The images that appear in Good Things began as a result of my perennially messy desk. There was, literally, a 3 foot stack of books, articles, translations, photocopies of photos and portraits, etc embedded in the larger mess of coffee cups, journals, and computers—yes, computers. For awhile, I was working on two, word-processing on one (because Internet caused it to freeze) and doing research on the other (because the nothing I saved on Word could be recalled.) You are guessing, rightly so, that I emit a kind of pheromone which disrupts toaster ovens, microwaves, Blackberries, auto transmissions…but I digress.
Wherever I work—at home, in my university office, on the road—I generate piles, stacks, arrangements, creating physical cues about structure, about sequence, about particular ideas I wish to pursue. Research for Good Things brought me twice to Europe, the first time in the summer of 2007, and since I couldn’t take my clutter with me, I photographed it instead. When I first saw it on my laptop—a third computer which has since developed a wandering line across the screen—I thought, that looks kind of cool, so I planted it in the middle of the scene I was working on in order to reference it easily. That summer I spent time in Leipzig, Zwickau, Plauen, Frankfurt and Dusseldorf, and I took a lot of photos, many of them not of the historical sites I’d thought I would want to photograph, but of the various desks and tables where I worked, scattered with brochures and maps. By the time I returned to Europe the following summer—this time to Gersau, Switzerland—these revised “clutter collages” had been joined by photographs, portraits, contemporary artwork and footnotes as an integrated part of the novel.