Read alongside his music, Richard Hell’s journals help us understand the formation of punk culture as an intellectual as much as an aesthetic movement.
When Richard Hell’s I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp was published two years ago, it got a lot of favorable notice, but I never really thought the book — an account of the writer’s life up to about 1984 — was properly understood.
Punk is 40 years old, believe it or not. Now that it’s middle-aged, has punk become passé? Have the few protagonists who survived from the excesses of the era become flabby and bland? No, not necessarily — judging by punk icon Richard Hell, once known as the king of the Lower East Side.
From artist David Wojnarowicz’s glasses to advertisements for the Pyramid Club in the zine the East Village Eye, signs from Bronx nonprofit Fashion Moda to flyers advertising performances by punk and No Wave legends Richard Hell, Lydia Lunch and Patti Smith, the Fales Library and Special Collections at New York University is no ordinary library. Fales holds the Downtown Collection, an archive of art, books, photographs, videos, objects, journals and other materials from the New York City downtown scene’s iconic figures and art spaces.