There’s no business like show business

Book Review: Out of Frame Anthologies

Jack Lothian, S.J. Sims, Rhiannon Robertson, Sarah Witt Oneiric Roper, John Morgan Risner, 179 pages

Living in Los Angeles, I witness no shortage of artists, filmmakers, musicians, writers, and other creatives whose eccentric tendencies and out-of-the-box thinking prompted them as young adults to uproot from their hometowns and congregate here in mass to take a stab at commercial success.

No matter how talented, connected or just-plain-lucky the careers of these bohemian transplants turn out to be, their journey is almost always fraught with peril. More often than not, I watch these artists arrive with high hopes and struggle for years, decades, or even a lifetime to gain some morsel of recognition, let alone a manageable living, from their passionate pursuits.

Even rare stories of a meteoric rise to glassy-eyed stardom often contain important highlights related to inner conflict, moral corrosion, and existential despair. After all, no matter how far one might travel — or committed one might be to make a mark on this world — escape from oneself remains for most of us an elusive mystery; and maybe this is the case even more so for the artist, whose dramatic undertakings appear, at least superficially, unlike the norm.

Thus, for the vast majority who come to Los Angeles, stay, and never attain the twinkling scoop of stardust they sought, they either adjust accordingly and live as satisfying lives as possible, or they transform into hardened cynics. Sometimes compounded by mental illness and substance abuse, but often tied to issues related to their failed path to self-realization, they become strangers far removed from the optimistic youth they were when they arrived.

That’s not to say the arts are not worth the effort or sacrifice; after all, it’s a calling since the first cave paintings and stories told by firelight that stands the test of time. However, the perspective one has to measure personal success as an artist – the view through the frame, so to speak – seems to be key, perhaps, to mitigating the psychological or physical horrors that await.

That’s why reading Out of Frame, a collection of dark stories revolving around creativity and the mythical ‘quest for success,’ was a pleasant reminder of the egotistical pitfalls that lie beyond the romanticized veneer of the artistic life. This assortment of tales was haunting in ways that those who actively use their imagination can easily relate, while those who lack it and pick up the book anyway might find even more cringeworthy — and like the arts themselves — down, dirty, diabolical fun.

Ryan Hyatt, Dec. 4, 2020

Categories: Reviews

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