COLUMNS

  • Film

    Rainer Werner Fassbinder

    WHAT CAN YOU SAY about a fat, ugly sadomasochist who terrorized everyone around him, drove his lovers to suicide, drank two daily bottles of Rémy, popped innumerable pills while stuffing himself like a pig, then croaked from an overdose at 37? Marlene Dietrich in Touch of Evil probably said it all: “He was some kind of man. What does it matter what you say about people?”

    Anyway, there’s nothing you can say about Rainer Werner Fassbinder that he didn’t say about himself (in countless interviews and the horrific self-portrait in Germany in Autumn, 1978). He was the faithful mirror of an ugly world

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  • Books

    Kennedy Fraser’s Ornament and Silence

    Ornament And Silence: Essays on Women’s Lives, by Kennedy Fraser. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1996. 247 pp. $25.

    With The New Yorker for a finishing school and, as taskmasters, an editorial gaggle of deeply idiosyncratic, “more or less elderly” men led by William Shawn, the young Kennedy Fraser, a veritable ’60s English rose amid brambles, was a stylish and rigorously cossetted debutante in the most exclusive, most lavishly indulgent precinct of literary New York. By the age of twenty-two, she had been assigned the magazine’s fashion column. Over the next fifteen years or so, she brought an

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  • Books

    William H. Gass’ Finding a Form

    Finding a Form: Essays, by William H. Gass. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1996. 368 pp. $26.

    I HAPPENED TO BE passing through St. Louis one summer weekend in 1989, and, having a day to kill, I took a chance and telephoned William Gass in his offices at the philosophy department at Washington University. Ordinarily I would have hesitated before trying to contact a writer whom I admired; but Gass, as a philosopher, essayist, and novelist, was more important to me than most, and as luck would have it, he was in and invited me over. I remember that the campus was lovely; I remember that Gass was

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  • Slant

    Backlash and Betrayal

    IT USED TO BE THAT feminism was a total woman thang. Outside of the nice white girls who filled women’s-studies classes because they wanted to learn to be bad, everyone was content to think of us as just a bunch of bra-burning pussy-loving antimale morons who were never gonna have any impact on the rest of the world so no one really had to give a damn. In other words, back in the day when feminist politics had a serious radical edge it was not a movement that everyone was dying to join, but neither was it a movement that everyone wanted to trash. At the peak of the contemporary feminist movement,

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  • Music

    Buzzsounds

    THE RANDOM PLAY button on my six-CD player is my own personal DJ. It’s free-associating discreet pieces of information, but that’s as bricolage-y as we’re going to get. I want my music to tell me something, not reflect my environment back at me in freaky fractals, and I’ve stacked this deck so the player will deal me meaning in spades. 1-2-3-4-5: 3 the machine stops and makes a joke, “Beep! Mark, it’s the wicked witch of the west, your mother.” It’s “Voice Mail #3” from the Rent soundtrack; talk about disrupting the narrative! Then the player goes meta on me—guitars like jackhammers and a voice,

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  • Slant

    Daniel Paul Schreber’s Century

    PSSST—JUST READ this and don’t take your eyes off the page. The art Mafia was created by exactly the same person who started the Federal Reserve System—Andrew Mellon. Doesn’t this tell you something? Once they were able to debase the gold dollar and replace it with “paper” they also created the Washington museum scene with modern art bought from the Communists—a paper replacement for the “golden” art of our America. Remember: you read it in Artforum.

    Dearest reader: I must admit I come to this column with strong bias. I have become convinced that, if the ’70s was the age of narcissism, we now

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  • Music

    Polly Jean Harvey

    THERE’VE BEEN MORE than a few pretenders to the throne of New Rock Goddess—Courtney Love, Liz Phair, Joan Osborne, Alanis Morissette, not to mention sundry Bikini Killers, Breeders et al—but for whatever reason, nobody’s been willing to take the risk to come across as an artist with a capital “A,” a Romantic-style genius, someone possessed by her muse or her daimon, or even the hellhounds on her trail. Nobody except PJ Harvey: a nice girl from a small town near Yeovil, England, who, as the legend goes, was brought up by groovy boho parents in a house full of blues musicians and stonecutters.

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  • Music

    Welsh Rock

    JUST A STONE’S THROW away from Joe Orton’s old stomping grounds, the four man, one woman group Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci take the small stage of the Garage in Highbury Park. Though they’re all in their early to mid 20s, they make no concession to the Britpop uniform of ’70s retro and sports stripes. Dressed simply in T-shirts and jeans, they dive straight into the twists and turns of songs like “Paid Cheto Ar Pam” (Don’t cheat on Pam), “Miss Trudy,” and “The Game of Eyes”—Brian Wilson–like melodies interspersed with moments of furious trance rocking. Singer Euros Childs tosses his head and pumps

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