Literary reviews by Tim Love.
Warning: Rather than reviews, these are often notes in preparation for reviews that were never finished, or pleas for help with understanding pieces. See Litref Reviews - a rationale for details.

Wednesday, 6 July 2022

"Everyone is watching" by Megan Bradbury

An audio book.

We follow Walt Whitman, Mapplethorpe (gay photographer/artist partner of Patti Smith), Edmund White, Robert Moses (ruthless regenerator of Central Park, etc) to gain a mosaic image of New York. I like the details, many of which are quotable - how the islands grow, how White rewarded himself for hiding his gayness (lowering his voice, faking an interest in sport, etc) by having gay sex. We read about elevated trains and roads, Coney island's freak shows, the piers where hustlers go. We get many descriptions of photographs and cityscapes.

The book structure rather models itself on Mapplethorpe's work - fragments. The theme of connecting permeates the book: the madness of Whitman doesn't disrupt - it's an openness to the connectedness of things; Moses wants to connect parts of NY; Mapplethorpe's interested in body-parts.

Mapplethorpe wants to photograph people to see who they really are. Sometimes "the pictures preserve a silence that doesn't exist in reality." When he photographs Milton he promises not to show his face and body-parts together.

Moses meet resistance from women starting campaigns. Laurie Anderson (of 'O Superman' fame) appears as a photographer too.

Other reviews

  • Miranda France (Her chapters are short, her paragraphs all of similar length and her sentence structures as repetitive as a course of bricks; sometimes three or four in a row start with the same word. ... The four chosen by Bradbury are visionaries, seen here as men whose minds race with images: of the future, the past, the birth of New York, their own deaths. Three of them are gay or bisexual and their relationship with the city is highly erotic.)
  • The Scotsman (Bradbury is evidently fascinated by Mapplethorpe, but has nothing new to say about him, little, I surmise, that you won’t find in Patti Smith’s memoir, Just Kids or in catalogues of exhibitions of his work. The Whitman sections seem dead to me; they say nothing new about the poet, and little of interest about New York. The Robert Moses chapters are in a different class, and very good indeed. ... This book may be more a series of essays or snapshots than narrative, but, written with imagination, great assurance and a painterly eye, it builds up a fine portrait of the city.)
  • John Boyne (Less successful is the Whitman strand, which lacks the urgency and emotion of the other three.)
  • Eloise Pearson (Each protagonist struggles with the experience of living in his own version of the city in a way that becomes universal and moving. )

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