Friday, May 15, 2009

LIFE AS WE SHOW IT contributor Wayne Koestenbaum on Star-F!@*ing

Growing up with this preoccupation with stardom...people from official histories also become stars. So for you, Emily Dickinson is a star, in the same way that Michael Jackson might be.

WAYNE: Right. Well, stars ... I have my most interesting thoughts and feelings around stars.

Is a star someone you intensely transfer feelings onto?

WAYNE: Right. Somebody I discovered, not by meeting them, but by perceiving them in a number of ways.

What do you think it is — this intensity of being able to take what one is thinking about or feeling or identifying with, and going to the star and trying to find what one is looking for there, especially by digging and by explicating...?

WAYNE: Part of my interest in stars has to do with the star world being an endless source of visual stimulation. I think of it largely as visual stimulation. Right away, as we're talking, I see star cheekbones, star noses, star breasts — and they're all as particular as people I've had sex with or wanted to have sex with. It's an enormous trove of sensory memory... Just say " Montgomery Clift." The levels of my interest in Montgomery Clift work exactly the way literary or cultural allusion works in art. It's reference. But how beautiful the two words, Montgomery Clift. They have in them, it seems to me, just a fathomless sea of visual and narrative nuggets. There is a whole tragic narrative. It's like a CD- Rom or something. I'm aware that knowledge is often very ephemeral, that you have to be a fan to know it all. But I know a lot of those things about the people I care about. It's a kind of literacy that enlivens daily perception. It adds layers.

-from an interview with Peter Halley, originally published in INDEX magazine, 1999. For a full transcript, go here.

Wayne Koestenbaum is the author of Andy Warhol, The Milk of Inquiry, The Queen's Throat, Jackie Under My Skin, Cleavage, Moira Orfei in Aigues-Mortes, Best-selling Jewish Porn Films, Model Homes, and Hotel Theory. Find his work on

For LIFE AS WE SHOW IT, Koestenbaum dissects his lifelong discovery of "Elizabeth Taylor".

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