Jennifer Krasinski

  • 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