Posts Tagged ‘identity’
May 4, 2015 | by Sadie Stein
Nothing can make you feel older than thrift shopping. As you walk the aisles, thumbing through the racks, young you keeps up a running monologue: That 1940s square-dancing outfit is cool! Look at those Polynesian-print slacks and the matching vest! You’d look like an awesome fifties-pulp lesbian cover model if you wore this shirt and tie! Sure, that leather dress is totally unflattering—but it’s neat! And five dollars! Have you ever worn your other five fake-fur chubbies? No, but maybe now’s the time!
And time was, you’d have bought all these things. Each would have symbolized a you you might have been, or could have been for a day—an identity you could don or pretend you’d don. At the very least, the cheap thrill of the moment would have overridden any other concern. Who cared if your closet looked like it belonged to a hoarder pied piper? Anything was good enough for class, or for the existence of a creatively inclined, sensitive young person in the urban wild. Read More »
February 11, 2015 | by Dan Piepenbring
Richard Price and the evolving role of pseudonyms.
Richard Price’s new novel, The Whites, isn’t by Richard Price, except that it is. It’s by Harry Brandt, Price’s pseudonym, but it’s also not really by Brandt—Price’s name is on the cover, too, and so Price is Brandt, obviously, and it follows then that Brandt is Price, and thus, uh …
Let’s start over.
Richard Price’s new novel, The Whites, is by Richard Price writing as Harry Brandt. It says so right there on the cover. Big deal, you might say; another author slumming it in genre fiction by creating a false identity for himself. But by publishing both his name and his pseudonym on the cover, Price has parted with centuries of pseudonymous convention. He hasn’t just pulled back the curtain. He’s brought up the house lights and waved to the audience. And he did it all, according to the New York Times, because he got sort of annoyed. Read More »
April 16, 2013 | by Chris Wallace
Christopher Wallace is dead, murdered in the early hours of March 9, 1997, one block from my childhood home in Los Angeles. But exactly two weeks after his death, Wallace’s alter ego, the Notorious B.I.G., rose again with the album Life After Death. Geppetto was gone, but his Pinocchio lived on.
Like Wallace, “Biggie” grew up in Brooklyn, but in Bed-Stuy rather than Wallace’s more middle-class Clinton Hill. He dealt drugs, toted four-fours, and took falls, all of which Wallace did. But Biggie was a goddamned capo compared to his dramaturge’s small-time crook. Where Wallace was really gifted—almost preternaturally so, considering he died at twenty-four—was in the constructing and performing of a character, his character. Biggie was a fiction—not so farfetched as to court incredulity, but idealized, a romanticization of the writer. He was autobiographical to a point, but embellished into a Mitty-esque wish-fulfillment through whom his audience could vicariously fantasize about the good life: popping bottles and topping models.
In character, and within the strictures of the medium, Wallace could do and say things he’d never get away with as himself. With his heavy tongue he could probe the decay of poverty in a bouncy radio hit, or parody our nihilistic materialism with a club banger that made him millions, and never be in danger of hypocrisy.
Biggie was, his fans understood, the Flatbush Falstaff, dedicated to excess and frivolity, while Wallace was the mysterious magus who spawned him. Sadly, even magi are mortal. But, luckily for us, Big Poppa is forever.
Christopher Wallace is dead. Long live Biggie Smalls. Read More »
November 28, 2012 | by Karim Kattan
On the road from Jericho to the beaches of the Dead Sea, there is an architectural curiosity, a yellowish abandoned building. My grandmother would tell me its story every time we passed it on our way for a day at the beach. One should bear in mind that “a day at the beach” at the Dead Sea is not “a day at the beach.” It is its evil twin. The day is spent walking on jagged rocks, falling into pits of gooey black mud, and trying to pretend that such an unearthly density of salt sticking to your body is not as painful as it actually is. The adults would further complicate my love-hate relationship with those beach days by tell us terrifying stories about the ghoul who lived in the cliffs and would eat us up if we strayed too far.
This might explain why my favorite moment was the glimpse we got of that yellowish building. I can’t remember when this place used to be a hotel, or what its name was, but I remember the description. It was prewar—pre-1948, or pre-1967, it doesn’t really matter which; we have had as many golden ages as we’ve had catastrophes. Suitably enough, the hotel was a gem of gold and velvet. The people there were rich, they spoke five languages, they were beautiful, and they knew how to waltz. Read More »
October 17, 2012 | by Michael McGrath
The other day I found myself inadvertently multitasking. Usually I like to concentrate all of my energy on a single pursuit. That way, when I inevitably become distracted and rush off to a Coinstar machine or a matinee, it’s easier to catalogue my neglected duties. But for a string of rainy afternoons last week I was simultaneously house-sitting and ghostwriting. Ghostwriting while house-sitting: it can be done. Of course, as soon as I became conscious of the unusual efficiency of my behavior, my brain was forced to resume its usual course of professional sabotage and I spent the next few minutes staring at a gourd.
These are some of the nightmares I have while house-sitting: electrical fires that spread through the walls; dead pets; plumbing disasters; missing mail; rain-soaked packages; a sudden infestation of massive rodents. These usually torment me for the first few nights while I am still getting accustomed to the particular way the wind plays your shutters, the hum of your kitchen, the rattle of your washing machine. This passes. By Wednesday I’m wearing your bathrobe, and by Friday I’m reading up on squatter’s rights.
These are some of the nightmares I have while ghostwriting: computer failure; client failure; crumbling word counts; inadvertently contributing a pound of flesh rather than the few skin flakes I’ve allotted the project. Real writing requires buckets of blood, but you can pretty much ghost an entire memoir with a shaving nick. Expend the interest, never the principal. It’s still damaging to long-term return,s but at least you haven’t shaken down your muse.
Good ghostwriting is a bit like microwaving soup. The bowl is hot but the broth stays cold. Resurrect killed darlings and let them run wild in the purple fields. Talk about the weather. Delve into the dog’s lineage and the history of the waterbed. List the contents of the cupboard.