autobiographical fiction and I would not call it a memoir only because it is less about writing to capture my past as it is having lived a certain way that was a kind of writing. By this I mean, I often saw myself as a character in my own life story and the actions I took, would provide the material. It is quite an interesting, and somewhat dangerous way to go through the world. It means, as an example from the book, not sleeping safely in a hotel in Athens but going home with Nigerian orange pickers returning from Spain who I met on the train, knowing that the unknown will be known and part of the life story would be "written" by the next morning.