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

Peripateticism in Robert Walser published 12/08/2014

Robert Walser’s work is defined by the action of walking. A walk is an attempt to remain upright while continually moving forward. So is an essay. This essay proposes to take two large steps (made up of many smaller steps). It will attempt to define the concepts behind walking in Walser’s work, and then show the where and how of those concepts in several examples of Walser’s writing. It will attempt to remain upright. It will attempt to move forward. It may stride. It may tiptoe. It may circle back or zig-zag. It may even lose its balance. It will attempt to catch itself.

Shawn Huelle on peripateticism in Robert Walser.

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Two Billion Squatters published 10/08/2014

The death of modernism coincided with the rise of right-wing juntas in the region and neo-liberal economics across the world. McGuirk contests that architecture abandoned any concept of social purpose, opting to go along with the new orthodoxy that markets were the answer to every social and economic problem. Modernism was replaced by post-modernism. The architect became the starchitect. A galvanising philosophy was subsumed by “a culture of ¥€$, in which the architect and client mutually fulfilled each other’s wildest fantasies”. Squatters and slum dwellers would have to fight in the free market like everyone else. And yet, even in this intellectual waste land, branches can grow from stony rubbish.

John Houghton reviews Justin McGuirk‘s account of Latin America’s activist architects Radical Cities.

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blue collar solitude: a review of Mark SaFranko’s Dirty Work published 06/08/2014

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Dirty Work is unlikely to be the novel to bring SaFranko the commercial success that has so far eluded him. In a just world, of course, things might be different. But justice is applied arbitrarily in the world, and when it succeeds, it is often by accident rather than by design. Still, in the unfamiliar, isolated, gilded technological landscape we find ourselves in at the start of the new millennium, where everybody is connected but where nobody connects, SaFranko teaches us to laugh, perhaps even cry. And that in itself is a kind of victory.

Chris Brownsword reviews Mark SaFranko‘s Dirty Work.

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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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