On the heels of the release of ‘fra eufori,’ the artist offers Document the latest on her reading list, from Didion to the Danish Sylvia Plath
When Courtesy reads, she does so with a phone in hand, looking up the definitions of unfamiliar words and uploading them to a folder she shares with a friend. This is, in part, a practice rooted in the fact that the Berlin-based Danish artist isn’t native to the English language, which she often reads. But it’s also a testament to her attention to detail, which extends to the music she makes.
Courtesy’s debut record, fra eufori, is a distillation of the sound that made her, reinterpreting dreamy dance tracks of the ’80s, ’90s, and 2000s on her hardware synthesizers. She covers staples of pop production, from Madonna’s “What It Feels Like for a Girl” to Enya’s “Orinoco Flow,” instilling in them the type of melancholy and euphoria that relate more to Berlin’s contemporary art scene than its club circuit.
The album is a collaborative effort in every regard: with artists of the past (in the songs Courtesy reconceives) and in the present, as she features musicians August Rosenbaum and Francesca Burattelli, as well as vocal appearances from Lyra Pramuk, Erika de Casier, Sophie Joe, and Merely.
Following the release of fra eufori, Courtesy offers Document the latest on her reading list—a window into how the artist parses through the world around her.
Other People’s Clothes by Calla Henkel
“Fun teen murder mystery energy, but the real genius of this book is its precise image of what it is like to arrive in Berlin as a young raver and art school exchange student—and thankfully, without any unbearable stereotypes of German club culture. It nails the intensity and uncanniness of this city.”
May Text by Sofia Defino Leiby
“The debut novel of one of my absolute favorite contemporary artists.”
Close to the Knives: A Memoir of Disintegration by David Wojnarowicz
“I think about David Wojnarowicz often because of this book. Close to the Knives is his memoir, on living through the HIV crisis as a gay man, salient artist, and activist. It’s written in a style that mixes essay and train of thought and narrative biographical storytelling. This was the book that made me understand the full political dimension of the HIV epidemic. It is a rather heavy read: Wojnarowicz writes with the same anger we can detect in his visual art. But more than anything, I noticed so much love and affection in this text, namely for the people close to him—his friends and lovers.”
“She wanted her work to be understood in the context of the time it was written, which should be the case for any kind of literature.”
Susan Sontag: The Complete Rolling Stone Interview by Jonathan Cott
“Not being a native English speaker—and as someone who started reading seriously relatively late in life—I read most books with an iPhone, constantly looking up words. I’ve been taking a screenshot of each definition and adding it to an iCloud folder, which I share with my friend Chris. Works by Susan Sontag usually require a lot of dictionary action, but not this piece: It’s not a book authored by Sontag. Instead, it comprises the complete transcription of an interview conducted with her by Rolling Stone, including parts that were originally not published in 1979.
It was the perfect way for me to start reading Sontag—[who] felt intimidating to begin with. In the interview, she states that her writing shouldn’t be read as universal, or [as] long-lasting truth. She says it [would be a] misunderstanding to think that even she agreed with herself after publishing a set of theses. She wanted her work to be understood in the context of the time it was written, which should be the case for any kind of literature.”
The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
“A very sad but beautiful way to learn about what love can and should be.”
The Love of Painting by Isabelle Graw
“Her most recent book on friendship is unreadable, but don’t let that stop you from indulging in this excellent work on painting and art history and theory.”
Gift by Tove Ditlevsen
“Gift means marriage in Danish, but also poison—and if you look this title up, many of the online blurbs state that it is a book about Ditlevsen’s three marriages. But, just as much, [it’s] about her as a drug addict, writer, artist, and failing mother. She was the Sylvia Plath of Danish literature, so famous that streets and schools are named after her. And we—Danes—have all been exposed to her brutal teenage autofiction in school. In the last five years, her work finally started getting translated to English. If you knew me personally before that, you probably heard me ramble at an afterparty about how I wanted to publish an English translation of Gift.”