Guernica: The Family Dolls, Featuring Charlie, Leslie & More

By John Reed

Parts 1 & 2

Why it's ok to play with Manson family paper dolls: an introduction to John Reed's Manson Family Paper Doll book. Print & Color Yourself!


Leslie had one of those big tooth smiles that makes you want to find a van and coax her in and drive her to the end of the earth and stay there with her.

She was attracted to smart bad-boy types, maybe because her father had some bad boy (alcoholic, divorced mom and remarried), maybe because living in the suburbs was like breathing in a plastic bag, maybe because being middle class in 1965 meant having to deal with the Vietnam War, how wrong it was, and how she and every other middle-class kid was culpable. She had an older brother who’d already served time in the brig; he wouldn’t fight.

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The Believer: The Age of Simulation

by John Reed

If the twentieth century, as Walter Benjamin characterized it, was the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, the twenty-first century will be the Age of Simulation. Increasingly, there are no fields of expertise, because so much of what is “expert” can be downloaded, and even if it has to be learned, the information is so accessible—even micro decisions, like, do I want an H-pipe or an X-pipe on my 1967 Camaro—that to be anything, any kind of professional anything, has become, and will progressively become, little more than a commitment to pretend to a given status. And that, of course, can only last for so long, before people realize they can’t really adopt permanent professional identities. We will each be, in our own way, simulations of however many identities we have the time or patience to pursue.

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The Seventh Wave: Claim + Thesis = Evidence


A lecture, I can’t quite recall the course title: The Something Something of Power. I was fulfilling a requirement at Hampshire College. Hampshire is a hotbed for creative and political thinking; I was only there for the creative. The course was sought-after, and didn't look too terribly painful. Michael Klare, the professor, is/was a highly regarded activist, author, and political thinker. The course would explore the dynamics of power, policy making, the manipulation of democratic populations, and the history of civil disobedience in the United States — from the workers unions and the labor clashes of the early twentieth century to the non-violent resistance of the late 60's.

The class was held in a giant auditorium — even though there weren't that many of us. I sat way in the back. From the high seats, I looked down, absorbing the material from a distance, participating as necessary, and studying Michael Klare for my outside-of-class Michael-Klare impression — he had a distinct hand-waving mannerism, and overused the word "vis."

For the final paper, we had to identify a "cause of war." This, I did. My paper covered the span of what we had studied during the semester, and it was fairly well-structured and polished, and about 5,000 words, well-exceeding the 2,000 word minimum. Klare, however, wouldn't sign off on the form that said I had fulfilled my requirement (Hampshire is pass/fail) — so I gathered up my final paper and my form and went to his office. ...

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Gawker: My Gay Uncles


When I talk about my downtown life as a kid, people ask how old I am. Growing up in New York City in the 70s was more like being an urchin of the 30s than a silver spoon of the 80s. I'm more likely to share recollections with a 70-year old—playing stoop, jumping off the piers—than to wax fondly upon the boy bands, cocaine, and angular sports cars of Ronald Reagan's second term.

At 7 or 8, I ran around the city on my own—torn jeans and army cap—and I wasn't unusual. We were wild, when wildness in New York City was still a refuge for freedom. The city was different. There were still neighborhoods, and people were—has the phrase fallen out of usage?—responsible citizens

It wasn't all niceness. There was the constant street talk, the "Let me see your wallet," the hustling and jostling for position on the sidewalk, physically, mentally, financially. It was a tough city. If you said yes at every corner, you'd be buying fireworks four times a mile. And if the fireworks guys didn't ask everyone, they'd never sell anything. In the West Village, where I went to school (PS41) and where most of my friends lived, there were offers and inquiries; the grown men in the Meat Market. The West Village was a live gay emancipation, a surge of repressed sexual energy, not all positive, and our frail sexual identities, pre-teen, answered with ignorance. ...

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Vice: My Grandma the Poisoner


When I was four or five, sometimes I'd walk into my grandmother's bedroom to find her weeping. She'd be sitting on the side of the bed, going through boxes of tissues. I don't believe this was a side of herself she shared with other people; she may have felt we had a cosmic bond because I had her father's name as my middle name and his fair features. She was crying for Martha, her daughter, who died of melanoma at the age of 28. Ten years later, after Norman—her youngest child, my uncle—died, also at 28, she would weep for him.

People were always dying around Grandma—her children, her husbands, her boyfriend—so her lifelong state of grief was understandable. To see her sunken in her high and soft bed, enshrouded in the darkness of the attic, and surrounded by the skin-and-spit smell of old age, was to know that mothers don't get what they deserve. Today, when I think back on it, I don't wonder whether Grandma got what she deserved as a mother; I wonder whether she got what she deserved as a murderer.

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The Believer Logger: Something Witchy for Leslie Van Houton

I’ve been thinking about Martha as part of a longer piece about my grandparents.  My grandmother, with Munchausen by Proxy, killed four or five people—mostly by accident, but still. (My experience with the police—I’ve talked to them—is not exactly CSI.)  One victim was her husband (her second husband, who was terminally ill, and took a very sudden turn for the worse), one was her lover (he was younger than her, in his 70s, not 80s, but he kept breaking limbs, and after Grandma’s series of several frantic calls about the level of care he required, he dropped dead), and two were her children. Martha and Norman. Or, well, I shouldn’t blame Grandma entirely. Martha died of melanoma, which doesn’t usually kill people (though Grandma may have cared for her to death), and Norman died in a scuba diving accident. 

To explain: Grandma didn’t want Norman to go diving that day, but he had already put money down for the boat (scuba diving is very expensive), and he insisted on going, so she poisoned him, probably with prescription pills (but it could have been vitamins, she had been a nutritionist), and then when he went anyway he made a fatal miscalculation (he waited, um, on the sea floor, for help). 

Should I say that my brother, my mother, my wife and I all believe this, but hope to be mistaken?  My parents were very young when they had me, and until I was old enough to care for myself, Grandma would take me in for weeks at a time, and at Grandma’s I’d be amazed by this unusual thing that happened, which I assumed happened to everyone.  Sometimes I would sleep for 48 hours straight.  Also, a few times in the middle of the night, maybe half a dozen, I had trouble breathing, and Grandma had to rush me to the hospital.

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Hyperallergic: In Conversation with Miguel Angel Hernandez

To be a critic is to be an immigrant in one’s own country. It is to seek the new in the oh-so familiar. It is to insist on understanding when judgment comes easily, and seek surprise and the overturning of one’s own certainties. It is to want to be wrong. To prefer to be wrong.

Perhaps that’s what drew me to Miguel Angel Hernández’s novel Escape Attempt, recently translated by Rhett McNeil for an English language edition from Hispabooks. The narrative tells of a suspicious box — part of an artist installation — and a missing immigrant, and a moral conundrum that is well beyond the arbitration of our coiled cerebellum and our snaky self-justifications. I saw, in Escape Attempt, the high-wire act of a novelist and critic; a creative performance of engaging every question while deferring every answer.

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TheTimes Literary Supplement: ‘Georgia’ a novel by Dawn Trip

Well, for those of you who subscribe to the Times Literary Supplement, I have a review of Dawn Tripp's novel, Georgia in this week's issue:

Wilully, Americans tell the story of Georgia O’Keeffe: the story of the southwestern female artist and pioneer. The story is wrong in three ways: once for the remnants of the arguments it contains, mounted by art critics in the 1920s, that O’Keeffe embodied the art of a woman, more sensual ...


The New York Times: 'Francis Bacon in Your Blood: A Memoir'

Reviewing 'Francis Bacon in Your Blood: A Memoir,' by Michael Peppiatt 

When Michael Peppiatt, at 21, met Francis Bacon, the 53-year-old artist was already all artifice, well spoken when well rehearsed, his bistro doctrines applauded by clinking glasses. Peppiatt, having taken over a student arts journal at Cambridge, had shown up in London’s Soho. It was 1963, and Peppiatt laid claim to but a tenuous introduction to the renowned painter he sought. At the bar of the French House, the youth was handled by the photographer John Deakin, who loudly advised: 'My dear, you should consider that the maestro you mention has as of late become so famous that she no longer talks to the flotsam and jetsam. . . . I fear she wouldn’t even consider meeting a mere student like you!' ...

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