• excerpt • September 30, 2021

    An excerpt from Everything and Less: The Novel in the Age of Amazon

    Fiction in the Age of Amazon is the symbolic provision of more—above all, of more various and interesting “life experience” than can be had by any mortal being, let alone one constrained by the demands of work and family. It is a commodification of this experience, shaped to the reader’s limitations and recurring therapeutic needs.

    A physical book is in this sense a box of time, and an e-book the virtualization of the same. It is a volume in which time has seemed to stop. Or, rather, it has been put on a kind of imaginary endless loop inasmuch as fictional time moving in sequence from a novel’s

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  • print • Sept/Oct/Nov 2021

    Vice, Vice, Baby

    AN AWFUL DISCOURSE now heralds spring. It goes by “no kink at Pride.” Seemingly concocted on 4chan as one of their loosely coordinated Operations, it has been propelled for the past few years beyond the imageboard by earnest young queers and crypto-religious moralists, both keen to prevent the nonconsensual sight of leathermen. In 2020, arguments about parade logistics reached a fever pitch. The fact that, due to the coronavirus, parades were more likely to be canceled that year was no consolation. There was a more abstract problem: the question of sexuality in public life was at stake.

    Another

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  • print • Sept/Oct/Nov 2021

    You Better Work

    FELIX KRÄMER, A GENERAL DIRECTOR OF DÜSSELDORF’S MUSEUM KUNSTPALAST, writes in the foreword to Captivate!: Fashion Photography from the ’90s that “galleries, institutions, studios and the people who work in both the public and private spheres are struggling for survival” during the pandemic. It makes sense, then, to lean on a cash cow: the fashion exhibition. Who wouldn’t love to stand in front of a blown-up picture of a phalanx of famously beautiful women shimmering in Gianni Versace’s gold chain-mail dresses, whether they remember seeing it firsthand or on Tumblr or in Donatella’s re-creation

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  • print • Sept/Oct/Nov 2021

    Artful Volumes

    This year’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, a survey of more than 14,000 studies, confirms that we are now in the management phase of the climate crisis: it can’t be prevented, only mitigated. What role can art play now that the “awareness” and “warning” stages have passed? Artist Alexis Rockman suggests that we take the long view: “It’s interesting to contextualize what’s happening in our lives, within the historical lens of the many times this has happened before.” That does not mean forgoing immediate action. As David Rimanelli writes in the opening essay of ALEXIS

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  • print • Sept/Oct/Nov 2021

    Dial F for Father

    WHILE WANDERING AROUND the Jewish Museum’s haunting exhibition “Louise Bourgeois, Freud’s Daughter,” curated by the artist’s former literary archivist Philip Larratt-Smith, I stopped at a melancholy sculpture called Ventouse, 1990, a double-decker hunk of hacked, chipped black marble that resembles a sarcophagus. The coffin is topped by protruding glass cups, their rounded ends lit from within by electric bulbs.

    For some reason, while studying this sculpture that’s heavy in every way (after all, it is part of a show of Bourgeois’s psychoanalytic art and texts), I couldn’t stop thinking about

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  • print • Sept/Oct/Nov 2021

    Free Fallin’

    THE PRIMARY PROBLEM with freedom is that it’s impossible for everyone to have at the same time. Even circumscribed freedoms intersect, impose, and oppose, as conflicts about speech, masks, and vaccines remind us daily. “If and when we ascertain that our well-being is linked to the behavior of others, the desire to impugn, control, or change them can be as fruitless as it is intense,” writes Maggie Nelson in On Freedom: Four Songs of Care and Constraint, her attempt to probe the question of “how to forge a fellowship . . . that does not reflexively pit freedom against obligation.” The book was

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  • print • Sept/Oct/Nov 2021

    Space Jams

    LAST DECEMBER, nestled amid the second and final COVID-19 stimulus package of Donald Trump’s presidency was a strange provision: within 180 days, the Secretary of Defense and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence were to release an unclassified report detailing the agencies’ knowledge about unidentified flying objects. Between the law’s passage and the release of the report, American interest in UFOs—or, as government officials have euphemistically dubbed them, “unidentified aerial phenomena” (UAP)—soared. In May, 60 Minutes ran a segment featuring witnesses, including two Navy

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  • print • Sept/Oct/Nov 2021

    In Plane Sight

    “I’VE NEVER KEPT SHEEP / But it’s as if I did.” How did these two lines of Fernando Pessoa’s poetry irritate a person like me, often considered a novelist, enough to write a multigenre book full of short pieces and images called Pilot Impostor? The short answer is that the couplet collided with a swarm of issues all at once in an airplane above the Atlantic Ocean.

    My husband and I visited Cape Verde, off the west coast of Africa, in December 2016. Most TAP Air Portugal routes there require a transfer in Lisbon, so we decided to stop there for a few days on the way back. Whenever I go to a new

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  • print • Sept/Oct/Nov 2021

    She’ll Be Your Mirror

    NICO, BORN CHRISTA PÄFFGEN in Cologne, Germany, in October 1938, is one of the most underappreciated musical innovators of the past century. She’s undeniably famous: as the title of a 1995 film reminds us, Nico is an anagram for “icon.” Yet few other artists’ radical and influential body of work is so eclipsed in the public mind by their romantic and professional relationships (Yoko Ono comes to mind). Few of the people who recognize Nico’s name and face know she spent most of her life creating intense, remarkable, inimitable music under her own name. Everyone knows she fucked Lou Reed, though.

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  • print • Sept/Oct/Nov 2021

    Perverted by Language

    TROLL, SYLLABIST, BANDLEADER, orator, pest, alcoholic, medium, stenographer, record producer, pedant, speed freak, duppy, redeemer, and glorious irritant, Mark E. Smith was, before anything else, a writer. We know this because of the Fall, a rock band he initiated, destroyed, revived, and maintained between 1976 and his death on January 24, 2018. Though it is tempting to imagine Smith taking a different path and becoming the world’s least biddable radio host, he became himself with and through the Fall.

    Mark E. Smith stood before this band, both connected and not, preaching from a psychic

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  • print • Sept/Oct/Nov 2021

    The Escape Artist

    IN 2011, WINFRED REMBERT HAD ACHIEVED a sufficient measure of fame to be invited back to his hometown of Cuthbert, Georgia, to celebrate his success as an artist. Rembert’s artworks were sought out by collectors and hung in various galleries, including the Yale University Art Gallery. Growing up in Cuthbert in the 1950s and ’60s, Rembert was subjected to police harassment and beatings and, on one occasion, nearly lynched. He had been paraded through town in chains before being sent to prison. But now Cuthbert was honoring its native son with Winfred Rembert Day. He was presented with a plaque

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  • print • Sept/Oct/Nov 2021

    He Liked Having Enemies

    HAS THERE EVER BEEN A WRITER more reviled or more admired than D. H. Lawrence? (His full name was David Herbert Lawrence but he had begun using the initials “DHL” or “D. H. Lawrence” as his signature already as an eighteen-year-old.) Almost from the moment he put pen to paper, this mad genius of English literature with intense blue eyes and a flaming red beard raised a ruckus, which he not only thoroughly enjoyed but did his part in fomenting. He wrote with great fluency—3,500 words in a morning was a snap for him—and he would go on to write an astonishing amount, in many genres, before he died

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