Dreamland, A Collaboration between an Author, an Artist,
and a Book Designer
by Scott Abbott
This essay appeared in the Summer 2010 issue of The Bloomsbury Review
DREAMLAND’s final D has been turned in on itself, leaving REAMLAN crowded between the fat bellies of the D and its reverse image. And with that marriage of word and image a major theme is set: truth and its mirror, the mirror this book attempts to be, a book made like no other book because all other books about contemporary Juarez are simply not up to the task.
Dreamland tells a sordid story:
In June, a DEA informant called Lalo was caught with about a hundred pounds of marijuana. . . . Juanita Fielding of the U.S. Attorney’s office had the charges squashed because of an ongoing cigarette smuggling case by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) that employed Lalo as an informant. On August 5, Lalo tortured, killed, and buried a man in a condominium in the city on the other side of the river. By January 14 the next year eleven more people went into the backyard of the condo, and at least one of them was an American resident alien. U.S. agencies knew Lalo was killing and did nothing lest they jeopardize the cigarette smuggling case. Or they knew of the killings and did nothing because they were trying to penetrate a cartel. The explanations varied as the dead came out of the ground. (9)
Bowden has written what amount to a series of short essays on the theme of contemporary Juarez and the death house at its center, essays that wrench apart our usual sense for how the border city is ordered and disordered. His fragmented narrative works much like Briggs’ drawings that are related by themes of violence rather than by a through story line. And the third contributor to the book, its designer Kelly Leslie, has woven Bowden’s essays and Briggs’ drawings into a bookish textile so textured, so graphic, so thoughtful, that a reader forgets the usual neat divide between words and images and can no longer imagine why a writer would not work with pictures or an artist with words.