I’ll admit that I first picked up Time Is the Thing a Body Moves Through by T Fleischmann because I share my strange first name with the author. So, my interest in this book is somewhat self-centred.
It is a book I read to try and understand myself a little better through the lens of another person who’s not unlike me. My expectations were met almost exactly, as I found that Fleischmann’s book is an elegant reflection on the interplay of art and personal experience.
The work and thought of Cuban American artist Félix González-Torres serves as a place of reflection in the book, allowing Fleischmann to explore love, desire, gender, activism, and LGBTQ+ history.
Time Is the Thing a Body Moves Through is — according to the cover — an essay. On taking a look past the cover, you might find that this is not an essay in the conventional sense. Rather, Fleischmann puts together memoir and art criticism, verse and prose.
These different forms and modes of discourse work together to create contrast and resonance.
Stories about living rural LGBTQ+ artist communities, the effects of hormones on the body, and many different relationships are made to go hand in hand with the experience of art. Even major digressions feel like part of the vibrating unity of the work.
In my opinion, Fleischmann is at their best in this book when they discuss “Untitled (Orpheus, Twice).” Fleischmann’s experience of the artwork, which is two mirrors standing beside each other, flows into classical myth. Psyche and Cupid, Orpheus and Eurydice are put in dialogue with Fleischmann’s own history and attitude toward love.
These encounters flow from those two mirrors and back into them as Fleischmann tries to balance the connection and isolation facilitated by art and intimacy. Yet, Fleischmann lets no story claim victory. Different models of love confront each other without the conversation between them ever resolving.
Fleischmann’s essay makes the reader question how love is supposed to exist at all, but basks in the oscillation between desire and distance instead of trying to provide answers.
Though art guides Fleischmann’s introspection, it is one experience of many that contributes to a whole picture that is messy and content to remain so.
Even language fails to do the picture justice, and Fleischmann is aware of the limitations of words.