The New Yorker Stories by Ann Beattie

The New Yorker Stories by Ann Beattie
A review by Joseph Salvatore

My college writing teacher was a friend and a great fan of Ann Beattie. This was during the late 80s. In his fiction class, we read lots of Beattie (as well as Carver and Ford and Mason and Phillips). But mostly we read Ann Beattie. We read Distortions and Secrets and Surprises the same semester we read Raymond Carver’s Will You Please Be Quiet, Please and What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. Never stated, yet somehow understood by all of us, was the sense that Beattie’s style (and the style of all of those writers) was the true aesthetic idiom for rendering contemporary American life. We were unafraid to call that style minimalism-that term was then not a dirty word at all, but an efficient descriptor. It smacked of other synonyms that were gaining currency toward the end of that decade: stripped down, spare, clean, essential; there was even something of the nascent garage-band grunge to it-linguistic flannel shirts and jeans replacing the spandex and platform shoes of the glam-rock past.

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An Age of Terror and Forgetting

A Foreigner Carrying in the Crook of His Arm a Tiny Bomb by Amitava Kumar
Reviewed by Ranbir Sidhu

Among the many symptoms of living in an age of a perpetual war on terrorism is amnesia. There are times we forget when it began, and for those growing up in this age, I can only imagine that it has the shopworn quality of grim permanency that those of us who came of age in the Cold War once felt. That war had no beginning, not in our lifetimes at least, and it sure felt like it never would have an end, except the most ugly, in nuclear annihilation. The fears must be different today. Instead of global extinction, the destruction children probably fear is localized and personal. A terrorist bomb will blow up their world.

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The Pregnant Widow By Martin Amis

The Pregnant Widow
By Martin Amis
Reviewed by Robin Mookerjee

When Mr. Amis releases a new novel his many readers want to know if it is fun – as fun as works likeLondon Fields. Other commentators busily ascribe views to the author on the basis of fictional dialogue. No contemporary novelist is subject to as many personal attacks as Amis, whose reviewers seem to think it appropriate to size him up personally as if he were a newcomer to their Upper West Side (or Islington) circle. Generally, the verdict is that Amis thinks too well of himself. So, when were distinguished authors expected to be self-effacing? These complaints conceal resentment that an author, out of key with contemporary tastes, is conspicuously talented and shows it. If the “courageous” authors of novels with three-word titles ending in “wife” or “daughter” could write like Amis, they probably would.

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How to Water God’s Garden

The Year of the Flood and Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
Review by Alexios Moore

In her latest two novels, Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood, Atwood returns to speculative fiction, extrapolating upon current trends in everything from entertainment to ecology. In the now familiar “not-so-distant-future” Biotech Corporations have replaced governments, the border between wealthy and poor is vast and heavily guarded, and our relationship to Nature has been corrupted through bioengineering. The poor or pleebs live in work at SecretBurgers or sell their bodies, coated in fabricated scales, at Scales n Tails while the rich live on HelthWhyzer compounds guarded by the CorpSeCorps, developing drugs to extend their lives while mounting occasional forays into the pleeblands for a taste of radical chic.

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Mortal by Ivy Alvarez

Mortal by Ivy Alvarez
Reviewed by Stephen Page

Ivy Alvarez is obviously well read in Greek mythology. In order to know the Demeter and Persephone myth well, one must know many of the other Greek myths. In Mortal, Alvarez updates the Demeter and Persephone myth in a series of poems. A story unfolds between a contemporary daughter and her mother, who are named Dee and Seph. Alvarez refers to the myth numerous times in the poems, but she takes the liberty of revising the myth in many ways. One of those ways is to have Dee abducted by Hades. As Alvarez’s story progresses throughout the series of poems, Dee and Seph age, and a major theme of the collection links with the title of the book.

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Five Works Maintained by the Dia Art Foundation

Earth Room, The Broken Kilometer, untitled, 7000 Oaks, & Times Square  Five Works Maintained by the Dia Art Foundation  by Alexxa Gotthardt  Drawing: Max Neuhaus, Times Square, 1992, Colored pencil on paper. Sound Location: Pedestrian island, intersection of Broadway and Seventh Ave, between 45th & 46th Streets, New York City, Dia Art Foundation. In recent years, pop-up spaces and public installations have expanded and happily scattered notions of the traditional museum and gallery. Diversified, spontaneous art projects constellate with ivory tower, white-box monuments, a change recognized (with next to no affront) by countless journalists, critics, students, and bloggers. New York seems especially fervent in its newfangled blurts of tiny, smart exhibitions; big, gamey murals; and encompassing, site-specific installations. The fact that this expansion beyond the bounds of rote white spaces feels new, however, tempts a reassessment of our conception of the term “contemporary.” This proves especially true in a consideration of the storied, shape-shifting Dia Art Foundation, which recently announced plans to reestablish a presence in Chelsea. The announcement comes six years after Dia closed its Manhattan exhibition spaces, formerly bastions of unorthodox art world practice.

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Life, Death, and Much, Much More!

Life, Death, and Much, Much More! A Miami Getaway with The Bruce High Quality Foundation by Matthew Alie Ruin of Bruce High Quality Plaster, enamel paint, cigarette butts Photo by Nick Gaetano For some artists, death marks a transformation from celebrity to mythology. In the quote above, eccentric art duo Gilbert & George touch upon the familiar notion that-for the true genius- art is the source of immortality. Death can fall like a period at the end of a profound statement; it can enshrine a career in prophetic vision and cement the artist’s place in cultural history. And particularly for those already famous in life, viewing their work through the lens of death can add value to a piece like museum glass. Bruce High Quality, the late-great social sculptor from Jersey City who you’ve never heard of, got a head start on all this by dying before he did anything else. The Bruce High Quality Foundation, the official arbiter of the artist’s estate, is an anonymous collective of New York based artists known for their unique brand of criticism. Choosing to tackle major paradoxes at the heart of the contemporary art world (literally in the case of their ongoing performance Public Sculpture Tackle), they fight fire with fire. The sculptures, videos, and performances for which they are known frame an intimate knowledge of art history and the art market with intriguing contradiction and satisfyingly immature satire. Their star in the art world is rapidly rising as they look ahead towards their debut at the esteemed Whitney Biennial and P.S.1’s “Greater New York” exhibition. The long and fascinating relationship between the art market and art history is continually explored and exploited by the Bruces, as the members of the Foundation are known. Over the last century, the assessment of monetary versus cultural values in art has changed from an inseparable process to a virtually indistinguishable one. If I sell something you think is entirely worthless for millions, you certainly won’t have the luxury of ignoring it. Inversely, if a work gains cultural clout (sometimes via the death of the artist) it will in turn command greater capital weight. For example, some remark that dying was the best career move Jean-Michel Basquiat ever made; even in this time of economic strife, his legend continues to hold fast in the upper echelons of collections and sales. It is an ugly thought given his youth but still relevant. Well aware that “death is for losers” and “afterlife is for geniuses,” The Bruce High Quality Foundation turned this triedand- true relationship on its head by starting with the death of its founder and cultivating his mythology as a premise for new art. In a culture driven by celebrity, the anonymous collective thrusts Bruce High Quality forth to seize the cultural (and therefore financial) value art history reserves for its mythical figures. They say get busy living or get busy dying-but why not do both? ~ For three days at the beginning of each December, Art Basel Miami descends upon the sunny shores of Florida like a hurricane. In its sixth incarnation this year, the international art festival drew the richest of collectors, the sexiest of stars, and the baddest of the it-kids. An overwhelming quantity of art sprawled across the central trade show and the many satellite fairs that have sprung up over the years, satisfying every niche market. Amidst a sea of pulsing techno and beach hotels,…

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NY Art Book Fair: An Informal Survey

NY Art Book Fair: An Informal Survey by Alexios Moore Entering the PS One courtyard always makes me a feel a bit like a mouse entering a maze. The exterior walls are formidable, and there is a moment where you find yourself wondering “am I going the right way?” before you passing safely into the courtyard and climbing the stairs which is, in itself, a bit of a happening. It was clear from the group gathered on the stairs, sipping coffee and noshing on muffins, that the New York Art Book Fair brings in a crowd. Organized by Printed Matter, the fair brings in over two hundred international presses, booksellers, antiquarians, artists and publishers from twenty countries. The sheer volume of ephemera is overwhelming, and my criteria for pausing at a table long enough to actually read any of the material involved a constellation of factors: utility of display, eye contact, and a genuine interest in discussing the work. Banged and bespectacled art school interns did not fare well in this formula. I decided to work my way from the first floor to the third (I never made it that far). On my way down the hallway I passed one of the leftover installations from the Greater New York Show.Preserved Forest, by David Brooks, is a section of decaying rainforest set in concrete. It is a startlingly literal statement, but in the context of the fair, it also functioned as a reminder of both the living source of paper and its inevitable decay. We tend to think of books as fixed, sculptural objects, but the pages and the ideas within eventually end up as grist for the mill (you name the mill). The first space I entered featured an exhibit celebrating the tenth anniversary of PPP editions, a Fluxus inspired publisher of books that explore “the intersection of photography, book-as-art, and their shared history.” Proofs and original photographic prints lay in neat, glass display cases while their reproduced offspring were stacked in orderly columns, awaiting purchase at the far end of the gallery. I gave the cases a polite scan and moved to the back table where I picked up a copy of Killed: Rejected Images of the Farm Security Administration, 2010 by Wiliam E. Jones. As an object, the book is very compelling. The word killed, set in the pixilated font of an early dot-matrix printer, is set in the corner of a pleasingly textured, clothbound cover. The book reproduces a suite of images rejected or “killed” by the Director of the Farm Security Administration, including images by Walker Evans, Theodore Jung and Carl Mydans. Inexplicably, the images were marked for rejection by a random hole-punch. Baldessariancircles interrupt the chest of a smiling farm boy, and mar the wooden siding of a corn shed. Knowing that their placement was unintentional does little to mitigate their generative power. The hole in the wall is a portal. The boy’s chest marks an absence. I found myself less concerned with the FSA’s criteria for the images’ rejection than the relationship of the puncture to the images, which all seemed compelling enough to deserve archiving in the Library of Congress. Booksellers dominated the next space. Framed Warhol and Haring prints lured in potential customers, drawn in by the dazzling colors and comforting familiarity. I picked up a copy of a Great Bear Pamphlet from 1966: Injun and Other Histories: Two Scenarios for an Incomplete Pageant of America by Claes Oldenburg. Dick Higgins, a composer who studied with John…

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