:: Essays

Hop Picking: Forging a Path on the Edgelands of Fiction published 14/09/2018

I have never wanted to entertain, I have always wanted to disrupt. It’s why my debut novel was never going to be about family, art, theatre, historical dalliances, or finding authenticity in far-flung corners of the globe, but about a man who does nothing, just sits on a bench, doing nothing; no plot, no personal narrative arc, no redemption, no psychological pain, no reality, nothing. Simply a novel about boredom. The very thing novels aren’t supposed to be. For me, the best literature is the stuff that assaults the mind, which throws any preconceived ideas out of the window, that does away with the lousy, bourgeois psychology of the novel and (to use a phrase from the novelist Tom McCarthy) ‘tune[s]’ into the ‘rich trash of literature’, to use and reuse it in ways to tip the balance, to upset the status quo, and never to cement it in canonical position.

Lee Rourke‘s essay on being a working-class writer, extracted from Nathan Connolly‘s Know Your Place anthology (Dead Ink).

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Thomas Piketty: Capital in the Twenty-First Century. published 12/09/2018

By taking so long an historical view, Piketty is able to show that the thirty-five year period of the two world wars and the intervening world economic crash was a world-historical anomaly that interrupted a long-term secular process of growth and persistent inequality in the capitalist world. The enormous explosion of growth in the thirty years following that anomaly can be seen, through Piketty’s lens, not as the emergence of a new world order, more humane, more equal, less in thrall to inherited wealth, but as a quite natural recovery from the anomaly and re-establishment of a centuries-old pattern of extreme inequality in the ownership and control of society’s capital resources and the income from them.

Robert Paul Wolff on Capitalism in the Twentieth Century.

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The Innocence of Becoming: Nietzsche Against Guilt published 11/09/2018

I offer an interpretation of Nietzsche’s idea of “the innocence of becoming” (die Unschuld des Werdens), and a defense of its import that no one is ever morally responsible or guilty for what they do and that, in consequence, many of the so-called “reactive attitudes” are misplaced. The idea of the “innocence of becoming” is introduced explicitly in the final two sections of the “Four Great Errors” chapter of one of Nietzsche’s mature works, Twilight of the Idols.

Brian Leiter writes about Nietzsche’s attitude towards guilt.

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Anonymous Sessions – Interviews with Anonymous Personas published 04/09/2018

Anonymous Sessions

Each of these corridors and alleyways has its own collection of hadiths, its own guardians and transmitters, and can be navigated by the rare few who are willing to pay the necessary blood tribute. For these gatekeepers, then, anonymity is often inadvertent, having little to do with a will to concealment. Like Nereus, the old man of the sea, or his daughter Thetis, they wish for someone to come steal their secrets.

By Cergat Boş & Elytron Frass.

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After After Kathy Acker published 28/08/2018

Kathy Acker

The decision to reissue an exiled or forgotten—a dead—text usually comes down to Money and Time. If the text is undergoing its first-time rejuvenation it must be considered timely enough in order to possess enough potential to make money and therefore make the money spent by whatever publisher worthwhile. It must respond to or provide a nostalgic perspective for what is unravelling in the Now. If it is the text’s second, third or maybe tenth reissuing, it’s usually given a new cover or introduction—repackaged and rebranded—in order to attract and influence a new generation of readers. Resting on the back of its historical success, a serial reissue-e paddles in its waters waiting for a surge from a wave. Time is Money.

By Mollie Elizabeth Pyne.

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Why Chomsky’s Wrong to Think of Russian Influence On US Elections as Small Beer published 25/08/2018

The greatness and also the besetting sin of intellectuals is that they try to think about everything, not merely about something. If all you are doing is thinking, then of course the one is as easy as the other. But when it comes to political action, for most of us it is all we can manage to do just something – to be a pebble or a grain of sand. The trick, if you are intellectually inclined, is not to make the mistake of imagining that arguing in grand terms about everything is any sort of substitute for actually doing something.

Robert Paul Wolff takes issue with political friend Noam Chomsky.

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The Sōseki of Prague published 21/08/2018

This seems to be the pattern; all attempts to research Kafka and Japanese literature suggest influence going in the opposite direction to what one might expect. I only find out about Kafka’s influence on Japanese literature, and mostly post-Second World War literature. Kafka is an influence on Murakami (author of Kafka on the Shore) and on Kobo Abe (who is said to be the “Kafka of Japan”). Nowhere is anyone calling Kafka the “Sōseki of Prague”.

By Duncan Stuart.

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What’s in a Name But Letters? Embodied Books in Three published 20/08/2018

When in 1967, Roland Barthes published his essay The Death of the Author about the self-determination of a text after its flight from its creator, he imbued the text with a sense of mobility, to escape the networked trenches of an author’s biography. Published a year later, Babs, in Gass’s book, doesn’t kill the author to leave his cadaver amongst the correlations of history, so much as she cuckolds him, lifting his chin as she couples with readers in exotic and improbable positions. Gass celebrates the virility of language as it spills into promiscuity—not affording the text sexual agency so much as sexual deviancy. In this sense, another of Barthes’s essays The Pleasure of the Text (1973), switches its subject of pleasure from the reader to the read.

By Jordan Harrison-Twist.

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Magick, Sex, William Blake & Lewis Carroll: Brett Anderson’s Apocalyptic Visions published 16/08/2018

The video to Suede’s early single ‘Animal Nitrate’ would see the cameras eye hurry from outside a Brutalist tenement, along its bleak walkways and inside a tower block. The interior is revealed as a sleazy performance space. In it, a shiny Taffeta curtain suggests transformation from a bleak urban flat into a liminal space that recalls the pre-war Berlin nightclubs. This is an impression enhanced when drag artists in masks frolic around the band in leopard print. With the band playing amongst figures dressed in pig masks (‘pigs’ being a key feature of Anderson’s psychic landscape and the name of his schoolboy band), the allusions to drug-induced conceptual room are clear.

By Guy Mankowski.

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Why the Show ‘Billions’ is Worth Watching in Traumatic Times published 06/08/2018

However frothy, topical and sensationalistic a drama ‘Billions’ presents itself as being, perhaps (especially when one watches it on repeat as often as I have), the show can be read in light of writings on trauma that link it specifically with the unique agony of being betrayed by those whom one trusted in the world most completely. I’m thinking most specifically of the psychologist Jennifer Freyd’s important concept of ‘betrayal trauma’, her explanation for why the sexual or physical abuse perpetrated by familiar, close relatives (and not diabolical strangers) is so unbearably hurtful that the human response to such trauma can range from amnesia, to ‘betrayal blindness’ (where the victim is does remember, and knows what is happening, but refuses to label it “abuse” even when physical injury or penetrative sexual contact is involved).

By Chaya Bhuvaneswar.

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