• review • August 12, 2019

    David Berman (1967–2019)

    Three writers pay tribute to the poet and songwriter David Berman, who passed away last week. Berman was the inimitable force behind the bands the Silver Jews and, most recently, Purple Mountains. His book of poems, Actual Air, was published by the books arm of the legendary Open City in 1999, and remains a cult classic.

    STATIONS OF THE CROSSOVER

    By Christian Lorentzen

    There’s long been an urge to believe that rock ’n’ roll is, or can, or could, or should, be poetry. It was the impulse behind the Nobel Prize for Literature awarded in 2016 to Bob Dylan, and it’s the reason we’ve seen lines

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  • review • August 05, 2019

    Time Regained

    “The impulse to stash things away,” Nick Yablon writes in Remembrance of Things Present: The Invention of the Time Capsule, “is ancient, perhaps universal.” This accounts for the cornerstone ceremonies of early republican America, or the ancient Greek and Roman practice of placing coins in sacred places, or maybe even letters, “sealed for at least a day.” But a time capsule has a specific destination in time, an opening day. For Yablon, a historian at the University of Iowa, time capsules were invented in the United States around 1876. Two were on display at the Centennial Exposition in

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  • review • July 26, 2019

    The Conscience of a Revolutionary

    “I often feel like I’m being suffocated in my magnificent desert.” So wrote Victor Serge to Dwight Macdonald of his exile in Mexico. For Serge, exile was nothing new; he’d been a persecuted militant for most of his life. But his simultaneous opposition to Stalin and refusal to renounce the revolution left him isolated in the stifling hothouse of the country’s left-wing exile community. Macdonald tried to find Serge publishers in the United States, but with little luck. (Of the editors who rejected his manuscripts, Macdonald wrote, “There’s nothing here but cowardice on the part of these sheep.”)

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  • pubdates • July 24, 2019

    The Pursuit of the Unknown

    The word conjecture derives from a root notion of throwing or casting things together, and over the centuries it has referred to prophecies as well as to reasoned judgments, tentative conclusions, whole-cloth inventions, and wild guesses. “Since I have mingled celestial physics with astronomy in this work, no one should be surprised at a certain amount of conjecture,” wrote Johannes Kepler in his Astronomia Nova of 1609. “This is the nature of physics, of medicine, and of all the sciences which make use of other axioms besides the most certain evidence of the eyes.” Here conjecture allows him

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  • review • June 27, 2019

    Kevin Killian (1952–2019)

    Novelist, poet, biographer, and playwright Kevin Killian died on June 15. A member of the New Narrative movement, Killian was the author of the novel Shy, the memoir Bedrooms Have Windows (recently reissued by Semiotext(e)), the poetry collections Argento Series (which dwelled on the horror director Dario Argento and the AIDS crisis) and Action Kylie (an ode of sorts to Kylie Minogue), the story collection Impossible Princess, a number of plays, and (with Lewis Ellingham) the biography Poet Be Like God: Jack Spicer and the San Francisco Renaissance. Along with the writer Dodie Bellamy, to whom

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  • review • June 04, 2019

    Just Because You're Paranoid

    “Eve Sedgwick, Once More,” a eulogy penned by theorist Lauren Berlant about their former mentor, began as follows: “Once upon a time, a very round, very red-headed woman . . . concluded a talk on the erotics of poetic form by inviting my colleagues to rethink sexuality through considering, among other things, their own anal eroticism.” Sedgwick wasn’t trying to be a shock jock. The late literary critic was the cofounder, arguably, not just of “queer theory,” but of what we now call “post-critique.” She is perhaps best known for coining the phrase “reparative reading,” a framework she came to

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  • print • Summer 2019

    Murder, They Wrote

    In retrospect, the show was destined to be a hit. My Favorite Murder. It’s all right there in the title: the chatty familiarity, the dark humor, the self-conscious voyeurism. The true-crime comedy podcast, started by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark on a lark in January 2016, was fortuitously timed to coincide with the podcast and true-crime booms.

    My Favorite Murder has become something more than just a popular program; it is a full-blown, blood-spattered phenomenon. These days, MFM’s twice-weekly episodes reliably rank among the most popular on iTunes, drawing 19 million monthly listeners.

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  • print • Summer 2019

    Artful Volumes

    In 2005, Hurricane Stan wreaked havoc on Guatemala, triggering catastrophic mudslides, including one that ravaged artist Vivian Suter’s studio. Born in Buenos Aires but raised in Basel, Suter had sought refuge from her growing stardom on the Swiss art scene by decamping to the jungles of Panajachel in 1983. But one does not pick and choose which aspects of nature one “returns” to. In drenching her canvases with mud, the hurricane freed the artist even more radically from existing conventions dictating how paintings should look and function. Suter promptly stopped treating her works as precious

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  • print • Summer 2019

    It’s the Pictures That Got Small

    One evening in early 1950, the film mogul Louis B. Mayer hosted a small dinner party for the actress Gloria Swanson. She was fifty-one years old, which was not considered an ancient, crone-like age, even in an industry that values youth above all else. Still, she was in need of a professional boost. Mayer’s small soiree was something of a ceremonial gesture. Here was one of the last tycoons of classic Hollywood extending his hand and his hospitality to an actress who was tottering, on marabou-covered heels, back into the business after a decade-long fermata.

    Swanson was one of the highest-paid—and

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  • print • Summer 2019

    Camp: Notes on Fashion

    BEFITTING THE GIDDY opulence of “Camp: Notes on Fashion”—the Costume Institute’s summer exhibition as well as this year’s theme for the Met Gala, the blue-chip celebrity do of the year—this catalogue is an haute objet unto itself. Its two volumes are bound in soft celadon covers and separately strapped to either side of a pale-pink faux-leather album, all embossed in gold. The first book offers a series of essays that attempt to grasp the slippery semiotics of Camp, tracing the evolution of its use and appearance as verb (derived from the French se camper, “to flaunt,” which first pops up in

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  • print • Summer 2019

    Magic Mirror

    One afternoon I was in the office of a psychoanalyst I know, scanning the alphabetical shelves for a book by Melanie Klein on envy and gratitude, when I glimpsed old copies of Janet Malcolm’s Psychoanalysis (1981) and In the Freud Archives (1984) and saw a chance to get some perspective. Malcolm is a magazine writer’s writer: No journalist of her stature is so frequently discussed among people I know who write “pieces” while being undiscussed by people I know who don’t. The analyst remembered finding In the Freud Archives especially interesting, but had nothing interesting about it to say, so

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  • print • Summer 2019

    Andrey Tarkovsky, Life and Work: Film by Film, Stills, Polaroids & Writings

    THE SPIRITUAL AND AESTHETIC DIMENSIONS of Andrey Tarkovsky’s cinematic universe might easily produce a daunting tome with the heft of a life-size, ready-to-bear cross. Yet Andrey Tarkovsky: Life and Work succeeds in compressing the late Russian director’s monumental legacy into portable form—a slender volume a pilgrim could easily slip into a backpack. The book succeeds in distilling Tarkovsky’s sound-and-visionary, contrarian essence with an approach that is at once capacious and compact: It’s more imagistic gospel than catalogue, more consecrated poetry than academic contextualization.

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