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Feral city : on finding liberation in lockdown New York
2022
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Library Journal Review
Moss's (Vanishing New York) book is, in some ways, the autobiographical equivalent of the apocalyptic novels by N. K. Jemison and Emily St. John Mandel. But with a strange, beautiful sense of hope and healing, made when a wrecked world requires all the resiliency people with nondominant gender and sexual identities quietly cultivated by necessity during the "before times." Chapters evocative of now-too-familiar sentiments ("Emptiness Gives Permission," "The Phase of Breaking," and "I Would Prefer Not To") lend the book on an almost universal feel made personal when Moss layers in descriptions of living in a New York experienced through peepholes and peripheries, a place where as a trans poet, he sought out anonymity, enclosure, and safety. That is, until lockdown turned the world of influencers upside down, and vacant spaces suddenly offered new protection. This is a brilliant story of being lost and finding a place when socially constructed ideas of how people can or should show up are dismantled. It also examines what happens when dominant culture attempts to reassert its so-called order. VERDICT Highly recommended, not just for queer readers or scholars of LGBTQIA+ culture but for anyone who has felt inexorably gutted and remade during the COVID pandemic.--Emily Bowles
Publishers Weekly Review
Pushcart Prize winner Moss (Vanishing New York) reflects in these razor-sharp essays on how life in New York City changed when the "New People" ("young and funded... utterly unblemished, physically fit and clean-cut, as bland as skim milk and unsalted Saltines") fled during the Covid-19 pandemic. Moss, who moved to the East Village in the 1990s as a "young, queer, transsexual poet," opens with a lacerating account of how his building has changed in recent decades, describing neighbors who presume their "total security and comfort" and fill restaurants with overbearing noise "charged with social status." Though he savored the "velvet drape of silence" that descended when these New People abandoned the city in March 2020, he also had to reckon with fear and isolation. "Buddy, if this goes on much longer," a pizza vendor tells him, "you should buy a gun. We're all gonna need guns." Nevertheless, "the weird magic of pandemic time" allowed Moss to rediscover the "subterranean feeling" he used to experience in New York and to meet the "radicals, skateboarders, artists, and eccentrics" who stayed behind. Shot through with pinpoint character sketches, incisive reportage on the Occupy City Hall protest movement, and lucid discussions of queer theory, this is a vital contribution to New York City history. (Oct.)
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