:: Essays archive ( 2000-2005, click for articles pre-2006)

Georges Franju’s Eyes Without a Face published 28/04/2015

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The central ‘signifier’ of Edith Scob’s character in the film is her mask. Casting her face into an enigmatic, inscrutable facade, it has absolutely no expression. The screaming, naked, human face would repel but the cool facade of the mask—with the scream behind it—does not. Masks allow us to know the unknowable, to experience the unspeakable. The most hysterical behaviour is contained by the mask.

Richard Skinner on Eyes Without a Face directed by Georges Franju.

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Bukowski and Dick In Bangkok published 14/04/2015

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As I dusted myself off and went to find a quiet street to force pad thai into my alcohol-shrunken stomach, I wondered about whether Charles Bukowski and Philip K. Dick had ever crossed paths. I imagined them at some cafe in Hollywood, Bukowski morose, hungover, withdrawn, Dick talking ten to the dozen about some ethereal mind-warp, whizzing on speed and passing pills over the coffee. Bukowski wouldn’t have liked it; he once compared the meetings of writers to too many flies on a turd. Dick might have laughed back, saying about sci-fi writers that “our knowledge is limited, our fiction is terrible.”

George F. on Charles Bukowski, Philip K. Dick and Bangkok.

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Kamal Daoud: L’Étranger Nouveau published 11/04/2015

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Algerian author Kamal Daoud seems ultra cool, like Camus and it’s not incongruous to push these two Algerian writers together. Daoud’s last novel explicitly talks to Camus. He’s writing about the choices facing us at this precarious time, and doing so from a perspective that isn’t Anglo/American or European. It’s a young modern Algerian existential perspective that’s angry, poised, clever, Muslim, playful, generous, anguished and cosmopolitan.

Richard Marshall raises his glass to Algerian author Kamal Daoud.

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Total Satisfaction published 09/04/2015

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In his 1990 essay “E Unibus Pluram: Television and U.S. Fiction,” Wallace notes that irony is best used in an emergency situation: it is good at shocking us out of ingrained ways of seeing, by exploiting and exacerbating the rift between things we say and things as they actually are. Thus Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory works by using the simple pleasures of sweets to expose many of the dark sides of consumer culture: hidden labor, hoarding, addiction, greed, paranoia, etc. Wonka’s quirky chocolatier and his entire shrouded factory of fabulations serve to send up the grimy post-industrial world beyond.

By Christopher Schaberg.

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Literature and Politics published 05/04/2015

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Writers have often been asked to explain the purpose of literature. What, the question may have been posed, (sometimes by writers themselves), is the point of writing? Why do writers write? And despite all of ways in which literature may of use to others, perhaps the most immediate and honest response would be that they write because they have to. They write who must. “It’s hell writing and it’s hell not writing” , Robert Hass explains to us. Writing is perhaps, as Rilke, described, in a passionate letter to a Franz Kappus, a young man uncertain about entering a literary career, a “calling” ; and those on whom such a vocation alights “would have to die if … forbidden to write.”

Yong Jie reflects on thoughts provoked by Calvino‘s The Uses Of Literature.

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kebabylon and the urban night published 02/04/2015

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Walk into the centre of any British city and you’ll see Kebabylon. I glimpse it around the student village of south Manchester. A weary Palestinian yawning behind the counter as he checks his phone. A middle-aged Indian tapping his fingers on the wheel as three girls in nano-skirts bundle into his car. Chips, booze, pubs, clubs, pills, thrills. Mark Fisher called it “depressive hedonism”: student life as a carousel of thuggish stimuli.

Dale Lately on thugs, booze, youth, and Manchester.

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Luxury Complex: Remembering Satan published 30/03/2015

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Writing is a solitary, sometimes lonely business. It does eventually become a collaborative process of sorts, but only at the bitter end, working through final drafts with editors and quibbling over fonts with cover designers. Last Friday was a very different experience for me. It was fun even. For a short while I became involved with a gang of artists.

Simon Crump on Luxury Complex: Remembering Satan.

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Neoliberal cyborg Science: World of Warcraft as gamic vehicle published 26/03/2015

Chun articulates the construction of the individual by software by noting that: “[c]omputer programs shamelessly use shifters, pronouns like ‘my’ and ‘you’, that address you, and everyone else, as a subject.” WoW stages neoliberalism’s fetishisation of the individual while disguising the paradox engendered by the conferral of radical agency onto every individual. The player feels empowered while unbeknownst to them, their agency is in fact an illusion.

Rafael Lubner on how World of Warcraft functions as an atopic form of neoliberal ideology.

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There Is No Cure For This: A Reading of Geoffrey G. O’Brien’s “In The Idle Style” published 17/03/2015

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After several failed attempts at memorizing “In The Idle Style,” I became less interested in committing it to memory than exploring the idea that there was something in the deeper fibers of O’Brien’s poem that resisted my initial attempts at memorization — and that such resistance was a signal to its meaning and value.

Gary Sloboda on Geoffrey G. O’Brien’s poem “In The Idle Style”.

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flatness/interruption published 11/03/2015

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She finds the potatoes she put on the stove earlier boiled over. Jeanne is upset, and starts to walk through the flat in panic – the pan of potatoes in her hands. Finally she tosses them into the trash.

Katharina Ludwig on Chantal Akerman‘s Jeanne Dielman.

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