A Fan's Notes
Lynne Tillman's new collection covers an expansive range of enthusiasms
What Would Lynne Tillman Do?
by Lynne Tillman
$16.95 List Price
I’ve long admired Lynne Tillman’s criticism. Her writing is founded on curiosity and deep feeling. It’s precise and imaginative, devoid of jargon or cliché. It’s the opposite of what I dislike in criticism, and I know I’m not alone in my appreciation of what she does. “What she does” is hard to pinpoint, though, and the title of her new collection is a good-natured fake-out for all of us who might look to her as a model for how to live—or just how to write.
What Would Lynne Tillman Do? includes essays (and interviews) on a wide range of topics, ordered like an alphabet book, A to Z. The table of contents playfully points to the author’s versatility and prolific output—really, isn’t the question what wouldn’t Lynne Tillman do? She’s a novelist and short-story writer as well as a cultural critic whose fascinations seem encyclopedic in range. Here, in pieces written over the past twenty years or so, she reflects on subjects like Andy Warhol, Edith Wharton, Nan Goldin, Futurism, and the Rolling Stones (these essays originally appeared in publications such as Frieze, Bomb, Artforum, and the New York Times Book Review, as well as in these pages).
Tillman doesn’t shy away from the first person; her engaging, erudite “I” appears in most pieces. Usually, she uses personal experience as a frame or an entry point, but sometimes she embeds cultural criticism in memoir. For example, in her book’s second section, “B Is for the Bowleses,” Tillman emerges as an intrepid protagonist and an enthusiastic scholar of Paul and Jane Bowles’s work. She recounts how, in the early ’70s, as a young
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