Eugene Rabkin is the founder of He has contributed articles on fashion and culture to The Business of Fashion, Vogue Russia, Buro247, the Haaretz Daily Newspaper, and other publications. He has taught critical writing and fashion writing courses at Parsons the New School for Design.

Joy Division, An Oral History by Jon Savage

The story of Joy Division, the seminal English post-punk band, is the story of how light comes from darkness, how meaning gets created out of the dreadful meaninglessness, out of the grime, dirt, and hopelessness of post-industrial city life. It’s the story of searching without help or guidance, of blundering into greatness, of succeeding against the odds the society has stacked against you. It underscores the fact that most great culture does not come from the place of privilege, but out of struggle from the dreadful, suffocating periphery. Marginally, but importantly, especially for contemporary society dominated by cultural troglodytes, it’s a story of how great literature can be a respite, a refuge, and a catalyst for brilliant culture to come out of the unlikeliest of places.

That’s the story you get in This Searching Light, The Sun and Everything Else, the new book by the esteemed English music writer, Jon Savage. The book is billed as the oral history of Joy Division, and it is exactly that. Its 322 pages are comprised of unaltered and unadulterated reminiscences by the people who were in or surrounded Joy Division – Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook, Stephen Morris, Ian Curtis wife, Deborah, the prolific Factory Records and Hacienda co-founder Toni Wilson, the now-legendary art director Peter Saville, who designed that album cover that’s on that t-shirt you wear that you bought at Urban Outfitters even though maybe you haven’t listened to a single Joy Division song in your life, and many others.

What you make of the book will depend on how big of a Joy Division fan you are. Joy Division is a strange band, because its mythology looms infinitely larger than its actual life. This book undoubtedly trades on that fact. What really happened in those couple of years of its existence? What happened before? You get an account so detailed that I don’t think anyone but the bands most obsessive fans would have the patience to sit through minute details of the band’s short life. We get a lot of background on what a shitty city Manchester was, of how its very boredom and nothingness birthed worthwhile culture. We get the nods to Ian Curtis’s talent – and it’s true that there would be no Joy Division without his poetry, which is really what carried the band (love New Order all you want, but compared to Joy Division their lyrics are limp). We get a lot of detail about how crappy the recording equipment was back in the day and how that influenced the Joy Division sound. There is quite a bit on the all-important Sex Pistols show that inspired Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook, and Ian Curtis in that “well, if they c an do it, so can we.” Funny, how we now have Auto-Tune and Garage Band for that.

Ray Gun: The Bible of Music & Style

How I missed the existence of RAYGUN magazine during my formative years is beyond me. The California-based music and style periodical was launched in 1992, the same year I immigrated to the United States and began immersing myself in American pop culture. It covered every great rock act under the sun – from Iggy Pop to Sonic Youth, from Morrissey to Marilyn Manson, from R.E.M. to Nine Inch Nails, and so on. 

Looking at the new compendium tome from Rizzoli, RAYGUN: The Bible of Music and Style, put together by Marvin Scott Jarret, the magazine’s founder, fills me both with hope and dread for the state of the print magazine industry. Because RAYGUN was as forward-thinking in its visual representation as it was in its content. No magazine I can think of took the adage “the medium is the message” as seriously as RAYGUN did. Its innovative treatment of fonts, graphics, page layout, format is truly peerless. None of this can be replicated on the Internet. 

Deborah Turbeville Collages at Deborah Bell

For the followers of art and design May in New York is a busy month. There are art fairs, design fairs, the Met fashion exhibit, and a myriad of events. Before long, the entire thing starts resembling your social media feeds – colorful, bubbly, but ultimately quite tiring and unfulfilling. You long for a quiet corner of the world where your brain can get back into a contemplative mood. The new exhibit of Deborah Turbeville’s photography at Deborah Bell’s gallery on the Upper East Side is just the ticket. It is an intimate show of intimate photography in an intimate setting. By god, it is restful!

Camp: Notes on Fashion at the Met Museum

The new exhibit by the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Camp: Notes on Fashion, is fraught on many levels, starting with a paradoxical nature of its theme. On the surface (no pun intended) Camp is not hard to spot because it’s so image-oriented. In reality the playfulness and irony inherent to Camp makes it elusive and intuitive. Like any sensibility or a matter of taste, Camp requires from its audience organic growth and (self)education. You can’t really stuff all of these things into a museum exhibit that is aimed at the general public – and the job of the Met is to cater to the general public. It’s especially hard to do because Camp is a fairly niche sensibility – there is something subcultural and underground in it. Camp takes pleasure in being stuck into people’s faces without them getting it. Really, it’s kind of the point.

Dieter Rams: Less and More

In the history of design Dieter Rams – age 86 – is already a deity. His famous Ten Principles of Design are the design world’s Ten Commandments. His precept “Less But Better” is or should be etched on every designer’s forehead. Actually, considering today’s concern for sustainability, they should be etched on every person’s forehead. Rams’s products for the German manufacturer Braun have inspired countless designers, including those of Bang & Olufsen, and of course, Apple. There is, of course, a documentary. And books. One of which, “Less and More: The Design Ethos of Dieter Rams” originally published in 2015 by Gestalten, is now in reprint. The book serves a double duty as a catalog accompanying the eponymous museum exhibit that has been traveling the world since 2009, and is now on view at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.