Souvenirs from Paradise
SOUVENIRS FROM PARADISE explores the Las Vegas Strip from a consciously female perspective to confront the histories that drive our impulse to escape.
As an art critic and museum staffer, Erin Langner was skeptical of what she would find when she visited the Las Vegas Strip for the first time in the mid-2000s. To her surprise, she returned whenever the opportunity arose, seeking to understand her attraction to this escape destination--and the personal histories it conjured. The architecture of the Mirage casino surfaced the vacations to Florida that bandaged her grieving family together in the wake of her mother's death. An encounter with a fake Venus de Milo during a bachelorette party shed light on her identity construction as a woman. An impersonator show evoked the rituals we create as we navigate loss. When read together, the essays of SOUVENIRS FROM PARADISE become a guide to holding fantasy and reality together in one glimpse, in order to better understand our impulses and ourselves.
Souvenirs from Paradise is such a powerful and moving essay collection, with many of the narratives poised at the edge of loss or grief, the sensations that none of us seem able to escape. With beautiful, clear-eyed prose, she manages to invite us into the most intimate spaces of personal transformation and witness reckonings with need. I admire how she portrays becoming as a consequence of relationship, whether a connection lasts a lifetime or just a few days. A lyrical intensity runs through the collection, illustrating the weight of emotion. Langner's facility in writing about grief is also stunning, as there's no intent to hide it or sweep it away. One lives with it everywhere, all the time, as that, too, is life.--Wendy S. Walters
Erin Langner gives us Las Vegas in all its glittering lights: what makes the city so special and how it contributed to the artist, curator, sister, and mother she is today. Souvenirs from Paradise asks us to consider the places that made us, the weird magic that keeps pulling us home and how we've grown and changed because of it. I loved it.--Megan Stielstra, author of The Wrong Way to Save Your Life
Erin Langner's Souvenirs from Paradise is on one hand a book about Las Vegas, but just as much a brilliant, extended meditation on the menacing allure of the extravagant in a voice that's never cool or pompous, but participatory--always awake to the senses and their mysterious craving. It's not like any other place-based book I've ever read, and it both fed and unsettled me in all the best ways.--Paul Lisicky, author of Later: My Life at the Edge of the World
Erin Langner's Souvenirs from Paradise is a deeply moving meditation on family and loss, and the obsessions we turn to in order to distract ourselves from grief. Ironically, through the funhouse mirror of Las Vegas, a city filled with artifice, Langner is able to show us her true reflection, and make sense of herself as a mother and bereaved daughter. The result is a resonant, relatable, and entertaining travelogue of the soul.--Sari Botton, author of And You May Find Yourself . . .
Erin Langner's Souvenirs from Paradise is a gorgeous and intensely intelligent meditation on kitsch, contemporary art, and the glorious madness of Las Vegas, that beacon of fun beaming in the desert. Crucially, Langner--in the spirit of Joan Didion, Wayne Koestenbaum, Susan Sontag--circles her subjects obsessively, prodding them with her incisive gaze, and worrying the insidiousness and beauty of not just Vegas, but its cultural allegories (Michael Jackson, Disney World). --Peter Mountford, author of The Dismal Science
Literary Nonfiction. Essay.
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