COLUMNS

  • Jeaneology of Morals

    THE JEAN FREEMAN GALLERY DOES NOT EXIST, BY CHRISTOPHER HOWARD. MIT Press, 2018. 416 pages.  

    FOR SEVEN MONTHS IN 1970–71, a young artist named Terry Fugate-Wilcox promulgated the existence of a fake art gallery at a nonexistent address on Fifty-Seventh Street, then the main drag of the New York art world. Fake artists, fake works, a fake director with a Pynchonesque name: You get the gist. He promoted this enterprise, the Jean Freeman Gallery, by purchasing space in a few art magazines for seven ads featuring images of Earthworks-y pastiche; sending out press releases to luminaries such as Lucy

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  • Ralph Lemon

    In early 2018, I read three books at the same time, all of them propositions for freedom, all contemplating its seeming impossibility and the inspired labor of working toward the impossible—of believing.

    From J. Krishnamurti’s On Freedom (1991): “Freedom is not from something. It is an ending [of knowledge]. Do you follow?” No, not quite. But since I was eighteen I’ve trusted, without submitting to, most of what Krishnamurti has written. (I fashion that I am an innocent.) Angela Y. Davis’s Freedom Is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement (2016) is

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  • Heike Geißler

    Anne Boyer is an expert in fresh ruptures, new avant-gardes, manifestos, and life (or some such thing). Her book A Handbook of Disappointed Fate (Ugly Duckling Presse) helps me to regain focus when my sight is blurred. It helps me to believe again in tenderness when I shout for radicalization and acts of revenge. Anne Boyer writes: “Many lambs work for years to steal fire but do not know what use a lamb has for flames.” I am such a lamb. Forlorn. Misled. Raised on its predators’ rules. But it is never too late to learn when we have the right handbooks. The handbooks that perform their knowledge,

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  • Dodie Bellamy

    In The Assassination of Kathy Acker (Guillotine), artist and writer Matias Viegener chronicles and grapples with Kathy Acker’s death as well as with her legacy. Viegener, who was close to Acker but never lived in the same city as she did, attended to her on her deathbed and agreed to become her literary executor. Acker’s dying consumes Viegener. Of sitting beside her in the hospital he writes: “She is so absolute to me. Every pore of me reads every pore of her. I read her with a passion beyond sex. I see everything. We’re merged.” The two enter into a sort of spiritual marriage. Although he’s

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  • Sukhdev Sandhu

    The premise of Syeus Mottel’s delightful, disorienting CHARAS: The Improbable Dome Builders (Pioneer Works Press/The Song Cave) is the stuff of retro-futurist fantasy. First published in 1973 and brought back into circulation this year, the book is an account of how Chino Garcia and Angelo Gonzalez Jr., both New York gang leaders, decided to take on the system they believed was killing their communities in the mid-1960s. Ditching their initial plan to organize a mercenary army to invade Cuba, they formed the Real Great Society and, from their headquarters on East Sixth Street, set about supporting

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  • Momtaza Mehri

    Wendy Trevino’s Cruel Fiction (Commune Editions) tells the truth about life as we know and endure it, restlessly picking at the hangnails of both history and heartbreak. Trevino posits race as a “cruel fiction,” nationality as its attendant mythology. Trevino asks: How do we resist these fictions without reproducing their murderous, hierarchical logics? For Trevino, “poetry is not enough” as long as we are not enough. Trevino’s insurgent colloquialism is a sleight of hand. Cruel Fiction speaks plainly but never simply. Trevino reflects on the lies with which we arm ourselves to refute the lies

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  • Charlie Fox

    “What manner of man is this?” Jonathan Harker wonders when he sees Dracula creeping down his castle’s ramparts in the moonlight. Asking this question of the writer and illustrator who transformed precocious little oddballs into goths long before Jack Skellington or Marilyn Manson descended on suburbia, Mark Dery pens an eerie portrait of the artist, Born to Be Posthumous: The Eccentric Life and Mysterious Genius of Edward Gorey (Little, Brown and Company), in which answers only conjure extra lashings of ambiguity—a very Gorey trick.

    Was homosexuality the antic bat in Gorey’s belfry? “Everything

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  • Omar Kholeif

    I have always been obsessed with the concepts around, and notions of, time. This is because time makes me anxious. In our current age of relentless speed, technology and its platforms are faster than we can keep up with, and more efficient than ever, and yet time is ever seeping through our hands. A real sufferer of FOMO, I am always left wanting more. Carlo Rovelli’s The Order of Time (Riverhead) is a small but profound book that I have repeatedly returned to over the past few months, and it continues to impact my thinking. Rovelli deconstructs the “crumbling of time,” as he describes it, and

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  • Vaginal Davis

    Where is my movie camera? . . . I CAN’T SEE WITHOUT IT.

    Barbara Rubin

    I wish I had known about Barbara Rubin back in the day in Hollywood, when I was making my queer zine Fertile LaToyah Jackson, because she was like me: a precocious weenager who didn’t take any excrement from anyone, least of all men. She was not only bold, beautiful, and voracious, she was a total badass. She was a Lilith, a Sheila, a Cybele demanding gonads to make a necklace of testicles. In Rubin’s case, among those she kept in check was Film Culture editor in chief Jonas “Uncle Fishhook” Mekas, as well as Andy Warhol,

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  • 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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