EMMA COHEN & SONJA KATANIC
screencap from Paris, Texas (1984)
I’m writing this from the road, in the first leg of this road trip I’m on for the next month across America while living out of a van. Right now we’re driving away from Nashville where we just stayed in the backyard of a longtime Plasma contributor Olivia Hamilton who I just met for the first time while in Nashville. So wild to meet her after all this time, and made me think a lot about how Plasma exists in the real world in all these different people’s orbits. The internet serves it’s best purpose when it connects to real life [& that connection is kind of Magical Thinking]. Olivia lives in a yellow house in East Nashville with a literal white picket fence outside of it - she said they call it the American Dream House. Last night she drove us around Nashville in her camry and we bought three dollar red wine and walked across the street from her house to eat tacos under hot coloured string lights.
Like we’ve talked about many times, this kind of road trip is so Magical Thinking. When I first came across the term, it was in the title of Joan Didion’s book The Year of Magical Thinking (which I looked for many times in libraries but admittedly never read) and the words got stuck in my mind. Officially, the concept of magical thinking is the belief that your thoughts and actions have a direct impact on the outside world, but like always, we expanded on it, redefined it, in our own terms. Made Magical Thinking our own for Plasma [& then our gorgeous contributors re-made it into a whole other pulsing version of itself with their art]. I remember coming to you with a few ideas, and when we started talking about it, they all came pouring out as if Magical Thinking was a pre-formed thing we were tapping into. The visuals seemed to come first: desert landscapes, big open spaces, opal tones, mercury, pastel gradients, cowboys. The implication of the desert as a landscape seems twofold for this issue: it sets a very specific tone visually, but also the desert has all sorts of political implications. It really speaks to how we can project ideas onto landscapes, try to alter them for our own consumption. That’s Magical Thinking too, altering your surroundings with your own perceptions - which can be a good and dangerous thing.
Of course our Magical Thinking is all about mysticism too. The ways in which mysticism is less removed from life than we may initially be trained to think: intuition, following your gut, your instincts can all be forms of mysticism. Accessing that which isn’t physically apparent. Me and you and our friends have always been interested in practices of mysticism, reaching all the way back to high school. I’ve been thinking during the making of this issue about how we weren’t thinking about what we were doing in any sort of intellectual way like we are in this issue, when we were doing things like that in high school. It was really just a gut impulse we clearly had. We would drive to the grocery store and pick up cheap candles and drive to dirt roads and light candles, didn’t have any idea what a seance was or how to perform one so we just made up our own version that served our purpose - trying to straighten out our feelings and wishes during the very strange time that is the end of high school. Different forms of mystical practices are also just very good ways to talk about things we’re feeling or dealing with, but coming at it from a different angle.
I’m always astounded at how we are so different, we lead such different lives, and somehow you come to me with a concept like this and I feel as though you’ve copied your heart and pasted it into my ribs. I particularly love that we begin to live in whatever the theme is we choose. I suddenly notice cowboys everywhere, I’m thinking about my karmic debts. Paris, Texas posters are plastered everywhere in my small Spanish university. I particularly started focusing on the concept of space and the meaning different places hold to me. You know that I had a plan for a piece for this issue, one all about the codes I started assigning to things, to cities, to colours, to fruit. I wrapped it all up with how Madrid feels like this big presence to me now, like one of our eras, when I never expected it to. I exist in Madrid in a different way than I exist at home, than how I exist in Toronto, than how I exist when I’m sleeping on my friends couch. I’m sad that piece never made it out alive, but I’m glad I had Magical Thinking come to me in a way that made me think about those concepts. I grew anyways.
I love that you bring up our spontaneous mysticism growing up, because though I feel we’ve lost the campy aspect of it, I find it in different ways now. I notice myself picking up small prayers/chants/mottos I start repeating. Since I’ve been hanging out with Indiana, I notice myself saying “never been bad, only been good” or vice versa, all the time. My friends here say it too. It feels like the never-ending prayer in Franny and Zooey, like I am always thinking it, like I am breathing it. Since moving, I’ve developed a fascination with the oranges- so different from home. My friends all have started sending me photos of oranges, orange trees, them in orange sweaters. They feel like small symbols telling me I’m meant to be here. I find comfort in these.
I’m not sure what else to say about Magical Thinking. I also haven’t read The Year of Magical Thinking, but I’m reading Play It As It Lays right now. I’m taking a history of journalism class and we’re talking about New Journalism and I was in class a couple days ago, my book out on the table, and I looked up and on the projection screen was a giant photo of Joan Didion. I feel deep in it.
Dear Son (again),
The orange pictures you talked about make me think of that idea of Magical Thinking of tapping into some shared code, or a wavelength that is personal and mysterious. I like the idea of personal mystical practices like that, divorced from any sort of historicism. I was trying to select what to take with me on this road trip of the USA and tried to take only things that carried a positive weight to them. A new pair of sunglasses I bought for Jill in Montreal but haven’t given her yet, my mother’s silk scarf, ten books I’m really looking forward to reading.
I’m on my way to the desert and really trying to recognize the way I’ve been projecting my own fantasy onto it. I was confronted with that when in the car we were listening to a Radiolab podcast talking about all the Mexican migrants who’ve been dying in the desert trying to get to the states, the way the states have basically put policies in place to make it so the desert - an intensely brutal landscape - is the only way in. I should probably write a longer piece reflecting on this or journal about it, but it seems important to recognize the privilege in fantasizing about the desert. Maybe the danger in fantasizing too much about anything?
Fantasizing is another one of those invisible forces this issue is about. One last thing I feel like I should say about this issue is the way that the whole creation of it feels very Magical Thinking. Our readership has grown a lot during the making of this issue. I can almost feel the weight of the change that Plasma is going through. Our contributors for this issue are so tremendously talented, it’s such a pleasure to house their work, to talk to them and come together. I hope that this weird thin invisible force of the internet that’s connecting everyone right now - me on the road in America to you in Madrid, us to our contributors, Plasma to its readers - keeps us all orbiting around each other. And to you, the reader, I hope that you find something magic in this issue.
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Website designed by Sonja Katanic.