On the corner of 20th and Valencia streets, there’s a window that makes people think of the dead. The reason is a series of annotated sketches that, over the past few years, has gradually accumulated on the glass to the right of the doorway at Dog Eared Books. A sort of eulogistic message board for drifting window shoppers, these paper notices gently call attention to the passing of poets, visual artists, writers, teachers, and other cultural heroes, some renowned, some formerly celebrated, and others largely unknown though not to Oakland artist Veronica De Jesus, the creator of this memorial window.
Now, with the window grown crowded, another local artist and a friend of De Jesus’s, Colter Jacobsen, has published a collection of the memorials (Allone Co., $18). Tributes to Susan Sontag, Jacques Derrida, Robert Creeley, Octavia Butler, Will Eisner, Quentin Crisp, Richard Pryor, and Rick James are interspersed among pages dedicated to death row prisoner Stanley "Tookie" Williams; Al "Grandpa Munster" Lewis, whose roles also included circus performer, Pacifica radio host, and Green Party candidate for governor of New York; the New Zealand experimental novelist and poet Janet Frame; and "Don" Magargol, a folk dance instructor at San Francisco’s Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired.
The spiral-bound notebooks in which these memorials are collected and the cover image, a drawing of a largely denuded but vibrant dandelion superimposed on what looks like crumpled paper that’s been imperfectly smoothed out suggest a continued meditation on impermanence and remembrance, the attempts we make to prolong or enlarge the presence of our heroes and loved ones in the world after they leave us.