read1 of 1
discover
Hilton Als
People

When I met Hilton, we were both theater critics and we felt let down. By the theater. By much of what we saw. We sat in a Bar next to the Deutsches Theater, I don*t remember if we had left the performance early or were still to go to the performance or just kept on talking long enough to forget about either of these options and delve into what life has to offer to people who are not content judging what they are served – it was the Böse Buben Bar in Mitte, which is so ridiculous a name that it will always stick to my mind, just as the shock of hearing Hilton talk, his voice calm, his thoughts audacious, this man, this boy, so big, so elegant, the most unlikely of all mirrors, the hunger for knowing, for beauty: and art as the medium to find what he is looking for. He uses the theater, which he loves, to tell a story he could not tell otherwise. It is a story about himself that is split up into as many roles as the theater has to offer from antiquity to Off-Off-Broadway. And quite a story it is. His was a spectacular rise, from paperboy at the Village Voice to the theater critic of the New Yorker, and you could always feel this edge, in a positive way, a sense of self-confidence on the one hand, and rightly so, look at this master of insight and observation, and still, and still, what if?! Maybe that*s the difference, between him and me, what if?! He stayed, with the theater, with the New Yorker, I left, the theater. But when I think of him sitting at his desk (do you still have that very small apartement, Hilton? where do you actually write? do you have an office at the New Yorker? or do you sit in restaurants, what you do so much and so well, and write there?) or talking to the students whom I very much admire to able to learn from Hilton, then I know that what he did was right, not only for him, but also for the theater. I can see him, in his little ship-wrecked kind of way of moving strolling along 42th Street or more likely through the Village, always on his way. We can be glad to have him, in all his beautiful ambivalence about things, people, love, art. Is this a portrait of myself? But as which one? The self as a constant meditation, without any claim to authenticity: This is what Hilton will show us here, for the next 60 days. A questioning of the roles, the images, the games we are offered – and the freedom which is our’s to refuse, deny, choose whatever we want to be.
Photo by Sarah Shatz

People
Hilton Als
by Georg Diez