• print • Mar/Apr/May 2021

    McArthur Binion: DNA

    MCARTHUR BINION EMPLOYED his tattered address book, containing nineteen years’ worth of annotated contact information, as the substrate of numerous paintings and prints in his series “DNA.” He produced color copies of the pages, sliced out the entries, and assembled them in vertical and horizontal patterns to form a collage grid over which he painted and drew. The Chicago-based artist began the project in 2013, when he was sixty-seven, and the choice of an address book—along with other personal effects like Binion’s birth certificate and photos of his childhood home—lends a strong sense of

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  • print • Mar/Apr/May 2021

    The Love Movement

    They’ll see how beautiful I am / And be ashamed

    —Langston Hughes, “I, Too”

    WHEN HUGHES PUBLISHED THESE WORDS in 1925, Jim Crow’s rule over America remained at or near its peak. And so it was subversive optimism back then to envision a time when Black Americans would no longer be consigned, as Hughes’s poem delineated, to eat in the kitchen while everybody else sat at the table “when company comes.” Legally sanctioned segregation’s been subdued for decades now, but optimism’s still elusive no matter how much has changed in the almost hundred years since Hughes, “too,” sang America. Putting it

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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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  • print • Mar/Apr/May 2021

    Artful Volumes

    In the wake of the visionary (if a little scattershot) solo presentation of his series “Ten Commandments,” at Alfred Stieglitz’s 291 gallery in New York in 1912, Arthur Dove cemented his reputation as America’s foremost—purportedly even first—abstract artist. His intimately scaled watercolors, pastels, and oil paintings departed from observations of nature to enter a realm of pure expression, color, and light, filtered through the Cubist tint of dirt-road palettes. The priapic glide of his organic forms garnered praise for its “virility,” suggesting Dove’s phallic style as the visual counterpart

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  • print • Mar/Apr/May 2021

    We Love This Dirty Town

    BECAUSE THE MAKING OF EVERY single motion picture has its uphill battles and its moments of high drama, and because a film can reflect its times in fascinating ways, a book about the making of John Schlesinger’s Midnight Cowboy (1969) could very well be a compelling read, even though the movie itself is as phony as its central hustler Joe Buck’s cowboy credentials. That the United States is the land of the sham is part of the film’s hammered-home point, and to emphasize this Schlesinger lingers attention on the garish billboards and urban signage that posh visiting European filmmakers often

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  • excerpt • February 24, 2021

    An excerpt from This Is How They Tell Me the World Ends: The Cyberweapons Arms Race

    “I always said when this business got dirty, I’d get out,” Adriel Desautels told me late one summer evening in 2019.

    Desautels was a cyberweapon merchant who looked like a milkman. He had an unruly head of curls, frameless glasses, a gap between his front teeth, and a penchant for quoting the astrophysicist Carl Sagan. His original hacker alias, Cyanide, never sat well. He’d eventually change it to the more sensible “Simon Smith.” But in a faceless business, looks meant little. Everyone who was anyone in the game knew Desautels was one of the country’s preeminent zero-day brokers.

    When I

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  • review • February 18, 2021

    Jonathan Sadowsky’s argument against the idea that depression is a uniquely Western affliction

    And then there were pills. Like many discoveries in the history of psychopharmacology, antidepressants became antidepressants quite by accident. The earliest prototypes were developed as tuberculosis drugs in the United States in the early 1950s. They weren’t particularly effective at treating TB, but, doctors observed, they bestowed on certain recipients a conspicuous boost in mood. Patients who received them at one hospital in Staten Island were described as “dancing in the halls” of their ward. Why not, then, try the pills out on a class of patients who had confounded doctors since time

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  • review • February 11, 2021

    Bette Howland’s memoir of community and its opposite

    It’s tempting to imagine Bette Howland as a figure of midcentury literary mythology. Who can resist the intrigue of her early crisis and success, quiet disappearance, and belated rediscovery? She is, as Honor Moore remarks drily in the afterword to Howland’s posthumous story collection, Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage, “a member of a cohort who have benefited from the forty-year gap between the end of a woman’s youth and beauty when, at say forty, one’s reputation goes dark, until eighty or so, when one becomes a discovery.” The pitch for a prestige television biopic practically writes itself.

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  • excerpt • January 13, 2021

    Two poems from Terminalia

    Daniel Menaker (1941–2020) was a fiction editor at the New Yorker, the editor in chief of Random House, and the author of seven books, including the celebrated novel The Treatment (1998) and the 2013 memoir My Mistake. Last January, Menaker received a terminal diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, and spent the next months chronicling his illness in verse, writing with mournful honesty and surprising humor about his diagnosis and treatment against the backdrop of the pandemic’s larger “sickness circus.” In his own words, Dan “wrote poetry his whole life, but kept it to himself for a long time, after

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  • review • January 05, 2021

    Candace Jane Opper’s obsessive remembrance of a teen crush who died by suicide

    Grief memoirs typically meditate on the loss of someone so close to the author that they could have listed the deceased as an emergency contact. Candace Jane Opper’s Certain and Impossible Events is not that kind of memoir. The book revolves around the death of a boy Opper wasn’t exactly close with—a crush whose phone number she memorized when she was thirteen. He died by suicide, at age fourteen, in 1994, eight days after Kurt Cobain’s body was found. More than twenty-five years later, Certain and Impossible Events is Opper’s attempt to map her ongoing obsession with the boy’s death.

    Normally,

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