Lost Lost Joy

When The Lowbrow Reader was in its infancy at the dawn of the ’00s, we turned to a slew of heroes that, in the years to come, the Lowbrow would praise, pester, and mimic: Adam Sandler, Howard Stern, Mad magazine, etc…. But there were tacit muses, as well, including Camden Joy—a dynamite writer (and longtime friend) who maintained a sphinxlike presence within ’90s rock criticism. Where others were filing capsule reviews in the pages of weekly newspapers, Joy was scribbling wild rants on city walls and weaving novels around real-life indie-rock figures. In a series of postering projects, he surreptitiously wheat-pasted ravishing fliers throughout the streets of Manhattan, targeting music festivals (CMJ) and dormant bands (Souled American) through manic essays, short stories and bursts of poetry. His novels, beginning with 1998’s The Last Rock Star Book, or Liz Phair: A Rant blended fiction and Bangsian music criticism.

Joy’s work was prescient, anticipating a literary landscape populated by grumpy indie-rock stars, not to mention highbrow graffiti art that employs the streets of New York as museum walls. Yet over the past decade, much of the writer’s work slipped out of print. Never fear: This historic wrong is being righted! This month, Verse Chorus Press—a lovely Portland, Oregon, publishing house whose very first title was Joy’s Liz Phair novel—begins an ambitious series of reissues. It kicks off with the freshly republished Lost Joy, an anthology of the author’s shorter pieces that was originally issued in 2002 by TNI Books. Presented with a new introduction by Jonathan Lethem, Lost Joy collects many of the street poster manifestoes as well as work that appeared in more conventional publications, including Puncture, The Village Voice, and Chicago Reader. “How can Joy be Lost?” Lethem concludes in his introduction. “Joy is right here.” Indeed! Pick up the book today!