Three Kinds of Motion, Riley Hanick
In 1943, Peggy Guggenheim commissioned a mural from Jackson Pollock to hang in the entryway of her Manhattan townhouse. It was the largest Pollock canvas she would ever own, and four years later she gave it to a small midwestern institution with no place to put it. "Please enjoy the most valuable object in Iowa," Riley Hanick beckons as he chronicles the young lives of two Jacks–Pollock and Kerouac. When the original scroll of On the Road goes on tour across the country, it lands at the same Iowa museum housing Peggy’s Pollock, revitalizing Hanick’s adolescent fascination with the author. Alongside these two narrative threads, Hanick revisits Dwight D. Eisenhower's quest to build America’s first interstate highway system. "Expressionless, Adorno will call our roads," Hanick writes. "They seem somehow to have always been there." When catastrophic rains flood the Iowa highways with their famous allure and history of conquest, they also threaten the museum and its precious mural. In Three Kinds of Motion, his razor-sharp, funny, and intensely vulnerable book-length essay, Hanick moves deftly between his three subjects. He delivers a story with breathtaking ingenuity.
Riley Hanick is an essayist, journalist, and translator whose writing has appeared in The Sonora Review, Seneca Review, No Depression, eyeshot, and Labor World. His work has received support from the Jentel and McKnight foundations and he has served as a writer-in-residence for the University of Iowa Museum of Art. His essay "The Pradelles" was among the notable essays in the 2010 Best American series. He teaches at Murray State University, where he is the Watkins Chair in Creative Writing and serves as the nonfiction editor for New Madrid.
PRAISE FOR THREE KINDS OF MOTION:
“He gravitates toward the unexpected and the poignant. We see Eisenhower painting, Kerouac confined to a naval hospital after running naked across a drill field, and Pollock babysitting for the offspring of his mentor, Thomas Hart Benton. Hanick [creates] arresting juxtapositions in the mode of such kindred innovative essayists as John D’Agata, Ander Monson, and Lia Purpura.”
“One might see similarities between artist Jackson Pollock and novelist Jack Kerouac, but it takes a stretch to add U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower as the third leg of a 1950s creative innovation stool. . . . Hanick’s Three Kinds of Motion is a captivating reading adventure.”
“Hanick provides an elliptical history of American roadways, beginning with dirt pathways that barely held together in a pre-automotive era to the construction of a highway system that spanned the nation and took decades to complete. . . . Hanick’s book, then, serves as a kind of meditation on what can emerge, both culturally and physically, after an epoch of monumental discovery. And what emerges are monumental works.”
“Riley Hanick’s Three Kinds of Motion is an astonishing scroll, an ekphrastic road trip along Jackson Pollock’s Mural. Caught in its hungry and haunting Iowa horizon, I discovered familiar historical figures (Ike, Kerouac, Duchamp) in unfamiliar constellations and textures. Like a great conversationalist, Hanick paints a generous canvas, and I rode the length of this powerful book much like I first experienced the American interstate: songs on the stereo, windows down, and the bittersweet sense that youth is fleeting. Three Kinds of Motion holds open a wild and beautiful journey, not to be missed.”
“Riley Hanick’s Three Kinds of Motion resists the march of understanding, as Cage said of Joyce, Duchamp, and Satie. Incompletion is its premise and design. You ride along on sentences unrolling, noticing more and more intersections to investigate, if you can bring yourself to slow and make that turn. But you’re not driving, and the car rolls ahead. You speed through the night, windows down, headlights off, and a mix on random in your ear. But, oh, what glimpses you catch to the sides.”
“Riley Hanick’s Three Kinds of Motion, is a powerful meditation on the convergence of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, Jackson Pollock’s painting of his seminal work “Mural,” and the development of the interstate highway system. It’s also a moving portrait of the creative (and destructive) zeitgeist of the mid-twentieth century. Hanick juxtaposes intimate accounts of artists’ lives with the politics behind the road’s construction, interspersing them with meditations both personal and historical. This is a lyric essay of the highest quality. Reading Riley Hanick’s account of this intense moment in our literary and cultural history is a heady experience.”
—Jan Weissmiller, Prairie Lights Books