Laura Hutson Hunter

In his introduction to The Art of Gothic Living: Dark Decor for the Modern Macabre, author Paul Gambino says that “Modern Gothic decor is the physical manifestation of the Goth ideology.” Just what that ideology is, however, is undoubtedly up for debate. That’s what makes Gambino’s selection of 15 different homes from three continents so intriguing: There’s extraordinary variety even in such a niche subculture. A former church in western Ohio features arched stained-glass windows and doors that open up to a cemetery directly across the road. A Tudor manor house from 1559 in Somerset, England, has a cabinet full of wax moulage heads that were previously on display in medical museums and illustrate various diseases and abnormalities. There’s even a 1,000-year-old castle in Rome that was the summer residence of two popes, Leo XII and Paul V. But this book is as much about the collections inside the homes as the homes themselves. One has shelves of antiquarian books about the occult and natural history, while another has an almost encyclopedic archive of spiritualist ephemera. Readers will also meet the curators and inhabitants of these homes. Adam and Laura, a pair of stage actors whose passion for Victorian decor was inspired by both opera and ’90s goth music, live in a third-floor walk-up apartment in New Jersey. They count among their treasures a shrunken human head from the 1930s, a sloth bear rug and a “mated pair” of taxidermied passenger pigeons. “We feel very comfortable surrounded by this decor,” Adam says. And readers will be delighted to explore such surroundings.


The devil is in the details in Paul Gambino’s survey of modern gothic decor, The Art of Gothic Living.

When I first saw Parachute: Subversive Design and Street Fashion, I didn’t think I was familiar with the Montreal-based brand, which was founded by American architect Harry Parnass and British designer Nicola Pelly in the late 1970s. But after spending only a few minutes with the book, I realized I was wrong. Parachute’s influence on New Wave style was so pervasive that it was almost impossible to miss. Think about exaggerated trench coats or kimono-style jumpsuits, and you’re likely thinking of Parachute-influenced designs. Though the brand’s heyday was the ’80s, the book itself feels very current, with text in both English and French and a dynamic layout that changes from section to section. Author Alexis Walker is associate curator of dress, fashion and textiles at the McCord Stewart Museum in Montreal, and she presents her subject as if in a comprehensive museum archive. It’s rare to see a brand as subversive as Parachute become so influential, and the book gracefully walks the line between commerce and art. In a chapter dedicated to Parachute’s enduring, collaborative relationship with the musician Peter Gabriel, Gabriel is quoted as saying “Parachute always seemed different—smarter and highly original.” This book is that, as well.


The dynamic, photo-heavy Parachute shows the titular brand’s influence on fashion and culture.

Both an art book and a kind of poetic herbarium, An Encyclopedia of Gardening for Colored Children defies easy classification. That’s for the benefit of readers, though: Untethered to the conventions of traditional genres, writer Jamaica Kincaid is free to create something brand new, and perusing the pages feels like true discovery. Kincaid’s tone shifts from erudite to casual with a buoyancy that will make readers want to follow her thoughts through till the end. In the section that begins “O is for Orange,” Kincaid writes of the many names and etymological roots for oranges, and how the Earth is indifferent to the names we assign its fruits: “The vegetable kingdom persists and will most likely do so when we are no longer here to name and identify it.” The book’s colorful watercolors are by celebrated artist Kara Walker, and they’re treated as equal partners to Kincaid’s prose. In Walker’s hands, the illustration for poppies includes carnivalesque swirls of opium and bagels, a woman in seductive repose and a man hanging his head in despair. This niche but precious volume feels outside of time, and will be a treat to gardeners, children, artists, poets and book lovers alike.


Jamaica Kincaid and Kara Walker’s An Encyclopedia of Gardening for Colored Children will be a treat to gardeners, children, artists, poets and book lovers alike.

A collaboration between writer Coco Romack and photographer Yael Malka, A Sense of Shifting: Queer Artists Reshaping Dance is a triumph of photography, dance and queer culture. Each of the book’s 12 chapters is dedicated to a specific queer dancer or dance company, and together they tell a fairly comprehensive story about the various ways that queer dance is pushing boundaries and destabilizing traditions. In Romack’s words, these dancers “embody expansive and liberatory means of existing.” In a chapter dedicated to San Francisco’s Sundance Stompede, Romack spotlights the annual four-day festival of LGBTQ+ country-western dancers with participant interviews and historical context, while Malka’s photos capture intimate moments of queer love—and plenty of cowboy boots. A chapter on Queer Butoh, a collection of performances presented by Vangeline Theater and the New York Butoh Institute, includes haunting imagery of butoh dancers as well as a cultural examination of the movement’s equally haunting genesis in postwar Japan. There’s a chapter on disability arts ensemble Kinetic Light, which includes dancers who use wheelchairs, and a chapter about the gender-expansive strip party Alejandro’s Night. One word of warning: Reading about these fascinating subjects may result in the purchase of a ticket to see them.


The triumphant photo-essay book A Sense of Shifting shows how queer dance is pushing boundaries and destabilizing traditions.

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