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Criticism » About five o’clock on the sun (published 12/10/2014)

All truths are identical: Yablo says: ‘ mathematicians know a lot of truths; metaphysicians know a lot of others. These truths are identical if we go by truth-conditions , since they are true in the same cases: all of them.’ Truth conditions flatten out difference. They are insensitive. Hempels ‘All crows are black’ has the equivalent truth conditions of ‘All non-black things are non-crows.’ But it strikes us as wrong to say they have identical meanings. Aboutness nails the difference, suggests Yablo. ‘One is about crows, the other not.’ We should care about this aboutness feature because it is simply interesting, even if there was nothing else. But there is.

Richard Marshall reviews Stephen Yablo’s Aboutness.

Criticism » Cortázar’s glass trap (published 21/09/2014)

Cortázar writes to create traps that lead us in but lie about having an exit. There is no exit. Because of this we’re always wondering about the nature of the relationship being developed. In ‘One Step Forward, One Step Backward’ he tells the story of the fly who finds she can pass through glass but then finds out glass is a trap. A Hungarian scientist has invented a one-way process whereby the fly can’t get back out via the glass through which it entered. It’s a picture of how he works his fictions. His stories are made out of one way glass.

Richard Marshall on Cortázar’s Fantomas versus the Multinational Vampires. An Attainable Utopia.

Criticism » Knausgaard: norse dwarf, norse god (published 25/05/2014)

He conjures up an immense solipsistic myth of fears and furies, monsters and agonies, a perpetual fury against a realisation that death is his fate and that his life, each viciously wounded and maimed moment of it, from childhood to the present, is precariously hovering at the brink of a terrifying emptiness, a meaningless hole into which everything is falling. In a state of panic he rages against this and chases a world through improvised language written down at speed that runs out towards the primitive vivacity of his own subjectivity. It is against erasure that he casts his spells and as he does so he becomes both terrifically powerful and knowledgeable and at the same time small and ugly and strange. Who wouldn’t want to read this?

Richard Marshall on Knausgaard’s My Struggle.

Criticism » Buildings Must Die (published 03/05/2014)

Zizek writes: ‘The feeling for the inert has a special significance in our age, in which the obverse of the capitalist drive to produce ever more new objects is a growing mountain of useless waste, used cars, out-of-date computers, etc, like the famous resting place for an old aircraft in the Mojave desert. In these piles of stuff, one can perceive the capitalist drive at rest.’

Richard Marshall reviews Stephen Cairns’s and Jane M. Jacobs’s Buildings Must Die. A Perverse View of Architecture.

Nonfiction » Resnais, Giacometti and Seductive Maniera (published 10/04/2014)

According to Badiou being able to seduce women is also a reason for using conversational French for your philosophy. Again he cites Descartes: ‘ Such a varied and complete knowledge of all is to be found not in some aged pedant who has spent many years in contemplation but in a young princess whose beauty and youth call to mind one of the Graces rather than grey-eyed Minerva or any of the Muses.’ Badiou suggests that the French have been turning philosophy into a pick-up line ever since. ‘This intention will be repeated by all the notable French philosophers, who comprise a significant anthology: Rousseau, and also in his own way Auguste Compte, and then Sartre, as well as Lacan. All of them wished to be heard and admired by women and knew that they mustn’t be courted in Latin nor in the language of pedants.’

Richard Marshall on the attractions of Seductive Maniera.

Criticism » Borges’s funes the memorious (published 09/03/2014)

In 1887 John Langdon Down lectured on what he called ‘idiot savants’ . The film ‘Rain Man’ features a character with this syndrome. The film is based on Kim Peek who is said to have the most astonishing memory on earth. It was estimated that he knew the content of 12,000 books. He could read different pages of a book with different eyes. He read eight pages in 53 seconds and recalled 98% of what he’d read. He couldn’t filter. He had limited capacity to reason. Any problem not based on memory stumped him or proved difficult. He only read factual books. Multiple interpretation and ambiguity was avoided. He processed information literally. He ended talks around the world saying, ‘We are all different. You don’t have to be handicapped to be different. Treat other people like you would like to be treated and the world will be a better place.’

Richard Marshall reads Quiroga on Borges and Memory.

Nonfiction » ZOMBIES ‘R’ US (published 12/02/2014)

Increasingly the zombie has come to figure as a fateful symbol for the mass of subjectiveless techno-humans under capitalism, lumpen, nightmarish non-beings whose otherness has been completely internalised, then smoothed out and returned minus interest as soulless entertainment; not so much undead as hypermediated and alive under severe globalised constraint; couch potatoes sorely afflicted by ‘breathing corpse syndrome’ or ‘partially deceased syndrome’. Hypocrite voyeur do you recognise yourself?

Michael Hampton ponders Zombies.

Buzzwords » The Missing Links (published 24/01/2014)

Nicholas Rombes interviewed. * Tony White‘s mini readings. * Ben Lerner on the virtuality of literature. * Narcissus and ego: poets and the novel. * John Ashbery’s silences sampled. * Ujana Wolf‘s white-outs. * Erased and doctored pages. * More words written and unwritten. * The last page of Proust‘s manuscript. * An interview with [...]

Buzzwords » The Missing Links (published 11/01/2014)

Wonderful piece on Nick Land: “His work still poses acutely — in a variety of forms — the challenge of thinking contemporary life on this planet: A planet piloted from the future by something that comes from outside personal or collective human intention, and which we can no longer pretend has anything to do with [...]

Criticism » Time, History and Literature (published 10/01/2014)

Auerbach located in Dante a profound cultural change. Where ‘… the indestructibility of the whole historical and individual man turns against the divine order… and obscures it. The image of man eclipses the image of God. Dante’s work realized the Christian-figural essence of man, and destroyed it in the very process of realizing it.’ Here is another version of ‘reversal and continuation’, an extreme form that knows that the paradoxical realities embedded in religion are secular truths – and vice versa. To speak them threatens to erase everything, or walk you back to the start again for another attempt.

Richard Marshall reviews Auerbach’s Time, History, and Literature.