Do Not Et Cetera

The Review’s Review from The Paris Review:

“Living in America during the Reagan years had the same disorientation as a texture dream,” writes David Wojnarowicz in Close to the Knives, “that sense you get at times lying with your face against the sheets with your eye open, millimeters away from the microscopic weave of the linen, and suddenly your body freezes up and your eye is locked into the universe of textures and threads and weaves, and for an extended moment you can’t shake yourself from the hallucination.” The political subterfuge of the Reagan years is the subject, too, of Maxe Crandall’s recent poem-novel, The Nancy Reagan Collection. Published by Futurepoem in 2020, it’s a mercurial archive of the Reagans’ silence on AIDS and the era’s innumerable other devastating failures, among them Iran-Contra and the expansion of the war on drugs. In high-camp imagined encounters with Nancy Reagan, Crandall deftly traces the era’s iconography of concealment—Nancy in her immutable trademark red, her high-necked collar, her tartan blazer, her little nautical blouse, her gloves—as he lists the names of friends and public figures dead from AIDS and its complications. Grief and rage churn at the center of these encounters, each of them shaped by speculative archival work and a biting queer sensibility. It’s a beautifully inventive experiment in historiography and a reminder of the enduring political aesthetics of obfuscation and silence: the particular politeness that meets with mass death. And like everything Futurepoem puts out, as an object it’s gorgeous—bright red, impossible to miss. —Oriana Ullman 

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