• print • November 14, 2022

    Cold Comforts

    SHIRLEY HAZZARD WAS BORN in Sydney, Australia, in 1931. She was the second daughter of Reg and Kit, who met while working in the office of the engineering company that built the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Theirs was a marriage marked, as Brigitta Olubas puts it in Shirley Hazzard: A Writing Life, by an “almost lifelong incompatibility” made more difficult by Reg’s alcoholism and Kit’s bipolarity. Shirley was Kit’s favorite. When she was six or seven years old, Kit asked her to come to the kitchen so they could together put their heads into the gas oven. Shirley later said that the character Dora

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  • review • November 08, 2022

    A Business, Man

    A MONTH BEFORE Atlanta hosted the first hip-hop-focused spinoff of the BET Awards in 2006, an executive at the cable network joked the event would likely not benefit the local economy. He was probably right. Rap dollars already coursed through the Southern city like its ceaseless traffic, bankrolling recording studios, propping up nightclubs and music-publishing companies, and sustaining a vast corps of DJs, strippers, bodyguards, and lawyers. After the inaugural BET Hip Hop Awards aired and nearly half the honors went to Atlantans, local rapper T. I.—who won four awards that night, the largest

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  • print • Sep/Oct/Nov 2022

    Prairie, Home, Companion

    IN HER BOOK Why I Am Not a Feminist: A Feminist Manifesto, published the winter after Hillary Clinton lost the presidential election, Jessa Crispin made it clear that she wanted nothing to do with neoliberal girl-boss feminism, which she argued was toothless, counterrevolutionary, and “ended up doing patriarchy’s work.” She did, though, want to be part of something. Crispin concluded by calling for a movement in which people would “stop thinking so small,” “remember that our world does not have to be this way,” and “see beyond the structures we’ve been given.” Her new book, My Three Dads:

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  • print • Sep/Oct/Nov 2022

    Let It Bleed

    WHEN I FINISHED MY FIRST READ of Which as You Know Means Violence, critic Philippa Snow’s debut “on self-injury as art and entertainment,” I returned to my own cultural hallmark of suffering, the 2006 film adaptation of The Da Vinci Code. Reading Snow’s analysis of artist Chris Burden’s 1974 crucifixion atop a Volkswagen Beetle alongside the comical stunts of Johnny Knoxville and his squad of Jackass pranksters, I thought frequently of Paul Bettany’s fanatical Silas, who torments himself to such extremes that he plays at the brink of absurdity. Silas spends most of his screen time scurrying

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  • print • Sep/Oct/Nov 2022

    Spinster Class

    AT THE END of a long Michaelmas term working in the Barbara Pym archives in the Bodleian (how about that for an opening gambit?), I, six months pregnant with my second child, took a train out past Charlbury, caught a tiny bus, and deposited myself, thankfully in Wellington boots, on the side of the road near Finstock. I walked across two very muddy, December fields and found myself loitering outside of Holy Trinity, a mild, rundown, Victorian church. The church itself is a bit of a mishmash of Gothic Revival and practicality, with its 1905 chancel poking out awkwardly through its 1841 bones.

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  • print • Sep/Oct/Nov 2022

    A Dance to the Music of Time

    WHEN I BEGAN WRITING ABOUT DANCE in the early 2000s, the Martha Graham Dance Company was only just staggering out of a horrifying limbo. Graham had died in 1991 at the age of ninety-six, leaving her estate to Ron Protas, a man decades her junior who had become her close companion late in her tumultuous life. The controversial heir laid claim to the Graham repertory—a body of work foundational to modern dance, not to mention the Martha Graham Dance Company’s reason for being. Only in 2002, after a ruinous series of events had shuttered the entire organization, did the troupe win the rights to

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  • print • Sep/Oct/Nov 2022

    Cinema Was Everything

    AS A CHILD, SERGE DANEY KNEW his father only through the stories his mother told him. According to legend, Pierre Smolensky was a worldly, well-to-do gentleman involved in the business of cinema; throughout the interwar years, he dubbed films and perhaps even appeared in some under the stage name Pierre Sky. Only seventeen when Pierre took her under his wing, Daney’s mother claimed that he spoke all the languages in the world. For a while, the memory of Pierre was preserved in mythological amber, not unlike the images of Cary Grant and James Stewart, those beautiful American stars whom the

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  • print • Sep/Oct/Nov 2022

    Art You My Mother

    DO NOT MISTAKE Lynne Tillman’s Mothercare: On Obligation, Love, Death, and Ambivalence for a memoir. While it is unflinching, this book isn’t primarily about the vexed origins or aftereffects of the fraught mother-daughter relationship it describes (although all of that is in here). Rather, it is about performing the duty of keeping a person safe in an age when medicine often prolongs our lives long past our capacities. In this sense, Mothercare is more of an essay, or a dispatch: reportage from the trenches of care work. The “great difficulty” of writing, Elizabeth Hardwick once noted, “is

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  • print • Sep/Oct/Nov 2022

    Artful Volumes

    Before Joan Didion died in 2021, she and her friend, fellow writer Hilton Als, discussed a possible “exhibition as portrait” that would put visual art in conversation with her writing. The resulting exhibition opened at the Hammer Museum (Los Angeles) this fall, and the catalogue, JOAN DIDION: WHAT SHE MEANS (DelMonico Books/Hammer Museum, $40), includes many of the pieces on display. Didion’s time in New York City, where she worked for Vogue in the 1950s and early ’60s, is represented by some iconic Arbus, Avedon, Hopper, and Warhol images, and by lesser-known works such as Helen Lundeberg’s

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  • print • Sep/Oct/Nov 2022

    Michael in Black

    NICOLE MILLER’S Michael in Black is a monograph-as-moodboard, dedicated to the artist’s eponymous bronze sculpture of Michael Jackson kneeling, which was produced from a mold live-cast for a scene in the 1988 video anthology Moonwalker. There’s a sour-patch prescience to the depiction of the superstar—known for his celestial glide—in such a humbled stance, his arms truncated at the wrists. There’s a line in John Jeremiah Sullivan’s canonic 2009 essay on Jackson where the writer hails the pop singer’s body as “arguably, even inarguably, the single greatest piece of postmodern American sculpture.”

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  • print • Sep/Oct/Nov 2022

    Dressed to Thrill

    IN 1913, Sonia Delaunay appeared in a Parisian ballroom wearing a dress she had designed. A Cubist patchwork of vivid colors, the garment inspired enthusiastic reactions from artists and poets already immersed in the European avant-garde. Blaise Cendrars wrote a poem to the dress; Apollinaire encouraged his readers to visit the dance hall on Thursdays when Sonia and her husband Robert Delaunay arrived arrayed in the clothes she made. The Robe simultané (Simultaneous dress) was Sonia’s attempt to activate via bodily motion the color dynamism she was exploring in her abstract paintings. A rhythm

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  • review • September 06, 2022

    The fall issue is online now!

    Welcome to the Sep/Oct/Nov 2022 issue of Bookforum! In this edition, read: Meghan O’Rourke on Lynne Tillman’s new memoir about the challenges of looking after a sick parent; Lucy Sante on Emmanuel Carrère’s latest, which the author intended to be a short best-seller about a yoga retreat but instead ended up being about his mental breakdown; Moira Donegan on a pre-Roe abortion service run by Chicago activists; Charlie Tyson on Darryl Pinckney’s coming-of-age memoir that doubles as a tribute to Elizabeth Hardwick; an interview with Namwali Serpell about storytelling, grief, and experiential

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