Love and Sex

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.

Emptiness

Emptiness

Narcissists are imitators par excellence. And they do not copy the small, boring parts of selves.

The narcissist is, according to the internet, empty. Normal, healthy people are full of self, a kind of substance like a soul or personhood that, if you have it, emanates warmly from inside of you toward the outside of you. No one knows what it is, but everyone agrees that narcissists do not have it. Disturbingly, however, they are often better than anyone else at seeming to have it. Because what they have inside is empty space, they have had to make a study of the selves of others in order to invent something that looks and sounds like one. Narcissists are imitators par excellence. And they do not copy the small, boring parts of selves. They take what they think are the biggest, most impressive parts of other selves, and devise a hologram of self that seems superpowered.

Kiddie Porn

Kiddie Porn

In the sexual counterrevolution, Ginsberg was the antiporn Gettysburg — the battle that turned the tide.

Once in a while, my parents allow some critically authorized highbrow “erotic” periodical like Eros or Evergreen to breach our doorway. But they draw the line at Playboy, in spite of its long, left-leaning pieces by and about important men like Vladimir Nabokov and James Baldwin. Mom and Dad aren’t prudes, they’re snobs. They consider comics, Mad magazine—even mysteries—degraded forms of literature. What would they think of Man to Man? I don’t have to ask.

Straight to Hell

Straight to Hell

On Boyd McDonald

The zine had a recurring string of subtitles — including “The Manhattan Review of Unnatural Acts” and “The New York Review of Cocksucking” — and taglines like “The Paper That Made New York Famous” and “Always coarse, never common.” Each contributor letter had a tabloid-style headline: “10 Hawaiian Dongs Unload on Tourist,” “Adultery in the Men’s Room,” “Mechanic’s Asshole Is Clean; Has Fragrance of Gasoline.” Sardonic commentary on the straight world and straight press was scattered throughout; McDonald liked to run errors he found in the New York Times, which he considered his main competitor.