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The Waterfront Journals gives voice to some of the people Wojnarowicz encountered during his time sleeping rough. These fictional monologues create a kind of fractured mosaic of life on the margins during late 1980s America. “David Wojnarowicz has caught the age-old voice of the road,” said William S Burroughs. “The voice of the traveller, the outcast, the thief, the whore…”
The work of artist, writer, and activist David Wojnarowicz (1954-1992) has been the focus of much attention recently thanks to a high profile retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art as well as previously hard-to-find collections of his work appearing in the UK for the first time. Most notably, two small Hackney-based imprints have been responsible for making new editions of Wojnarowicz's journals available in the UK for the first time. Peninsula Press published The Waterfront Journals this summer, a previously unavailable collection which draws from the writer's experiences struggling on the streets of New York, and Penultimate Press released Cross Country back in the spring, a triple LP edition of Wojnarowicz's 1989 tape journals.
We're making David Wojnarowicz our author of the month throughout November, so swing by and check out the titles below as well as others by those he has inspired (such as Olivia Laing's The Lonely City).
The Waterfront Journals
The Waterfront Journals is a road trip through the sensuous, perilous landscape of alternative America—a series of fictional monologues that ventriloquise the real people Wojnarowicz met on his travels while he was sleeping rough.
We meet these hustlers, runaways and dreamers in unassuming locations—in truck stops, bus stations and parks. Their stories are disturbing, often shocking; but they’re told with an honesty and a hallucinatory intensity that simply demands to be heard.
Published for the first time in the UK, this electrifying collection confirms that David Wojnarowicz was not only one of millennial America’s most necessary and visionary artists, but also among its most humane and urgent literary chroniclers.
Published by Peninsula Press on 26th July 2018
Close to the Knives
The powerful, personal and iconoclastic memoir of David Wojnarowicz, AIDS activist, author and one of the most provocative artists of his generation. With a new introduction by Olivia Laing.
Close to the Knives is the artist, writer and activist David Wojnarowicz’s extraordinary memoir. Filthy, beautiful, and sharp to the point of piercing, it is both an exploration of the world seen through the eyes of an artist, and a moving portrait of a generation living, grieving, and dying through the AIDS crisis. It is a triumphant hymn of resistance, and a dizzying celebration of the joys of seeing and living in the world.
Published by Canongate on 2nd March 2017
Memories that Smell Like Gasoline
Not content to be a tremendous photographer, painter, filmmaker, performance artist and activist David Wojnarowicz (1954-92) was also the author of three classic books: Close to the Knives, The Waterfront Journals and Memories That Smell Like Gasoline, now back in print from Artspace. This volume collects four tales-"Into the Drift and Sway," "Doing Time in a Disposable Body," "Spiral" and the title story-interspersed with ink drawings by the artist. "Sometimes it gets dark in here behind these eyes I feel like the physical equivalent of a scream. The highway at night in the headlights of this speeding car speeding is the only motion that lets the heart unravel and in the wind of the road the two-story framed houses appear one after the other like some cinematic stage set..." From these opening sentences of the book (in "Into the Drift and Sway"), Wojnarowicz lets loose a salvo of explicit gay sexual reverie harshly lit by the New York cityscape.
Published by Profile Books on 1st September 1992
Cross Country: Tape Journals, February-June 1989
David Wojnarowicz (1954-1992) was a writer and artist active in New York’s Downtown scene in the 1970’s and 80’s. In the 1980’s Wojnarowicz become one of the central figures in the AIDS struggle, as well as the target of homophobic censorship efforts by the American Family Association. Wojnarowicz kept written and cassette tape journals throughout his adult life. This three-disc vinyl release publishes for the first time three of Wojnarowicz’s tape journals, documenting his thoughts, dreams, fears, and environment during two separate road trips he took to the American Southwest and West Coast in the first half of 1989. The original cassettes are archived as part of the Wojnarowicz Collection at Fales Special Collections and Library at New York University. Wojnarowicz died in New York in 1992.
Total runtime: 2 hours, 6 minutes.
3xLP in a triple gatefold jacket featuring photos of Wojnarowicz by Marion Scemama.
Limited edition of 200.
Includes digital download card
Released by Penultimate Press on 3rd April 2018
Growing up in Steinbach, Toews recalls, one of the worst things a young woman could be was “wild” – a word used for the kind of girl who dared to buy a Led Zeppelin record or wear short shorts. In Women Talking, and in news reports of the trial, the phrase “wild female imagination” is deployed to erase the rapes, reminiscent of other he-said-she-said dismissals of female experience, such as “hysteria”. “Wild is a word used to discount and discredit what women do and say,” Toews says. “But the wild female imagination is also the stuff of art.”
To celebrate the publication of Miriam Toews's new novel, Women Talking, we're making her our author of the month for October. An "imagined response" to the very real abuse suffered by the women of Mennonite communities in Bolivia, Women Talking speaks to both Toews's own experiences living in a Mennonite community in Manitoba, Canada, as well as the far-reaching contemporary conversations around power and abuse.
Toews's previous novel, All My Puny Sorrows, has been a firm shop favourite since it was published in 2015, and we're excited to be stokcing
Between 2005 and 2009, in a remote religious Mennonite colony, over a hundred girls and women were knocked unconscious and raped, often repeatedly, by what many thought were ghosts or demons, as a punishment for their sins. As the women tentatively began to share the details of the attacks—waking up sore and bleeding and not understanding why—their stories were chalked up to ‘wild female imagination.’
Women Talking is an imagined response to these real events. Eight women, all illiterate, without any knowledge of the world outside their colony and unable even to speak the language of the country they live in, meet secretly in a hayloft with the intention of making a decision about how to protect themselves and their daughters from future harm. They have two days to make a plan, while the men of the colony are away in the city attempting to raise enough money to bail out the rapists (not ghosts as it turns out but local men) and bring them home.
How should we live? How should we love? How should we treat one another? How should we organise our societies? These are questions the women in Women Talking ask one another—and Miriam Toews makes them the questions we must all ask ourselves.
Published by Faber & Faber on 30th August 2018
All My Puny Sorrows
Elf and Yoli are two smart, loving sisters.
Elf is a world-renowned pianist, glamorous, wealthy, happily married: she wants to die.
Yoli is divorced, broke, sleeping with the wrong men: she desperately wants to keep her older sister alive.
When Elf's latest suicide attempt leaves her hospitalised weeks before her highly anticipated world tour, Yoli is forced to confront the impossible question of whether it is better to let a loved one go.
Published by Faber & Faber on 6th September 2018
A Complicated Kindness
We're Mennonites. As far as I know, we are the most embarrassing sub-sect of people to belong to if you're a teenager.
Sixteen-year-old Nomi Nickel longs to hang out with Lou Reed and Marianne Faithfull in New York City's East Village. Instead she's trapped in East Village, Manitoba: a town with no train station, no bar, and where job prospects consist of slaughtering chickens at the Happy Family Farms abattoir.
Since her mother and sister have left home, Nomi lives with her father, Ray, a sweet yet hapless schoolteacher. Fighting against the restraints of the town, Nomi's longing for a future of opportunity and hope sets her on course towards a climax at once startling and inevitable.
Published by Faber & Faber on 6th September 2018
A Boy of Good Breeding
Knute is a twenty-four-year-old single mother who returns home to Algren with her daughter to look after her father Tom, who has suffered a heart attack. Meanwhile, Hosea Funk, a friend of Tom's and the mayor of Algren has a lot on his mind. The prime minister has promised to pay a visit to whichever town in Canada has the smallest population. Algren has held this position for some time but recent baby booms and returning families, like Knute, threaten to tip Algren over the magic 1500...