• print • Mar/Apr/May 2022

    Doctor Strange Love

    IN COOKIE MUELLER’S 1984 BOOKLET How to Get Rid of Pimples, black-and-white photographs of the author’s pseudonymized friends are presented as befores, dotted with indelible marker, and afters. The diptychs are accompanied by semi-fictional, off-the-wall anecdotes about home remedies. On the cover, Mueller’s own face, photographed by David Armstrong, is stippled in black ink: just a before without an after. 

    These images of a 1980s New York creative class, drawn-on and dot-less, alongside Mueller’s surreal takes on wellness, suggest a dearth of cures for the maladies ailing this milieu: AIDS,

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  • print • Mar/Apr/May 2022

    Some Like It Fraught

    IN AUGUST 1945, THREE MONTHS AFTER ADOLF HITLER’S SUICIDE in the bunker and the Allied victory in Europe, the Hollywood film director Billy Wilder arrived in Berlin. Wilder’s film Double Indemnity, that pinnacle of film noir, had come out the previous summer to great acclaim and box office success. The Lost Weekend, Wilder’s next film, equally dark and also a future classic, was being readied for fall release at Paramount. Now Wilder had been enlisted by the US Office of War Information to return to the city he’d fled in 1933, when he was forced out of screenwriting because he was a Jew. The

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  • print • Mar/Apr/May 2022

    The Naked and the Dead

    IN 1998, Lucy Sante published The Factory of Facts, a memoir of her childhood in Belgium and the Sante family’s stuttering moves back and forth (and finally forth) to the States—ultimately, to Summit, New Jersey—when she was eight, in 1962. Toward the end of the memoir, she marks her story as a displacement, “as if I were writing about someone else.” Sante is talking, here, about the French of her youth contrasted with the English of America, and how “languages are not equivalent one to another.” Something else is in play, though. The eight-year-old boy that Sante speaks for would need to

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  • print • Mar/Apr/May 2022

    Love, Labor, Loss

    EARLY ON, I WROTE A FACETIOUS POEM, a “Love-in-the-time-of-Corona” version of a Frank O’Hara classic and merrily posted it on Facebook. I know it began, “Having a Quarantine With You / is more fun than going to the supermarket or taking public transport,” but I can’t remember the rest because, not long after, I deleted it out of embarrassment. In a world where suddenly thousands were dying by the day, the vibe was seriously off. Much like the last squirt of Purell, whatever flimsy novelty the novel coronavirus offered evaporated pretty much instantaneously. If we were posting poetry, only

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  • print • Mar/Apr/May 2022

    First Person Plural

    TO TELL THE STORY of another person’s life poses certain challenges to an author wanting to capture their subject in the truest light possible. In the introduction to her ebullient, poignant What Is Now Known Was Once Only Imagined: An (Auto)biography of Niki de Saint Phalle, Nicole Rudick offers up her strategy for honest representation: “What could be closer to the artist’s voice than the artist’s own voice, closer to her sensibility than that produced by her own hand?” Rudick edited this hybrid volume of text and images, selecting and sequencing Saint Phalle’s own writings and works on paper

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  • print • Mar/Apr/May 2022

    Man of the Midcentury

    IF FRENCH MODERNISM IS RATIONAL, Italian modernism sensual, German modernism ideological, and Danish modernism comfortable, what’s American modernism? I’d say it’s Danish. That’s because of Jens Risom, the Danish-born and -trained designer who, twenty-three years old on the eve of World War II, boarded a freighter bound for New York. There, according to Vicky Lowry in Jens Risom: A Seat at the Table, the first monograph on his work, the young man “quickly discovered that there wasn’t really any interesting contemporary American furniture to study and learn from”—an exaggeration, maybe, but it’s

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  • print • Mar/Apr/May 2022

    Swinging on a Star

    THRALL IS A JEFFERSONIAN WORD. In Constructing a Nervous System, the critic Margo Jefferson is enthralled by or to: her mother, her father, Bing Crosby. She suspects Condoleezza Rice is enthralled by or to George W. Bush, and Ike Turner by or to “manic depression and drug addiction, to years of envy,  . . . to a Mississippi childhood that was a trifecta of domestic abuse, sexual treachery and racist violence.” A young James Baldwin enthralled the Harlem faithful. Nina Simone refused the thrall of “warring desires.” It’s the last that clarifies the stakes. Thrall, some time after it meant “slave”

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  • excerpt • February 03, 2022

    Lorraine Hansberry’s 1957 letter to the editors of The Ladder lesbian magazine

    About the time the playwright Lorraine Hansberry returned home to New York from Provincetown in the summer of 1957, a package arrived wrapped in plain brown paper. She had been waiting for it. Inside were copies of One: The Homosexual Magazine. One was sold mainly by subscription, because not many newsagents would have dared sell it, and even fewer people would have dared buy it. It was considered “obscene material” by the US Post Office; hence the nondescript wrapping.

    One was produced every month in a small loft office in Los Angeles by several men who had been members of the Mattachine

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  • excerpt • January 27, 2022

    Hunter S. Thompson’s excruciating writing process

    During the mid-1970s, Hunter S. Thompson was a central figure at Rolling Stone magazine. Although he did not write about music, he was its most popular contributor, and Abe Peck observed his primacy at close range. After editing an underground newspaper in Chicago, Peck worked for Rolling Stone in the mid-1970s and later taught journalism at Northwestern University. In his estimation, Rolling Stone was one of the most important American magazines of its era, and Thompson defined its nonmusical voice during the 1970s. In particular, Thompson linked readers to their youthful iconoclasm even as

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  • excerpt • January 03, 2022

    On Dostoyevsky’s immersive polyphony and neologisms

    Eyes fixed on the Bulgarian editions of The Idiot (1869), Demons (1872), and The Brothers Karamazov (1880), my father advised me strongly against reading them: “Destructive, demonic, clinging, too much is too much, you won’t like him at all, let it go!” He dreamed of seeing me escape “the bowels of hell,” as he called our native Bulgaria, quoting some obscure verse in the Holy Scriptures. To fulfill this desperate plan, I only had to develop my “innate taste” for clarity and freedom, according to him, in French, of course, since he had introduced me to the language of La Fontaine and Voltaire.

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  • review • December 14, 2021

    Greg Tate (1957–2021)

    Greg Tate, a longtime contributor to the Village Voice and other publications, died last week. Here, four critics pay tribute to Tate’s influential, hyper-referential, bumptious, and generous writing and conversation.

    FOREVER ON DUTY

    By Daphne A. Brooks

    Every conversation began in medias res because the truth of it was that he so clearly lived his life like a brother who had been chopping it up with you for centuries already, as if you and he had always been in the deep-water groove of one long, rolling and roustabout, everlasting, in-the-round, in-the-midnight-hour session, one that even

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  • excerpt • December 09, 2021

    An excerpt from Vulgar Genres on censorship and gay pornographic literature

    In the United States in the mid-1960s, a case came before the Supreme Court, one intended to settle the question of obscenity addressed by the famous Roth decision of 1957. The nine quarrelsome old men now came to the conclusion that obscenity required a work to be utterly without any redeeming social value. Whammo! There was a thoughtful pause whilst the country digested that—and came to the conclusion that of course there was a revelatory and redeeming social value to even the lousiest suckee-fuckee books. The gates were opened. The flood began. Suddenly all the old four-letter words

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