Jackson Bliss’ memoir, Dream Pop Origami, begins wherever chance takes you. Inspired by choose-your-own adventure novels that “saved [his] ass as a kid,” Bliss invites the reader to “pick a number between 1-74” and “find the chapter that corresponds to that number” as the place to begin reading. Each chapter ends with several options for what to read next, creating an interactive experience for the reader. Unlike the multiple linear narratives of the novels of Bliss’ youth, however, Dream Pop Origami strings together seemingly disparate personal essays and lists in his experimental format. What we’re left with is a loosely woven web that might represent the map of Bliss’ mind. We travel with him to Buenos Aires, Los Angeles, New York City, Burkina Faso, and the memories of his childhood.
At the end of the book, he gives us a list of suggestions for “How (not!) to read Dream Pop Origami. I suppose the end may be a better place than most to parachute in, so you have some ideas for how to begin your reading adventure.
I cannot review all the permutations of this book that exist. I can only tell you about my own journey. Bliss himself even points out in the “last” chapter of the book that “the ‘ending’ of Dream Pop Origami is really wherever and whenever you decide to call it quits.” I began with 34, “My Best (Read: Worst) Pranks,” which gave me a very confusing start. I hadn’t yet learned that LB is Bliss’ partner and didn’t understand what she had done to warrant cold water and dirty underwear being dumped on her while she was in the shower. At the end of the list, I read through my options for where to flip next and decided on “just turn the motherfucking page. Sorry, I’m a little salty about these revisions RN.” Perplexed, I moved into the next chapter, “Lost in Alphabet City,” where Bliss jumps into flowery prose, layered with similes like a Taylor Swift Song: “It was another halcyon day in Traverse City that people ‘up north’ took for granted every summer. The windows of my mom’s house were jammed open like a vandalized school bus, a soft and fragrant breeze blowing gently through white lace curtains that swished in the air like old wedding gowns.”
Baffled, I returned to the beginning, hoping this was a safe place to begin. I’m not sure starting to read the book from front to back gave me any more context than flipping did, but the first chapter is absolutely beautiful.
One day my teenage body turned into koi paper, so I folded myself into makeshift objects of entanglement. I creased the patterned kami of my flattened limbs. I reinvented new morphologies in every pleat, cultivating a love affair with the changing shapes of my crinkled identity. I learned that origami was kinetic sorcery: part dream sequence, part zoomancy, part totem. I learned that my teenage paper heart could be a pixelation of desire.
At times, his writing is dense and beautiful, like reading poetry in essay format. Each word seems deliberately plucked from the ether.
The charm of this book is that you can pick it up, read from wherever you like, and get something out of it. The trouble is, without having read previous chapters, it can be hard to invest in the characters and the content. Without knowing Jackson, a list such as “Things I Wanted to Be Growing Up (Many of them Astoundingly Unoriginal)” is just a list of jobs that a child might aspire to. But we gather information as we go and start to get to know our international, intellectual prankster of a narrator. The more we learn, the juicier the memoir gets, and with each new variation on reading through the book, you might glean additional meaning. Rather than being a book to read, it’s more of a book to peruse at your leisure, give as a gift, return to over and over. At its best, Dream Pop Origami has the density of Nabokov, but chunked into bite-sized morsels for swift consumption on the go for the modern-day reader.
Dream Pop Origami
By Jackson Bliss
Published July 26, 2022