As the editors of Art Practical and Daily Serving get ready to take their end-of-summer vacations, we find ourselves swapping reading lists—the articles we’ll dive into once have some uninterrupted time to catch up on what our colleagues have been writing. We’ve gotten so excited about what’s on our lists that we want to share them with our readers. Between now and Labor Day, Daily Serving will feature the efforts of our fellow chroniclers of art and culture as part of our Summer Reading series. Today we are pleased to bring you an excerpt of Lesley Moon’s review of Wayne Koestenbaum’s book My 1980s and Other Essays. This article was originally published in The Art Book Review on June 17, 2014, and we thank the editors for making this series possible. Enjoy!
I can look at a clock and only see the time; maybe I do not even see that, but only notice the shapes on the dial; or I see nothing. On the other hand, I may be seeing clocks potentially, and then I allow myself to hallucinate a clock, doing so because I have evidence that an actual clock is there to be seen, so when I perceive the actual clock I have already been through a complex process that originated in me. So when I see the clock I create it, and when I see the time I create time too…
—Donald Winnicott, Home Is Where We Start From
My 1980s contains 39 essays in its 315 pages. I found the book on my dining-room table sometime last autumn. It wasn’t intended for me, but Warhol’s Polaroid of Debbie Harry’s over-the-shoulder blue eyes called from the cover. I took it and have been reading it since then, having finished two weeks ago. After jamming through the varied and brilliant table of contents, I cracked its pages somewhere in the middle to read “Warhol’s Interviews.” Concerning Warhol and others, Wayne Koestenbaum praises many modes of diectic disfigurement—masks, hirsute disguises (and men, elaborated in his essay on Cary Grant), underdoing it, grids, thick paint, abstraction and other dynamics of resistance that can morph depending on their context. At the same time, he writes from a deliberate first-person position (positioned-to first person).
Koestenbaum recounts his inner experience with tenacious specificity, recording far more than most can hope to have the attention to realize. Miraculously there is a pleasant drift to his reflective ambulation: no pressure. Everyone is granted volition. His analysis comprehends the language of the body—registering gestures and gaits with absorptive rhythm. It is easy to see his connection to Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, to whom he dedicates the essay “A Manual Approach to Mourning.” As readers we are constantly buoyed by self-deprecation, opera, porn and poetry, much pleasure. Tedium is oblated by an advocacy for affinity, and his chatty sensibility. Somehow Koestenbaum’s convincing declarativeness still has me relaxed.