Dec 7, 2022
As an art critic and a museum staffer, Erin Langner was skeptical of what she would find when she visited the Las Vegas Strip for the first time in the mid-2000s. To her surprise, she returned whenever the opportunity arose, seeking to understand her attraction to this “escape” destination — and the personal histories it conjured.
The architecture of the Mirage casino surfaced the vacations to Florida that bandaged her grieving family together in the wake of her mother’s death. An encounter with a fake Venus de Milo during a bachelorette party shed light on her identity construction as a woman. An impersonator show evoked the rituals we create as we navigate loss. Together, the essays of Souvenirs from Paradise become a guide to holding fantasy and reality together in one glimpse, in order to better understand our impulses and ourselves.
Souvenirs from Paradise was selected as the winner of Zone 3 Press’s Creative Nonfiction Book Award by Wendy S. Walters.
Erin Langner writes about art, architecture and identity. She is a regular contributor to Hyperallergic and METROPOLIS magazines. Her writing has also appeared or is forthcoming in publications including Fourth Genre, december, The Offing, The Normal School, Hobart, The Brooklyn Rail and Pidgeonholes. Langner is the recipient of a Jack Straw Writers fellowship (2022) and the Good Hart Artist Residency (2023). She earned her M.A. in Museology from the University of Washington and her B.A. in Humanities from the University of Colorado. She lives in Seattle with her husband and daughter and works on exhibitions and publications at the Frye Art Museum. Souvenirs is her debut essay collection.
Jen Graves is a stepmother, a mother, a dog mother, a couples and family therapist, sometimes adjunct faculty, and — back when she had the honor of publishing Erin Langner’s writing at The Stranger — a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Criticism.