• print • Sept/Oct/Nov 2019

    The Laconic Verses

    It is probably unfashionable to begin a review with a reference to Sex and the City, but Natasha Stagg has given me tacit permission to do so—she cites the show in the first sentence of her new book, Sleeveless: Fashion, Image, Media, New York 2011–2019. In a short essay titled “Cafeteria,” which was originally published in Spike Art Quarterly in 2016, Stagg writes about observing a cadre of diners meeting for brunch in Chelsea:

    They meet at Cafeteria because the characters in Sex and the City did that. The New York of that era is not the same as the New York of today, but even while

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  • print • Sept/Oct/Nov 2019

    Replaceable You

    A writer can be said to have reached the stratosphere of literary stardom when her tattoo is almost as well known as her creative output. The phrase Leslie Jamison has printed across her arm—Homo sum: humani nil a me alienum puto, or I am human: nothing human is alien to me—was the epigraph of her first essay collection, The Empathy Exams, a national best seller that was lauded for single-handedly reviving the market for personal essays, and the tattoo has been invoked in countless interviews and profiles as a kind of précis of her work. In a 2014 New York Times op-ed, Jamison wrote that when

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  • print • Sept/Oct/Nov 2019

    Men Out of Time

    Peter McGough met David McDermott in a Manhattan theater at the end of the 1970s and the rest is history.

    McDermott was famous downtown for having odd manners and donning outdated formalwear, including detachable collars, cummerbunds, top hats, and tails. A Fashion Institute of Technology dropout, McGough wasn’t famous yet; he was employed selling drink tickets at Danceteria, wearing less memorable getups. A courtship developed as David kept Peter company during early-morning club hours just before sunrise.

    They eventually joined artistic forces, forming the alliance still known today as

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  • print • Sept/Oct/Nov 2019

    Peel Slowly and See

    This is a great book by a great person, so let’s get logistics out of the way: Lou Sullivan was America’s first “officially” gay trans man; he started keeping a journal at age eleven, with the hope that eventually these diaries would be published. This didn’t happen while he was alive. Lou died of AIDS in 1991 at thirty-nine years old. You don’t need me to tell you that, for many transes, this was and is a tragedy, whatever that word can mean for us now. Lou’s diaries are available, finally, for public intellectualizing and interpersonal adoration. Edited by Ellis Martin and Zach Ozma with an

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  • 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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