cover image The Wild Party: The Lost Classic by Joseph Moncure March

The Wild Party: The Lost Classic by Joseph Moncure March

Art Spiegelman, Joseph Moncure March. Pantheon Books, $22 (110pp) ISBN 978-0-679-42450-5

A lost ``classic''? It's odd how strikingly some writing may date to an era yet can later be resuscitated because of its potential for art and camp, and thus gain a new audience. That's what Spiegelman (Maus I and II) has pulled off here by rediscovering and illustrating this jazzy, insistently rhyming roaring '20s period poem, banned in Boston when first published in 1928. What Spiegelman, in his introduction, calls his ``fetishistic'' pleasure in the poem, penned by the New Yorker's inaugural managing editor, is borne out by March's dither of hard-edged rhythms recounting the boozing, brawling and fractious lovemaking of an all-night party ending in a murder. The characters are hard-boiled and needy-and stereotypically presented. The women, especially, seem deliberately one-dimensional, even offensively so-if one is inclined to take offense at all. But the poem works as a bouncy artifact, and the black-and-white illustrations are appropriately, viscerally graphic, summoning up the sense of a knockabout urban spree with debonair zeal and well-appointed crudeness. (Dec.)