In his début collection of essays, This Young Monster, Charlie Fox pays homage to a range of artistic icons (or ‘monsters’) who revel in freakish and reckless play. His creatures of choice include filmmakers Buster Keaton and Rainer Werner Fassbinder, photographers Diane Arbus and Larry Clark, performance artist Leigh Bowery, poet Arthur Rimbaud, and many others. These characters move Fox to confront the question: ‘What’s it like to be a monster and what kind of art does such an identification demand you make?’
Fox’s writings come from a personal critical perspective, but he is clearly more interested in transformation and obfuscation than divulgence. He inhabits his subjects’ identities with playful abandon, his sensibility akin to the slightly twisted incarnations and reverential camp parodies of cultural figures by authors Wayne Koestenbaum, Kevin Killian, and Derek McCormack. Their spirit of ‘visitation’ and frivolous role-playing permeates all the collected works here. Like Walter Pater (and like many of Fox’s monsters), the author reveals himself to be a ‘mask’ – many masks – ‘without the face’. In ‘Spook House’, a chapter written as a play script, Fox summons Klaus Kinski (himself in character as Nosferatu), Harry Potter’s Hermione Granger (in a Wicked Witch costume), and Michael Jackson (as a scarecrow) as mouth-pieces for his peregrinations. Here we see most vividly the kinds of masquerades and distorted mirrors that he is keen to evoke in his style of cultural criticism.