COLUMNS

  • Gayle Salamon

    In this memoir about love, stepparenthood, loss, grief, sex, friendship, and music, Peter Coviello explores how we create worlds with others and how we lose them, making vivid the vertiginous feeling of falling out of one’s own life. He captures with descriptive precision the kinds of love for which there are no proper descriptors. Long Players: A Love Story in Eighteen Songs (Penguin) is a story about being decimated by a lover’s betrayal that simultaneously unpeels that story. He leans with equal rapture into subjects as disparate as the National and Charles Dickens, about whom Coviello writes:

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  • Simone White

    Inside the chaos of late September, when “we” received the sneering physiognomy of Brett Kavanaugh into “our” homes with varying degrees of grief and cynicism, I became even more sure that Lost Empress by Sergio de la Pava (Pantheon) (a public defender by day who became a literary legend before you could buy his work) was the best book I read this year. Here converge a superrich and unlikable woman-football-baron and her factotum-slash-mentee (both booty-trance-inducing Brown grads) between whom Joni Mitchell’s music stands in for actual tenderness; a criminal genius who may or may not lose his

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  • Gone Guy

    Chalk: The Art and Erasure of Cy Twombly by Joshua Rivkin. Melville House, 2018. 478 pages.

    SINCE HIS DEATH IN 2011, there have been whispers of a Cy Twombly biography. A book that might, finally, through impeccable research—a thorough examination of the artist’s life and times, not to mention the literary, historical, and artistic references endowing his oeuvre with a dense texturality—shed light on the enigma of Twombly, slashing through the cliché portrayals of a Jamesian aristocrat abroad to reveal the fertile creative psyche of the man who broke all the rules, who overwrote all languages to

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  • No One Else

    INTERMEDIA, FLUXUS AND THE SOMETHING ELSE PRESS: SELECTED WRITINGS BY DICK HIGGINS, EDITED BY STEVE CLAY AND KEN FRIEDMAN. Siglio Press, 2018. 364 pages.

    DICK HIGGINS, Fluxus affiliate and founder of the Something Else Press, once described the books he published as a series of “love letters to the future.” A new volume of writings by the artist, composed between 1962 and 1997 and selected by Steve Clay and Ken Friedman, delivers on this promise, making Higgins’s underappreciated contributions as publisher, editor, patron, theorist, and historian of the 1960s neo-avant-gardes legible to today’s

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  • NOTHING PERSONAL

    Dusty Pink, by Jean-Jacques Schuhl, translated by Jeffrey Zuckerman. New York: Semiotext(e)/Native Agents, 2018. 128 pages.

    I HAVE MIXED FEELINGS about writing that draws on direct experience. I love the unabashed immediacy of journals, am less enthusiastic about the portentous tone that frequently tinges memoir, and have become increasingly exasperated by the quiet self-importance of the personal essay. The notion that the personal is political has perhaps fomented a general mode of self-reflection that is susceptible to the casting of individual dilemmas and anxieties in a universal light. The

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  • A MARICÓN BEAUTY

    THE MUSTACHE is where they met. The Chicano and gay-liberation movements of the late 1970s weren’t closely aligned politically, but the artists Joey Terrill and Teddy Sandoval, in whose lives these movements intersected, found the nexus already coded onto their bodies. Cholo and clone came together right above their lips.

    Terrill’s mustache was the first thing I cruised at the exhibition “Axis Mundo: Queer Networks in Chicano L.A.,” produced by Pacific Standard Time and cocurated by C. Ondine Chavoya and David Evans Frantz, which traveled this summer to New York’s Hunter College Art Galleries.

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  • Clothes Encounters

    FASHION CLIMBING: A MEMOIR WITH PHOTOGRAPHS, BY BILL CUNNINGHAM. Preface by Hilton Als. New York: Penguin Press, 2018. 256 pages.

    BILL CUNNINGHAM WAS A NEW YORK INSTITUTION best known for his columns in the New York Times,“On the Street” and “Evening Hours,” which featured photographs documenting everything in fashion from street trends to high society gatherings. Cunningham lived his life in thrall of beauty, working his way from clothing delivery boy to stock boy to milliner to fashion reporter to beloved street photographer, his trajectory interrupted only once by a brief stint in the military.

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  • 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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