New York City woman-about-town’s memoir about her life-as-performance-art quest to be fashionably “uncool.”
Inspired by her experiences as a Bloomingdale’s Christmas elf, art-school grad and downtown NYC scenester Rev Jen (Live Nude Elf, 2009) began carefully forming her uncool identity in the early ’90s by wearing Spock-like elf-ear attachments. Recalling her days as a young Lower East Side denizen in the mid-’90s, Jen describes her tame arty antics as grand, anarchic gestures of rebellion against the fusty establishment. She became known for her reactionary Anti-Slam poetry night, which fostered an environment of cuddly uncritical acceptance for wannabe slam-poets with a strict set of rules against any kind of harassment from the audience. Her promotion of art-damaged egalitarianism extended to her creation of an all-admission clique called the “Art Stars,” which turned out to be little more than an alcoholic support group for directionless art-scene dregs. In between her persistently meaningless nightlife activities, she drifted from one low-paying job to the next, drank a lot, had sex with men who treated her badly, and experimented with LSD, all while managing to pay rent on her LES apartment. Rev Jen is perpetually obsessed with what’s “cool” and what’s “uncool,” and her actions always end up blurring the line between the two. Although she styled herself as an outcast rebelling against the prevailing highbrow culture of the day, the author seemed ultimately reluctant to mix with truly unhip people: like, say, her schoolmates who listened to Phil Collins and the Republican rednecks who frightened her at a Charlie Daniels concert. Naturally, as she attained local celeb status for being a kitsch-loving contrarian, she finally got to frolic among extremely “cool” people: namely, transgressive filmmaker Nick Zedd and hyper-confessional author Jonathan Ames, among others.