Book Nineteen


Claire Fontaine

Your sheets are very smooth,

I like to rub my pen across them

... do you feel the way i do?

Claire Fontaine, who are you?

Hawksley WorkmanClaire Fontaine

It was the summer of 1999 when I abandoned my ascetic attitude toward journals and bought a tiny Claire Fontaine* notebook at Paper Ya on Granville Island. Thus ended - with breaks for travel - a six-year period of bibliopuritanism where I sought to avoid filling books with ephemera, photos, and other paste-ins. I was happy to be in the world again. The book was full in a few months. 

I began writing character descriptions from old photographs. I made a colour photocopy of a class photo from the 1940s, cut the individuals out of the group, and started :


Boy #1 Top row, far Left.
He had eyes like raisons. His father was a tailor for the theatre but the family was poor and so his clothing was made from audacious fabrics. He wore a crooked smile and stayed only a year. Later in life he would move constantly, staying no more than a year in any place. He would be happiest in transient, short-lived jobs. A cook in a logging camp. An attendant at elections. He became an expert in part-time labour: a master of impermanence. 

Boy #2 Top row, 2nd in.
He was inseparable from his family and his family held him fast. There was no need for discipline because he was incapable of acting outside of family character. 

Boy #8 (not shown)
He was the type of boy who could not be corrupted. The certainty of his character was balanced by his complete lack of ambition.


He was a young man who took up mountaineering to avoid the press of urban life. He believed that he saw in the passing faces of beautiful women a desire which he could not acknowledge. It was as if all of humanity were beggars and he was the only person left who had pockets full of coins. He may have thought that mountaineering was a virtuous life - free of the moral torment, which he, in his heart, knew to be result of his desperate imagination. He believed that if he could climb high enough he would be assumed into heaven. 

At an early age he had an experience with books that led him to believe that everything that could be expressed could be expressed with words.

... I am most happy when I work on the books.

Here is a list of books.

Tim McLaughlin

Photographer and writer based in Vancouver, Canada