比利苏利文的某o, a fifth-floor walk-up on the Bowery, has a comfortable, elegant dishevelment. Hanging all around the space are some of the brightly colored figurative drawings and paintings he has been making since the seventies: portraits of his friends, lovers, and other long-term muses, rendered in loose, dynamic brushstrokes and from close, pointedly subjective angles. A still life of a bouquet and two coffee cups is an outlier among the faces. Near a work in progress on the wall is a table with a color-coded array of pastels, each wrapped in its paper label (mostly the artisan Diane Townsend, with a few older sticks from the French brand Sennelier); a metal cart bears tubes of oil paint, and carousels of slides are tucked away on low shelves. Tacked up on a set of folding screens is a display of Sullivan’s photographs and sketches, and next to that is a burgundy chaise longue adorned with a faux animal pelt. When I visited on an overcast afternoon in December, Sullivan had set out a bowl with grapes and a fig on the kitchen island, where he pulled an espresso for himself and poured a glass of water for me.
I’m into having sex, I ain’t into making love
So come give me a hug if you’re into getting rubbed.
50 Cent, “In Da Club” (2003)
Is there any couplet in the English language that so concisely spans the dizzying sweep of poetic possibility, the subtle gradations of sense illuminated in a few short words and the abyss of nonsense toward which we are ever drawn by carelessness and entropy? You don’t have to answer that. The answer is “yes, many.” I was making a point.
You’ve probably heard the stately bounce of “In Da Club,” at least ambiently. It was 50 Cent’s mainstream breakout single, and he mostly spends it surveying the fixtures of his nightlife: drinks and drugs, cars and jewelry, prospective lovers and pissy haters. If we’re meant to take anything away from the song, though, it’s that 50 is twenty-five percent hedonist and seventy-five percent hustler. So he puts the song to work for him, makes it tell us what he’s about, what he’s been through, who his friends are, how he moves through the world. After fifteen years of career ups and downs, flops and feuds, fluctuating wealth and implausibly diverse investments, it remains an indelible sketch of 50 at his fiftiest.Read More
Rose Wylie, whose watercolorTwo Red Cherriesappears on the cover of theReview’s Winter issue, lives in a cottage in Kent, England, that smells of firewood. A treacherous, narrow staircase leads up to a small studio. (“Hold the rail!” Wylie warned me.) Her large, funny, vibrant figurative paintings—made on unprimed, unstretched canvas—cover the walls and floor. When I visited on a recent Saturday afternoon, as Storm Arwen brewed outside, she told me she had spent the first years of her life in India, where her father worked as an engineer. The family moved back to England during the Second World War. Wylie studied at an art school in Kent and then a teacher-training program at Goldsmiths where, at nineteen, she met her husband, the painter Roy Oxlade. She put her own professional ambitions aside to raise their children, channeling her artistic energies, she said, into “soups, jam, clothes, curtains, and Christmas cards.” In her forties, she completed a degree at the Royal College of Art, and worked in relative obscurity until eventually, in her late seventies, her career started to take off, with solo exhibitions at Tate Britain and elsewhere. We talked at her kitchen table, drinking Lapsang tea. The mince pies I’d brought from London had crumbled on the journey, which seemed to delight her.Read More
我来大村,新斯科舍省,参观Elizabeth Bishop’s childhood home and the landscape shown in her great-uncle George Wylie Hutchinson’s untitled, undated little painting on Masonite. This painting is the subject of Bishop’s radiant poem titled, humbly, “Poem,” which appeared inThe New Yorkeron November 11, 1972. Waking early, I hear chirping northern birds I do not recognize. The elms were long ago dismantled and replaced by sugar maples whose dense crowns offer ample shade. The church bell is silent. The pump organ gathers dust. I see no geese or cows in the village. I picture Bishop’s maternal grandparents, the Bulmers (thelis silent; it’s sometimes spelled Boomer), lying one hundred years ago in the front bedroom under the sloping walls where I sleep now. There are noNational Geographics on the shelves. No sewing machine chatters in the kitchen. No odor of coal gas lingers in the much-too-steep stairwell. No caged canary tweets out of loneliness. It is August and delicious blueberries are in season. Local fields are full of ripe corn, the rows of tall stalks running down to the edge of the reddish-brown Cobequid Bay, “home of the long tides / where the bay leaves the sea / twice a day,” long and deep. As I search for sugar in the pantry, cars whiz past the front of the house. Surely Miss Bishop liked sugar in her coffee.Read More
A few years ago, I attended an academic conference where a prominent scholar of Latin American literature announced that he hatedThe Savage Detectives, a novel he considered overwritten and overrated. The statement provoked enthusiastic hooting from the back of the room, as if in glee at a taboo being broken. At the coffee break, I approached the critic and confessed I was a fan of the novel. Bolaño is a one-trick pony, he replied, and his trick is to parody and empty out the genres of Latin American literature—the dictator novel, thenovela negra,这部小说的证词,等等。这个技巧或ganized his writing at the level of the sentence, the chapter, and the novel. I said this sounded like an interesting trick, at least; he conceded that it was true Bolaño was a master at this exercise—but once you saw the trick there was nothing else, and hispanophone writers were no longer interested in his work. He claimed, happily, that the Latin American sales of Bolaño’s books were down. I asked him why he thought U.S. readers, who mostly lacked familiarity with these Latin American literary traditions, had embraced Bolaño. This, he told me, was the result of a clever marketing campaign: Bolaño’s big books had been released alongside new editions of Kerouac, and American readers were encouraged to understand the Chilean writer as a Southern Cone Beat. I expressed skepticism: Did anyone remember that marketing campaign? Was Kerouac selling well? My interlocutor was losing patience. Critics love Bolaño, he said, because they can pour whatever theory they please into his work. He told me Bolaño’s work was an excuse for American readers not to read any other Latin American literature. When you readThe Savage Detectivesyou’re not enjoying yourself, he said, as much as you think you are.Read More
What is our relationship to history? Do we belong to it, or is it ours? Are we in it? Does it run through us, spilling out like water, or blood?
I think the answers to those questions, at least in America, depend upon who you are—or rather, on who you’ve been taught to believe that you are. If the history you descend from has been mapped, adapted, mythologized, reenacted, and broadcast as though it is the central defining story of a continent, perhaps you can be forgiven (up to a point) for having succumbed to a collective distortion.
But what if yours is a history the wider world once recorded not as lives and feats but as articles of inventory? Men, women, children listed according to their age and value as property? What if the largeness of those lives—what they endured, yes, but also what they carried, remembered, witnessed, and made—has been hushed up, negated, overwritten, or outright erased? What if the recovery of your full story sheds stark light on the lie of that other, louder story?Read More