THROUGH THE BILLBOARD PROMISED LAND WITHOUT EVER STOPPING by Derek Jarman
I’ve never dropped acid. Never taken ecstasy. No peyote. Not even a sip of ayahuasca. But, having now read Derek Jarman’s catherine wheel of a novella, I’m pretty convinced I know what it feels like. Conceived as a companion piece to a series of paintings (at least so far as I can tell), Through the Billboard Promised Land Without Ever Stopping is a warped ride through a neon wonderland of hyper-modern (though now kind of dated) sensory overload, a grotesquely over-populated picaresque, Alice in Wonderland does disco, Disney and designer drugs. So, basically, LA in the 1980s.
Framed as a fable where a young king is led through the Billboard Promised Land by his valet, it leans heavily on buddy/road flick tropes but renders them almost unrecognisable with its explosion of surreal imagery. For the most part I had no idea what was going on, but it was such a damn joy to read that I never really cared. Jarman may best be remembered for his paintings, films, designs and activism, but he was one hell of a writer, too. This, his only work of prose fiction, is a superb fairytale of a moment lost to time.
Through the Billboard Promised Land Without Ever Stopping by Derek Jarman
House Sparrow Press, 2022