COLUMNS

  • Books

    the West-as-Metaphor

    Richard Slotkin, The Myth of the Frontier of Twentieth-Century America (New York: Atheneum), 850 pages.

    Jane Tompkins, West of Everything (New York: Oxford University Press), 245 pages.

    Reading Richard Slotkin’s Gunfighter Nation and Jane Tompkins’ West of Everything reminded me of a line Lindsey Buckingham sang years ago, on his album Law and Order. Donning imaginary chaps and jingle-jangle spurs, the Hollywood cowboy slumped dreamily back in his saddle: “I’m just a shadow of the West.”

    That mythic landscape—wide-open spaces and closed caskets, Monument Valley and Wounded Knee—casts a tall shadow

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  • Music

    the Pet Shop Boys

    For more than a decade gay men have responded to the presence of HIV and AIDS in our personal lives in a wide variety of ways. At one end of the scale, some, sadly, have been terrified into celibacy or loveless monogamy; at the other, some evidently find Safer Sex difficult to sustain. Yet the great majority of gay men have found ways to feel confident about sex. Community-based HIV education has insisted that Safer Sex is an issue for all gay men, regardless of our HIV-antibody status, and a remarkable collective response has emerged that is intimately informed by our awareness of the epidemic

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  • Books

    The Devil at Large: Erica Jong on Henry Miller

    “I SOMETIMES ASK MYSELF how it happens that I attract nothing but crackbrained individuals, neurasthenics, neurotics, psychopaths—and Jews especlally,” wrote Henry Miller in Tropic of Cancer. This was, of course, in the 1930s. Ahead of his time though Miller may have been in many ways, it is too much of a strain on credibility to suppose that he had anything like The Devil at Large: Erica Jong on Henry Miller in mind. In fact it is too much of a strain on credibility to suppose that anyone other than Erica Jong could ever have had anything like this book in mind, for the simple reason that no

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  • Books

    Jean Genet: A Life

    A FAMOUS BRASSAÏ PORTRAIT of Jean Genet adorns the dustjacket of Edmund White’s new biography of the writer. Genet seems physically slight, his head somehow too big for his frame; his sleeves rolled up and his hands stuffed in his pockets, he is almost the image of the street toughs he lovingly glamorized in Notre Dame des Fleurs, Journal d’un Voleur, and other works. He looks 40. His hair is close-cropped and graying, his eyes are dark, melancholic, even angry. Brassai has backed him into a corner for the picture, a glancing allusion to the various confinements Genet suffered in his youth and

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  • Film

    Menace II Society

    IT IS ONLY WITH DIFFICULTY that I tolerate the mediocrity of most contemporary black cinema, a trick I manage by constantly reminding myself that mediocrity is a necessary stage in the development of a mature practice. What I’m unable to tolerate is the delusional critical assessment of these films. Simply put, the so-called New Black Film Renaissance is as clear a case of the Emperor’s new clothes as I How can think of. With a handful of exceptions, these films are barely worth discussing in anything but the most base sociological or, worse, commercial terms. The incapacity, really the

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  • Books

    Jean Baudrillard's Transparency of Evil

    JEAN BAUDRILLARD STARTED OUT in the ’60s on the track of our biggest symptom—the attempt to render psychoanalytic and Marxist discourse compatible, in denial of what has always been their outright conflict. That attempt explains why Marxism’s disappearance from Eastern Europe has produced no haunting effects of its own, but makes its ghost appearance within psychoanalysis. The growing dispossession of psychoanalysis is the most alarming side effect of the dislocation of Marxism. Take a closer look at cultural studies: Marxists who can no longer be Marxists work the psychic margins and interiors

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  • Top Ten

    Greil Marcus' Real Life Rock

    A collection of Greil Marcus’ essays has just been published in the U.S. by Doubleday, as Ranters & Crowd Pleasers: Punk in Pop Music, 1977–92, and in the UK, by Viking, as In the Fascist Bathroom: Writings on Punk, 1977–92. A good part of the contents first appeared in Artforum.

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  • Books

    James Miller’s Passion of Michel Foucault

    OF ALL THE INTELLECTUAL PROJECTS that have come to strange life in the last thirty years, and there have been many, none is more profoundly enigmatic than Michel Foucault’s. Before his death from AIDS, in 1984, the French philosopher created a body of work fundamental to contemporary thought. His works summoned up a dream world of triumphant madness, glorious violence, and nameless moral transgressions too intense for reason to comprehend. A disciple of Nietzsche, Georges Bataille, and the Marquis de Sade, obsessed with extremity in every form—artistic, ethical, sexual, criminal—Foucault epitomized

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