COLUMNS

  • Cult Classics

    Astral Weeks: A Secret History of 1968, by Ryan H. Walsh. New York: Penguin Press, 2018. 368 pages.

    WHEN MY FRIENDS and I started a band in 1980s Boston, we weren’t just influenced by the Velvet Underground—we studied their first three albums like a code to be cracked. (The fourth album, Loaded, served to separate true acolytes from false. Bands covering “Sweet Jane” might as well have been shouting “I don’t get it!” into the mic.)

    What I didn’t know then was that our liturgical attitude toward the Velvets was rooted firmly in a local tradition. As Ryan H. Walsh points out in his excellent new

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  • ROAD TO NOWHERE

    Downward Spiral: El Helicoide’s Descent from Mall to Prison, edited by Celeste Olalquiaga and Lisa Blackmore. New York: Terreform, 2018. 255 pages.

    By 1957, Caracas was among the most cosmopolitan urban centers in all of the Americas. The discovery of massive oil wealth in 1922 had jump-started Venezuela’s modernization, and, by the 1950s, the economy was booming. Large infrastructure projects went to famous European engineers such as Riccardo Morandi and Eugène Freyssinet. An emerging middle class decorated their homes with modern furniture from Italy and Scandinavia, and automobiles from the

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  • THE SNOWBALL EFFECT

    David Hammons: Bliz-aard Ball Sale, by Elena Filipovic. London: Afterall Books, 2017. 160 pages.

    IN 1983, David Hammons held his Bliz-aard Ball Sale, which “probably didn’t bear that title, or any title at all,” as Elena Filipovic discloses in her amazing exposition on the artist’s chill maneuvers. Meanwhile, six months or so later, at a coven sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts, Rosalind Krauss informed the assembled that she—and here Filipovic quotes Adrian Piper’s writing on Krauss’s decree—“doubts there is any unrecognized African-American art of quality because if it

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  • HOT TAKE

    From the Third Eye: The Evergreen Review Film Reader, edited by Ed Halter and Barney Rosset. New York: Seven Stories Press, 2018. 336 pages.

    “ANYTHING PUBLISHED by Grove Press was a must,” John Waters recalled of his high-school reading (and perhaps shoplifting) habits in his 1981 memoir, Shock Value. In that belief, Waters was not alone. Back in the early 1960s, Barney Rosset’s publishing house was an avant-pop name brand, like Stan Lee’s Marvel Comics.

    As the signifier of hip modernism, Grove Press published Beckett, Burroughs, and Genet, as well as Henry Miller and the Marquis de Sade. Grove

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  • Michael Stipe

    As an undergraduate art major at the University of Georgia in the early 1980s, Michael Stipe studied photography and painting before going on to become a singer and songwriter for R.E.M., his band for over thirty years. Here, Stipe talks about his new book, Volume 1, which collects some of his photography from the past thirty-eight years and was recently published by Damiani. The book was produced in collaboration with artist Jonathan Berger and designer Julian Bittiner.

    ABOUT TEN YEARS AGO, we all went through a terrifying period when we collectively convinced ourselves that books and print were

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  • BIG NEWS

    Artist as Reporter: Weegee, Ad Reinhardt, and the “PM” News Picture, by Jason E. Hill. Oakland: University of California Press, 2018. 375 pages.

    “WHO WANTS YESTERDAY’S PAPERS? Who wants yesterday’s girl? Who wants yesterday’s papers? Nobody in the world!” So sneered Mick Jagger back in 1967.

    While it’s true that old newsprint may serve to wrap fish (or, as one of my former colleagues at the Village Voice colorfully put it, “wipe a bum’s ass”), anyone who has ever been hypnotized by an unspooling roll of microfilm, sneezed in a musty newspaper morgue, or suffered the pain of brittle paper crumbling

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  • Moore Is More

    Written over a period of thirty-four years, mostly on the spur of assignments from various magazines, Lorrie Moore’s new book of collected non-fiction, See What Can Be Done: Essays, Criticism, and Commentary (Knopf, 2018), gathers together sixty-six articles that all sparkle with the same inimitable intellect one finds in her best-selling fiction. We recently spoke about the factors motivating her to write about books, politics, and prestige television, and what was gleaned from republishing her ideas. –Lauren O’Neill-Butler

    LOB: In your latest book, you tackle such an expansive constellation of

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  • HOTLINE BLING

    The Rhonda Lieberman Reader, edited by Sarah Lehrer-Graiwer. Los Angeles: Pep Talk Press, 2018. 536 pages.

    NOT JUST BECAUSE I—Barnard shiksa from the boonies—was conditioned to envy my more socially savvy Jewish American counterparts for their sunglasses (from Selima), their scarves (not Hermès, actually) knotted the way their mothers taught them, and other birthright privileges awarded young ladies of a certain socioeconomic-religious-cultural demographic, who I imagine learned about Freud from their fathers (this is just a fantasy!), am I fascinated by Rhonda Lieberman. Bred in a NYC

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  • THE ZINE AGE

    Yeah, edited by Tuli Kupferberg. New York: Primary Information, 2017. 342 pages.

    NOW LET US PRAISE the less famous Beats. Naphtali “Tuli” Kupferberg was born in 1923 into a Yiddish-speaking, secular Jewish family on Cannon Street in New York, five blocks from the East River on the madly congested eastern edge of the lower Lower East Side. He died eighty-six years later, only a mile and a half west, having spent most of his life in the city.

    A Beatnik bard and a hippie sage, a Young Communist turned anarcho-pacifist, noted in Allen Ginsberg’s 1955 poem “Howl” for having jumped off the Brooklyn

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  • UP THE ANTI

    Dada: Art and Anti-Art, by Hans Richter, introduced and annotated by Michael White. London: Thames & Hudson, 2016. 376 pages.

    IN HIS INTRODUCTION to Dada: Art and Anti-Art (1964), a book that fifty years later still frames much of our understanding of the movement, Hans Richter claims that without a few vigilant ants among the “carefree grasshoppers” who constituted most of Dada’s main characters, proof of its uninhibited provocations might not exist. Richter’s allusion to the classic fable suggests at least some respect for the diligent ants, and perhaps even—contra Aesop—a rapprochement

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  • THE WHOLE IS THE FALSE

    Duty Free Art: Art in the Age of Planetary Civil War, by Hito Steyerl. London and New York: Verso, 2017. 256 pages.

    ARTISTS WHO WRITE are nothing new, but recent years have seen the emergence of an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink interdisciplinarity that goes far beyond the traditional mixture of art and art criticism. The growing profile of theory in art schools and a sense of urgency in the face of both technological change and political instability has led artists such as Hito Steyerl not only to broaden their artistic practice but also, increasingly, to play the role of the public intellectual.

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  • the life and legacy of Thing

    IN 1991, at “SPEW: The Homographic Convergence”— a showcase of queer zines, T-shirts, videotapes, and performance that took place at the Randolph Street Gallery in Chicago—Robert Ford described Thing as a “black gay and lesbian underground arts journal and magazine kind of thing.” The publication, which he founded in 1989 with Trent Adkins and Lawrence Warren, highlighted what Ford called a “black sensibility” in the underground. Published “capriciously”—typically every three or four months—it featured original interviews, writing, and photographs by artists, musicians,

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