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Posts Tagged ‘Recommended Reading’

Staff Picks: Lunar Landscapes, Washerwomen, File Formats

February 5, 2016 | by

Peter Hujar, William Burroughs, reclining, 1975.

Of all the things I’ve read about Michel Houellebecq’s Submission, the most poignant has to be Elif Batuman’s essay in this week’s New Yorker—about Houellebecq’s novel, but also (and mainly) about her experience as a woman and journalist in Turkey, unexpectedly drawn to the idea of leading an observant Muslim life: “Houellebecq’s vision of an Islamic state, for all its cartoonishness, has a certain imaginative generosity. He portrays Islam not as a depersonalized creeping menace, or as an ideological last resort to which those disenfranchised by the West may be ‘vulnerable,’ but as a system of beliefs that is enormously appealing to many people, many of whom have other options.” —Lorin Stein

Dan has already covered the Peter Hujar show that’s up at Paul Kasmin, but I can’t resist talking about it again. Hujar’s portraits, particularly the close-ups that are on view here, are compelling: looking at faces that are, often, looking back at us; rarely do we have such an opportunity to study the details of another’s visage, and the longer I look, the more foreign they appear, like lunar landscapes instead of human faces. Maybe that’s why the subjects I recognize easily—Warhol, Sontag, John Waters, Quentin Crisp, Burroughs—are less captivating than those I don’t: Paul Thek, whose head is cocked curiously as he stares agape into the camera; John Heys in Lana Turner drag in 1979 and then again, in 1985, as himself; Rene Ricard, naked, his legs pulled to his chest, head in hand. Of the two portraits of David Wojnarowicz in the show, I spent the most time in front of the one in which his hand obscures most of his face, so that, instead, I examine the tidy curve of his fingernails and the length of his collarbone (and think of Georgia O’Keeffe’s Ram’s Head with Hollyhock). —Nicole Rudick Read More »

Staff Picks: Dissent, Deprogrammers, Dogs

January 22, 2016 | by

Raymond Pettibon.

“This isn’t so much bad literature as boring literature. After all, what’s more exhausting than reading, time and again, experimentation you’ve come to expect?” This is Maggie Doherty in the latest issue of Dissent opining the commercialization and political equivocation of much contemporary literature. Her complaint stems from the gutting, over the past four decades, of federal arts agencies, namely the NEA and the NEH; as a result, artists and writers now must rely for their livelihoods on stultifying, increasingly corporatized universities and must heed the demand for marketable works of art. That the U.S. government doesn’t prioritize its citizens’ cultural life is hardly new information. But Doherty makes the significant argument that the contraction of patronage limits both the possibility for avant-garde work and the diversity—“racially, politically, and aesthetically”—of the artistic world. —Nicole Rudick

Raymond Pettibon is a longtime favorite here at the Review; his studio occupied the loft directly beside us at our old office on White Street, and a portfolio of his dog-themed art, “Real Dogs in Space,” was featured in (and on the cover of) issue 209. After attending the opening of his recent show at David Zwirner Gallery, I was intrigued, and very much surprised, to find a video of Pettibon discussing and reacting to the work of J. M. W. Turner, my all-time-favorite visual artist. In the video, part of the Met’s Artist Project series, Pettibon is measured, articulate, and engaging—which sits in stark contrast to his famously absurd social-media persona. —Stephen Andrew Hiltner Read More »

Staff Picks: Favorites from 2015

December 18, 2015 | by

From the cover of Resentment

I’m mistrustful of year-end lists, especially best-ofs. I didn’t get to all the books I wanted to read (or write about) this year, though a number of the ones I liked have appeared in this column over the past twelve months. For my last selection here in 2015, I’ve chosen a book that’s old (originally published in 1997) and new (reissued this year) and that I’ve only just finished: Gary Indiana’s ResentmentI read the novel with great pleasure and with a kind of deep attention that I can’t summon for all books, though I might want to. In that respect, it has come as a year-end gift, despite the fact that it trolls America’s darker instincts. The novel circles around a murder trial in Los Angeles that is based on that of the Menendez brothers’ parricide in 1994 and follows the peregrinations of Seth, a reporter who is both attending the trial and writing a celebrity puff piece. The swirl of Seth’s various encounters, the details of the trial, and the seediness of wealth congeal into an ugly mass that so aptly captures the tabloid heart of America. Perhaps because this time of year is acutely, sordidly commercial, I found the novel’s every line to be viscerally true. —Nicole Rudick

One book stuck with me all year—Mark Greif’s atmospheric history The Age of the Crisis of Man: Thought and Fiction in America 1933–73. Alternate subtitles might include “Books Your Parents Studied in College, and Why Nobody Studies Them Now,” “The Origins of the Culture Wars,” or “Are You Serious: The Rise and Fall of the Great American Novel.” None of these screams best seller, but if you grew up equally confused by Jean-Paul Sartre and Henderson the Rain King, this may be the book for you. —Lorin Stein Read More »

Educational Viewing

January 2, 2013 | by

We love the single-sentence animations Recommended Reading produces in concert with new fiction. In this latest, Grier Dill animates and scores a sentence from Lincoln Michel’s “Our Education.” Enjoy!

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