:: Essays

Emily Dickinson Weeping Under the Stairwell published 28/03/2019

I guess I’m writing this for anyone who might relate, whether or not they attend AWP or are enrolled in an MFA or are simply sitting in their room slowly and methodically typing away at their first novel in a silence broken only by the click of the keys. Maybe even Ada Limón or Esme Wang still feel much more like that hypothetical Emily Dickinson, anxious to tuck themselves away beneath a staircase. But maybe I missed out on something special — 12,000 people who still give a shit about books, who still think they are worth travelling across the country to talk about.At the heart of it, I suppose what I’m most afraid of is that I will show up at AWP and find out that perhaps it is not a world that I belong to. It’s the fear of the potential realization that the dream is just an illusion, that you will always be outside the party, somewhere at the bottom of an endless waiting list.

By Stewart Sinclair.

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Against Bipartisanship published 14/03/2019

The first thing to recognize is that our polarization problem cannot find its solution within efforts to craft venues for better politics. This is because the dysfunctions we face lie with the fact that politics has colonized the entirety of our social lives. To explain, the social spaces we inhabit –our workplaces, neighborhoods, schools, markets, places of worship, and parks — are increasingly sorted according to our political affiliations. This means that our ordinary social interactions tend to put us in contact only with those who are politically much like ourselves. What’s more, we as individuals have come to organize more and more of our everyday lives around our political loyalties. Not only do our rivals assign political significance to our daily routine; we do too.

Robert B. Talisse on our increasingly bipartisan lives.

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Walker published 23/02/2019

Sunday, 11:00 AM. Saw friends last night, felt strange. Went to the wrong house first and it was filled with people I might’ve known. I went to the next house and felt a bit more at ease because I knew it was the place I’d intended to go, but not much. Can’t have conversations with people like I used to. Can’t open up or think out loud anymore. Still. There’s this voice in my head having a conversation I’m never able to really articulate. It’s in there, now, tearing down this moment and turning it into something to fear.

By Grant Maierhofer.

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Remembering Dan Fante published 16/02/2019

When he died, I took all those other quotes off the cover of Jerkoff and placed his right in the center atop the blonde bombshell in the pink negligee. I added a picture of him inside the book as well with an inscription thanking him for all he’d done for me in the brief time that I’d known him. Today, Fante is still with me. There’s a framed picture of him hanging on my wall, right above my workstation. He’s glaring down upon me from under that white Fedora he got in Italy, somehow still reminding me that I don’t know Jack F. Shit about writing. Thanks for the reminder Fante.

Douglas Mallon remembers Dan Fante.

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Punkpolitik – The Secret of Theresa May published 13/02/2019

It would be difficult to find two more contradictory or divergent phenomena than that of the punk subculture and Conservative Party politics. Despite this, the year 1975 was of existential significance to both. Not only were the Sex Pistols established that year, but the first-ever referendum was held on whether Britain should remain part of the European Economic Community, the predecessor to the European Union.

By Mirek Vodrážka.

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The Gesture of the Text published 07/02/2019

For Simenon, as for Kafka, writing was a gesture. The same imbrication of the physical and the linguistic that drove Kafka to abandon fragment after fragment drove Simenon to produce his improbable number of books.

By Robert Minto.

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Vision Cell: Santa Fe published 05/02/2019

Do not be afraid. Every Virgin has to trawl, even if it is many years, Mary of tears, black curls, white face. Eyes like a moll. Humpress of pyres. She left for her Marian tour in 1954 and came back altered.

By JoAnna Novak.

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With My Back Turned On the Reader published 04/02/2019

This nebulous relatedness between the works will not be apparent to the regular gallery visitor, and that is perhaps the point: the writer as curator does not operate like the art historian as curator. The Whitechapel Gallery’s director Iwona Blazwick commented that a writer is allowed to curate much more freely and thereby suggest novel ways of looking at a selection of art. It is Vila-Matas’ prerogative to make up stories, or draw invisible lines between them. Yet he helps us by providing more perspicuous explanations in the brief, and certainly portable, novel-cum-gallery-catalogue Cabinet d’amateur: An Oblique Novel that has been published concurrently to accompany the exhibition.

R.D. Hansen reviews an exhibition curated by Enrique Vila-Matas at London’s Whitechapel Gallery.

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Dark Matter, Black Transparency & the Aestheticisation of Politics published 01/02/2019

Reflecting on the photographs of bizarre humiliations & tortures inflicted on Iraqi prisoners by US military personnel at Abu Ghraib, Žižek made the salient observation that “the very positions & costumes of the prisoners suggests a theatrical staging, a kind of tableau vivant that brings to mind American performance art, ‘theatre of cruelty,’ the photos of Robert Mapplethorpe or the unnerving scenes in David Lynch’s films.” Above all, “recording the humiliations with a camera, with the perpetrators included in the picture, their faces stupidly smiling beside the twisted naked bodies of the prisoners, was an integral part of the process, in stark contrast to the secrecy of Saddam’s torturers.”

Louis Armand on protests as contemporary objets d’art.

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When Negativity Don’t Pull You Through: Asides 3 published 25/01/2019

So the ascetic blames herself for her pain; the resulting self-loathing acts as a narcotic to relieve the pain. In this way the ascetic resists suicide. But the cost is to exacerbate suffering. This is why Nietzsche reviles the ascetic religious narcotic. ‘[I]t makes the sick sicker.’ Art is a different narcotic that achieves the same end but without the accompanying side effects. Art restores the affective attachment to life. Art’s role is to prevent suicide for those immune to asceticism.

Richard Marshall‘s final aside about anti-pessimism.

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