There are places in New York where the city's anarchic, unaccommodating spirit, its fundamental, irrepressible aimlessness and heedlessness have found especially firm footholds. Certain transfers between subway lines, passageways of almost transcendent sordidness; certain sites of torn-down buildings where parking lots have silently spring up like fungi; certain interesections created by illogical confluences of streets--these express with particular force the city's penchant for the provisional and its resistance to permananence, order, closure. To get to the painter David Salle's studio, walking west of White Street, you have to traverse one of these disquieting intersections--that of White and Church Streets and an interloping Sixth Avenue--which has created an unpleasantly wide expanse of street to cross, interrupted by a wedge-shaped island on which a commercial plant nursery has taken up forlorn and edgy residence, surrounding itself with a high wire fence and keeping truculently irregular hours. Other businesses that have arisen around the intersection--the seamy Baby Doll Lounge, with its sign offering "Go-Go Girls"; the elegant Ristorante Arquá; the nameless grocery and Lotto center; the dour Kinney parking lot--have a similar atmosphere of insularity and transience. Nothing connects with anything else, and everything looks as if it might disappear overnight. The corner feels like a no man's land and--if one happens to be thinking about David Salle--looks like one of his paintings.

janet malcolm

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book of days