Notes on Glaze

$22 / $15 for current subscribers

Hardcover, 112 pp, 5.5 x 8 inches

In the spring of 2010, Cabinet magazine invited poet and cultural critic Wayne Koestenbaum to begin writing a regular column. Entitled “Legend,” the column had a highly unusual premise; every three months, the editors of the magazine would ask Koestenbaum to write one or more extended captions for a single photograph with which they had provided him. Drawn from obscure vernacular, commercial, and scientific sources, all of the images were unfamiliar to the author. After eighteen installments, Koestenbaum concluded his column in the winter of 2015. Featuring an introductory essay by the author, Notes on Glaze collects all the “Legend” columns, as well as their accompanying photographs.

It had been the intention of the editors to provide a venue for Koestenbaum’s aphoristic brilliance and his uncanny ability to pinpoint the unexpectedly telling detail in a given image, with each installment imagined as its own discrete encounter. But over time it became clear that there were profound correspondences between these individual exercises in sympathetic-critical observation and that Koestenbaum was quietly advancing an aesthetic position, one that suggests how to read cultural artifacts without foreclosing one’s own desire. Refusing the distancing language of critical disinterest, Koestenbaum’s columns always locate the author in intimate proximity to the subjects portrayed in the photographs and to the impossibly variegated cast of characters—ranging from Debbie Reynolds, Duccio, and Barbra Streisand to Hegel, Pee-wee Herman, and Emily Dickinson—who pass through these texts.

For a full description and sample images, see here.

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