• print • Sept/Oct/Nov 2019

    No Debutante

    For every thirty-year-old with a personal-essay collection consisting of totally normal experiences, there’s a figure whose life is so suited to becoming material that writing a memoir is not really a question of if but when. These people—celebrities, people in proximity to celebrities—revisit their experiences not only to gain closure but also to fulfill some sense of duty to history, their legacy, and their fans. Maybe they’ve also been offered a lot of money. Still, writing a book is invasive, uncomfortable, and hard. “At first, it was against my better judgment to do a memoir/autobiography,”

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  • print • Sept/Oct/Nov 2019

    Room with a Viewer

    Soon after Donald Trump announced his candidacy for president in 2015, a New York Times editor told reporter Amy Chozick that the paper wasn’t going to bother assigning any of its political gumshoes to the DJT beat: “Let the TV writers do it.” You wouldn’t really blame James Poniewozik if he got special pleasure out of repeating that anecdote from Chozick’s campaign memoir Chasing Hillary in his own Audience of One: Donald Trump, Television, and the Fracturing of America (Liveright, $28).

    Poniewozik was then and is now the Times’ chief television critic, and guess who’s laughing last. His new

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  • print • Sept/Oct/Nov 2019

    Richard Diebenkorn: A Retrospective

    WITH ITS SOFT YET VIBRANT YELLOWS AND REDS in a floral-patterned wallpaper set against an array of angular blues, Recollections of a Visit to Leningrad, a 1965 painting by Richard Diebenkorn, evidences the profound influence of Matisse. Diebenkorn saw works by that artist in 1964 at the State Hermitage Museum and would come to share his strong geographic identification with a sunny locale, replacing the French Riviera with the state of California, his home for most of his creative life. Titled after the Santa Monica neighborhood where he kept a studio beginning in 1967, his widely acclaimed “

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  • print • Sept/Oct/Nov 2019

    Lubaina Himid: Work From Underneath

    THE LONDON ART WORLD IN THE 1980S was “hedonistic, greedy, self-serving, go-getting opportunistic mayhem,” Lubaina Himid remembered in 2001. “Everyone who shook or moved in artistic semicircles or political whirlpools was a deserving dartboard. I took aim and threw.”

    Born in 1954 in Zanzibar, Tanzania, Himid emerged in the ’80s as a leading figure in Britain’s Black Arts Movement, exposing the wages of empire and affirming black diasporic experience through many media, most prominently painting. Her celebrated 1986 tableau A Fashionable Marriage pastiches the eighteenth-century painter William

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  • print • Sept/Oct/Nov 2019

    Artful Volumes

    Feminist, Fluxus, and experimental-music scholars, rejoice. This facsimile edition of WOMENS WORK (Primary Information, $24), the first publication to bring together textual scores exclusively by women, is a must. Just like musical scores, these pieces are made up of a series of notes: short—often terse—DIY instructions. Though the publication only ran for two issues, with the first produced in 1975 and the second in 1978, the project featured key works by the likes of Pauline Oliveros, Mieko Shiomi, Simone Forti, Carolee Schneemann, Mary Lucier, and its editrixes Alison Knowles and Annea (then

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  • review • August 19, 2019

    A New Experiment in Self-on-self Drag

    Trisha Low’s first book The Compleat Purge collected experiments in writing adolescent femininity ranging from suicide notes to spurts of collaborative fan fiction. “Dear Mommy and Daddy and Marsha,” reads the first Preliminary Declaration of “Vol. 1: The Last Will and Testament of Trisha Low.” “If you are reading this then it means that I am dead. I am very sorry.” Over a series of nine wills and testaments, we watch young Trisha grow up as she moves from city to city, accumulating a growing list of objects bequeathable to a revolving door of intimates: a full life presented through imagined

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  • 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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  • excerpt • 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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