Featured Artist #23: Cory Holding

Cory Holding

Bump

According to Cory Holding, "Bump" is the story of a golfer who has just learned that the pain in his side is stage four melanoma. But that description barely begins to encompass what viewers experience in this piece. Holding, who earned an MFA in creative writing, brings a unique vocabulary and sensibility to her work in video. The interview below, which explicates some of her interests as a storyteller, reveals a writer whose ideas have traveled, and are inscribed, beyond the boundaries of the written word.

You have a background in creative writing. How do these interests and skills come to bear on "Bump," and other similar work you’ve completed?

You learn a lot in learning to tell a story about the importance of communicating sensation. If you cannot get your reader to feel anything, you probably cannot get them past the first page or two. Otherwise, feeling can be transportative. (As a reader, for example, and commonly, I like very much when I am sitting in a coffee shop—harrowed by overhangings like emails I haven’t returned, or dissertation chapters—and I can move my sentiment over to the dude’s in the book I’m reading; Dude, currently, has fallen very much in love with a sweet minor character, and is having a night walk in Chicago rain. His soaked jacket catches the light and I can just make out his frantic fumbling through pockets for something or other. Whatever he pulls out will prove far more interesting than the email I go on to send to my landlord, etc.) While I do not take "Bump" to be storied in the usual way—i.e., I do not see it making an establishing shot, then rising to action, then climaxing, then resolving—and it is not, all in all, much like the stories I wrote and write—I do hope that by its setting and small cast of characters it communicates some semblance of feeling.

What affordances does video offer you as an author that you don’t find in the technology of ink and paper?

The summer after the first year of my MFA program I went to a workshop with students from around the country. This was years ago. People there were telling stories in all sorts of ways I hadn’t much conceived. There was one guy who was telling his stories not so much through video, but through funky confluence of typed word, still image, and sound. Although I do not remember his name, I remember his story still, and vividly. The images and sound did not much match. The vacuum cleaner sounds by while the characters sit on the park bench remarking on the dead uncle, how sad it was to lose him, but how profitable. That work was revelatory in the sense that I’d not hitherto considered the possibility of leaving the page to write fiction. It also well illustrated what there is to gain by storytelling through video. At least, you get bonus vectors for bringing your story—or the stories of others—to sense. You get, of course, to lend parts of a piece’s gravity to sound and image, and by that, new forms. You can tell different (even conflicting) stories or elements of story simultaneously; you can laminate views, viewpoints. You can however many other fathomables, surely, that others have put and not put.

How would you describe (or what would you be inclined to say about) its narrative structure?

"Bump" is the story of a golfer who has just learned that the pain in his side, which he’d recognized as due course of a rib cracked from swinging, was actually abidingly, rifely a stage four melanoma long metastasized to lung and lymph. It chronicles a little bit of his post-diagnosis housekeeping (the doctor has, of course, forbidden him to golf) and daily routine, and by that, this character’s particular experience of the periplasmic space that is learning you are to die not just sooner than you expect, but sooner than most of the people you know, and preclusions that affords, but also intense satisfactions and attention to momentaries. The main events in the story comprise an explanatory gesture made by the golfer to someone or other and a handful of his long looks out the window, which warp into memories he will not bother concentrating upon, as well as coffee making in the company of the narrator. In the end there is love and jealousy and tablecloth. The disease has yet to bind him to bed. Coffee grounds are smelling up the set, and there is the sweet anticipation of what that taste and lift will be.

How would you describe the aesthetic qualities you’ve created in "Bump"?

The shot, about the size of a fist, is continuous and repetitive, simple, and intended to suggest the golfer’s boredom, refusal to be bored, sense of entrapment, refusal to be entrapped, tentativity, refusal to be tentative, forgetting, refusal to forget, and so forth. The character moves toward breakfast. There is morning and sun and smack of sun on window glass. The character would prefer for the time to pass slowly. There is water nearby and boats and a handful of young sailors. The character watches and tries not to blink. His eyes dry. The words are done by voiceover. The story occurs in the traction between them and shot, and in the character’s inability to reconcile what he feels with what he would prefer to feel. The narration is meant to synthesize the character’s basic observations with limp memories he’s resolved not to labor in, as well as the basic plot. The voiceover voice seemed to me just the right amount of indifferent. It finds the story only remotely interesting, all too common, singsong, if banal. It finds the main character, our golfer, difficult to sympathize with. He should perhaps have taken better care to keep himself out of the sun.

What inspires you?

This piece is dedicated to its inspiration. He mans the tape deck on the short drive from Allison Park to Franklin, where we will bide the slack time in the bait shop, looking for white grubs. Dust will coat the shelves and packages of bait. He plays Louis Mazetier—"Can’t We Be Friends"—and then Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong: "Love Is Here to Stay" and "Summertime" and "Gee Baby Ain’t I Good to You" and "You Won’t Be Satisfied (Until You Break My Heart)." Then, right before the McDonalds, and his small French fry, or modest lunch (he modests so many things), Ella Fitzgerald’s "Under a Blanket of Blue": "A summer night’s magic, enthralling me so / The night would be tragic / If you weren’t here to share it my dear / Covered with heaven above."

 

This project is partially supported by the Illinois Arts Council

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  © Ninth Letter, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.