Monthly Archives: June 2022

Kreisläufe (Like Lips, Like Skins) by Andrea Scrima 

Podcast from May 27, 2022 (from 1′ 22”)

Dussmann Kulturkaufhaus, Berlin branch of Germany’s largest bookstore 

(Excerpts translated from the German)

By Gibran

Andrea Scrima is so many things (…) basically, you could say that she’s primarily a visual artist, and that art informs her widely acclaimed novel Like Lips, Like Skins. (…) And yet it’s up to us—and our booksellers’ honor—to keep books like these on the market. This podcast supports this effort. 

(…) We witness the protagonist Felice as she goes about unraveling her family’s story, a feat she performs largely through her art—that’s the genius of this bookLike Lips, Like Skins is mainly based on perception; when it takes a small coffee stain as its point of departure, it spreads out into wider reflections on how memory works, and how we often only remember the memory of a memory, or the story of a memory we’ve told ourselves. Scrima shows us—and this is one of the book’s key motifs—that our memory is incomplete, and that we have to keep telling ourselves things, that we have to tell stories to ourselves over and over again.

Like Lips, Like Skins is also a remarkably complex narrative of a mother-daughter relationship as well as a retrospective search for a father who sacrificed his dream of becoming an artist for his family. (…) It’s a generous book that succeeds in converting art into words, into language. Scrima achieves this in different ways: through meticulously precise descriptions of particular perceptions, and through weaving actual artworks into her narrative. At some point, the artist protagonist has a five-thousand-square-foot space in a warehouse building at her disposal, discovers a tiny hole in one of the windows there, and realizes that she can see things at a distance of hundreds of yards through it. When she changes her perspective, the image visible through the camera’s lens shifts as well, jumping hundreds of yards in either direction. Felice takes a seat behind the camera and waits. Now and again, something happens; when a truck appears or a bird flies past, she realizes that she’s unable to press the shutter release. She then takes this observation and uses it as a path that carries her back to her family’s story, and the way she does this is breathtaking. Scrima’s approach to turning perception into words is unique, and it requires a good deal of courage. But the reader has to reckon with the fact that they won’t be told the whole story, because the book’s form is fragmentary—which makes perfect sense, because in the final analysis it’s the way you think on a day-to-day basis that you apply to your own personal biography, and this thinking is also, to a large extent, fragmentary. 

(…) Like Lips, Like Skins should be required reading for all art fanatics, because it offers a glimpse into the arduous path through the art establishment. I recommend this book to readers interested in visual art and perception—but even more to anyone concerned with the problems of biographical writing. I’ve seldom read a novel in which the different phases of an individual life were interwoven in such a palpable, believable way. A must!

(English below)

“I absolutely want to recommend this book: Kreisläufe (Like Lips, Like Skins) by Andrea Scrima. I admire this book (and its author in any case), and it feels as though I should offer my humble thanks to Andrea Scrima, who drills into all manner of trauma, entanglements, the repetitive patterns I’m unable to drill through, not by a long shot. It’s an undeviating book in pursuit of pain and its urgent themes. Andrea Scrima describes growing up in an American family, and at the same time a young man’s early years in a GDR juvenile detention facility and the life of an artist with all its doubts and struggles of self-discovery. I don’t much feel like summarizing the contents, I only want to share how important I find this book, and—I repeat—admire it because it works its way through themes that are only seemingly personal, at first glance—because these are structural matters. This book is a call for a carefulness and closeness that know the traps of every allegedly bad memory.”