Monday, March 12, 2007

Ugh, Look What He's Done With His Copy of The Irish Book Review*...

"You'll never guess who's here," A. said the other evening, as we waited for a reading by some lesser known Irish fiction writers to begin in a Chinatown restaurant. The reading was part of the series Good Words at the Good World at the Good World Bar & Grill on Orchard Street; each month it has a different theme, and this month, to coincide with Paddy's Day possibly, the theme was Ireland - or "Out of Ireland", to be exact. Mary Burke, who teaches Irish literature at the University of Connecticut and was published in the Faber Book of Best New Irish Short Stories 2004-5, and Martin Roper, who wrote a novel called Gone and teaches nonfiction at NYU, both read from new novels in progress. The place was packed, standing room only, and for some reason there were replicas of the same couple - the distinguished-looking, grey-bearded man, and the long-haired, long-skirted, outdoorsy-looking middle-aged woman - in every corner. They all looked vaguely familiar - probably because they all looked so much like one another, so when A came back from his cigarette break with a glint in his eye and news of a celebrity sighting, I prepared my best fake-excited face, expecting to hear tell of some obscure modernist poet. Or worse.
"Please don't say Frank McCourt," I said.

But no! It was the semen-daubing sensation of the Downtown art scene, Dash Snow, described by a controversial New York Magazine profile in January as looking like "the son of Jim Morrison and Jesus Christ"; Dash Snow, who comes from the De Menil family, one of the richest art families in the world, but who ran away at 13 to be a thief, a graffiti artist and, pretty soon, a scuzzy, elusive scene legend. He makes art out of newspaper clippings and his own semen, out of skulls, out of phlegm. He had a piece - a series of polaroid pictures, one of a dog scavenging in trash - in the Whitney Biennial last year, and he also had a piece - a semen/newspaper collage - in the Saatchi Show. He and his set - Ryan McGinley and Dan Colen, McGinley arguably being the genuine talent among them - have been dubbed Warhol's Children, existing in their own mythology of weirdness, privilege and self-absorption. They're known for their Hamster's Nests, which they create by shredding up to fifty phone books, winding all the blankets and curtains in the room around themselves, turning on the taps and taking a lorryload of drugs "until they feel like hamsters".

And here was their leader, quietly sitting at the back of an Irish writers event. And not a hamster in sight.

Except, of course, Snow hadn't come for the Irish writers. He was at the Good World for his breakfast bloody mary, more than likely, it being the downtown breakfast hour of 5 p.m. And chances are (we couldn't see), he legged it out of there very soon after the first soft rumblings of an Irish accent came over the loudspeaker. He certainly didn't stick it out to the end. But I hope he was there for at least some of the first reading, so that his well-trumpeted paranoia might have been piqued by Mary Burke's descriptions of an early 20th century European bohemia (her novel is based on the story of Lucia Joyce) which, at times seemed both to mirror and to parody Snow's downtown scene, right down to the bodily-fluid-soaked artworks. There were a few strangled noises from the back in response to that bit, come to think of it...

* (on that business with the Irish Book Review)...well, who could blame him?

update: A. has helpfully pointed me towards this account of the making of a Snow/Colen Hamster Nest. Now I really wish Snow had stuck around. Cause that's the kind of Irish book party I'd like to see. Which Irish scribes are up to it, though? I see Des Hogan and Colm Toibin, holding forth over a mountain of coke and Cutty One Rock and surrounded by shredded 01 directories and Dublin pigeons named McDowell, while Tony Cronin and Tom Murphy roar encouragement from the sidelines.

1 comment:

the convex mirror said...

Hah, Tom Murphy and Michael Colgan are also strong candidates. Though perhaps instead of coke it would need to be curry powder..