The Public Interest

Public buildings: symbols qualified by experience

Donlyn Lyndon

Winter 1984

THE notebook on which I write this, purchased in the supermarket of a small town in Michigan, has a picture on the cover that perhaps illustrates our condition.  The rendering is gruesome to my untutored eye: a murky brown, cellar-like space inhabited by three figures, mutants of some grotesque sort that appear to be engaged in a musical performance.  One is bright blue and vaguely elephantine, the other two are of sickly yellow and brown hues, malformed on the top but each distinctly two-legged and upright, both with giant-toed feet planted firmly and flatly on the ground. There are four distinctly recognizable items in the picture: a masonry arch in the background, two microphones that receive the attentions of the two upright figures, and a pair of spotlights at the feet of the central celebrity fgure. Three almost recognizable items appear: something very like a clarinet that one figure holds to an indistinct portion of its upper anatomy, an electrical junction box, and a metallic relief panel that bears the features of a man’s face, two hands, and the mid-parts of a belted torso. A bright red line traces a frame around the picture and emblazons the headline “Return of the Jedi” across the top.

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