Lara Mimosa Montes looks back to another era and reappraises her own with Koestenbaum’s My 1980s and Other Essays.
“For half the decade I lived in New York City, and yet I didn’t go to a single Andy Warhol opening,” writes Warhol biographer Wayne Koestenbaum in his new book My 1980s & Other Essays. A prolific poet and cultural critic, he invites us here to reconsider that era, as well as the private raptures of writing and of writing autobiographically. Placing himself at the periphery, the book begins with a confession—the embarrassing, perhaps commonly omitted admission that the author wasn’t even really there. But who was? Who among those living in the ‘80s was ever totally there? Moreover, who has survived to speak of it? Among the Warhol superstars, not many. Among those who contracted HIV when it was still referred to as GRID in the early years of the epidemic, even less. Given the recent retrospective group exhibitions in New York concerned with the confluence of art and HIV/AIDS in the ‘80s and ‘90s, such as the New Museum’s “NYC 1993” or the Whitney’s “I, YOU, WE,” Koestenbaum’s book feels tailor-made for these deeply introspective times.