• Peter Osborne’s Anywhere or Not at All

    Anywhere or Not at All: Philosophy of Contemporary Art, by Peter Osborne. London: Verso, 2013. 282 pages.

    WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE CONTEMPORARY? As a rule, it means to miss a great deal. A visitor to the Sistine Chapel circa 1525—barely a decade after Michelangelo finished painting it—referred in his diary to what is today perhaps the most famous image in the Western world as one “of an old man, in the middle of the ceiling, who is represented in the act of flying through the air.” The diarist in question (the bishop of Nocera) should not be judged harshly for not recognizing God, since,

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  • Jonathan Crary’s 24/7

    24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep, by Jonathan Crary. Verso, 2013. 144 pages.

    JONATHAN CRARY’S dark, brilliant book 24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep analyzes the nonstop demands of the contemporary global capitalist system and laments the damage we suffer from being caught up in the fascination and relentless rhythms of its technological production and consumption. This brief volume’s central claim is not that we are always awake—although Crary notes the growing prevalence of insomnia and use of neuropharmaceutical sleep suppressants and alertness aids—but rather

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  • trans-American modernism

    BY NOW, WE’VE COME TO UNDERSTAND MODERNISM as a far more hybrid affair than the likes of Clement Greenberg would have it; one defined, even, by a kind of border crossing that broke down traditional categories and subsequently reinvented art’s situation. Less often told is the story of modernist exchange across actual geographic boundaries, as explored in two recent publications: Making Art Panamerican: Cultural Policy and the Cold War by Claire F. Fox, and Mexico and American Modernism by Ellen G. Landau.

    Positioning art as the site and the arbiter of a complex twentieth-century narrative of

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  • Elizabeth Peyton


    I was going to write about two books I got at the bookstore yesterday: Journey to the Abyss: The Diaries of Count Harry Kessler, 1880–1918 (Vintage) and Janet Malcolm’s Forty-One False Starts: Essays on Artists and Writers (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), which both look like great, engrossing reads, but . . . then I was reminded that I still haven’t even gotten around to the Victoria and Albert Museum’s “David Bowie is” catalogue. Edited by the exhibition’s curators, Victoria Broackes and Geoffrey Marsh, the volume includes so many amazing writers—Jon Savage, Camille Paglia,

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  • John Waters


    I always look forward to Lionel Shriver’s novels—especially in summer, because she writes the exact opposite of an easy “beach read.” The last one I devoured, So Much for That (2010), was such a feel-bad book about cancer (with an entirely believable insanely happy ending) that it made me feel like either killing myself or planning a joyous vacation. I can’t wait to get my hands on her new one, Big Brother (HarperCollins). It concerns morbid obesity and fame. Don’t they go together like love and marriage, a horse and carriage? Here’s the real reason I love Lionel Shriver:

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  • Thelma Golden


    While I usually think of summer as a chance to indulge in fiction, this year I’ll be reading Huey Copeland’s Bound to Appear: Art, Slavery, and the Site of Blackness in Multicultural America (University of Chicago Press). Copeland will look through a twenty-first-century lens at the legacy of slavery and will offer the first in-depth examination of how four groundbreaking artists—Renée Green, Glenn Ligon, Lorna Simpson, and Fred Wilson—reimagine and represent the enslaved. His volume captures a moment of innovation spanning the late 1980s and early ’90s, unpacking the

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  • Greil Marcus


    I recently heard the Edinburgh-raised Philip Kerr talk about the inspiration for his Berlin cop Bernie Gunther—the character first appeared in the Berlin Noir trilogy, and the Nazi shadow has since taken him to Argentina, Cuba, and back to wartime Germany—in terms of the American-born Raymond Chandler’s British upbringing and education. “It’s the Englishness of Chandler,” he said. “You can hear that tinkling melody in every page he writes.” Chandler was writing in the same years in which Kerr sets his stories: “What if Philip Marlowe went to Berlin instead of Los

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  • Diedrich Diederichsen


    The author Hans-Christian Dany, known in the German-speaking world for his literature on drugs (especially speed), has published Morgen werde ich Idiot: Kybernetik und Kontrollgesellschaft (I’ll Be an Idiot Tomorrow: Cybernetics and the Society of Control) (Nautilus Flugschrift), a critique of the ideological complex built on the relations between cybernetics and the exploitation of postmaterial labor, in which control is no longer established in relation to fixed parameters within a system, but is developed via the fostering of endless, open self-optimization. I’m

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  • Ed Atkins


    Ben Marcus’s The Age of Wire and String, first published in 1995, has recently been reissued by Granta, so I’ll take the opportunity to read it again.

    Marcus is enviably great at viscosity. Foul unguents, moist fumes. He conjures an onomatopoeia of the innards, I’d say. A dull ache that creeps. Metastatic writing.

    Like Donald Barthelme’s story “A Manual for Sons” (1975), Marcus’s novel has the air of a specialist’s instruction booklet. Reading its obscure directives evokes something of the anxiety of trying to assimilate among a people whose culture and syntax (and physics, and theisms)

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  • Jane Freilicher


    I’ll be bringing John Ashbery’s new volume of poetry, Quick Question (Ecco), out to Water Mill this summer to read. I’ve been reading his poems since the Middle Ages. They are refreshing and take you to a new realm you can inhabit for a while.

    Jane Freilicher is an artist based in New York.

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  • Vivian Maier: Out of the Shadows

    VIVIAN MAIER died on April 21, 2009, at eighty-three; she’d slipped and fallen on a patch of ice some months earlier and never quite recovered. She had spent much of her life as a governess with families in the Chicago suburbs, and one of those families arranged for her cremation and a brief obituary in the Chicago Tribune, which described her as “a free and kindred spirit who magically touched the lives of all who knew her.” By all accounts, Maier was not very warm and friendly; she was strict with her charges and kept to herself. In fact, she touched few lives in her lifetime, even fewer

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  • Chris Ware’s Building Stories

    Building Stories, by Chris Ware. New York: Pantheon, 2012. 260 pages.

    CHRIS WARE’S COMICS in the 1990s and 2000s—especially his massive graphic novel Jimmy Corrigan, The Smartest Kid on Earth (2000)—made him one of the most widely praised creators we have. Ware’s work was and is compelling in its meticulous self-consciousness about comics form, with complicated diagrams and schemes whose elegance belies the melancholy of the people who have to inhabit them. Yet Jimmy Corrigan had a certain coldness, even a predictability: Its people were smaller, sadder, flatter than the cityscapes and

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