From Eve Babitz to Elizabeth Hardwick, the ‘Sleeveless’ author gives a crash course in navigating your social existence.
Ours is an age devoid of boundaries—particularly within the ‘media landscape.’ We have internalized the logic of content production; private cultivation of identity seems antiquated, usurped by self-commodification and self-surveillance. Accordingly, it is tricky to untangle the threads of our desire and confront the maneuverings of media clear-eyed. Yet, in spite of—or perhaps because of—her position within the thick of fashion, art, and culture industries in New York, writer Natasha Stagg has compellingly distilled the fraught, interdependent nature of our relationships to media in her second book Sleeveless, recently published by Semiotext(e).
Themes of fame and femininity, and, more often than not, their intersection, occupy a focal point in her work. Stagg’s booklist reflects this fascination, highlighting female authors who negotiate their social existence through writing dense in both emotional candor and thorough analysis. Indeed, her voice is quite at home amongst those of Elizabeth Hardwick and Eve Babitz.
Sleepless Nights by Elizabeth Hardwick
“Somehow, the writing of Sleepless Nights (1979) seems both careful and unwieldy, a train of thought that was edited to its essential emotions, ensuring it would become a reflection of coming-of-adulthood that would outlive its era. Hardwick is a writer’s writer, yet unpretentious—a hero to the directionless and the overeducated.”
Owls Do Cry by Janet Frame
“Frame is maybe best known as a person who lived through extraordinary circumstances, later portrayed in the Jane Campion adaptation of her memoir An Angel At My Table. The extraordinary, still fresh style in which Owls Do Cry (1957) was written, though, is the most fascinating part.”
Slow Days, Fast Company by Eve Babitz
“Babitz’s comeback makes sense and it doesn’t. In Slow Days, Fast Company (1977), she represents a type of woman that is all around us, now: excited to investigate and participate in debauched success. She’s also a better writer than most of us millennial navel-gazers, though, infatuated with the hierarchies that inform her stories.”
Quartet by Jean Rhys
“Rhys is the ultimate sad writer, and that makes her even more miserable (she’s famous for saying “I’d rather be happy than write.”) Quartet (1929) is a guide to getting drunk alone, falling out of love, and fleshing out a story with such mesmerizing details that whole affair seems worth it.”