Home Book Reviews Push Process review: Jonathan Walker’s unique view of Venice

Push Process review: Jonathan Walker’s unique view of Venice

by John Maguire
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Push Process review cover
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I am a camera with its shutter open, quite passive, recording, not thinking. Recording the man shaving at the window opposite and the woman in the kimono washing her hair. Someday, all this will have to be developed, carefully printed, fixed.

― Christopher Isherwood, Goodbye to Berlin

On reading PUSH PROCESS, I immediately recalled this opening quote from Isherwood’s famous novel that became the cult classic CABARET.

Just as a photograph compels the viewer to look at something afresh, a new perspective on the familiar, this unique work offers the reader another way to frame the magical city of Venice. A melting pot of inventive minds, philosophers and artists who all are drawn to this ethereal location. From Luisa Casati to Peggy Guggenheim, Venice attracts eccentrics and outsiders looking to find identity and make sense of their lives. A magical portal which forces you to find yourself and maybe something you did not even expect.

Push Process review Peggy Guggenheim graffiti in Venice

PUSH PROCESS is a genre defying work set in Venice in 2000. Richard is a postgraduate student living in the city to research its past. He is supposed to be working in the archive, but he meets Merlo and Lars, two art students who are more interested in Venice’s present. He decides to pick up a camera and join them. The world comes alive for Richard through photographs: for the first time, he feels connected to a place – and other people. He is determined to continue, whatever the cost.

Push Process is a novel about art, friendship and being European, illustrated with over fifty black-and-white photographs of Venice. It allows the reader to experience a creative being in their element and forever being struck with the jarring aspect of reality. Whilst capturing the elegance of Venice, he never shies away from the raw everyday reality of living in a city swarmed by visitors, where all are tourists.

Everywhere’s a shithole; here’s no different.

The book is filled with references to bars and things only a local would know to avoid, like the pissing dog – the pisciane – a vaporetto that stops everywhere on the water bus route. Images weave their way into the narrative to further embed the experience of reading. They are then all collected at the end of the book, which gives a deeper resonance after reading the text, adding to the context within the narrative arc of the main character’s journey.

A book like this has the danger of being zamzawed, but Jonathan Walker has achieved the right amount of writing and images. His attention to detail in the prose is akin to that found in an image.

Lars had small cuts from the chisel, and older scars; white dust around his fingernails. Merlo bit her nails savagely, so she looked like she’d escaped from a Gestapo prison.

By looking outwardly and capturing the external we start to get a handle on the inner self. Artists and creatives particularly will enjoy this book, recognising the small moments of triumph, the joy and beauty of the everyday, the never ceasing force of impostor syndrome, the innocuous nature of addiction:

Richard didn’t drink single malts anymore – it wasn’t worth it, given how quickly he went through a bottle.

And also, recognising the very questioning and seeking that embody the creative journey.

Push Process review walls in Venice

If you want to immerse yourself more in the Venetian atmosphere, I recommend THE UNFINISHED PALAZZO by Judith Mackrell, PALACE OF THE DROWNED by Christine Mangan, VENICE IS A FISH by Tiziano Scarpa and THE BOOK OF VENICE, published by Comma Press.

If you like the style of this book, I suggest also looking at M TRAIN by Patti Smith and SPRING CANNOT BE CANCELLED by David Hockney.

PUSH PROCESS is out now from Ortac Press. We received a copy in return for this honest Push Process review, but that did not influence us. 

Jonathan Walker wrote about some of the inspiration for the novel here.

Photographs of Venice courtesy of John Maguire

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