Synopses & Reviews
, Hilton Alss first book since The Women
fourteen years ago, finds one of The New Yorker's
boldest cultural critics deftly weaving together his brilliant analyses of literature, art, and music with fearless insights on race, gender, and history. The result is an extraordinary, complex portrait of white girls,” as Als dubs theman expansive but precise category that encompasses figures as diverse as Truman Capote and Louise Brooks, Malcolm X and Flannery OConnor. In pieces that hairpin between critique and meditation, fiction and nonfiction, high culture and low, the theoretical and the deeply personal, Als presents a stunning portrait of a writer by way of his subjects, and an invaluable guide to the culture of our time.
"New Yorker critic Als (The Women) delivers his first book in 15 years a mesmerizing and varied collection of essays, some previously published. His eponymous 'white girls' include Louise Brooks, Flannery O'Connor, Truman Capote, Richard Pryor, Malcolm X, Michael Jackson, Eminem, and others. Using his subjects as a springboard to analyze literature, photography, films, music, television, performance, race, gender, sexual orientation, and history, Als offers wry insights throughout. For example, he notes how O'Connor's readers often overlooked 'the originality and honesty of her portrayal... of Southern whiteness as it chafed under its biggest cultural influence Southern blackness.' In his opening essay, 'Tristes Tropiques,' Als revels in his relationship ('twinship') with the unnamed SL ('Sir or Lady'), noting that the relationship defies categorization in an America that 'is nothing if not about categories': 'There was no context... to understand us... two colored men who were together, not lovers, not bums, not mad.' Highly attuned to popular culture, Als is a writer of many moods meditative, sardonic, haunting, funny, reflective, and unconventional. Whether agonizing over photos of black lynchings (and realizing that the true meaning of the N-word is a 'slow death'), or constructing a critique of Virginia Woolf in the voice of Richard Pryor's sister, he proves to be a compassionate writer looking for unity even if it can't always be found. Agent: Jeffrey Posternak, Wylie Agency." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Praise for The Women:
"Inventive and daring . . . a fascinating sensibility."
Richard Bernstein, The New York Times
"Like all truly original writing, it comes to no conclusions, imposes no creed and sets the reader free to ponder. Writing of people who limited themselves and died of it, Mr. Als has overcome limits . . . On the strength of his vision, he has managed to enter those 'expansive interior places' his mentor avoided. One hopes that he will just keep going."
Andrea Lee, The New York Times Book Review
"I read Als not only because he is utterly extraordinary, which he is, but for the reason one is often drawn to the best writersbecause one has a sense that one's life might depend on them. White Girls
is a book, a dream, an enemy, a friend, and, yes, the read of the year."
"Als' work is so much more than simply writing about being black or gay or smart. Its about being human." Kirkus (Starred)
"Hilton Alss White Girls (McSweeneys)has reached out and grabbed me by my lapels."
One of the A.V. Club's
Favorite Books of the Year!
Official selection of the Unofficial Official Hairpin 3.0 Book Club
"Named one of Kirkus' Best Books of 2013"
"I read Als not only because he is utterly extraordinary, which he is, but for the reason one is often drawn to the best writersbecause one has a sense that one's life might depend on them. White Girls is a book, a dream, an enemy, a friend, and, yes, the read of the year."
"Hilton Alss White Girls gave me a gift very few books do: of hearing a voice thats new, that comes as if from a different room. A nonsensical thing to say in one sense: hes been writing brilliantly and visibly for almost 20 years. But theres something about the work in this book. It's a leap forward not merely for Als as a writer but for the peculiar American genre of culture-crit-as-autobiography. Its bravery lies in a set refusal to allow itself all sorts of illusionsabout race, about sex, about American artand the subtlety of its thinking is wedded maypole-fashion to a real confessional lyricism. had a lot of black gay man in us, Als taught me that I have a lot of white girl in me, too, and so does he. And so do you, is where it gets interesting. If you think that sounds like another blurb-job or post-postmodern twaddle, I defy you to read this book and come away with a mind unchanged." John Jeremiah Sullivan, author of Pulphead
"Effortless, honest and fearless"Rich Benjamin, The New York Times
"A comprehensive and utterly lovely collection of one of the best writers around." Boston Globe
"This is a book that readers will want to spend the rest of their lives with." Library Journal (Starred review)
"Als' work is so much more than simply writing about being black or gay or smart. Its about being human." Kirkus (Starred review)
"Hilton Alss White Girls (McSweeneys)has reached out and grabbed me by my lapels."
Library Journal (Starred review)
"Mesmerizing... [Als] proves to be a compassionate writer looking for unityeven if it cant always be found" Publishers Weekly (Starred review)
"Als is pyrotechnic, lifting off the page in a blast of stinging light and concussive booms that somehow coalesce into profound cultural and psychological illuminations." Booklist
"Incisive cultural criticism."Roxane Gay, The Nation
"Als has created a work of art."Christopher Bollen, Interview Magazine
"[E]verything Als is saying is a vivid, bright truth"Lambda Literary
"Brilliant."NY Journal of Books
"Als is one of the most consistently unpredictable and surprising essayists out there, an author who confounds our expectations virtually every time he writes." Los Angeles Times
"Nothing short of masterful." HTML Giant
"Captivating." Entertainment Weekly
"This book will change you." Chicago Tribune
"[Als] is a poet on the page, and his insistence on breaking the essay form defines his liberation as a writer." The Rumpus
"[Hilton] Als interweaves personal revelation with cultural touchstones, sometimes hopping from topic to topic at a breakneck speed, other times examining concepts so strategically and methodically his words become scalpels, flaying open unacknowledged bias, privilege, and conflict where he sees it."
--The A.V. Club
"[Hilton Als] is above all a writer fascinated by people: their little habits and turns of phrase, their multi-layered sexualities, and their unfathomable relationships to each other or, in the case of his famous subjects, to the world." --UTNE
"Mr. Als is a national treasure." the New York Observer
"[White Girls] is a book that rewards rereading if not requires it, but that rewards the investment amply, if not twofold." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
"No one understands the intersections of race, gender and sexuality as intuitively as [Hilton] Als does or explodes them with more brio, and the variations he plays on the themes of identity, intimacy and race achieve a fugue-like complexity and power." The Washington Post
About the Author
became a staff writer at The New Yorker
in October, 1994, and a theatre critic in 2002. He began contributing to the magazine in 1989, writing pieces for The Talk of the Town
Als was a staff writer for The Village Voice and an editor-at-large at Vibe. He has also written articles for The Nation and collaborated on film scripts for Swoon” and Looking for Langston.”
Als edited the catalog for the Whitney Museum of American Art exhibition entitled Black Male: Representations of Masculinity in Contemporary American Art,” which ran from November, 1994, to March, 1995. His first book, The Women, a meditation on gender, race, and personal identity, was published in 1996.
In 1997, the New York Association of Black Journalists awarded Als first prize in both Magazine Critique/Review and Magazine Arts and Entertainment. He was awarded a Guggenheim for Creative Writing in 2000 and the George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism for 2002-03. In 2009, Als worked with the performer Justin Bond on Cold Water,” an exhibition of paintings, drawings, and videos by performers, at La MaMa Gallery. In 2010, he co-curated Self-Consciousness,” at the Veneklasen Werner Gallery in Berlin.
Als has taught at Yale University, Wesleyan, and Smith College. He lives in New York City.
Table of Contents
1. Tristes Tropiques
2. The Women [Truman Capote]
3. This Lonesome Place [Flannery O'Connor]
4. Gone with the Wind [About a show of lynching photographs]
5. Philosopher or Dog [Louise Little, mother of Malcolm X]
7. Michael [Michael Jackson]
8. The Only One [Andre Leon Talley]
9. Darling [Adrian Piper]
10. I Am the Happiness of this World [Louis Brooks]
11 Buddy Ebsen
12. A Pryor Love [Richard Pryor profile]
13. You and Whose Army? [Richard Pryor's sister]
14. It Will Soon Be Here