I Am Not Jackson Pollock by John Haskell

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I Am Not Jackson Pollock

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

I Am Not Jackson Pollock is John Haskell’s first short-story collection. In these nine stories, Haskell employs the guise of fiction in order to comment on some famous people and their many foibles, to take some twisted looks at the nature of life, death, and some historical imperatives. As observed by the author, the world is rarely exactly what it seems. The contradictory lives of such illustrious and bizarre figures as Jackson Pollock and his wife Lee Krasner, Topsy the elephant and the Hindu god Ganesha, Anthony Perkins and Janet Leigh of the Alfred Hitchcock movie Psycho, the pianist Glenn Gould, Orson Welles and Joseph Cotton, and Laika the Russian dog (the first animal in space) are all examined. Haskell inventively plays with all of these real figures and cuts away at the surface veneer of each in order to expose often odd and/or unsettling truths.

In the opening story, “Dream of a Clean Slate,” Haskell delineates the difficulties that Jackson Pollock had in always understanding where the artist ended and the man began. He became the greatest living artist of his time by being willing to venture into uncharted territory, yet Pollock the man had insecurities that were bigger than any canvas he could fill. Unfortunately for him, Pollock attempted to overcome these personal insecurities by drowning himself in alcohol. The collection is never less than informative, almost never less than a revelation. Haskell knows the facts backwards and forwards, but more importantly he knows when to venture off into the world of myth, the world of mumbo jumbo, and pull larger truths out of his proverbial literary hat.