There's a reason most novels don't contain photographs, and that's because novels are fictional while photographs represent the real world.
OK, I admit it's not quite as simple as that. But in literature that basic equation still explains a lot. Why are there no photographs of Hester Prynne, Moby Dick or Peter Pan? Because they are invented characters. They can't sit in front of a camera. In fact if a photograph of any of those creatures had accompanied the original novels they appeared in, their interpretation and legacy would be completely altered.
That's the quandary immediately confronting readers of Paul Kwiatkowski's illustrated book And Every Day Was Overcast. The book is clearly labeled as a novel. Yet the majority of its contents are photographs. These photos are given a further patina of reality by following a casual snapshot aesthetic. They seem like they might've been pulled from an old scrapbook. I'm going to take a wild guess and say they were, and that the scrapbook belonged to Paul Kwiatkowski. I admit it's speculation but hey, truth and fiction are interchangeable, right?
The photos depict young people and vernacular locales engaged in a variety of relationships and vice. Drinking, smoking, and promiscuity make regular appearances. It's normal coming-of-age material in other words, though given a harder edge here than usual, a sort of Basketball Diaries for the photography set. A blond boy - presumably Kwiatkoswki himself - appears regularly throughout book, initially around age 8, then growing older in each photo, with increasingly erratic hairstyles and bent on adventure. Guns, alcohol, punks, and turmoil. Surely nothing good can come of this? Turns out he grew up and wrote a novel. Nothing to worry about.
The photos by themselves would make a fairly interesting chronicle of events. Monographs by Nan Goldin, Corrine Day, and Juergen Teller have probed similar diaristic territory with strong results. But Kwiatkowski's photos are further activated by short written vignettes tucked here and there throughout. Each one describes an adolescent misadventure or realization, written from the perspective of a wiser, saner adult looking back. There are a few recurring characters and behaviors tying the stories together. It's hard to tell how much is truth and how much is embellished, but they seem based real events. And some descriptions correspond closely to the photos accompanying them. So they're either real, or it's a very clever edit. Either way, taken as a whole the photos and stories describe an adventurous childhood.
Lurking in the background is the town of Loxahatchee, Florida, where most of the novel happens. Many of the photographs show simple lots, plants or other vernacular scenes. These are interspersed with snapshots of friends, giving the town the role of just another character in the story. At first it's just a minor one, but as the book progresses we sense that Loxahatchee may be the central protagonist. This is not so much the story of Kwiatkowski but a fable of youth and its tight bond to place. Before one can drive or has seen much of the world, place plays in outsized role for most adolescents. Looking back, a cluster of homes, schools, and the local minimart might dominate anyone's mental landscape. But for Florida kids, that tendency is reinforced by its relative homogeneity and rootlessness. "Florida is a fucked up place to grow up," Kwiatkowski admits. "It's in a constant state of flux, stagnation and contradiction." In other words, Florida is the perfect mirror for any coming-of-age experience.
Production-wise, the book is easy and sturdy. It's soft cover trade book with folding end flaps for bookmarking. The printing, layout, and design are excellent but casual. It feels more like a nicely printed graphic novel than a fine art coffee table book.