The following is an excerpt from the newly released Getting Dressed: Confession, Criticism, Cultural History, by Paula Marantz Cohen. Read on below and buy Getting Dressed today from Smart Set Press.

 

As a teenager, I had acne. Not the acute kind that could be cured by Acutaine, but the milder variety that didn’t go away even with copious use of Stridex pads and Phisohex. My spotty face eroded my self-esteem and made it hard for me to look people in the eye. But something positive did come out of those painful, pimple-ridden years: I discovered makeup and my life became richer for it.

When you start to ponder it, you realize that makeup is a… More…

 

Martin Kippenberger was a wreck. When he finally died at 44, he’d so beaten himself up with drink and bad living that the grave must have been a relief. The show currently on view at MoMA, “Martin Kippenberger: The Problem Perspective,” is something like a catalogue of everything Kippenberger had been doing in the years before he finally expired. There are doodles on scraps of paper and delicate water color scenes, announcement cards and his collections of music. There are sculptures created through the arrangement of assorted pieces of used and modified furniture and full-scale oil works on canvas. Everything is represented, from the offhand gesture to the fully intentional work. Kippenberger, it seems, could not stop making art. Yet, he rarely seems to have been pleased by that state of affairs. The theme of shame appears throughout…. More…

 

Not since Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch have readers and critics had such a Rorschach test for their body issues as this year’s novel Wetlands. Charlotte Roche has said in interviews that she was horrified at how women were treating their bodies and wanted to shock readers into confronting their need for perfection — the waxing, the bleaching, the plastic surgery, the designer jeans. Critics have thrown fits, calling Roche’s tale of a sexually adventurous, body-loving, completely-oblivious-to-social-conventions woman profane and irrelevant and unladylike. Others are labeling the book’s protagonist a post-feminist heroine, which is also sort of missing the point.

It’s not a great book, to be sure. The plot is just a flimsy thing designed to link together one tale of (dirty, disgusting, disturbing — take your pick) sex and bodily exploration after another. She tastes all… More…