• print • Dec/Jan/Feb 2021

    Daytime Regained

    ON DECEMBER 25, 1991, Gorbachev appeared on snowy televisions in the homes of millions, gray faced against gray wallpaper, to resign as the leader of a state that no longer existed. He handed over the keys and a briefcase full of nuclear codes to Yeltsin, and the red flag was lowered. George Bush Sr. quickly got camera-ready on Christmas, addressing the American people, “During these last few months, you and I have witnessed one of the greatest dramas of the twentieth century.” The Soviet Union was over, but the year was ending on a cliffhanger. Cut to January 2, 1992: as the hangover of a

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  • print • Dec/Jan/Feb 2021

    Flacks and Hacks

    IF CRAFTING THE PERFECT seating arrangements is a delicate art for blue bloods—and vandalism is the opposite of art, as well as a pastime for talented poor people—then it follows that party reporting, at its most refined, is a form of controlled demolition on private property. In their heyday, party reporters were a bit like graffiti artists on the Upper East Side, tagging the marble walls (“Slut!” “Bankrupt!”) as fast as they can be cleaned up. What is a personal publicist but an overpaid janitor with a pressurized hose?

    The allure of party reporting is risk. The entitled class (the rich,

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  • print • Dec/Jan/Feb 2021

    True Story

    THOUGH THERE IS NO SHORTAGE of preposterous tales told in André Gregory’s memoir, the most implausible is that a well-off New Yorker like Gregory, living rent-free in an Upper West Side apartment in the late 1960s, would voluntarily take the subway downtown, every day for months, to watch three men sit at a table in an East Village classroom and slowly go insane. The men, who were actors under Gregory’s direction, spent the days improvising the tea party scene from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. They played it as the mood struck, veering from maniacal to pornographic to scatological. Bathroom

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  • print • Dec/Jan/Feb 2021

    No Paint, No Glory

    A FRIEND OF MINE dating a famous artist jokes that she dreads her obituary reading that she, in addition to having been the girlfriend, was “accomplished in her own right.” In her own right! The mind heaves. Anyone who has been romantically involved with a famous artist knows the risk of being overshadowed. For those who nurture artistic ambitions themselves, the challenge is twofold: to avoid being subsumed by their partner’s success and to insist upon the importance of their own work. Self-Portrait, Celia Paul’s memoir and account of her decade-long entanglement with Lucian Freud, is both

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  • excerpt • November 18, 2020

    An excerpt from For Now on the fabric of writing

    Now I would like to acknowledge that I also feel a responsibility to write for puppets. I have five puppets in my life, they are not ten feet from me in two small cardboard boxes on my desk. They deserve better.

    Their names are Oscar, Bedilia, Montgomery, Crocky (the crocodile) and Casper.

    I am writing on the kitchen table at this moment which is pretty much a desk too. A desk with fruit. A desk with vitamins, legal paper, a Christmas postcard from David Beebe & Hilary, newlyweds, and their dog Duane who happily is giving us profile. Let’s face it everything is puppets. Certainly in my view.

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  • excerpt • November 05, 2020

    An excerpt from Culture Warlords: My Journey Into the Dark Web of White Supremacy

    Every day for nearly a year, I immersed myself in chat groups and websites and forums where photos of lynchings were passed around like funny memes. Where “KILL JEWS” was a slogan and murderers were called “saints.” On the anniversary of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, I watched them celebrate Robert Bowers, the murderer of eleven Jews at prayer, like a hero and a friend. I listened to strangers talk about killing kikes every day. I listened to strangers incite violence and praise murder and talk about washing the world with blood to make it white and pure. I listened to their podcasts. I

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  • excerpt • October 26, 2020

    Artistic representations of Toussaint Louverture through the ages

    In 1975, the Black writer Ntozake Shange completed her verse play for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf. In this work, which has become one of the classics of the modern feminist dramatic repertoire, seven African American women discussed their experiences of racism and sexism in society, and the creative strategies they devised to counter them. One of the characters, the “Lady in Brown,” spoke of her mind-blowing discovery of Toussaint Louverture as an eight-year-old child from St Louis. After entering a reading contest in her local library, she was swept away

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  • excerpt • October 13, 2020

    An excerpt from Ruby Hamad’s White Tears/Brown Scars

    “White people still run almost everything,” The New York Times’ Australian bureau intoned in 2018 in a devastatingly brutal report on cultural diversity in Australia’s workplaces. The whiteness above is noticed by workers below. Sonia, a forty-something woman of color (she asked me to omit her ethnicity for privacy reasons), has been employed in the same medium-sized private sector firm for a decade. She is a mid-level manager, a position she only achieved after nine years despite consistently positive performance reviews and above-average results that, she tells me, were frequently better than

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  • excerpt • September 16, 2020

    An excerpt from Carry: A Memoir of Survival on Stolen Land

    When I was a graduate student in Texas, the first time I brought a story into workshop, a fellow student told me if I was going to “write about Indians,” I would need to separate my writing more from that of Louise Erdrich. Then this man misquoted from the beginning of Erdrich’s novel Tracks, ostensibly to show how similar it was to my story. At the end of workshop when it was my turn to speak, I corrected his misquotation and suggested in my most polite voice that perhaps to him “Indians” writing about snow all seemed the same. I assured him we were not. I assured him though we might both have

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  • print • Sept/Oct/Nov 2020

    Among the Deceivers

    TWO FIGURES OVERLOOK A SACRED RIVER: both qualify as students, yet one is more experienced by far. He attempts to bridge the difference with a lesson. Pointing to the wastelands on the right bank, he defines it as sunyata, the void. Then, turning, points at the city opposite. An enormous maze of temples and houses, the dwellings of deities and castes: that is maya, illusion. “Do you know what our task is?” A test. “Our task is to live somewhere in between.” We have two versions of the scene, but in each case the younger student is described as “terrified.”

    Originally transpiring in North India

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  • print • Sept/Oct/Nov 2020

    Mum’s Boy

    “IT WAS HIS QUOTABILITY,” observed the critic Clive James, “that gave Larkin the biggest cultural impact on the British reading public since Auden.” What comes to mind? The opening lines from “Annus Mirabilis,” certainly—“Sexual intercourse began / In nineteen sixty-three”—but if there is one Philip Larkin quote even better known, it would surely be: “They fuck you up, your mum and dad.”

    Did Larkin’s parents fuck him up? According to his sister Catherine (“Kitty”), ten years his senior, both parents “worshipped” Philip. All the same, they have undoubtedly been demonized—sometimes by the poet

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  • print • Sept/Oct/Nov 2020

    Going Postal

    I QUIT TWITTER and Instagram in May, in the same manner I leave parties: abruptly, silently, and much later than would have been healthy. This was several weeks into New York City’s lockdown, and for those of us not employed by institutions deemed essential—hospitals, prisons, meatpacking plants—sociality was now entirely mediated by a handful of tech giants, with no meatspace escape route, and the platforms felt particularly, grimly pathetic. Instagram, cut off from a steady supply of vacations and parties and other covetable experiences, had grown unsettlingly boring, its inhabitants increasingly

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