Staff Picks: Local News, Livid Librarians, Loving It All


This Week’s Reading


A still from James Baldwin: The Price of the Ticket

When Ingrid Sischy died last week, most obituaries remembered her primarily as the editor of Interview, which she was, for eighteen years. But I’ve always thought of her as an ex-editor of Artforum, which she ran for most of the eighties. That decade saw a profound change in what was considered art, how it would be exhibited, and how it would be discussed in, among other places, the most important art magazine of the day—and Sischy, the first woman editor of Artforum, was the right man for the job. I’m grateful to our publisher, Susannah Hunnewell, for sending me Janet Malcolm’s magnificent “A Girl of the Zeitgeist,” a twopart article on Sischy and Artforum and the art world that appeared in The New Yorker in 1986. In the process of profiling Sischy, Malcolm provides generous sketches of the magazine’s earlier years as well as the concerns of Sischy’s day, including the “trial” of Richard Serra’s Tilted Arc and the “Primitivism” show at MoMA. Sischy’s fair-mindedness and originality as an art editor come to the fore, but so does the silliness of art-world kerfuffles and the startling differences between generations and modes of thought. Malcolm, for instance, reproduces a very pissy response by the critic Barbara Rose in which she decries Sischy’s Artforum as a “media magazine” and pits her cohorts, who were “all very impressed by Wittgenstein and by Anglo-American philosophy,” against Sontagian cultural permissiveness, in which “you could just love everything that was going on, you could be positive and optimistic and just love it all.” —Nicole Rudick

k10442One of the many perceptive essays in The Meaning of the Library (it doesn’t beg to be taken to the beach, I know) is Laura Marcus’s “The Library in Film: Order and Mystery,” which finds compelling motifs in movie scenes set in libraries. On film, it seems, our libraries are presented with curious regularity as mazes (Hitchcock’s Blackmail), haunted repositories of secrets (Ghostbusters, James Bridges’s The Paper Chase), dusty Egyptological tombs (Alain Resnais’s Toute la mémoire du monde), or utopias of knowledge (Wim Wenders’s Wings of Desire). “It is striking,” Marcus writes, “how so many films have taken up these questions of order and of mystery or confusion, as well as ideas of haunting in relationship to the book and the library.” She finds intriguing outliers, too, such as 1932’s Forbidden, in which Barbara Stanwyck’s bitter small-town librarian, having endured insults from local children, says, “I wish I owned this library … I’d get an axe and smash it to a million pieces, then I’d set fire to the whole town and play a ukulele while it burned.” —Dan Piepenbring

“When you were starting out as a writer, you were black, impoverished, homosexual. You must’ve said to yourself, ‘Gee, how disadvantaged can I get?’ ” Confronted by this question just a few minutes into the 1989 documentary James Baldwin: The Price of the Ticket, presented last Monday at the IFC Center as part of Black Summer Nights, a series of film screenings by Queer/Art/Film. The audience laughed along with the writer, but a greater laugh met Baldwin’s response: “No, I thought I’d hit the jackpot.” The documentary shows a writer as compellingly multiple, mercurial, in person as he is in print; Baldwin, it’s never been clearer, is a man of many voices, who speaks for, and to, many people. These impassioned voices resounded through the discussion of race, writing, and community that followed the screening, curated by the filmmaker Stephen Winter and poet Pamela Sneed, with Jacqueline Woodson as a guest speaker. August 17 will see the series’s final installment, a showing of F. Gary Gray’s Friday, followed by a discussion with the poet Angel Nafis. —Chloe Currens

harlemIf you’re heading to the Studio Museum in Harlem, make sure you go upstairs. Actually, the museum occupies a small brownstone for now, so if you want to see anything you’re going to have to walk upstairs. But up past the gift shop, past the postcards in the lobby and the photographs below, past even the Stanley Whitney paintings, you come to “Everything, Everyday,’ the exhibition of the museum’s Artists-in-Residence, Sadie Barnette, Lauren Halsey, and Eric Mack. Maybe I’m biased because I saw the title and spiel before the work itself, but I have a hard time approaching the three as a group without those two words circumscribing a frame: everything, everyday. From Lauren Halsey’s immersive cluttered environments to Sadie Barnette’s wall-length family trees, there’s a sense of grandeur, of everything, that can’t be distinguished from the amassing of particulars, of every little thing. The eye is often directed to a detail—a rubber ball, a Barbie doll—that it can neither distinguish from nor blend with the rest. The result? “A hieroglyphic reliefs set in an interplanetary desert oasis.” Eventually you really should walk down. There’s still a whole museum below you. —Jake Orbison

I recently salvaged Kay Ryan’s forthcoming collection, Erratic Facts, from The Paris Review’s donation shelf, and I’ve been reading it bit by bit over breakfast all week. Anyone familiar with Ryan, a Pulitzer Prize–winner and two-time poet laureate, won’t be surprised by her latest work. Like its predecessors, Erratic Facts is a series of bite-size poems that emerge into massive meditations on topics like love, fear, and memory—and that beg to be read two, three, or ten times over. In this collection, I’ve found myself especially taken by Ryan’s tendency to begin in the middle of a mundane moment. “There doesn’t seem / to be a crack,” begins the poem “All You Did,” and then somehow, quickly, I’m remembering all I’ve ever done.  —Jane Robbins Mize

I thought I’d found my trashy Netflix pick when I saw Jake Gyllenhaal’s face staring back at me, advertising last year’s Nightcrawler. I was promptly disappointed to learn how good the movie actually is. A noir thriller of sorts, it follows Gyllenhaal’s psychopathic Louis Bloom as he discovers the world of freelance news cameramen in Los Angeles; he buys a police scanner and a camera, hoping to sell footage of gruesome car accidents to the local news channel. Things go pretty well until, arriving before the cops, he begins tampering with crime scenes to get better shots, dragging bodies into better lighting. Bloom’s lust for good B-roll eventually entangles him in criminal activity. It’s hard for a movie to focus on this kind of amoral character for two hours without straining credulity, but Gyllenhaal pulls it off by escalating Bloom’s drive, making him not so much misanthropic as simply indifferent: his Aspergerian character evolves to a state of complete apathy. Nightcrawler has the kind of slow psychological boil that makes good noir, where a slightly off fact at the beginning unleashes chaos at the end. —Jeffery Gleaves