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The Independent Culture
L First, writer and critic James Wolcott takes some snide pot shots at various film critics in the current Vanity Fair. Then the next thing you know, all-out war is under way. In an article entitled "Waiting for Godard", Wolcott declares that film criticism has become "a cultural malady, a group case of chronic depression and low self-esteem". He writes that "the state of movies today is not as mopey or dire as the state of movie criticism itself". Moaning about critics who do nothing but moan, he then tears into them. Now Wolcott is feeling the wrath of his victims - or at least, of their spouses. First, Ray Sawhill, Newsweek's book reviewer, sprang to the defence of his wife Polly Frost, calling Wolcott a "bully with inexcusable fixations on friends". Wolcott had categorised Frost (formerly of Elle) as a "Paulette", ie a Pauline Kael wannabe. But the angriest response, as reported in the New York Post, was provoked by Wolcott's pronouncement that "few critics intellectualise with grimmer resolve than Terrence Rafferty of the New Yorker". Diane Rafferty got straight to the point in her irate letter to 'VF' editor Graydon Carter. She writes: "James Wolcott is a big fat idiot."

l The New York club scene has never seemed this gloomy. Its most famous "Club Kid", Michael Alig, is under arrest for murder; the flamboyant club impresario Peter Gatien, known as the "Last Nightlord", has been indicted for drug-dealing, and Mayor Giuliani's administration continues to pass laws to deter the opening of clubs in new spaces. No wonder the 20th anniversary of the opening of Studio 54, high-water mark of nightclub decadence, is being greeted with so much unabashed nostalgia. Anthony Haden-Guest's The Last Party, a deliciously sordid account of New York nightlife since the late Seventies, has just been published. To tie in with it, a CD of hi-energy classics is being issued, and three films that revolve around the Studio are in development. There's Whit Stillman's The Last Days of Disco; an independent project by Mark Christopher; and a feature by I Shot Andy Warhol co-writer Daniel Minahan.

l Haden-Guest's book is not to be confused with The Last Party: Scenes From My Life with

Norman Mailer, the forthcoming memoirs of Adele Mailer, an ex-wife of the novelist (she's the one he stabbed). She recounts the couple's bohemian Sixties lives in excitable language, revealing, for instance, that when someone stubbed out a cigarette on Mailer's rear end while he was having sex, "Naked Normie with his sweating crazy man's face let out a Mailerean bellow of pain."

l National Poetry Month is being marked by the publication of a compendium of Very Bad Poetry, a mercifully slender volume that none the less provides some unexpected pleasures. Each of these awesomely putrid poems lives up (or down, as the case may be) to its title: "Ode on the Mammoth Cheese", "The Happy Little Cripple", and "The Dentologia - A Poem on the Disease of the Teeth".

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