by Zan McQuade
Barbara Browning came to life before me on a chilly gray Sunday, as I lay under the bedsheets, dressed in wool for warmth. I’d just finished Sheila Heti’s How Should A Be?, a book that left me feeling a little bit empty and angry. I was in the mood to read more, it was a day made for reading, and so I followed it with Tove Jansson’s Fair Play, a book about artists and writers performing their art on the pages, through video and film.
And then I remembered a book sitting idle on the shelves of my iPad waiting to be read: Browning’s book, I’m Trying To Reach You, about an ex-dancer who, following the breadcrumb trail of related videos on YouTube following the deaths of Michael Jackson, Pina Bausch, and Merce Cunningham, finds himself engulfed in a mystery of internet connections, leading him to become an unwitting spy into a secret and seemingly dangerous world of code and semaphore, messages tapped like Morse code with the rubber soles of a dancer’s sneakers. Browning is a dancer in life, and a character in her own book: the mysterious dancing woman discovered by narrator Gray Adams. Browning herself appears in images throughout the book, stills from videos that live on YouTube as well.
Wait, I thought. So she’s real?