Ryan's Staff Picks

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Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Social Upheaval Cover Image
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ISBN: 9780393285673
Availability: Out of Print
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)
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ISBN: 9781937658656
Availability: Backordered
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
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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Selected Poems Cover Image
ISBN: 9780060882969
Availability: Usually Arrives to Store in 1-5 Days
Published: Harper Perennial Modern Classics - July 3rd, 2006

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Vile Days: The Village Voice Art Columns, 1985-1988 (Semiotext(e) / Active Agents) Cover Image
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.