Stephen Beachy

Crosses and losses

"Amish Abstractions" ponders whether the "simple" life is different from the life of (Bridget) Riley
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VISUAL ART "Amish Abstractions," the de Young Museum's exhibition of 48 quilts made primarily by anonymous Amish girls and women, gains its conceptual interest from the unusual pairing of the words Amish and abstraction.

The collectors of these quilts were initially drawn to them by their similarity to works by 20th century abstract artists. While the attendant monograph asserts this juxtaposition several times, within the show itself you only get a disclaimer by curator Robert Shaw. Read more »

Drunk on words

THE DRUG ISSUE: 12 hallucinogenic novels and 8 inebriated memory pieces
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12 HALLUCINOGENIC NOVELS

1. Gravity's Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon, 1973. When jazz singer Anita O'Day found herself stuck with an odd group of musicians who weren't drinking alcohol or smoking anything between sets — they were reading books — she considered such behavior the other side of life. A very Pynchonian phrase. I know more people (two) who claim to have read this novel on acid than any other — the writer Kevin Killian and the poet Joshua Clover.

2. The Soft Machine, William Burroughs, 1962. Read more »

Ghost writer

Roberto Bolaño travels from the grave to the future with Nazi Literature
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REVIEW In the English-speaking press, Roberto Bolaño is widely touted as the hottest novelist to come out of Latin America since Gabriel García Márquez. There are no levitating virgins in the work of Bolaño; he depicts instead a more recognizable if still defamiliarized Western Hemisphere, full of intellectuals, tragic activists, poets, queers, prostitutes, and drug dealers. Read more »

On the verge

Terror's Advocate adds to Barbet Schroeder's library of alluring evil
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The title of Barbet Schroeder's new documentary, Terror's Advocate, evokes Keanu Reeves's role as Kevin Lomax, a lawyer seduced by Satan (Al Pacino) in 1997's The Devil's Advocate. Reeves's character crosses the line into evil when he gets a child molester off on a technicality; next thing you know, he's living in Manhattan, making big bucks, and being seduced by the lesbian minions of Satan in an elevator while his wife (Charlize Theron) has her womb ripped out. Read more »

All that heaven and earth allow

Gods, stars, and burnt offerings mark Anselm Kiefer's dark worlds
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(To read Marke B.'s take on Anselm Kiefer, "Crash and Burn," click here.)

REVIEW Recently, in an Amish schoolhouse shooting, five girls were killed and five wounded by a man who was "angry with God" and haunted by thoughts of molestation.
One girl escaped. In the earliest versions of the story, nine-year-old Emma Fisher simply snuck out. It was later said that she misunderstood the shooter's instructions in English and thought she was supposed to leave. Read more »

To hell with the world

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One question that has swirled around Oliver Stone's World Trade Center is whether it is too soon to make a film about the WTC attacks. Survivors have compared their experiences to Bruce Willis movies, The Planet of the Apes, and The Towering Inferno, and the rest of us only ever experienced the event as representation anyway — is it too soon to turn a disaster film into a disaster film? Read more »

Torture Inc.

Michael Winterbottom goes where Hollywood won't: The Road to Guantánamo
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The Road to Guantánamo is the true story of three British citizens who were held without charges for two years at the American detention camps in Guantánamo Bay. Director Michael Winterbottom's film combines documentary with dramatization in a way that is slightly confusing in the beginning, as we quickly cut between the men who were actually detained (Shafiq Rasul, Asif Iqbal, and Rhuhel Ahmed) and the actors who play them (Rizwan Ahmed, Arfan Usman, and Farhud Harun). Read more »

Whose cheatin' Heart?

A fable of our era leaps - or hobbles - from page to screen
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Asia Argento's The Heart Is Deceitful above All Things is the preposterous story, once widely imagined to be true, of the childhood of Jeremiah "JT" LeRoy, as he bounces between the custody of his foster parents, his prostitute mother, and his sadistic, fundamentalist grandparents. Read more »