Sunday, April 06, 2008

Introduction for Wayne Koestenbaum (by erica kaufman)

Wayne Koestenbaum has published five books of poetry: Best-Selling Jewish Porn Films, Model Homes, The Milk of Inquiry, Rhapsodies of a Repeat Offender, and Ode to Anna Moffo and Other Poems. He has also published a novel, Moira Orfei in Aigues-Mortes, and five books of nonfiction: Andy Warhol, Cleavage, Jackie Under My Skin, The Queen's Throat (a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist), and Double Talk. His newest book, Hotel Theory, a hybrid of fiction and nonfiction, was published by Soft Skull Press in 2007. He is a Distinguished Professor of English at the CUNY Graduate Center, and currently also a Visiting Professor in the painting department of the Yale School of Art.

Part fashion icon, part heroic musicologist, part flaneur, part Lacanian “new species in signification.” Wayne Koestenbaum is Barthes’s dream come true—exactly the kind of agency he calls for in “Musica Practica,” a place where the idea of playing is revivified via concise swerves along the road once thought of as essay. Much like “fashion’s nature is bricolage” (Koestenbaum, “Thrifting”), Koestenbaum breaks genre binaries and instead embraces the influence of one form on another, writing a “diva” I can’t help but indefatigably admire.

Hotel Theory, Koestenbaum’s newest is a masterpiece in mirroring—simultaneously a “dime store novel” and an exploration into a “hotel state of being.” In presenting two seemingly separate prosaic texts side by side, Koestenbaum asks his readers to rethink how we read. The result: a queer poly-narrative that reforms the visibility of a text and the page. To quote from “Hotel Theory,” “We practice a hotel room, just as we practice space: residing and walking are ways of turning space to account, defining and molding it.” To quote from “Hotel Women,” “In Hotel Women, time bent over backwards to make guests happy.”

What does it mean to be happy? Perhaps ultimate “genre autonomy?” Or, an “opalescent red Jung theory of progress.” “in this oops! I call love.”

As Benjamin writes in “Excavation and Memory, “ “memory is not an instrument for exploring the past, but rather a medium.” Koestenbaum has found this much talked about medium and cloaked it in sequins, pinstripes, and what The Washington Post refers to as “extravagant gestures and precise observations.” To quote the New Yorker, ‘Koestenbaum breaks the silence,” and it is my great pleasure to be introducing him. Please welcome Wayne Koestenbaum.


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