Joan Didion in 2008 © David Shankbone | Wikimedia Commons
Arts & DesignReviewsSex & GenderThe Left

Not Fade Away: Joan Didion’s Hollywood Life

A review of the new biography

Who is Joan Didion anyway? In The Last Love Song: A Biography of Joan Didion, Tracy Daugherty decided to find the writer in her most public work. “Does the life reveal the art, the art the life?” he asks in the prologue (xxiii). If you find fault with The Last Love Song it will be in this decision — not in Daugherty’s entertaining style, which often reads like the New Journalism that Didion helped to establish; nor in his …

From cover of Timothy Barney's Mapping the Cold War, 2015 © University of North Carolina Press⎜Courtesy of the author

Magic Geography of the Cold War

In 1941, during World War II, German émigré sociologist Hans Speier wrote an essay in Social Research titled, “Magic Geography.” In this essay, he argues, “Maps are not confined to the representation of a given state of affairs. They can be drawn to symbolize changes, or as blueprints of the future. They may make certain traits …

Y-12 Shift Change, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, 1945 ©  Ed Westcott, US Army, American Museum of Science and Energy⎜Public Domain via Commons

A Grandchild of the Bomb

As Lindsey Freeman reminds us in Longing for the Bomb, Margaret Mead once worried in the 1960s about the still-youthful Oak Ridge, Tennessee (“The Atomic City”), becoming a “city without grandmothers” (p. 175), or a place where there are no guardians of the memory of Oak Ridge culture. Fittingly enough, though, Freeman’s grandmother becomes an important punctuation point in the book, …

Pill. Day 122. © Ana C. | Flickr
ReviewsThe Psyche

On Psychiatric Meds and Forgetting the Person

In Shrinks: The Untold Story of Psychiatry, Jeffrey A. Lieberman, Lawrence C. Kolb Professor and chair of psychiatry at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and former president of the American Psychiatric Association, states that “psychiatry’s dramatic transformation from a profession of shrinks to a profession of pill-pushers came through sheer …

Young girls adjusting their makeup, 1958 © Eve Arnold | Magnum
RaceRace/ismsReviewsSex & Gender

Margo Jefferson’s Coming of Age in Negroland

One of my fondest memories from the New School for Social Research Liberal Studies MA program comes from a course titled “Representations of Race and Gender in American Culture.” It was the day, about halfway through the semester, when co-teachers Elizabeth Kendall (author of feminist studies of early modern dance and 1930s screwball …

Fabric smeared with mud from murder sites in Northern Mexico, from "What Else Could We Talk About?" by Teresa Margolles,  Venice Biennale 2009 © the weed one | Flickr
Arts & DesignMedia & PublicsReviews

Art, Homicide, and the Anonymous Dead in Latin America

On the Teresa Margolles exhibit at the Neuberger Museum of Art in Purchase, NY

From July through October, the Nueberger Museum of Art featured these pieces, conceived by Mexican artist Teresa Margolles and executed by six groups of curators and embroiderers. Entitled “We Have a Common Thread,” these fabrics present a complex statement about violence in the Americas. Latin America is the region of the world with the highest murder …

Entrance to the Canadian pavilion, Canadassimo, at 56th Venice Biennale 2015  Jean-Pierre Dalbéra  Flickr Creative Commons
Arts & DesignCapitalismEventsReviews

The Spectacle of Art’s Reproduction

On the Venice Biennale 2015

When entering the bookstore of the 56th Venice Biennale of Art, you may think that having Marx’s Capital, Benjamin’s Theses on the Philosophy of History, and the official catalog of the Milan Expo 2015 displayed next to each other is just a fortuitous — and not particularly happy — coincidence. Expo 2015 cost 14 billion euros, utilized thousands of people who worked for free or low wages and in precarious conditions, caused major environmental damage …

Od Nowa Club © Grzegorznadolski | Flickr

Stanislaw Baranczak: A Widening Horizon

A tribute

Barańczak is no longer with us. In a while no one will give credence any more to the existence of this Atlantis, this man who transcended boundaries imposed by human force and a system of power. Just like the sunken platonic continent on which there existed or did not exist a civilization more excellent than ours, his work enters the depths of our cultural memory and calls for us to practice u-topia — which is how Paul Celan wrote the word …

Guantanamo detainee © Joint Task Force Guantanamo | Flickr
Arts & DesignReviews

The Guantánamo Saga in Laurie Anderson’s “Habeas Corpus”

A review and reflection

On a brilliantly sunny, fall afternoon, a dozen members of Witness Against Torture — a grassroots group long dedicated to closing the prison camp at Guantánamo — broke from our marathon strategy meeting to see the GTMO-themed installation of the renowned performance artist Laurie Anderson. Titled “Habeas Corpus,” the groundbreaking exhibit was up …

Traders, Act I, The Bonfire of the Vanities 2015 ©  Stefania de Kenessey
Arts & DesignReviews

Is Opera Back?

Two years ago, I thought opera was dead and, being a great lover of it, I invited you to celebrate with me a nostalgic funeral eulogy for the beautiful daughter of the Italian Renaissance. Saturday night, for the first time since I wrote that piece, I had the impression it has been resurrected.

The Bonfire of the Vanities, with music by Stefania de Kenessey and libretto by Michael Bergmann, premiered on 9-10 October at El Teatro at El Museo …