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Posts Tagged ‘men’

The Mutes

August 25, 2016 | by

Louis-Emile Adan, The Suitor, oil on panel.

Louis-Emile Adan, The Suitor, oil on canvas.

Denise Levertov’s poem “The Mutes” appeared in our Winter 1965 issue. Levertov was born in Britain but immigrated to the United States when she was twenty-five; she died in 1997. Read More »

The Big I

August 16, 2016 | by

Chasing Amy and the toxic “nerd masculinity” of the nineties. 

Still from Chasing Amy, 1997.

Kevin Smith’s romantic comedy Chasing Amy, now almost two decades old, was a big deal for my generation of nerds. Back in 1997, all of our dorky interests, from comic books to video games, remained hidden, far from the prying eyes of the American mainstream. To us, the unapologetic fanboy Smith had emerged as something of a nerd culture Shakespeare—the best of us, a man who captured our hopes and dreams in his character’s lengthy, pop culture–laced monologues. Chasing Amy, which concerned sensitive-yet-sleazy Ben Affleck’s pursuit of the bisexual comic-book artist Joey Lauren Adams, constituted Smith’s first serious attempt to tell a meaningful dramatic story against the backdrop of the geek demimonde he’d explored in his previous slacker comedies Clerks and Mallrats. We were supposed to identify with (or at least pity) Affleck’s comic-book penciler Holden McNeil as he tried to come to terms with Adams’ sexual history, which involved group sex and gay sex and all sorts of other activities alien to his own heteronormative experience.  

Chasing Amy was always an uncomfortable movie, a film that encapsulated the worst aspects of narcissistic nerd entitlement at its late-nineties peak, but twenty years later I couldn’t even bring myself to finish rewatching it. When it was released, I begged my father to drive me to Raleigh’s Rialto Theatre and left that first showing enraptured, believing that some aspect of my privileged nerdy male “struggle” had been set to film. Kevin Smith was the first director whose scripts I had ever read; before I’d encountered his work, I hadn’t ever considered the form. It helped that Smith was such a dreadful cinematographer, a fact he admits without shame, because it meant his movies were the equivalent of ninety-minute script readings. Yet why, in the course of dreaming about becoming a “Hollywood writer”—whatever that meant—had I lingered over this material? How had it ever resonated with anyone at all, myself included?

The answer was simple but painful: I was one of those stereotypical “guys who liked movies,” and I was stupid. Read More »

Doing Hard Time

August 12, 2016 | by

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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 »

Now I Have to Rewatch Melrose Place, and Other News

August 10, 2016 | by

Stills from Melrose Place, featuring works by the GALA Committee. Image via ARTNews. Courtesy Melchin.org.

  • Ask any Joe on the street and he’ll tell you the best thing about Melrose Place was Heather Locklear. He’d be wrong, though. The best thing about Melrose Place was that it served as a secret gallery space for a collective called the GALA Committee, led by the conceptual artist Mel Chin. By agreeing to work for free, Chin brokered a deal with the show’s producers that gave him essentially carte blanche to insert his art into the show. As M. H. Miller writes, “The project was titled In the Name of the Place, and will be the subject of a retrospective exhibition at Red Bull Studios in New York this fall … Chin said of about 200 works that the group produced, roughly 70 percent were accepted. In one episode, when Alison gets pregnant, she wraps herself in a quilt that has printed on it the chemical structure of RU-486, the morning after pill … In one scene, Kimberly holds a Chinese takeout box, which has written on it, in Chinese characters, the words ‘Human Rights’ and ‘Turmoil and Chaos,’ a nod to the different interpretations among the West and China of the Tiananmen Square protests.”
  • At the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, meanwhile, a show called “The Camera Exposed” features more than 120 photographs with cameras in them. It’s better than it sounds, Simon Willis says: “What emerges from the exhibition is a complicated bond. In one picture, an elderly Paul Strand carries a large box camera in his arms, holding it like an infant jealously guarded. In another Eve Arnold photographs herself in a distorting mirror, her figure and those on the street around her blurred and elongated. It’s a self-portrait that seems to take a wry look at the act of photographing, and how it can record the truth but also bend it out of shape. In fact the show examines not just the relationship between photographers and cameras, but also the guises that cameras have assumed.”
  • The Olympics provide a great occasion for fantasizing about space—specifically, for fantasizing about the Olympics in space. But few among us would dare, as Chip Rowe has, to delve into the specifics of space sports: “Modern athletes pride themselves in their ability to withstand boiling temperatures and frozen terrain. But it wasn’t until explorers mapped the planet Gliese 436b that competitors got the chance to tackle both extremes at once. Roughly the size of Neptune, Gliese orbits far closer to its sun than Mercury does to ours, making its surface a balmy 820 degrees Fahrenheit. At that temperature, you’d think the planet would be all gas. In fact, immense pressure in Gliese’s interior compresses water into an exotic phase of ice known as Ice X, in much the way pressure in Earth’s interior turns carbon into diamond. The result is a world cloaked in ‘hot ice’ and bathed in steam. A decade ago, 10 tenacious hockey teams flew the thirty light-years to Gliese for the first of what has become an annual tournament. The flaming puck makes the action easy to follow.”

The Wrong Scent

April 20, 2016 | by

From a vintage Bienaimé advertisement.

When I rejoined my husband, the first thing he said was, “I love that perfume!”

“That’s just as well,” I said shortly.

Here’s what had happened: I’d taken refuge from the weather in a shop. Guiltily aware that I wouldn’t be buying anything, I sniffed at a series of perfume stoppers. Some customer in a fishing hat, a pair of white socks with sandals, and a bag with a picture of Liza Minnelli on it was chattering with the saleswoman about the exorbitant price of neighborhood tea and his depression. “Maybe some cologne will help your day,” said the saleswoman. Read More »

Your Every Wish for a Home, and Other News

April 8, 2016 | by

The cover of a Cinderella Homes sales brochure, 1955–1957. From Barbara Miller Lane’s Houses for a New World. Via The New York Review of Books.

  • Did you know? Heterosexual men tend to enjoy sexual intercourse—so much so, in fact, that even when they’re not having intercourse, they sometimes wish they were. Undone, a new novel by John Colapinto, explores this fecund quadrant of the male psyche, because no one’s set foot there in a while and someone needed to mow the lawn: “By exploring heterosexual male lust, Mr. Colapinto has written the kind of novel that has gone way out of fashion. The classics of the genre—Portnoy’s Complaint (Roth), An American Dream (Mailer), and Couples (Updike), among them—are many decades old … Many critics and civilian readers would say—and have said—good riddance to priapic literature. In a 1997 essay, ostensibly a review of the late-period Updike novel Toward the End of Time, David Foster Wallace slammed the previous generation of ‘phallocrats’ for its sex-obsessed narcissism … Colapinto said he had read the Wallace essay and largely agrees with it. But on the subject of the sex-drenched novels of Updike, Roth and the other bards of the male libido, he said, ‘I couldn’t deny that I had a lot of fun reading those books when I was younger.’ In his view, there was an overcorrection.”
  • Our Spring Revel was earlier this week, and though you might have expected some kind of superficial tribute to the wonders of the written word, you should know that our writers got real. They also described “their less-photogenic days at the desk”: “Even after thirty years, Lydia Davis said she has her off days. In accepting this year’s Hadada Award at this year’s annual gala at Cipriani 42nd Street, the author admitted throwing out the written version of her speech was a big mistake, and one that left her ‘scrawling little notes in very small handwriting on a jiggling train’ en route to New York … David Szalay and Chris Bachelder, respective winners of the Plimpton Prize for Fiction and the Terry Southern Prize for Humor, also didn’t exactly sugarcoat their career choice. In fact, pretty much every table had a writer in the midst of a one-person battle with the printed page. For novelist Adam Wilson, that means having a safe to lock up his cell phone in his Brooklyn home office.”
  • A reissue of Marianne Moore’s 1924 Observations reminds of its “infectious devotion to everything small”: “A fresh reading of Observations suggests that, while Moore’s descriptive powers are formidable, she is primarily a poet of argument, which is to say that she is most primarily a poet of syntax—the convolutions of her long, charismatic sentences seduce us into agreement long before we’ve had time to consider the substance of the argument at stake … Read as a whole, as it was designed to be, Observations emerges as one of several books that in the 1920s created our lasting sense of what constitutes the modernist achievement—books that court chaos through exquisite artistry: Eliot’s The Waste Land, Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, Pound’s A Draft of XVI Cantos, Joyce’s Ulysses.”
  • Time to ask again—what were the suburbs? Two new books, Houses for a New World, by Barbara Miller Lane, and Detached America, by James A. Jacobs, look back at the era of Levittown and the postwar suburban-housing boom, which we’re struggling to make sense of. As Martin Filler writes, “Both new books remind us of a time when a popular American middle-class weekend pastime was to pile the kids and in-laws into the family car and drive around looking at model houses, whether or not you were actively shopping for a new place. Lane has found newspaper advertisements and promotional materials for subdivisions that were clearly aimed at wives (who wielded huge influence about housing decisions even though their husbands were the breadwinners) and stressed the transformational nature of life in these up-to-the-minute dwellings. A revealing example of that appeal to women can be found in a 1955–1957 sales brochure for Cinderella Estates, a new Anaheim, California, subdivision not far from the recently completed Disneyland. This booklet depicts a princess-like figure and regal coach next to a rendering of a sprawling ranch-style house and the words ‘your every wish for a home … come gloriously true.’ ”
  • On the poet Ocean Vuong, born in Saigon and raised in Hartford, Connecticut, whose work is “influenced by both the plainspoken ironies of Frank O’Hara and the exotic folklorism of Federico García Lorca”: “Reading Vuong is like watching a fish move: he manages the varied currents of English with muscled intuition. His poems are by turns graceful (‘You, pushing your body / into the river / only to be left / with yourself’) and wonderstruck (‘Say surrender. Say alabaster. Switchblade. / Honeysuckle. Goldenrod. Say autumn’). His lines are both long and short, his pose narrative and lyric, his diction formal and insouciant. From the outside, Vuong has fashioned a poetry of inclusion.”