• excerpt • May 05, 2021

    Heart-Shaped Bruise

    When I used to write about my relationship to anorexia, I tended to retreat to metaphor. It was a worm. It left me hollow, scoured, cleaned of mucous contents. It was a fire. It was a book set aflame, and I was both the fire and the paper. Because I believed it didn’t have anything to do with how my body looked, I felt, at times, like there was something more regal, more holy about my condition, as though its removal from my body reduced the amount by which I was abased.

    I regret this, and I regret writing about it that way—with poetry. It was a way to make sense of a thing I found lived inside

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  • excerpt • May 03, 2021

    Certain Unidentified Roses

    Letter to the Local Police

    Dear Sirs:

    I have been enjoying the law and order of our

    community throughout the past three months since

    my wife and I, our two cats, and miscellaneous

    photographs of the six grandchildren belonging to

    our previous neighbors (with whom we were very

    close) arrived in Saratoga Springs which is clearly

    prospering under your custody

    Indeed, until yesterday afternoon and despite my

    vigilant casting about, I have been unable to discover

    a single instance of reasons for public-spirited concern,

    much less complaint

    You may easily appreciate, then, how it is that

    I write

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  • review • April 29, 2021

    Giancarlo DiTrapano (1974–2021)

    Two writers pay tribute to the poet and songwriter Giancarlo DiTrapano, who passed away on March 30. DiTrapano was the mastermind behind the literary magazine New York Tyrant and the press Tyrant Books. A writer’s editor, Gian loved his work in ways that now seem sui generis. He was brave, ferociously supportive, and developed deep connections with his authors. He is missed.

    IF HE THOUGHT YOU COULD WRITE, THEN HE LOVED YOU, TOO

    By Nico Walker

    He was in a hotel room, in New York City, like stars do it. I won’t pretend he wasn’t consoled by this. He admired decadence. If anyone wants to

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  • review • April 22, 2021

    A filmmaker’s hurried writings sketch an exuberant urban modernity

    Legend has it that Eugenia Wilder nicknamed her second son “Billie” after Buffalo Bill, whose Wild West touring show she had seen as a young girl in New York City. By calling him Billie, she may have given him the idea of making his life in show business in America. Her husband, Max, an upwardly mobile restauranteur and hotelier, clearly had other plans when he moved the family from the Galician village of Sucha to Kraków before moving on to Vienna when Billie was a child. Like many Jewish fathers before and after him, it was that his son should be a lawyer. No doubt he was less than pleased

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  • review • April 15, 2021

    Amit Chaudhuri’s riffy consideration of improvisational Indian classical music

    In the late 1970s, Amit Chaudhuri’s family moved to the top floor of a tony South Bombay high-rise overlooking the sea. Twenty-five floors removed from the hubbub of the city below, the teenaged Chaudhuri cycled through a number of sonic personas in quick succession: air guitarist, singer-songwriter, and student of Indian classical. Part autobiography, and part ethnomusicological treatise, Finding the Raga unspools this last turn as the novelist and poet moves to the United Kingdom and back, and learns to sing, hear, and finally, to listen.

    What is the raga? Chaudhuri devotes the book’s lengthy

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  • review • April 08, 2021

    How should we review a book cowritten by AI?

    What propels us through difficult, densely written texts? When I’m neck-deep in a challenging theoretical tome, I’m usually grumpy and seeking someone to blame—whether it’s the author for being abstruse or myself for being knuckleheaded. But something keeps me barreling forward, too: usually, the implicit faith that relief awaits around the corner. That relief might come in the form of prismatic clarity, as when an enigmatic sentence finally breaks open. Or in the form of poetic ambiguity—in a gradual capitulation to a haze of resonance. Either way, the fuel is that implicit faith—a faith that

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  • review • March 11, 2021

    Katherine Angel’s new book on the unknowability of desire

    When Susan Sontag was twenty-seven, she wrote in her journal about a feeling that had no name. X, she called it; people and things could be X-y. She defined it variously as “the compulsion to be what the other person wants,” “the scourge,” and “when you feel yourself an object, not a subject.” Sontag identified the source of X as this: “I don’t know my own feelings.”

    Katherine Angel, in her 2012 book Unmastered, uses Sontag’s concept of X to try to describe what she herself finds difficult to pin down in her own sex life. X comes to denote that part of one’s sexual desire that is contingent

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  • review • March 09, 2021

    On attending a virtual gathering of booksellers, artists, and writers

    I wish I still smoked. I am clicking through tabs at Printed Matter’s Virtual Art Book Fair in a state of bewilderment, wondering why I just don’t get it—people spend hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars to participate in this.

    Now in its fifteenth iteration, the fair is the annual fête for artists and writers in the small-press publishing world—the largest of its kind. Under normal circumstances, tens of thousands of visitors gather at MoMA PS1 in Queens over a weekend to buy and sell new and rare artbooks and ephemera from emerging and established voices alike. This year, due to the

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  • review • March 04, 2021

    A 1973 document of feminist art activism holds a mirror to our present

    A sense of necessity, a foundation, and a strong community: these are just a few of the keys to effective activism. Though the New York–based collective Women Artists in Revolution (WAR) was short-lived, they burned bright for three years, and emerged in 1969 with these three elements in place. The group of artists, filmmakers, writers, critics, and cultural workers—which didn’t care if its acronym was militaristic, even while the United States pushed its imperialistic agenda in Vietnam—grew out of the Art Workers’ Coalition (AWC). There was an “unstated need among women,” as WAR member Juliette

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  • print • Mar/Apr/May 2021

    Slime Regained

    AT THE END OF MAY 2011 I was standing at the corner of Union and Court Streets in Brooklyn with a man in his late seventies named Bobby Russo, who was born in the apartment where I live. Bobby and I were stopped there because the street was blocked off so that Columbia Pictures could shoot Men in Black 3, a sci-fi action-comedy starring Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, directed by Barry Sonnenfeld.

    The street had been dressed to look like it might have in 1969, with Peter Max–style advertising in place of the usual signs outside bodegas. As we watched a scene featuring vintage cars and a bus

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  • print • Mar/Apr/May 2021

    The Vying Animal

    MORE THAN REALISM OR ITS RIVALS, the dominant literary style in America is careerism. This is neither a judgment nor a slur. For decades it has simply been the case that novelists, story writers, even poets have had to devote themselves to managing their careers as much as to writing their books. Institutional jockeying, posturing in profiles and Q&As, roving in-person readership cultivation, social-media fan-mongering, coming off as a good literary citizen among one’s peers—some balance of these elements is now part of every young author’s life. It’s a matter of necessity and survival, above

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  • print • Mar/Apr/May 2021

    Daze of Our Lives

    RICHARD LINKLATER IS A DIRECTOR I CARE A LOT ABOUT, but, sacrilegiously to some, his sprawling 1993 comedy Dazed and Confused, about the misadventures of Texas high school students on the last day of school in 1976, isn’t one of my favorites. I might feel bad about that, if Linklater didn’t agree. “I think it’s middling,” he tells pop-culture journalist Melissa Maerz early in her new book. “I don’t know why people latch on to it.” Despite poor initial box office, the film’s cult built up through video and its popular hard-rock soundtrack until it became a recognized classic, complete with a

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