novels

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I haven’t had a chance to preview the Lush Life LES group show yet. Curated by Omar Lopez-Chahoud and Franklin Evans (no relation to the Walt Whitman temperance novel), the show opens officially on Thursday evening at nine different LES galleries. As the name implies it takes its inspiration from Richard Price’s 2008 novel, which I’ve read twice and think quite highly of. It’s the sort of book that remaps your experience of place: it’s hard not to encounter the novel’s LES landmarks, some of them renamed or slightly repositioned, without thinking about the book and its characters. I’ve never seen the bridges from the top of the Al Smith homes, for instance, but whenever I’m walking St. James Place I can’t help but think about Price’s Clara Lemlich Houses, closely based on the Smith towers, and it’s easier to imagine someone else’s views — which is precisely what the book aims to have you do.

I have been following Kianga Ellis’s tweets on the show @LushLifeLES and encourage Twitterers to give her a follow. (Facebook here.) I plan to hit the show’s nine chapters over the coming week — maybe even during the epic opening, if I can manage it — and promise to report back.

In the meantime, from the “About” page of the show’s website, a little more detail and a whole lot of links:

LUSH LIFE is an exhibition curated by Franklin Evans and Omar Lopez-Chahoud which takes place at nine Lower East Side (LES) galleries:

Collette Blanchard Gallery, Eleven Rivington, Invisible-Exports, Lehmann Maupin, On Stellar Rays, Salon 94, ScaramoucheSue Scott Gallery, and Y Gallery.

LUSH LIFE adopts Richard Price’s 2008 novel to title and organize the exhibition.  The novel is set in the contemporary LES and through a murder investigation exposes the dynamically changing community of the neighborhood, which despite its evolution retains a ghostly and vital link to its layered past.

The deep and varied history of the LES now includes the LES galleries as new community members, and Price’s novel provides a potent vehicle for the consideration of community as voices compete for, ignore and occasionally share the same physical and conceptual space.

The galleries will host concurrent exhibitions with each exhibition reflecting the idea of one of the nine chapters in the book. The curators selected one artist from each gallery to participate in the exhibition and solicited from each of them one additional artist recommendation of an artist not from one of the nine participating galleries (nine total recommendations). The curators then supplemented this base group of eighteen artists to complete nine exhibitions, ranging in size from three to twelve artists.

LUSH LIFE will be the present for what will become a living ghost to the future form into which the LES will inevitably morph. The exhibition schedule varies slightly at each gallery with the earliest installation being June 17 and the latest closing being August 13.  See gallery specific schedule below.

There will be a collective opening of all participating galleries on
Thursday, July 8th from 6 – 9 pm.

Sue Scott Gallery
1 Rivington Street
Chapter One: Whistle
June 17 – August 1

On Stellar Rays
133 Orchard Street
Chapter Two: Liar
June 23 – August 1

Invisible-Exports
14A Orchard Street
Chapter Three: First Bird (A Few Butterflies)
June 25 – July 31

Lehmann Maupin
201 Chrystie Street
Chapter Four: Let It Die
July 8 – August 13

Y Gallery
355 A Bowery Street
Chapter Five: Want Cards
July 8 – July 25

Collette Blanchard Gallery
26 Clinton Street
Chapter Six: The Devil You Know
July 8 – August 13

Salon 94
1 Freeman Alley
Chapter Seven: Wolf Tickets
June 29 – July 30

Scaramouche
52 Orchard Street
Chapter Eight: 17 Plus 25 Is 32
July 8 – August 7

Eleven Rivington
11 Rivington Street
Chapter Nine: She’ll Be Apples
July 15 – August 13

Artists: Alice O’Malley, Alisha Kerlin, Amy Longenecker-Brown, Carol Irving, Chakaia Booker, Charles Sabba, Christoph Draeger, Claudia Weber, Coco Fusco, Cynthia Lin, Dana Frankfort, Dana Levy, Dani Leventhal, David Kramer, David Shapiro, Derrick Adams, Elisabeth Subrin, Erik Benson, Ezra Johnson, Gail Thacker, Gina Magid, Ishmael Randall Weeks, Jackie Gendel, Jackie Saccoccio, Jayson Keeling, Jessica Dickinson, Joanne Greenbaum, Jonathan VanDyke, Jose Lerma, Judi Werthein, Justen Ladda, Kai Schiemenz / Iris Fluegel, Karen Heagle, Karina Aguilera Skvirsky, LaToya Ruby Frazier, Leslie Hewitt, Manuel Acevedo, Mario Ybarra Jr., Matthew Weinstein, Melissa Gordon, Nanna Debois Buhl, Nicolas Di Genova, Nina Lola Bachhuber, Olivier Babin, Patrick Lee, Patty Chang, Paul Gabrielli, Paul Pagk, Paul Pfeiffer, Pedro Barbeito, Rashid Johnson, Robert Beck, Robert Lazzarini, Robert Melee, Robin Graubard, Rudy Shepherd, Scott Hug, Tim Davis, Tommy Hartung, Xaviera Simmons, Yashua Klos

We are grateful to Richard Price and the vitality of his novel.

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This summer’s New York novels to date — the books, that is, I’ve
consumed on my vacation: Richard Price’s Lush Life, Don DeLillo’s
Falling Man, Joseph O’Neill’s Netherland, and about half of Kevin
Baker’s Dreamland.

All but the last are post-9/11 novels; I’m thinking hard, in
particular, about similarities and differences between DeLillo’s and
O’Neill’s — why the prose is more satisfying in one but the other more
satisfying overall, and what they each do with 9/11.

Delillo_bronx_1207576419.jpg
But reading Baker, finally, has me thinking, too, of fiction and
history, one of DeLillo’s favorite topics (and mine too). I’ll have
more to say about all of the above novels over the next while, but for
now here’s a bit from an essay DeLillo published in the Times Book
Review
back in ’97, around the time Underworld came out. I’m trying to
think about how well his description holds up in a new century, when
poststructuralism has finally started to lose its grip on academic
imagination but when DeLillo’s old ruminations on terrorists and novelists are heralded as prophetic and prescient (even as his new, post-9/11 novels are panned); and I’m trying to think about how well his ideas apply to
fiction — Baker’s, say — that unabashedly takes on the generic label
“historical fiction.”

Fiction does not obey reality even in the most
spare and semidocumentary work. Realistic dialogue is what we have agreed to call certain arrays of spoken
exchange that in fact have little or no connection with the way people speak. There is a deep density of convention
that allows us to accept highly stylized work as true to life. Fiction is true to a thousand things but rarely to clinical
lived experience. Ultimately it obeys the mysterious mandates of the self (the writer’s) and of all the people and
things that have surrounded him all his life and all the styles he has tried out and all the fiction (of other writers)
he has read and not read. At its root level, fiction is a kind of religious fanaticism, with elements of obsession,
superstition and awe.

Such qualities will sooner or later state their adversarial relationship with history.

. . .

Language can be a form of counterhistory. The writer wants to construct a language that will be the book’s
life-giving force. He wants to submit to it. Let language shape the world. Let it break the faith of conventional
re-creation.

Language lives in everything it touches and can be an agent of redemption, the thing that delivers
us, paradoxically, from history’s flat, thin, tight and relentless designs, its arrangement of stark pages, and that
allows us to find an unconstraining otherness, a free veer from time and place and fate.

The language of a
novel — E.L. Doctorow’s “Ragtime,” say — can be so original and buoyant that it necessarily transforms the past.
The tonal prose creates its own landscape, psychology and patterns of behavior. It is stronger than the
weight-bearing reality of actual people and events. It has a necessary existence, while the source material is
exposed as merely contingent. In “Ragtime,” history and mock history tool along together. They form a kind of
syncopated reality in which diverse human voices ultimately come into conflict with a single uninflected voice, the
monotone of the state, the corporate entity, the product, the assembly line. In this novel, language is a democratic
experiment.

Find the full essay here.
To be continued … maybe when I’ve consumed a few more 9/11 novels, or
at least when I’m ready to come back to Baker’s thoughts on similar
topics, as promised way back when

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