The Paris Review Daily

This Week's Reading

What We’re Loving: Toomer, Kusama, and Train

July 13, 2012 | by

Yayoi Kusama, Self-Obliteration No. 1, 1962–67, watercolor, ink, graphite, and photocollage on paper, 15 7/8 × 19 13/16 in. Collection of the artist. © Yayoi Kusama. Image courtesy Yayoi Kusama Studio Inc.; Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo; Victoria Miro Gallery, London

Six years ago I wrote a little article about my favorite Washington, D.C., novels—and was roundly chastised for leaving Cane off the list. First published in 1923, Jean Toomer’s modernist classic isn't exactly about Washington, and it isn’t exactly a novel. It’s an early response to the Great Migration, in linked stories and verse, that moves from rural Georgia to U Street and back again. Still, it may well be the District’s greatest hit. It is pure lyricism, perfect for these late summer nights. —Lorin Stein

I caught a preview of the Yayoi Kusama retrospective that opened at the Whitney yesterday. If you’ve heard of her at all, it’s likely for her signature polka dots (or perhaps for her recent collaboration with Louis Vuitton). As a video in the show attests, her use of those dots was compulsive and obsessive: she sticks them on prone nudes, reclining cats, distracted dogs; they litter the ground, the wind, the sky. But most intriguing are her very early paintings, in which you can see Kusama working through the early masters of Western modernism. Of particular interest was a very odd painting incredibly titled Accumulation of Corpses (Prisoner Surrounded by the Curtain of Depersonalization), in which waves of red curtain folds pinhole a scene of bare trees. As chance would have it, the painting perfectly represented the book I’ve been reading, Windeye, Brian Evenson’s adroitly creepy new story collection. It’s kismet! —Nicole Rudick

What is glamour and how does one attain it? Is it curated, cultivated—or does it just arrive, like inspiration? Jim Lewis’s article for W magazine, “Face Forward,” is the perfect starting point for anyone intrigued by (or dismissive of) this fleeting, shimmering quality. For me, if beauty is an image, then glamour is imagery: aesthetics in the service of narrative. What is glamour, after all, but good storytelling? Presenting a glimpse of a lifestyle—or perhaps, a way of being—other, elsewhere, and then gone. —Alyssa Loh

British artist Tacita Dean’s Five Americans ended two weeks ago here in New York. I wish today was two weeks ago because, since then, I’ve been suspended in experiential longing for Dean’s work. Five Americans, comprising mostly 16mm film, isn't a show you can appreciate through the catalogue; it requires direct confrontation. In pursuit of a fix, I discovered this digitally distorted video juxtaposition, still only a gentle reminder of what’s possible in Dean’s vivified, contrastive exhibitions. —Tyler Bourgoise

You Can Finally Meet My Mom,” by Train. This song is that special kind of bad, like smelling your fingers after eating street meat. That kind of bad that goes so far beyond awful that you need to study it, dissect it, tear it apart, light it on fire, and then look through the ashes for some secret, hidden meaning. Now, with a title like “You Can Finally Meet My Mom” you’d think it a cutesie pop song, y’know, Billy J loves Margaret D, here’s the next step after they hold hands and do a little closed-mouth, open-eye action. Not the case. No. Apparently the mother of the song’s protagonist is dead. Kaput. And apparently the protagonist is gonna kick the bucket soon, so he’s singing about how pumped he is for his girlfriend to die, too, because guess what, “you can finally meet my mom.” What’s more, dead b.f. is gonna spend all his time with dead g.f. Who else would he spend the time with, you ask? Don’t worry: he answers that for you in a Velveeta taco-dip mix of dead celebrities.

Not Jimi Hendrix, Jesus or the dude
Who played the sherriff in Blazing Saddles
You not Chris Farley Mr Rodgers
Not Gilda Radner, Buddha or the dude
Who had pop rocks and soda at the same time
You, not Jesse James, Paul Newman
not Etta James, Bob Marley or the girls who won my heart along the way
You, not Sitting Bull, Ella or Bach
Not Steve Jobs, or Ty Cobbs, Al Capone or any other mobs
Not Whitney Houston, Chet Baker, Andre the Giant or the Undertaker
and I almost forgot
You can finally meet my Mom.

BRILLIANT. —Noah Wunsch

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