The Subject Steve
Broadway Books Taking a page or three from Martin Amis or Tibor Fischer, The Subject Steve is a story about a bitter, solipsistic, upwardly mobile, biliously witty middle-aged man who is dying. Except that for Lipsyte, the disease that has befallen the eponymous hero - said subject “Steve” (that’s not his real name though) - is an unknowable, incurable, mystery. The story is built on vignettes, driven by nearly cinematic dialogue, always to the end of stripping what each character has to say to a recognizable, often hilarious, element. The plot approximates a search for the cure that takes Steve on a journey through a fanciful Tri-State area. He lives through a media circus, a sadistic cult, and the hospitality of the man who cuckolded him, before his journey ends in a new media hell dubbed “The Realm.” Lipsyte excels at reliable commentary on contemporary culture and gross-out twists like mother-son fellatio, daughter-daddy hand jobs and, most poignantly, two boyhood best friends spying on their dads fighting and fucking. Perfect. But his greatest strength, viciously smart dialogue, often prevails to the detriment of characterization. That may be the point, though. With characters reduced to neologisms or loaded phrases, Lipsyte weaves them together in a glow-in-the-dark sticker cosmology of his boyhood memory. The effect is stunning (perhaps too complex for this reviewer), but suggests a powerful vision. Lipsyte’s gift for up-ending the language of life ends up paying off. And, most importantly, it saves The Subject Steve’s ass.
—J Dwyer Akhbar-E-Jehan
October 22-28, 25 Rupees
Akhbar-e-jehan.com Whenever I get sick of the American media’s blind patriotism, I turn to Asia. Sometimes the Asia Times (atimes.com) and other times Newsline (Pakistan’s hard journalism monthly, newsline.com.pk). But lately what’s really got my attention is Karachi’s weekly tabloid Akhbar-E-Jehan. In a time of media blackouts it’s so refreshing to get the other perspective (albeit skewed heavily in favor of bin Laden). With in-depth photo essays on American bombs falling in the wrong places, cricket, boxing, consistently amazing covers, and the weekly wedding roundup, this is a lowbrow rag that entertains the brown people just like The New York Post does for the whites.
—Aisha Mirza Grey Room
Issue Number 4
MIT Press Following in the footsteps of the seminal journal October (also from MIT press), Grey Room is the newest forum for discussing theory and art on the well-populated academic block. Do we really need another journal? If it’s going to be as informative and interesting as this issue, then yes, we definitely need another journal. Issue 4 is a technocrat’s (or post-war revisionist’s) wet dream. It includes an excellent essay, “War Against the Center,” on the forces (economic and military) that were at work during and after World War II to disperse the industrial infrastructure of American cities from urban centers in order to withstand nuclear bombing. Peter Galison shows us that the tax incentives and the lessons of Schweinfurt in Germany and Hiroshima and Nagasaki were more responsible for post-war suburbanization than the rampant desire for more consumer goods like single-detached houses, cars, or washing machines. This essay is book-ended by another on the “Network Fever” of the 60s and early 70s, which gives excellent historical information on the popularity of network models culled from science in both art and architecture. Mark Wigley gives us great details about the Delos conferences (held on a boat cruising through the Greek islands throughout the 60s), where scholars like Marshall Mcluhan and Buckminster Fuller waxed on and on about this thing that would come one day in the near future and revolutionize communication forever—some of them called it the “wide world web.” No joke.
The Subject Steve