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

The Sauna King published 13/08/2014

We’re in search of moonshine. I’m in a car with Diego Vidart, a Uruguayan photographer, and Kristian Helgesen, a Norwegian photographer. We’re heading from Helsinki to Kitee, a small town among the woods and lakes on the Finnish-Russian border, somewhere northeast of St Petersburg. The organizers of the Montevideo Biennale of Photography want us to install an exhibition ‘to explore the narrative limits of photography.’ To do this Diego has created an alter-ego, Esko Tikanmäki, son of a Finnish Tango musician, Matti Tikanmäki. We aim to gather ‘evidence’ to make the existence of Esko Tikanmaki Portogales real. And to do that we want to go to the village where Esko’s father died, drunk on pontika, the Finnish version of moonshine.

Des Barry recalls his travels to the black saunas of Finland, and the eclectic characters he encounters on the way.

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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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Aspirational magazines of Socialism published 07/08/2014

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Przekroj was striving to make a magazine which could be read by all the new social classes of the New Poland, from the new elites to engineers to the kitchen lady, while at the same time smuggling in some of the pre-war charm and aspirations of the intelligentsia and bourgeoisie. It comprised of world news, columns, varying from cuisine to fashion and savoir vivre lessons to those serving the preservation of a material culture destroyed by the war. It had a mission, as one critic sarcastically put it, to “civilize” the nation, with the whole formation of its readers (circulation 500,000, and each copy was read by several people) considered “the civilization of Przekroj”.

Agata Pyzik on the role of aspirational magazines in socialist Poland from her book Poor But Sexy: Culture Clashes in Europe East and West.

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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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“I was on my way to look out for a life of my own”: On Peter Weiss’s Leavetaking published 05/08/2014

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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Romance Cannot Write Itself published 04/08/2014

A seducer is always, either: (i) convinced that he is a romancer (until the seduction is over), or (ii) perfectly clear about the fact that his rôle is a rôle, his task is a task. (Don Juan – like Judas – can only betray with a kiss.)

A philosophical demonstration by David van Dusen.

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The Day I Joined The Slits published 03/08/2014

Walking into the rehearsal studio I was met by Dick O’Dell, a tall man dressed in black, short blonde hair and mixamatosis eyes. He seemed friendly enough and introduced me to the band. Slumped in a corner was Tessa the bassist, all black curls and low-hanging fringe. Directly in front of me was Ari, freckled toffee-coloured skin, piercing blue eyes and a wide-toothy smile. She never kept still, bouncing around the room, talking ten to the dozen, half rapping, half chanting, blurting out an ad-hoc repertoire of statements and demands. To me, still the suburban kid, she was a whirlwind, exotic, unfathomable, unlike any girl I had met before. Her dreadlocks tied in a thick wrap of material, she seemed to have arrived from another planet, far bigger than the one I lived on.

By Simon Fellowes.

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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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Amnesia: Spain, Sand Creek, Oklahoma, Germany published 19/07/2014

Founding amnesia about extermination weighs heavily on Denver. The University of Denver still lionizes Evans. Evans was a visionary for the city, for railways and for founding universities – for white people. Being an Evans professor is a little, I have discovered, like being a Jefferson Davis professor at a Southern University; these men do not deserve the honor.

Alan Gilbert on how historical amnesia distorts.

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A Life in the Life published 12/07/2014

He knows that many of the crowd watching him are re-living their youth. Would it be so easy for them to do so if confronted with a silver-haired troubadour long past the age of 64? For some of his contemporaries such youthful pretence is no longer an issue: Bob Dylan sports a pompadour of grey cumuli, Jimmy Page, a raffish mane of white. James Taylor meanwhile is defiantly bald on top and has been for some time. But there are more who resist: Mick Fleetwood, Paul Simon, the Edge, none of whom are ever seen out of doors without headgear. Jeff Beck, who I recently spotted in my local branch of Planet Organic, also resists the Hi Ho Silver Lining. Like them, McCartney tenaciously holds onto his youth, no doubt to please please those who love him yeah yeah yeah.

Coinciding with Richard Lester’s seminal A Hard Day’s Night being re-released for its 50th anniversary, Simon Fellowes thinks back to seeing The Beatles aged four.

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