:: Criticism archive ( click for articles pre-2006)

A Critique of Roberta Smith’s Critique of James Franco’s New Film Stills published 05/08/2014

So why did Roberta Smith bother writing this so-called review? Tell us, Roberta Smith: because James Franco is famous and Pace Gallery is famous – and you want to stay famous which means backing Cindy Sherman because ie; one of her photographs just sold for over 3 million dollars – and the famous gallery gave the famous actor-director-writer-musician PhD candidate-teacher- Oscar host-um –Instagram fanatic, selfie-promoter-mostly someone excited about life as in it’s okay to dabble … in many things etc.

Bobbi Lurie critiques Roberta Smith’s scolding New York Times review of James Franco’s recent Pace Gallery exhibition, New Film Stills.

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“I was on my way to look out for a life of my own”: On Peter Weiss’s Leavetaking published

Lacking typographical breaks or dialogue, Leavetaking reads as continuous, even imposing, 125-page block of subjectivity that the reader is asked to patiently parse through, never quite sure what is waiting at the end. It is as pure a work a stream of consciousness as one could imagine. Shifting seamlessly between past and present in tense and chronology, the otherwise mundane events of this life become more difficult to follow. With concentrated effort, the reader can forge through this rough plot from the outpouring of memory and emotion.

Jennifer Kurdyla on Peter Weiss‘s Leavetaking.

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Consciousness & Masturbation: A Note on Witold Gombrowicz’s Onanomaniacal Novel Cosmos published 01/08/2014

In Cosmos — the title makes it obvious — Gombrowicz is satirizing the phenomenology of world creation, the mental process by which we construct a frame of meaning for ourselves. Not the world (whatever that is), my world. Both inside and outside the novel (that is, in so-called real life), the modus operandi of consciousness is comically super-rational and simultaneously self-defeating (Husserl demonstrated that reason was never going to get where it said it was going).

Douglas Glover examines the triangle of philosophical forces at play in Witold Gombrowicz’s Cosmos.

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Not Forgotten published 30/07/2014

Cooper is known for his detached accounts in poetry and prose of bloody death and adolescent anguish. Such concerns and his treatments of underage sex, adolescent drug-use, porn, and paedophilia in his five-book series called the George Miles cycle, earned his work the somewhat dubious status of “transgressive writing,” a term which would also be applied to writers like Kathy Acker and Bret Easton Ellis. This afternoon, I’ve made an appointment at the Fales Library to view Cooper’s so-called “Death and Sex” scrapbooks: a collage of clippings hundreds of pages long, compiled by the author during the 1980s which, I hope, will shed some light on the troubling intersection of the macabre and erotic that characterises his work.

Diarmuid Hester digs deep into Dennis Cooper‘s scrapbooks.

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Got Anything to Say? published 28/07/2014

A decline in society starts with a decline of language. This aphorism, used so often it is hard to attribute, has often been illustrated in fiction, particularly by those who train their sights on America. Using different methods and addressing different subjects, these writers focus on language – as something taken for granted yet sensitive to any societal changes – sometimes to a great effect. David Foster Wallace achieves it by launching his verbal fireworks, so brilliant that anything you read after they have gone off can be seen as a sign of degradation.

Anna Aslanyan reviews Eli Horowitz‘s The Silent History.

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Art you don’t have to see to get published

Satire, rather, is a “painted grape,” to take from the book’s subtitle, which references a Greek myth about a grape so perfectly rendered on canvas that, when it was unveiled, birds flew to peck at it. This is an artist we can imagine—even in the excesses of the Great Day of Art, a violent frenzy of Randall Yellow where the plummy declaration that “It’s just paint! It’s just paint!” cannot assuage the people present—and he fits perfectly in the nebulous milieu that we call contemporary art.

Jeffrey Zuckerman reviews Jonathan Gibbs‘s Randall.

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Through the Dark Glass: A Review of SJ Bradley’s Brick Mother published 23/07/2014

Brick Mother is a cautionary tale and a portrait of institutional life, but it is also an examination of how closely we can become involved in other people’s lives. There is a fine difference between people who are high functioning and not, and some of us hide beneath the radar, and there is like a wall of glass between the many many people whose lives have collapsed and the rest of us who can still walk and talk and put on a front: the distinction is fine, evasive and mysterious, but the barrier is transparent and we see through this glass, darkly.

Max Dunbar on SJ Bradley‘s Brick Mother.

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Literary Citizenship Depletes Crystal Count and Other Controversial Claims published 21/07/2014

No one wants to be a dick or a wuss—that’s the dilemma. If I don’t support Shane Jones, I’m a dick. If I don’t uphold my standards, I’m a wuss. What’s in my best interest after all? If I wuss out and write a generous review, maybe the author will write a generous review of the novel I have coming out in August. Maybe some of his fans will check out my book, too. The publisher of Crystal Eaters produces beautiful paperbacks. If I rave about Crystal Eaters, or even write something thoughtful, encouraging, and strong, maybe down the line Two Dollar Radio will remember me and enthusiastically consider one of my novel manuscripts. But I doubt they’ll publish anything I write since I’m pretty sure what I write isn’t right for them.

Lee Klein on, among other things, Shane Jones’s Crystal Eaters.

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“The Dead Voices of her Ancestors Shudder, Whimper, Well Up”: A Review of Daša Drndić’s Trieste published 17/07/2014

Daša Drndić’s Trieste tells the story of Trieste and the surrounding region during the Nazi occupation. The narrative loops from the present to the past and back again – like memory, like history – being weaved into the lives of the Tedeschis… In the place of answers which have never come, Drndić attempts to fill the continuing silence, piling layer of history upon layer in the hope that it will become immovable.

Tristan Foster on Daša Drndić’s Trieste.

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Speaking the Unspeakable: Elfriede Jelinek’s The Piano Teacher as a Response to Trauma published 14/07/2014

This essay considers that the only “proper” address to trauma is literature—and specifically: the novel. Operating as both an explication and a wound—performing an exploratory examination/incision on the practice and production of the text—this metatext and the narrative it describes (against itself) must respond idiomatically to the disorder of the text because it is itself wounded and wounding.

Heidi James on trauma and Elfriede Jelinek’s The Piano Teacher.

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