Summer 2013

Legend / Zitty Christ

Maculate complexion

Wayne Koestenbaum

“Legend” is a column by Wayne Koestenbaum in which he suggests one or more possible captions for an image provided by the editors of Cabinet.

How much like cucumber bisque is Christ’s cotton tunic?

How much like a Slurpie or a Moscow Mule?

“Cluster fuck,” a ballerina friend said, describing the Venice Biennale.

She criticized my reclusiveness: “You should reach out more.”

“Reaching out” means that I should organize scholarly panels on Mary Wigman’s 1913 Witch Dance.

Biblical historians never describe Christ’s complexion.

Chris Ofili’s “dung” painting (The Holy Virgin Mary), joined to Karen Finley’s “chocolate-smeared” performance (A Different Kind 
of Intimacy), makes a delectable intermedia cadavre exquis.

I have a love-hate relationship with loquacity.

Sometimes I’m wordy, sometimes verbally retentive.

Seriously: I found two pellet-sized turds—a dog’s—outside my studio door this morning.

After fruitlessly waiting a few hours for a porter to pick up the mess, I gathered the offensive objets trouvés in a newspaper and took them to the trash.

I wore black latex gloves to perform this operation—the first time I’ve ever picked up animal waste, and I hope the last, unless I adopt a bichon frise to teach me canine concupiscence (as adumbrated by J. R. Ackerley).

I have more emotional attachment to my tin pail’s sheen than to most living creatures.

Contemporary literature prides itself on misanthropy.

I remember kissing zitty skin and noticing its commerce-tainted smell: a mélange of Clairol Herbal Essence Shampoo, Planters Cocktail Peanuts, pHisoHex©, and Mennen’s Baby Magic Bath.

The word “sebaceous” seems applicable here.

Sebaceous cluster fuck?

Sebaceous literary allusion?

Zits blend into skin and form a haze—an artful, evasive truce between quinacridone magenta and Naples yellow.

If you kiss zits, you might catch them.

My doctor recommended a meningitis shot.

Meningitis is spreading through New York’s “cluster fuck” circles.

At JFK, I sat across from a jet-setter whose skin was so distressed that it seemed rude to look at her but equally unkind to turn away.

I compromised by making my gaze as neutral and beneficent as possible.

Are piety and pimples antithetical?

Does religious ardor cause blemishes, or do pustules induce prayer?

My attention to Christ’s zits is historically determined by the fact that I live in a culture that constructs “zits” as a dermatological category and as a source of stigma or inconvenience.

The word zits seems embedded in the name ZaSu Pitts and thereby connected to Erich von Stroheim’s eight-hour-long masterpiece Greed, in whic

Subscribe to access our entire archive.
Log In and read it now.