ENTERING FREAK CITY: HANGING OUT WITH HARRY CREWS
The hardnosed, hard-living Southern writer once dubbed himself ‘Freak City’ and, despite a lifestyle (booze, drugs, fistfights, etc.) that would have floored most other people, kept a teaching gig at the University of Florida for nearly 40 years while also writing novels, memoirs and essays. Gary Lippman befriended the crusty writer—who was also a favorite of Kim Gordon, Thurston Moore, Sean Penn and Madonna—over the years and offers a rare glimpse at the heart and soul of the author of the legendary A Childhood: The Biography of a Place.
THE END OF THE GAME: REMEMBERING PETER BEARD
Capturing photographer, adventurer, author, wildlife preservationist and international playboy Peter Beard (1938-2020) in words is like catching lightning in a bottle. Friend and intimate to Cheryl Tiegs, Candice Bergen, Lee Radziwill, Frances Bacon, Truman Capote and Andy Warhol, Beard also befriended Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen) late in her life and, inspired by her, lived in Africa for many years. When his body was found in the woods near his home in Montauk two weeks ago, Gary Lippman recalled some memorable occasions with the charmingly elusive artist.
LIFE IS SWEET WITH MICKALENE THOMAS – UPSTATE DIARY
“Certain artists,” Duke Ellington once said, “are beyond category,” and this description applies perfectly to Mickalene Thomas. Arriving recently at a party at Legacy Records, a hip restaurant in NYC, I noticed a large photograph displayed on the wall and I promptly fell into a trance. Entitled Remember Me, the photograph portrays a young gorgeous African-American woman named Maya. The spell I’d fallen under, thanks to the portrait, wasn’t sexual or romantic. No, it was aesthetic — and so potent that I felt whooshed, body and soul, into Maya’s Blaxploitation-styled world. For a few heady moments, I imagined myself seated beside her on her funky yellow sofa in front of a purple wall decorated with Stevie Wonder and Diana Ross record albums, some in their sleeves and some just naked vinyl. Coincidentally the artist responsible for this fever dream photograph was Thomas, whom I had just been assigned to interview for this feature. But I should have expected serendipity when it comes to Thomas, since she is nothing if not magical.
LETTER TO A FIRST-TIME THOMAS PYNCHON READER
Thomas Pynchon, the great American novelist, may be best known for being invisible. (Although he did do a voiceover on an episode of The Simpsons). Who is he? Where does he live? He is also known for being Too Damn Difficult to read. In celebration of Pynchon’s 83rd birthday, Gary Lippman offers eight reasons why you should give him a try.
MY FAVORITE ALCHEMIST: AN HOMAGE TO HAL WILLNER
The release of Hal Willner’s final recorded project, Angelheaded Hipster: The Songs of Marc Bolan & T.Rex, got Gary Lippman thinking about his friend and ‘master alchemist.’ Just as he’d been doing since forever, Willner reimagined Bolan’s work with the assistance of hand-picked artists including Nick Cave, Joan Jett, Sean and Julian Lennon and Rolan Bolan. The results are, as always, brilliant, which only adds to the sadness of Willner’s loss to COVID-19 earlier this year.
“LUCKY BRUCE” MEETS “THE SUBVERSIVE”
What’s going on with Bruce Jay Friedman? I wondered recently when I saw the author’s name mentioned online. He hadn’t published anything in a while; did he have a new book or play or movie coming out soon? Since the mid-20th century, Friedman had been an underappreciated player of “the Quality Lit Game,” as his friend Terry Southern called it, with Friedman’s madcap work sharing distinctive energies along with those of Southern, Erica Jong, Joseph Heller, Gael Greene, and Kurt Vonnegut.
TOM ROBBINS ON PERSONALIZING THE EDITORIAL PROCESS AND KNOWING WHEN TO END A NOVEL
Gary Lippman Talks to a Beloved American Author. As far as artistic mission statements go, it’s a gem: “What I do,” the long-celebrated author Tom Robbins has said, “is twine ideas and images into big subversive pretzels of life, death, and goofiness on the chance that they might keep the world lively and give it the flexibility to endure.”
LET’S GO THUNDERING: REMEMBERING A “VERY ROCK’N ROLL” WOMAN
People often ask me about the anchor-shaped lead amulet I wear on a thin chain around my neck. Some curious souls, perhaps missing the runes engraved on the amulet’s surface, ask me, “Why are you wearing an anchor?” Eager to correct them, I say, “It’s not an anchor, it’s a mjölnir—the hammer of Thor, thunder god of Norse mythology.” And, if I’m in the mood, I’ll go on to explain, “I wear it not because of Thor, but in tribute to a certain thunder goddess.”