For several weeks in February and March, the Whitney Museum’s fifth-floor gallery has been drenched in the slamming of gates, the rattling of keys and the bellowing of prisoners and guards. The artist Andrea Fraser recorded the sounds at Sing Sing, the infamous prison 34 miles up the Hudson River, then fed them into a gallery that’s roughly the same size as the prison’s A Block.
A 22-year-old college junior majoring in English literature, Beatrice had barely left her room in two weeks. At first, she’d had a gnawing sense that her friends were talking about her behind her back, privately hissing about what a terrible person she was. Soon, glances from family members telegraphed that they too were against her. She barricaded herself in her room. Her interest in food and sleep faded. She had a powerful urge to keep the TV on.
When Yasmin Menon and Pablo van Dijk opened the door to their Gramercy Park apartment I was greeted by a black poodle named “Poodle.” They both wore hats and were quick to offer wine and personal compliments. The largest wall of their apartment is entirely covered in clown paintings. “Hey, you! I’m talking to YOU!” The clowns seem to say. As their involuntary audience you can’t help but get a little self-conscious.
Jeffrey Wood and Daniel Reneau had only known each other for a couple of months when Wood waited in the car as his new friend entered a gas station in Kerrville. When Wood, a 22-year-old with no prior criminal record, heard gunshots, he went inside the store to find the attendant shot dead. Reneau then pointed his handgun at him and forced him to steal the surveillance video and drive the getaway car.
The mainstream conversation is colored by if-arguments, eerily reminiscent of the 1950s, when women without children were pitied (and, possibly, pitied themselves). If I had found the right partner… If I had had enough money… I don’t have any if-arguments (which doesn’t mean that things don’t go wrong in my life). I simply never wanted to have children. Not when I was 20, not when I was 30 and not today.
Every morning a group of us, including Oliver, would swim across Eagle Lake. Our host, Harriet, insisted on accompanying us in her little metal boat. The motorboats that in recent years had taken over the tranquil lake could not be trusted; it would be easier for them to spot a little boat powered by a very tall and assertive woman than the school of little fish that we were.
Oliver wore a red bathing cap.
The ‘Adopt, Don’t Shop’ brand was based on a noble sentiment. But with little to no oversight, it fosters an underbelly that has left the no-kill movement in crisis. The promise of life often leaves animals languishing in cages or transferred from foster home to foster home for years. They are given out sick, with minimal to no prior medical care. Hardly a day goes by when a rescue isn’t exposed for hoarding.
You can never remove yourself from the place that raised you through mere distance. I was born and raised in a small town in Bavaria, Germany. Now I live and write in New York. I used to write in German but switched to writing in English ten years ago. Does that make me a German writer in exile, or an American writer who hails from abroad? I was never much interested in taxonomies, and maybe therein lies a clue to my cultural identity as a writer.