Jennifer Krasinski

  • Immaculate Imperfection

    IT IS A FITTING IRONY that when trying to describe Anne Carson’s sensibility, one quickly hits the limits of language. To measure the breadth of her brain across her twenty or so books, one might acquiesce to hyphen-chic—as in, she is a poet-translator-scholar-of-ancient-Greek-essayist-visual-artist-playwright-maker-of-performances-and-dances—but such frantic stitching would fail to impart how seamlessly entwined her practices are. To distinguish her literary occupation from that of other authors, one might be tempted to conjure a new word via the dark arts of negation—she is an uncontainer of

  • Pier Pressure

    BETWEEN 1956 AND 1967, the Coenties Slip on the lower tip of Manhattan was home to a group of artists who had moved to the city with grand ambitions for their work and little money to their names. In those lean years, before they were canonized, Robert Indiana, Ellsworth Kelly, Agnes Martin, James Rosenquist, Lenore Tawney, Jack Youngerman, and Delphine Seyrig all took up residence in this “down downtown,” on a dead-end street on the East River where they nested themselves among fishing ships and sailors, the changing tides and unremitting grime, living at a remove from the New York City art

  • First Person Plural

    TO TELL THE STORY of another person’s life poses certain challenges to an author wanting to capture their subject in the truest light possible. In the introduction to her ebullient, poignant What Is Now Known Was Once Only Imagined: An (Auto)biography of Niki de Saint Phalle, Nicole Rudick offers up her strategy for honest representation: “What could be closer to the artist’s voice than the artist’s own voice, closer to her sensibility than that produced by her own hand?” Rudick edited this hybrid volume of text and images, selecting and sequencing Saint Phalle’s own writings and works on paper

  • The Big Short

    “WE FEEL AN AFFINITY with a certain thinker because we agree with him,” writes Lydia Davis in “Affinity,” one of the shorter stories in her collection Almost No Memory (1997). Yet according to Davis, it wasn’t a sense of kinship that led her to the zeer korte verhalen (zkv’s), or “very short stories,” of the beloved and prolific Dutch author A. L. Snijders (1937–2021). Rather, it was a sense of fairness: if her books were being translated into Dutch, then she should translate a work from Dutch into English. It would be no small challenge, since she would have to learn the language as she went

  • Michael Clark: Cosmic Dancer

    IF DANCE IS HUMANITY’S REBELLION AGAINST GRAVITY, choreographer Michael Clark defied dance’s gravitas. He was classically trained: first as an Aberdeen boy schooled in traditional Scottish dance, then as a star pupil at London’s Royal Ballet School, later as a member of the Ballet Rambert, and later still as a summer student of Merce Cunningham and John Cage.

    Ultimately, Clark made his reputation by aerating the stuffy dance world, transforming the landscape with a punk ethos and the pointed exuberance of London’s queer club scene.

    In 1984, at the prodigious age of twenty-two, he founded the

  • Meditations in an Emergency

    DURING THE FIRST WEEKS of quarantine, I would become exasperated when I’d hear some expression of gratitude for the platforms and technologies keeping us socially connected, as though connection is only virtuous, or would be balm enough. It seemed apparent that the value of disconnection was an equally pressing lesson, a condition put before us to wrestle with, to practice, to sit with, and, perhaps, to learn from. Perhaps disconnection would even be essential to defining how and in what altered state we might arrive at the other side of this horrific, if expected, shakedown. Wanting role models

  • Memory

    In 1971, for the month of July, powerhouse poet Bernadette Mayer documented her life by shooting a roll of 35 mm film every day and writing down as many experiences, ideas, observations, feelings, and sights as she could. From those materials, she created Memory, a fabled work of installation art that plunged viewers headlong into the fizzing slipstream of her consciousness. Disorienting and clarifying in equal measure, Memory uncovers the space between living and recorded life. If the latter is imperative to apprehending the tumult of human experience, it nonetheless falls very short of

  • I Color

    “These things happened, but not as described.” So begins The Baudelaire Fractal, the vertiginous debut novel by poet, translator, essayist, and most genteel of insurgents Lisa Robertson. Like her previous books, her latest is a work of buoyant loveliness and muscular erudition, a lush thicket of thoughts that here enrich the ease and breeziness of personal narrative with the chewier textures of history, criticism, and literary theory. “Writing unfolds like a game called ‘I,’” declares the novel’s diaphanous narrator, behind whom Robertson herself lurks, and to whom she gives the name—the I

  • Life? Or Theater?

    On October 17, 1973, Ingeborg Bachmann—the Austrian poet, novelist, librettist, and essayist—succumbed to burns sustained three weeks prior when she, tranquilizers swallowed and cigarette in hand, lay down to sleep and inadvertently lit her nightgown and bed on fire. She was forty-seven and had, since receiving the Gruppe 47 prize even before the 1953 publication of her first poetry collection, Borrowed Time, astonished the German-speaking public as well as esteemed peers with texts that pushed against tradition and played at the limits of language. She awed the likes of Günter Grass, Peter

  • Camp: Notes on Fashion

    BEFITTING THE GIDDY opulence of “Camp: Notes on Fashion”—the Costume Institute’s summer exhibition as well as this year’s theme for the Met Gala, the blue-chip celebrity do of the year—this catalogue is an haute objet unto itself. Its two volumes are bound in soft celadon covers and separately strapped to either side of a pale-pink faux-leather album, all embossed in gold. The first book offers a series of essays that attempt to grasp the slippery semiotics of Camp, tracing the evolution of its use and appearance as verb (derived from the French se camper, “to flaunt,” which first pops up in

  • Inherent Vice

    GENIUS IS GENIUS in part because it defies narrative. Tall tales are spun to make sense of it, but a soul has never really been sold at the crossroads, and not every apple that falls on a head inspires cosmic revelations. For the couturier Charles James (1906–1978), his garments, the near-mythic exotica that he conjured, tell his story. “My seams are sentences,” he once wrote. “They all have meaning.” He referred to his designs as “theses,” expressions of ideas, arguments that he crafted with obsessive rigor and precision on behalf of beauty, glamour, sexuality. His gowns, suits, jackets,

  • The Anxiety of Affluence

    There is little to recommend the rich, except of course their money. After all, the greater a fortune, the more likely it was ill-gotten. (No one ever hit pay dirt performing a good deed.) Until the revolution comes, we still have taste as the great leveler, evidence of democracy in action. What distinguishes good taste from bad, however, matters less than the fact of its presence at all. The worst plight is having no taste whatsoever, of being boring. Far better to vigorously exercise the right to get it all very, very wrong.

    A delectable distraction from these bleak and crooked times,

  • interviews January 14, 2019

    Bookforum talks with A. S. Hamrah

    With his collection The Earth Dies Streaming: Film Writing, 2002—2018(n+1 Books, 2018), A. S. Hamrah joins the ranks of Manny Farber, Serge Daney, Renata Adler and other masters in the art of passionately caring about the cinema without buying into its illusions.

    One of our most unerring critics, A. S. Hamrah is a soothsayer, a sidesplitter, a crank, and a moralist. His reviews linger wherever his attention is drawn, whether on or off screen: in the prosthetic hand worn by Jessica Biel over a prop stump for a shlocktale about American veterans, he presents a withering metaphor for Hollywood’s political cowardice; a missed screening prompts him to write an unmissable tale about the indignities weathered by reviewers. He has previewed films he will not see, and covered others without once mentioning character, plot, or star.

    With his collection The

  • Imitation of Life

    What’s in a name? I ask, though with admittedly far less ardor than Shakespeare’s blushing young lover once asked her Romeo. Nowadays a woman knows that not every rose smells equally sweet—or is uniformly thorny, for that matter—and that the tragic answer to Juliet’s question in our relentlessly desperate times would most likely be: Depends on what you’re worth.

    Which is all to point out that there are two couplings in Crudo, British author Olivia Laing’s first novella, a work of autofiction: one romantic, the other nominal and essentially a literary gimmick. Written over seven weeks last

  • Royal Flux

    On July 6, 1962, a group of young upstarts presented “A Concert of Dance” at the Judson Memorial Church, which stands on the south side of Washington Square Park in downtown New York City. More than three hundred people gathered to watch the show—an impressive number given that every performer on the bill was somewhat new to the scene. Yvonne Rainer, Steve Paxton, David Gordon, and Deborah Hay were but a few of those whose pieces that evening, to quote critic Jill Johnston, felt as though they “could make the present of modern dance more exciting than it’s been for twenty years.” Throughout

  • Zoe Leonard: Survey

    IN THE LATE 1980S, at the outset of her celebrated career, Zoe Leonard had a crisis of conscience. aids was massacring entire communities with alarming speed, and as a vital member of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (act up), she found herself distrusting the value of art in an era when activism felt far more urgent. She showed her friend David Wojnarowicz some pictures of clouds she’d taken that she worried were slight, their politics too nuanced, but he reminded her that beauty was in part what they were fighting for. “You want to help create a world where you can sit around and think

  • Sound and Vision

    Origin stories are woven with many threads: Some we spin ourselves, while others we inherit. The great German artist Charlotte Salomon (1917–1943) accounted for herself—for who she was, and why she was, and where she came from—not by wondering what of herself was fact and what was fiction. Rather, the real and present question was Leben? oder Theater? (Life? or Theatre?). In other words, how to distinguish genuine presence and raw experience from the spectacle and folly of human making.

    Life? or Theatre? is the title of Salomon’s singular and revelatory masterpiece, which she described very