The Village Voice is dead — or so you might have read in one of many eulogies following the announcement on Tuesday that after a nearly 62-year run, the Voice will cease its weekly print edition sometime in the very near future. You probably read the news online.
Yes, the Voice will no longer turn up every Wednesday in those rancid red plastic boxes. By all means, take a moment to pour one out for the paper, once fat with glorious prose and even more glorious ads. Peer through the sepia-toned, dirt-smudged windows of time to revisit that Golden Age when newspapermen were newspapermen, when people lined up to get a coveted copy of the Voice and snag the best apartments listed in the classified section. Revisit the groundbreaking work of writers like Ellen Willis, Wayne Barrett, Nat Hentoff, Lester Bangs, and Hilton Als. Kneel before the altar of Norman Mailer and weep.
This flood of nostalgia was inevitable; as the New York Times pointed out, “For Voice devotees, the golden age was always the one just past.” Lamenting the glory days of the Village Voice is a time-honored tradition. But there’s this thing called a website — the Voice has had one since 1996 — and it, too, allows one to read the work of brilliant journalists like former Voice film critic Stephanie Zacharek, a 2015 Pulitzer Prize finalist; former food critic Tejal Rao, winner of two James Beard Foundation awards; and current staff writers Alexandria Neason, Jon Campbell, Bilge Ebiri, Melissa Anderson, and myself, among other stellar contributors to the Voice’s pages both print and web, all of whom we could not possibly do justice to in this single post.
The following thirty stories, presented in no particular order, appeared in either the print or online edition (be honest, do you care which?) of the Village Voice in 2017. They explore the politics, films, art exhibits, books, controversies, and outrages of New York City — and beyond — as it exists in the tangible now. We think they’re pretty great. And we’re still here. — Lara Zarum
Kendrick Lamar’s “DAMN” Is the Soundtrack to the Resistance / By Greg Tate / April 25, 2017
Not much sunshine bleeds through the cracks of the house of pain Lamar builds on DAMN. It may be the most manically morose rap album in the genre’s history, a masterful and commanding testament to the nation’s downward spiral in vortexical rhyme. Super heavy is the well-paid, well-pleasured, well-attended, and well-pissed-off head under the crown on DAMN, one equally beset by the fickle flea-buzzing of fans and Fox News apparatchiks alike.
Why I’m Still Worried the GOP Will Take Away My Son’s Healthcare / By Nina Pearlman / August 9, 2017
I had known since election night that the Republicans in Congress would go after the ACA, and with it my insurance; after all, this is what they’d been promising to do for the past seven years. Their attempts to defund Planned Parenthood were also nothing new. What I hadn’t entirely understood was how Congress’s attempts at repeal would affect my son’s coverage.
This Brooklyn Artist Is Taking On the Media / By Alexandria Neason / July 19, 2017
Bell’s public art series, called “Counternarratives,” reworks or redacts text from real stories that ran in the New York Times, exposing the long, ongoing tradition of media reliance on stereotypes — itself a print term — in coverage involving people of color. By deploying marginalia, obscuring whole passages with fat black ink, and rewriting headlines, captions, and other text, Bell, who is 34 and a Chicago native, highlights the often overt bias that still survives the editing process. The series is a trenchant questioning of these sometimes baffling choices, made by workers in an industry that prides itself on its fairness, from reporting and writing to photos and layout. Next to her annotations, Bell presents an alternative.
Sam Shepard (1943–2017): The Punk Rock Cowboy Who Never Stopped Searching / By Michael Feingold / July 31, 2017
The cowboy exterior was a genuine part of Sam’s complex reality. He loved horses and raised them; he didn’t care much for urban life and its endless technological encroachments. He didn’t like air travel — a writer-character in his play Angel City goes from the East Coast to Hollywood “by buckboard” — and I would be surprised to learn that he owned a smartphone. What he did own that belied the strong-and-silent cowboy exterior was a questing, reflective, poetically visionary mind, steeped in art, literature, and philosophy.
With the Expansive ” ’77,” the Film Society Takes the Measure of a Brilliant Year in Movies / By Melissa Anderson / August 1, 2017
“It is both a dream and a document, a set of facts and a cluster of myths,” Andrew Sarris wrote in his rapturous response to 3 Women in the April 11, 1977, issue of the Voice. However open to interpretation Altman’s movie may be — the epilogue reveals an even more radical transformation of identities — it is grounded in certain indisputable truths. Namely: that Duvall, one of the most emblematic actresses of 1970s American cinema and here in her sixth of seven movies she made with Altman, gives one of the greatest performances of that fertile decade.
Betting On De Blasio’s $2.5 Billion Streetcar Paying for Itself Is “A Recipe for Disaster” / By Neil deMause / February 2, 2017
A Voice investigation of the economic studies underpinning the streetcar’s finances, along with interviews with development and transit experts and the project’s planners, finds that the city’s contention that the BQX would pay its own way relies on untenably optimistic assumptions and creative bookkeeping. For the financing plan to work, say those who’ve studied similar projects elsewhere, the new streetcar would have to single-handedly spur the wholesale redevelopment of a waterfront that has already been significantly redeveloped — and if that failed to occur, the city could end up footing the bill.
Five Ways to Fix NYC’s Subways Right Now / By Max Rivlin-Nadler / June 16, 2017
You don’t need to dig into Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Twitter mentions to know that the situation regarding New York City’s subway system is beyond dire. Daily commutes have become productivity-sucking slogs. Cuomo, who controls the MTA, appears more fixated on easing the commutes of Long Island drivers than actually fixing the subways that move 5.7 million New Yorkers every day, while the agency itself seems to not be all that sympathetic to commuters’ immediate concerns.
Darkness Falls on America / By Alan Scherstuhl / August 8, 2017
Superheroes absorb what’s happening in the society that creates them the way frogs grow freakish in our polluted waters. Of course Cap would heel-turn right when America itself does — and right when our entertainment and political culture have both turned apocalyptic. The end times prevail on cable TV’s The Leftovers and The Walking Dead, and in theaters in the latest apes-are-more-human-than-humanity sequel.
In Her Wry Debut Novel, Darcie Wilder Views the World Through Millennial-Pink Tinted Glasses / By Alana Mohamed / April 18, 2017
Meanwhile, the urgency of internet parlance — lowercase, unpunctuated, frequently contradictory — is what makes Wilder’s book so affecting. Lines like “u can be over him and still want to ruin his life. multitudes” and “GEOFF I THINK IM IN A BETTER PLACE THAN WHEN WE DATED OK, IM DOING REAL GOOD NOW” ring painfully true, while inviting readers to laugh at Wilder’s bouts of self-loathing.
The Cult of Rei Kawakubo: Comme des Garçons’ Radical Creator Electrifies at the Met / By Jennifer Krasinski / May 9, 2017
Yet Kawakubo has always challenged how gender plays out in clothing. When she first began, she’s said, she imagined clothes for a woman “who is not swayed by what her husband thinks.” After all, originality, newness, can’t take root in the dust of old institutions; it requires light, fresh air.
How New York City’s ‘Progressives’ Killed a Critical Criminal Justice Reform / By Jon Campbell / January 5, 2017
But because of poor wording, the existing gravity knife statute can be read, torturously, to criminalize any knife that can be opened with the flick of a wrist. As the stop-and-frisk program ramped up in the early Aughts, police, under pressure to make arrests, discovered that virtually any pocket knife can be opened with a jerk of the arm if the officer uses enough muscle, even if it was never designed to operate that way. In the decade since, cops on the beat have used the statute to collar construction workers, plumbers, and thousands of others, and prosecutions under the law have soared.
See Four Sam Elliott Gems at the Quad / By Danny King / June 6, 2017
With his bushy horseshoe mustache, endearing bone-deep drawl, and homey but unintimidating frame (six-foot-two, lean, not brawny), Sam Elliott is something like the good neighbor of American movies and television. He drinks beer and rides motorcycles; wears jeans and charms women; and carries an eternal glint in his eyes that seems to say, “Hey, pull up a chair.”
Fearless Girl Is Not Your Friend / By Nick Pinto / April 25, 2017
The genius of Fearless Girl, then, is that it siphons the growing groundswell of resistance to worship of the golden bull and all it signifies, and redirects that enthusiasm back into a channel of assent. The bull and the girl are not in opposition. They are, in fact, on the same side, two faces of the same thing: capitalism.
Mary Halvorson Pushes Jazz Guitar Into New Territory / By Sasha Frere-Jones / July 12, 2017
As genres like r&b and hip-hop give up the commercial yoke and collapse, happily, into one another, Halvorson’s work becomes more important. If there is a pointless line still dividing rock and jazz, possibly because a band doesn’t have a singer but does have a saxophonist, Halvorson will be one of the people to finally rub that line out. Her work is about the lines that will remain, the dips and the peaks, the unities and the essences driving any band worth its salt.
After Doing Time for Corruption, Hiram Monserrate Is Back and Running for City Council / By Ross Barkan / August 2, 2017
To what extent voters in East Elmhurst and Corona can stomach Monserrate’s redemption tale will determine whether a man who has spent time behind bars can return to City Hall. That he’d be replacing a woman, and a former protégée, in Councilmember Julissa Ferreras-Copeland — she’s not seeking re-election to move to Maryland with her family — is galling for some progressives.
Antifolk Singer Jinx Lennon: ‘I’m About Fucking Uplifting People’ / By Robert Christgau / January 11, 2017
No more than five-foot-six himself, Lennon gets heated about bullies, with a special animus for the rapscallion hards who kick heads for the fun of it, and has written more home-invasion songs than most people. These include “So Frightened,” the opener on his live debut album, which I found so frightening myself I assumed it was autobiographical until the part that explains it’s based on a newspaper account.
Laurie Penny’s Radical Empathy / By Lara Zarum / August 7, 2017
In Bitch Doctrine, Penny seems determined to defang radical notions that mainstream discourse would like us to believe are scary to the point of titillation — concepts like polyamory (which for Penny “involves making tea and talking sensibly about boundaries, safe sex, and whose turn it is to do the washing-up”) or the fact that trans people sometimes need to use the bathroom.
Michael Musto: What I Really Learned in College / By Michael Musto / August 16, 2017
At night, I’d wanly sit around the Columbia Daily Spectator office, because a student had told me that the way to get assignments was just to hang around and be available. Alas, I was so painfully shy that I barely introduced myself, simply lurking there night after night without anyone acknowledging me. (They probably considered calling the authorities.)
Gang Agley: The Sequel to “Trainspotting” Is an Uneven Mess, but That’s Not the Worst Thing About It / By Mike Laws / March 10, 2017
T2 is, in the final accounting, nothing more than a two-hour advertisement for itself, for the book that begat the movie that begat the movie that begat the book, and its creators are telling you they needn’t do more than keep you trapped within this circularity, where Spud is forever hapless and Begbie forever volatile and Sick Boy forever scheming and Renton forever fucking up at going straight, and you’ll eat it right up because that’s how it was when you fell in love with them.
Princess Nokia Is Ready to Reign / By Ivie Ani / March 29, 2017
When she speaks, Frasqueri sounds like Harlem. Her voice is honey-warm but can turn tough and unyielding in an instant. I hear it when she braces herself as she remembers the moment she pinpointed her status as an outsider: “When I was sixteen, I was in a duplex of my homegirl, she was white, and with another Latina who came from an upper-middle-class family. I lit my cigarette on the stove, and my friends laughed at me. I asked them what was so funny and they said that what I did was really ghetto.”
Meet the Woman Who Made Some of the Greatest War Movies of All Time / By Bilge Ebiri / August 22, 2017
The audacity with which Solntseva stages her combat scenes is astounding. The camera swoops from on high across the smoking battlefield. Rows and rows of tanks come charging across the fields. Artillery lights up the sky like a ceaseless stream of fireworks. Characters stand on cliffs watching soldiers and explosions as far as the eye can see; the camera glides through tight interiors and out onto burning villages and up over hills. It’s a spectacle that would put most Hollywood products to shame.
Sunday in Brooklyn Surprises No Matter When You Show Up / By Zachary Feldman / February 14, 2017
Whether you’re coming for weekend brunch or stealing away for a weekday meal, Sunday in Brooklyn is uniquely suited to playing hooky. Just try getting anything done after finishing a Sundae Coffee cocktail, which tempers cold-brew coffee, rum, and allspice dram with a shot of vanilla cream. Shoestring fries also perk up a roll layered with roast beef marinated in Worcestershire sauce, but the choicest potatoes by far are Young’s “Long Island home fries,” a nod to the chef’s upbringing that mingles onions, green peppers, and plenty of paprika.
In Her Intoxicating Photographs, Lauren Semivan Lets the Seams Show / By R.C. Baker / August 9, 2017
But in fact, Semivan’s photographs give us plenty to look at, as we contemplate narratives beyond their portrayal. In 2015’s Anchor, white strings and dark cloth straps billow like sails, echoing bright chalk arcs scribed over a coarse black ground. Once more the title adds dimension to the image, ruled charcoal lines traversing broad white brushstrokes implying the slack running out on an anchor line. Contrarily, there is also a sense of drift — negative and positive shift, neither dark nor light offering stable ground.
Trump’s Airport Detentions Continue, and the Protests Keep Growing / By Christopher Robbins / January 29, 2017
After several hours of speeches, the massive crowd slowly unspooled out of Battery Park, filling the streets of Lower Manhattan as it stretched north, marching to Foley Square. As dusk fell, much of the crowd dispersed, but some heeded the call of organizers who asked them to return to JFK to continue to pressure customs officials for the release of detainees.
In John Darnielle’s “Universal Harvester,” a Heartbreaking Mystery Unfolds in Nineties Iowa / By Zoë Beery / February 22, 2017
Universal Harvester is ultimately less of a Stephen King horror story and more of a eulogy for this disappearing way of life. The Iowa Darnielle brings us to is a vast, unchanging place that can be both comforting and suffocating. His prose, honed over decades of songwriting for the Mountain Goats (his primary focus), is perfectly suited to this kind of story. In song, he distills entire lives into evocative three-minute scenes of caustic wit and painful tenderness. His fiction writing drops water onto that brittle sponge, expanding his signature voice in a way that’s relaxed and infinitely readable.
Alexei Ratmansky’s Anti-“Nutcracker” Whips American Ballet Theatre to a Peak / By Elizabeth Zimmer / June 2, 2017
The dirty secret of this production is that Ryden’s décor, a visual feast, quite overmasters the good dancing. The Metropolitan Opera House’s tall stage asks a lot of a mere human form; even the best performers, less than six feet tall, look insignificant surrounded by huge set pieces, including one of Ryden’s iconic Snow Yaks, rendered as an enormous version of a cute, round-eyed stuffed toy you might find in a nursery.
Masha Gessen On Trump, Russia, and ‘How Pride Is Political’ / By Lauren Evans / June 20, 2017
For many Americans crushed by the presidential election, the voice that emerged to offer a sense of reason in a world suddenly bereft of sanity was that of Masha Gessen, a Russian-American journalist who is no stranger to life under the thumb of an autocratic regime. The day after Trump delivered his victory speech, Gessen published a piece titled “Autocracy: Rules for Survival” in the New York Review of Books. It was a clarion call that ripped across social-media platforms like a shot of adrenaline to the chest.
Meet Iconoclastic Bushwick Curator Brittany Natale / By Mallika Rao / March 28, 2017
The show is characteristic of Natale’s curatorial style, inspired by her personal life but broadened to speak to larger concerns. One of the points of particular interest here: opioid addiction in the heartland, a theme also leveraged by Donald Trump on the campaign trail as a sign of lost American greatness.
Humor’s Hard Truths / By Miriam Felton-Dansky / May 24, 2017
Underground Railroad Game is designed to be the first installment in an ongoing series. This winter, Kidwell and Sheppard traveled to New Orleans to research, among other topics, mass incarceration and the history of Mardi Gras. Both will feature as elements in their second piece, which, Kidwell, says, is about “the criminalization of the black body.”
For Michel Houellebecq, Bleakness Is a Brand / By Siddhartha Mitter / June 27, 2017
Houellebecq’s bleakness is legendary, built into his brand since he broke out with his second novel, The Elementary Particles, in 1998. Now 61, he trained as an agronomist and worked for a time as an IT systems engineer; he published a first novel in 1994, after a number of poems and essays. A brilliant stylist in French, he can sustain an erudite digression on philosophy, literature, or science and puncture it at just the right moment with a rueful jab that returns his characters to their tawdry exertions.