Lidija Haas

  • Method to the Madness

    TAKE A MINUTE NOW to write down the first associations that come to your mind regarding Clarence Thomas. You might note that he represents the extreme right wing of the Supreme Court and that, beginning his twenty-ninth term this fall, he is its longest-serving justice, not to mention Donald Trump’s personal favorite. No doubt you’ll think of his alleged sexual harassment of Anita Hill during his tenure at the Department of Education and when he was head of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission under Ronald Reagan, of the ordeal she went through when forced to testify about it during his

  • Women Beyond the Verge

    Two Southern belles on the run get catcalled one too many times by the same schlubby dude; they blow up his truck. A couple of rough-and-ready French chicks talk their way into an architect’s house—his place is “like a drawing by a well-balanced child,” as is his smug, suave, symmetrical mug—and point their Smith & Wessons at him, all the while admiring both his book collection and his calm under pressure. “It’s clear to me,” one of them tells him affectionately, “that you stand out from our past encounters.” Then she shoots him in the face. “Get your fucking hands off me, goddamn it!” yells

  • Moscow Analytica

    In one sense, Keith Gessen’s A Terrible Country picks up where his first novel, All the Sad Young Literary Men, left off. That book’s last chapter is set in 2008, the year it was published, and narrated by one of the titular young men—needy, resentful, compulsively charming, and not always easily distinguishable Lost Boys who divide their time between anguished political musings, intellectual pissing contests, and the quest to disappoint as many attractive women as they can. After a few years spent mostly in Moscow, a city he notes is “what the world looked like before you covered it up with

  • Women on the Verge

    One side effect of the Trump presidency so far—among the mildest and yet, for book reviewers, still very noticeable—has been its distortion of a popular nonfiction genre that wasn’t hurting anyone. Since late 2016, a whole slew of sunny, triumphalist works about the social, political, and cultural progress being made in one corner or another have been forced to add awkward, doomy turns to their introductions and conclusions, the beginnings and ends of their chapters. Thus Joy Press’s Stealing the Show: How Women Are Revolutionizing Television, whose prevailing mood matches its effervescent

  • Asking for It

    WHEN PAUL VERHOEVEN CLAIMS he had no choice but to make his latest movie, Elle, in French principally because no US actress would accept the central role, it’s easy (and fun) to believe him. What prudes these Americans are! Naturally, they can’t handle this kind of woman. She berates her male employees at a video-game company for not making their rape simulation violent enough, and after her own rape she calls for sushi instead of the police. She makes herself come while spying through a window as her neighbor unloads Christmas ornaments; she can give the kind of hand job in her office that

  • Invitation to a Rereading

    Among those who consider themselves serious readers, it's seen as infra dig to treat literature as self-help. Fiction is not there to teach us how to live or to help us imagine different ways out of our mundane personal difficulties. Nabokov is stern on this in his Lectures on Literature: "Only children can be excused for identifying themselves with the characters in a book." Any of us who nonetheless persist in, say, taking a novel as a model for our love lives, might hesitate to start with the nineteenth-century Russian canon, unless we aspire to be connoisseurs of suffering. Not so the mother

  • The Knockout

    When I was seventeen, I had my long hair cut off in an attempt to emulate Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl. Alas, it turned out that the Cleopatran effect—a look the young Streisand seemingly cultivated through a combination of thick makeup and pure willpower—wasn't so easy to re-create. I took the precaution of not telling anyone why I'd done it, but even if somebody had wanted to make a joke, Streisand had already beaten them to it. A woman goes to her hairdresser and asks for the "Barbra" look, she used to say. So he takes the hairbrush and breaks her nose.

    One great Streisandian mystery is

  • Bedroom Eyes

    You are heading into the future on a voyage of sexual discovery, and here is what it’s like. Drinking beers with a man you’ve just met online, you think of five or ten other men you already know and would prefer to drink with, were it not for the grim necessity of finding a boyfriend. At Burning Man, you accompany a relatively attractive guy into the so-called orgy dome, but find only other heterosexuals having sex in neat pairs. At a shoot for a website called Public Disgrace, you join an enthusiastic crowd to watch a cheerful twenty-three-year-old being bound, gagged, and penetrated with a

  • culture August 26, 2016

    The Art of Advice-Giving

    Advice is so much more enjoyable to give than it is to receive that its long flourishing as a genre—from the conduct books and periodicals of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries to the current plethora of columns, livechats, and podcasts—could seem mysterious. Of course, watching other people being told what to do might be the most fun of all, which surely helps account for the enduring appeal of the advice column.

    Advice is so much more enjoyable to give than it is to receive that its long flourishing as a genre—from the conduct books and periodicals of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries to the current plethora of columns, livechats, and podcasts—could seem mysterious. Of course, watching other people being told what to do might be the most fun of all, which surely helps account for the enduring appeal of the advice column, and explains why living online seems only to enhance that appeal. Yet the genre is also unusual in the opportunities it offers a writer, in its combination of surprise and

  • Building Insecurity

    THERE’S A STORY about New York gentrification that everybody knows, in which the city gradually Disneyfies into a playground for tourists and well-heeled locals, prices rise, and crime falls. But is it true that New York has grown safer, or just an American fantasy? Spanish artist and academic Jana Leo has another question: Safer for whom? In her 2009 book, Rape New York, which describes the assault she suffered at gunpoint in her Harlem apartment and its aftermath, she offers a disturbing account of gentrification as a process far dirtier, more violent, and more criminal than it may appear.

  • Let It Go

    New York City might be the only place on earth where you could conceivably date someone for months on end and never be invited into their apartment. But special mention should go to Barry Yourgrau, who managed to keep his soignée food-writer girlfriend (and almost everyone else, even the super) out of his place for five long years. So ashamed was he of his unruly belongings, and yet so deeply attached to them, he tells us in his memoir, Mess: One Man’s Struggle to Clean Up His House and His Act (Norton, $26), that he couldn’t stomach any intruders. When the girlfriend, Cosima (not her real

  • Wynne Greenwood: Stacy . . . Kelly

    BETWEEN 1999 AND 2006, artist and musician Wynne Greenwood toured as the queer-feminist band Tracy + the Plastics. She performed live as front woman “Tracy” alongside other prerecorded, bewigged, and made-up selves: brunette “Nikki” (the “artistic” keyboard player) and blond “Cola” (the “political” drummer). Appearing on small TVs or in video projections behind her, the two virtual band members would harmonize, interrupt, and converse with her (and each other), creating a complex, layered set of performances. The group has now been both revived and archived in two exhibitions, for which

  • Lisa Yuskavage: The Brood, Paintings 1991–2015

    ITS HARD TO alight on a response to Lisa Yuskavage’s paintings. The topless models and cute, lollipop-sucking young girls can look frosted, almost airbrushed, our culture’s detritus incongruously rendered with virtuosic technique. When paint is handled like this, both old masters and trashy magazines seem to regain their vivid alienness. It’s as if Yuskavage has managed to put her brush precisely in the place where we can still be unsettled.

    She taught herself to do it that way, getting a traveling education in European painting while at art school in the early 1980s. As she recalled in an

  • interviews October 28, 2015

    Bookforum talks with Carrie Brownstein

    From the opening pages of Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl, it’s clear that Carrie Brownstein, best known as a guitarist and singer in the seminal band Sleater-Kinney, and now as an actor and the cowriter and star of Portlandia, is a writer first.

    From the opening pages of Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl, it’s clear that Carrie Brownstein, best known as a guitarist and singer in the seminal band Sleater-Kinney, and now as an actor and the cowriter and star of Portlandia, is a writer first. Covering her childhood in the Seattle suburbs, her time in the 1990s Olympia, Washington music scene, and her years recording and touring with Sleater-Kinney, the book sets itself apart from the general run of music memoirs: Well turned, subtle, and clear-eyed, it’s a striking literary accomplishment. I was curious above all about what she read and which

  • Tell It Slant

    “I’ve written a number of essays the past few years,” Dodie Bellamy writes in her new book, When the Sick Rule the World, “and I keep vowing to quit.” We know her essay-quitting hasn’t been going well, not only because we’re reading about it in a Dodie Bellamy essay, but also because these words, which originally appeared in the 2008 chapbook Barf Manifesto, are now nestled in a new collection alongside thirteen other essays, most of which have been written in the years since.

    To be frank and detailed about sex in one’s writing, to use one’s own name and biography, to blend high and low cultural