Positive4ColumnsBloemink brings her account to life using a wealth of archival material from Stettheimer’s world ... Bloemink’s detailed account of the artist’s creation of the costumes and stage set [on the opera Four Saints in Three Acts]...and her exacting, or obsessive, supervision of the production, gives perhaps the clearest view of Stettheimer’s vision and temperament. The behind-the-scenes blow-by-blow of the Gesamtkunstwerk’s evolution is also a window onto the class- and culture-bound, hit-or-miss radicalism of the period’s white avant-garde, in which a combination of wildly racist notions and forward-thinking experiments produced almost inexplicable endeavors, with very mixed results ... That said, through a sensitive chronology of Stettheimer’s life and enthralling, illuminating formal and symbolic decryptions of her paintings, Bloemink recasts Stettheimer’s perceived peculiarities as a fully formed, if cagey, kind of politics, and her work’s content as more explicitly progressive than I—and maybe other Stettheimer fans—had previously understood. The discussion of three paintings dealing with racism does not unearth new information, but their triangulation generates nuance ... Reading Bloemink’s expert interpretations, paintings familiar to me—like the 1915 nude self-portrait that adorns the book’s jacket, or Stettheimer’s winking updates to the fête-galante genre—take on fresh, or more pointed, significance.
RaveBookforum... while devoid of encouragement or advice or a style that anyone could imitate, its thirty-three pieces...still impart a strange sense of possibility. They tantalize, in a bleak way, with the suggestion that invention might arise from inertia and depression as much as, or more than, from creativity (whatever that is) or hope ... This volume, which is so impressive for its odd turns and bright torpor, reminds me that walking is actually just falling forward ... Diski dispenses with conventional structures for her reviews, favoring digression above almost all else. A book could be no more than a starting point for her text ... Diski’s prose is quick-witted but not fast-paced. She was less about the bon mot than a cumulative, unfolding, ironic wit—a self-aware, sage pessimism detailed in cool, very long paragraphs. Blocks of unbroken text span pages, each for its own reason, but all contributing to an appealing air of tenacity and excess ... The protoplasmic, chattering, melancholic \'I\' of these essays is, of course, the collection’s constant, its true subject. I can commiserate with her on every page even if emulation is out of reach.
Andrea Long Chu
RaveBookforumFrom the madness [Chu] wrests a lucid meditation on desire as the force shaping our identities, the paradoxes of liberation politics, and her own gender transition ... Chu doesn’t fall in line with Solanas, but she keeps her close, catching sparks off her until the very last page ... leverages the rhetorical triumphs of SCUM—its inflammatory absurdism, its aphoristic deadpan—and it makes related, similarly seductive, similarly doomed, sweeping claims. But here, the failure is staged. Chu’s aim isn’t to build an airtight case. She lets her argument’s smoldering structure flare and fade slowly in a series of profound personal reveals. First-person writing would have been anathema to Solanas’s imperious voice; Chu uses Solanasian bluster as something of a Trojan horse for memoir. But her outrageous central thesis—everyone is female, and everyone hates it—even if it’s not built to last, demands attention as more than a gambit ... If you haven’t already guessed, Chu’s object of desire, at least for the purposes of Females, is none other than Solanas herself. As a conceit it works beautifully—it’s a fascinating, if somewhat terrifying, experiment to imagine what Solanas would want, and it’s riveting to read about Chu trying to become whatever that might be. Her writing is, in its most insistent and unguarded moments, suffused with authentic unresolved longing. Her desire is not only a conceit ... Chu is refreshing for her daring appreciation of what movements and thinkers get right, just before they make their fateful wrong turn ... in advancing a theory of gender that posits the force of intractable, confusing, undesired desire as its source, represents it as a painful, messy business. There is plenty here you won’t like, and a lot you won’t want. But that’s the point. Nobody wants to be female. Sorry.
Positive4Columns... a hybrid marvel—a spy thriller and a fictive memoir about survival, complicity, self-delusion, and sabotage in a time kind of like a stylized now ... Atwood herself seems eager to push past the political shorthand of the iconic costume, as well as Offred’s constrained perspective.
Positive4ColumnsLaing writes, in a tongue-in-cheek description, but elsewhere she portrays Kathy’s trawling solemnly ... When Kathy returns to England, Laing falls into a more convincing rhythm, handling the hairpin turns of her character’s consciousness and incorporating her stolen lines with new ease ... This high-strung book, which reads in turn like a roman à clef, a memoir, and a work of historical fiction set in the almost-present, turns, a little unexpectedly, into a love letter at the end. Somehow Laing pulls off this resolution, avoiding excessive corniness and maintaining the work’s rough texture of sutured quotations, even as she enters a lyrical free fall of earnest emotion ... Laing’s book is truly exciting and, crucially, right on time.