• print • Feb/Mar 2019

    All That Glitters

    here is a scene in Douglas Keeve’s 1995 documentary, Unzipped, in which Keeve films his then-lover, the American fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi, getting a haircut. Mizrahi’s mane is wild, a crimpy bristle that forms a compact tangle over his forehead as single corkscrews try to escape the mass. Mizrahi, thirty-three at the time, is more or less oblivious to the snipping happening around his face. He’s too preoccupied with explaining his vision for a new fall runway collection, which he says came to him in a bolt of revelation before Christmas. “It has to be this kind of, like, you know, ’50s

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  • print • Feb/Mar 2019

    An Afterlife to Remember

    As Denis Diderot’s lengthy and preposterously productive run approached its end in 1784, the question of his posterity loomed in an even more concrete way than usual. In the months before he expired, aged seventy, over a bowl of stewed cherries, he relocated from the conservative parish of Saint-Sulpice to the more renegade-hospitable precinct around Église Saint-Roch, on the other side of the Seine. The move offered a way for Diderot the atheist to avoid the fate of Voltaire the deist, whose corpse had had to be disguised as a still-living being and hustled out of Paris sitting upright in a

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  • print • Feb/Mar 2019

    The Reminder

    In 2006, the late teacher, critic, and blogger Mark Fisher contributed an essay called “Gothic Oedipus: Subjectivity and Capitalism in Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins” to ImageTexT: Interdisciplinary Comics Studies. Fisher routes his discussion of Batman Begins around the gothic, noir, Lacan’s concept of the Symbolic Father, and a 2001 interview with Alain Badiou, all of which are funneled into the concept of “capitalist realism,” Fisher’s best-known idea and the title of his 2009 book.

    Capitalist realism has become an effective and portable idea because it confirms that capitalism can also

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  • print • Feb/Mar 2019

    Dyckman Haze by Adam Pape

    I turned Adam Pape’s new book of black-and-white photographs, Dyckman Haze, over and around several times before I was sure where to begin. Identically sized images of indeterminate orientation appear on both the front and back covers, neither accompanied by a title. One is of a dark cistern; in the other, a person of ambiguous gender folds backward, possibly mid-fall, long hair streaming toward the bottom of the frame. It’s unclear whether this is a moment of fear or of ecstasy.

    Many of the images are like this, and the book itself seems to revel in a spirit of nondisclosure. There is no

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  • print • Feb/Mar 2019

    There Will Be Fake Blood

    The shooting of The Wild Bunch was not a pretty picture. If a film were made today the way Sam Peckinpah shot The Wild Bunch in Mexico in 1968, and if people found out, members of the cast and crew would be facing time in jail. The history of the film’s production fascinates because it was all so wrong. What happened encompasses many vices and several crimes, including manslaughter and statutory rape. It is an often repellent tale, a stew of toxic masculinity feeding a movie designed to dismantle the very myths about heroic cowboys, gun violence, and la frontera that it succumbed to as a

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  • print • Feb/Mar 2019

    Are Friends Electric?

    Victor Tausk was one of the more restless of the many bright young men and women surrounding Freud in the 1910s. Born into a Jewish family in 1879, he first studied law, practicing in Sarajevo, then Mostar, where he made his reputation defending a young Muslim woman accused of murdering her illegitimate child. The prosecutors had asked for the death penalty; he got her acquitted. He then moved to Berlin, setting out on a new career as a critic, which no doubt contributed to the nervous breakdown he suffered soon after. At the sanatorium he decided to study psychiatry, completing his medical

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  • print • Feb/Mar 2019

    Line Dancing

    Saul Steinberg couldn’t fully enumerate the contents of The Labyrinth in words. For a retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1978, he composed a list of the subjects explored in the book of drawings, originally published in 1960 and recently reissued by New York Review Comics. It begins with “illusion, talks, women, cats, dogs, birds, the cube” before trailing off, a dozen items later, with “geometry, heroes, harpies, etc.”

    The title, too, gave Steinberg some trouble. He took several trips by car and bus throughout the United States between 1954 and 1960, during which the book’s

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  • print • Feb/Mar 2019

    Eye and I

    Imagine Manny Farber’s double career—unparalleled vernacular-modernist movie critic and tenaciously evocative, obliquely iconographic painter—as a board game. Dub it Polyopoly, an incessantly self-revising, once-upon-a-time-in-America contest of chance, mental play, and adventure. Like the kindred gamesmanship of filmmaker-photographer-writer Chris Marker, Farber’s output remains elusive: It’s hard to tell whether he was so far ahead of his time he overshot it or so far behind he caught up with it on the rebound.

    The intricate sprawl of Farber’s pictures wasn’t coded autobiography but homebrewed

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  • review • January 22, 2019

    Territory of Light by Yuko Tsushima, translated by Geraldine Harcourt

    The apartment is a steal, but it has idiosyncrasies: it’s on the top floor of a four-story office building located on a traffic island; the rooms shake and the windows rattle as buses, trains, and trucks trundle past. It is 1970s Tokyo, and the unnamed narrator of Yuko Tsushima’s Territory of Light, a woman, newly separated from her husband, a single mother—the three in conjunction, she is now routinely reminded, define her particular status—no longer possesses an “ordinary” life. This home may be unusual, but it’s hers, and, on the plus side, there are windows on all sides and a red floor that

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  • review • January 09, 2019

    I Am Dynamite!: A Life of Nietzsche by Sue Prideaux

    The Nietzsche that emerges in the first pages of Sue Prideaux’s ambitious and stylistically accomplished biography is not the prodigy philologist or the ruthless diagnostician of modernity, but the fanboy. In a letter to a friend, he recounts getting ready to meet Wagner for the first time. Still a university student, Nietzsche is eager to make the most of the opportunity to meet the older celebrity composer and has ordered a new suit. A misunderstanding over the suit payment leaves him brooding on the sofa “in my shirttails and consider[ing] black velvet, whether it is good enough for Richard.”

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  • review • December 27, 2018

    The Lonesome Bodybuilder by Yukiko Motoya

    At the beginning of the millennium, Japanese writer Yukiko Motoya emerged as something of a prodigy. In 2000, at twenty-one-years-old, she founded her own theater company in Tokyo. Six years later, she became the youngest playwright to win the Tsuruya Nanboku Memorial Award. Around this time, she also began publishing fiction. The Lonesome Bodybuilder, a new collection, translated from the Japanese by Asa Yoneda, pulls together a selection of Motoya’s work written between 2012 and 2016. Her work stands out for its ability to emphasize the power of paying attention and, conversely, the problems

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  • review • December 10, 2018

    This Mournable Body by Tsitsi Dangarembga

    Tsitsi Dangarembga’s This Mournable Body follows a single, unemployed young black woman (Tambudzai), as she attempts to escape the entangled forces of neocolonialism, patriarchy, poverty, and history’s ever-present effect on daily life in modern-day Zimbabwe. Tambu, who also appeared in Dangarembga’s previous books, Nervous Conditions and The Book of Not, is determined to create a better life for herself though she is discouraged at every turn. At the start of the book, we find Tambu in a run-down hostel in Harare, having recently left her job as a copywriter at an advertising agency. She

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