1. Partisan Review died last year. Or maybe it was the year before last. They must have finished the final issue in the winter, when the years overlap, so it’s hard to say.
2. The A&F Quarterly also died last year, or maybe it was this year. Committed to sexing up the image of old preppie retailer Abercrombie and Fitch, the Quarterly’s final Christmas issue—celebrating group sex and ice hockey—was pulled from the shelves in the face of a massive campaign from the Christian right.
3. Through the forties and fifties, PR was the greatest of magazines. The Quarterly, for its part, was known in the late nineties for racy homoerotic photography and a fascination with Slavoj Žižek. You used to be able to buy old issues of PR at The Read, on Bedford Ave.; to see the Quarterly, you need to go to Guy Cimbalo’s apartment.
4. Guy studied art history at Harvard, moved to Los Angeles, then returned to New York to write a book column for the Quarterly. He also flew out to London last year to solicit commentary on the photography for the 2003 “Back to School” issue from Žižek. The Giant of Ljubljana was in London for a conference, and Guy stayed at the same hotel as the other conferees. “There were Czechs, and Slovaks,” he told me. “And Czechoslovaks. It was an awful hotel. I’ve never had rancid butter before, but they had it.”
5. I read the Žižek issue in Guy’s apartment underneath a giant blown-up photo of an Abercrombie girl running naked into the Western wind. The text, in capital letters, was some of Žižek’s best work in years. “The only successful sexual relationship occurs when the fantasies of the partners overlap,” he says about a series of images of boys and girls riding motor bikes and horses. “If the man fantasizes that making love is like riding a bike, and the woman wants to be penetrated by a stud, then what truly goes on while they make love is that a horse is riding a bike. With a fantasy like that, who needs a personality?”
6. We were going into the last week of production on this issue of n+1 when I visited Guy. That was three weeks ago, and I developed an image then of Žižek pissing, not exactly into the wind, but sort of perpendicular to it. And I hoped we hadn’t done that. I was pretty sure we hadn’t. Sitting in that Abercrombie apartment, I felt like we—Guy and me and the rest of us—were at some breaking point in history. Those jokes, wherein you tweak the Man by suggesting gay sex or quoting Lacan: those are no longer funny. There are better ways to embarrass yourself. It is time to say what you mean.
7. Some day, perhaps, we too will run topless into that Western wind, heedless of consequence, celebrating the good life. But as a child’s personality begins to form when it can say, You are not me, so we’ve begun by saying, No. Enough.