BY Andrew Durbin in Opinion | 28 MAR 24

Editor’s Picks: An Oral History of ‘The Village Voice’

Other highlights include a Polish crime noir and a spirited solo album from Big Thief’s Adrianne Lenker

BY Andrew Durbin in Opinion | 28 MAR 24

Frieze Editor’s Picks is a fortnightly column in which a frieze editor shares their recommendations for what to watch, read and listen to.

Tricia Romano, The Freaks Came Out to Write (2024)

Tricia Romano’s oral history of New York’s greatest alternative weekly, The Village Voice, carries readers from its earliest days in the sweaty palms of co-founding editor, Norman Mailer, during the mid-1950s, to its digital downfall in the mid-2010s. A former writer for The Voice, Romano traces the history behind the headlines, from the newsroom to the culture pages. Numerous editors and writers from across the paper’s history – including Hilton Als, C. Carr, Richard Goldstein, James Hannaham, Nat Hentoff and J. Hoberman – rehash the old arguments and internal debates that made The Voice such a riveting (if contradictory) read. This book is more than just the inside story of a feisty newspaper; it’s an elegy for a media ecosystem that ensured a healthier American democracy and a more lively commute.

The Freaks Came Out to Write
Tricia Romano, The Freaks Came Out to Write, 2024, book cover. Courtesy: Hachette Book Group

The Mire (Season 3) (2024)

The latest season of this noir opens with an implausible shootout on the dank outskirts of a small Polish town in the 1980s. Not long after, two suspicious deaths – are they related? – provoke a group of intrepid journalists to sniff about for answers in the crushing darkness. Welcome to the perpetual night of the Eastern Bloc, where common misery breeds gunmetal charm and a sensible suspicion of your fellow comrades. Much bad stuff – usually involving Nazis or malign Soviet officials – lies under the damp loam of 20th century Poland; as in previous seasons, the forests hold the ugly answers to an unpleasant present. While Warsaw looks longingly towards independence, the suburban folk in The Mire gaze into the prison house of the past.

The Mire, Season 3, production still
The Mire, 2024, production still. Courtesy: Netflix

Adrianne Lenker, Bright Future (2024)

The latest solo album by Big Thief’s lead singer Adrianne Lenker arrived last week, just as I was missing my bus to Manor House. So, I decided to take a long walk to the station across Finsbury Park, despite knowing I might be late to the English National Opera. (Rush tickets are just £4, everyone!) The risk was worth it. I badly needed Lenker’s voice in my headphones that bright, cold afternoon.

It’s the sorrowful twang of her records – true of Bright Future – that always leaves me nostalgic for my home country, specifically the Blue Ridge Mountains that stretch across the Carolinas, where the misty woods often wax gloomy and spiritual in the early spring. Lenker has a bit of that, even if she is from the Midwest; she has clarity and bite, too. Just listen to her rendition of ‘Vampire Empire’: ‘I am empty ‘til she fills / alive until she kills.’ And I still made the performance at the ENO.

Main image: The Village Voice newspaper dispenser. Courtesy: Getty Images

Andrew Durbin is the editor-in-chief of frieze. His book The Wonderful World That Almost Was is forthcoming from FSG in 2025.