Issue 2.4

On the Cover 2.4

Front Cover: Bayan Kiwan. Lesser Legible Love, 2023. Oil on canvas draped in tulle; 44 × 35.8 in. I grew up in many different places, so belonging was always fraught,” says Bayan Kiwan. She hands me a bottle of coconut water. A weak but hopeful December light pours through the grimy window of her Soho studio at Hunter College, where she is working on her MFA in studio art. (They will clean the windows tomorrow,

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Editor’s Letter 2.4

Dear Readers, This morning, as I traipsed the mile or so from my apartment in Greenwich Village to our new office on the Lower East Side, the Missing Persons song “Words” popped into my brain. It starts with “Do you hear me? / Do you care?” and the chorus is “What are words for / when no one listens anymore.” Not to project epistemological profundity on an early-eighties pop song, but “Words” is about the

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Poetry Comment 2.4

If you don’t know Alissa Quart’s poetry—and you definitely should—you may know her as the prose writer of Bootstrapped, Squeezed, and numerous other books about the economic struggles of ordinary Americans. (She’s also the executive director of the Economic Hardship Reporting Project, founded by Barbara Ehrenreich, which supports journalism about low-income people.) Her poems here are in a different vein, but have the toughness, humor, and barely suppressed rage that marks her prose. I love

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Against Language

Old Westbury Gardens, Smoggy Afternoon, by the author.  The biggest book I own is the Norton Shakespeare, Second Edition. It’s all the plays, annotated: 3,600 pages. Lately I’ve used it to prop up my computer, to enable a more flattering angle on Zoom calls. In the fall of 2020, I was meeting every week on Zoom with a class taught by the writer Anne Carson and her husband Robert Currie. Anne announced one week that

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The Thread: On ‘Judy Chicago: Herstory’ at The New Museum, New York, NY October 12, 2023–March 3, 2024

Judy Chicago, 2023. Photo by Donald Woodman. Here’s an origin story for you. Just as America was emerging from the Great Depression, a progressive Jewish couple from Chicago, Arthur and May Cohen, welcomed their first red diaper baby: Judy. Six years later, when Judy was home alone with her little brother, she heard a knock at the door and opened it to two FBI agents. When May arrived home, she found the men interrogating her

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Plastic Love: On Face Surgery

The Mrs. Doubtfire house in 2008. Ousterhout purchased the house in 1997. Photo by Jodie Wilson. In the 1993 trans polemic Mrs. Doubtfire, Daniel Hillard (played by Robin Williams) confesses to a family court judge why he pretended to be an older British governess unwittingly employed by his ex-wife. “I’m addicted to my children, sir. I love them with all my heart, and the idea of someone telling me I can’t be with them, I

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Sanora Babb

Sanora Babb. Photo by Don Ornitz; Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center. Courtesy of Joanne Dearcopp For the last several years, I’ve been working on a biography of the writer Sanora Babb (1907–2005), a rebel for any age and master of reportage who is today basically forgotten. Raised poor in eastern Colorado and the Panhandle of Oklahoma, Babb’s métier was humanistic portrayals of inhumanely treated workers. Babb reported on the dangerous conditions at the Hoover dam

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Let Me Tell You What She Means: The Rebranding of Joan Didion

We know how Joan Didion saw the world because she told us herself, quoting a psychiatrist’s report written during her 1968 breakdown: It is as though she feels deeply that all human effort is foredoomed to failure, a conviction which seems to push her further into a dependent, passive withdrawal. In her view[,] she lives in a world of people moved by strange, conflicted, poorly comprehended, and, above all, devious motivations . . . A

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From ‘Ten Bridges I’ve Burnt’

Alumni Sweater I graduated from UC Berkeley the summer of ’88 I am a crowning achievement of liberality I often wear my Berkeley sweater some thirty years after its relevance to me near as I can tell when the fabric clings to my perfect goddamn muscle daddy gym body to the rest of the world all my bullshit is rendered virtually scentless it’s a look that reads “I fuck white boys and voted for Biden”

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