#227: Meet Me In The Bathroom
Lizzy Goodman and Adam Green on Stacey Abrams Novels, Caron Dache Neocolor 1 Crayons, The Joan Didion exhibition at the Hammer museum, Beck’s “Mutations”, and more.
Cool people like cool things, which is why we asked Lizzy Goodman and Adam Green to share some recommendations on Perfectly Imperfect.
Lizzy Goodman is the author of Meet Me In The Bathroom, a must-read book that chronicles the music rebirth of New York City in the early aughts by covering iconic bands such as The Strokes, LCD Soundsystem, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and Adam Green’s influential anti-folk band with Kimya Dawson, The Moldy Peaches. If you’re a sucker for this era like I am, you’ll be excited to hear that they made a documentary based on the book with nearly two hours of mostly unseen footage, and it’s really fucking good. The film will be in select theaters starting November 4th and tonight Lizzy is doing a reading + signing at Rough Trade that’s moderated by friend of the newsletter Naomi Fry. Lucky for us, Lizzy and Adam are here to tell us what they’ve been into.
Without further ado
📕 The Golden Spur, by Dawn Powell
I’ve been deliberately reading a lot of New York fiction these days, thinking about the city as a character, the city as the ultimate backdrop for coming-of-age stories, the city as a source, in general, of inspiration. What have New York stories looked like throughout time? What do Rear Window and American Psycho and Catcher in the Rye and the Basketball Diaries and Cruel Intentions all have in common? This novel by Dawn Powell is one of those books every New York lit nerd with taste tells you read, but I never had. It’s currently blowing my mind.
📺 I Hate Suzie.
I was obsessed with this show when S1 first aired in 2020 year. S2 is finally (finally!) coming out later this year and I’m re-watching S1 to prepare. The show was co-created by the actress (and former teen pop star) Billie Piper and the playwright Lucy Prebble (who is also a co-executive producer and writer on Succession … so yeah, she’s hot shit). They’ve been collaborating for years (see also: Secret Diary of a Call Girl). I’m not going to spoil the show by explaining the premise, but I will say that it has a really tight, super high-concept structure. The result is a series of tense, fraught, hyper-immersive mini-film-ish episodes that drop you directly into the show’s world. On the podcast I host, Difficult Artist, we talk a lot about the power of structure. I’m obsessed with structure because I struggle so mightily with it. I’m dying to have these two on so they can tell me how they pulled this off. It’s also worth pointing out the obvious, which is that women are never seen like this on TV. The lead character is just this magnetic, flawed human being working through a mess of her own making. She happens to be female and the show is undeniably feminist, but it's not about being female or conveying an explicitly feminist message. A++
📕 Stacey Abrams Novels
I, like so many, adore Stacey Abrams. She’s so inspiring. This brilliant powerhouse of informed optimism, whose faith in and commitment to the power of organizing has reminded many Americans that fighting for your rights and the rights of others is the definition of patriotism. If you are a fan, you’ve heard her speak, and perhaps you’ve noticed that between the steady stream of thoughtful, cheery-yet-steely determination exists the occasional glimpse of deep nerdiness. I mean, she’s a Trekkie who’s written a bunch of romance novels under the pen name Selena Montgomery. (So charming!) But until I read her latest, the thriller While Justice Sleeps, (published under her own name) I had no idea the extent of Ms. Abrams’ geekiness. A major plot element hinges on secret communications in online chess message boards. We need our leaders to be people, first. People with real lives. People who understand joy and humor and sex and who have hobbies and interests and obsessions with, for example, chess moves and the sci-fi-ish implications of DNA-sequencing (another major plot point). I can’t wait to vote for this woman for president one day.
📺 The Bear
I’ve been working on adapting Meet Me in the Bathroom into a scripted series – a fictionalized rendering of this world and the lives we lived in it as 20-something ambitious, insecure kids trying to find our way in the city we adored. Figuring out how to tell a coming-of-age story that is both obsessively allegiant to the sounds, sights, smells, tastes and feel of a particular world (NYC circa 2001 for me) but also delivers a universal story about being young and searching is … you know, hard. I wasn’t sure it could be done in the way I wanted until I saw the Bear. The show has been rightly celebrated for getting so uniquely right a world that is so notoriously hard to render onscreen (the restaurant world) but also for nailing what is ultimately a coming-of-age story about grief and loss and family. You can do both! It is possible! And now I have a model to point to.
📝 The Joan Didion exhibition at the Hammer museum.
You know what is sometimes good? Leaving the house. It’s something I tend to forget. Even in the pre-pandemic world I could become a bit of a shut-in, especially when working on something big. It’s like you just forget to engage in anything outside of your own realm. And if you’re me, you tell yourself that isolation is a part of a larger Very Smart and Disciplined creative philosophy. Nope! That’s utter horseshit. As I was recently reminded when I was forced to leave my home/writing cave to come out to LA and celebrate the release of the MMITB doc. In between events, a friend and checked out Joan Didion: What She Means, curated by Didion’s friend, the writer Hilton Als. It’s weird to have a visual art exhibit about a writer. And even weirder to have an art exhibit about a writer curated by another writer. What is the art part? What are we looking at that collectively gets at some larger truth or sense of understanding of Didion’s work? But I loved it. So much. Didion herself was a kind of alchemist. A magpie assembler of facts and impressions and senses of things into work that felt, in its refracted, prismatic, fractured way, like the most unflinching, crystal-clear rendering of the modern world imaginable. This exhibition so captured that. I was walking through it, looking at things on walls and in cases – photos of Didion smiling as a young woman (riveting and almost upsetting to see her before her stare became her calling card) and vintage Vogues and video of John Wayne and Diane Arbus photographs – and feeling all the things I felt when I first read Didion: gob smacked, agitated, exhilarated, and… in a hurry to go home and write.
Adam Green (instagram)
🎥 Andrei Tarkovsky’s “Stalker”
People had been telling me to watch this movie for years, I finally gave it a shot and it’s mindblowing. The film is a total artwork that takes place in an interior landscape of the human soul, called “The Zone”, with deeply felt apocalyptic evocations of Christianity. Tarkovsky provides us with aesthetic mastery of all the filmmaking elements, from set-designs both naturalistic and sculptural, breathtaking cinematography, deely psychedelic music, and brilliant portrayals of raw human emotion. With all these filmmaking elements in place, he conducts them all like it’s a Beethoven symphony. This film might contain the most aesthetic merit of any movie I’ve ever seen. Another thing is that the movie actually killed them to make it - some of the cast and crew including Tarkovsky and his wife were poisoned while filming scenes on a river near a chemical plant, and they died as a result. Essential viewing!
👃 Perfume Collecting
I started collecting perfumes on the tour for my “Aladdin” movie in 2016, my bandmate was an amateur perfumer and his passion for aromatic materials was infectious. Studying scent unlocked an entire dimension of sensory experiences I had been ignoring. I realized that perfumers were trying to communicate with us, the raw materials had developed symbolic meanings over thousands of years, and could be used in combination to create very specific artworks. I began to see perfumes as snowglobes that carry information as a landscape, that there’s a lot of encoded information in them. Collecting them became an adventure, walking around the city realizing every city block had stores with samples of these precious artworks. I even started to obtain vintage bottles of perfume from 30, 50, even 80 years ago that still smelled great, and I began to understand in more depth how people used to smell and why. I recently wrote an epic perfume adventure book that I hope to put out soon.
🖍 Caron Dache Neocolor 1 Crayons
These luxury crayons from Geneva are the best kept secret of art supplies stores. I’ve been drawing with Neocolor Series 1 for the last ten years and they’ve been life-changing for me. Neocolor have the rich opaque pigments of high-quality pastels - but unlike regular oil pastels, they are waxy crayons that don’t smudge at all. Crayons themselves are a very forgiving medium, because of their bulbous tip they tend to make bold and imperfect lines. It’s harder to look like you made a mistake when you are drawing with crayons, and that makes them the perfect tool to experiment with expressively. I can’t prove it. but I believe that these are what Cy Twombly used on his 60’s and 70’s canvases - the museum placard always lists Twombly’s material as crayon, but it must be Necolor to look that vibrant! Crayolas suck once you try these.
📕 Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Graphic Novels
Lots of people love Alejandro Jodorowsky’s psychedelic movies like El Topo and The Holy Mountain, there is even a documentary about his famously unmade Dune movie. What people don’t seem to realize though, is that for the last 40 years, Jodorowsky’s been authoring numerous graphic novels that comprise 20+ other movies he would have probably made if he’d had the budget for them - and they are all fully fleshed out in comic book form! For example if you are mourning the fact you will never see Jodorowsky’s Dune, now realize that he put those ideas into a comic book series called The Metabarons. If you are wondering what happens after El Topo, know that there is a graphic novel sequel he recently released called Sons of El Topo. A series, Techno Priests, is like Jodorwosky’s Star Wars. In fact, his graphic novel with Moebius called The Incal was so good that Luc Besson ripped it off to make The Fifth Element. If you are willing to read the comics, you’ll experience Jodorowsky quietly creating a universe of Miyazaki-level creativity. Inspiring is an understatement!
🎵 Beck’s “Mutations” album
I bought Beck’s Mutations album the day it came out, and I loved how Beck collected so many concepts on that record. After listening to it, I made the decision to write down all the ideas in my head, so I started carrying a pocket notebook. It’s been 24 years since then and I still write in one every day. Beck changed my standard of what a modern songwriter could or should be doing. I came from the indie-rock mentality where everything was sort of homespun and amateurish, Mutations made me realize that a contemporary artist could make a record at the level of Bowie, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen.
Look for documentary showtimes near you.
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