Love and Sex

Maybe Nothing Had Happened

Maybe Nothing Had Happened

What did feet feel toward hands, their pretentious, elegant cousins?

Like many people my age, like Molly, I’d been deeply in love with this man, and had spent hours hurling myself spastically around the house to his songs, and I’d continued to be a partisan of his music and, what, brand, until the music got so boring that it wasn’t worth the energy anymore. Whatever bad shit he was into, I probably would have stayed loyal if there’d been worthwhile product. The sadness I felt watching the movie had something to do with a person’s art betraying them, of watching a man who has grown bored with the possibilities of his craft attempting to find, somewhere in his past, something worth preserving, and finding nothing.

Nights of Rage

Nights of Rage

1970 is an inauspicious year for a young heterosexual feminist to launch an ambitious career of promiscuity.

The sexual revolution is cresting. Men have been riding it like the perfect wave, with women newly eager yet still reliably abject. Now, however, the women’s movement is riling that perfect wave with confounding currents: both extolling the vast potential of female sexuality (multiple orgasms!) and demanding that men fulfill it, now. To many men feminism is a betrayal, a threat, or a joke; to others it is a challenge. They are excited and wary, aggressive and cowed, all at once.

A Pile of Kleenex

A Pile of Kleenex

"You know, everything that we’ve been doing together actually is the plot of ‘Goodbye, Columbus.’ "

But it turns out that I love those books. They have that same quality of being unrepentant. And the idea that you can write a novel that very clearly, unabashedly, unrepentantly has autobiographical elements, a novel that says, “What, fuck you, who even cares? This is what a novel is, and you can like it or you can get off the bus”—I appreciated that.

Money, Power, Gay Shenanigans

Money, Power, Gay Shenanigans

On Alan Hollinghurst

At this point, you might be wondering what the plot of this book is, and that’s a fair question. “My old friend the novelist Lawrence Norfolk used to say, ‘You write marvelous descriptions, but why do you have these terrible plots?’” Hollinghurst noted in The Paris Review, in 2011. “I like evoking atmospheres and analyzing relationships and feelings, but plot I feel faintly embarrassed by.” If I try to explain the wider plot of The Sparsholt Affair, and the half-tangled lives of a cast of supporting characters who flit in and about without too much consequence, it all begins to fall apart. In the fourth section, as the book begins—very slowly—to wind down, Johnny is living a relatively untroubled life in London as a moderately successful portrait painter. He’s a vegetarian. He fathers a child with a lesbian couple. He has a long-term partner called Pat, of whom we only really glimpse his “broad back and hairy thighs and long fat member, retiring now after a hard half-hour’s work,” and who later dies, of cancer, essentially in a footnote.

That Longing for a Holy Completeness

That Longing for a Holy Completeness

You didn’t make a choice to go in that direction. Life—nature—pulled your strings.

Last night, I had a really intense dream telling me that my (future) baby had begun his descent to the earth: I saw that it had been given a soul or had chosen a soul and was still very high up and far away, and that this process had begun seven months ago—I mean that seven months ago it had connected to my heart, as if a baby is born first, far in advance, in the mother’s heart. The vision was about to end when I desperately rushed to whatever oracle was making it clear, and asked if it was not too late to choose the path along which having this baby was possible. I was reassured that it was not.

Two Stops

You identify as hairless?

I still wanted to know that the articles were being published, and in large quantities, but reading stories of abuse and humiliation, like the big Bill Cosby exposé from a few years back, was as stupefying as a hangover. I didn’t feel empowered; I only felt more hopeless. I wanted to watch the patriarchy go up in flames, but I wasn’t excited about what was being pitched to replace it. If we got all of it out in the open, what would we have left? My fear was that guilt would destroy the classics and there’d be no one left to fuck. All movies would be as low-budget and puritanical as the stuff they play on Lifetime, all of New York would look like a Target ad, every book or article would be a cathartic tell-all, and I’d be sexually frustrated but too ashamed to hook up with assholes, or even to watch porn.

Simple, Open Pleasure in a New Landscape

Simple, Open Pleasure in a New Landscape

The philosophy of David Hockney

In the central gallery housing Hockney’s drawings is a crayon portrait from 1974 of Andy Warhol, looking frail and a little lonely on a stuffed green chair in Paris. A comparison between the two artists, who were friends, is instructive. The parallels are clear: both gay, blond icons of Pop art, both protégés of Henry Geldzahler, both sons of working class parents, both prolific and witty writers. But here the similarities end, and the two artists begin to seem like inversions of each other. After the initial erotic frenzy of his work from the 1960s, the sexuality in Hockney’s art largely retreated behind discreet visual conventions; sex in Warhol was comparatively hardcore, particularly in his films. Likewise, the theme of death is explicit in Warhol and circumspect in Hockney. Warhol’s narrative voice is arch and elusive, willfully blank; Hockney’s direct and incisive, and at times, almost doggedly earnest. But the most striking zone of commonality and difference has to do with the way the two artists treated the issue of mechanical reproduction.

Refusal of History

Refusal of History

The evasions of Call Me by Your Name

The film’s refusal of history may itself be a response to Italy’s legacy of adult male/adolescent boy-themed cinema. Visconti’s 1971 Death in Venice dramatizes Thomas Mann’s 1911 novella about the infatuation of an aging professor (in the movie he is a composer) with a beautiful aristocratic boy as a cinematic tone-poem to an entire decadent bourgeois class cut off from vitality and passion. In Teorema, Pasolini’s 1968 spiritual and political fable, a ravishing Terence Stamp sleeps with everyone in the repressed haute-bourgeois family that welcomes him, man and woman, overseer and servant, with liberating and destructive results. Guadagnino can’t be innocent of these precursors, but he seems determined to vaporize them.

Estación Origen MADRID

Estación Origen MADRID

“I’m really up for anything,” she said.

The night romance of the city made little differences sparkle. I kept encountering things I didn’t quite know how to see: suet studded with cloves? A row of shuttered windows painted crimson. A toy store lit only with candles, crowded with grown-ups moving and talking among dolls and dinosaurs, stickers and blocks, potholder looms and simplified puzzle maps. I thought I saw reflected water flickering: the bay so close you hear it slap the boat ramp. For a moment I stood near dripping stacks of traps, an overlooked crab still struggling in one.

Famoustown

Famoustown

They would have never guessed that I was nothing like them, nothing at all, going not to my job but to my loft, about to sign a new lease on life.

The billboards began advertising the city long before I was even close to it. In fact, I’d barely left the Blandon City Limits when I saw the following question floating in my periphery: WHAT DOES FAMOUSTOWN MEAN TO YOU? Famoustown meant quite a lot to me, actually. Even though I’d never been there, it was a place I had been hearing about all my life. Big events were always taking place in Famoustown; it was a place that other places looked to for information on the current trends. It was also a place where famous people lived, and this had always given me pause. While I liked famous people just as much as the next person, I never wanted to be famous myself. After all, it didn’t take much to see what fame did to people, how it puffed up their pride, and let them speak every word with certainty; and how, over time, it seemed to make them resemble not the pleasant, ordinary people they surely were before fame found them, but rather mentally ill ghouls. And that wasn’t going to be my route, I knew.

A Thin Place

A Thin Place

Truth is you were ransacked and you will never cease to know that.

You drift gingerly out of the clinic. The air flaps and you quiver. You linger a minute at the squat wall between the carpark and the pavement—over there is the old St. Columba’s graveyard, where you always meant to go. This town was a “thin place” that pilgrims came to, in the belief that here the margin is finest between heaven and earth. You can’t fathom that. Heaven’s only a sweet con to mollify and defer you, an excuse for why some days here get so painful. No reason, no good reason. Would it be better or worse if you had reason to feel this joyless? Nothing matters and you’re meant to keep on going on.