The Highspot

For me, Reva Wolf's Andy Warhol, Poetry and Gossip in the 1960s is the mirror by which all books relating to the Mimeo Revolution must stand in front of judge their appearance.  Wolf's mirror is unforgiving and reveals all blemishes.  This was the first book I read that provided a coherent, directed reading of mimeo mags beyond providing a narrative history of a scene and its participants.  Wolf does not tell a story, she provides a close, fascinating reading.  She has read all the mags; she has dug into the archives, she has watched the films, she has seen the artwork, she has read the interviews and histories, she has talked to the participants, and then wonderfully she weaves it all together in a readable, clear, exciting fashion.

Generally in the little magazine universe only Modernist magazines get this superstar treatment, such as Mark Morrisson's The Public Face of Modernism, and to be honest, I do not think anybody has approached what Wolf accomplished.  The reason is Warhol no doubt.  The success of Wolf's book stems from art criticism rather than literary criticism.  Wolf is an art historian and the better for it.  In my opinion, art criticism is far more interesting and exciting it its readings than literary criticism.  Wolf's book is much more innovative and entertaining than Morrisson's book for example.  As we will see further on, the most successful treatments of the Mimeo Revolution have treated the publications in the context of art.

Wolf's readings of the Warhol covers of C and Fuck You have become the accepted way to approach those magazines.  Her treatment of 2/2 Stories for Warhol is fantastic and fun.  Her analysis of the Haircut piece in Floating Bear 26 is as close as the shave on Kojak's head.  She ends any doubt over whether Warhol was an intellectual (he was).  Wolf can handle the bread and butter of literary criticism with ease as she shows by documenting how little magazines operate in a creative community and how mags talk to each other and about each other.  Any number of literary scholars have dealt with reception theory in terms of little magazines (such as Morrisson).  Wolf does it better.  In short, her too short book is absolutely brillant.  Yet like a gifted teenager, this book is a bit of a loner.  Maybe I'll think of some company for it in the days to come, but Wolf's book stands in a class by itself.

One way to see if a work of criticism has made its case, and even to an exent crossed over out of the academy, is whether the book is cited in rare book catalogues.  Wolf's book is a standard reference for bookdealers everywhere and is relied on heavily.  It is as essential as Clay and Phillips Secret Location.  Only Daniel Kane approaches Wolf's mastery of New York mimeo.

The minute I finished Wolf's book I was literally bouncing off the walls with excitement and I wrote her what amounted to a fan letter.  The book was so fun to read, so informative, and so inspiring I had to let her know that she had changed the way I looked at the mimeo mags I had the opportunity to look at every day for years.  She revitalized my book collection and infused it with meaning and energy.  I would guess that academics do not get fan letters from those outside of the academic establishment very often.  Maybe that is for the best, because I think I scared her. 



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