cover image On Lighthouses

On Lighthouses

Jazmine Barrera, trans. from the Spanish by Christina MacSweeney. Two Lines, $19.95 (174p) ISBN 978-1-949641-01-1

This meandering book of essays from Barrera (Foreign Body), cofounder of Mexican publishing house Ediciones Antílope, centers on the act of collecting and the history of lighthouses. As a girl, Barrera recalls, she mostly collected marbles and gemstones, but she’s since moved on to collecting the “history of lighthouses [and] the stories surrounding them.” Each essay is organized around a specific lighthouse she’s visited, gathering together anecdotes about her visit, histories of that lighthouse and its keepers, and literary references. For her visit to the lighthouse in Montauk, Long Island, N.Y., she notes that George Washington envisioned its construction upon visiting the same spot in 1756, quotes a poem Walt Whitman wrote about the lighthouse, and finishes with an inventory of the different rituals that have surrounded the activation of lighthouse beacons. This free-associative style makes for pleasant reading, but doesn’t often lead the essays to satisfying conclusions. Barrera writes that “there are collections that will always be incomplete,” an observation that seems all too apt for this intriguing but aimless work. (May)