Book Reviews

The Politics of Prose

Book Reviews

The Hasty Papers:

Millennium Edition of the Legendary 1960 One-Shot Review

edited by Alfred Leslie

Host Publications, 256 pp., $35

Whoever can determine the original goals of Alfred Leslie's smoky, sexy, oh-so-New York publication, The Hasty Papers, deserves the hastiest reward. First published in 1960 with no budget and little support, the self-described One-Shot Review mixed poems with politics, communism with comedy, and social critique with red hot sex in the city -- all in a single ejaculatory publication that was not intended for posterity.

Leslie, the East Village painter and filmmaker who threw the papers together, shows the beautiful progress that was required for the production of his review in this new Y2K-compliant update of the 1960 version. Included in the redone book are letters written to and from Fidel Castro, Truman Capote, Boris Pasternak, Jean Genet, and a party list of others that reveals just how difficult and dreamy the construction of the papers really was. Not a bit hasty at all.

This Hasty Papers fils begins with Leslie's newly penned history of his own work and the creation of his review, all explained in a long-winded Pushkin sonnet format. Cheeky as it is, there is a strange aptness in beginning such a jarring conglomeration of texts and images in this unconventional way. As his verse winds and unwinds, television images of Nazi Germany and the unabashed sexuality of a 1940s Times Square parade in the margins. There are nuns and there are horses, and for a second, we see a few good men standing shoulder-to-shoulder without clothes at the urinals. This seductive clash of reception is rivaled only by the two headlines that stand together at the top of the 1960 review. One screams out: "Sanctity As a Social Fact: To Succeed in Being All, See to Being Nothing in Nothing." A wonderful challenge! The other bravely reads: "Three Great Painters: Churchill, Hitler & Eisenhower."

The original review and its present incarnation suffer from some obvious naiveté and dreaminess that are almost laughable when measured against the artistic and philosophical impulses, or dare we say "desires," of our own day. But one should suspect that this youthfulness, this call to the unspecified revolution, is what makes The Hasty Papers a terribly fascinating read in historical and artistic terms. So many geniuses, so many headlines are involved in the brainstorming and execution of the missive that it achieves a highly respectable authority in depicting not just one city or one group of thinkers, but a world and its troubles in a tiny and critical time -- and with a smoke-flavored tongue kiss, at that.

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The Hasty Papers, Alfred Leslie

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