Some Styles of Masculinity is an intimate, urgent, and rollicking account of thinking and enduring through upheaval and plague. Prompted by the surge of white nationalism in the United States, Gregg Bordowitz reflects on his experience of assimilation and marginalization as a Yinglish-speaking child of outer-borough Jews and a queer person who has been living with AIDS since his twenties. He tells his own story by considering three totems of masculinity that were formative to him as he came of age in New York City in the 1970s and ’80s: the rock star, the rabbi, and the comedian. These figures taught Bordowitz how to balance reinvention and tradition, and how to be different even as difference is under assault.
In establishing his own rebellious masculinity, Bordowitz embraces outcasts, outsiders, queers, perverts, addicts, and other agents of chaos. Some Styles of Masculinity is adapted from a series of improvised monologues, and the book maintains the freewheeling style, casual erudition, and extraordinary range of Bordowitz’s performances: he fashions himself after Lenny Bruce and Lou Reed, scrutinizes the role of race in Seinfeld and klezmer, skewers Trump-era late-night routines and Hollywood AIDS stories, listens to punk anthems and quotes theology. He merges personal and political history, ribald humor and social criticism, performer and persona. Ultimately, he contends with the strictures of nationality and wages of whiteness, which prompt him to make the case for inhabiting many identities and speaking with many voices.
Some Styles of Masculinity is indebted to David Antin’s “talk poems,” which transcribe the author’s monologues, as well as Stuart Hall’s writing on the formation of identities via race, ethnicity, and nation. The book also evokes Maggie Nelson’s “autotheory,” Sarah Schulman’s Let the Record Show: A Political History of ACT UP New York, and Wayne Koestenbaum’s chatty, warped criticism. Some Styles of Masculinity is less of a document than an inimitable mind come to life on the page: a vital reflection on living as “a vector of contagion” and an exuberant appreciation of the art, music, scripture, jokes, and relationships that make doing so possible, even pleasurable.
Some Styles of Masculinity includes an introduction by Hua Hsu.
Gregg Bordowitz is an artist, writer, activist, and educator who lives in New York City. He is the author of The AIDS Crisis Is Ridiculous and Other Writings, 1986–2003 (2004), General Idea: Imagevirus (2010), Volition (2010), and Glenn Ligon: Untitled (I Am a Man) (2018). Bordowitz’s work has been exhibited at Artists Space, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, the New Museum, and the Whitney Museum, among other institutions. His retrospective, “Gregg Bordowitz: I Wanna Be Well,” is on view at MoMA PS1 (New York) until October 11; the exhibition was organized by the Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery at Reed College (Portland), and subsequently presented at the Art Institute of Chicago. Bordowitz has made numerous contributions to Triple Canopy, including the three-episode advice show Answers with Questions, and was honored at the magazine’s 2020 benefit.
Hua Hsu is a writer living in New York City. He is a staff writer at the New Yorker and an associate professor of English and director of the American Studies program at Vassar College. Hsu has contributed to Artforum, the Atlantic, Slate, the Wire, and Triple Canopy, among other publications, and has been a fellow at the New York Public Library’s Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center and the New America Foundation. In 2019, he co-curated “The Moon Represents My Heart,” an exhibition about music and Chinese-American life at the Museum of Chinese in America (New York City). He is the author of A Floating Chinaman: Fantasy and Failure Across the Pacific (2016), as well as a forthcoming memoir, Stay True, and an essay collection, Impostor Syndrome.
Softcover, Perfect-bound, 256 pp, 4.33" × 7", One-color offset printed, 2021.