• print • June/July/Aug

    U Mad?

    IN FEBRUARY OF THIS YEAR, the Twitter user @LouiseGluckPoet announced some sad news. “A great loss. Thomas Pynchon dies. He was one of my favorite authors. I have now received the news from my publisher. They want the news to remain secret for a few hours, I don’t know why. However Pynchon has left us and the mystery is useless. Bye my dearest!” The syntax was strange, and the purported impropriety even more so, but nevertheless the author’s bio was definitive: “Poet. Official account.” Her profile said she had joined in November 2020, shortly after Louise Glück had won the Nobel Prize. Perhaps

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  • print • June/July/Aug

    How to Survive a Movement

    ONE NIGHT IN 2010, the writer Sarah Schulman was at the Manhattan gallery White Columns for the opening of a show she had helped create about the AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power, or ACT UP, the AIDS-activist organization she was a member of from 1987 to 1992. In her 2012 book The Gentrification of the Mind, Schulman writes of the evening as a kind of reunion for the group, with the ACT UP-ers, mostly in their fifties and sixties, “laughing and smiling and hugging and flirting,” all wearing the scars, physical and psychic, of the traumas they had endured together during the worst of the AIDS

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  • print • June/July/Aug

    Dare Package

    I PICKED UP HIGH RISK: AN ANTHOLOGY OF FORBIDDEN WRITINGS in Trident Booksellers & Café on Newbury Street in Boston in 1991 (when you could still smoke cigarettes while you read and drink bowlfuls of cappuccino), because Kathy Acker was in it and I idolized her—though she confused me with all her code-switching, gender-floating, language-bending, anti-narrative raucousness. Maybe I idolized her because she confused me. William S. Burroughs was in it too. He confused me but not in a way I was sure I liked. I was determined to keep trying though; Burroughs had literary street cred.

    High Risk

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  • print • June/July/Aug

    This Ain’t No Picnic

    GARY PANTER’S COMIC STRIPS ARE FUN TO LOOK AT AND HARD TO READ. “My work,” he’s admitted, is “not very communicative.” Panter made his mark as a poster artist in the late-’70s Los Angeles punk scene, established his reputation in the ’80s as a frequent contributor to Raw magazine, and confirmed his cultural bona fides as a designer for Pee-wee’s Playhouse.

    Jimbo: Adventures in Paradise, originally published in 1988, draws on a decade’s worth of work for Raw and the punk tabloid Slash; it now reappears framed by a brief Ed Ruscha appreciation (dig “the ravings and cravings of an amped up active

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  • print • June/July/Aug

    Southwest Side Story

    RICKIE LEE JONES’S BLOND HEAD IS ATILT as she lights a French cigarette, crowned with an off-center red beret. It’s that image of the artful-dodger “duchess of coolsville” (as Time dubbed her) on the cover of her eponymous 1979 debut that became iconic to a public who still recalls her mainly for that year’s jazzy top-10 single “Chuck E’s in Love.” It was a sell, but one close to the reality of this former teen street kid and, more recently, poverty-line Venice Beach bohemian. Jones rejected the 1970s “glamour-puss” gloss that was being urged on her and brought her own wardrobe and sensibility

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  • print • June/July/Aug

    Home Alone

    THE LAST FILM I SAW IN A THEATER was Greta Gerwig’s Little Women, at BAM Rose Cinemas in February 2020. Of course it didn’t occur to me that this would be the last movie I’d see on the big screen for well over a year—why would it? I hadn’t gone more than a month or so without visiting a movie theater since I was sixteen. Thirty years of movie after movie, Jurassic Park to Jeanne Dielman. Art houses and multiplexes; malls and drive-ins. All abruptly shuttered, some forever.

    So my movie-going narrowed, like everyone else’s—in my case, to a forty-eight-inch Sharp LED TV and Panasonic Blu-ray

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  • print • June/July/Aug

    The Book(s) I Want

    I’D LIKE TO DESCRIBE AN ORDINARY ENCOUNTER WITH GENDER. Which is fiction. I walk into a hardware store and I ask where the spray bottles are. He directs me. He-seeming person. I grab one and walk back to the register. I shove it toward him and he goes “three-oh-mmph.” I don’t know what the mmph is. I say what. He says if you give me four cents (as I hand him a five) I can give you back two dollars. I know how it works I explain. He hands me the two dollars and then says thank you ma’am. Now I bet many male-seeming people might not describe that exchange as gendered.

    Yet he took my what as not

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  • print • June/July/Aug

    Language Arts

    FOR OVER FORTY YEARS, Lorraine O’Grady’s work has argued against binary thinking. Instead of either/or, she proposes a both/and construction, often expressed by pairing two images in a diptych. Take her 2010 Whitney Biennial work The First and the Last of the Modernists, in which she juxtaposes portraits of Charles Baudelaire with Michael Jackson, tinting them in red, gray, green, or blue. As she wrote in 2018, “When you put two things that are related and yet totally dissimilar in a position of equality on the wall . . . they set up a conversation that is never-ending.”

    This sensibility

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  • print • June/July/Aug

    She Drew the Hallelujah

    AMERICA, IT SEEMS, WOULD LIKE A COOKIE. After centuries of literally and figuratively relying on Black women while simultaneously shoving them toward the margins of public life, conspicuous acknowledgment has become en vogue. The market now chases our purchasing power and the electoral establishment has recognized our political power and cultural institutions have added us to their guest lists. It has never been easier to find the right shade of foundation. Kamala Harris’s smile greets visitors to federal buildings around the country; Stacey Abrams is approaching household-name status. In

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  • print • June/July/Aug

    Eat, Slay, Love

    TWENTY YEARS AGO, the Cannes Film Festival made a concerted effort to bring in more Hollywood fare. This may explain why Shrek showed in the 2001 competition up against works by Shōhei Imamura, Michael Haneke, Jean-Luc Godard, and Mohsen Makhmalbaf. Baz Luhrmann’s musical Moulin Rouge! opened the festival before going on to worldwide box-office success and eight Academy Award nominations. At one point in Luhrmann’s film, the impresario advises Nicole Kidman’s character to renounce the man she loves in favor of the powerful duke to whom she has been promised so that the jealous aristocrat will

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  • print • June/July/Aug

    Reading the Fine Print

    ROBERT WALSER WAS A SWISS WRITER of the early twentieth century who wanted very much to be a German writer. He walked and walked more than he wrote and wrote, covering thousands of miles in his lifetime, albeit within limited territory. In the beginning his garb was clownish—“a wretched bright yellow midsummer suit, light dancing shoes, an intentionally vulgar, insolent, foolish hat”—near the end a motley of patched rags, and at the very end a shabby but proper suit and overcoat, his death duds when he collapsed in 1956 in the snow near the mental asylum where he had resided for twenty-three

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  • print • June/July/Aug

    Action Painting

    BROAD SWATHS OF VARIEGATED COLOR animate Reggie Burrows Hodges’s canvases at least as much as his energetic subjects: unicyclists and hurdlers; basketball, tennis, and baseball players. Born in Compton, California, he attended the University of Kansas on a tennis scholarship and studied theater and film; while living in New York and Vermont, he wrote songs and performed with a dub-rock group. The fifty-six-year-old artist’s résumé helps explain his fascination with sports as well as several paintings of people spinning and listening to dub records. In this volume’s interview with Suzette McAvoy,

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