I happened upon a book of Michael Brodsky’s stories in one of the secondhand bookstores in Montpelier. Here’s an essay on the web.
Mircea Eliade, in Shamanism, emphasizes the importance of the ladder as “an instrument of ontological passage from one mode of being to another—of transcendence—of attainment to the world of the gods, of power, of reality—a world saturated with being. In short, the world of the sacred.” Redemption is possible only through immersion in the warm bath of authentic being.As attested by the myths of the peoples of Africa, Oceania and North America, by Brahmanic sacrificers and by the instructions of the Egyptian Book of the Dead, “ladders facilitate the descent of the gods to earth and ensure the ascent of the dead man’s soul. Yet even if actual ladders and gangways appear frequently in Hafftka’s works, they may not be trustworthy or efficacious and, as proof of this, they seem either to be ignored or held in reserve as a last resort—if the performative activity of self as ladder fails. The self in transformative motion—the motion craved by Kafka’s agonizedly articulate ape—is the only ladder, up or down, that counts.
This reminded me of an extraordinary sculpture by Martin Puryear I saw last year at MOMA, and which made me inexplicably burst into tears. The ladder indeed… A photo can be seen here: