• excerpt • January 27, 2022

    Ancient Gonzo Wisdom

    During the mid-1970s, Hunter S. Thompson was a central figure at Rolling Stone magazine. Although he did not write about music, he was its most popular contributor, and Abe Peck observed his primacy at close range. After editing an underground newspaper in Chicago, Peck worked for Rolling Stone in the mid-1970s and later taught journalism at Northwestern University. In his estimation, Rolling Stone was one of the most important American magazines of its era, and Thompson defined its nonmusical voice during the 1970s. In particular, Thompson linked readers to their youthful iconoclasm even as

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  • excerpt • January 03, 2022

    On Dostoyevsky’s immersive polyphony and neologisms

    Eyes fixed on the Bulgarian editions of The Idiot (1869), Demons (1872), and The Brothers Karamazov (1880), my father advised me strongly against reading them: “Destructive, demonic, clinging, too much is too much, you won’t like him at all, let it go!” He dreamed of seeing me escape “the bowels of hell,” as he called our native Bulgaria, quoting some obscure verse in the Holy Scriptures. To fulfill this desperate plan, I only had to develop my “innate taste” for clarity and freedom, according to him, in French, of course, since he had introduced me to the language of La Fontaine and Voltaire.

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  • review • December 14, 2021

    Greg Tate (1957–2021)

    Greg Tate, a longtime contributor to the Village Voice and other publications, died last week. Here, four critics pay tribute to Tate’s influential, hyper-referential, bumptious, and generous writing and conversation.

    FOREVER ON DUTY

    By Daphne A. Brooks

    Every conversation began in medias res because the truth of it was that he so clearly lived his life like a brother who had been chopping it up with you for centuries already, as if you and he had always been in the deep-water groove of one long, rolling and roustabout, everlasting, in-the-round, in-the-midnight-hour session, one that even

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  • excerpt • December 09, 2021

    An excerpt from Vulgar Genres on censorship and gay pornographic literature

    In the United States in the mid-1960s, a case came before the Supreme Court, one intended to settle the question of obscenity addressed by the famous Roth decision of 1957. The nine quarrelsome old men now came to the conclusion that obscenity required a work to be utterly without any redeeming social value. Whammo! There was a thoughtful pause whilst the country digested that—and came to the conclusion that of course there was a revelatory and redeeming social value to even the lousiest suckee-fuckee books. The gates were opened. The flood began. Suddenly all the old four-letter words

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  • print • Dec/Jan/Feb 2022

    Get Lit

    IT WAS A HALTING, haunted year. The pandemic sort of ended, but still required constant vigilance, inflicted mass tedium, and ruined our fall plans. Just like autofiction! There were inconclusive congressional inquiries into the Capitol riot and the Bad Art Friend. The Paris Review got a new new editor, which is exciting. Giancarlo DiTrapano died, tragically and too young, which fucking sucks. Corporate publishing continued to consolidate. An unprecedented number of named storm systems—Franzen, Rooney, Whitehead, Knausgaard, Doerr—shattered precipitation records over a small swath of the

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  • print • Dec/Jan/Feb 2022

    Hardwick Times

    WHAT IS IT WE WANT from literary biographies? A portrait, surely, of the subject, something beyond the profiles and interviews that they grinned through whenever one of their books appeared. Perhaps even a good story. A prominent biographer once told me that there would never be a biography of Don DeLillo because all he ever did was sit at his desk and write his books: there’s no fun for a biographer in mining that kind of life. On the other hand, new books seem to appear every year on the short life of Sylvia Plath, the narrative thread always winding through the snow to the frantic calls to

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  • print • Dec/Jan/Feb 2022

    The Interpretation of Screens

    IN STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION, THE ANDROID DATA starts to dream, having accidentally discovered an unconscious he didn’t know he had. Soon, because his dreams are troubled, he enters psychoanalysis. Appropriately enough, he turns to another artificial intelligence for help, the computer of the starship Enterprise, which creates a holographic representation of Sigmund Freud. Later, Data dreams that he is on the Enterprise, standing with two of his companions. A phone rings. But where is it? Data’s friends open a hatch in his abdomen. An early-twentieth-century phone stands there, waiting

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  • print • Dec/Jan/Feb 2022

    Art Monsters

    FOUNDED IN 1990, GODZILLA was a New York–based collective of visual artists and curators that sought “to contribute to change in the limited ways Asian Pacific Americans participate and are represented in a broad social context.” Early in the new anthology Godzilla: Asian American Arts Network 1990–2001, there’s a spread of contact sheets showing outtakes for a group picture taken in 1991 for the collective’s first newsletter: we see bodies shuffling, awkward hand placements, ill-timed smiles, and aching cheeks. The sequences illustrate the momentary coalescence—flash!—and then the release,

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  • print • Dec/Jan/Feb 2022

    Mask and You Shall Receive

    WHAT’S COMMONLY KNOWN ABOUT THE PORTUGUESE WRITER FERNANDO PESSOA is that he died young-ish at the age of forty-seven in 1935, drank heavily, and assigned authorship of his work to over a hundred “heteronyms,” pen names that carry more biographical heft than the average alias. Pessoa died having published only one book of poetry in Portuguese (Mensagem) and two self-published chapbooks of English-language poetry. The lion’s share of his work was found in a trunk containing about 25,000 pages of writings. Without much of a public record of his life as he lived it, celebrating Pessoa and researching

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  • print • Dec/Jan/Feb 2022

    Complex Messiahs

    IT TOOK ONLY A COUPLE MONTHS after moving to Memphis for me to realize I was living in a necropolis. You have Elvis’s Graceland temple by the airport; the solemn Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered; a famous cemetery where Isaac Hayes and Sam Phillips are buried and—in case you’re still doubting my assessment—downtown’s hulking black Bass Pro Shops pyramid, where the redneck pharaohs await the endless hunting and fishing of the afterlife. Sometimes I’d feel I was walking not through a city made for the living, but a temple compound dedicated to gods that can’t hear us. And

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  • print • Dec/Jan/Feb 2022

    Approaching Eye Level

    UPON HER ARRIVAL at the Rhode Island School of Design in 1993, Pakistan-born artist Shahzia Sikander was asked by an instructor if she was there “to make East meet West.” In this volume’s interview with Vasif Kortun, Sikander goes on to note that “no one else was asked such a question,” and that she “became aware very quickly that America was about a black-and-white relationship, where being brown was not yet fully visible.” As an undergraduate in Lahore, Sikander had produced The Scroll, a watercolor depicting daily life that won national recognition for its adroit engagement with the Indo-Persian

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  • review • December 01, 2021

    Our winter issue is online now!

    Welcome to the Dec/Jan/Feb 2022 issue of Bookforum! In this edition, our writers pick the best books of 2021, Melissa Anderson delves into the diaries of Patricia Highsmith, Benjamin Kunkel considers how Amazon has changed the way we read, and much more. Read the issue online here, and consider subscribing or gifting a subscription with our holiday discount.

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