From 1983 to 1998, Exquisite Corpse: A Journal of Books & Ideas delighted the indignant and the sophisticated and gave heartburn to the fearful and the tenured. A thorn in the side of the Literary Establishment, it attracted a cadre of contributors united by a kind of suicidal fearlessness against The Way We Think Now. Here, in two generous volumes, the editors choose some of their favorite items from an over-rich decade. These are the pieces that set the standard, enraged some people, and made the magazine necessary to those readers who, in the words of the editors, “banged their fists on unread stacks of New Yorkers and cried out as one, ‘Where were you when we were dying for lack of real poetry and speculation?'”
Highlights: Poetry by Antler, James Broughton, Hayden Carruth, Tom Clark, Robert Creeley, John Giorno, Anselm Hollo, David Ignatow, James Laughlin, Gerard Malanga, Joel Oppenheimer, James Purdy, Carl Rakosi, Ed Sanders, and ninety (90!) others. Three dozen essays, including “Is Literature Useful?” by Georges Bataille, “The American Male,” by Kay Boyle, “The Sur(region)alist Manifesto,” by Max Cafard, “My Abortion,” by Deborah Salazar, and “Letters from the Proud Highway,” by Hunter S. Thompson. The best of Laura Rosenthal’s column “The Body Bag,” which responded to would-be contributors with witty encouragement and, occasionally, devastating criticism. And letters from Clayton Eshleman, Edward Field, Ishmael Reed, and others.