The other evening, after my colleagues had all gone, I slouched into one of our office reading chairs and dipped into Paul Yoon’s latest collection of short stories, The Mountain. I didn’t get far—I read “A Willow and the Moon,” which opens the book, and stopped—but only because Yoon’s prose is far too mesmerizing to rush through. The story, a beautiful amalgam of sorrow and longing and hope, follows a boy through to adulthood, from the First World War to the Second, from the sanatorium high in the mountains of the Hudson Valley, where his mother volunteers, to the basement of an English hospital, where bombs fall around him. As a boy, he looks on as his mother wrestles her addiction to morphine, as his father loses his interest in the family, as his best childhood friend falls ill, all the while making of himself what he can on his own. Though every page of the story heaves with lonesomeness and despair (for the lives that could have been had his parents never married or wars never begun), “A Willow and the Moon” nevertheless warmed my heart: the boy harbors neither resentment nor rage for the lot he’s been given, only sadness for all that’s happened and hope for all that’s still to come. —Caitlin Youngquist
On Monday, I went to the opening of the Oscar Wilde Temple, an installation at the Church of the Village by artist duo McDermott & McGough. The temple’s Stations of the Cross depict phases of Wilde’s arrest, trial, imprisonment, and release; its altarpiece is a linden-wood sculpture of the author; and the walls are draped in fabrics and hues from the contemporaneous Aesthetic movement. It also includes a half dozen small portraits of LGBTQ “martyrs,” such as Brandon Teena, Sakia Gunn, and Martha P. Johnson. If the installation sounds minimal, its impact is otherwise: housed in a small room underneath the church, the temple feels consecrated, and also invigorating. Wilde celebrated his homosexuality openly, even in the face of persecution, and in him, McDermott & McGough have found a martyr and a saint for today’s LGBTQ community. The temple is a project the pair started thinking about in the eighties and have only now produced. But the timing is apt, McGough says; considering the political moment, he quotes Toni Morrison: “This is precisely the time when artists go to work.” Wilde’s example provides inspiration for resistance of all kinds: his subversion was public and powerful. —Nicole Rudick Read More
What I know about the poets of my generation, I started to learn, in the late nineties, by reading the young critic Stephen Burt. Many of the poets he wrote about seemed forbidding, but he tried to make them inviting. His own poems were often disarmingly direct. One line, from his poem “Kudzu”—“like the body I hated then, and hate”—still rings out to me twenty years later from a blur of more elliptical work. Now Stephen also goes by Steph and Stephanie, and their new collection, Advice from the Lights, has been my subway reading for the past two weeks, especially “Sadder,” an elegy to the poet C. D. Wright, and Burt’s imitations of Callimachus, and the many evocations of childhood in a “wrong” body:
O grapefruit (as color and flavor). O never quite rightly tied laces. O look,
up there on the uneven climbing bars,
too hot to touch where the sun touches, now that it’s spring,
the shadow of a tarp, like a sail between sailors
and thin swings that make no decision, like weather vanes.
O think of the lost Chuck Taylors. The lost Mary Janes. —Lorin Stein
Larry Rivers’s painting of Maxine Groffsky appears on the cover of our new issue, and I’m pleased as punch. I’ve long been an admirer of Rivers’s art and feel a kind of greedy affection for it: I never tire of seeing it. This week, “(Re)Appropriations,” a small survey of works—more than twenty paintings, collages, drawings, sculptures and relief paintings—opened at Tibor de Nagy in New York. The exhibition displays the changes in his work over five decades, but it’s hard not to get hung up looking at his life-size painting of a boldly nude (except for boots) Frank O’Hara, from 1954, and the collages from the early sixties, which are gorgeously tactile. I admire the way his representations of friends, cultural objects, and historical figures are only partially rendered on the canvas, as though they are already drifting out of River’s view just as he has turned to look at them. —Nicole Rudick Read More
On the Bauhaus photographer Lucia Moholy (1894–1989), who inspired Mary Jo Bang’s latest collection, A Doll for Throwing. Next year, Germany will celebrate the centenary of the founding of the Bauhaus, a school that stressed the unity of industrial design and all other arts. The celebration will include Moholy’s work.
In 1915, twenty-one-year-old Lucia Schulz wrote in her journal that she could imagine herself using photography as “a passive artist,” recording everything from the best perspective, putting the film through the chemical processes she’d learned, and adding to the image her sense of “how the objects act on me.”
On her twenty-seventh birthday, at the Registry Office in Charlottenburg, a borough of Berlin, she married the Hungarian Constructivist painter Lászlo Moholy-Nagy and became, in the blink of a bureaucratic instant, Lucia Moholy. A few years later, when Moholy-Nagy was recruited to teach as a master at the Bauhaus school, Lucia went with him—she, her camera, her technical skills, and her knowledge of the darkroom.
The Bauhaus, a school established in 1919 by the architect Walter Gropius, would eventually become an influential international design movement. The clean sculptural lines of its buildings, the bent steel and leather Bauer chairs, Marianne Brandt’s elegant globe-and-square tea sets would come to represent a break with the preindustrial past. The look itself would become a signifier of urban modernity and of modern life. When Lucia arrived at the Bauhaus, she became, at Gropius’s invitation, the de facto Bauhaus photographer, albeit unpaid. The glass negatives would remain hers, however, presumably to do with as she wished. Read More