Ryan's Staff Picks

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Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Social Upheaval Cover Image
$28.95
ISBN: 9780393285673
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: W. W. Norton & Company - February 19th, 2019

Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments is that rare kind of book that at once troubles multiple paradigms for thinking about history while fashioning several possible new ones. A gorgeously written work of sociology in the tradition of Du Bois, Wayward Lives explores the revolution of intimate life among young black women in Philadelphia and New York at the beginning of the twentieth century. In her thick, narrative descriptions of the new forms of queer black kinship and sociality practiced by sex workers, maids, “delinquents” and the unemployed – the title’s “wayward” women – Hartman offers, as she puts it, “a very unexpected history of the twentieth century” and makes the case for “the wild idea… that young black women were radical thinkers who tirelessly imagined other ways to live and never failed to consider how the world might be otherwise.”


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Writers Who Love Too Much: New Narrative Writing 1977-1997 Cover Image
By Kevin Killian (Editor), Dodie Bellamy (Editor)
$24.95
ISBN: 9781937658656
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Nightboat Books - July 3rd, 2017

For a long time, New Narrative was the closely-kept secret of writers – mainly, though not exclusively, poets – who were, like me, obsessed with the work of unsung literary vanguards and their various answers over the centuries to the insoluble question of just what the hell art and life have to do with one another. More a loose, amiable gathering of like-minded, predominantly west coast, and predominantly queer and left-wing “writers’ writers” than a school or movement, New Narrative emerged in the 70s informal workshops of the Bay Area as a speculative articulation of recent formal innovations in poetics – gambits like processual writing, techniques of abstraction, and an increasingly scholastic preoccupation with questions of meaning raised by philosophy’s “linguistic turn” – with more vernacular storytelling practices issuing from historically marginalized subjectivities. As Robert Glück writes, “We were thinking about autobiography; by autobiography we meant daydreams, nightdreams, the act of writing, the relationship to the reader, the meeting of flesh and culture, the self as collaboration, the self as disintegration, the gaps, inconsistences and distortions, the enjambments of power, family, history and language.” This landmark anthology, edited by Kevin Killian and Dodie Bellamy (both early fellow travelers of New Narrative) collects many of the marvelously various literary artifacts that thinking gave rise to in one volume for the first time. I’m glad this vital body of work's finally becoming less of a secret.      


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The Collected Schizophrenias: Essays Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9781555978273
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Graywolf Press - February 5th, 2019

A bracing, fiercely intelligent book about living with a heavily stigmatized and widely misunderstood chronic mental illness. Wang’s essays braid together accounts of the difficult itinerary she traversed before her diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder and her subsequent treatment with a keenly observed history of the medical, legal, and pop cultural meanings attached to her condition. This book is unflinching, unapologetic, and inspiring.


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K-punk: The Collected and Unpublished Writings of Mark Fisher Cover Image
By Mark Fisher, Darren Ambrose (Editor), Simon Reynolds (Foreword by)
$29.95
ISBN: 9781912248285
Availability: Usually Arrives to Store in 1-5 Days
Published: Repeater - November 13th, 2018

I grew up reading Mark Fisher, though I didn’t know at the time that I was, in fact, reading Mark Fisher: I was reading ­k-punk, the blog Fisher, a British writer and cultural theorist, maintained during the glory days of web 2.0 – which were awful, of course, but the blogs were never better! – and well beyond the supersession of the blog post as the modal unit of “the discourse” by the hegemony of the status and the tweet, etc., all the way until his untimely death just two years ago, which left many who, like me, had gotten used to navigating the present by the bright if often unflattering light of his thought, feeling totally bereft. At least now there’s this book, which collects the best of Fisher’s writing on k-punk over the years, as well as an excerpt from his unfinished final manuscript, Acid Communism. Fisher was as omnivorous a writer as he was a reader: the pieces republished here range across time and space and vary widely in their length and tenor, though there is a continuity of preoccupation across them with divining the "political unconscious" of popular culture. An extremely partial list of topics Fisher took up over the years would include Spinoza, gothic horror, prestige TV and genre movies, post-punk and grime, leftist infighting, and, most of all, what he termed "capitalist realism," or the pervasive (and, to his mind, profoundy grim) notion that capitalism is now and will forever remain the only horizon of possibility for organizing our species's relationship to itself and the earth. I'm particularly fond of his writing on depression, which he believed was as much an effect of social pathologies as an individual affliction. I think one mark of a great writer is the production of a readership that even enjoys disagreeing with them, as I and many others often did with Fisher. This book is a great tribute to a thinker I continue to miss.    


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Vile Days: The Village Voice Art Columns, 1985-1988 (Semiotext(e) / Active Agents) Cover Image
$29.95
ISBN: 9781635900378
Availability: Usually Arrives to Store in 1-5 Days
Published: Semiotext(e) - November 13th, 2018

This book is so rude and so fun, which is amazing considering the decade it fastidiously chronicles, the eighties – the height of multiple, epochal crises (AIDS, housing, hyper-incarceration), when sociopathy was, as it remains, basically official policy at all levels of government – was, um, pretty vile. And so was a lot of the art! At least if you ask Gary Indiana. For three years, Indiana vivisected the New York art world and the surrounding cultural and political economy in which it’s embedded in a series of weekly notices for the Village Voice where, to judge by what’s between the covers of this book, he had carte blanche to be as cutting and relentless as he pleased with his critiques. Reading him is a bit like imagining what Baudelaire might say if you put him in front of one of Jeff Koons’s $58 million stainless steel balloon dogs. (Also if he were gay.) He takes a critical scalpel to the 80s vogue for neo-expressionism and the long hangovers of pop and conceptual art, as well as occasional goings-on beyond the white cube like the New York Flower Show and sumo wrestling (a bit like Roland Barthes did earlier in his Mythologies). He’s clearly well-versed in art theory- and history-speak but eschews their often turgid prose for his own highly mannered, more demotic sort of patter. And he isn’t all bristles: when he loves a work of art, he torques his lines  into luminous, laser-precise elucidations of the specificity of each encounter. This book is brimming with hilarious sentences and so many compelling ideas per page it’s kind of absurd – I mean, that one person could write with such wit and rigor about something as vast and mercurial and maddening as contemporary art every week for three years. I’m ashamed of myself by proxy. Thanks, Gary.