As the literary descendent of biography and journalism, it is no wonder that memoir (as a genre), has a rocky relationship to the truth. Like the artistic child born to scientific parents, it defies expectations. On the one hand, it is reportage, expected to convey facts; on the other, it is art, expected to reinvent the world. There is no greater proof of the unease this duality creates than the constant battle over what constitutes truth in nonfiction. Every year, another sensational memoir is released, only to be torn apart by investigative journalists – and rightfully so. These are not books that play with objective truth in order to better recreate the author’s subjective experience, but ones that toss the truth aside entirely for the author’s gain. For these writers, truth is simply a marketing ploy, and readers are right to feel angry and manipulated. But is it possible for writers who perceive the world as a collection of competing truths, where the “real” answer may never be known, to honestly write a work of nonfiction? And if so, what would it look like?
ON the roof of a small row house in Brooklyn, a black powder fuse flared brightly against the gray sky. Hissing and sparking, it burned through a platform installed inside a repurposed Ikea bookshelf, sending four colored balls into action, lighting camp stoves, swinging fly swatters and knocking over books in a frenetic burst of organized chaos. In less than a minute, the final ball had dropped to the ground and was pocketed by Joseph Herscher, 26, the kinetic artist behind this real-world Rube Goldberg machine.
“That’s it for now,” Mr. Herscher, a slim, dark-haired New Zealand native, said. Highly energetic, he resembled one of his own devices as he ran around grabbing the other balls before they bounced into the construction site next door. The wind was picking up, and he wanted to get everything inside before the November storm hit. Since his workroom doubles as his kitchen, he also hoped to get things put away before his roommates returned with groceries. Mr. Herscher shares his small apartment/laboratory with two friends and a hamster named Chester, who is in training for a lead role in Mr. Herscher’s latest creation.
Until recently, the term “Scandinavian import” evoked blond wood and incomprehensible instructions, not tightly packed and darkly intricate crime novels. Stieg Larsson’s Swedish shockwave The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo changed that, making northern Europe a hotspot for mystery—and misogyny, as reviewers worldwide debated whether his books exposed violence against women, or recreated it. Now, thanks to Danish novelists Lene Kaaberbøl and Agnete Friis, there is an alternative for readers who want twists and thrills without Larsson’s undercurrents of sexual sadism—The Boy in the Suitcase.
THE basement auditorium of the Jewish Community Center on the Upper West Side is a sincere space. Big, brown and bare, it suggests a school gym, a place for officially sanctioned fun — which made a recent concert by Schmekel, a raucous klezmer-core punk band made up of “100% trans Jews,” all the more surprising.
“Schmekel” means little penis in Yiddish, and is a play on the fact that all four members were born female but now identify themselves on the masculine side of the gender spectrum. It’s an appropriate name for a band that started as a laugh.
“I made a joke at a diner about how it’d be funny if there were an all-transmasculine band called Schmekel that was all Jews,” said Lucian Kahn, 29, a guitarist and vocalist.
For 10 years, Maria (not her real name) was beaten, raped, and forced into prostitution by her husband, a New York City resident. He often refused to allow her food, locked her in a room without a toilet for days at a time, and made her buy drugs for him. As a non-English speaker induced to enter this country by the very man who tortured her, she had few options or resources.
“I was made to be a sexual slave,” Maria said, “to make him money.”
THE stores are already stuffed with polar fleece, Gore-Tex and Thinsulate. But as temperatures dip, one unassuming shop in Midtown Manhattan has everything needed to weather an old-fashioned winter in the oldest of ways — though you should start sewing now. It’s the City Quilter, the heart of New York’s quilting community for nearly 15 years and a destination for fabric lovers from around the world.
If “city quilter” sounds like an oxymoron, be advised: The more than 4,000 fabrics it stocks are not all granny prints in periwinkle and dusty rose. With kitschy, retro-1950s textiles and colorful batik patterns, the store walks the modern edge of a traditional form, creating a distinctly New York take on an American craft. Nearly all of its fabrics are cotton, which is easy to work with and wash. And the store sells a variety of fat quarters, or quarter-yard swatches, that are ideal for quilting.
On a recent Tuesday, City Quilter, on 25th St« Previous Entries