The Daily

Posts Tagged ‘bodies’

Night Doctors

October 11, 2016 | by

Nineteenth-century medical schools plundered the graves of African Americans.


“I remember a colored lady was going to work early in the morning, about half past five o’clock. She was standing at Twelfth and Market Streets when an automobile came up. A man in the automobile spoke to her, ‘Mary, which way are you going? I’ll take you where you want to go in a hurry. The trolleys are all blocked.’ But the lady wouldn’t get in the automobile.” The story, collected in Tristram Potter Coffin and Henning Cohen’s 1966 Folklore in America, begins with a fair degree of menace but is otherwise unremarkable: a single woman harassed by a stranger in a car, the kind of danger women everywhere in America face. Only at the end does it become strange. “The man kept on insisting,” the unnamed respondent continues, “and the woman became frightened. Just then a colored man across the way saw her and started towards her. At that the man in the automobile left. He was a night doctor and was going to take the lady to the hospital.”

Shadowy, elusive, terrifying—for well over a century after the Civil War the night doctors moved through the cities and through American folklore, looking for their victims. Read More »

Death and All Her Friends

August 22, 2016 | by


I had to bury a dog in my backyard yesterday. She was a light brown mongrel and came up to about my knee—not huge, but not tiny, either. She showed up in the neighborhood a few months ago and gave birth to a couple of puppies under a neighbor’s water tank. She came around my house a few times and I fed her, so she and the puppies mostly hung around. A few days ago, she went off somewhere and came back with a wound. We tried to patch her up as best we could, and she seemed to be stabilizing, but eventually she died on the lawn, which had been stained violet from the iodine antiseptic.

But now I had to figure out what to do with her. I chose a spot at the back of the house, between the protruding roots of an old, flamboyant tree, right next to what’s now a well-fertilized plantain crop. (Years ago, one of my brothers, not grasping the reality of the situation, excitedly reported that our neighbor had “planted” one of his dead puppies.) With a rusty hoe and a crooked fork, I managed to loosen the stony ground before digging a hole a couple feet deep. I cut open an old flour bag, wrapped her in it, and lowered her in. There were no last rites, but I did mark her grave with a few pieces from the trunk of a fallen coconut tree. Read More »

Doing Hard Time

August 12, 2016 | by


Tom of Finland, 1984, graphite on paper. All images courtesy of Taschen. © 2016 Tom of Finland Foundation.

“He only knew a drawing was good if it got him hard,” writes Dian Hanson of Touko Laaksonen, better known as Tom of Finland (1920–1991). I’ve been spending my evenings drooling over “Tom’s men,” as they’ve come to be called—famously erotic, fabulously gay, and achingly virile. Tom’s is a métier that worships the male form. Sculpted, brawny bods dress up in archetypically masculine uniforms—men in uniform were a fetish of Tom’s—and frolic across the page to bone.

Since the late fifties, when a (comparatively tame) drawing of his was featured on the cover of the muscle mag Physique Pictorial, Tom and his drawings have risen to an iconic status—and there’s a whole cottage industry of ToF merch, from fire blankets to anal beads, to prove it. But I, bashfully, have only just found him. I owe much of that to Taschen, who have, to mark the quarter century since the artist’s death, published a handful of books comprising much of his delicious oeuvre—a retrospective culminating in the reissue of the Holy Writ of all ToF books, Tom of Finland XXL. Among the collection is The Little Book of Tom of Finland: Cops and Robbers, one of three in the Little Book series, and my favorite of the bunch. Read More »

Catch the Heavenly Bodies

June 21, 2016 | by

Jay Miriam’s first solo show in New York, “Catch the Heavenly Bodies,” opens tonight at Half Gallery. “I think there’s something strange going on right now,” Miriam, who paints from memory, told Adult Magazine last year: “People aren’t okay with being ordinary. I think that sentiment has existed for a long time, but it feels really amplified right now with social media and our online culture, where everyone’s competing for attention, and even being normal is a trend. I don’t see ordinariness as negative. The characters in the paintings can be anyone. Even though I like painting women, they’re not necessarily defined as women … Now everyone is so aware of their behavior and how it looks to others, and there’s not the same freedom in our bodies.” 

Jay Miriam, Fountain of Youth, 2016, oil on linen, 64" x 50".

 Read More »

How Repulsive

February 10, 2016 | by

On the merits of disturbing literature.

Frederic Leighton, Study at a Reading Desk‎, 1877.

In a letter to a reader who was disturbed by his novel The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge, Rainer Maria Rilke wrote, “If [Malte] contains bitter reproaches, these are absolutely not directed against life. On the contrary, they are evidences that, for lack of strength, through distraction and inherited errors we lose completely the countless earthly riches that were intended for us.”

Faced with a reader like Rilke’s, it can be hard for a writer to defend the need for “bitter reproaches”—to uphold the disturbing above the merely distasteful. After all, some “disturbing” books do nothing more than shock. Charlotte Roche’s Wetlands, for instance, is a litany of gross and obscene bodily functions that never adds up to more than grossness and obscenity. But good books disturb for good reasons. To disturb is, among other things, to guard against complacency: to make the reader face the underbelly of dark thoughts and actions, see how circumstances can make even good people go astray if they are not vigilant in honoring the best in themselves and in the outside world. Disturbing passages, when skillful, make a vital inquiry into the subtle causes and effects of human behavior. Read More »

Mein Scheisse

April 28, 2015 | by

Knausgaard’s fecal fixation.

Kinderen die hun behoefte doen

Gesina ter Borch, Kinderen die hun behoefte doen (Children Relieve Themselves), ca. 1650.

“I’ve been reading Knausgaard,” I’ve heard on more than one occasion, over this Scandinavian-grade winter, from a friend across a barroom table. And a few minutes into the conversation, almost inevitably: “There’s this part in the third book about taking a shit … ”

It came as no surprise that my friends wanted to talk My Struggle, the Norwegian novelist’s opus on the everyday in six volumes. (The fourth is out in English translation today.) But the number of those friends who zeroed in on Knausgaard’s excretory musings was another matter.

And it’s not just My Struggle. The subject reemerged earlier this year when The New York Times Magazine published “My Saga,” Knausgaard’s two-part North American travelogue, in which a jaunt on the john in a Newfoundland hotel leaves him with a hopelessly clogged toilet. He recounts the aftermath at length. The episode was at the center of Knausgaard talk.

Lest readers think this focus is a factor of the company I keep—that I surround myself with prudish types offended by bathroom scenes, fetishists attracted to them, or the scatological-humor crowd—I direct them to James Wood, a critic at a venue no less proper than The New Yorker. In an interview with Knausgaard published in the Winter 2014 issue of The Paris Review, Wood says, Read More »